Monday, March 13, 2017

When is a 'War' not a 'War'? Only When the DI Doesn't Want the Negative Imagery

Sarah Chaffee wrote a post "Now It’s a “War on Children” — Critics of Academic Freedom Opt for Scare Tactics" and once again was trying to whine about what others were saying about ID and the DI's 'academic freedom' bills.

Let's see, the DI's idea of academic freedom is targeting High School and earlier . . . what's so bad about calling it a 'War on Children'?  Isn't it?  Often this disagreement between science and religious apologetics is referred to as a 'culture war'.  Here are a few terms taken directly from the DI's own guiding strategy document (The Wedge Strategy): "wholesale attack", "cultural confrontation", and "direct confrontation".  The DI takes aim at school children and suddenly referring to this as a 'war' is a bad thing because the very idea of wars . . . well, here is Sarah's own words:

"Anyone with any common sense would object to the gruesome and indecent image — a war that targets children? Fine, let them disagree about the advisability of these laws. But this wording is a prime example of scare tactics, also known as the fallacy of appeal to fear."
So it's OK to target school children, but it's not OK to call it exactly what it is, a war, because of the gruesome and imagery often associated with the concept.  And yet . . . and you just had to know there would be a yet . . .

So exactly what is the DI doing when it tries to associate Charles Darwin with Adolf Hitler and claims that Darwin's theories are responsible for the Holocaust and pretty much all of today's societal ills?  You and I both understand the reasons, Hitler is Bad so if they can make people think there is a connection, it paints Darwin in a very negative light.  Same thing with the Holocaust, which little bennie stein tried to connect the two in that abortion 'Expelled' we've discussed before.  Following the premiere of that particular disgrace, even Jewish groups (Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, New Jersey Jewish News) disagreed with bennie.  The DI's own pseudo-historian, Michael Flannery and one of the regular mouthpieces, little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, are trying to make careers out of bashing Darwin by re-writing history -- when they aren't re-writing biographies to make safely dead historical figures sound like they supported Intelligent Design.

It's OK for the DI to use such analogies and associations, but if someone uses anything potentially graphic against the DI, they are guilty of misrepresenting the DI, really?

Let's call it what it is, the Discovery Institute has declared war on science.  They did so by disregarding anything resembling scientific methodology, by marketing with campaigns designed to deceive, and pushing these so-called academic freedom bills -- which have nothing to do with actual academic freedom.  Plus their primary targets are not the scientists who study biology, but school children who learn it in elementary and high schools.  They enlist parents and teachers by marketing their ideas as if they were not pseudo-science and they hide their religious motivations behind a wink-and-a-nod.  They further support politicians who know a quick way to get votes isn't to agree with conservative religious groups, but to give lip service to those groups . . . that's called pandering, something else we have discussed before.  I'm not sure which is worse, politicians who pander conservative religious positions for votes or politicians who actually agree with conservative religious positions and use their power to inflict their beliefs on their constituents . . . but that's a story for another day.  Back to the DI.

The DI doesn't like calling it a war just like they don't like officially identifying their intelligent designer.  Once you do so, you add on a heap of baggage they prefer people not trouble themselves thinking about.  What happens to medical care when the only biological training doctors get is 'God did it, so shut up and suffer!'  You think I am kidding, but you really need to look back and look at what medical care was like throughout history.  Do you really want a Doctor of Theology (DOT) playing MD?

One of the common themes from the Discovery Institute is that everyone, except for them, have a large list of misconceptions about Intelligent Design (ID).  Sarah raises that idea as well by claiming that the academic freedom bills are all about 'critical thinking', and yet when two publications don't believe them, she accuses them of misrepresenting those bills.

The DI claims that anyone who disagrees with them are mid-defining it, mis-applying it, or being misleading on the DI's goals and objectives.  Of course the DI never seems to accept any responsibility for how fluid they are with their definitions, their attempt to claim it's applicability, or their own motivations has nothing to do with that.  Well it's not just ID, it's also a tactic they use for their so-called 'academic freedom' bills.

Let's discuss academic freedom for a bit:
"Academic freedom is the conviction that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.
Academic freedom is a contested issue and, therefore, has limitations in practice. In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure" of the American Association of University Professors, teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution." (Wikipedia: Academic Freedom)
Please note the line I underlined, 'avoid controversial matter unrelated to the subject'.  So if you read this and even check out the way academic freedom is handled at most US schools you learn a couple of things.  First off, Academic Freedom exists primarily at the University level.  That doesn't mean it doesn't exist at other levels, but at high school, and lower levels, there is much more control over the lessons being taught.  Most states have a school board and set curricula.  Teachers at those levels do not have the same freedom as university professors, nor need the same institutional autonomy.   

The DI's 'academic freedom' bills are aimed at High Schools, where academic freedom is not, nor should be, much of an issue.  No, I take that back.  High School students are more than likely better able to handle controversial subjects . . . at least those that are related to the curriculum.  But High Schools are almost always constrained in resources, including time and money, so all States remain a large amount of control of curriculum subjects to insure a standard of education across the State. Colleges and Universities are less constrained and also are heavily involved in research and development in addition to teaching current course information, so academic freedom -- within the curriculum area, makes more sense at that level. 

The other consideration you should realize, is that academic freedom only covers within a subject area.  As soon as you voice issues outside of the subject area, it is no longer an issue of academic freedom.  How do you make that determination?  You look at the wider community, in this case Science, and see what parts of the subject area are considered controversial.  If you look for about 30 seconds, you will see that Creationism and Intelligent Design are not controversies within a scientific subject area, but contrived cultural controversies designed to push one specific religious view.  This is why Astrology is not taught in Astronomy nor Alchemy in Chemistry.  Like any other citizen, teachers have the right to 'free speech', but like every other citizen as well, free speech comes with an acceptance of the responsibilities that go along with it.  When teachers voice ideas outside of the subject area, they are not, nor should they be, protected by academic freedom.

That being said, is the representation of the DI-sponsored 'academic freedom' actually supporting academic freedom?  I have repeated over and over again 'No!'  Creationism, which includes Intelligent Design, is not science; therefore is 'unrelated to the subject' and doesn't belong in science class.  Regardless of whether or not we are talking High School or College, science is not some arbitrary designation that gets re-defined on a whim.  Science teachers do not get to decide what is science, just like English teachers do not get to decide what is English.  These 'academic freedom' bills are just a cover to allow teachers to be protected when they bring in material that is unrelated to the subject area, and religion -- regardless of how you personally might like to label it -- is not science.  Look at what else Sarah has to say:
"Additionally, both the Digital Journal article and an Ars Technica article that it references say academic freedom legislation opens the door to non-scientific information. . . " 
So this legislation would allow teachers to bring in material  . . . immune to punishment for using outside material in instruction, as long as the teacher believes the material is scientific."
You might want to read her whole post, as much as I hate to drive up the hit counters at the DI, but I don't want to repeat her whole post.  The key is this phrase "believes the material is scientific", which Sarah never addresses.  As you can probably guess, she harps on religion and how the bills are specifically written to not allow religion.  But she never addresses the simply fact that ID is a religion, she manages to imply that it is not, but in no way defends that position.

Let me be clear.  The bills would protect teachers if they bring in 'supplemental material' regardless of the source of that material as long as the teacher believes the material to be scientific.  Anyone smell something funny here?  How many years has the DI been marketing their ideas as if they were not pseudo-science?  Plus, instead of defending ID, Sarah references little casey luskin claiming that there is a real scientific controversy over evolution . . . and yet they never seem to get around showing any evidence why ID is a better explanation than an actual scientific theory, do they?. 

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