Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Discovery Institute is 'monkeying' around with a new survey

We've discussed this penchant for surveys by the Discovery Institute (DI) before (here and here).  If you remember, my issue was how they like to poll with very innocuous sounding phrases and then spin the results and claim it shows some sort of support for one position or another.  Most often it's to denigrate science and science education and this poll is a perfect example!  "Scientists Versus the Public on Airing Scientific Dissent", by little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer.

This time around, the DI presented a series of statements and asked some group of people through Survey Monkey to rate them on a 4-level scale,  'strongly agree', 'agree', 'disagree', or 'strongly disagree' with the statement.  Here are the statements from their latest poll (source):

  1. Teachers and students should have the academic freedom to objectively discuss both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution.
  2. Scientists who raise scientific criticisms of evolution should have the freedom to make their arguments without being subjected to censorship or discrimination.
  3. Attempts to censor or punish scientists for holding dissenting views on issues such as evolution or climate change are not appropriate in a free society.
  4. It is important for policymakers and the public to hear from scientists with differing views.
  5. People can disagree about what science says on a particular topic without being ‘antiscience.’
  6. Disagreeing with the current majority view in science can be an important step in the development of new insights and discoveries in science.
Now while the wording seems pretty basic, what do these phrases imply?  Here is how I see it:
  1. That teachers and students do not currently have the freedom to objectively discuss both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution.
  2. That scientists do not have the freedom to raise scientific criticisms of evolution.
  3. That holding a dissenting view results in censorship and punishment.
  4. The policymakers and the public do not hear dissenting views.
  5. Anyone who holds a disagreement are labeled as 'anti-science'.
  6. The since dissenting views are not allowed, there haven't been any new insights of new discoveries in science.

Now, you might think I am reading these implications into the survey; however, if that weren't true then this latest post from the DI, also by klingy, would never been written.  "Evolution's Enforcers Are Waaaaay Out of Step with Public Opinion".  Klingy is confirming that according to the DI, there is no freedom to discuss, dissent, or hold opposing views.

So the real question is not whether or not you agree with the DI's statements, but whether or not the implications of their statements reflect reality.  What do you think?

First of all students and teachers discuss scientific criticism of any scientific theory, including evolution, all the time.  The key here is scientific criticism.  Granted high school science classes might not have the time, nor resources, to spend a great deal of time on scientific criticisms, they still have the academic freedom to do so.

In fact, have you heard of a single person being censored or punished for discussing scientific criticisms?  Not at any public or secular schools!  The DI likes to trot out a list of people, like Guillermo Gonzalez, Catherine Crocker, and Richard Sternberg.  But anyone who examines those cases soon realizes that these folks weren't dealing with scientific criticisms, just run-of-the-mill religious criticisms dressed up in an ill-fitting lab coat.  Their religion either prevented them from doing their job, or interfered with them doing their job, in any event they were held accountable . . . not for their beliefs, but not doing their job!  Unlike the DI's rogues gallery, there have been quite a few cases of teachers being punished and censored from teaching real science! Chris Comer and Tom Oord's situations come to immediate mind.

Now I have another name I wanted to mention, one I have discussed on numerous occasions, William Dembski.  If you recall Dembski figured in a number of  . . . incidents  . . . centered around his support of ID and Creationism.  One of the ones I mentioned a while ago was how quickly Wild Bill changed his tune about the reality of Noah's Flood.  Here is the write-up in Wikipedia (I added the underlines):
"While serving as a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dembski wrote The End of Christianity, which argued that a Christian can reconcile an old Earth creationist view with a literal reading of Adam and Eve in the Bible by accepting the scientific consensus of a 4.5 billion year of Earth.  He further argued that Noah's flood likely was a phenomenon limited to the Middle East.  This caused controversy and Dembski's reading of the Bible was criticized by Tom Nettles, a young Earth creationist, in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Southern Seminary's official theological journal.  In 2010, the dean of Southwestern's School of Theology, David Allen, "released a White Paper through the seminary's Center for Theological Research defending Dembski as within the bounds of orthodoxy and critiquing Nettles for misunderstanding the book. The paper included Dembski's statement admitting error regarding Noah's flood."  Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson, a young Earth creationist, "said that when Dembski's questionable statements came to light, he convened a meeting with Dembski and several high-ranking administrators at the seminary. At that meeting, Dembski was quick to admit that he was wrong about the flood. "'Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school,' he said." (Wikipedia: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary flood controversy)
Now the reason I want to remind you of that is because just a couple of days ago the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported this: "Dembski and the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind".  In it they quote Dembski about that particular controversy:
"this entire incident left so bad a taste in my mouth that I resolved to leave teaching, leave the academy, and get into a business for myself, in which my income would not depend on political correctness or, for that matter, theological correctness."
Interesting turn of phrase, Theological Correctness.  So while we have a certain amount of imagined censorship and punishment for dissent of current science on the part of the DI, and yet when we find actual censorship and punishment we find even people who are ID supporters who have to toe a fundamentalist line or find themselves unemployed because they were not fundie enough!  So which side is actually guilty of censorship and punishment for dissenting views?  Certainly doesn't look like it's science, does it?

