Creationism Makes a Comeback

March 30th, 2011 at 5:00 am | 163 Comments |

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The wave of Republican victories in state legislatures has led to a more favorable environment for creationist friendly legislation to advance.  Most of those bills will die in committee but one that has the best chance of passing is an “Academic Freedom” bill currently being debated in the Tennessee legislature. The bill will empower and protect teachers who want to go off their curriculum and teach creationism or intelligent design in their classrooms.

Tennessee House Bill 368 is similar to a Louisiana “Academic Freedom Act” that became law in 2008. It passed out of the Tennessee General Sub-committee on  Education on March 16th with a near party line vote, with eight Republicans and one Democrat voting for and four Democrats voting against. The bill was also approved in the House Education Committee on March 29th. Observers are concerned that the bill could become law if it continues gaining support along party lines.

The bill works on the assumption that teachers who want to explain the controversies in topics such as evolution are being bullied or suppressed. The bill’s main sponsor, Representative Bill Dunn told FrumForum:

“It says to teachers, ‘if there are strengths and weakness in the theory or hypothesis you are teaching, and the weaknesses are based on scientific facts, you don’t deserve to be bullied because you present them.”

This is the key language from the bill which allows creationists to go off-curriculum:

Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught. …

Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

Steven Newton, a Policy Director for the National Center for Science Education believes that teachers sympathetic to creationism will learn of this law and use it as cover to bring creationist material in their classrooms: “Imagine a teacher who tells their class, ‘This textbook we’ve been using discussed the strengths of evolution, now we will discuss the weaknesses of evolution with the help of this video from the Discovery Institute.’”

For anyone who cares about teaching good science in schools, this law is obviously troubling but the real outrage is that Tennessee currently has an awful science curriculum. According to a study by NCSE, Tennessee gets a “D” grade for the quality of its science curriculum. The study notes that the Tennessee curriculum has an “improved treatment of evolution” (in 2000, the state received a grade of “F” when the Fordham Foundation measured it) but the study also adds that the state currently teaches “no human evolution.”

The irony is that in the past, creationist institutions and advocates used to be allies of laws and reforms which would give a stronger role for a parents choice in their child’s education, whether through voucher programs, charter schools, or even homeschooling. There is a logic to this approach: rather than tear towns and communities apart over protracted and agonizing legal battles, simply give parents the power to choose what education their child can have.

Laws such as HB 368, and other “academic freedom” bills are not about giving parents more options about where they can get their children educated. They are about empowering and protecting those creationists who are already in the public education system and are waiting to be given the legal cover to evangelize and teach bad science.

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163 Comments so far ↓

  • drdredel

    @nhthinker,

    I think that internet forums have a way of bringing out the worst in everyone. I apologize for my previous tone.
    It’s unfortunate that you felt you had to trot out your credentials. I won’t do the same. Not because they’re not as impressive as yours but because they are immaterial to the conversation. Yes, I know that we’re not talking about “infinite” figures, but they are positively unknowable. There MAY be 0 other intelligent beings in the universe or there may be one on every spec of cosmic dust. We have no way to know and plugging such assumptions into equations is (obviously) fools work.

    Look… I get it. You have looked at the odds and you feel they lean heavily towards us being a product of some intelligence. I’m ENTIRELY open to such a reality. I’ve read much in the way of educated speculation on these and related theories. I discuss them, as well as many other even less conventional ideas, with my offspring and family and friends. I have nothing vested in this not being true. It isn’t going to change my life in any way if it turns out that we’re guided robots, or matrix pods, or simply someone’ss (or my own) daydream. Our reality is what it is, no matter what lies behind it. Yes I’m very curious. No, I’m not willing to assume anything until I have some actual evidence to back it up, and statistical probability IS NOT evidence! Really! It isn’t! The fact that you bought a lottery ticket isn’t evidence that you’re rich. Even if there are only 2 numbers. All you know before you know is that you don’t know.

    But aside from all that, that’s not the conversation in this thread. As Krom rightly points out above. Such speculation is COMPLETELY outside the purview of the science classroom. It may have some place in a math class, simply as an amusing exercise. It CERTAINLY has no place in a biology classroom. We have tons of actual evidence about evolution (tons and tons and tons), and the ONLY appropriate thing to teach kids in the gaps or in the new information that arises that calls previous findings into question, is that that’s how science works! It is NOT to suggest that every time they realize that some aspect of evolution theory was not correct, that the entire thing is now scrapped and we have to go looking for alien creators.

