AP evolution story lacks intelligent design

So this is my first real GetReligion post. Where do I start?

Do I begin with the slanted perspective of a weekend Associated Press report on home-school science textbooks? Or does the overly simplistic treatment of the subject concern me more? Slanted or simplistic? Simplistic or slanted?

Oh, all right, I’ll open with the sin of commission — the imbalance in this piece. The story immediately calls into question its own news value by leading with a 6-year-old anecdote:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn’t taken a friend’s advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old’s biology lessons.

Mule’s precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth’s excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin’s theory.

“I thought she was going to have a coronary,” Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. “She’s like, ‘This is not true!’”

However, the anecdote sets the tone for the article: Home-school parents who believe in evolution are victims of a market that favors a “Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation.” These parents feel “isolated and frustrated.” The most popular home-school science textbooks “promulgate lies to kids” and “stack the deck against evolution.”

Grab a tissue, folks, because “if this is the way kids are home-schooled then they’re being shortchanged, both rationally and in terms of biology,” as one evolution expert tells AP.

You get the idea. These are valid questions, of course, but the story provides no concrete evidence — or even any squishy anecdotal proof — that home-school graduates receive an inferior science education to their public school counterparts. This is just assumed. Why not track down a few home-school graduates now taking university-level science courses and see how they’re doing?

To be fair, opposing viewpoints are included in the AP article, but never — in my opinion — with the same level of precision and conviction as the sources that embrace Charles Darwin and evolutionary science. The story quotes a second “disheartened” home-school parent and a third who complains about the lack of a “scientifically credible curriculum” before finally giving a voice to a creationist family in the last three paragraphs:

Adam Brown’s parents say their 16-year-old son’s belief in the Bible’s creation story isn’t deterring him from pursuing a career in marine biology. His parents, Ken and Polly Brown, taught him at their Cedar Grove, Ind., home using the Apologia curriculum and other science texts.

Polly Brown said her son would gladly take college courses that include evolution, and he’ll be able to provide the expected answers even though he disagrees.

“He probably knows it better than the kids who have been taught evolution all through public school,” Polly Brown said. “But that is in order for him to understand both sides of that argument because he will face it throughout his higher education.”

Of course, that leads to the sin of omission — the fact that this piece fails to grasp the complicated nature of the creation vs. evolution debate.

To read this story, there is only one kind of creationist and one kind of evolutionist — and never shall the twain meet. But that’s just not the case.

ReligionLink’s most recent primer on evolution explains the difference between young-Earth creationists and old-Earth creationists. And it points out that some advocates of intelligent design — the theory that the complexity of life points to a higher being at work — believe that evolution can be compatible with belief in God. Then again, ReligionLink notes:

ID (intelligent design) and creationism are not necessarily in accord with each other, and in fact proponents of each camp can argue as vociferously as Darwinists and anti-Darwinists.

It might surprise the AP writer to learn that, even among Christian university biology professors, much diversity exists on this topic. The word “evolution” means many things to many different people, and there are many people who keep getting jammed under that “creationist” umbrella that have no business being there.

Yes, I know (as an AP alum), that a reporter can’t include every detail and nuance in an 883-word story. But would a little less bias — and a little more rudimentary knowledge — be too much to ask?

I didn’t think so.

By the way, I may be new here, but I already know to ask readers to stick to the journalism issues when writing comments about a topic as hot as this one.

Image: From Wikimedia Commons.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Dave

    Welcome, Bobby!

    You can’t expect a newspaper story about bias in a specific set of textbooks to provide an exhaustive review of the politics or even the religion behind the alleged bias. Deadlines and word count militate against it.

    That being said, expecting the media to provide equal time for pro- and anti-Darwin viewpoints is like demanding equal time for Flat Earthers or Ptolemaic astronomers. If the story were about a public debate between the two sides, then equal time would be appropriate; not here.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    But Dave, we can expect reporters to use accurate and non-simplistic terms. Your other problem is that the story specifically criticizes a group — makes them part of the story — and then gives no background.

    That’s a journalism issue.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Thank you for the welcome, Dave!

    I didn’t say that fairness demands equal time. Sometimes, it takes more space to explain or illustrate a particular side in a discussion. But that wasn’t the reason for the imbalance in this case.

    By the way, just had the privilege of trashing the first non-journalistic comment of my GetReligion career. Felt pretty good.

  • Matt

    Aiming to start off with a bang in the comments department, eh Bobby? :)

    The article did at least let creationist Jay Wile have the last word over Jerry Coyne, but both of those guys are well-known warriors. Voices of moderation on either side are completely absent.

