Friday, August 02, 2013

President of Ball State University Forbids Teaching Intelligent Design

A few months ago Jerry Coyne learned that an astronomy professor (Eric Hedin) at Ball State University (Indiana, USA) was advocating an intelligent design perspective in his course on "The Boundaries of Science." Jerry contacted the Chair of the department to request that the administration intervene to prevent this professor from expressing his personal opinion in class. Jerry also contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the FFRF lawyers sent a letter to Ball State University threatening them with a lawsuit for exposing students to intelligent design creationism in science class. Jerry Coyne, FFRF, and a host of others, think this course is forbidden by the US Constitution.

The resulting publicity was very bad for Ball State University. Fortunately for the university, the president, Jo Ann Gora, was able to diffuse the situation. A few days ago, she sent a newsletter to all faculty members in which she explained what they can and cannot teach in class. Her letter (see below) is a remarkable example of political skill and obfuscation. She says all of the "correct" things about evolution and intelligent design and does a fine job of stating the accommodationist position on the demarcation problem. She even tosses out a bone on separation of church and state and another on academic freedom. That will certainly please a lot of people, including FFRF. (Her task was greatly helped by the Discovery Institute and its IDiot friends who condemned the letter and complained of censorship. This will be a big help in avoiding a lawsuit and more bad publicity.)

President Gora wanted to make this problem go away and, judging by the response from Jerry Coyne and others, she was remarkably successful [BSU spokeswoman hints at what will happen to Hedin’s class] [Ball State University president unequivocally rejects intelligent design; not good news for Eric Hedin or the Discovery Institute]. I congratulate her on her extraordinary political skills. Ball State University should be proud of this president.

On the other hand, President Gora's political skills come at a price. Academic freedom in American Universities has taken a hit. Surprisingly, this seems to be a price that most American academics are willing to pay. Support for her letter has been overwhelmingly positive. There are no American academics who are willing to stand up and fight for academic freedom in a case like this. It proves that there's a difference between academic freedom in the USA and Canada—something that I didn't think was true a few months ago.

How would this play out in Canada? The president of the University of Toronto would never send a letter like this to me and my colleagues. We take a very dim view of administrators who tell us what we can and cannot say in class. Limits on academic freedom cannot be unilaterally mandated by an administrator—even the most senior administrator in the university. That's a well-established principle in Canadian universities. Faculty must be consulted and they must agree to any restrictions on what they can and cannot say.

Most Canadian universities have strong faculty associations and many of them are unions. They have the resources to defend any attacks on academic freedom. They have the power to demand that faculty have a voice. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why there's a difference between the USA and Canada?

Canadian university professors are not forbidden to teach religion. Many Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto, have religious colleges where students are trained to become priests and ministers. It would be ridiculous for a Canadian university President to say that faculty members have to avoid showing preference for one religious view over another.

Canadian academics are also concerned about using "best standards" as a way of shutting down dissent. We recently had a bit of a kerfluffle over this issue when the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) issued a statement on academic freedom. AUCC is an organization composed of Presidents of Canadian Colleges and Universities. It has no business issuing statements on academic freedom and that's partly why the statement was criticized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), who represent faculty.

Here's a piece of a report by Peter van Beek on an academic freedom conference he just attended [The Limits of Academic Freedom]. It illustrates the problem ...
The AUCC statement also emphasizes institutional autonomy and institutional academic freedom, as opposed to academic freedom being a right of an individual faculty member. It also emphasizes the role of professional norms in academic freedom (i.e., academic freedom more narrowly defined as belonging in one's area of expertise and where the discipline sets the standard of inquiry). While professional norms might be a way of shutting up those anthropogenic climate change deniers that I find so annoying, professional norms can also be used to snuff out dissent. Academia is replete with orthodoxy and fundamentalism, and those who own the podium are often reluctant to share the power or to allow critical voices. Several panelists at the conference referred to an excellent speech by Harry Arthurs on why it does not make sense only to allow professors to speak on their "areas of expertise".
I'm pleased that the President of the University of Toronto, David Naylor, resigned from AUCC because of their statement, which he did not support.

That's enough for now. It seems clear that the American view of academic freedom is very different from the Canadian view. Here's the text of Jo Ann Gora's message to the faculty at Ball State University.
Dear Faculty and Staff,

This summer, the university has received significant media attention over the issue of teaching intelligent design in the science classroom. As we turn our attention to final preparations for a new academic year, I want to be clear about the university's position on the questions these stories have raised. Let me emphasize that my comments are focused on what is appropriate in a public university classroom, not on the personal beliefs of faculty members.

Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory. Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses. The gravity of this issue and the level of concern among scientists are demonstrated by more than 80 national and state scientific societies' independent statements that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science. The list includes societies such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, theAmerican Astronomical Society, and the American Physical Society.

Discussions of intelligent design and creation science can have their place at Ball State in humanities or social science courses. However, even in such contexts, faculty must avoid endorsing one point of view over others. The American Academy of Religion draws this distinction most clearly:

Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. Creation science, intelligent design, and other worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature and social science courses. Such study, however, must include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others.

Teaching religious ideas in a science course is clearly not appropriate. Each professor has the responsibility to assign course materials and teach content in a manner consistent with the course description, curriculum, and relevant discipline. We are compelled to do so not only by the ethics of academic integrity but also by the best standards of our disciplines.

As this coverage has unfolded, some have asked if teaching intelligent design in a science course is a matter of academic freedom. On this point, I want to be very clear. Teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory is not a matter of academic freedom - it is an issue of academic integrity. As I noted, the scientific community has overwhelmingly rejected intelligent design as a scientific theory. Therefore, it does not represent the best standards of the discipline as determined by the scholars of those disciplines. Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.

Courts that have considered intelligent design have concurred with the scientific community that it is a religious belief and not a scientific theory. As a public university, we have a constitutional obligation to maintain a clear separation between church and state. It is imperative that even when religious ideas are appropriately taught in humanities and social science courses, they must be discussed in comparison to each other, with no endorsement of one perspective over another.

These are extremely important issues. The trust and confidence of our students, the public, and the broader academic community are at stake. Our commitment to academic freedom is unflinching. However, it cannot be used as a shield to teach theories that have been rejected by the discipline under which a science course is taught. Our commitment to the best standards of each discipline being taught on this campus is equally unwavering. As I have said, this is an issue of academic integrity, not academic freedom. The best academic standards of the discipline must dictate course content.


92 comments :

  1. Why did she make a statement on this and issue out policy from the president's office, rather than, say, fire the professor that did this 'horrible and intolerable' thing? If you can go against her policy, then it's not really a policy no?

    Coyne should really think more the next time he decides to act in a situation like this. Look at the result, a prohibitive institutional policy forced on the faculty from above, in response to one guy that did something that was arguably stupid and wrong. It's an intrusion on faculty rights, that doesn't really solve the problem, and only accomplishes PR damage-control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's "prohibitive" about insisting that faculty teach the course they're being paid to teach?

      Delete
  2. I don't think President Gora was making a new policy but rather reminding faculty of what the (US) constitutional obligations of a publicly-funded university are - probably after checking with lawyers.

    Privately-funded universities, including religious ones, can and do violate these rules, which are not obligations to them.

    Mind you, such rules were honored more in the breach than the observance when I was a lad. For example, all through my pre-college education, we had "Release-Time Religious Education" every Thursday afternoon, in which all the Protestant students were marched to the nearest Protestant chapel and all Catholic students were marched to the nearest Catholic church (within a mile, in both cases). I don't think this practice is countenanced in public schools (as mine was) anymore. (Perhaps due to those angry "new atheists" and their lawsuits.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Release time is legal in the US. That has not changed.

      Delete
  3. I think it's pretty likely that this statement *represents* the considered position of the faculty and the various faculty reviews of the situation that took place, rather than being some top-down statement.

    As the president mentions, academic freedom is important, but so is academic integrity, quality, and standards. In science classes, we give tests to students. These tests have right and wrong answers. An important part of the job is to impart knowledge to the students, and the success or failure of such efforts is judge in part by the tests. But, if some yahoo not in your field, and with no particular expertise in it, starts teaching that all the right answers on your test are wrong, using bogus arguments and facts that come from various well-known pseudoscience/fundamentalist groups who similarly have no expertise or real understanding of the subject matter, what is to be done? I think the right answer is that the faculty have the academic freedom and responsibility to set the curriculum, and that if there are conflicts, committee meetings etc. are held to do justice to the various competing interests -- the students have an interest in getting a high-quality education, professors, especially tenured ones, have a right to express their views even if weird and pseudoscientific, but they don't necessarily have the right for this to take place in a course that meets some student science requirement, or to do it without giving the students instruction on the mainstream view which is considered settled science in the relevant department.