    There’s a fabulous article by Asimov that someone posted here, I can’t find it now. It has him explaining this very concept in fantastically well articulated form. The example being that the discovery that the earth was round was a very small discovery (mathematically speaking). I don’t recall the exact figure, but the difference in angle between a flat earth and a round earth is only .086 or some such. So, the round earth theory advanced the flat earth theory with a revision by .086 degrees. (like I said, I may be off on the number, but it’s something very small).

    Anyway, his point was that later they realized that the earth isn’t actually a perfect sphere and revised the number further (a lot less this time), however, that didn’t mean the earth went back to being flat, nor did it mean that the original realization that the earth was round was “wrong” it meant it wasn’t exactly right (though it was certainly a lot MORE right than the earth being flat!).

    So, they revised it, and then as it happened it turned out that the earth is actually slightly pear shaped so they revised it again, and again, it didn’t in any way diminish the previous discoveries. It simply improved upon them.

    Telling kids that THIS is how science works is the right thing to do. Telling them that everything they’re being taught is subject to 100% revision at any time is NOT the right thing to do, primarily because that is simply not going to ever happen again. No one will discover that gravity doesn’t exist, or that as it turns out, evolution never happened. No one will demonstrate that 2+2 is 7. There are things kids should be able to count on.
    If you want to tell your kids that evolution was guided, you should do that (though you’ll need to field questions about why it would be guided in such an idiotic way, as I said previously). But please don’t advocate that this sort of speculation and pseudo-science be advanced in our schools. We are falling SO far behind. Let’s not handicap our youth anymore than they’re already handicapped by the crap education they’re getting now, ok? And I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be taught to question everything. Of course they should. But there’s a difference between questioning something that can be answered, and questioning something that can not. And like I said before, if a teacher wants to tell the class “there are many things that science doesn’t know and people have a lot of un-tested (or even un-testable) speculations that fill in those gaps, there is NOTHING stopping them from doing that now. But of course they shouldn’t be allowed to bring those speculations into a classroom. Seriously. Think about it!

  • drdredel

    I went looking for that Asimov article, cause I really wanted to re-read it, but stumbled across this:

    http://theflatearthsociety.org/

    This is exactly what we get when we go down the path you’re advocating. I couldn’t have thought of a better example if I spent 3 years trying.

  • nhthinker

    “Look… I get it. You have looked at the odds and you feel they lean heavily towards us being a product of some intelligence”

    Actually, you don’t get it at all.

    I have absolutely no idea whether we are or are not a product of some intelligence.
    My sole point is the inconsistency of the masses supposed in the name of science.
    Almost no one has a problem with SETI being discussed in science class.
    It is a subject covered in science books.

    It involves math, the expanse of the universe and curiosity.
    It has the added political bonus of getting students to think humans might not be as special as their religious dogma instructs them they are.

    NISD is scientifically EXACTLY equivalent to SETI EXCEPT it sounds too creepily like creationism.
    Many people’s first reaction is it must be a scheme to get religion into the classroom: it is not. It is a scheme to identify rational scientific curiosity versus political reaction to a concept.

    There are certain subjects that are taboo to consider and any hints that a subject might go close to it gets an irrational political and non-scientific reaction.

    People jump to conclusions on intentions that are totally unfounded.

    My intention was to show that articles about what science should be taught in schools brings out mostly people without a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness nor the use of math and thought toward experimentation- the qualities we hope to be instilled to students learning science.

    Instead what I usually find is ridicule and assumptions that I’m a religious creationist.
    Actually, I’m an agnostic that sees dogma sometimes being used from both religious quarters and from supposedly scientific quarters. I’m probably a bit more pissed off when I see people reacting dogmatically and representing it as science: I expect religious people to act more dogmatically.

    Science is NOT just memorized accepted theories. Science is mostly learning the scientific method: the thought process needed to pose good questions and come up with good ways to test them.

    Speculation is a CRITICAL part of science: students do not learn science unless they are allowed to speculate themselves and try to imagine their own tests and to help other students become curious and certainly not ridicule others for speculating based on reason and observation.

  • indy

    This ended up being stupider than even I had imagined, and that’s saying a lot.