    Also, the article only briefly mentions, without elaborating, that publishers of mainstream textbooks (i.e., those used in schools) do not sell to home-schoolers. If they did, home-schoolers who accept mainstream science would not have this problem. As it is, of course publishers of home-school textbooks are going to cater to the audience from whom they can make a significant profit. Why not dig into this issue?

    Finally, Bobby, while you are correct in principle that belief in intelligent design (note the lack of capitalization) does not preclude evolution, it is the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement (Stephen Meyer et al) who have singled out “Darwinism” as their bogeyman. So you can hardly blame the media for repeating the characterization.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Actually, I was going more for a Big Bang. :-)

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Journalism should, of course, strive for balance and objectivity. But is there no limit to what needs to be balanced with an opposing view?

    I mean, most people don’t think articles about astronomy need comments from astrologers, nor do chemistry articles need the input of alchemists. Articles about mining or oil exploration don’t usually solicit quotes from dowsers.

    So, the question becomes, how does a journalist determine that a position is too ‘out there’ to require equal time? What – if anything – would mark ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’ (or ‘evolution’, for that matter) – as so disproved that equal respect was not mandated?

  • Jerry

    The real question which stories such as this need to directly address is whether or not people accept the rules and processes of how science works or not. This is a hundreds of years old issues and one which sadly has not gone away yet.

    The scare quotes around “Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation.” are very accurate since many do not see that as a proper view of what the Bible says at all including many devoted Christians. The false dichotomy between religion and science is unfortunate.

    Seeing the hand of God behind evolution is theology, not science, so I would love to see this point-of-view more reflected in situations like this.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    The story itself cites 1.5 million home-school students in the U.S.

    And it mentions a poll showing 83 percent of home-school families want to give their children “religious or moral instruction.” That’s roughly 1.25 million students, although I don’t think we can make the leap (for the reasons cited in my post) and assume they’re all studying creationism only.

    That 1.25 million figure doesn’t even include the parents.

    That seems like a pretty big number to brush aside as too “out there” for fair treatment.

    Besides that, the ReligionLink post I mentioned cites relatively stable Gallup analysis that has found 44 percent of Americans believe that “God created man in present form,” 36 percent believe that man developed with “God guiding the process,” and 14 percent believe that “God had no part in the process.” (Not sure what’s up with the missing 6 percent.)

    Are 80 percent of Americans who believe God played a role in creation too “out there” for fair treatment?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Bobby – Is it purely a question of numbers? (I mean, there are an awful lot of magazines and newspapers with an astrology column.) Does the intensity of the belief and practice matter? Should any consideration be given to the weight of evidence for various positions? While I may sound overly Socratic here, these are genuine questions.

    My own issue with the article is that an example of a “lie” being perpetuated by the books would help quite a bit. Giving Coyne and Wile a chance to make their cases about who’s lying on a specific point would be illuminating, I’d think.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Ray, not sure I understand what you mean by “the intensity of the belief and practice.”

    On creation vs. evolution, I would think the “weight of the evidence” would be in the eye of the beholder.

    Concerning astrology, from a journalistic perspective, if Nancy Reagan’s situation were back in the news, yes, I would advocate treating the astrology side with the same fairness as any other group regardless of the reporter’s personal beliefs. I would find the most reputable source(s) possible to make the case on the astrology side (and on the astrologists-are-nuts side), then let readers weigh the facts and positions themselves.

    That’s my take.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Ray:

    What do you think of the American model of the press in general? Are you one of those folks who doesn’t like people believing that their most cherished beliefs are handled accurately in the newspaper?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Bobby – as to “intensity of belief and practice”, I was referring to my comparison of astrology with creationism/intelligent design. As I said, there are a whole lot of astrology columns in magazines and newspapers – but it seems clear that relatively few people actually organize their lives around astrology. Certainly “relatively few” when compared with the number who strongly affirm creationism/intelligent design. Still, does that intensity affect how journalists approach their articles? (Should it?)

    I agree that when astrology gets into the news, it makes sense to at least get the astrologist side of things. But I presume you’d agree with me that there wouldn’t be any need to talk to an astrologist when discussing an astronomical topic, no?

    Of course, this article wasn’t just about evolutionary science, it was specifically about how it’s taught among homeschoolers. Your complaint about this article was not that creationists (and creationist home-schoolers) didn’t get any space. Your complaint was that they didn’t get equal space – “the same level of precision and conviction as the sources that embrace Charles Darwin and evolutionary science”.