    Do you advocate a "free for all", Larry? If not, what are the reasonable limits?

    I agree that the initial setup of this Ball State situation was less than desirable, but it looks to me like cooler heads prevailed over those on both sides who seemed to be gunning for a lawsuit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nick,

      I don't ADVOCATE a free for all. I'd prefer a reasoned approach like the one you describe. However, I do not want to censor colleagues who disagree with me and in order to avoid infringing on their academic freedom I'm willing to tolerate a lot more fringe science than you are.

      Terms like "academic integrity, quality, and standards" can mask a great deal of unjustified censorship. We should err on the side of freedom.

      Delete
    2. Suppressing any kind of ideology may not work in a long run. Look at former Eastern Block, like Poland and Soviet Union. Piotr can probably testify to that and I was growing up in SU for few years. Even though my father was a diplomat, and I was isolated from the propaganda, I still had friends who were Russians. They were lovely people but most of them despised the SU propaganda even though they had no idea what it was all about. They hated the fact that it was enforced. They probably wanted to have a chance to make a choice. I believe that is what L. Moran is adocating and I truly respect him for that. I may not agree with him on many, many fundamental issues, but this one will go down the history as one of the bravest moves a devout atheist and world class biochemist can do. All I can say is: BRAVO LARRY MORAN!!!!

      Delete
    3. Since when does it count as suppression not to teach it in a public school? ID has been driven out of government-sponsored education, not out of anything else. The analogy with the Soviet Bloc is just plain false.

      Delete
    4. John Harshman said:

      You might be right in many, many aspect of this issue. I'm not questioning that. I'm just not smart enough. Sorry...

      However, it is not the analogy of ID that applies here, I think.

      It is the idea behind the ideology that I think applies here. Does that make any sense to you? You are a very, very smart guy, and I just try to keep up with you very smart guys like Mr. Larry and you John.

      Delete
    5. In response to this:

      ================
      LouiseGFriday, August 02, 2013 6:04:00 PM
      Suppressing any kind of ideology may not work in a long run. Look at former Eastern Block, like Poland and Soviet Union. Piotr can probably testify to that and I was growing up in SU for few years. Even though my father was a diplomat, and I was isolated from the propaganda, I still had friends who were Russians. They were lovely people but most of them despised the SU propaganda even though they had no idea what it was all about. They hated the fact that it was enforced. They probably wanted to have a chance to make a choice. I believe that is what L. Moran is adocating and I truly respect him for that. I may not agree with him on many, many fundamental issues, but this one will go down the history as one of the bravest moves a devout atheist and world class biochemist can do. All I can say is: BRAVO LARRY MORAN!!!!
      ================

      Grading is tyranny! "Right" and "wrong" are just words! Let's just give everybody As for effort, no matter what they say on tests!

      Delete
    6. Does that make any sense to you?

      Not even in the sense that I know what you meant by it, let alone that what you meant made sense.

      Delete
    7. "Grading is tyranny! "Right" and "wrong" are just words! Let's just give everybody As for effort, no matter what they say on tests!"
      NickM, I'm not being mean here. You are going to be a president one day...

      Delete
    8. NickM, Let's talk the origins. Would you like to do it here or via email? If you are not sure, here is my fist question:
      1. Can proteins self-assemble in the the pi-soup? (no cell membrane)
      The reason why I ask is that proteins tend to "avoid" the connection" or an "attraction". So, what makes them so "loving" in a cell?
      2. It is not may question but my brother has been asking me this question for months. Since I have no answer, I thought I would ask you, since you are such a smart guy; you and Larry that is.

      "Enzymes are needed to produce ATP. However, energy from ATP is needed to produce enzymes. However, DNA is required to make enzymes, but enzymes are required to make DNA.
      However, proteins can be made only by a cell, but a cell can be made only with specific proteins. So, how is this ALL possible in view of evolutionary prospective?

      Delete
    9. "So, how is this ALL possible in view of evolutionary prospective?"

      A Voice from the top of the mountain shouting ABRACADABRA, followed by a puff of smoke.

      Delete
    10. Pedro, I'm not even sorry. We suspect you are banned witton/vishti. Though you try to take it back now and pretend you belong with us, you are a traitor and diogenes has figured you out. Give me something I can believe please!

      Delete
    11. Pedro, I'm not even sorry. We suspect you are banned witton/vishti. Though you try to take it back now and pretend you belong with us, you are a traitor and diogenes has figured you out. Give me something I can believe please!

      Delete
  4. The position of Prof. Coyne, which I agree with, and which is apparently not in congruence with the opinions of Prof. Moran and PZ Myers is that academic freedom does not include the freedom to teach any damn thing the professor wants to teach (I know that Prof. Moran denies that that is his position). Academic freedom to Coyne and the folks who agree with him means the freedom to engage in scholarly and research activity with minimal restriction. As a for instance, Prof. Arthur Butz, a Holocaust denier who teaches engineering at Northwestern Un. is free to pursue his Holocaust denial studies outside the classroom. He has no academic freedom to teach them to students in the classroom in opposition to his administration. Just as the late Prof. William Shockley was free to pursue his studies of racial intelligence differences outside the classroom but had no academic freedom to teach them in his classes in opposition to the administration at Stanford, Un.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Almost no one, with the possible exception of elected officials, has free speech while employed. People are being paid to do a job, the work they are paid to do has boundaries, any employee who goes outside of those boundaries can be ordered to stop, can be disciplined or fired if they persist in going outside the boundaries of the work they are paid to do. Whether those limits are set by consensus of the co-workers or by a supervisor who acts on a report is a procedural difference, it's not a major difference here between the US and Canada.

      But in the US there is also a role for government when the institution is governmental and the boundary being crossed is non-establishment of religion. This government role may make some people uncomfortable, but it is only a generalization of the same principle where judges can have the final say instead of the co-workers or the supervisor. This provides an additional level of oversight and accountability from outside the institution itself on the grounds that every government institution is a unit of government and thus is also accountable for following government wide rules. And one of those rules is that government avoids advocating for or against religious beliefs.

      Delete
    2. Almost no one, with the possible exception of elected officials, has free speech while employed. People are being paid to do a job, the work they are paid to do has boundaries, any employee who goes outside of those boundaries can be ordered to stop, can be disciplined or fired if they persist in going outside the boundaries of the work they are paid to do.

      University professors are hired as academic scholars. Their job is to explore the very limits of their discipline and challenge the status quo. The job of professors is to push boundaries and go beyond them.

      That's why academic freedom is important. Without it, your view might prevail and progress would grid to a halt.

      Whether those limits are set by consensus of the co-workers or by a supervisor who acts on a report is a procedural difference, it's not a major difference here between the US and Canada.

      You appear to be wrong. In Canada there seems to be a much greater emphasis on protecting university professors from outside influence when they step beyond the rigid boundaries imposed by society. In Canada, we feel very strongly that neither government, nor business, can dictate what professors can study or what they can say. In America, you seem to be comfortable with politicians who can tell professors what they can and cannot do in a public university.

      This provides an additional level of oversight and accountability from outside the institution itself on the grounds that every government institution is a unit of government and thus is also accountable for following government wide rules.

      I don't know a single Canadian scholar who wouldn't gasp in horror at a statement like that.

      Delete
    3. "University professors are hired as academic scholars. Their job is to explore the very limits of their discipline and challenge the status quo. The job of professors is to push boundaries and go beyond them."

      Yes. And they are hired to teach *science*. Once they stop teaching science but instead teach religion, folklore, fairy stories or balony, they are *fired*.

      There is a difference between exercising your academic freedom and not doing what you were hired to do.

      Freedom does not eliminate the responsibility of doing your job the way you are expected to do it.

      Delete
    4. Larry, how does this recently declared Ball State policy prevent academics "exploring the very limits of their discipline and challenge the status quo."? How does it stop professors from "pushing the boundaries and go beyond them."?

      It sounds to me like you are more concerned with the "freedom" component of "academic freedom". You seem to have zero concern for the "academic" component. Anything at all goes by your definition, including unadulterated bullshit and crackpot ideas...but under the vague notion of faculty accountability.

      Delete
    5. Larry, how does this recently declared Ball State policy prevent academics "exploring the very limits of their discipline and challenge the status quo."? How does it stop professors from "pushing the boundaries and go beyond them."?

      I totally disagree with President Gora's opinion on science and whether we can address Intelligent Design Creationism in a science class even though a majority of scientists may side with her. Does that mean I'm free to challenge her opinion in my science class or do I have to tow the line?

      It sounds to me like you are more concerned with the "freedom" component of "academic freedom."

