White House petition would ban teaching of creationism and intelligent design

While the theory of evolution has its merits, it provides no plausible explanation for how life began.

While creationism and intelligent design certainly aren’t “science,” creationism is certainly an important part of the study of Western culture and intelligent design has at least as much merit as the “primordial soup.”

Read the petition.

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43 responses to “White House petition would ban teaching of creationism and intelligent design

  1. One does not need to teach creationism a.k.a. intelligent design. People with weak minds slide into it.

  2. Excuse me, when did the federal government acquire any authority over these topics?
    Judaeo-Christian “creationism” is not science — “young earth” just doesn’t square with facts — but teaching about creation myths in history or similar classes seems valid.
    “Intelligent design”, which I acknowledge is sometimes used as a creationist weasel phrase, is more difficult. Our understanding of evolution leaves a lot of gaps; even if we understood it thoroughly, we’d have the question of where the universe itself did come from and whether all the events since the Big Bang were planned or random. But could science as we understand it recognize or prove/disprove intelligent design?
    Since I’m a theist, I’m disposed philosophically toward ID and a benevolent Prime Cause. Since I’m scientific, I know there’s a large gap between what we know and what we believe.

    • “Our understanding of evolution leaves a lot of gaps; even if we understood it thoroughly, we’d have the question of where the universe itself did come from and whether all the events since the Big Bang were planned or random.”

      Evolution explains the diversity of life on earth. Quite well.

      Evolution doesn’t have to explain where the universe came from. Nor gravity, nor a gazillion other things creationists demand it explain.

    • All knowledge is tied to belief. There is no division between what we know and what we believe. Newton frequently referred to God in his writings, and it didn’t stop him from advancing science. The idea that belief is in one compartment, and knowing in a separate compartment is a Logical Empiricist myth, which was abandoned decades ago. People can believe what they want, even if they are scientists.

  3. Creationism and Intelligent Design are religions, and religion is a system based on Faith. Teaching these subjects would not be a problem if they were in the Department of Comparative Religion. Teaching them in the elementary schools probably would be construed as a violation of the separation of church and state, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. A “ban” on such teaching would thus appear redundant.

    Evolution is not a theory, it is an observation. The “theory” comes in when you try to figure out how it happened.

    Science, on the other hand, is a system of doubt. Everything in science is subject to doubt. Yes, everything, including your pet theory.

    I do not know why so many people have so much trouble with this distinction, but even people who practice in the sciences seem to be confused.

    Question everything.

    • I agree that teaching “creationism” as a fact to elementary school kids might be a religious-freedom issue in public schools. Teaching about what people believe, and have believed, and covering a range of creation mythology (not meant as a pejorative term) would be valid as history or culture.

      • That’s why I consider it dangerous. My English Teacher in High school actually gave out a short explanatory handout explaining the beliefs of Christianity. His reasons were clear and reasonable. Without knowing Christianity, you couldn’t understand the references in English Literature. At the high school level, you can dabble in such things. Any governmental action will inevitably end up in a modern monkey trial where a clearly reasonable action was illegally blocked.

      • Teaching about what people believe, as my children’s high-school history teacher explained once to me, is the essence of history. They’ve got that covered already.

    • To my knowledge, no one has ever observed anything “evolving” in their own lifetime. We’ve observed mutations, but I challenge you to find one incident where, within the recorded history of mankind, anyone has directly observed one species “evolving” into a different species – of anything. We extrapolate evolution from observing these mutations, and it’s effects are theoretical, with much substantiating evidence. However, your statement about it being an observation is not a viable argument without supporting evidence.

      • Howdy StanB
        In spite of X-Men’s phrase “Mutation. It is the key to our evolution.”, that isn’t what I’ve understood from my reading of evolution.
        Darwin’s theory was based on natural selection of natural variation; mutations may sometimes affect a line within a species but it’s a very small part of natural selection because mutations are rare and generally harmful rather than helpful.
        Darwin and others also pointed out that seemingly trivial features are often a better clue to relationships between species than more obvious ones — elephants are closer to a small critter called a hyrax, based on anatomy and especially teeth, than they are to hippos or rhinos. The visual resemblance to a rhino is closer but the biology links hyrax and elephant rather than rhino and elephant.
        Humans have deliberately “evolved” breeds of cattle, dogs and cats within a lifetime. They are not true species but they are headed that way. We also have affected rats in major cities by selecting out the ones that are vulnerable to warfarin. This doesn’t prove evolution of the mammoth to the elephant but it does support that idea.