    In a sense, I agree – and a specific example of a specific point of disagreement, as I noted, would go a long way to redressing that. In my view, this article shorted all sides, not just the ‘non-evolutionist’ types. All it ended up doing is pointing out that some people disagree. It didn’t really address what they disagree about, or why.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    tmatt – Are you one of those folks who doesn’t like people believing that their most cherished beliefs are handled accurately in the newspaper?

    To echo Bobby, “not sure I understand what you mean”.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Not sure I understand what you mean.

    I reserve the right to use that phrase again sometime. :-)

  • michael

    As this conversation demonstrates, we are hopefully confused about what ‘creation’ means in any sort of coherent theological sense, what evolution may or may not have to do with it, or what a proper consideration of this question might look like. That is reflected in bad textbooks used by some homeschoolers, and bad science textbooks used by everybody else whose reigning ontology can make no sense of the fact, taken for granted, that we can write, read, and understand science textbooks or any other kind.

    This is what happens when theology becomes an idiosyncratic leisure pursuit, when philosophy is no longer considered part of education (not that philosophy in its current state would provide much help), and when reason is reduced to science. Science itself becomes disordered, we cease to even understand what education is, and we lose the ability to think about this.

    It is little wonder that a good journalism story about this subject is all but impossible.

    I won’t be surprised though to see more articles such as these used in an effort to restrict homeschooling. After all, we can deprive students of real history, philosophy, or literature, we can reduce reason to engineering and computing, our schools can make kids a further extension of the computer and our culture can positively encourage the right to be stupid and wrong, but we can’t have kids being ‘short-changed, rationally, and in terms of biology.’

  • Dave

    Terry, would you please point out what parts of the AP story are inaccurate or simplistic?

    As to groups that are getting short-changed, the example of that in the instant story is secular home-schoolers. who are a minority of home-schoolers and are getting treated like a minority by both the home-school text publishers, who roll right over them, and the public-school text publishers, who are guilty of conspiracy in restraint of trade by refusing to sell to them. That’s the story.

  • Stoo

    Bobby
    “Are 80 percent of Americans who believe God played a role in creation too “out there” for fair treatment?”

    Thing is, popular opinion does not determine scientific credibility.

    Of course that so many people believe such a thing should be mentioned in some form. But the controversy should be framed as cultural, not scientific.

    I guess the question more specifically here is, what’s in these textbooks. Established science with a foreword saying “ps we believe god is responsible for this”? (ie nothing to get too worked up over). Or insertion of supernatural (and unscientific) ideas? Or false claims about the theory of evolution? Or What?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Sure, Dave. It’s the subject of the post.

    We have no idea what the word “creationist” means in this story. We have no idea which concept or definition or sub-variation of evolution is used either.

    “Secular” — that means devoid of religion. How do you know that about the people involved, based on the information in the story. They could be theistic evolutionists, of one of several different camps (including some who are called “creationists” from time to time).

  • MarkAA

    Some of the comments here are at least implying that homeschoolers who learn young earth creation don’t learn comprehensive science and factual information that would be necessary for careers in hard or biological sciences. That assumption could not be more wrong. What is left out of textbooks like those mentioned in the AP article is the explicit evolutionary theory and endless mentions of the earth being XX billion years old. Whether or not the earth is billions of years old, or human beings/homo sapiens are millions of years old, plays no real bearing on the ability for a student to thrive in a college level biology class or later on in medical school. I know enough home schoolers who are creationists to know this from firsthand experience — young people who have done terrifically well at major universities in hard sciences “despite” being young-earth creationists. (If anything, young earth creationists know evolutionary theory in far more detail than the average evolution-believing student, because they learn the many places it assumes some questionable “facts.”)

    To say a book that lacks an evolutionary framework deprives a student of a thorough and working understanding of subjects that can be studied objectively in the present is simply a red herring. These kinds of books are full of diagrams of neurons and skeletons and muscles and central nervous systems. They simply don’t dwell on how those creatures came to be the way the evolution-steeped texbooks do. It’s not critical to being a doctor to spend time in studies with theories of origins. This ties to the journalism of the article in that the article takes it as a given that keeping evolutionary theory out of the textbooks somehow does shortchange the students.

    Would be nice to hear from someone actually in the professions whether someone really NEEDS to be an evolutionist to be a good doctor, nurse, radiologist, and so on. Reporter’s going on some huge assumptions, and using them to vilify homeschooling. Many reporters don’t like homeschooling (I’m not sure why, although I have my theories) and won’t hesitate one minute to find new reasons to belittle it.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    MarkAA – Not that your aside has anything to do with journalism, but… I kinda wish doctors had had more of an appreciation for evolution for the past few decades. Otherwise we wouldn’t have anywhere near the problem with antibiotic-resistant germs that we do now. If you’re going to be doing genetic counseling, an understanding of evolution is pretty darn important, too.