      That's a fair characterization. "Freedom" seems to be far more important to me than to many of you.

      You seem to have zero concern for the "academic" component.

      "Academic" is this sense just refers to the type of freedom just as "the press" refers to a type of freedom; namely, freedom of the press. Apparently there are some people in the USA who think that academic freedom applies everywhere in the university except in a classroom. That's a very strange notion to Canadian scholars and I'm still trying to get my head around it.

      Anything at all goes by your definition, including unadulterated bullshit and crackpot ideas...but under the vague notion of faculty accountability.

      That "vague notion" seems to work pretty well in practice, doesn't it? You can't allow outsiders to dictate to scholars what they can and cannot say in class. It's not a perfect system but it's a hell of a lot better than the one you seem to favor.

      Delete
    6. Larry, do you disagree with Gora when she states "Intelligent design is...a religious belief and not a scientific theory. Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses."? Please explain what is factually wrong with her statement.

      This might just be semantics, but she is stating something pretty obvious and that is that science classes are about science. You talk in your reply above about "addressing Intelligent Design Creationism in the classroom". Where does Gora's statement say that you can't do this? She is saying that you can't teach it as science, which seems fair enough. In so far as ID Creationism makes any points that can be seen as scientific claims there is absolutely nothing in her policy that will prevent these from being addressed.

      I asked you in a different thread whether, in your view, it would be acceptable for a civil engineering professor to teach the incorrect tensile strength of steel beams under the unbelievably liberal interpretation you favor for the definition of "academic freedom". You declined to respond then, so maybe you could tell me how far your definition stretches? I am assuming holocaust denial, Roswell, Yeti and Saaquatch all fall under the same umbrella and are acceptable? Are there really no limits to academic freedom?

      Delete
    7. Larry, do you disagree with Gora when she states "Intelligent design is...a religious belief and not a scientific theory. Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses."? Please explain what is factually wrong with her statement.

      The concept of irreducible complexity is entirely scientific even thought we know the motivation behind it. It's not very good science but it is science. Dembski's effort to prove that he can demostrate design are also scientific—in that case, very , very, bad science.

      I spent several months discussing Jonathan Wells' book on The Myth of Junk DNA and all I did was talk about science. The latest attempt by the IDiots to refute evolution by showing the the Cambrian explosion can't be explained by natural causes is science. You may not like the science and you may recognize that it is bad science but it's ridiculous to claim that it lies outside the boundary of what counts as science.

      I believe, along with a few other scientists and philosophers, that religious beliefs can be investigated using science. I do not accept the accommodationist position that science has limits and that religion is out-of-bounds for science. Thus, even if the all of the claims of the Intelligent Design Creationists relied overtly on god (they usually don't) they could still be challenged and refuted in a science course. Indeed, in my view, there's no other way to show that they are wrong.

      What should someone like me do at Ball State? I don't accept the position of the President of the university. Do I have the right to disagree with her and teach what I want in a science class? I can provide plenty of references to prominent philosophers and scientists who do not agree with her opinion and the opinion of judge Jones.

      I asked you in a different thread whether, in your view, it would be acceptable for a civil engineering professor to teach the incorrect tensile strength of steel beams under the unbelievably liberal interpretation you favor for the definition of "academic freedom"

      I don't think that would be acceptable and I'm pretty sure that the engineer's colleagues and department wouldn't allow it to happen. They would make sure that professor didn't teach undergraduates or taught in a different course. That's how the system should work and that's how it almost always works.

      Are there really no limits to academic freedom?

      Not many. In the example you gave, you can't force the civil engineering professor to teach the correct tensile strength if he honestly believes that it's wrong. You just have to put him in another course or keep him out of the classroom. But that should always be a decision made by fellow scholars and never by an administrator or outside interests.

      Delete
    8. Sorry Larry, but you are completing ducking all of these issues. Is irreducible complexity a theory resulting from scientific research? It's just that I've struggled to find the published research papers that form the basis for what it claims. After all, that's how science gets done. The fact that its criticisms of evolution can be tested scientifically (with outcomes that are predictable) doesn't make the thesis scientific. And you are absolutely right, you did an excellent job demolishing Well's book on junk DNA - a "book" I notice, written by a lawyer. I also struggled through the book, but I couldn't find the research papers from which his central thesis is based. Many claims and criticisms of and about science are absolutely capable of scientific investigation and quite often involve difficult and complex science to either sustain or refute - but the claims themselves, as with religion, are based on zero science.

      So please, what was factually wrong with Gora's statement - the statement you criticized.

      Please tell me where in her statement she precludes dealing with the claims of ID in science classes?

      Please, is the teaching of incorrect tensile strength in steel beams in civil engineering classes an issue of academic freedom, which to your definition should be allowed?

      Delete
    9. Barry, I'm not ducking any issues. I'm trying my best to explain my position.

      Is irreducible complexity a theory resulting from scientific research? It's just that I've struggled to find the published research papers that form the basis for what it claims. After all, that's how science gets done.

      The concept of irreducible complexity is completely scientific. The examples are taken from the scientific literature. The hypothesis is that irreducibly complex structures cannot evolve from more simple structures because there are no reasonable intermediates that could be produced by natural selection.

      This is a perfectly reasonable scientific hypothesis based on how the authors understand evolution. As it happens, their understanding of evolution is flawed and their definition of irreducible complexity is meaningless. Thus, their hypothesis is rejected.

      There are many scientific hypotheses like this. For example, some people hypothesize that most of our genome is functional. Some people favor the hypothesis that life arose in a primordial soup full of amino acids and glucose. Some scientists think that most human genes are alternatively spliced. Some biologists think that all visible phenotypes arise by natural selection. Some scientists think that the concept of a selfish gene explains a lot of evolution.

      These are all scientific hypotheses. They are all incorrect because, in my opinion, their authors don't understand some important scientific concepts. That doesn't mean that those hypotheses are not science. The same rule applies to many of the hypotheses advanced by Intelligent Design Creationists.

      So please, what was factually wrong with Gora's statement - the statement you criticized.

      Gora's statement is wrong because most of the arguments advanced by the Intelligent Design Creationists are perfectly scientific and need to be addressed and refuted by scientists and not by theologians, lawyers, or other humanities professors.

      Please, is the teaching of incorrect tensile strength in steel beams in civil engineering classes an issue of academic freedom, which to your definition should be allowed?

      Barry, if you don't try harder to understand this issue I'm going to stop responding to our questions.

      The answer is "yes," whenever you try to restrict what a university scholar says it becomes an issue of academic freedom. That does not mean that you have to allow every professor to say whatever they want in an undergraduate course. That professor's colleagues could assign him/her to another course or keep him/her out of the classroom entirely.

      Delete
    10. I completely agree with Prof. Moran that irreducible complexity is a scientific concept. The problem is that the systems that have been claimed to be irreducibly complex by Dumbski and Behe have been shown not to be irreducibly complex. That's the issue here. It is perfectly permissible to introduce the concept of irreducible complexity in a biology class (I have no idea what such a concept would mean in physics) and then show that, so far, no one has produced an example of such a system in nature.

      Delete
    11. Larry, there is a difference between criticizing a scientific theory and coming up with a different theory based on scientific research that challenges an existing scientific theory. Tell me, please, exactly where the science is behind irreducible complexity. I'll take citations from any credible research journal that clearly establishes the scientific basis for their claims. I know you can't do this and am puzzled as to why you think irreducible complexity is a scientific theory. References to any experimentation/testing...you know, the kind of things that scientists are actually expected to do - would help. Exactly which research supports this claim - "The hypothesis is that irreducibly complex structures cannot evolve from more simple structures because there are no reasonable intermediates that could be produced by natural selection."?

      Exactly where in Gora's statement does she state that dealing with the claims of ID creationism in science is prohibited? Just give me the quote.

      So, teaching the incorrect tensile strength of steel beams in civil engineering classes IS an issue of academic freedom? Thank you for not ducking this question. But do you realize what a completely ridiculous position this is to uphold in principle? I know you would disagree with this but you would also defend the right of a professor to spout lies using "academic freedom" as a defense.

      Delete
    12. @ slchonda9

      "I completely agree with Prof. Moran that irreducible complexity is a scientific concept. The problem is that the systems that have been claimed to be irreducibly complex by Dumbski and Behe have been shown not to be irreducibly complex."

      Are you trying to say that all 40 parts of bacterium flagellum have been found to have intermediates or they are parts of other functional systems? I think that's what you mean, which is hardy the case.

