Science, Just Science

1 December 2008

The Evidence For And Against Evolution

A nice little post over at the Daylight Atheism blog:

“Teaching the controversy” has always been a rhetorical centerpiece of the intelligent-design movement, but it has become a more prominent part of their strategy in the wake of ID’s 2005 court defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania. Seeking to avoid blame for the Dover verdict, creationist groups such as the Discovery Institute pleaded that they had never wanted to teach intelligent design per se, but only the “evidence for and against” evolution.

The most sinister part of this argument is its apparent fairness. Who could object to teaching students all sides in a dispute? Hardly anyone, of course, which is why ID advocates sometimes trumpet polls showing that large majorities say students should be taught the evidence for and against evolution. That shouldn’t be a surprise: if there were legitimate evidence against evolution, even I would certainly want it to be taught, as I think most atheists would. But the problem is that these polls ask a loaded question by assuming that there is such evidence.

If there is a legitimate, scientific controversy over some issue, then by all means, teachers should present all sides in a fair and even-handed manner. However, this is not a description which applies to the teaching of evolution. Creationists and their intelligent-design comrades have steadfastly avoided making their case to the scientific community (where it meets with near-unanimous scorn). Instead, they’re attempting to do an end-run around that scrutiny by forcing their beliefs into public schools before they have won the approval of practicing, qualified scientists in those fields. This is completely backwards from how these controversies are supposed to be resolved.

The problem with “teaching all sides” is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for “balance” leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth. This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

[Read The Rest Of The Blog Post Here]

And that, in a nutshell, is the point … that is exactly why ID has no place in the science classroom.

“Teach The Controversy” they say. “What controversy” we ask, “There is no controversy!”

“Teach both sides of the argument, show the evidence for and against evolution” they say, but the sad fact (for them) is that there is no evdience against evolution, no evidence, no controversy and ID is not now and never will be science.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

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5 July 2007

Campaign Objectives

Filed under: Campaign — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:31 pm

Primary Campaign Objective

  • Keep only science in science classes

Secondary Campaign Objectives

  • Ensure that creationist materials are not taught as science in science classes.
  • Ensure that claims on UK based creationist web sites are thoroughly and publicly debunked.
  • Ensure schools run by creationists are teaching only science in science classes.
  • Ensure that the science curriculum remains completely unambiguous in its statements about the teaching of science (and evolution in particular) and that there are no loopholes that could be exploited by creationists.

High level actions

  • Providing information on the website
  • Offering our services for presentations, debates, media interviews
  • Sending letters to newspapers, MPs, LEAs, schools, Government
  • Handing out leaflets at events

18 October 2006

Campaign Overview

Filed under: Campaign — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:26 pm

Science has made some remarkable contributions to our world but the doctrine of science itself is perhaps the single most astonishing achievement of all.

It is no accident that it is through the application of the scientific method that so much has been learned because the method is a wonderful application of the best of logic and reasoning. The basic principle is that it is impossible to definitively prove anything therefore observations are used to establish a hypothesis which is then attacked by experiment in the attempt to destroy it. Progressively eliminating possibilities eventually leads to an ever closer understanding of the question, originally described in ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ by Karl Popper. As Sherlock Holmes once remarked “…when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

The beauty of this method is that while it may rely for its hypotheses on the intuitive brilliance of individual scientists it is only those theories that survive the assault of every interested researcher that eventually enter into the textbooks and have other hypotheses based upon their foundations.

Science is therefore self-correcting. As a general principle and to ease the extent to which possibilities must be eliminated through experiment the simplest explanation is always explored first. This is known as ‘Occam’s Razor’.

The process could be imagined as the building of a gigantic monument where each brick is laid by a different person, other people come along and remove the bricks that don’t fit and only those that survive this editing ultimately form a part of the edifice. These hurdles, codified in peer review and the experimental process, may seem to form an insurmountable barrier to progress but they provide great confidence in the theory when it emerges through the fog of war.

All the science we know has undergone this process and it could be stated that the definition of science is simply that knowledge that has been accrued through application of the scientific method.

Science is a vital part of our modern world and one of the most important areas of study for all our children especially when so much depends on technology. At this juncture there can be no mistake, science matters.

It is the simple contention of this statement that the science curriculum in British schools must remain limited to those subjects that are truly scientific and there are two reasons why we feel such a statement is necessary.

  • Firstly because a school has already elected to teach non-scientific dogma in science classrooms.
  • Secondly because a group known as ‘Truth In Science’ has recently sent a pack of non-scientific ‘education materials’ to the heads of science in all the public schools in the country.

The first of these reasons – the school – is discussed in more detail here.