    Now, I know that you can do well in many “hard” sciences without evolution. Some kinds of medicine… maybe. Biology, not so much.

    But that’s beside the point. If it’s accurate, if it’s true, then not including it does “shortchange students”. (Unless you figure people shouldn’t learn anything but what’s needed specifically for their vocation…)

  • Grant

    While relying on newspaper articles for accurate science reporting is undoubtedly a very bad move, I have to take exception with something here.

    “Of course, that leads to the sin of omission — the fact that this piece fails to grasp the complicated nature of the creation vs. evolution debate.”

    There is no “complicated nature” of that debate. It is very very simple. It is people who know what they’re talking about (evolution) vs. people who either don’t have a clue, or who insist on letting their personal religious beliefs dictate the manner in which they interpret data… a science no-no of the first order.

  • Jerry

    Not sure I understand what you mean.

    I reserve the right to use that phrase again sometime

    This reminds me of my all time favorite quote about miscommunication: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” http://thinkexist.com/quotation/i_know_that_you_believe_you_understand_what_you/14623.html

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Grant, giving you the benefit of the doubt that you really intend to discuss the journalism, this Web site (A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism) contains a petition signed by a lengthy list of science Ph.D.’s, many of them from prestigious research universities.

  • Rob M

    If a book on religion for the Home School market said, “Jesus was the son of a lawyer and a homemaker and loved ham sandwiches”, would you be disgusted?

    If you teach creationism or ID with anything more than an explanation of why there is no science to support it, then you are giving your child an inferior science education. Any science text that dismisses evolution or puts ID or creationism on equal or superior footing to it should be greeted as the hypothetical religious textbook above.

  • RickK

    “Whether or not the earth is billions of years old, or human beings/homo sapiens are millions of years old, plays no real bearing on the ability for a student to thrive in a college level biology class or later on in medical school.”

    Sorry, but this is not correct. The ability to think critically, to question one’s own biases, to follow the data to whatever conclusion it leads, whether the researcher likes the answer or not is EXACTLY what defines success in the sciences.

    The government is not run by shape-changing lizards, the movements of the planets do not directly affect our love lives, the Easter Bunny is not real, and the Earth is not 6,000 years old. Let’s all allow journalists the freedom to differentiate between demonstrable, objective facts and various types of mythology.

    The fact that we’re even having these discussions is why America is steadily and quickly falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world in science and math education.

    Bobby, and here is an analysis of the “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” that shows it is nonsense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty1Bo6GmPqM
    As is typical with any creationist/ID “data”, it is full of dishonesty. THAT is what you’re teaching children with the “Dissent from Darwin” list.

    But if you want to play the list game, then journalists should cover this list – 12,000+ Christian Clergy who say denying evolution just transmits ignorance to our children. http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/Christian_Clergy/ChrClergyLtr.htm

    So while most of the 700 “scientists” have nothing to do with biology, ALL of the 12,000+ on the clergy list have a LOT to do with the proper, sensible and educated practice of Christianity.

    It is a mark of the problems with journalism today that we hear only from the evolution-denying radical fringe of Christianity, and we hear little from the overwhelming majority that do understand something about science, about critical thinking, and do believe we should teach children the facts of biological and human evolution.

  • MJBubba

    Bobby, do you think that the comments from Dave, Ray Ingles, Stoo, Grant and Rob M are representative of the general view of the mass media?
    I recommend a lecture delivered by the late Michael Chrichton. He was complaining about the pseudo-science behind some prominent climate science, but his remarks about consensus also apply to an amazing amount of the work that supports modern evolutionary theory. Here is a relevant excerpt, with the link below. Journalists should learn this; it might help some of them to be less taken in by “science.”

    Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your
    wallet, because you’re being had.
    Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the
    business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be
    right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In
    science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in
    history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
    There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it
    isn’t consensus.

    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Crichton2003.pdf

  • Dave

    Terry: Creationist, in this context, refers to an opinion as to the strength of Genesis vs Darwin. The story doesn’t need to go into the flavors of creationism; it isn’t about that.

    I assume when you say secular means “devout of religion” you mean “devoid.” It does not mean “devoid.” A religious person can believe in secular government. In this context secular mean intending to home-school children on a fact- rather than faith-based foundation. I stand by the term “secular home-schoolers.”

  • Dave

    MJBubba, I never claimed my view was exemplary of a general view of anything. The whole point of these exchanges is to put differing specific views on the table.

  • Julia

    Secular used to mean something other than non-religious in the current meaning of that term – devoid of church affiliation or something like that.