      Just because a motorcycle has a motor it does not mean it can function as motor in a motorboat or a helicopter. This motor requires major changes to function as such, and cannot be modified to work as such. It has to be build from different parts to preform different functions. One cannot use the same part to build different kind of motor with different functions. Same analogy applies to bacterium flagellum. Just because few SIMILAR-NOT THE SAME parts of bacterial flagellum have been found as parts of other systems, it does not mean they can function as other parts in bacterium flagellum or that they can evolve into other functional structures or parts as proven by Doug Axe in his paper here:

      http://bio-omplexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2010.4

      Delete
    13. Barry says,

      Larry, there is a difference between criticizing a scientific theory and coming up with a different theory based on scientific research that challenges an existing scientific theory.

      I deliberately used the word "hypothesis" to describe things like irreducible complexity and the idea that most of our genome is functional.

      You insist on using the word "theory." Is that deliberate or do you not understand the difference between a scientific theory and a hypothesis?

      So, teaching the incorrect tensile strength of steel beams in civil engineering classes IS an issue of academic freedom? Thank you for not ducking this question. But do you realize what a completely ridiculous position this is to uphold in principle?

      No I don't. I believe that a university scholar can advocate ridiculous notions that nobody else believes. If they have tenure, they can't be fired or punished for disagreeing with the majority.

      I don't believe they should be allowed to teach ridiculous notions in a classroom but that decision rests with their departmental peers and not with administrators or interest groups from outside the university.

      I know you would disagree with this but you would also defend the right of a professor to spout lies using "academic freedom" as a defense.

      No, I'm not sure that I would agree with that. If you could prove that the scholar was deliberately lying that would not be protected under academic freedom.

      Delete
    14. @Barry

      You don't reveal your identify on your Blogger profile so I don't know how much experience you have working in a university environment.

      How much do you have? Have you spent a long time studying academic freedom?

      Delete
    15. Re Louise

      What has been shown is that the there is a plausible evolutionary precursor, namely the Type 3 secretory system to the bacterium flagellum. See Kin Miller's Dover testimony. The notion that some of the evolutionary history hasn't been explained is only the god of the gaps argument, an argument that has failed hundreds of times in the past (c.f. Newton declaring god's intervention was required to maintain the stability of the Solar System and 100 years later, Laplace proving that he had no need of that hypothesis).

      Douglas Axe is a creationist who has no more credibility the Behe or Dumbski.

      Behe's attempt to call the blood clotting cascade an irreducible complex system was totally discredited during his testimony at the trial when he was shown a total of 57 article describing a plausible evolutionary history and declared it inadequate, even though he hadn't read most of the articles in question. What a maroon!

      Delete
    16. The 57 articles stacked in front of him were on the immune system. As for the blood clotting cascade, he changed his assertions about which branches of the cascade were IC, relative to what he wrote in "Darwin's Black Box." That's even worse behavior than saying those 57 articles he didn't read didn't answer the question he'd asked.

      Delete
    17. Re Diogenes

      Thanks for the correction. It's a little hard sometimes for us non-biologists to keep these things straight sometimes.

      Delete
    18. Larry, you are splitting hairs admirably. "I deliberately used the word "hypothesis" to describe things like irreducible complexity and the idea that most of our genome is functional." It would be much better to point to the scientific research that supports this "hypothesis". You know this hasn't been done. You've been one of the leading critics pointing out that this hasn't been done.

      You still haven't pointed to the quote in Gora's statement that prohibits ID creationism from being "dealt with" in a science classroom.

      I have never heard an academic apply such a ridiculous interpretation of "academic freedom" to justify your "anything goes" philosophy.

      "You don't reveal your identify on your Blogger profile so I don't know how much experience you have working in a university environment.

      How much do you have? Have you spent a long time studying academic freedom?"

      Does it matter? Would it make any difference if I touted my Phd and disclosed my work at universities in the UK and China, together with research articles and publications? You can raise irrelevant points, even driven by genuine curiosity, but it doesn't provide any cover for your very weak arguments.

      Delete
    19. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    20. Your experiment lacks a control. Might I propose one?: Take the identical knockout bacterium and pray diligently, for a length of time comparable to the time allotted to the experiment you suggest, for a flagellum to miraculously appear. If that happens, the claims of evolution would be falsified.

      Delete
    21. Quest says: "I don't know much about blood clotting cascades... But I'm sure I can find some info on that an prove you wrong"

      So you admit you don't know, then you say you're sure. There's the problem with creationism: the subculture teaches people to be absolutely certain in fields about which they know little or nothing.

      The rest of your post demonstrates that ID is just anti-evolution, ID is based on negative argumentation.

      We could respond: to disprove evolution, you are required to demonstrate an experiment where a bacteria with no flagellum gets a new flagellum through the supernatural intervention of invisible, intangible spirits. But then, evolution does not rely totally on negative arguments.

      Delete
    22. Update comment. The first one didn't come out right:

      slchonda9 and Diogenes

      I don't know much about blood clotting cascades, so I can't comment on that yet. But I'm sure I can find some info on that an prove you wrong, because I seem to remember Behe commenting on that in detail at the meeting I was invited to attend. What I meant to say was, Behe refuted those claims by quoting the supposed authorities, that the Dover experts based their case on.

      However, the subject was focused on bacterium flagellum, but you changed the subject to the blood clotting cascades. Why?

      Anyway, Behe and other supporters of ID claim, that bacterial flagellum could not have arisen by Darwinian mechanisms; natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process because it is irreducibly complex and therefore it had to be deliberately and intelligently designed.

      To falsify their claims, all scientists have to do is go into the laboratory, knock out the genes needed for the flagellum in a bacterium, place that bacterial species under some selective pressure (for mobility), grow it for ten thousand generations, or more, and see if a flagellum, or any equally complex system would be produced. If that happens, Behe’s claims would be falsified.

      I’m sure Larry could facilitate such an endeavour, and I could possibly organize some financing for it. Maybe NickM could do the work? His been looking for a well-paid job lately :)

      Delete
    23. John Harshman

      Unfortunately, praying is the only option you have left to prove the evolution of bacterial flagellum to be true, as you can't prove it in any other way, not to mention by the process I proposed to prove Behe wrong.

      What a pity!

      Delete
    24. Quest - a positive result from your experiment would demonstrate that stepwise natural selection could build a flagellum in the generations stipulated by the selective environment established with the genetic material provided and the mutations encountered. A negative result, however, would be uninformative - particularly in regard to the actual, historic flagellum.

      Delete
    25. And hey, let's do a test to see if great oaks from little acorns grow. I'll take an acorn and put it on my kitchen table. When I come back in two weeks I expect to see a mighty oak tree, or something's really fishy with the so-called "science" of botany.

      Delete
    26. John, if you can't get an oak tree in two weeks, it's proof trees are made by invisible spirits.

      If you get a tree to grow just a few inches, that's just micro-growvolution, which is a totally different process that has nothing to do with macro-growvolution, which is your religion.

      If you do get an adult tree in two weeks, what proof do you have that its growth was a random blind chance blind watchmaker process? What proof do you have that invisible spooks did not make it grow?

      Delete
    27. Re Diogenes

      I seem to recall that the issue of the blood clotting cascade also came up in Miller's testimony, although I could be mistaken. It is my information that the IDiots claim that it too is an irreducibly complex system. I seem to recall, however, the dolphins are missing one of the protein producing genes in the mammalian blood clotting cascade and the another species (octopus?) are missing two of them. Both species don't seem to bleed to death upon suffering wounds.

      Delete
    28. It did come up in Miller's testimony. The point was that Behe during hist testimony misrepresented what he wrote in "Darwin's Black Box", and Casey Luskin repeated Behe's false description later, while basically accusing Miller of being a liar, because Miller accurately stated what Behe wrote.

      In "DBB" p. 87, Behe clearly said that the whole clotting cascade was IC.

      Behe, DBB, p.87: From the beginning, a new step in the cascade would require both a proenzyme and also an activating enzyme to switch on the proenzyme at the correct time and place... Since each step necessarily requires several parts, not only is the entire blood-clotting system irreducibly complex, but so is each step in the pathway. [Behe, DBB, p. 87]

      So that's clear: the whole cascade, all 16 proteins, are IC. Behe went into detail about how, if you knock out Factor IX, it causes Hemophilia B. So that means Factor IX is part of the IC system.

      Problem: 27 years before the publication of "DBB", scientists found that dolphins lack Factor IX. And more factors (XI, XII, XIIa) are missing in the pufferfish.

      Therefore, at Dover, Behe changed his story, claiming that in "DBB" (which anybody can read) he really had written that the ONLY IC parts are the parts that aren't in the Intrinisic Pathway (Factor IX, XII and XIIa are in the intrinsic pathway.) That's not what he wrote, as we'll see in a moment.

