"A self-styled form of Darwinian fundamentalism has risen to some prominence in a variety of fields, from the English biological heartland of John Maynard Smith to the uncompromising ideology (albeit in graceful prose) of his compatriot Richard Dawkins, to the equally narrow and more ponderous writing of the American philosopher Daniel Dennett . . . . - Stephen Jay Gould, "Darwinian Fundamentalism," The New York Review of Books.
Friday, January 13, 2006
There is a new article in the LA Times about the lawsuit that I blogged about yesterday. The name of the case seems to be Hurst v. Newman. The article contains this about the son of the named plaintiff, Kenneth Hurst:
Jeremy Hurst, a 15-year-old sophomore, is caught in the crossfire in town and at home.
His father, Kenneth Hurst, is a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge and one of the parents behind the lawsuit. His mother is a practicing Christian and is not involved in the lawsuit.
"My mom takes me to Baptist Church every Sunday; my dad gives me all the science books he can," said the slender youth. "Personally, I don't know what to think."
He said his father, who stated in the lawsuit that the class is an inappropriate attempt to evangelize students, seems "really uptight about this whole thing." The son suggested a different tack: "I think kids should choose whether to take the class or not."
No! Allowing kids to chose whether to take an elective course? Solving the problem by letting the interested kids take it and letting those not interested or offended not take it? That is too easy! This is America, where we file lawsuits to censor information, and where people who do not like classes in high school try to stop others from taking them too. That is the American way, and that is what people for the American way do.
I believe that the father, Kenneth Hurst, was actually invited to be a speaker in the class to give it balance. He declined, and then apparently decided to sue. One of the grounds is that the presentation will not be balanced.
Is a lawsuit really the best way to resolve this?
I was also amused by this quote:
The San Andreas fault literally cuts through town, and right here "red state is slamming up against blue state like tectonic plates," said Patric Hedlund, managing editor of the Mountain Enterprise, a local weekly.
If you were wondering "What were they thinking?" when they filed the lawsuit, a copy of the complaint is available here.
Since the plaintiffs asked for a temporary restraining order, the initial phases of this one should move very quickly.
Let me clarify my position. I do not know all the details. I am not at all sure that this course is a good one, or a good idea from a policy standpoint. If I were on the school board, I probably would have required more changes to the course proposal. But does it violate the Constitution? With 13 kids taking it as an elective? Hardly. And I do not think Anthony Kennedy or Samuel Alito will either.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Thought Police Strike In California
The Washington Post has this story about a new lawsuit in California over a high school elective philosophy class in which intelligent design is taught as one of several philosophies. Here is the introduction in the syllabus:
Philosophy is a class about ideas and theories. It is about beliefs. It is addressing the question, what do you think and why. It is about a search for wisdom and truth. This class will discuss various views on the origin of life, in order to gain a better and broader understanding of the views that are held by society. This class is not meant to guide you into a certain belief, but to allow you to search, become aware of the differences, and gain a better understanding of world views on origins.
Remember how the big problem in Dover was that ID was being presented as science? Here is part of what the plaintiffs say:
Because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of this presentation.
I do not know enough details to take a strong opinion at this point, but this is an elective course, and the objective of the course is to give students a "better and broader understanding of the views that are held by society." Last time I checked there was something in the First Amendment about free speech. But hey, I hear the Constitution is a living document, so maybe free speech no longer means that people can discuss and debate controversial issues and learn about beliefs that are different than one's own.
The full syllabus is here.
As I have noted previously, examining worldviews can be very enlightening.
Hat tip to the Evo News blog, which has posts here and here.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Observing Darwinian Fundamentalism in Australia
There is an article in The Epoch Times in Australia, which discusses scientific narrow-mindedness. It also discusses Social Darwinism at some length as well as other political and philosophical ideas that have been tied to Darwinian theory. Here are some excerpts:
As stated by Robert Crowther, Director of Communications for Discovery Institute's Centre for Science and Culture on their website; "There is a disturbing trend of scientists, teachers, and students coming under attack for expressing support for the theory of intelligent design, or even just questioning evolution." stated Mr. Crowther
"The freedom of scientists, teachers, and students to question Darwin's theory, or to express alternative scientific hypothesis is coming under increasing attack by people that can only be called Darwinian fundamentalists," stated Mr. Crowther.
. . . .
Clearly the question that begs to be asked is why are most scientists afraid of turning their own principles on their heads and looking at things with a new light. Certainly modern genius's like Einstein, Edison, Bell, or even Newton would never have been able to make new discoveries, additions or annotations to existing theories if they had not stepped outside of the proverbial box to look at current theories and poke at them where they looked weak.
Instead, many of our most brilliant minds appear to be disregarding or simply arguing against evidence that might suggest a different approach to the development of life. At the risk of angering evolutionists there is significant evidence that calls into question Darwin's theory and its offspring.
Hat tip to the newly "unmothballed" Uncommon Descent.
Monday, January 09, 2006
No One Knows Anything
There was this article in the Sunday Washington Post on origins of life research. Not much new here-- generally a discussion of how much we do not know based on scientific evidence, and how scientists bicker a lot. But I find it refreshing to see the mainstream media acknowledge how little we know in a field so related to macroevolution and intelligent design. Here are some excerpts:
They are wrestling with basic questions: What is life, exactly? Does it always require liquid water and those long Tinkertoy carbon molecules? Does life require a cell? Did life begin with a hereditary molecule or with some kind of metabolic chemical reaction? Where did life begin on Earth? Was there a single moment that could be described as the "origin of life," or did life sort of creep into existence gradually?
All that is very much in play. In the words of George Cody, an origin-of-life researcher, "No one knows anything about the origin of life.". . .
Amid all the chemistry are scenes of scientific rancor, as when Hazen describes a face-off between two scientists, Martin Brasier and William Schopf, over some alleged 3.5-billion-year-old fossils:
"As Brasier calmly outlined his arguments, the scene on stage shifted from awkwardly tense to utterly bizarre. We watched amazed as Schopf paced forward to a position just a few feet to the right of the speaker's podium. He leaned sharply toward Brazier and seemed to glare, his eyes boring holes in the unperturbed speaker."
Hazen writes that the origin-of-life field is "at times tarnished by questionable data, contentious debates, or even outright quackery."
Now you can see how all this might get a bit delicate given the current debate about intelligent design. Hazen knows that by exposing the backstage bickering on the origin of life, he may give ammunition to the critics of the scientific community: "Anything I say that shows any uncertainty or doubt, they will use as evidence that scientists are baffled."
. . .
Why is the field so contentious?
Hazen says, "I've heard it said that the less certain we are about a field of knowledge, the louder we have to shout to get our point across. Back when I was doing crystallography, no one shouted. And maybe that's why it was a little boring."
Nothing's ever dull in the OOL world.