    The Catholic Church still has what are called secular priests who are non-religious – meaning they don’t belong to religious orders.

    This is one of the reasons my church still has its basic documents in the dead language of Latin – that doesn’t change – and translates and re-translates those Latin documents from time to time into vernaculars – that are constantly changing.

  • Stoo

    Grant, giving you the benefit of the doubt that you really intend to discuss the journalism, this Web site (A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism) contains a petition signed by a lengthy list of science Ph.D.’s, many of them from prestigious research universities.

    I’m seeing an awful lot of chemists, computer scientists mechanical engineers etc in there. I’m in mechanical engineering and trust me having the first clue about genetics really isn’t a requirement in this field.

    As far as I known any dissent from evolution within biology is a pretty fringe position. After all it would be like a physicists dissenting from quantum mechanics.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    The above discussion is why an example in the original article would be helpful. We could evaluate the actual arguments that people like Coyne and Wile make.

    For example, were I Coyne, I’d ask something like the following:

    Finding oil is a very high-stakes issue for oil companies. Trillions of dollars are riding on it. When they look for the most likely spots to drill, do they use Flood geology, or mainstream? Which one actually delivers the goods?

    If the Earth is only 6,000 years old, where did the oil come from? If created in the ground, is there a way to predict where it might be found? Or perhaps it did form from plankton, but 10,000 times faster than any chemist thinks it could in those conditions? A young Earth and a Flood would imply some interesting questions to ask, some extremely valuable research programs to start. How come nobody’s actually pursuing such research programs?

    Why don’t creationists put together an investment fund, venture capital for things like oil and mineral rights? If “Flood geology” is really a better theory, then it should make better predictions than standard geology does. The profits from such a venture could pay for a lot of evangelism. Why is no one doing this?

    I’d be genuinely fascinated to hear Wile’s response to that.

  • Zach_the_Lizard

    “Whether or not the earth is billions of years old, or human beings/homo sapiens are millions of years old, plays no real bearing on the ability for a student to thrive in a college level biology class or later on in medical school.”

    Actually, evolution is very important in medicine and biology, because it allows us to determine which creatures are most like us to use for testing new treatments, the origins of diseases, the mechanism by which certain diseases work, etc. For pure biology, it is also extremely important to the classification and origin of life an Earth.

    To be a creationist biologist is to basically give up trying to explain the origin of life, distribution of species, genetic similarities, etc. to “God did it. That’s the way he made it, there’s no reason rhyme or reason.” This view does not provide any insight into our world. It makes no predictions about anything. It also leaves one wondering why an all-knowing and all-powerful being made us with, of all things, a blind spot in our eyes. It fails to explain fossils and the fact that most species or extinct. The flood myth does not explain species distribution. Why are there proto-humans? Unexplainable by creationism beyond “God just wanted it that way.”

    The fact that the universe and the Earth are billions of years old makes little difference to a doctor (though a massive difference to astronomy, geology, etc.), of course, but evolution makes a world of difference in research, which doctors have to keep up on. A doctor who does not understand evolution is like a machine on an assembly line: programmed to do one task, and one task alone, without any understanding of the task or ability to change.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Speaking of religion and the textbook wars, Texas is back at it: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gPQ3ktQNqImWyQ23yXKoCFXWrN1QD9EBL9680

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    “In order to be the best creationist, you have to be the best evolutionist you can be,” said Marcus Ross, who teaches paleontology and says of Adam and Eve: “I feel they were real people, they were the first people.”

    From AFP feature published today on Liberty University students visiting an evolution exhibit.

    After a quick read of the piece, it seems to do a much better job than the AP piece at some of the details and nuances of this issue. However, one description made me scratch my head a bit:

    Creationism, an increasingly popular theory in the United States and elsewhere in the world …

    There’s no source, so I wonder where that statement is coming from and what it’s based on.

  • Grant

    Bobby: please say you’re not serious.

    1. It is well documented that many of the signatories don;t have their degrees in any field actually related to evolutionary theory.
    2. It is well documented that the wording of the statement on that letter led many of the signatories to sign it in the belief that all they were doing was saying that there is more *to evolution* than just “mutation and natural selection”. As in, the statement was an incomplete summary of evolutionary theory, NOT that they had doubts about evolutionary theory. Which is what the Discovery Institute turned around and publicly portrayed it as.
    3. People, **with relevant degrees**, with some variant of the name “Steve” who refute that idiot petition: http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

    Oh look, there’s more of them. What do you think happens when we don’t limit it to people named “Steve”, limit the Discovery Institute’s peice of propaganda to people who at least have their degrees in a properly related field, and inform everyone signing their petition what they *really* meant by it?

