Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush Comes Out in Favor of Intelligent Design

From here.

First, the relevant bits:

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools.

Bush declined to state his personal views on "intelligent design," the belief that life forms are so complex that their creation can't be explained by Darwinian evolutionary theory alone, but rather points to intentional creation, presumably divine.

The theory of evolution, first articulated by British naturalist Charles Darwin in 1859, is based on the idea that life organisms developed over time through random mutations and factors in nature that favored certain traits that helped species survive.

Scientists concede that evolution doesn't answer every question about the creation of life, but most consider intelligent design an attempt to inject religion into science courses.

Bush compared the current debate to earlier disputes over "creationism," a related view that adheres more closely to biblical explanations. As governor of Texas, Bush said students should be exposed to both creationism and evolution.

On Monday the president said he favors the same approach for intelligent design "so people can understand what the debate is about."

The Kansas Board of Education is considering changes to encourage the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas schools, and Christian conservatives are pushing for similar changes in other school districts across the country.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. " You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have both concluded that there's no scientific basis for intelligent design and oppose its inclusion in school science classes.

"The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted," the academy said in a 1999 assessment. "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science."

Some scientists have declined to join the debate, fearing that amplifying the discussion only gives intelligent design more legitimacy.

But advocates of intelligent design also claim support from scientists. The Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank in Seattle that's the leading proponent for intelligent design, said it has compiled a list of more than 400 scientists, including 70 biologists, who are skeptical about evolution.

"The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life," John West, associate director of the organization's Center for Science and Culture, said in a prepared statement.

Bush didn't seem eager to talk about the topic.

Evolutionary theory has yielded a rich a vibrant research program, thousands of experiments are performed yearly (with results supporting evolution) and hundreds of thousands if not millions since the theory was first advocated. Thousands of scientists have spent their careers studying evolutionary phenomena yet we are supposed to throw this all away because a couple hundred scientists (enlisted by the Discovery Intstitute) with religious convictions and no experimental results to report don't like the theory of evolution. It is important to note that none of the scientists on the Discavery Institute list have done any experiments that would cast any doubt on evolutionary theory. Nor do they use Intelligent Design in their ongoing research.
Intelligent Design, on the other hand, in over fifeteen years has yielded no experimental results and no research program.
Basically what Intelligent design advocates offer science is an application of Zeno's paradox to biology.
This is what ID advocates would replace evolutionary theory with...

It's no wonder that Bush declined to state his personal views and didn't seem eager to talk about it.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. " You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

Lacking any scientific research, this is what ID advocates are reduced to. They endlessly repeat "expose people to different schools of thought" like a mantra. Everybody believes in free speech and in exploring new ideas, and everybody believes in giving a fair hearing to opposing points of view. Intellectual diversity is a good thing, no doubt about it, yet all this amounts to is a cynical attempt, on the part of ID advocates, to manipulate people by appealing to their basic sense of fairness. When I was in college I did a term paper on bipedal locomotion in Autralopithecus afarensis. I took the view of Johanson and Lovejoy that locomotion in A. afarensis was fully as efficient as in modern humans - I though I made a good case for it too. Yet over the years I have had to modify my views as new evidence came to light and oloder evidence was re-evaluated. So, what is fair here? Should we continue to "teach the controversy" and talk about what is incorrect? Should I create the paleontological equivalent of the Discovery Institute and lobby school boards to teach my version of australopithicine bipedality? Wouldn't that be fair? Or should I accept the evidence that proves me wrong?

What this comes down to is a group of people, who can not accept the results of scientific research, so they are trying to replace science with mythology. It would be one thing if they merely disagreed, but unfortunately, they are trying to make every else live and learn within the constraints of that mythoogy. This is bad for science education, because it does not stop with biology. Anthropology, geology, even physics will be affected. One also wonders how we are to compete with China and India - both rapidly becoming dominant in the sciences and high tech industry - and in the global market place when are children are taught the mishmash of unintelligible concepts and pseudo-science that passes for creationism and intelligent design?

Added Later: Via Red State Rabble come this link to a Charles Krauthammer column decrying the embrace of ID by the by republicans. Some of the better parts:

Cannot? On what scientific evidence? Evolution is one of the most powerful and elegant theories in all of human science and the bedrock of all modern biology. Schönborn's proclamation that it cannot exist unguided--that it is driven by an intelligent designer pushing and pulling and planning and shaping the process along the way--is a perfectly legitimate statement of faith. If he and the Evangelicals just stopped there and asked that intelligent design be included in a religion curriculum, I would support them. The scandal is to teach this as science--to pretend, as does Schönborn, that his statement of faith is a defense of science. "The Catholic Church," he says, "will again defend human reason" against "scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 'chance and necessity,'" which "are not scientific at all." Well, if you believe that science is reason and that reason begins with recognizing the existence of an immanent providence, then this is science. But, of course, it is not. This is faith disguised as science. Science begins not with first principles but with observation and experimentation.


To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

...One of the few times I will ever agree with Krauthammer!