      Two years later, Casey Luskin repeated Behe's lie, but Luskin gave a specific page number to "DBB", page 86 (Behe himself, at Dover, did not give a page number).

      [Behe in "DBB", as cited by Luskin]: Leaving aside the system before the fork in the pathway, where some details are less well known, the blood-clotting system fits the definition of irreducible complexity. ... The components of the system (beyond the fork [emphasis added by Luskin] in the pathway) are fibrinogen, prothrombin, Stuart factor, and proaccelerin. [WARNING: CREATIONIST ELLIPSIS USED FOR CONCEALMENT] ...in the absence of any one of the components, blood does not clot, and the system fails.
      [Michael Behe, "Darwin's Black Box", pg. 86; as cited by Casey Luskin]

      This is a sneaky trick on Luskin's part, because, while Behe calls only part of the system IC on page 86, on the next page he expands it to the whole clotting cascade. In addition, Behe stated clearly that proteins CANNOT be added to the system by natural processes, so evolution could not "build on" a magically created IC "core" and then naturally add the intrinsic pathway later-- Behe says that's impossible.

      Again, Behe went on about how if Factor IX is knocked out, it causes Hemophilia B, and how painful that is! So that proves Factor IX is part of the IC core.

      As for Luskin's CREATIONIST ELLIPSIS, every time you see Luskin or any other creationist use an ellipsis, they're lying, so you have to check the original text, which will reverse their meaning. Here's some more of that:

      [Actual text]: “...none of the cascade proteins is used for anything except controlling the formation of a blood clot. Yet in the absence of any one of the components, blood does not clot, and the system fails.

      The above statement refers to ALL the "cascade proteins".

      Ken Miller proves Luskin and Behe were lying about the blood clotting cascade here.

      Delete
    29. Continuing on blood clotting and IC:

      Another note to Luskin: the lamprey, a jawless fish, lacks Factor V which is NOT in the intrinsic pathway, it's in the part that Luskin called the "IC core."

      In Part 1 Luskin accuses Miller of lying because Miller said ID proponents believe the whole blood clotting cascade is IC, including the intrinsic pathway. What a terrible insult! How DARE he, how DARE Miller say ID proponents believe the whole blood clotting cascade is IC, including the intrinsic pathway!

      Then, in Part 2 Luskin contradicts himself and says, hey, the whole clotting cascade really is IC after all, all of it, including the intrinsic pathway.

      Lying Luskin also misleads his readers into believing that Behe didn't write the blood clotting cascade chapter in Of Pandas and People. Luskin writes as if Of Pandas and People was written by somebody else, not Behe, so Behe can't be blamed for that textbook.

      Luskin trying to lie badly: "To understand the difference between Behe's views and the account in Pandas, one needs to understand some basics..."

      DUH! Behe wrote that chapter in Pandas!

      Luskin accuses Miller of doing something horrible: "equating Behe's treatment of blood clotting with that of Pandas".

      Duh! That IS Behe's treatment!

      What other horrible thing does Luskin accuse Miller of? "...implying that any critiques of Pandas also applied to Behe."

      DUH! Criticisms of Pandas are criticisms of Behe, the author of that chapter in Pandas!

      Luskin lying Part 2: "But unlike Pandas, Behe explicitly did not argue that all of the components of the blood-clotting cascade were required for it to function properly..."

      DUH! Behe wrote that chapter in Pandas! That is Behe's argument!

      Delete
    30. As I understand Behe's definition of irreducible complexity, it is that an irreducibly complex system is one in which, if one part is removed, the system becomes nonfunctional (e.g. Behe's mouse trap). However, dolphins have one missing part and lampreys (not octopi) have two missing parts but clearly the blood clotting cascades of these species are functional as they don't bleed to death upon being wounded. By Behe's definition of irreducible complexity in Darwin's Black Box, the blood clotting cascade is not irreducibly complex, as Miller testified. It would appear that Behe has changed the definition after being caught out by Miller at the trial.

      Delete
    31. I knew It was there somewhere. While it is probably not the same argument I have heard, it is close enough. Behe refutes the blood clotting argument Ken Miller has made in Dover case and other, in this video.

      http://vimeo.com/69602914

      It starts at about 52 minutes.

      Enjoy :)))))

      Delete
    32. I read Ken Miller's "Finding Darwin's God" (which I highly recommend) about ten years ago, and most of his Dover testimony online as soon as it was available, and I do not recall him making the argument which Dr. Behe cites. What I recall is that Dr. Miller gave specific counterexamples (similar to those cited in previous comments) showing that the blood clotting cascade of proteins which was claimed to be IC in "Darwin's Black Box" was not. Perhaps Dr. Miller made the argument which Dr. Behe claims in the video somewhere else, but it seems strange that Dr. Behe forgot Dr. Miller's main arguments. In any case, the judge at the Dover trial heard both Dr. Miller and Dr. Behe at length and judged Dr. Miller as having the stronger arguments.

      Dr. Behe goes on to say that Dr. Miller's intent is to make evolution "sound easy", whereas it seems very hard to Dr. Behe. My layman's opinion is that this is a form of the lottery fallacy at work. For example, shuffle a deck of cards and deal out four bridge hands. It is very difficult to explain how those exact hands were produced, with their complex distribution of suits and ranks, but something had to be produced. Similarly, billions of years of evolution has produced a complex distribution of species - and personally, I don't think what we see is anywhere close to a grand slam.

      Delete
    33. Quest says:
      "Behe refutes the blood clotting argument Ken Miller has made in Dover case and other, in this video.".

      No, he doesn't. He didn't even mention, let alone address, the fact that multiple parts of the blood clotting cascade are missing in other organisms, as stated above by Diogenes and slchonda9. Just the mere existence of a functional blood clotting system that is missing a part is in direct contradiction with Behe's definition of IC.

      You should e-mail him about that. Maybe he has a "standard e-mail response" that explains how ID is still viable, given the fact that it has been shown to be inconsistent with everything we see in the biological world.

      Delete
    34. If Behe could refute Miller's argument in a video as you claim, why didn't Behe refute it when he had the chance at Dover, when it mattered? And he did not refute it at Dover-- rather, he lied on the witness stand. I haven't watched the video, but the fact that he lied at Dover tells me he had no refutation, and knew it.

      Perhaps Behe has come up with a novel argument after he lied on the witness stand. If so, copy the novel, original part here.

      Delete
    35. Diogenes,

      There's nothing new in the video. He just commented on Russell Doolittle's response to his book in the Boston Review, and remarked that Doolittle was mistaken about a study that he cited concerning knockout mice. He makes a similar criticism of Doolittle's response in the following article: In Defense Of The Irreducibility Of The Blood Clotting Cascade.

      He never mentions or addresses the fact that multiple organisms lack multiple components in the blood clotting cascade. He is just trying to assert that there's a gap in our understanding of how the cascade might have evolved.

      Delete
    36. I think that Luskin's arguments are not very clearly stated by Diogenes, so I made a short summary below of the part concerning dolphins discussed above:
      Roughly speaking, in land-dwelling vertebrates, there are two different pathways by which the blood-clotting cascade can be initiated -- the "intrinsic" pathway, and the "extrinsic" pathway...
      ...Miller only gave evidence that some vertebrates (like dolphins or jawed fish) lack certain components involved in the intrinsic pathway (factors XI, XII, and XIIA) found in land-dwelling vertebrates. What Miller failed to acknowledge is that land-dwelling vertebrates, jawed-fish, and water-dwelling mammals like dolphins and whales still have the extrinsic pathway intact, as well as everything after the point where the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways combine in land-dwelling vertebrates. In other words, dolphins and jawed fish still have the factors in the blood-clotting cascade that Behe considers irreducibly complex.
      - See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12/how_kenneth_miller_used_smokea014861.html#sthash.NFjLNaW1.dpuf

      Delete
    37. Some of the parts of the blood-clotting cascade are even present in tunicates (ascidians), playing functions related to blood coagulation, but not yet organised into an "irreducibly complex" system. Behe et consortes of course keep forgetting that function is evolvable too.

      Delete
    38. Re ShadiZ1

      I think what's going on here is that Behe has changed his definition of irreducible complexity from what he said in his book, Darwin's Black Box, in response to being shown up by Miller during the Dover trial. His current definition bears no resemblance to his mousetrap argument in the book.

      By the way, Behe is not only a liar, he's also a coward. He has refused to debate Abbie Smith on the subject of evolution of HIV on the spurious grounds that she is a mere graduate student. Actually, she knows far more about the subject matter then he does as that is the subject of her PhD dissertation and her research activities. He is afraid of being shown up by a graduate student, and a girl to boot (he's probably a misogynist as well), just as he was shown up by Miller at the Dover trial. His scientific reputation, such as it was, was demolished at that trial.

