Re: [asa] Where does TE differ from NOMA? (was: Re: Schools and NOMA)

From: Keith Miller <>
Date: Sat Nov 07 2009 - 00:12:15 EST

Cameron wrote:

> I'm not on the ground, as you perhaps are, regarding the educational and
> political activities of various ID supporters across the USA. I'll take
> your word for it that there is some excessive activity going on. But I
> would make two points: (1) For at least the last few years, Discovery's
> official position has been that ID should *not* be mandated in the schools,
> and that science class should instead present an honest picture of
> evolutionary theory, mentioning its weak points (drawn from peer-reviewed
> scientific literature, not Discovery Institute literature) as well as its
> strong points. This is entirely reasonable, but Eugenie and her gang will
> hear none of it. They're at every one of these hearings, trying to block
> any changes in State education standards which would guarantee that
> impressionable 14-year-olds get at least a few minutes' exposure to
> criticisms of the reigning theory. So why are ID people the fanatical
> activists, and not the NCSE?

The attempted changes to science standards here in Kansas and throughout the
nation are not about presenting an "honest picture" of evolution. Rather
they are political efforts to achieve politically what ID advocates and
anti-evolution advocates have not been able to obtain through the scientific
process. I speak from very direct personal experience that the changes that
have been sought would incorporate misrepresentations of current science,
and often flatly false scientific claims into the public school curricula.
In nearly all the cases of which I am familiar, the actual content suggested
are precisely those of the ID advocates -- and also not uncommonly of young
Earth advocates as well. These efforts are not justifiable on scientific,
educational, or constitutional grounds. There are lots of very interesting
unanswered and controversial questions with respect to evolutionary theory
-- but these are not what the advocates have in mind.

New scientific ideas, however radical or controversial, do not enter the
scientific mainstream by political action. If those ideas find substantial
evidential support they will ultimately make their way into accepted
science. It may take awhile, and it may not happen within the lifetime of
the originator. New ideas will find it difficult to obtain a hearing --
that is the way science works. The scientific community is inherently very
conservative -- change is difficult. There have been several dramatic,
highly controversial ideas that have been proposed within geology and
paleontology within my lifetime that are now part of accepted science. Many
of these ideas were initially received with great skepticism and often
outright hostility. I have seen near shouting matches at professional
meetings. But these individuals were persistent, they collected data, they
patiently did the research to respond to the challenges of critics, and they
eventually got a hearing. None of these individuals attempted to write
legislation or lobby school boards, or take their complaints to the public.
They went out and did the work. If the ID advocates want a respected place
at the table they must do the same thing. I know of no scientific research
by ID advocates that does anything to advance ID as a productive or useful
scientific theory. In fact, I am aware of no coherent scientific theory of

(2) As I've mentioned many times, apparently to some deaf ears here, the
> scientific critique of Darwinism goes way back to Darwin's time and has
> never ceased, and it has come from worldly British Victorian naturalists and
> French Jewish philosophers and French Catholic biologist-mathematicians and
> agnostic MIT engineering professors and agnostic Australian
> physician-biochemists, and therefore is not a theocratic,
> fundamentalist, YEC plot hatched by the Discovery Institute in the early
> 1990s. The constant obsession with what some YEC parents are doing in
> Kansas or Oklahoma in the name of ID, when we still don't have a serious
> suggestion (as opposed to a bed-time story for the uncritical) regarding how
> evolution could have formed an eye or a cardio-vascular system, looks very
> much like classic misdirection.

Evolutionary science is much different that it was 150, 100, 50, or 25 years
ago. The amount and diversity of relevant data is orders of magnitude
greater, the outstanding questions are different (in fact most could not
even be asked in previous generations), and the complexity of evolutionary
theory is vastly greater. As I have repeatedly stated on this forum, I
think the use of the term "Darwinism" is useless other than in an historical
context. The science of today has moved well beyond the ideas of Darwin. I
don't teach "Darwinism" I teach modern evolutionary theory. The science is
moving so fast that I can barely keep up just with my field of
paleontology. And what is so powerful, is that the more fossils we
discover, the more genomes we sequence, the more developmental pathways we
untangle, the more answers we find to outstanding questions. And these
answers all fit within the paradigm of common descent -- they fit within the
predicted patterns.

The new questions move the science in new directions and suggest new
productive avenues for research. And these new open questions are exciting
and should be shared with students -- and are. Those new questions are the
future of the science.

BTW: Plausible scenarios for the evolution of many biochemical and organ
systems are being developed. This is greatly accelerating with the rapid
sequencing of genomes and the discovery of biochemical and developmental
pathways. This work has only recently even become possible.


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Received on Sat Nov 7 00:12:28 2009

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