    Additionally, what do you suppose happens when we take a look at the religious positions of the signatories and what relevance do you think that has for the last part of the comment I made that you were responding to. Many of those people on that list, who the Discovery Institute decides to identify with prestigious institutions they are not actually currently affiliated with, are doing things like this:

    Philip G Bohlin: Listed affiliation – University of Texas at Dallas. Actual affiliation – President of Probe Ministries.

    Fazale Rana: Listed Affiliation – Ohio University. Actual Affiliation – Vice President, Reasons to Believe Ministries.

    Jonathan Wells: Listed Affiliation- University of California Berkeley. Actual Affiliation – The freaking Discovery Institute.

    etc…

    They’re not giving their professional scientific opinions, they’re EVANGELIZING their religious beliefs.

    That list is a joke. It is political propaganda and nothing more.

  • Matthew D.

    I was one of those “educationally deprived” homeschoolers whose parents taught me to critique Darwinism.

    I now have a science and mathematics degree, graduated my university cum laude, and was often at or near the top of my class (in addition to running the lab side of an entire department in the college of science).

    Many of those who are responding are, sadly, unaware of the positions of either the evolutionary or ID side. Individuals like myself get lumped into a supposed “fringe” position, despite the fact that some of us (i.e. myself) have been working paleontology excavations for years and despite the fact that many even of our professors do not subscribe to the notion of Neo-Darwinian evolution.

    For those of you who continue to parrot the absurd notion that Ph.D’s and MD’s need and use Darwinism every day and that only misguided souls dissent, please spare me the line. I’ve worked with them, studied with them, and researched with them, and I know better than that.

    -Matt D.

  • Matthew D.

    I’m sorry, one more comment.

    Quit referring to ID as an escapist answer. ID does NOT = “science can’t explain it, so give up”. Anyone saying this clearly hasn’t read any ID material.

    ID is a mathematically-based, design-theoretic inference which allows a sequence of code (i.e. DNA) to be examined for possible mechanistic or informational origin. When an ID theorist concludes that a DNA sequence is informational in origin, it implies that there is MORE scientific and engineering exploration possible for that system.

    It does NOT imply that we should stop studying it, as does the Neo-Darwinian notion of undirected causal origination.

    Either model allows for informational degeneration (i.e. the kind of “evolution” that Zack_the_lizard is referring to when he says doctors need to know evolution), but it is the ID model which actually mathematically maps the informational degeneration from a functionally integrated system.

    That is why those who understand mathematics tend to demonstrate models of degenerative evolution (i.e. the opposite of Neo-Darwinian informationally positive evolution), including the pro-Evolutionary programmers who write simulation code.

    Anyway, sorry about the rant… I just get tired of hearing the same things repeated from people who haven’t even worked the mathematics out.

    -Matt

  • http://bendingthetwigs.blogspot.com Crimson Wife

    Dave in #16 wrote: “Terry, would you please point out what parts of the AP story are inaccurate or simplistic?

    Let’s start by the author’s misuse of the statistic that 83% of the handful of homeschoolers (it’s something like only 300) in the most recent NCES survey saying that one of the reasons they homeschool is to provide religious OR moral instruction.

    We have no evidence that 83% of homeschoolers hold “Young Earth” creationist beliefs. Plenty of homeschoolers from a wide variety of Christian denominations and non-Christian faiths wish to provide religious instruction without being YEC’s. I am one of them (we’re Catholic).

    I also know secular homeschoolers who homeschool to provide an education that is in accordance with their moral beliefs (things like anti-consumerism, pacifism, environmentalism, etc.) Religious believers do not have a monopoly on morality, regardless of what Evangelical activists like HSLDA would like to claim.

  • michael

    Thank you, Matthew, for injecting a little intelligence into this conversation.

    I remain a critic of ID in its theological aspect and in what it presupposes philosophically in its basic conception of nature. (I am less equipped to judge it in its scientific aspect, whether, e.g., we can claim to have discovered viable (neo-Darwinian) evolutionary pathways for supposedly irreducibly complex phenomena). Formally speaking, the ‘design theoretic inference’ strikes me as a more mathematically sophisticated version of the kind of argument found in William Paley’s Natural Theology, now expanded in some cases to include ‘cosmic fine tuning’, a theology which, incidentally, Darwinian biology also presupposes and inverts, and which I have always taken to presuppose, not supplant, mechanism. Which is one way of saying that I believe the difference between Darwinism and ID to be vastly overstated. So perhaps you could clarify the distinction between ‘mechanistic and informational origin’. It seems to me that there is more than one way to conceive that.