    Instead of using the handle ‘nhthinker’, I’ll instead refer to you as ‘nhrapist’. If you object on the grounds that it sounds creepily like being called a rapist, I’ll simply point out you are biased against the word, have no sense of curiosity, and don’t understand your own prejudices very well.

    Gee, I just used the phrase ‘intelligent design’ and everybody just jumps to conclusions about what I mean. See, they didn’t know what I meant because they were dogmatically applying the common meaning of the phrase to what I was saying, when really I meant something completely different. Words have meanings, you cretin.

  • drdredel

    @nhthinker,

    Without resorting to indy’s phrasing style, I must point out that he’s correct. You can’t just up-and-decide that in your lexicon “intelligent design” means something totally different than what it means to everyone else. This expression didn’t exist until creationists invented it. Semantics matter a great deal in conversations like this, and it does sound like you’re just trying to provoke a fight (even if you’re not… it sounds that way), when you pull out a term that everyone understands one way and start defending it in a completely different way.
    If I were to start talking about God, the rational assumption is that I’m talking about what most people (at least in this nation) recognize as at LEAST the monotheistic creator of the universe, if not specifically the God of the Hebrew Bible. If 45 posts into a heated debate I suddenly declare that what I meant was Vishnu, the people with whom I’m conversing would have every right to say “you could have pointed that out at the beginning!”.

    What you’re missing is that the people that are pushing for the introduction of “intelligent design” into the classroom do NOT share your view of what it means! You get this, right? They’re not considering the same possibilities you are. They’re simply trying to find a way to indoctrinate kids into a very specific, narrow, and 100% imaginary dogma in which a higher intelligence has guided our evolution in order to create the specific end product, that is us. The argument at the center of this theory is that unguided evolution could not have occurred.

    Did you see the link above to the flat earth society? I think that says it all.

  • nhthinker

    drdredel,

    I very clearly explained what I meant by intelligent species design : it was only in my first posting that I did not explain what I meant by my definition of intelligent species design as differentiated from the Discovery Institute’s.

    That you and indy glossed over many repeated explanation of what I meant is no reason to consider you were raped.
    Actually you were pwned by your prejudices and lack of curiosity.

    Michael Bebe and the Discovery Institute have a totally different set of assertions than mine AND I SAID SO. My definition of intelligent species design is much more straight forward than Behe’s and does not assert anything MUST be true other than what is testable by science.

    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:59 am
    Creation of species through the mechanism of intelligent design have already been scientifically proven through close scientific experimentation and observation. The same can not be said for evolution mechanisms.
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:24 am
    Fundamentally, intelligent design is the phenomena of an intelligent being or beings using mechanisms that do not occur through random mutation in inheritance nor are simple husbandry or targeted crossbreeding, to produce new species typically to produce characteristics that the intelligent beings find value to. In other words, species that are NOT explained by evolution mechanisms, but instead only explained by intelligent design.
    These intelligent beings exist: the species produced by non-evolutionary mechanisms of these intelligent beings exist. Do you really need citations?
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:30 am
    Look up yeast that produces human insulin.
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:46 am
    Explain how humans being an existence proof of intelligent designers is trivial and circular to ANY of my claims.
    Of course, you can’t… so should I expect another ad hominem response or just silence?
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:56 am
    “interesting claim but intelligent design has larger problems…”
    Please explain how MY reasonable definition of intelligent design has larger problems.
    Don’t conflate it with creationism of all the species on Earth.
    I am only claiming an existance proof to species that can not be explained by evolution mechanisms alone and must include a component of “intelligent design”.
    Evolution is scientifically known to be incomplete theory for explaining all the species that exist on Earth.
    (Unless you include intelligent design or creation of species by intelligent beings in the definition of evolution).
    There is nothing scientific about claiming that intelligent beings must necessarily be humans.
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:13 am
    “And of course, don’t forget the real circular logic. If complexity is proof of an intelligent designer, then the intelligent designer, clearly complex, must also have an intelligent designer. And so on.”
    I’m not claiming any such thing. Michael Behe’s claims and my claims are different: and I’ve discussed it with him.
    nhthinker // Mar 30, 2011 at 10:17 am
    “The existence of humans doesn’t prove the existence of an intelligent designer. Or at least, nobody has yet proferred any such proof. The fact that we can splice genes into yeast proves that *we* are intelligent, but not that intelligent beings created us.”
    You really have a problem with reading for comprehension. I’m only claiming that humans ARE intelligent designers, not that they were created by intelligent designers.
    Can you at least try to argue with the assertions I am making here instead of your straw men?
    “What exactly *are* you claiming? So far all you’ve done is play silly games with yeast.”
    Go back through this thread and reread what I wrote without your obviously biased and wrong interpretation of what I was asserting. There is no reason to rewrite what I’ve already clearly stated.
    ——–And so on.