      • And, Stan, don’t forget that you’ve observed and are still observing the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria and other pathogens in your lifetime. I am observing the day-to-day evolution of flu at work. Join in, if you are curious. Evolution is really nothing but the acquisition or loss of functions in pursuit of fitness.

        A “Species” may be a misleading concept in many situations. Read about ring species to see just how wrong it may be. For bacteria, it does not make sense at all. You may not have seen a new mammal evolve in your lifetime, but if you had a chance to mate with your 1000-greats-grandmother or perhaps even a more recent ancestor, you would be unlikely to form a fertile couple. We are not the same species today, to uphold the meaning of the term related to mating success. If you preserve yourself for the future, you will not be able to mate with your descendants just a very finite number of generations apart. There is nothing that will prevent them from evolving.

  4. Every culture need myths.The myths of our Western Christian Civilization are in our Bible.One need not be a beliver to recognize its value and importance. Science started with miths too,myths+critical thinking(Karl Popper).Now it is non sense to mix these two creations of the human mind and also may be dangerous.Just now we face the myth of global warming,the apocalypse of CO2 and all the terrific consequences…promoted by some scientists and supported by many governments.Myths are importand in Histort and Sociology but this scientific myth belongs to political scientists.

  5. Environmentalism as a Fundamentalist Religion

    Much has been written in past few years about Environmentalism, particularly as it encompasses the subject of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and its alleged catastrophic effects on World climate. And much of what has been published is easy to dismiss as “junk science”, a justifiable charge given the well-documented falsification and suppression of data. But the misbehavior of some sensationalist journalists and grant-craving researchers is only part of the story.
    The larger concern with Environmentalsim involves the distortion of what was once a legitimate branch of science into a fundamentalist religion. This mutation is very much similar to the development of the religious cult known as Creation Science. In fact, I submit that Environmentalism and Creation Science are intellectually very closely linked, and express the same distortion of the scientific method.
    Writers in National journals have equated the current practices of Environmentalism to religious suppression are insightful. Leaked emails discuss how to hide the current lack of warming from the public; Other leaked emails ask how reviewers can keep dissenting technical papers from being published; Prominent scientists openly discuss distorting grant applications to imply “global warming” effects of their research, when none are present (personal communication.) Someone commented that Environmentalism has replaced Socialism as the religion of the urban atheists, a judgment of the failure of Environmentalism as a science, and Socialism as a political system.
    Environmentalism has, in fact, taken on many of the aspects of a fundamentalist religion, these being: 1) Belief in a core orthodoxy containing a set of de fide principles which may not be questioned (by the legitimate members of the cult); 2) Belief in a pre-existing Eden-like state of the Earth; And 3) Belief in a “fall from grace”, the destruction of this Eden, by the wrongful acts of Man.
    One aspect of fundamentalist religions so far absent from Environmentalism is the existence of a savior figure, a being who will lead the true believers out of the darkness caused by our fall from grace, and back to a perfect, unspoiled Earth. Al Gore tried to be this messiah figure, but found that making money from his followers was a much better course of action. Becoming a billionaire is preferable to becoming a messiah, at least from the standpoint of private jets, large mansions, and the good life in general.

    The core orthodoxy itself is clear enough, and includes 1) the belief that global warming is due only to anthropogenic forcing, a concept which, despite James Hansen’s assertions, cannot survive even a brief scrutiny of the geologic evidence; 2) a related unquestioning belief that global warming will inevitably result in the destruction of life. The second belief ignores the fossil record which displays floral and faunal abundance and diversity during periods when the average global temperature was many degrees warmer than at present, a condition which persisted for most of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, some 250 million years.

    If you question the core orthodoxy you do so at your peril, as many rational thinkers have learned. Were we were dealing with a scientific field, questioning of corrupt data and computer models which fail in practice would generate a debate, a challenge to the orthodox assertions, with the challengers offering more data and alternate hypotheses which can be tested.
    But challenge the core orthodoxy, and see what happens. Pointing out that increases in CO2¬ do not seem to precede increases in atmospheric temperature will not stimulate an honest discussion of the situation based on the merits of the data. Or point out that large increases in anthropogenic CO¬2 over the past 15 or 20 years have not resulted in a statistically significant increase in global temperatures. Rather than a reasoned response, you will be the receiver of scorn, sarcasm, ridicule, and a reiteration of the core orthodoxy as fundamental fact, as “settled science”. (Rather as if you had tried to discuss evolution at a Baptist picnic.) Yes, it does bring to mind Copernicus.