      Delete
    39. Re: slchonda9 Wednesday, August 07, 2013 7:36:00 AM

      I have been commenting too much and will give it a rest for a week or so, but I would like to mention a principle which I try to follow: when guessing at another person's motivations, I think it is better to assume good ones rather than bad ones, as long as there is a possibility of the former. This tends to produce better arguments on both sides, I think.

      Therefore, without much more evidence I would not accuse Dr. Behe of being a liar, coward, and probable misogynist. It would be better for Dr. Behe to acknowledge past errors before moving on to new variations of his arguments, but neglecting to do so would not convict him of perjury; and I can think of other reasons to not want to debate "ERV" besides cowardice or misogyny. One reason that is often used by our side is that such debates usually go to the faster talker rather than the side with the best evidence.

      Delete
    40. Re JimV

      In the first place, others here have called Behe a liar so I am not alone in that regard.

      In the second place, Behe showed no hesitation in debating Ken Miller on Firing Line back in the 1990s, where he had his head handed to him. I was commenting on his stated excuse for not debating Ms. (soon to be Dr.) Smith which was that she was a mere graduate student. I consider that to be entirely spurious, concealing his recognition that, in all probability, he would again have his head handed to him by someone who knew more about the subject then he does. That would seem to indicate someone who has some chicken feathers where his intestinal fortitude should be.

      Delete
    41. I don't want this thread to degenerate into name-calling. I didn't call Behe a misogynist, because I think there's so little evidence for that, and I didn't call him a coward. Nevertheless, whether Behe lied or not at Dover is a serious question that should be mulled over.

      I don't have anything personally against Behe, and I think he is less dishonest than the other DI fellows. But here are the facts:

      Behe's testimony at Dover, and his description of what he himself had written in Pandas and DBB, totally contradicts what he actually wrote in Pandas and DBB. Moreover, at Dover, he didn't just contradict himself-- he used weasel words that seem designed to mislead; I'll quote some below.

      Let's recall what he actually wrote. The blood clotting cascade is Y-shaped with two streams, called the "intrinsic" and "extrinsic pathways", that converge at Factor X. The part from Factor X onward is just called "stuff after the fork."

      In Pandas and in DBB, Behe actually wrote all these sub-parts are IC. But in whales and pufferfish, some stuff from the intrinsic pathway go missing. At Dover, Behe said that he'd written that only the stuff after the fork was IC; he insinuated, using weasel words, that he'd written that the intrinsic pathway was not IC.

      Casey Luskin vastly expanded Behe's words, stating explicitly that Behe had explicitly excluded the intrinsic pathway. Never happened; total Luskin fantasy land.

      Here is Behe at Dover describing what he'd written.

      Behe at Dover: "The relative importance of the two pathways [extrinsic, intrinsic] in living organisms is still rather murky. ...Because of that uncertainty, I said, let's, leaving aside the system before the fork in the pathway, where some details are less well-known, the blood clotting system fits the definition of irreducible complexity. ...So I was focusing on a particular part of the pathway, as I tried to make clear in Darwin's Black Box. If we could go to the next slide. Those components that I was focusing on are down here at the lower parts of the pathway... It turns out that the pathway can be activated by either one of two directions [extrinsic, intrinsic]. And so I concentrated on the parts that were close to the common point after the fork. ...If you concentrate on those components, a number of those components are ones which have been experimentally knocked out such as fibrinogen, prothrombin, and tissue factor... And you see that they all fall in the area of the blood clotting cascade that I was specifically restricting my arguments to." [Michael Behe, Oct. 18 testimony, pg. 25-28]

      Behe at Dover used weasel words and insinuation to create a misleading impression.

      Compare this to what Behe had really written: he had NOT limited his argument to the part after the fork.

      Behe: “From the beginning, a new step in the cascade would require both a proenzyme and also an activating enzyme to switch on the proenzyme at the correct time and place... Since each step necessarily requires several parts, not only is the entire blood-clotting system irreducibly complex, but so is each step in the pathway. [Behe, Darwin's Black Box, p. 87]

      Behe: “When the system is lacking just one of the components, such as anti-hemophilic factor, severe health problems often result. Only when all the components of the system are present in good working order does the system function properly. [Michael Behe, Of Pandas and People, p. 145]

      Delete
    42. Allow me to do a bit of editing on Behe's testimony:

      Behe at Dover: "...I said, let's, leaving aside the system before the fork in the pathway... So I was focusing on a particular part of the pathway, as I tried to make clear... Those components that I was focusing on... And so I concentrated on... If you concentrate on those components..."

      He's describing his FEELINGS and his INTENTIONS, which are non-falsifiable-- we can't disprove his feelings-- he's not describing what he wrote. Given the reality of what he wrote, he's screwed, so he changes the subject from what he wrote, to his FEELINGS about what he wrote.

      Casey Luskin, in defense of IC, dives off the deep end into fantasy land:

      Luskin: "In short, the purported knockout experiments [Note to Casey: the analysis of whales and puffer fish are NOT knockout experiments]... that Ken Miller cited to Judge Jones, where the blood-clotting cascade still worked in the absence of certain factors, dealt entirely with factors that Behe specifically did not claim were part of the irreducibly complex core of the blood-clotting cascade." [Luskin attacks Ken Miller, Part 3, 2009]

      This is total fantasy land on Luskin's part.

      At any rate, as I said above, jawless fish lack a bunch of things from the intrinsic pathway AND Factor V, which is after the fork, part of the IC "core" according to Luskin. And sea squirts/ascidians lack Fibrinogen, which is also after the fork, and have a short version of Factor XIII, which is extrinsic.

      Moreover, Luskin contradicts himself by saying oh, the whole cascade really is still IC anyway, including the intrinsic pathway.

      I do think Behe is afraid to debate Abbie Smith aka ERV. ERV easily proved Behe wrong when he said in "Edge of Evolution" that two protein binding interfaces could never, ever evolve in the age of the Earth (which would be shocking to molecular biologists, who know how few mutations it takes to make a protein molecule sticky), and ERV simply pointed to HIV proteins that had done so recently.

      Behe was dismissive and contemptuous towards ERV, and shifted his goal posts about what counted as a real protein binding site, so as to render his hypothesis non-falsifiable. The scholarly thing to do would be to admit his "Edge of Evolution" argument had been disproven, easily.

      Delete
    43. And sea squirts/ascidians lack Fibrinogen...

      True, but see Doolittle 2012

      Delete
    44. Does anyone have a link to ERV's rebuttal of Behe's claims in the Edge?

      Delete
  5. It's absurd to suggest that academic freedom, just like any other type of freedom, does not come with certain common-sense caveats and limitations. If you're hired by a university's communication department to teach, say, courses in persuasion, then it would be unethical to turn your course into one on organizational communication. Of course professors have an obligation to teach what they were hired to teach, just as universities have both the right and the ethical obligation – out of respect for the students paying for a sound education – to preserve their reputation by squelching the teaching of pseudoscience.

    What you're advocating has nothing to do with academic freedom – you're criticizing US academic institutions for taking responsibility for their curricula and the education they provide to students who are paying tens of thousands of dollars to be there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ... If you're hired by a university's communication department to teach, say, courses in persuasion, then it would be unethical to turn your course into one on organizational communication. Of course professors have an obligation to teach what they were hired to teach ...

      As a general rule, professors are hired as scholars not as teachers and they are rarely hired to teach specific courses.

      It's clear that you are unfamiliar with universities and how they work.

      the education they provide to students who are paying tens of thousands of dollars to be there.

      You mentioned the cost of education twice in your comment. Why is it relevant to the discussion about academic freedom in a university? Would your views be any different if tuition were free?

      Delete
  6. Two points.

    First, Larry said he's willing to tolerate a lot more fringe science than we are. Perhaps. But, consider Behe. He's definitely an exponent of fringe science, but he's tolerated in his little with a sign on his door signed by his entire department that says, "Kook inside." Also, Behe is quite restricted to what he can teach. Same for Scott Minnich in Idaho. He's free to draw pentagrams on his lab floor if he likes.

    That's academic freedom.

    Second, teaching is different. That's where the academic integrity part of Gora's statement comes in. Hedin is academically free to research and expound on whatever he wants, but he's not free to teach that as science in a class. However, in Hedin's case his department failed in its oversight and the administration had to step in. It was the right thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. [Behe is] definitely an exponent of fringe science, but he's tolerated in his little with a sign on his door signed by his entire department that says, "Kook inside." Also, Behe is quite restricted to what he can teach.

      I doubt very much that Behe's colleagues refer to him as a "kook." I certainly don't (on most days).

