Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 18:28:51 EDT

Heya John,

I'm certain there was a lot of discussion at the time. In fact, I found the
ASA writeup about this subject months ago. But while Dover is brought up
again and again, in comparison the NABT issue rarely if ever is. And I feel
that the NABT is the tip of the iceberg here, an instructive case primarily
because of their position, the boldness of their attempt, and the curious
way in which the issue got resolved.

Now, you say that Eugenie Scott was "finally able to see it through the eyes
of a theist". I question that. And I want to point out a few things to
underline my view here.

The idea that the NABT just didn't realize they were taking an
extra-scientific, theological/philosophical position strikes me as
transparent nonsense. Craig Rusbult didn't buy it, and I don't either. But
there are two possibilities here. One is that the NABT's leadership - along
with the various scientists and organizations that attempted to jump in and
support the NABT's position - honestly doesn't know the difference between a
purely scientific statement, and a statement that adds
theological/philosophical spin to science. This possibility, the charitable
one, should give everyone on this list pause. This means that even
mainstream scientists and science teachers themselves are painfully ignorant
about the scope of science, and can't tell the difference between a
scientific statement and a theological/philosophical/metaphysical statement.
Do I really have to mention the inherent danger of this? The problem it

But there's another possibility. The NABT and other scientists/groups
generally know when they're making a leap that goes beyond science - and
they simply do not care. But they changed their position because they were
successfully convinced that they had made a mistake politically. That the
country is overwhelmingly one of religious/theistic belief, and that such a
statement would convince few and turn off more. That making such obviously
philosophical/(a)religious statements so boldly, the NABT was exposing
evolution as being used in the service of something more than "true
science". But this is, clearly, as discouraging as the other possibility.
Instead of scientists and teachers having a dangerous ignorance of just what
is or is not science, this would mean that "science education" talk is, in
whole or in part, a chess piece in a larger game about politics, religion,
and philosophy.

If you read Eugenie Scott's words ( ) I think what's
telling is this: Her primary reasons for challenging the NABT come down to
public perception issues - in essence saying 'this is going to do more harm
than good'. What's more, in this paper she seems to be taking a very
complicated stance - by the end of the letter she says..

"But strategy is not the only reason to change the statement; dropping the
words removed scientific inaccuracies from the Statement: one cannot make a
scientific statement that the universe is in any absolute sense "impersonal"
and "unsupervised." The NABT Board dropped the two unnecessary words because
it was the right thing to do, *scientifically*. It was also the right thing
to do for the sake of the teachers whose welfare they must keep foremost."

Fair enough. But earlier in the letter, when talking about this problematic

"Given the history of NABT as teachers’ bulwark against antievolutionism,
the orientation of the statement was practical. Framers wished to state as
forcefully as possible that evolution is state of the art science, and that
creation science and other forms of antievolutionism have no place in the
classroom. The statement was not intended to be a discussion of philosophy
of science. But this is how many members of the public interpreted it. There
was a completely unexpected public reaction to the words, "impersonal" and

So, "impersonal" and "unsupervised" are unnecessary words, unscientific.
Removing them was the right thing to do scientifically. But the NABT didn't
mean to inject philosophy into their statement. The public reaction was
unexpected, and the problem here was the public's (incorrect?)
interpretation of their words. Meditate on these claims. Ask yourself if it
makes sense, or if it comes across more like some awkward political

Anyway, I'm going on this topic at length here - but I do so because I think
it's important, and the NABT event itself is tremendously instructive within
the greater conversation.

On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 5:01 PM, John Burgeson (ASA member) <> wrote:

> I'm pretty sure there was a lot of discussiion about the NABT
> statement in a past issue or two of PSCF.
> There were a lot of ASA people, including me, that suggested
> (politely) that those terms ought to be removed from the statement as
> they presupposed what could not be demonstrated scientifically and had
> a definite religious (actually anti-theistic) implication. From
> Scott's world view, she honestly could not see what we saw., but, I
> think, she finally was able to see it through the eyes of a theist.
> That's hard for somone who is otherwise!
> On 10/15/09, janice matchett <> wrote:
> > At 12:51 AM 10/15/2009, Schwarzwald wrote:
> >
> > "Why does everyone in these debates remember Dover, but no one seems to
> > remember the NABT debacle, or consider it as an instructive moment in
> this
> > debate's history?"
> >
> > I do:
> >
> > ASA list 2005:
> >
> > "ID got off the ground because people like Alvin Plantinga
> > signed off
> on
> > the effort and forced Wayne Carley, executive director of the NABT to
> > remove some language that was too explicit in stating their naturalistic
> > philosophy. ie: They excised the key words "unsupervised" and
> "impersonal"
> > from their creed, technically allowing for the possibility that a
> personal,
> > intelligent creator designed life. Carley admitted that the change was
> made
> > because they wanted "to avoid taking a religious position." That is an
> > admission that demonstrates the truth that the association's original
> > platform - like Darwinism itself - exceeds purely scientific conclusions,
> > and embraces distinctly religious ideas. (Scientism)" ~ janice matchett
> -
> > Fri Jul 29 2005
> >
> >
> > More:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Among other years, there's lots to find on this subject in the 2005 ASA
> > archives starting in about July:
> >
> > ~ Janice
> >
> > At 12:51 AM 10/15/2009, Schwarzwald wrote:
> >>Heya all,
> >>
> >>Cameron's pointing out some interesting things here, but there's one
> >>particular aspect of his argument I want to emphasize.
> >>
> >>Does anyone - and I mean anyone - really believe that the NCSE, Eugenie
> >>Scott, the NABT, etc, are motivated purely, even largely, by a concern
> for
> >>science here?
> >>
> >>I mean, doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that science education in
> >>America, and in the west in general, so often seems to be measured
> largely
> >>or entirely in terms of belief - not understanding of, mind you, but
> >>simple declared belief! - in evolution? Why does everyone in these
> debates
> >>remember Dover, but no one seems to remember the NABT debacle, or
> consider
> >>it as an instructive moment in this debate's history? Does anyone find it
> >>odd that the NCSE's commitment to science education seems myopic to the
> >>point of caring for nothing but evolutionary theory - and, along with it,
> >>the discouragement of any percept of design whether or not such design is
> >>inherently opposed to evolution? And further, does anyone find it odd
> that
> >>a scientific theory has political advocates?
> >>
> >>Let me explain what I mean here. I'm very at home with evolutionary
> theory
> >>in general. I find Behe to be very thoughtful and have a strong argument,
> >>but since I see design in play in nature, even in evolution (I suppose
> I'd
> >>be close to Denton's mentality on this), irreducible complexity and the
> >>edge of evolution are if anything interesting possible additions to that
> >>design I already see. At the same time, I think methodological naturalism
> >>is a misnomer - and that for all the chanting of MN, it's demonstrably
> >>violated repeatedly anyway.
> >>
> >>But here's the question I really have to ask everyone involved in this
> >>conversation: Does anyone really believe that Eugenie Scott, the NCSE,
> and
> >>assorted parties are really motivated mainly, or even primarily, by a
> >>concern for science? That it just so happens that, of all the various
> >>oddities of scientific speculation and discovery (that time apparently
> had
> >>a beginning, the various oddities of quantum physics, etc), evolution is
> >>regarded as the singular scientific topic that it's very, very important
> >>to get everyone believing in? Doesn't anyone think that when someone
> >>declares that "if aliens were to make contact with us the first thing
> >>they'd ask if whether we discovered evolution, because it's just that
> >>important", said person may be either A) exaggerating wildly, or B) quite
> >>possibly a bit nuts?
> >>
> >>I ask this utterly apart from any discussion of ID, in any form, being
> >>appropriate to teach in school. I just think it's blindingly obvious that
> >>this fight is not and has never been about science in large part. Now, I
> >>can respect someone's feelings about what the limits of science should
> be,
> >>of course - I've made my own views on that clear myself. But at the same
> >>time, I've never been able to kid myself into believing that, say.. the
> >>NCSE, Eugenie Scott, etc are just trying their darndest to defend science
> >>education. Anymore than I think (to use a somewhat exaggerated example)
> >>Lysenkoism was a big issue in Russia purely because it was honestly
> >>thought by all involved to be the best science of the day, and had
> nothing
> >>to do with politics and philosophies.
> >>
> >>On Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 11:57 PM, Cameron Wybrow
> >><<>> wrote:
> >>I'm glad we agree that design inferences can be rational.
> >>Whether they are scientific depends on the definition of "scientific".
> > [snip]
> >
> --
> Burgy

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Received on Thu Oct 15 18:29:28 2009

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