    As for “settled science” and a “vast consensus of scientists” about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, shun these assertions and the dishonest individuals who promulgate them. Nothing in science is settled. Nothing. Science differs from religion at the most fundamental epistemological level: Whereas religion is a system of faith, science is a system of doubt. Listen to the climate “scientists” and how they use the words. Frequently they will say that the “believe that the Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly” (or something equally unfounded in fact), but that is a statement of religious belief, not fact. “Believe” belongs in religious tracts, not in scientific publications.

    Yes, scientists are often careless in their terminology, but when a scientist misuses the word “believe” he is just being careless or lazy, because what he actually is saying, in shorthand, is “it’s not efficient in the current discussion to go back and re-prove each hypothesis underlying this situation, so I take them as proved, but only for the purposes of the present discussion”. If he is really a scientists, he is implicitly aware than any of those hypotheses are open to doubt and that he is prepared to change his mind when presented with new data. Question everything. Climate “scientists” do not think in this fashion: They already know the answers.

    Already knowing what the answer is probably explains the failure of so many computer models of climate processes. The expected outcome is built into the algorithms which comprise the model, and thus it should surprise no one that the output of the model conforms to the belief system of the researcher. But when the subsequent climate data do not conform to the outcome predicted by the model, it is the model which needs to be changed. Unfortunately, so often it appears that the researchers go back and manipulate the data instead. They are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

  6. Friend of John Galt

    It’s not up to the government to tell anyone what they may teach or learn or believe.

    Those who believe in “intelligent design” are very deeply mistaken (in my opinion), but they are (and should be) free to advocate their particular point of view. They may attract followers who accept their view point.

    The problem comes in when government attempts to dictate what ideas are “acceptable” and “unacceptable.” The first amendment is a restriction on government from interfering with the inalienable right to freedom of speech — and any restriction on the teaching of intelligent design violates the constitution. Of course, this progressive administration has decided that they are not bound by the constitution, so they’ll propose anything they wish.

    The arrogance of the progressives remains unrestrained.

    • “The first amendment is a restriction on government from interfering with the inalienable right to freedom of speech — and any restriction on the teaching of intelligent design violates the constitution.”

      Nope.

      • Howdy Gamecock
        I think we need to consider the difference between the government teaching religion and a private school teaching religion. The government may not impose religious teaching through its compulsory schools — although ignoring religion in school seems to me to be weakening our history and our culture. The government may not forbid religious teaching in private schools, though.

  7. I have to say that it is my conclusion that creation mythology is bound to the realm of religion and it should not be taught in school. Now, acknowledgement that there are areas of uncertainty (how life began, what happened before that inflation field made gravity repulsive for that briefest fraction of a second, whether spacetime is actually discrete or not below the Planck Length and Time, what exactly is a string, and whether that stupid cat is alive or dead) is reasonable and good. A casual mention of religion may be appropriate. However, attempting to insert any specific myth is contrary to the first amendment.

    On the other hand, this petition clearly exceeds any authority that we want to give the federal government.

  8. Creationism is religion. Intelligent Design is science. If you think they are the same thing it just means you don’t know what they are.

    • Supernatural explanations of observed phenomena is hardly “science.”

    • To the degree that I believe in Intelligent Design, I was inspired by my anatomy class and specifically the microscopic action of muscle tissue. Evolution seems to be the mechanism but science itself inspires me to believe in something beyond my understanding. At the same time, it showed me that those who doubt have reason for their doubts. So I listen, believe as best I understand, and respect those who have reached different conclusions from ambiguous data.

  9. Thanks, you just made my day.

  10. In Catholic grade school and high school, we were taught evolution just the same as everyone else in public school. Evolution is a scientific fact, and that’s the way they rolled it out. Catholics are *not* young-Earthers.

    We got creation stuff in religion class, and evolution never came up. Not once. Simply *not* a related topic, after all.

    Not to be all sectarian, but gosh, the young-Earthers make the Christians look about as enlightened as the Taliban, it’s embarrassing.

