Credit where Credit is due . . . is not the same thing as claiming credit for something, especially for something that really doesn't involve you. The Discovery Institute seems to be trying to claim some sort of victory by crowing about how all they are doing is trying to teach critical thinking. Anyone buy that?
A Nature article "The scientist of the future" makes the need for education improvement very clear and offers some actual ideas on it, like focusing on active learning and not just the recitation of knowledge. What I find annoying is an article on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views website, 'Nature Agrees: Science Students Should "Actively Grapple with Questions" Not Just "Listen to Answers".' First of all the article makes it sound like Nature is agreeing with them. While the DI frequently uses the term 'Critical Thinking', are they really saying the same thing as Nature? I don't think so.
Let's talk about the DI's 'Critical Thinking' campaign. Actually it's less a campaign and more of a tag line that they use in rationalizing all their anti-science campaigns like 'Teach the Controversy', 'Strengths and Weaknesses', 'Academic Freedom', claiming 'discriminatory activities', and trying to 'discredit the Dover Trial decision', to name a few. What anyone dealing with the DI needs to remember is their motivation is entirely religious. No matter what words they are using, everything is geared toward religion. While they keep trying to distance themselves from their religious motivations, all of that is smoke and mirrors. Their founding document, the Wedge Strategy, made it incredibly clear:
" . . .reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."The reason I always bring this up is that when dealing with them -- either reading anything on their websites, their many press releases, their claims and counter-claims, published materials, and even just listening to them -- religion is at the heart of everything they do! If you look at their words as encapsulated bits, they sound perfectly reasonable, but when placed within the context of their motivations, the meaning changes drastically. Context counts, and the context of every action or word from the DI is based on their stated goal, which is certainly religious! It's important to realize that -- because they also do their best to hide their religious motivations.
Yes, it sounds a little strange, after all most theists are proud of what they believe in. But you have to remember that since the Scopes Trial every time religion and science clashed in the courtroom over science education, science has won. Think about Creationism mandates which lost in court, so they try and sell the idea of 'Creation Science', which failed due its obvious religiosity. So the latest tactic is to try and hide the religious aspect of their ideas. Intelligent Design is basically Creationism minus the mention of God.
But hiding their religious beliefs are nothing but a tactic, one they use to do their best in coming across as actually being interested in science, education, academic freedom, and free speech. That's all 'critical thinking' is, a rationalization, just another tactic. Since everyone knows 'critical thinking' is a good thing in education, they use it because it sounds like a reasonable voice in a crowd. But are they really interested in critical thinking?
Consider that when they talk about critical thinking, they are arguing about critical thinking as it applies to evolution, not to science in general, and certainly not their own idea of Intelligent Design/Creationism. Why is that? Why do they only target one scientific theory? Therein lies one clue. They really don't care about actual critical thinking, they are just trying to get people to question the scientific theory of evolution. The assumption is that if evolution is off-target, the only thing left is Creationism. It's like they are trying to create a vacuum so their ideas can be sucked right in. But I have to ask, why do they never discuss critical thinking when it comes to Intelligent Design (ID)?
It's actually pretty easy to understand why they don't want anyone critically thinking about ID, because, to date, everyone who has critically thought about ID, has dismissed it -- unless they already agreed with it from a philosophical point of view. That's an important distinction to make. ID supporters do not tend to be people who actually think about ID. They seem to be people who already believe and see ID as a mechanism to justify their beliefs -- so therefore they don't have to think about it. They can market it, they can rationalize it, and they can whine and complain when it does get dismissed by people who don't already philosophically agree with it. But what they seem to fail to do is anything that would actually support it from a scientific view. In other words the actual work. That's why critical thinkers about ID usually dismiss it, the component that makes an idea a scientific theory, the work, is missing. If you already agree philosophically, you don't care. But if you don't then you see the missing pieces and toss it in the same bucket as Astrology and the other pseudo-sciences.
New question, how many religious organizations want you to think critically about their religion?
Can you see why I tend to classify the DI as a religious ministry rather than a think-tank of sorts. Religious organizations rarely what you to actually think, unless your thinking agrees with what they are selling, period! What happens when you look to hard and see things you don't like, or things you disagree with? They boot you out!
Obviously ID supporters are not driven by a desire to improve science, but by the need to impose their religious viewpoint on science. Go back to the wedge strategy quote I posted above: " replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." How much clearer do they have to spell it out?
If that were not enough, there are many other indicators of the religious underpinnings of ID and the DI:
- ID supporters fail to formally identify the 'Intelligent Designer', but informally they often offer their opinion as it being the Christian God. Funny how they usually offer those informal opinions when speaking with their constituents, usually conservative Christians. I see this as sort of a wink and a nod. While they use the term 'intelligent designer', they wink and nod to their constituents so everyone understands who they really mean. On the surface, their words say one thing, but once you factor in their religious motivations, it makes perfect sense.
- At a conference in 1996, one of the men who started the modern Intelligent Design Movement, Phillip E. Johnson, said:
"This isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science. It's about religion and philosophy."
- Have you ever noticed where they tend to hold their talks? Religious schools and churches, usually at the sponsorship of various religious groups and religious themed revival meetings.
- How about where they tend to publish? Not in scientific journals and presses, but publisher's religious imprints, the popular press, or they self-publish in their own in-house publisher.
- What about what section their books tend to be placed in bookstores and libraries? Not the science section, but the Christian Fiction section. That's where I found "Signature in the Cell", and "Darwin's Doubt".
- They hide the religious activities of bloggers on their site, like Heather Zeigler.
- When an ID supporter has something negative happen to them one of their [the DI's] most common defense strategies is . . . freedom of religion. Funny how when a non-ID supporter, like Chris Comer or John Stump, have trouble because of their support of real science, the DI never seems to say a word.
So while they like to try and align themselves with publications like Nature, the reality is their use of similar, or even identical, terms share very little with how Nature uses the terms. Nature is interested in education, the DI is interested in imposing their religion onto science. Once you look under the covers and see the religious motivations, the terms take on whole new meanings. Context counts!