Darwin-Only Advisors Hunker Down to Re-Strategize
Strict Darwinian materialists are a minority in the United States, yet they enjoy autocracy in educational policy, complete control of scientific institutions, and nearly complete unquestioned support from the mainstream media. Nevertheless, they have to face living in a country that is predominantly religious. Once in awhile they suffer setbacks, like the recent changes in textbook policy in Texas that will require more scrutiny of the claims of evolution. What do they say amongst themselves when strategizing how to handle the public?
- NCSE strategic plan: Eugenie Scott was interviewed as a Newsmaker in Science last week.1 Yudhijit Bhattacharjee lobbed friendly softballs to her, like How has this battle changed in the past 20 years?, Why has the ID movement survived the 2005 Dover trial?, and What should scientists do to help the cause? Her answers were those of a general in the strategy room of a war. Scott said that “The enemy has become more diverse.” Enemies have spread from K-12 to “community colleges and even 4-year colleges.” She mentioned “periodic assaults on science standards as we recently saw in Texas,” and the ongoing threats of antievolution legislation.
Scott used arguments from her standard arsenal, portraying opponents of evolution as those who don’t “understand the nature of a scientific experiment,” but then portrayed evolution as “the big picture.” She dismissed the Discovery Institute’s “standard creationist arguments” without mentioning any one in particular.
As for what scientists should do to “help the cause,” Scott said, “Universities need to do a better job of teaching evolution because that’s where high school teachers get their training. Evolution needs to be brought into every course of biology instead of getting tacked on as a unit to the intro class.” She did, however, advise against presenting evolution in atheistic terms. “If a professor were to say that evolution proves there is no God, that’s not just bad philosophy of science, it ensures that a significant number of students will stick their fingers in their ears.”
Why, then, did Science, in its Origins blog, parade the poetry of Emily Ballou, whose lines mock the Bible and describe how evolutionary thinking caused Charles Darwin to lose his faith? In that entry, Claire Thomas quoted this line from Ballou’s book as the stinger at the end of the article: You can safely put God to bed now / the way you can’t your daughter anymore. / Tuck the sheets so tight he cannot move / and lock the bedroom door. (Cf. 07/12/2006).
- Texas tech: Meanwhile, how will evolutionists handle the new rules in Texas? This week in Science,2 Bhattacharjee continued the discussion by describing how “Authors Scramble to Make Textbooks Conform to Texas Science Standards.” Before, evolutionary writers like Ken Miller had to work around demands to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory (which Miller interpreted to be “unresolved questions” about evolution, not real weaknesses of the evolutionary edifice). In fact, in the 2004 Dover trial, defense attorneys pointed out that Miller himself had used the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” in his textbook. That moment in the trial was “more than a little embarrassing,” Bhattacharjee said. He revealed an inside scuffle between the two anti-creationist generals:
Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California sees Miller’s earlier revision as a failed “attempt to be clever.” And she’s worried that history might repeat itself.
“When you put ‘weaknesses’ and ‘evolution’ in the same line, you reinforce doubts that creationists are trying to sow,” says Scott, whose organization monitors the issue as it plays out in state and local districts. In fact, Scott was so incensed by the revelation at the Dover trial that she confronted Miller after he testified. “What were you thinking?” she asked him.
Miller’s answer, then and now, is not to get too excited. The new Texas standards leave plenty of room for authors to explain the robustness of evolutionary theory, he says, and that’s precisely what he and his publisher, Prentice Hall, plan to do. “The advocates of these standards underestimate the strength of the scientific evidence for structures and phenomena that they mistakenly believe evolution cannot account for,” Miller says. “The new wording is an opportunity to make biology texts even stronger.”
Still, “many scientists view the new version [of the standards] as more insidious than the previous one.” Students must be able to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations” concerning the complexity of the cell and other areas in which writers claim evolution offers the only explanation – including the “sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” How’s Miller going to abide by that requirement? By introducing students to “punctuated equilibria.” Steve Nowicki, another textbook author, is also planning to work within the new standards in his own way. “I understand that there may be a political agenda behind the standards, but I am taking them at face value,” he said. “If a state thinks students need more information to understand evolution, I am happy to provide that.” What constitutes “more information” is probably the point of contention.