  11. “While the theory of evolution has its merits, it provides no plausible explanation for how life began.”

    Newtonian Physics doesn’t explain Lady Gaga either. Still, if I’m flying, I hope the flight crew knows Sir Isaac well enough.

    • Newtonian physics can’t even explain planetary orbits. It took Lagrange’s master cheat to make a gravity-only field appear like a unified field. Fitting data with contrived math is not exactly Newtonian (in the original sense of the word), and it is really not much better than admitting supernatural causes of things. Blaming singularities in crappy transformations on “real” black holes is another example. So modern physics admonishing creationism sounds a bit pot-to-kettle.

      • Wow Gene. That is so FAR from the intent of my comment. To translate for you, I but pointed to the FACT that evolution has pretty much nothing to say about the origin of life itself, just as Gaga has nothing to do with Newton. But thanks, ever so, for demonstrating anew the crackpottery of creationism.

        • Sorry Jim, I just have a knee-jerk reaction whenever physics is referred to as a standard of sanity. It is anything but. Take a listen to Stephen Crothers highlighting just one shady corner of this asylum

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q185InpONK4

          Of course we take it for granted that evolution does not say anything about the origin of life. It only makes us look in that direction. As George said above, evolution is just a (complex) observation. Our understanding of it (the theory) is full of gaps (thanks, Geoff). What seems to be rather clear from the observational part of it plus whatever theories we were able to verify experimentally (many of which have nothing to do with evolution), is that all of us alive today, including plants, worms, starfish, polyps, bacteria — everybody and everything — have a common ancestor. We know almost nothing about our last universal common ancestor, except for an estimate of its age measured in the number of generations descending from it. We don’t know how close it was to the origin of life, we’ve only got an educated guess about how close we are to it.

          • No problem and thanks for the explanation. I’d actually find a genuinely scientific critique of evolution theory quite interesting. Such critiques often lead to new insight and knowledge. The problem, of course, would come in recognizing it from the gobsmackingly large volume of nonsense that’s already out there. The signal to noise ratio here is most intimidating.

    • Westchester Bill

      Current theory in physics says that the Universe just is. It has no purpose and is going nowhere in particular. Far into the future it will be just a cold dead region.

      What a gloomy state of affairs! But if a molecule coud replecate itself, then it would compete with other such molecules for resources and evolution would be ignited. Molecules seeking a maximum take, often at the expense of others, is a tautological outcome from chemical dynamics. Evolution generates purpose out of dynamics, and I can enjoy a sunset over the Hudson River Valley and kittens. Life, thempory though it is, can be great at times.

  12. Here’s the thing. Willfully denying access to information is reprehensible. Education is less about imparting knowledge as it is about teaching our children how to think. Ergo, just like the AGW argument, present both sides with pros and cons of both and let the individual make the choice. Omission or denial of validity of either side is unacceptable regardless of the side you are on. Otherwise is just propaganda which should be reserved for politics or religion which stay in churches. BTW if you think there’s no “faith” in the big bang, you need to go back and look closer. You have to have faith which ever way you lean.

    • “Omission or denial of validity of either side is unacceptable regardless of the side you are on.”

      There is no scientific validity of creationism/ID. Denying it’s validity is compelled.

      Nice try.

    • Teaching it as a part of history class is one thing. Presenting seven-day creationism as a competing fact with the tautology of evolution is nonsense because if the world was created 10,000 years ago, it was obviously created with a past. Therefore, study of that past is every bit as valid and the exact starting point of time is irrelevant.

      Teaching “Intelligent Design” is also nonsense because ID is simply religion laid on top of scientific fact. It is physically identical to an atheistic universe except with the existence of an invisible guiding hand. Making a statement saying that you are not going into religious questions while discussing the Big Bang is all that is necessary.

  13. Two points:
    1.Evolution is a scientific fact. But the same government that requires this be taught then refiuses to follow this theory. How much money has been lost and how many people have suffered to prevent an unknown snail or lizard from evolving (ie, go extinct) Follow the science.
    2. The government mandates teaching of AGW, which is not based on science but on a non-religious belief system. Teaching AGW is no more proper thanteaching creationism and should be banned. Follow the science.