Back to the survey statements themselves.  It's obvious that they are designed (pun intended) to make you think such freedom to discuss, criticize, or dissent doesn't exist, but once you remember the whole purpose in life of the DI you can see why they want you to think so.  In the past, when has the DI ever been an advocate of academic freedom?  Look at the text and purpose of their so-called 'Academic Freedom' bills.  The purpose of such bills, which have been defeated is all but two states that have tried to pass one, is to weaken science education and allow their religion (Creationism/Intelligent Design (ID)) to wedge its way into the curriculum.  That's not made up . . that is their stated goal!

Barbra Forrest, you might remember her from the Dover Trial, just yesterday (July 7, 2016) had this to say about one of those bills:
" . . . the deceptively titled “Louisiana Science Education Act” was promoted exclusively by the Louisiana Family Forum, a right-wing religious lobbying group that has promoted creationism since its founding, and the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design creationist think tank in Seattle. The law is an attempt to evade the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which nullified a 1981 Louisiana law that required teaching creationism in public schools."("Letters: Here are the facts on La.’s Science Education Act")

Simple question, if a car mechanic refused to actually repair cars, should the garage who hired them keep them on the payroll?  Again, that's what the DI wants.  They hate the fact that people like Gonzales and Crocker were held accountable for their actions because they were failing in the job they were hired to do!  The list of all the supposed 'victims' of censorship and discrimination that the DI likes to wave around can all be traced back to their unwillingness or inability to do their job! That's not censorship or discrimination!  How much would car repairs cost of you had to help pay the salaries of people who 'worked' at the garage but who didn't perform any duties that fall under the heading of work?

I do like how they changed things after the second survey statement.  Did you notice how they dropped the word 'scientific'?  Just as an exercise, tuck it back in and see how it changes the meaning of the sentence.  Scientists who hold dissenting 'scientific' views should not be censored or punished . . . now have you noticed that at no time does the DI identify anyone who has been censored or punished for holding a dissenting scientific view?  So in their words, a dissenting view, regardless of its scientific viability, is just as important as a non-dissenting view.  So Astrology is an viable as Astronomy, Chemistry to Alchemy,  . . . you see where such a list can end.  Next thing you know we will be requiring our Math teachers to teach Numerology and Architects to cover Feng Shui.

People disagree with science all the time.  It's not the disagreement that makes someone like Jenny McCarthy 'anti-science', it's the snake oil she's peddling in its place that is anti-science.  There is no evidence that supports vaccines cause autism, none!  Jenny is anti-science!  The DI is anti-science, not because they disagree with science, but because they want to put their religion in its place.  Look at the tactics of people like McCarthy and the DI.  They don't promote their own ideas as much as they attack actual science with nothing but marketing, unsupported ideas, and lots of politicking.  Yes, they are anti-science not because they disagree, but because how what they do and say in what they are offering in its place.

For example my daughter is questioning the need for my granddaughter to receive the HPV vaccine.  She is questioning based on several specific things, like how the vaccine only protects from a small set of viruses, and not the more common ones and how HPV and the related cancers do not run in either side of my granddaughter's family tree.  What she isn't doing is raising irresponsible and outright lies about vaccines in general, but she has some specific concerns.  It doesn't make her anti-science, what it does do is make her cautious and wants to discuss it further with a actual medical professional before making a decision.  The applicable label isn't 'anti-science', but 'parent'.

The final statement of theirs is equally ridiculous, scientists criticize current scientific theories all the time.  That's where new scientific advances come from.  So again, I agree with the bare-bones statement.  But it's not the dissenting opinion that brings about new advances in science.  It's the scientists who put in the actual scientific work to support their views that end up becoming new advances in science.  Name me one scientific advance that is solely based on having a dissenting view?  There isn't one!  But this sort of statement is typical of the DI.  They are either unwilling or unable to do the real science to support their ideas . . . so they imply that no one is allowed to have a dissenting view, simply because no one takes them seriously because their dissenting view is not based on science, but on theology.

In closing this much longer than intended post, I recall something from a few years back, a quote from the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR), in Cambridge UK, also doesn't believe ID to be science. They go even further and say it's also bad religion!

Read this article for yourself, and it contains a link to their actual statement: "Leading science and theology scholars reject 'intelligent design' " I have to quote the article here:
"The concept of intelligent design is, says the report, “neither sound science nor good theology.” The authors do not attempt to specify precisely how they believe the religious believer can speak of God’s action as creator – a question on which they may differ among themselves. They are united, however, in resisting what they call “the insistence of intelligent-design advocates that their enterprise be taken as genuine science . . ."

No comments:

Post a Comment