    But you have done much to bring light to the nonsense that typically surrounds this subject (and fills textbooks) on all sides. The issue is not nearly so simple as ‘God did it just because he wanted it that way’ or ‘natural selection did it for no reason whatsoever’ (the question of what it means to say natural selection ‘does’ anything notwithstanding).

    I suppose I need a journalism take so I’ll just repeat that the issues here are far too complicated in my opinion for journalism to handle in a way that is at all illuminating, though I realize that makes me a bit of a heretic here. It’s not that journalists aren’t smart people. It’s that journalism as a thoughtform cannot be easily harmonized with the sort of thinking necessary to sort through these questions.

    I would only reiterate your point about ‘educationally deprived’ homeschoolers. I have taught many university students who were homeschooled, and the ones who have made it to university are are almost invariably better educated, more thoughtful and more interesting than their public and private school counterparts.

  • Matthew D.

    Michael,

    Thank you… The point of the journalism here is not really to get down to the technicalities, which sadly many both PROponents and OPponents of ID do not understand.

    What I find disturbing about the oft-slanted journalism is that it portrays ID as a science-ending conclusion. It’s the opposite.

    ID proponents are actively modeling the genome and biological structures BASED ON THE INFERENCE that the system was designed. They are free from the Darwinian assumption that DNA is an assembly of copying errors modified solely by the undirected environmental pressures of natural selection.

    The difference? An ID proponent will actively seek functional coding (within biological systems) based on a parallel study of human-designed functional coding systems, because he has a mathematical demonstration that life is a designed system. This allows better research orientation and success.

    An informational origin means that the system has the functional, complex specificity at the beginning of the modification cycle (i.e. natural selection DOES occur, evolution DOES occur, in a degenerative fashion). A naturalistic mechanistic origin implies that NO functionality and NO specified complexity exists to begin with, but that the appearance of “design” features is the illusion of this process (to use Dawkin’s portrayal of it).

    -Matt D.

  • Dave

    Crimson Wife wrote:

    We have no evidence that 83% of homeschoolers hold “Young Earth” creationist beliefs.

    Nor did the author of the article claim that.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Matthew D. –

    That is why those who understand mathematics tend to demonstrate models of degenerative evolution (i.e. the opposite of Neo-Darwinian informationally positive evolution), including the pro-Evolutionary programmers who write simulation code.

    Are you familiar with Tierra and Avida? I reimplemented Tierra and got results that I, at least, found interesting.

    As to this:

    An ID proponent will actively seek functional coding (within biological systems) based on a parallel study of human-designed functional coding systems, because he has a mathematical demonstration that life is a designed system. This allows better research orientation and success.

    Can you provide examples of such successes?

  • http://bendingthetwigs.blogspot.com Crimson Wife

    Dave- what was the author’s point in bringing up the 83% statistic if not as support for her assertion that most homeschoolers are YEC’s? The 83% statistic does not tell us anything about the respondents’ beliefs about YEC, and it’s bad journalism to include it.

  • Dave

    The point is that what I’m calling secular homeschoolers are a minority among homeschoolers and are being treated poorly.

  • Grant

    I’m sorry Matthew, but you are completely full of it. ID is simply creationism dressed up in technical jargon. The hypothesis has made absolutely zero meaningful contribution to our understanding of, well, anything.

    Tell me, how do ID proponents account for the existence of the endogenous retroviral insertion pattern in primates?

    How do they explain the fusion of human chromosome 2?

    How do they explain the L-gulano-?-lactone oxidase pseudogene being found in primates?

    How do they explain ANYTHING we observe in biology?

    The answer is that they don’t bother even trying. Evolutionary theory explains it, then they come along afterwards, look at the conclusion, and append “…because it was designed that way!” on the end of it so they can make it compatible with their religious beliefs and for no other reason.

  • Chris Bolinger

    I guess Bobby shouldn’t have given Grant the benefit of the doubt in #23. :-)

  • Grant

    It was rather begging for a smackdown to point to the DI petition of all things as evidence there was serious debate about the validity of Intelligent Design… it’s only one of the more infamous bits of ID ridiculousness of the last ten years. Most of the scientific community has been using it as a punchline for the last decade while immensely enjoying rubbing “Project Steve” in the face of anyone siily enough to suggest taking it seriously.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    I didn’t realize we were having a smackdown. I did grow up going to professional wrestling matches, though, so I guess I’m OK with that. :-)

    My original point remains: A journalist’s job is to report fairly and fully on issues such as these, including opposing viewpoints. A journalist, obviously, would want to quote an advocate on the evolution side. But a journalist, unlike an advocate, would also seek out and report on other sources who might not agree with Grant but might speak as passionately and convincingly as he does.