  14. I note, with great satisfaction, that we have a range of views on ID especially here. Every commenter has maintained a position; every commenter has been civil or respectful of other views.
    Post like this on HuffPo or DailyKos and see what happens…

  15. Amicus Curiae

    All science is wrong. Some of it is useful. If a scientific “theory” is sufficiently developed to allow the design of machines with predictable performance, I say it is a correct theory…in a usually narrow field of parameters. Anyone who defends a scientific theory with religious fervor is a politician.

    • True, to a point. However, the only method to overthrow a theory is to present evidence to the contrary. The teaching of religious origins of the universe presents no evidence save for the unlikelyhood of Earth happening by random chance (typically with obscene abuse of statistics, but I digress). The religious origins theories also present no predictions to test. Therefore, to demand their teaching is the ridiculous item, not the other way around.

  16. Why does everything have to have an “explanation” no matter how fantastic or supernatural? Why not simply say: “I do not know”? What we do know is that some things behave in certain reliable ways in certain circumstances. Those can mostly be reduced to equations that can be used to make predictions.

    Somethings we simply don’t know. What is gravity? Answer: Gravity sucks. Unfortunately that is not a what, or how, or why. It is simply an observed behavior in certain circumstances. Newton’s equations made rather good predictions on a human scale. Einstein’s equations made better predictions at the limits of time, distance, speed, and mass. However, neither really say what gravity is, how it does what it does, nor why it exists. It is simply that it exists and this is how it behaves.

    The bottom line is that for many things we can make highly reliable predictions. That will simply have to be good enough until we discover a more fundamental level of the thing, context, and behavior relationship. We simply have to accept “it is.” Not on faith but based upon the fact that we can bet our lives on the predictions and come out the other end alive.

    • Howdy Lionel
      From an evolutionary point of view, species with “curiosity”, a tendency to turn things over and smell things out, probably got more food and maybe escaped more threats.
      From a practical point of view, if we understand how things burn, we can burn them better. If we understand why metals are malleable and ceramics are frangible, we can build better.
      So no, we won’t find all answers, and The Big Answer is probably more than we’ll learn in our lifetimes. But maybe the same urge that found grubs in logs and learned to make steam leads us to look for The Big Answer. According to Douglas Adams, it’s 42.

    • Lionell, Gravity is the deformaiton of space-time in the presence of matter as transmitted by a massless spin 2 particle dubbed the graviton. It is typically attractive, but space itself has a negative pressure and thus a repulsive gravity on galactic scales. On infintessimal levels, gravity can briefly change directions on the most extreme of scales, creating an extremely strong force dubbed the “inflaton field” that is responsible for the big bang.

      Any more questions?

  17. Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  18. Neil deGrasse Tyson put it well: “Not that anybody asked, but I object to religion in science classrooms not because it’s religion but because it’s not science”

    ID proposes no testable hypotheses and explains nothing about the observable universe. It’s a pure argument from ignorance that boils down to “well, we don’t know therefore Jesus.” It’s a cynical attempt to mask Creationism as science. For all these reasons, it is not science and has no place in any public school science curriculum.

    • Howdy mooninaut
      I acknowledge that ID is philosophy or religion rather than science. It may even be falsified some day, although a century of serious attempts to falsify God or Prime Cause have left the question open.
      It’s unfair to call it an argument from ignorance — it acknowledges ignorance, I’d say. It’s also unfair to say it boils down to “we don’t know so Jesus.” For one thing, I’m not really a Christian myself. Yet I am a believer in God certainly.

  19. I.D. is science, not religion. It involves the examination and analysis of observable phenomena (e.g., the enormously complex details of the simplest life forms), formulation of hypotheses which could explain the observed phenomena, and tests (typically statistical) of those hypotheses. That’s science.

    Contrast I.D. with that subset of Evolution which concerns itself with the origination of life: abiogenesis, or spontaneous generation. It starts by ruling out all plausible explanations, on ideological grounds. It’s left with no hypotheses at all that could explain what has been observed. It boils down to this: Even though the simplest plausible life forms appear to have been designed, being far too complex to have originated from random chance, we just know that isn’t the case, because you sneaky Neanderthal religionists are just trying to get us to admit the possibility of God, and we just know there’s no God.

    That’s not science, that’s ideology. Most passionate evolutionists just fall back on ad hominem when confronted with this problem. But Richard Dawkins acknowledged it, and suggested space aliens as the possible designers:

    The corruption of science by ideology is a pervasive problem, and it seems to be getting worse:
    http://sealevel.info/papers.html#whitherscience

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