Archive for February 23rd, 2009

New member of the family

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Please join me in welcoming Wisconsin to the Citizens for Science family. They are off to a great start!

Interview on the radio tonight

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I just hung up the phone with a reporter from WMNF Radio, Tampa. They will be airing a piece about Senator Wise’s possible intelligent design creationism bill during the 6 p.m. evening news broadcast. You can listen to it streaming live over the Internet, and the broadcast will then be archived on their site sometime later.

I was asked about our opinion on the bill, the idea of “teaching both sides and letting students decide,” and … get this … I was told that supposedly Sen. Wise had asked “if man evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” and I was asked to respond to that.

Wow. Just wow.

So, listen in and share your thoughts in the comments.

[Edited to add the following after the show aired. Archived recording of the story is here.]

I feel incredibly honored to have my interviews alongside those of Sir Harold Kroto and Peyton West. And I find it interesting that no one other than Senator Wise was interviewed for the intelligent design creationism side. There was the opening segment where a Ben Stein recording was played, but that hardly counts, especially when stacked up against Kroto and West.

To briefly summarize the story: Sen. Wise swallowed Expelled hook, line and sinker. He thinks folks are being fired for advocating intelligent design (ID) creationism. (Take a look at that link to learn the real story that Sen. Wise either doesn’t know or is ignoring.) Sen. Wise does toss around so-called “academic freedom” quite a bit in his interview. Then part of my interview mentions the long history of anti-evolution and how creationism has evolved over the years. Then we hear about Dover, which then leads into Kroto reading directly from the judge’s decision concerning how ID is clearly not science by any stretch of the imagination. Next up is West from AAAS, who follows up on the theme of ID not being science, and goes a step further to explain how ID is actually a science stopper because it calls upon the supernatural to explain things.

We get back to Wise, who professes that he is a smart man with a doctorate. He laments new college students failing biology because they don’t believe in evolution. And then comes the whopper: if man came from apes, then why are there still apes? I finish off the story with a chuckle as I wonder why the heck people who know nothing about science have any say in science education. Finally, I explain just how wrong Wise is concerning that whole ape thing.

If you had a chance to listen, let me know how you think it went. If you weren’t able to listen, then check back at the radio station site for an archived version. This story didn’t run until about 21 minutes into the broadcast.

The proper way to get ID into schools

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Destin Log columnist Fraser Sherman offers a useful suggestion to Sen. Wise to help him get intelligent design creationism into the classroom: Do some actual science.

The reason we know evolution is science is because it makes a number of predictions regarding natural selection, intermediate fossils, genetics and other things that have been born out. It can be tested, and it can be disproved: As scientist J.B.S. Haldane put it, if someone finds fossilized rabbits in billion-year-old  rocks, evolution is done for.

If creationists/IDers want some scientific respect, that’s all they have to do: Make a prediction about what we would discover if — and only if — creationism/ID were true, then go out and find proof the prediction holds up. Do that, and creationism will start getting some scientific respect.

So what Wise should do is take all that money the state will have to spend defending his creationist bill and put it into a grant for serious ID research (he could even invite the Discovery Institute to kick in, instead of spending all its money on news releases). If any scientific breakthroughs result, Wise will look like a visionary.

Now why didn’t the intelligent design creationism folks think of that?

More opinions on Wise

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science supporter Paul Cottle, who is a professor of physics at Florida State University, wrote a nice piece for the Florida Times-Union about state Senator Wise’s possible intelligent design creationism bill.

Wise’s proposal does not represent the viewpoints of all Christians.

Last year, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando published an opinion column in The Orlando Sentinel endorsing the teaching of evolution.

At the same time, he rejected the notion that “evolution requires a materialistic or an atheistic understanding of the human person or of the entire universe.”

Wise’s proposal does not use the word “science” in the same way that the vast majority of scientists do.

Most scientists regard science as a way of explaining phenomena we observe in our laboratories and elsewhere in the universe using the laws of nature.

As Staff Writer Matt Soergel reported in his article, intelligent design advocates assume that “life is so complex that it couldn’t occur naturally but must have had an intelligent force working to make it happen.”

But, of course, there are unscientific opinions out there, too. Julie Braza twisted herself into a pretzel in order to try to make a point.

It is important to remember that intelligent design is not creationism, nor does it contradict evolution. If intelligent design were taught in the classroom, the teacher would not read the book of Genesis aloud and then say “end of discussion.”

The theory of intelligent design merely states that there is an intelligent force behind certain aspects and patterns of the universe, as opposed to complete randomness.

The idea could be presented to students in such a way as to say that many in the scientific community believe that evolution and natural selection are undirected processes, while others in the scientific community believe that there is an intelligent force directing or instigating these processes.

First of all, Julie, intelligent design is in fact creationism. The two concepts are one and the same. Secondly, claiming there is an intelligent force out there without scientific proof to back up that claim is in fact injecting a religious belief into a science classroom. How else could that be interpreted? Finally, intelligent design creationism does not in any way advance scientific understanding of our world. Rather, it’s a “science stopper” as biologist Ken Miller said. “If you attribute an event to the supernatural, you can by definition investigate it no further.”

The next letter down is from John Campbell, who trots out those tired old eye and fossil arguments, which show that he has no idea what he is talking about.

They want no competition of ideas in this area and certainly don’t want things like irreducible complexity or the evolution of the eye openly discussed in the classroom.

And they certainly don’t want students to ask the whereabouts of all those billions and billions of transitional species fossils that don’t exist.

Read up on eye evolution. Read up on transitional fossils. And read some more. Don’t like reading? Then take a trip to the Hall of Fossils at our own Florida Museum of Natural History.

It’s so incredibly frustrating to hear and read these long-ago discredited arguments against evolution again and again. These arguments are so off the mark that they can no longer be considered arguments at all, but rather flat out lies.