Saturday, March 06, 2010


Stupid Personified

The "Creationism Examiner," Terry Hurlbut, expresses all the illogic necessary to explain the "teach the controversy" trope:

The New York Times created a minor stir two days ago by suggesting that creationists are somehow attempting to co-opt opposition to climate-change alarmism in order to win legal and political points and advance the creationist agenda. But the Times ignores one other possible reason why creationists (and proponents of intelligent design, which is not the same concept) might challenge orthodox opinion on anthropogenic global warming (AGW): that both evolutionists and climate-change alarmists practice the same kinds of dogmatic intolerance of contrary opinion.
Well, no. There are a lot of sciences that display "dogmatic intolerance of contrary opinion." Geologists and astrophysicists are every bit as "intolerant" of flat-Earthers. Doctors are as "intolerant" of witch doctors. The "problem" is how credible the "contrary opinion" is. Hurlbut assumes that creationism and intelligent design (which are not separate things) are credible opposing scientific views. They aren't.

The other thing Hurlbut doesn't understand is that science doesn't come out of high schools:

The worse scandal is that any teacher needs to be told that the essence of science education is critical thinking, and not uncritical acceptance of established theories--and that other teachers, who know these lessons, have to defend themselves from administrations that appear equally hostile to dissenting opinion. Given that history is replete with example after example of long-held theories that ultimately failed (the phlogiston theory of combustion springs to mind), that ought to concern every citizen who purports to worry about the state of American education.
It was scientists, not high school students, who busted the phlogiston theory of combustion. High school students, and most high school teachers, are in no position to evaluate scientific theories and to pretend they are is to abrogate the very idea of education, which is imparting our best knowledge to children. Teaching them bad ideas because some politically powerful groups don't like science's results is never good education.

According to Wikipedia, the phlogiston theory was first proposed in 1667, and was replaced by the theory of oxidation by the end of the 18th century, less than 150 years later. (At a time when, one could well argue, things scientific moved more slowly.)

But, more significantly, as you point out, those who replaced the phlogiston theory did not do it by talking to youngsters. They did the work, theoretical and experimental, and engaged in conversation with the savants of the day.

Moreover, the phlogiston theory was not discarded by saying that "it's only a theory". Not even by pointing out problems like the negative weight of phlogiston. It was replaced only when a better theory came along.

Tom S.
Nicely put. Thanks, Tom.
As we keep saying, if Creationists had anything substantive to say, they would be talking to scientists instead of to impressionable children.
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