    I probably did not word infamous comment No. 23 as well as I could have. My point was to suggest a place where a journalist could seek out a scientific source with an opposing viewpoint. Certainly, I as a journalist would allow the other side to make the case that the source has no merit. But as a journalist, I would not fail to seek out information on the other side just because one side assures me it has the issue all figured out and the other side is off its rockers. That’s advocacy, not journalism.

    Alas, many of the recent comments have veered way off the journalism course. I blame the new referee who opened himself up to it. But I promise to do better and trash future comments that are clearly advocating and not focused on journalistic issues.

  • Grant

    A journalists job is actually to report *reality*. It is only their job to report “opposing viewpoints” if those opposing viewpoints can be demonstrated to have actual real plausible merit. A category ID does not fall into in the realm of scientific inquiry. If the journalist in question was reporting on a theological dispute on the other hand then sure, include the ID “opposing viewpoint”.

    If for example I decide to go out tomotrrow and declare my theory of “intelligent falling” as a cometing framework to traditional understandings of gravity it is not an obligation of the nation’s media to “fairly” present my opposing viewpoint just because my opposing viewpoint exists.

    This absurd nation that journalism is supposed to be “fair” is the reason journalism is in the sorry, pathetic, ineffectual state it is in today. It is not a journalist’s job to be “fair”. It is not a journalists job to manufacture false equivalency in the interests of “balance”.

    It is a journalists job to be objective and accurate.

  • MJBubba

    The article was about homeschoolers and forwarded a claim by secular homeschoolers that the textbooks in widespread use by Evangelical homeschoolers contain errors. This was not substantiated in any way. The journalist should provide something beyond the claims; preferably both a specific example and a response.
    It seems that a lot of journalists are taken in by Grant and his ilk who say that there is no “actual real plausible merit” to the ID side of this debate, because the ID folk disagree with evolutionary theory, and they disallow any real discussion of the weaknesses in evolutionary theory, apparently due to the zeal of their religious commitment to Evolution.

  • Lee Bowman

    First the AP article. It plainly provides a narrow view of home schooling, as witnessed by referencing only educational texts by apologetic sources (both Apologia and Bob Jones University), a possibly biased view of the matter by a Christian organization (HSLDA), along with criticisms from ‘new atheists’ (Coyne admittedly, and Duncan Porter, likely based on his comments).

    Yes Bobby, both ‘simplistic’ and ‘slanted’, but the AP piece, published in newspapers, journals and blogs world wide, has created quite a stir. While the underlying issues were only touched upon (Creationism v. ID v. evolution, and objectivity and scientific integrity not only in ‘home schools’, but in academia at large), these issues, and yes, they ARE valid issues, have been raised a little higher in the public’s eye. Now perhaps, it’s up to commenters here and elsewhere to put finer points on the issues.

    Welcome!

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Lee, thanks for the welcome!

  • Grant

    MJBubba: Actually me and my “ilk? say there is no merit to the I side of the debate because there isn’t any.

    A scientific theory must be falsifiable. Tell me how to falsify the “ID” hypothesis.

    A scientific theory must make specific testable predictions. Name me one ID makes.

    A scientific theory must actually explain the available data. Answer ANY of my requests for ID explanations in post 45.

    I’ll wait.

  • Grant

    Just to reassure anyone who may possibly still be watching this, I was *not* holding my breath while waiting, and am thus still alive.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    Physicists are searching for the “creator”; they call it the Higgs boson. Evolution came later. To say evolution is not intelligent or lacks design is to deny recent discoveries of microbiology and astrophysics. Before you reject ID entirely, read the 40 books on psychology, biology and physics in the bibliographies of my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org If we were to completely dismiss that which we didn’t understand, progress in science and technology would come to a halt. It is the mysteries of life that drive researchers onward.

  • RickK

    … and every mystery ever solved was – not magic. Time after time after time throughout history, natural phenomena were attributed to supernatural or divine causes. And time after time those supernatural or divine explanations were later replaced with perfectly natural explanations.

    The utter and complete failure of the supernatural or the divine to explain ANYTHING must lead any rational person to expect a non-divine explanation for the origin of life. Yes, it’s a complex question. Yes, we have a long way to go before we have a complete answer.

    But we’ve been there before when trying to understand the nature of weather, earthquakes, electricity, planetary motion, star formation, nuclear physics, particle physics, and on and on. And so far, there’s been no need to invoke a “Designer” or a “God”.

    There is no more need to invoke an intelligent designer in evolutionary research than there is to invoke astrology.


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