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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Down with Darwinism!

I've been fuming ever since hearing Michael Ruse speak on Friday night. It's a crying shame that the skeptics at the 12th World Congress had to get their information about evolution from him.

One of the things I detest about Michael Ruse is his insistence on using the word "Darwinism" to describe evolutionary biology. As most of you know I am not a Darwinist.

Adam M. Goldstein at Evolution:Education and Outreach reminds us that we should all stop using the word "Darwinism" when we are trying to educate people about evolutionary biology [Give the old man a break, and let’s stop it with “Darwinism”].

[Hat Tip: Stranger Fruit]


  1. Can we give Michael Ruse the metaphorical boot the next time he opens his gob about evolution?

    The Center for Inquiry seems to take its name too seriously. At some Inquiry must stop and education must begin. It is stupid to pretend that there is still soemthing to inquire regarding IDiocy


  2. Evolutionary theory seems to be a bit odd in that a lot of people say Darwinism when they mean modern evolutionary biology. No one calls physics Einsteinism. It is strange and a bit fetishistic and hero worshipy to call it Darwinism.

    That said I think you need to enhance your calm a bit.

    Michael Ruse isn't the only one.

    Richard Dawkins is notorious for it and I have heard it from Jerry Coyne also. Although he is clear what he means when he said it in his book "Why Evolution is true".

  3. In the Point of Inquiry interview with DJ Grothe, Jerry Coyne also kept referring to evolution as "Darwinism". Set my teeth on edge and I'm surprised that DJ didn't call him on it.

  4. Over on Pharyngula there is this report of what Ruse said:

    Then, Michael Ruse drew the analogy that a science teacher who taught evolution without mentioning the Bible or God, but nevertheless caused a conflict within a student who was indoctrinated by creationism, was attacking that student's beliefs (actually that student's parents' beliefs) and therefore violating the Constitution!

    If that's an accurate representation, Ruse has gone completely off the rails. Did he actually say that, Larry?

  5. Yes, that's pretty much what he said.

    I agree with him. We're kidding ourselves if we we think that proper science doesn't conflict with the beliefs of some Christian students.

  6. Larry wrote

    Yes, that's pretty much what he said.

    Well, that last clause, is "... therefore violating the Constitution!" is pure unadulterated bullshit. He was sitting there with a Constitutional lawyer (Tabash) who, at least so I understand, told him different. There's no Constitutional prohibition on teaching scientific facts and theories that conflict with particular religious beliefs. Any federal judge in the country would laugh that claim out of court. That's where Ruse is going off the rails.

    Does anyone know if video or audio of that panel is going to be available?

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. RBH wrote:

    "Does anyone know if video or audio of that panel is going to be available?"

    Yes, CFI record the entire conference but they don't release it freely, you have to purchase it. It was a stunning conference, if I do say so myself. The exchanges between Ruse and Tabash were quite entertaining, if not somewhat infuriating.

  9. I have no idea what Ruse's beliefs are (and have no incentive to find out any time soon, from what I've read here). I can say that this type of argument regarding evolution and the Constitution is ultimately premised on the same sort of all-beliefs-are-relative-including-science BS that Steve Fuller and others are so full of. Science-as-just-another-belief-system leads directly to the characterization of evolution as "Darwinism," with its implications of acceptance of argument from authority, substituting scientists like Darwin for deities, religious authority figures, and prominent theological philosophers.

    Apparently these folks think we can overcome pesky scientific "beliefs" like, say, gravity or evolution if we only believe in some Magic Man hard enough.

    Feh, I feel like shaking my head to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

  10. I was there and I was equally outraged by Michael Ruse's drivel about selection, his suggestion that teaching evolution might be a religious act, his silly use of the term "Darwinism" (no practicing biologist ever does that), and most everything else he said, including the statement that "The God Delution makes [him] ashamed of being an atheist". I concur with Truti regarding Ruse's pandering to the IDiots, especially by co-editing a book with Dembski. One rightly wonders on whose side Ruse is.