- Converting the religious: In BioScience,3 Douglas Woodhams (U of Zurich) advised his fellow scientists to “frame” arguments for conservation in terms that will motivate “people of faith” to join in efforts to protect biodiversity. Woodhams, who works with SaveTheFrogs.com, has had to find ways to get religious people in Panama to understand why protecting amphibians is important. He presumed that their Biblical world view would cause them to believe that “God created nature for unlimited human domination and that nature is passing away and thus lacks any deep value.” Confronting believers with strictly secular arguments, he feels, is counter-productive. “Scientists may help convince the religious community of the mandate for biodiversity conservation by pointing the faithful toward their own environmental ethics,” he said. “Indeed, if scientists appeal to people of faith, our critical information might gain more concerted attention.” Framing the arguments this way results in a more constructive engagement.
Woodhams was quick to point out that he did not mean to imply any kind of compromise over epistemology:
To be clear, I am not suggesting that creationism, intelligent design, or other faith-based theories be supported by scientists. I am suggesting that science, at its interface with the public, be presented in accessible and socially relevant terms. Science exists in a value-laden political and social context, and framing our results does not reduce the purity or rigor of the scientific method. Rather, the frame is merely a decoration to draw attention to the picture.
Framing science applies to any audience; here I focus on the faith community because it is large and many in it are suspicious of scientific claims. By emphasizing the moral excellence, the virtue, of biodiversity-conservation recognized by scientists and religious adherents alike, scientists may gain a foot in the door and begin to speak through the crack. We might influence a large audience that was previously indoctrinated against conservation.
So in other words, while (like Richard Lewontin said) scientists cannot allow a divine foot in the door, Woodhams is looking for a foot in the door of the “faith community” (as opposed to those who follow the creed of the scientific method) by appealing to their own Scriptures in support of his goals. He quoted Psalm 104 and other Biblical passages that extol the value of created animals.
Woodhams expressed agreement with Gould’s strategy of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) – the idea that science and religion occupy separate spheres. What was lacking in his essay, though, was any identification of the grounds of his own “scientific” doctrine of moral excellence, virtue, or environmental ethics. Who gave the “mandate for biodiversity conservation” in his view? If it didn’t come from the Bible, did he find it in the Origin of Species by Natural Selection? Presumably Darwinism has brought more animals to extinction than conserved them. Nevertheless, his article was framed in stark us-vs-them terms, as if evolutionary biologists are keepers of the heart and soul of conservation ethics.
1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Eugenie Scott Toils in Defense of Evolution,” Science, 5 June 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5932, pp. 1250-1251, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1250b.
2. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Authors Scramble to Make Textbooks Conform to Texas Science Standards,” Science, 12 June 2009: Vol. 324. no. 5933, p. 1385, DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1385.
3. Douglas C. Woodhams, “Converting the Religious: Putting Amphibian Conservation in Context,” BioScience, June 2009, 59(6):463-464, doi: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.6.2.
The hypocrisy of the DODO crowd (Darwin-only, Darwin-only) is so obvious one wonders how they can avoid noticing their own reflection. They claim creationists have a political agenda but they are right in there at every school board meeting, court case and election, trying to push their people and oust the challengers. They talk about creationist code-phrases but employ scads of their own: NOMA, punctuated equilibria, Dover (as a symbol for the collapse of ID), and “people of faith” as enemies of practitioners of the scientific method, who obviously are as pure in their motives as the new-fallen snow.
Look who was calling the creationists “enemies” – Eugenie Scott herself, and Yudhijit didn’t bat an eye. They are at war. Some tacticians want to shmooze the enemy (like Woodhams), and others want to do battle. Never is there any shame for their own sins. Never is there any realization that Darwinism has real weaknesses. The fossil record? The complexity of the cell? The coded information in DNA? The origin of life? Those aren’t weaknesses. Evolution is robust! Those are just “unresolved questions.” They even have a magic wand to explain them away. It does real magic, too. It produces sudden, unexplained, miraculous innovations of complete new structures and functions without leaving any trace in the fossil record. It’s called Punctuated Equilibria. Preach it, bro.
This people-of-faith vs science dichotomy is phony baloney. What you see above is the People of Froth (10/13/2005, 09/26/2005) preaching to the People of Fluff (09/09/2008). Don’t give them power because they will never share it. It’s DODO all the way in their system of Darwin-Only Public Education (DOPE).