    Go back and look for any provocative misrepresentation of my position that was not corrected by my second posting. There aren’t any. Your conflation is your own problem. Am I sorry for setting you off balance with a provocative first posting? Not at all. Was it unfair? Not at all. The conclusions you jumped to were your own problem.
    I had already exposed I was agnostic, here on FrumForum (multiple times I think).

    “What you’re missing is that the people that are pushing for the introduction of “intelligent design” into the classroom do NOT share your view of what it means!”

    Of course I know that. But that clearly does not give you a right to attack me for my reasonable scientific conjecture I presented here. I differentiated my position from the Discovery Institute and you ignored it. People supposedly representing the good of science should not be so vicious about reasonable speculation.

  • nhthinker

    indy,

    The voluntary clown now crying rape. You better change your face paint if you want to cry like that.

  • indy

    You really are this stupid, are you?

    indy // Mar 30, 2011 at 11:11 am
    Uh no. At most we intelligently modify an existing design. This hardly makes us the designers.

    In my very first post, I said we aren’t intelligent designers and that the words you were using to describe humans as intelligent designers were, in fact, not the right words to use in the context of your definition. Those words have a meaning, even apart from the co-opted one, and you were using them incorrectly.

    But, you know, continue to offer your obviously vast intelligence to the world.

  • nhthinker

    indy,

    I told you exactly how I was using the words. I told you my definition WAS different than Michael Behe’s. You did not say I was disallowed by you to use my clearly differentiated definitions. All you did was make wrong assumptions and act like a clown and cry rape when the ending turned out different than you expected.

    Tough nuggies. Thanks for being a fine example of a clown with a dogmatic approach. I really think you should take your shtick on the road.

    • indy

      So, I’ll just summarize for everyone: in a comment for an article that references intelligent design, nht intentionally redefined those words to mean something else, and in fact redefined them not to mean what they commonly mean in the English language at all. When the easily predicted chaos and confusion follows, it’s a fine example of people being ‘dogmatic’ in the their application of meanings to words and not an example of someone being an ass after all. See how clever that is? This is a great discovery in the annals of communications.

      Good luck in your life, nht; I have a feeling you may need it.

  • nhthinker

    “So, I’ll just summarize for everyone: nht intentionally redefined common words to mean something other than what they commonly mean. ”
    NHT redefined them and he CORRECTED EVERY occurrence where posters misinterpreted his meaning. For that, he was irrationally ridiculed by self-professed clowns for his rational speculation instead of the perceived misuse of terms.

    Do you really believe that species creation through human gene splicing is covered by the definitions of the mechanisms of evolution? If not, what is a reasonable name for the mechanism of creating new species purposely designed and created by intelligent beings? “Artificial Life”? no one will accept that one.

    We have “designer” drugs, we have “designer” new species. I’m using terms in a manner that most Americans would accept as more natural language use than what the Discovery Institute uses.

    The Discovery Institute’s definition is more of an intelligent genesis designer; not an intelligent species designer. Scientific Proof of ISDs exist, scientific proof of IGDs do not. At no point in this thread did I support IGDs and objected every time someone attributed that to me.

    • indy

      And, again for the record, I ridiculed you for taking 5000 words to speculate about something that could be summarized in 1 sentence, deliberate obscuration, and not answering direct questions. Well, perhaps I didn’t riducle you on that last one, but I definately thought about it.

  • nhthinker

    Name any important question that I did not answer.
    Your memory is biased and seemingly fabricating things at this point.

    Several posters here were willing to accept my definition of humans as accepted examples of intelligent species designers and continue to discuss.

  • indy

    You may not have noticed, but I didn’t engage you directly on the merits of your ‘argument’ because in addition to you not actually having an argument to respond to, it was obvious you were intentionally being misleading and deceitful. Now that you have revealed that to be the case, it would be pretty stupid of me to assume anything other than that you wish to engage in further misdirection and deceit, wouldn’t it?

    I actually spend time trying to stomp out ID nuts, so I don’t have time for other forms of nuttery.