      It's true that the Biochemistry Department at Lehigh University probably discusses what they teach in various classes and they probably reach collective agreement on who should teach what in each class. They probably don't have a course where Behe can teach his views on irreducible complexity and the limits of evolution. Personally, I think that would be a really good course for the students at Lehigh but it's not going to happen.

      We have the same discussions in my department. We criticize our colleagues if we think they're teaching something incorrectly and, in some cases, they will be removed from a course. (Although this doesn't happen as often as I would like.) I teach students about the controversy over junk DNA in my fourth year course on molecular evolution and in part of that session we discuss the views of the IDiots. My department is okay with that and it would defend my right to do this if Jerry Coyne or any other outsider challenged me.

      That's the way the system should work at a university.

      That's academic freedom.

      You don't know what your talking about.

      However, in Hedin's case his department failed in its oversight and the administration had to step in. It was the right thing to do.

      No. It was the definitely wrong thing to do. The astronomy department is a collection of scholars and experts on astronomy. It's up to those experts to decide what should and should not be in an astronomy course. It's not up to evolution professors from another university and it's not up to a sociologist (Jo Ann Gora) who is mostly (entirely?) an administrator.

      You can't separate scholarship from teaching. If a professor is respected for his scholarship then you can't turn around and tell him/her that his views don't count when he's in an undergraduate classroom.

      The astronomy department decided that Hedin's course fit well within the boundaries of what they consider science. The President of the university has no right to dictate to a group to scientists by telling them that their view of their discipline is wrong.

      That's not academic freedom by any stretch of the imagination. I think most American scholars agree with me on this point, it's just that they think academic freedom in a public university can be restricted if it conflicts with the separation of church and state. Some of them also think that academic freedom can be restricted if a large enough majority of scholars in a field agree on what's proper (i.e. 60% can't suppress the other 40% but maybe 99% can suppress the views of the 1%).

      Delete
    2. Behe certainly looked a little kookish in his Dover testimony.

      Delete
    3. At Dover, Be he changed his assertions about which branches of the blood clotting cascade were IC, relative to what he wrote in DBB. It was either perjury, or else he doesn't remember the content of his own books.

      Delete
  7. Read the statement carefully and its an absurdity.
    Where would i start.
    She finishes saying theories have been rejected(creationism) by enough scientists and so that settles its rejected.
    Whats that got to do with academic freedom? Would they censor the last marxist?!

    She is saying its not the American people who decide if ID or YEC is science but this group of groups of scientists (and courts too) .
    When was the vote? who voted ? Was it close?
    Do they know so much about ID and YEC that these legions of scientists voted on it?
    what a historic decision indeed about such a threat to science.
    Why are they the boss.

    She insists ID/YEC is religious ideas.
    it is in fact conclusions about origins and any connection to religious ideas is none of her business.
    Its about what is the truth.

    If a professer sincerely thinks ID/YEC is as scientific as what its replacing then its his academic integrity to speak the truth.
    She is saying these group of scientists decide the integrity of professors and not the professors themselves.9Who teach ID etc)

    She is advocating censorship and further advocating a rejection of academic freedom or there never was such a threat in history.

    Who decides is God, Genesis, criticisms of evolution is true or not?
    This president has no right to decide these things surely!
    Who decides if ID/YEC is employing scientific standards in in opposition/proposition of conclusions about origins?
    Who decided these groups of scientists decide?
    Who's the boss?
    Surely in such a gravity, her word, of a issue it demans the whole nation to decide who decides what is science and true and what is not science and so not true.
    In short its about the truth of God and Christianity just like in England prior to the civili war or in Europe prior to the wars there.
    This is about denying God and genesis as intelligent options when examining the evidence of nature.
    Its an absurd final development of a hostile anti Christian anti God leadership in education since WW11.
    I could go on and on about the laughable job this woman did when confronted with a issue that will become a historic test in higher learning.
    Every school must address this eventually.
    counting "scientists" heads is not settling this as creationists don't accept their authority to decide it.
    Who made them the boss?

    Love and love however another dustup on these matters.
    They messed up again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Booby's problem is that he is under the delusion that science is a democratic institution where everybody gets a vote. Not so. It's more like an American courtroom where someone who proposes to testify as an expert on a scientific subject must be found qualified by the judge. An attorney is prohibited from putting any random person from the population on the stand to testify as an expert. I would bet the the same holds in Canada.

      Sorry booby but you have demonstrated by your total ignorance of the subject matter that you are not qualified to testify as an expert on evolution and therefore you don't get a vote.

      Delete
    2. Really booby, so you accept the possibility that the stability of the Solar System is maintained by divine intervention as proposed by Isaac Newton and therefore reject Laplace's calculations which demonstrated that he had no need of such intervention.?

      Delete
  8. As the British comedian Chris Addison put it, teaching creationism in science class is like teaching Narnia in geography. If you were studying French at university, you would not tolerate it if the professor asserted that all you had to do was learn to speak like Monty Python's French Knights.

    'Academic freedom' is an important concept. In any rights dispute between it and 'basic academic competence', though, it should be taken round the back and shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ... teaching creationism in science class is like teaching Narnia in geography.

      You are so naive. There are many versions of creationism and some of the arguments in favor of, say fine tuning or irreducible complexity, are not so easy to refute. I doubt very much that you could win an argument against any scholar who advocated those positions.

      I'm not saying that they are correct. What I'm saying is that you can't dismiss them quite as easily as you imagine.

      'Academic freedom' is an important concept. In any rights dispute between it and 'basic academic competence', though, it should be taken round the back and shot.

      Let's hope you never get into a position where you can dictate to university scholars what they should or should not believe. What gives you the right to decide what "basic academic competence" is?

      Delete
    2. Jem
      If a comedian is smart enough to decide whether creationism should be in science class then why not all the people??
      Yet the President here says only scientists can decide if creationism(s) can be taught or as she says only scientists can decide if creationism(s) are science. Except for herself it seems.
      Then when a professor of science, a scientist I guess, decides ID etc can get a mention she throws out her law and says its a democratic vote of scientists.
      The vote was done by these mysterious 80 groups reprersenting all. some, a few scientists .
      If this professor thinks ID is scientific as others then saying he is wrong means he doesn't know what science is.
      So surely such a person should not be teaching in a high class university on science!!
      How is my reasoning here!
      If she keeps around this teacher then she is saying he is competent to teach science.
      She is in fact a witness to his competence and so must accept his scientific opinion that ID is sciency enough.
      Teenagers get scored at score for accurate definitions of what science is.
      How could a professor not know what science is.
      Lets have another vote of the citizens or hundreds of thousands of scientists or the right scientists OTHERWISE every professor would teach what he wants in a subject he thinks is his love and skill.
      Then a vote on if this lady should be a president of a university!!
      It takes a canadian boy to fix the world.

      Delete
    3. Re Larry Moran

      Let's hope you never get into a position where you can dictate to university scholars what they should or should not believe.

      Come on Larry, Hedlin, Behe, Butz, etc. can believe anything they damn well please. They just can't teach anything they damn well please in the classroom.

      Delete
  9. "On the other hand, President Gora's political skills come at a price. Academic freedom in American Universities has taken a hit. Surprisingly, this seems to be a price that most American academics are willing to pay. Support for her letter has been overwhelmingly positive."

    That's just a consensus view in the court of public (and often Liberal) opinion. By the way, I'm Liberal, but one open to 'all' relevant data.

    "There are no American academics who are willing to stand up and fight for academic freedom in a case like this. It proves that there's a difference between academic freedom in the USA and Canada—something that I didn't think was true a few months ago."

    That may change. Someone who used my handle has commented here, and has touched on not just 'freedom', but yes, 'integrity' as well. He and I both agree that academic 'integrity' is a key issue, and when resolved beyond the present authoritarian level, we may see a change for the better, both in science and in science enrollments as well.

    http://chronicle.com/article/Ball-State-U-Bars-Teaching-of/140777/

    hit 'load more comments five times', comments near bottom of page

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee,

      Great argument @ the Chronicle, hope you pursue the appeal.

      Delete
    2. I just added two replies to Gary Hurd. There are obviously a plethora of arguments on all three sides of the discussion. Yes 'three':

      • ID
      • Natural causation
      • Supernatural creation

      Why settle on only one as fact, and close the door to further perusal? Anyone care to add a fourth? Comparing evolutionary theory to a physical property [gravity] is a gross simplification.

      There were likely multiple operatives over vast time, including MDT, which would help to explain predator/prey and parasite/host. We obviously exist in a competitive (and combative) realm, but one in which boredom will never pervade ...

