What is evolution, anyway?

When David Limbaugh or David Mobley get going on creationism aka intelligent design you can get a good idea as to why the issue is so hot and why so many in the US have severe doubts that do not coincide with the community of biological scientists. These two Davids promote their common position in this issue in a very passionate yet restrained and rational way. If people of this caliber think ID should be taught in biology classes, surely there must be something to the argument.

But then, here is how the other side views the issue.

Further, as I have argued in the past presenting something that is not science to children as if it were science is doing those children a huge disservice. When people in authority lie to the children in their charge it goes beyond merely what is and is not good science. It also sends a message to children that when you believe in something strongly and in a position of power it is just fine to lie. [Steve. Intelligent Design: Making a Fools; Deinonychus antirrhopus; 30Ja05]

When there is a disagreement such as this, the first thing to check is whether everyone is on the same page and arguing the same topic. It is fairly clear that this is a big problem here. The clarity of position in this case belongs to those who maintain that the established means of determining curricula via academic processes is proper. The less clear position is with those who are trying to bypass the established proceedures to insert their own ideas in other ways. The less clear position is less clear because it must first explain why the process is flawed and needs to be circumvented. The implication is that there is an agenda outside of the topic at issue and it is being rationalized in response to that agenda and not to the criteria usually applied to qualification of ideas in a curricula. But how can you tell if this is so?

A first step is to get a history of the debate as a basis for understanding. A Times of London Story Darwin put to flight in Bible Belt prompted a discussion on the Free Republic. To avoid endless repetition, a set of links was provided to address the commonly brought up ideas and issues.

Those who oppose evolution should make an effort to understand what they’re arguing against. The Theory of Evolution. (Excellent introductory encyclopedia article.) It would also be useful to learn what science is: The scientific method, and What’s a Scientific Theory? [ Free Republic Post on 01/29/2005 by PatrickHenry
(<– Click on my name. The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)]

The issue isn’t the merits of evolution or creationism, it is to understand to behaviors of those pushing the arguments to try to gain insight into what causes them to do so. One way to gain an assessment of the agenda is to look at the nature of the arguments. The Limbaugh link refers to a potential conspiracy to repress scientific dialog. The Mobley link suggests a seemingly very reasonable “if schools start teaching alternatives to evolution, the caliber of our science might actually improve” with no qualifications (easily reduced to the absurd). Neither approach the basic question of who should decide curricula in schools, but they do want to override the established process.

On the other hand, those who take the other side also often miss the “who decides” issue and go on the defensive.

The fact is that ideas in science have to prove themselves. It is only when an idea has proven itself to be useful that it can be considered an alternative to be presented in teaching. And this leads to what is perhaps the core issue, that of definining useful. That sets the standard by which decisions are made. This is why the Patrik Henry links page starts out with definitions about the nature of science and scientific investigation. One reason why any science is taught is to convey the methods and values of scientific inquiry. The reason Steve talks about “lies” is perhaps a reaction to teaching a topic under the guise of science that does not convey its methods or values.

It is the use of a conspiracy ethos, vacuous assertions of the benefits of diversity or variety to any degree, sidestepping of established process without due regard for its implications, the exceptional singularity, and other tactics that can tell you if the agenda being expressed is the one being sought.

Why do honorable people push ID into public school curricula? Why do scientists in general oppose such pushing? What has what to gain? What really drives the argument? Your answer is an hypothesis. Develop your data to test it and learn its qualities. It is behavioral research.

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