  11. RBH says,

    Well, that last clause, is "... therefore violating the Constitution!" is pure unadulterated bullshit. He was sitting there with a Constitutional lawyer (Tabash) who, at least so I understand, told him different. There's no Constitutional prohibition on teaching scientific facts and theories that conflict with particular religious beliefs.

    Actually Tabash had to do a considerable amount of dancing to make his case. Basically he said that a teacher could teach that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and life evolved but only if he/she didn't go on to voice the obvious implication; namely that your religion is wrong if it teaches you that the Earth is only 10,000 years old.

    If the teacher says that then it's a violation of the Constitution.

    A high school teacher pointed out that the implications of teaching correct science are perfectly clear to every Creationist student in the class. The teacher asked how he was supposed to respond if a student asks, "Does this mean that the Earth is not 10,000 years old and species weren't created separately?"

    Eddie Tabash hummed, hawed, and obfuscated but he essentially said that a teacher couldn't honestly answer that question without violating the separation cause.

    The teacher pointed out that this was ridiculous. He would have no credibility if he refused to address the obvious implications of teaching correct science.

    I disagree with a lot of things that Ruse says but on this one he had a valid point. It's about time we stop pretending that science and religion don't conflict. When we teach correct science we are directly attacking the beliefs of some Christian students.

    That's probably why so many teachers don't teach evolution in their classrooms.

    This was just one of several instances where an audience composed of supposedly intellectual skeptics failed to exercise their brains and instead opted for the politically correct explanation.

    The issue of astrology came up during the discussion. Although the responses by Tobash and Ruse weren't clear, the group I was hanging out with developed the following summary to illustrate the two positions.

    In most classrooms, it's permissible to say that astrology is completely wrong because belief in astrology is not religious. However, if you had a student whose religion required a belief in astrology then saying that astrology is wrong is a violation of the Constitution.

  12. I don't get it -- just how is it unconstitutional? Is it an "establishment of religion" for the teacher to insist on teaching scientific principles, or does reliance on same somehow prohibit the student's "free exercise" of his chosen religion? Neither, of course. This supposed constitutional scholar ain't much of one, as I wholeheartedly agree with RBH and call bullshit. Look, this is a scare tactic, plain and simple, and it reminds me of some of the most egregious and disingenuous creationist arguments.

  13. Anyone who cares to know the law on this subject (not Mr. Tabash's opinion, which as I understand it from the post and comments has nothing to do with what is actually the prevailing law in the U.S.) is well advised to read Judge Jones' Kitzmiller opinion. It gives a very fine survey/exegesis of the relevant U.S. Constitutional case law on what sort of classroom presentations do and don't violate the First Amendment. (Hint: Factual material like science doesn't; religious indoctrination does.)

    Saying that scientific fact contradicts the Genesis story is a factual statement, not religious indoctrination. As I mentioned in my previous note, the argument that statements of scientific fact could be prohibited expression under the First Amendment relies upon a false equivalence between religious belief systems and a system for discerning factual information, i.e., science. This false equivalence is the stuff of ID apologists such as Steve Fuller (a witness for the defendants in Kitzmiller - you can see from the decision in that case how impressed Judge Jones was with his argument - not!), and has never been accepted by the U.S. courts.

  14. Couldn't resist this little "test question" regarding the post, comments, and Tabash's point of view -

    Background: Teacher is discussing gravitation in science class. Johnny raises his hand and says "There should be an exception to the law of gravity for miracles, like when Jesus walked on water."

    Q: Which of the following responses by Teacher is potentially impermissible under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

    A. "Yes, Johnny, there should be."

    B. "The law of gravity doesn't have any such exception."

    C. Both

    D. Neither

  15. Quite a lively topic! Let's take it to the next level. If you believe, as a teacher, that a given religious belief is wrong, then you are required by the mere fact that every child has a fundamental right to education, to educate your class appropriately. So, you are required by the constitution not to attack their beliefs but conversely you are required to provde them with an education.

    Damned if you do, and damned if you don't!

    By the way I live in a country where education is a privilege, not a right, by sheer force of economics, so forget about human rights and do what you can to survive, as long as you don't trample on others along the way.