      Delete
    3. Lee, your possibilities 1 and 3 are the same. The founders of the IDM were very clear that ID was supernatural creationism, in their own words, up until 2004. After 2004 they redefined ID, and Luskin believes he has a neuralyzer by which he can wipe our memories and documention regarding how ID creationists like Luskin called each other creationist and defined ID as supernatural creationism pre-2004. Sorry Luskin, hard drive not erased.

      Delete
    4. It matters NOT what certain early ID adherents stated publicly. ID then may have been (to some of them) just another way viewing their faith.

      ID, properly understood, is not based on faith, but on the extant data. Quotes by individuals do not define ID, which is defined by the evidence which fits ID, ergo the many factors I have spelled out elsewhere, but can be summarized as simply non-evolvable complexity, 'evolve' being taken in its current naturalistic form.

      'Faith' is an overused placeholder for accepting something without supportive data. I view the current naturalistic paradigm as befitting that particular descriptor as well, since solely natural causation on all grounds has NOT been established as fact. OK, 'confirmed' by empirical evidence.

      It remains an assumption.

      Delete
    5. Lee Bowman: "It matters NOT what certain early ID adherents stated publicly."

      Um, you're a certain ID adherent. What then should we care what you state publicly?

      By your own admission, what ID adherents say matters NOT. So what you say does not matter.

      Moreover, you clearly don't want the founders of the ID movement to be held accountable when they contradict themselves over and over and over and over. Your doctrine seems to be "Zero Accountability, Zero Integrity."

      They don't just rewrite their own history, they accuse US of lying when we accurately describe their history, by quoting their words in the books and articles they wrote pre-2004.

      If the leaders of the ID movement pre-2004 said that ID is religious and supernatural and a subset of creationism, and then post-2004, the very same individuals say "How DARE you sir, How DARE you lying Darwinists say ID is religious and supernatural and a subset of creationism!" then they should be held accountable for trying to re-write their history.

      Casey Luskin and Stephen Myer call us liars when we describe ID as religious and a subset of creationism, which were THEIR OWN designations pre-2004.

      Delete
    6. Lee Bowman: As an example, here's the homepage of the Discovery Institute from 1996 to about 1999(?). It starts with a picture of God touching Adam from the Bible. Nothing religious about that...

      Here's snippet: Yet today new developments in biology, physics, and artificial intelligence are raising serious doubts about scientific materialism and re-opening the case for the supernatural.

      So ID was "the case for the supernatural." Nowadays if we say IDers believe in supernatural intervention, they call us Darwinist liars.

      Delete
    7. All your points are well taken, from the perspective of defining a movement by the rhetoric of its adherents. But again, ID is much more than a movement.

      A close parallel is politics, where a politician makes various claims regarding his party's objectives and goals. But what is more relevant is whether or not those goals are met. So while one may rule on the validity of those goals (economic recovery, unemployment declines), it's only when accomplished do the prior claims have any merit.

      Regarding ID, there are more than one way to form a design inference. And regarding cosmic formation, the inferences are totally subjective, and based not just upon statistical probabilities of formation, which is supposedly increased by the conjectural insertion of multiple (or infinite, an absurdity) chance universe formations, to increase the probability that one may form more cohesive parameters.

      These conjectures carry no weight, however, lacking evidence beyond statistical maneuvering. Nor is cosmic formation supported by ID, since divine cosmic formation is grounded in a priori religious doctrine. Again, pure subjective conjecture based largely on a religious view.

      Evidence for ID within biologic formations however, does have more formidable grounds for its likelihood, since genetic manipulation is demonstrable by us, another example of intelgencia. There is other persuasive data as well, which I may publish, consisting of designed-in functions with absolutely no survival or reproductive advantages, including synergistic and 'motive driven' reasons for implementation, and co-dependent systems which would need to form together to have intrinsic function. And as well, the protein/ enzyme formative improbabilities.

      But back to your points raised. If early proponents displayed religious motives (or pre-bias), that can be negated according to faulty conceptual bases, can ID be ruled out accordingly? Only if that was ID's only conceptual basis, which it is not. Current data does not rely on religious views whatsoever. And for that reason, cosmic creation by inteligencia is NOT to be included within ID, IMO.

      But like material science, consensus leanings may be incorrect both for ID AND for phylogenetic taxon. My views at this time are prediction only, which will depend on future research to confirm or falsify. And they are definitely NOT consensus within much of ID's current conceptuals and predictions.

      But again, for ID to survive as a viable hypothesis, its minimal (but essential and data based) precepts are all that remain on the [strike]table[/strike], er lab bench.

      Delete
    8. "Lee Bowman: As an example, here's the homepage of the Discovery Institute from 1996 to about 1999(?). It starts with a picture of God touching Adam from the Bible. Nothing religious about that..."

      I'm full aware, and that their ID concepts have been amended as well. Today, they are largely secular in their current approach to design investigation and validation. Read paragraph #3.

      http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php

      Delete
    9. "I'm full aware, and that their ID concepts have been amended as well."

      Amended their ID concepts? It would be far more accurate to say that IDiots have tried to refine their lies in the attempt to fool as many people as they can. It hasn't worked on people who aren't gullible.

      "Today, they are largely secular in their current approach to design investigation and validation."

      Today, IDiots are every bit the authoritarian, theocratic, bible thumping LIARS that they ever were. There's nothing secular about their poorly disguised dominionist agenda.

      Exactly what "design investigation and validation" do IDiots actually do? All they do is bash science/evolution/evolutionary theory and anyone who supports those things, or they take the evidence that real scientists find and arrogantly attach 'design' and 'the designer' (aka their chosen, imaginary 'God') to it without any scientific justification at all.

      Delete
    10. "Evidence for ID within biologic formations however, does have more formidable grounds for its likelihood, since genetic manipulation is demonstrable by us, another example of intelgencia. There is other persuasive data as well, which I may publish, consisting of designed-in functions with absolutely no survival or reproductive advantages, including synergistic and 'motive driven' reasons for implementation, and co-dependent systems which would need to form together to have intrinsic function."

      Then go ahead and publish it. We'd like to read it. Otherwise, it's just talking with no substance.



      "And as well, the protein/ enzyme formative improbabilities."

      If it goes along the lines of Behe & Hoyle's arguments, don't bother.

      Delete
    11. Lee Bowman:
      Today, they are largely secular in their current approach to design investigation and validation.

      That may be true. I suppose sitting on one's arse, raking in money from donors is in principle a secular enterprise, even if the donors aren't secular themselves. Doing nothing is something that is equally within the reach of both theists and atheists.

      Delete
    12. I'm full aware, and that their ID concepts have been amended as well.

      Absolutely. It's no longer God that diddit. It's a superior and practically omnipotent "intelgencia" that designed life on Earth and has controlled it for billions of years, tweaking genomes every now and then to push evolution in the right direction. Any idea who or what it might be? Yeah, it's a mighty improvement over the previous version because you can try to sneak your agenda through as if it were legitimate science (if only people were easier to fool). It must hurt that after 14 years of applying the wedge strategy all you can show for it is the age-old familiar empty talk (with the word God more consistently avoided for tactical reasons). If ID is science, where's the research? Where are the results, where are the publications?

      Delete
  10. I'm full aware, and that their ID concepts have been amended as well.

    Absolutely. It's no longer God that diddit. It's a superior and practically omnipotent "intelgencia" that designed life on Earth and has controlled it for billions of years, tweaking genomes every now and then to push evolution in the right direction. Any idea who or what it might be?

    First, excuse the spelling, and of course its somewhat ambiguous definition. Throughout fairly recent history, the term has referred to intellectual elite, a kind of distinguished social stratum [philosopher-kings and guardians of Plato's Republic and monks in medieval Europe], and later to an assortment of other erudite categories of intellectualism.

    Let's change the term to 'galactic intelligentsia', which could include God, gods, angelics, surrogates of higher agents, or simply agents acting on their own. For a domain of this size, ~ 46 bly across by one estimate, why not consider that earthly intelligentsia is simply one integer in a long series? If convergent evolution is in evidence, why not then convergent intelligence beyond this tiny domain?

    And yes, the question of 'who' is no more relevant than owl speak. But we may know someday. I postulate multiple intelligences, and agree with RB Hoppe's conjecture. Some defend him as presenting it as humor, but while opposing monotheistic concepts, it actually fits the observed competitive and defeatist outcomes of nature quite well [predator/prey, parasite/host, wars, disease, and various cataclysmic events]. And while RBH didn't invent the concept, one that I've entertained since childhood, he delineates it quite well.
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/09/introduction-to.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. http://americanloons.blogspot.com/search/label/Discovery%20Institute

    Be sure to click on "Older Posts" at the bottom.

    ReplyDelete