Saturday, November 12, 2005

Post on Pope

The Washington Post has now reported on the Pope's comments on creation and atheism, among other things:

He quoted St. Basil the Great, a fourth century saint, as saying some people, "fooled by the atheism that they carry inside of them, imagine a universe free of direction and order, as if at the mercy of chance."

"How many of these people are there today? These people, fooled by atheism, believe and try to demonstrate that it's scientific to think that everything is free of direction and order," he said.

Grossly Misleading Headline in Washington Post

After my last post, I noticed the actual headline of the article in the Washington Post: "Kansas Education Board First to Back 'Intelligent Design'." Nothing in the body of the article supports this, nothing in the standards supports this and the Board was emphatic in deciding not to require teaching on intelligent design. But the headline fits so well with the spin the writer or the Post wanted to put on it. Who cares about the truth?

If you care about the truth, you can get more information here.

One of my previous posts on the Kansas situation is here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New York Times: Still Beating the Fundamentalist Drum

The New York Times has an article on a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History on the life and theories of Charles Darwin. It contains a mantra that has appeared in many Times articles in the recent past:
And though there is no credible scientific support for this position, President Bush, when asked in August about evolution and intelligent design, said that "both sides ought to be properly taught."

This is a variation on Cornelia's Creed, which I have discussed several times previously. It is blatant fundamentalist reporting to state in a news article that there is "no credible scientific support" for intelligent design. A good journalist would have said something factual like "a majority of scientists do not accept the theory of intelligent design." It is well established that some scientists do hold that there is credible scientific support for the theory, and that there are significant problems with macroevolutionary theory. Yet the Times chooses to editorialize in a news article that the evidence cited by such scientists is incredible. Do we even know how many of the scientists who disagree with intelligent design also believe that there is no scientific support for it at all? The writer tries to stifle the opposition by pretending that it is not there, which is a form of obscurantism. Hasn't the Times learned anything after its recent embarrassments? As I have noted previously, the Times seems to think that a whole group of scientists doesn't even exist.

The article also contains this:
The exhibition mentions intelligent design not as science, or as a theory to be debated, but as a form of creationism, which offers the biblical view that God created the earth and its creatures fully formed within the last 10,000 years. In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that creationism is a religious belief that cannot be taught in public schools.
So it appears (even though the author has shown himself to be unreliable) that the museum has opted for the strategy of misrepresenting the opposing point of view rather than addressing it on the merits. It takes a pretty small mind not to see the obvious differences between intelligent design theory and creationism based on the Bible. Here, let me help: intelligent design appeals only to scientific evidence for its support; creationism appeals to the Bible and scientific evidence. See any meaningful distinction there? The failure to acknowledge this difference is a form of bigotry, pure and simple. Such a position is akin to saying, "All evolutionists are atheists." Both positions are false and asserting them is morally reprehensible. Why is the museum so willing to take such a position? Is it really so afraid to deal with intelligent design accurately and on the merits, like it did in one of the issues of Natural History?

The question now seems to be: Is there any credible support for the proposition that the New York Times is a reliable source of information?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thanks, I Needed That

After bemoaning the misleading headline in the Washington Post and the paucity of accurate and civil discourse on these issues, Scrappleface has, once again, brightened my day.

Kansas Board Passes Science Standards

The Kansas Board of Education approved science standards for public schools today that allow for students to hear evidence for and against macroevolutionary theory. This made the front page of the Washington Post and will get a lot of attention from the national media, because they love to pick on Kansas. However, Ohio and Minnesota already did the same thing. Not much attention was paid to Minnesota, presumably because it did not fit the red state stereotypes and the Inherit the Wind mythology.

My persistent question is this: what justification is there for insisting that students be taught the evidence for evolutionary theory but banning any information against it, like the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion, which all mainstream scientists acknowledge? What possible basis can there be for banning this information, when many people view this as extremely relevant to evaluating macroevolutionary theory?

The fairly ominous AP report in the Washington Post is here. A more positive report is here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The End of Dover

The Discovery Institute blog has an enlightening post about the relationship of that organization to the trial in Dover, and its relationship to counsel at the Thomas More Law Center. Legislators, school boards and others would be well advised to aim for a policy consistent with theirs, and not the policy of the Dover school board. The states of Ohio and Minnesota have done so, and I am not aware of any legal challenges to these policies:

Discovery Institute's science education policy has been consistent and clear. We strongly believe that teaching about intelligent design is constitutionally permissible, but we think mandatory inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula is ill-advised. Instead, we recommend that schools require only that the scientific evidence for and against neo-Darwinism be taught, while not infringing on the academic freedom of teachers to present appropriate information about intelligent design if they choose.

The Washington Post has a final article on the close of the Dover trial here, and an article on the upcoming vote in Kansas here.