Thursday, August 6, 2015

Teaching People to Mistrust Science

What a surprise, the Discovery Institute (DI), through one of their favorite mouthpieces little casey luskin, doesn't like how Intelligent Design (ID) is represented.  Except for their own publications, have they approved of anyone else's explanation of ID?  I don't recall any!  But this time I think it's a smokescreen whine, covering up a more serious issue, encouraging the mistrust of science.

The latest is a post by casey over on ENV is "The Danger of Capitulating to "Settled Science": Cambridge University Press Book Misrepresents ID".

First off, why does the article have to start with a blurb about a professor at a religious college that resigned over theological views on human origins?  After all, the DI keeps trying to claim there is nothing religious about ID.  Does anyone actually believe that?

So this article supposedly centers on a review by the departing professor on a book by Benjamin C. Jantzen, An Introduction to Design Arguments (Cambridge University Press). The majority of the article from little casey is the normal whines and complaints about how no one in the world seems to understand ID, except for those less-than-stalwart Fellows, and Senior Fellows, at the DI.  That' a problem for another post, I found two other themes I wanted to address.

The first is one I have commented on before, how the DI loves to complain if any biologist doesn't provide an complete end-to-end explanation of a potential evolutionary path from one structure to the next.  If not, they tend to immediately dismiss anything said, regardless of how compelling the concept.  Yet when they offer their own concepts and philosophies, they offer no corresponding level of completeness.  In fact when you ask for it, they seem to have any number of rationalizations why they don't really have a clue.  This is an example of raising the goal posts for everyone else, yet they don't even bother kicking the ball while claiming a score.  In other words biology must be absolute or it should be rejected, but the DI is allowed the treat supposition as absolute and demand time at the science classroom lectern.  Doesn't much wash for me!

The other theme is one I haven't examined before, and the more critical one. Little casey quoted Jantzen:

"The ID camp does a disservice to the predominantly conservative Christian community to which it appeals by conditioning that community to mistrust science. Its arguments depend on accepted, settled science getting things wrong. "
Here casey gets incredibly defensive, his defense is claiming that they [the DI] are not teaching people to mistrust science, but to think for themselves.  Sorry casey, that doesn't fly!  Here are a compile of examples (italicized comments are mine):
  • Demanding 100 certainty from science for anything any scientists writes.  How can you possibly tell me that something like that doesn't leave a negative impression about science!
  • Evolution is just a theory.  Let's drag all scientific theories down to the level of just being an idea, this way ID can be claimed to be equal to actual scientific theories.
  • Teach strengths and weaknesses.  It's not about teaching weaknesses, it's about convincing people there are weaknesses, real or perceived.
  • Teach all aspects because of academic freedom.  Yet actual academic freedom has nothing to do with teaching religion as if it were science.
  • Equate real science with religion.  Darwinism, anyone?  It's not an 'ism', it's real and it works!  How often do they try and identify evolution as a religion?  Too many to count.
  • Mis-quote and quote-mine real science and scientists.  Darwin and the eye, for example, Stephen J. Gould as well.
  • Mis-characterize issues like Piltdown Man as bad science.  Even though scientists are the ones who uncovered the problems and never bought into it to begin with.
  • Question science, scientists, science methodology without any actual complaints, just innuendo and mis-characterizations of science.  Kirk Durston's recent posts (here, here, and here)
Sure, this has nothing to do with people mistrusting science.  Nothing they have done could possibly have a negative impact on people's perception of science . . . yea right!.  Their tactics are more to bring down science instead of building up their own ideas.  Think about most everything you read from the DI, are they doing the work supporting their own ideas or are they spending more time tearing down science and science education?  It certainly seems to latter to me.

So, it looks like while they claim otherwise, what they are actually doing is trying to handicap science.  But for a moment let's look at their rationalization, teaching people to think for themselves.

While this sounds like a laudable idea, how real is it?  Do we teach people to treat their own diseases, build their own rocket ships, or even their own cars?  No!  We have experts to do these things and we accept the fact we are not all doctors, rocket scientists, or even car designers.  Yet the DI wants everyone to be able to pick and choose which science they want to accept?  Really?  Why would that be the case?  I think when your ideas cannot stand the light of science, sell rather than do any science.  Tell people you are only thinking of them, and then do your best to have real science, you know the stuff that actually works, shoved aside.  I have often called the DI a marketing organization but I am starting to re-think that.

I think the DI is more of a religious ministry.  Think about it, since when does a religious ministry really want you to think for yourself?  It's just another tactic!  Think about more open religious ministries and their message.  While they give voice to freedom of religion, what they are usually saying is 'my religious freedom, not yours'.  Isn't that what the DI is doing, their ideas rather than real science!

Yes, they claim not to be a religious organization, but isn't that wearing quite thin?  Here are some of their Wedge Strategy 5-year goals, those under the heading of Spiritual & cultural renewal:
  • Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism
  • Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s)
  • Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions
  • Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God
How much of this sounds more like a religious ministry than an organization dedicated to science?   Read the whole wedge strategy and you get the impression science is nothing but a tactic, an afterthought.  And, again from the document itself, biology is only the first area to be addressed, other scientific disciplines, social sciences, and humanities are also in the target list.  I think the DI needs to change their tax status to a religious ministry.  At least is would be more honest!

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