Monday, March 03, 2008


Dynamite Pie

Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel has a perspicacious (Hey! ... it's the education section!) article about the latest move by the anti-science forces in Florida. Noting that John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council, after it couldn't get some weasel language into the standards, said that creationists would push for an "academic freedom" measure in the state Legislature, Ms. Postal reports:

And Friday, State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, filed just such a bill that would create an "Academic Freedom Act" and protect the right of teachers to "objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution."
Ms. Postal also notes that the bill's language appears to be, in large part, taken from a "model bill" the Discovery Institute is pushing. At the DI's site, legislators interested in making fools of themselves can get instruction in the art from its "program officer for public policy and legal affairs," none other than Casey Luskin, an acknowledged expert in the field. But Ms. Postal sees through the dishonesty that is going on:

Interestingly, during the debate on the standards, Stemberger and other opponents of the new standards said they were not pushing for the teaching of "any other theory of the origin of life." They said they want evolution taught but not as "dogma," and in a way that allows "critical analysis" of it. Much of their agenda -- and even some of their catch phrases -- seems in lockstep with the the Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute advocates for Intelligent Design, which holds that life on earth is best explained by an intelligent cause rather than Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

The institute also has been pushing an Academic Freedom Petition, which pushes for an academic freedom act, which says that evolution should be taught with its "strengths and weaknesses" discussed and that teachers should have the "right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution."
So, despite the disclaimers that they don't want to teach ID, the whole focus is on allowing at least some teachers (no doubt with the likes of Robin Brown in mind) to spout "the full range of scientific views" about evolution, which, of course, the Discovery Institute keeps telling us, includes ID. Disingenuousness, thy name is creationism.

Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority has already raised some of the legal problems with the law and there is no need to rehearse those. But one interesting aspect of the DI's model bill that didn't make it into Ms. Storms' version is this:

[T]he Legislature finds that school districts and school administrators should not bear the primary burden of defending the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the topics of biological or chemical evolution. It is the intent of the Legislature that this act expressly protects those rights.
This is an attempt to blunt the most effective weapon in the arsenal of those who would keep creationism out of public schools, namely: the threat of a Dover-like lawsuit where, if the board loses, it has to pay the parents' often substantial legal costs. If the model bill was passed, a local board that allowed or encouraged the teaching of ID could argue that they were operating under the color of state law and, in effect, try to pass the buck, in all senses of the word, to the state.

But this is a two-edged sword. The problem that most faces biology education right now is not the official or semiofficial actions of school boards, it is the reluctance of teachers to teach evolution and/or the willingness of significant numbers of teachers to proselytize their personal religious beliefs on the public payroll. This type of law, passed at a state level, obviates the need to go around finding and challenging the injection of religion into science courses classroom by classroom. If challenged successfully (and its singling out evolution for special treatment because of the religious controversy surrounding it is one large strike against the bill), the case would draw attention to what is being taught and make it difficult for school boards to ignore creationist teachers, since such a ruling would put the onus back on them.

Let's hope this is another stratagem that blows up in the creationists' faces.

They're not the brightest pennies in the cash register, but they're certainly coordinating their legislative attacks with their blithering "documentary", Expelled.

One might wonder if this one is jumping the gun, but then again, one might wonder if this is meant to stoke the fires for Expelled and all of the attendent caterwauling that ID is treated like the other pseudosciences (apart from its essential religious component, that is).

Sure, Expelled and ID are aimed at the yahoos, and not at gaining a (relatively) legitimate foothold in academia as Phillip Johnson once hoped to do. Trouble is, it remains a sorry truth that if you get enough yahoos het up about the expulsion of religious pseudoscience from legitimate scientific and educational pursuits, you might be harnessing the considerable power of ignorance for your cause.

The good thing legally about Expelled, however, is that it drunkenly swerves over the artificial distinctions between ID and religion (unless it has been significantly edited since the trailers were made). Expelled is lamenting the fact that religious nonsense is "expelled" ('intellectually outcompeted' is the real term) in the normal course of science, the same way the irreligious nonsense is (though they won't admit the latter). You're going to get an awful lot of the language that was exposed in the Dover trial, as people take up the cause of Expelled, thus insisting that religious science should not be discriminated against in science.

Of course it's a total crock that they aren't pushing ID even with the "critical analysis" language, let alone by the fact that they've never considered Aristotelian notions of "forms" as one of the "alternative" theories. It's Judeo-Christian metaphysics all the way, something they can never avoid with ID, mainly because forcing Christian metaphysics to be considered as science has always been their goal.

Glen Davidson
"Yahoo" is one of those irregular words:

My constituents;
Your partisans;
Their yahoos;

... but the iron rule of politics is that, in order to win, your yahoos have to outnumber the other guy's. ;-)

You're going to get an awful lot of the language that was exposed in the Dover trial, as people take up the cause of Expelled ...

This has always been the dilemma for ID ... in order to win the yahoos into the "big tent," you have to signal them that ID wiil "do the job" of putting the government's stamp of approval on the yahoos' religious beliefs.

Inevitably, the yahoos will not or can not take the hint that this is, at least officially, supposed to be a secret.
Never underestimate the power of a small number ignorant people in large groups.
"...and that,children, is why the world is too complex to have been created without a Designer"

"But, Miss, what about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?"

"Don't be silly Johnny, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is just a silly joke, created by silly people!"

"Well you started it Miss"
Ah...the Orlando Sentinel where one is measured by his perspicacity, not his purse capacity.
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