Friday, March 14, 2008


Dissemblers Institute

Hey! Guess what! The Discovery Institute has noticed that Casey Luskin let the cat out of the bag about the "academic freedom" bill, pushed by some Florida legislators, being intended to allow Intelligent Design Creationism to be injected into public school science classes!

John West is over at the DI's Media Complaints Department claiming that Luskin's words were misrepresented. I suppose you could make that case ... after all, the article implied that the words were coming from a reasonably competent sentient creature.

But West is now complaining that "The Florida Darwinists’ latest gambit to scuttle the bill is to refocus the debate on intelligent design." Oh, gee, what could ever make anyone think that the Florida bill involves ID? ... beyond the fact that the bill is based on a "model bill" being pushed by the Discovery Institute itself at a site where all questions are directed to the "program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute," who is none other than ... wait for it ... Casey Luskin!

West would actually have us believe that a bill written and promoted by the Discovery Institute, whose main claim to fame is pushing ID, and whose program officer for public policy and legal affairs shows up for a press conference lauding the bill, has nothing whatsoever to do with ID. Riiight!

West is no less disingenuous than Luskin but he is a bit more subtle:

[T]here is a debate raging over whether intelligent design is science. Scientists and philosophers who support ID certainly think it is scientific in precisely the same way Darwinism is scientific. But the proposed Academic Freedom Act does not wade into the design debate one way or another. If and when ID supporters are able to win the debate over whether ID science, then by definition any scientific information about it that pertains to biological or chemical evolution would be protected—just like any other scientific information relevant to those topics. [Emphasis in original]
Of course, what he fails to say is that the "debate" is merely poitical; there is no scientific debate whatsoever. But beyond that, look at who is supposed to decide that debate:

So who would decide what is scientific under the bill?

The same people who currently must make that determination: science teachers themselves in consultation with their science curriculum staff and their school boards.
Individual K-12 teachers do not decide what is and is not "science." That is decided by the scientific community which, overwhelmingly, has rejected the notion that ID is science. The people who decide what the curriculum should be have no more right to decide that issue than they would to decide whether Holocaust denial is good history. Those people may have the power to inject Holocaust denial into the schools (subject, in our system, to court review) but the decision as to what good history is lies elsewhere.

Fortunately, some of the Florida legislators might be seeing the light. Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who previously was making soothing noises in the direction of supporters of the "academic freedom" legislation, may be having a change of heart:

House Speaker Marco Rubio said there can be "valid debates on Darwin." But he said there's a reason teachers are held to a standard curriculum for K-12.

"It seems to me the movie and the issue applies more in the higher education setting," Rubio said.
Rubio is correct that K-12 education is not the proper place to be deciding issues of what is or is not science. It certainly is not the place to have students deciding what is or is not science, especially based on skewed and dishonest presentations by "cdesign proponentsists."

Finally, the real aim of the bill is revealed by West:

And if they [teachers] happen to promote something that isn’t science, we can be sure that groups like the ACLU will be ready to police their activities — just like they do now.
In short, people who want to prevent the use of taxpayer money to promote the religious agenda of creationists will (they hope) have to chase after each individual teacher in each individual classroom.

It is not the fear that ID might turn out to be science that drives the animosity towards the bill, it is the fear that, even as massive amounts of resources are wasted that could be better put towards education, there will still be children given a bad science education simply because they were unlucky enough to draw a teacher who wants to proselytize his or her religion rather than teach science.

Update: Wes Elsberry has an excellent dissection of West's blather over at The Austringer.

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