Emmanuel College in Gateshead, near Newcastle Upon Tyne, is run by a radical Christian and he has employed other Christians in key positions. We do not oppose such appointments, nor do we believe that belief in any theistic position renders an individual less suitable for any position whatsoever, it is absolutely the right of every person to choose what they believe and we respect all such beliefs. While we find the beliefs of this particular Christian sect somewhat baffling it is not those that caused us to initiate this campaign. We understand that the curriculum taught at this school and at others planned in the future includes the teaching of so-called ‘Scientific Creationism’ in science classes, specifically alongside and in contrast to theories of evolution, abiogenesis and wherever science disagrees with literal interpretations of the Christian Bible.

It may be that the teachers in this school feel that they are offering an ‘alternative’ but they are actually exploiting their position to introduce theology into science classrooms where it simply has no place. If speculative ideas are to be introduced into science teaching there could be no end to it, religions from all over the world taught in place of actual science. There is no real justification for why Christian creation is taught rather than the creation stories of other religions though many Christian creationists will offer arguments to the contrary. The views held by these creationists seem extreme even to the majority of Christians, Catholics have accepted the theory of evolution for some years now and Anglicans have not opposed it since the nineteenth century, perhaps this underscores how easily cults can gain a foothold in society with just a few wealthy supporters.

It is a beguiling idea that by offering an alternative to the orthodox teaching of evolution these people are broadening the education of the students but it is untrue. These lessons cheapen science and reduce the central message that science must adhere to the scientific method. All non-science taught in the science classroom weakens the understanding of science.

In the case of the Christian creation story it is especially surprising that it be offered as an alternative to science, given that adherence to the Biblical version was the de facto position prior to 1859 when Darwin’s seminal work was published and for some time after. It took a great deal of experiment to shift the opinions of many of the great scientific minds of the day towards the then radical new idea of a fully naturalistic explanation for biological diversity so when Huxley crowned himself episcopophagous it must have seemed that the argument was finally over. No unsubstantiated belief was as firmly held as Biblical creation so no belief took so much convincing evidence to change.

As it is now undoubtedly true that the Christian creation was proven not to fit the experimental evidence over a century ago it seems particularly astounding that it is this, entirely discredited, position that is offered in the science classrooms at Emmanuel College.

There is surely suitable provision for the description of religious positions in classes designed for that purpose, it would be entirely inappropriate to use a religious education class to attempt the debunking of any portion of a faith using scientific methods and it is equally inappropriate to offer religious dogma in a science class.

We are asking simply for an inspection of the school to determine independently what is actually taught and if necessary a change to the wording of the national curriculum to insist that science, just science, is taught in science classrooms.

14 October 2006

Financial Times: Questioning And Challenging Every Aspect Of Evolution

Filed under: Campaign,News — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:21 pm

Questioning and challenging every aspect of evolution
By Alex Labram
Published: October 14 2006 03:00 | Last updated: October 14 2006 03:00

From Mr Alex Labram.

Sir, In his recent letter discussing evolution (October 7), Ian Leonard stretches the definition of “faith” to breaking point and beyond.

Evolutionary biology is based on careful scrutiny of the world we live in. It is continually subjected to testing and improvement to ensure its accuracy. It produces concrete, testable predictions of stunning accuracy, and is critical to vital fields of science such as immunology. For example, evolutionary models have been used to predict the spread of the deadly disease ebola in Africa, as well as to trace the source of HIV infections in the US.

More recently, simulated evolution techniques known as “in vitro evolution” have been applied to the development of more effective antibiotics. Evolutionary biology is practical, functional and effective.

Mr Leonard is correct that intelligent individuals are, at present, questioning and challenging every aspect of evolution. These people are usually referred to as “evolutionary biologists”, and they have spent most of the past 150 years hunting down and eliminating weaknesses in the theory, as well as searching for major flaws in the underlying premises. So far, so good.

Finally, the impression given by Mr Leonard’s letter that evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity is simply not true. The scientific community contains many Christians, the majority of whom accept evolution for the accurate model that it is.

Alex Labram,
Science Just Science,
Reading, Berks RG5 4UF

13 October 2006

Mission Statement

Filed under: Campaign — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:29 pm

We are a UK based group that believes that science alone should be taught in science class.

Science is concerned with what we can see, touch or otherwise sense in the world today, and what we can deduce from that.

The scientific method helps us work out how to clearly understand the information we find; and also how to test our ideas.

People, for other reasons may decide the real truth lies elsewhere; and therefore outside of science.

We defend their right to think so – and to debate personal belief in school.

But we think that in science class we should teach science…

Science, Just Science

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