Tuesday, September 29, 2009


We're Gonna Be Here a While

There's nothing like a challenge to get me moving. Nick Smyth showed up here and laid some snide on me:

I can't help but suspect that you can't think of ways to respond to my specific critiques aimed at your points. I made three (three!) in the new response and there is nothing about them here.

This was despite the fact that I ended my last post saying:

That's all I have time for this morning but I'll come back to this, I hope, later today with a few more thoughts, as well as corrections of Smyth's misconstruals of my criticisms.

I'm afraid he got some snide back, which I'm ... sorta ... sorry about but I have a lot of other challenges in my life right now and my tolerance for snide from people who have misconstrued what I've said (in more ways than just not bothering to read carefully) is a tad low. Those other challenges (including, as it happens, a rather large case where I have to show that an "expert" is not applying "science" sufficiently well for his testimony to be admissible) may limit how far I get tonight, though I suspect I'll keep coming back. Frankly, I think Nick has made such a hodgepodge of different ideas, that it is difficult to sort it out in anything like a non-eye-glazing package.

Let me finish what I started before about the US Constitutional scheme and respond to some comments Nick made to my post earlier today. Nick says in his post at his blog:

I concluded with an obvious truism, one that even most IDers would support: scientific practices, as diverse and indefinable as they may be, seem to deliver truths about the world. This is what is important about them. The alleged "pseudosciences" (astrology, ID-creationism) do not deliver such truths.

Sorry, Nick. Maybe in Canada (though, I suspect, far less than you may think) people will accept the "obvious" truth of science but it's definitely not the case here in the US. I've already given the example from Answers in Genesis that denies that science has any truth-value if it contradicts their (idiosyncratic) reading of scripture. Note that I am not, as Nick accused me of in the comments, "shift[ing] the focus away from science and towards religion." Nick himself is raising creationism. (But if we're going to start on whether creationism is or is not religious, we could be here a long time.)

Every young-Earth creationist organization that I've ever investigated has some version of AiG's denial and, to the extent you believe polls, anywhere from a third to almost a half of the American public is willing to treat YEC as "truth." ID adherents, though they will pay lip service to the truth-value of science, also decry "materialistic science" by which they mean, if you study what they say to friendly audiences, the very science that Nick claims they will respect.

Worse, in terms of Nick's scheme, as a religious belief, American governments and their employees are not permitted, under our Constitution, to call creationism "bollocks," as was shown in the recent case of James Corbett. Note that there is a structural asymmetry here under our Constitution. It is perfectly all right, as the court in the Corbett case found, to say:

"Therefore, no creation, unless you invoke magic. Science doesn't invoke magic. If we can't explain something, we do not uphold that position. It's not, ooh, then magic. That's not the way we work."

"Contrast that with creationists. They never try to disprove creationism. They're all running around trying to prove it. That's deduction. It's not science. Scientifically, it's nonsense."

In other words (and regardless of whether you agree with Corbett's characterization of science), it is fine to say that creationism is scientific bullocks but not fine to say that it is untrue, as Corbett did when he said that creationism was "religious, superstitious nonsense." But that means we have to say what science is, at least in some degree, in order to say creationism is "scientific bollocks." If "creation science" is "science," simply because its proponents say so and it is "denying human beings the right to have their opinions count or be heard" to say otherwise, then any school board that wants to include creation science in a science class can do so, as I pointed out before, and no government teacher can say it is false.

Nick also says in the comments that I:

... claim that the courts need to keep hammering away at the "science" question [to keep creationism out of public schools in the US]. When you prove that something is nonscientific, you do not prove that it is religion.

That's quite true but again reveals that Nick is not very familiar with our constitutional jurisprudence or, for that matter, with Judge Jones' decision, even though he presumed to criticize it. Judge Jones spent considerable time and effort establishing that "the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child." Even excluding his discussion of the "supernatural" claims of ID, that Nick disputes (and, on which I will eventually have something to say), Judge Jones devoted at least 10 pages of his decision (18-29) to discussing the evidence that ID is religious and obviously so.

Lastly, for the moment, Nick says at his blog post:

We should only teach children truths. Therefore, we should teach them about the sciences, and pass over astrology and creationism in silence. We do not need the demarcation project, we should abandon the search for a definitive "scientific method", and we should recover the older idea that the value of the sciences lies is the value of truth.

We don't "need" a demarcation project between science and astrology precisely because there is no large, well-funded movement with considerable minorities of sympathizers throughout the country, and substantial majorities in many places, seeking to inject astrology into public school science classes, as is the case with creationism. Furthermore, under our constitutional scheme, as I pointed out before, if a local school board wanted to inject astrology into science classes (and there is no religious history to the astrology they were pushing) we could not stop them in the courts. Instead, we would have to win the hearts and minds of the local majority that elected them in the first place so they'd recognize why it's bad public policy.

That might be a tad difficult if we started out by claiming that all the supporters are full of bullocks.


Maybe in Canada (though, I suspect, far less than you may think) people will accept the "obvious" truth of science but it's definitely not the case here in the US.

...just one canadian scientist who is uncomfortable with science laying claim to truth (all of my scientific training tells me that the foundations are laid in skepticism - forget the truth, show me the evidence).
"Those other challenges (including, as it happens, a rather large case where I have to show that an "expert" is not applying "science" sufficiently well for his testimony to be admissible) may limit how far I get tonight...."

See! All those years in talk.origins are paying off. Can you tell us which "science" this is?
Can you tell us which "science" this is?

Heh! An engineer!
Is the Salem Hypothesis admissible evidence?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education