  • nhthinker

    For the record, indy makes seemingly fabricated accusations that he does not back up with any references.

    He cops to being a clown bent on chasing creationists and since he didn’t find any here, he is now figuratively riding away on his unicycle spewing accusations he is unwilling or unable to support.

    Let’s all laugh with or at him as he fades into the sunset. He was about as predictable as a cockroach.

  • indy

    I have a clown car. Unicycles take too long and my arm gets tired carrying a lunch box.

    OK, everybody, carry on! I apologize for interrupting your lesson from the professor. Won’t happen again.

  • drdredel

    @nhthinker,

    Why use the expression Intelligent Design if you’re aware of it’s common meaning?

    Why don’t we have a lengthy debate in which I inform you that every infant should be fed lots and lots of hot-dogs (I’ll point out in the beginning that I like to use “hot-dogs” as my own pet name for breast milk).

    Your ID argument isn’t controversial but it’s also not germane to this topic! Except for the following…

    Your version of ID isn’t any more backed by evidence than the religious one. You are extrapolating backwards from things humans have done to prove that some other intelligent beings could have done something similar in the past. As I said with my lottery analogy, that isn’t proof of anything. It’s simply evidence that such a thing isn’t impossible.
    I’m sure you understand that something being possible is not at all the same as something being true.
    Evolution, as it is commonly understood has mountains and mountains of testable and re-testable evidence. That we don’t understand it 100% is no reason to start telling kids that its core tenets are open to being revised, or augmented with intelligent designers.
    I get your point about open mindedness, inquisitiveness and curiosity. I simply think it’s not as critical as MY point about religious nuttery and dogma.

    Did you see my link to the flatearthsociety? That’s my principal argument against your point.

  • nhthinker

    HA HA ha ha ha ha …..ha ha …
    (Is he gone yet? )

  • nhthinker

    “Why use the expression Intelligent Design if you’re aware of it’s common meaning? ”

    I did it to be provocative. Everyone that actually took the time to read what I wrote understood my definition of intelligent design or intelligent species design. I never used my version in upper case and I corrected every posting that was attributing Discovery Institute’s ID to what I was advocating.

    “Your version of ID isn’t any more backed by evidence than the religious one. ”
    Not quite. My version of ISD has human produced examples that are scientifically accepted. E.g. human insulin producing yeast.

    You are very right that there is no evidence of non-human ISD (NISD). What there is is just speculation of NISD. The speculation of NISD is comparable to the speculation of SETI. People accept SETI as a worthwhile topic for science because of it’s speculation, and analysis is rationally based.

    “I get your point about open mindedness, inquisitiveness and curiosity. I simply think it’s not as critical as MY point about religious nuttery and dogma. ”
    I would agree that your point can be more important in many cases BUT just because a point is more important DOES NOT mean the other points needs to be drowned out by the more important point. I think we can do better than substituting religious dogma with science dogma. I want inquisitive students. They are much better prepared for the world.

    “Did you see my link to the flatearthsociety? That’s my principal argument against your point.”
    I have read about the flatearthsociety before. But I don’t agree with your argument that inquisitiveness must be completely removed until we’ve gotten rid of everyone that would try to use religious dogma. Science has to be true to its principles even when being attacked.
    I never said evolution theory was wrong: I said it was scientifically known to be unable to explain all known species. We know ISD was part of the creation of human insulin producing yeast. I think that obviously truthful claim disturbed a lot of people. It seemed to be attacking the Evolution Theory dogma with a religious speculation and people reacted emotionally and without curiosity. Most recognized what I was calling intelligent design but reacted much more harshly and less rationally to NISD than they do to SETI.

  • Slide

    so mixing and manipulating existing organic matter and being able to end up with something that didn’t exist in exactly the same form, is to you, the same as an “intelligent designer” creating the entire universe and everything in it?

    You see what I mean about nothinker…. oh he will blather on and on and cite all kinds of materials and make his brilliant deductions of which any rational thinker would immediately see to be ridiculous on its face. But he is entertaining, I will give him that much.

  • nhthinker

    Here is Richard Dawkins agreeing with the “intriguing possibility” of the equivalent of the NHThinker form of ID…

    “It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and that it designed a form of life it seeded, perhaps onto this planet. Now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible you might find evidence for that. If you look at the details of biochemistry, of molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc

    At about 3:00…