Re: [asa] Cobb County settles lawsuit

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Thu Dec 21 2006 - 18:38:20 EST

OK, so science is not absolute since it is a collection of human
projects, and nothing human is inerrant. However, the same holds for
philosophy and theology. But there are differences. Theology, if
orthodox, holds to a scripture, which must be interpreted. The only test
normally applicable to theology and philosophy is logical consistency. In
philosophy, materialism is one of the consistent systems, though I will
not go so far as to claim that all variations of materialism are strictly
consistent. But, unless one adopts the strange materialism of Hobbes,
materialism is inconsistent with theism.

The scientific disciplines, in addition to the requirement that they be
logically consistent, must be consistent with such observations as human
beings think to make. This makes them supreme in matters dealing with
matter. The closer to observations of material interactions, the more
certain are the results. The physical sciences have the best such
standing, followed by the life sciences. The most problematical are the
social and personal sciences, where strict measures are the most
difficult. Indeed, my colleagues noted that knowledgeable pollsters can
produce desired outcomes by how they phrase the questions, and those
without sophistication will skew results without understanding what they
are doing.

Science progresses in part by somebody suggesting that certain data can
be looked at in a new way. That's the simple explanation for psychology's
genesis from philosophy. Sometimes it's because someone finds a way to
test a long-held belief. Spallanzani and Pasteur come to mind. Refining
instruments produces other advances. But this is consistently tied to
observations that can be made. Indeed, the current criticisms of string
theory are based on the problems of tying the structure down to even a
few possible measures rather than being open ended. But always there is
the matter of restricting science to consistency plus observation v. the
mere consistency of philosophy and (hopefully) theology. But there are
always those who import their philosophical views into their version of
science and then claim that science proves materialism.

On Thu, 21 Dec 2006 12:50:09 -0500 (EST) Gregory Arago
<> writes:
There seems as much a threat to 'science teaching,' caused by twisting
facts rather than following the evidence where it leads, as to 'theology
teaching.' It appears that many things are lowering the status of science
from its position as arbiter of truth above all other spheres of
knowledge. I am surprised by the number of persons at ASA who sluff off
the word 'philosophy' as if discussing things like ID, evolution or
creation there would simply be of lower value than discussing them in a
'science' classroom.

Maybe it's because I've read some philosophers of science, even
Feyerabend, that I don't hail 'science' as highly as the philosophes once
did. Even without reading philosophy of science, one has to admit that
the discipline of science today does not have the iron grip on reality
that it once did. There are competing paradigms on what counts as
socially important knowledge these days. Scholarship is nevertheless
still influential.

What the court statement shows is the power juriprudence holds over
teaching science. I agree with David when he notes that disallowing
viewpoints contrary to the status quo a priori is quelching criticism
rather than encouraging the development of better views...following the
evidence where it leads. I may not agree with IDM-ID, but there are some
aspects of the argument for ID that are not entirely idiotic.

Where I disagree with Michael (while at many other times agreeing with
him) is on the notion that geology holds a monopoly over evolutionary
thought. It doesn't. It would be an ideal situation if every scientific
discipline humbly presented their contribution to human knowledge with
the caveat that other disciplines know things they do not and see things
differently than they do. Unfortunately, since it serves the interests of
individuals to prop up their own areas of study (judges and geologists
not excluded) above others, an egalitarian approach to paidea and the
'most important questions' are often lost in our current educational

This leads me to ask: would Michael and others here at ASA speak out to
criticize evolutionary theories if they were being taught in a philosophy
classroom (c.f. process philosophy) in which they were present? On the
flip side, it seems to me that arguing against the 'theology of ID'
(which several people here have already done) rather than about the
so-called 'science of ID' would be a more suitable opposition to reveal
to IDists that their views are perhaps counter-productive to the ultimate
cause they are trying to promote.

In all cases, lowering scientific 'discovery' into courts of law seems an
unfortunate result of the conditions of our age. Too many lawyers and
psychologists in one sovereign place is almost bound to lead to nowhere


Michael wrote:
The problem is that since Arkansas in 1981 and now in the UK with the
Truthin Science stuff, no one can be as relaxed as they were with
militant "creationists" looking over one shoulder and Militant atheists
over the
other!! Now I don't know which is the greater curse to science teaching!


"D. F. Siemens, Jr." <> wrote:
With the decision contrary to what the "Christians" desired, there is
sniping at the judge. I would not want to answer at the judgment seat of
Christ for such demeaning of a brother.
I personally insist that the universe follows the design of an omniscient
and omnipotent Creator, and adore him. But I recognize that this is not a
scientific theory, but springs from religious and philosophical
commitments. If God is omnipresent and omnific, how do I scientifically
pin him down to a specific location or action?

On Wed, 20 Dec 2006 10:43:43 -0500 "David Opderbeck"
<> writes:
If this broad language is interpreted literally, depending on what
"disclaimers" means in Paragraph 2(a), no teacher in Cobb County can ever
criticize the theory of evolution in any way, nor can the citizens of
Cobb County vote to adopt a policy that would allow teachers to criticize
the theory of evolution in any way, even in a philosophy or history

When Kitzmiller was decided, I took lots of heat for arguing that, even
if the result was right, the fact that a federal trial judge took it upon
himself to provide a philosophical definition of "science" was bad for
science as a discipline. This Consent Order seems to me like another
step towards control over the philosophy of science by the federal trial
courts. I can't see how this is good for science or for democracy.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Dec 21 18:44:04 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Dec 21 2006 - 18:44:04 EST