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Author Topic:   What's the problem with teaching ID?
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From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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Message 1 of 337 (291078)
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

As a biology major interested in teaching highschool students, I'm the last person who wants ID taught in biology. Just on a principled level, it is not science and I don't think it should be taught in a science curriculum.

In spite of this, I'm having a little trouble articulating to people why it is such a big deal. What are some of problems that teaching ID in a biology curriculum would lead to? Would it give students an inadequate notion as to what science is? Would it open the way for other nonscientific theories? Would it interfere with their preparation for college? Infringe on the first ammendment? All of the above?

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Message 2 of 337 (291083)
02-28-2006 7:34 PM

Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
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Message 3 of 337 (291085)
02-28-2006 7:42 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM


Teaching ID in a science class would be teaching religion in a science class.

Either life had a natural origin or it doesn't, ie. therefore God/s. Since ID essentially tries to rule out #1, it implicitly requires that life (& a lot more besides) was created by divine intervention.

The ID movement tries very hard to distance itself from mentioning god, even going so far as to say, "we don't know what the designer is". Regardless, it is implicit that ID must invoke the supernatural at some stage.


This message has been edited by mark24, 02-28-2006 07:42 PM

There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those that understand binary, & those that don't
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Message 4 of 337 (291090)
02-28-2006 8:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

The other big problem with teaching ID has had a thread here before: what would the lesson plan be? Maybe:

Tuesday. First 30 seconds of class: "Some people posit that some intelligent force did something like designing the universe or life at some time in the past. These people don't know who or when, or what this Designer did. So let's move on to the Krebs Cycle."

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Message 5 of 337 (291126)
03-01-2006 12:10 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

It teachs poor thinking
I think the worst thing about ID is that using what is published about it now would teach poor reasoning.

The examples would be:
1) Mathematical improbability of something calculated in a stupid fasion.
2) Irreducible complexity as a concept ignoring other pathways.
3) Thinking that an unknown is a proof of anything.

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Message 6 of 337 (291134)
03-01-2006 2:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM


Well I imagine one great big stumbling block would be getting a concensus on what is meant by the Intelligent in intelligent design.

WE have those who say it is God and those that say the intelligence could be anything.One wonders how one can teach something as being intelligent unless there is stipulation in place to begin with that the intelligence is defined by such and such properties. Failing this, the core assumption rests on a title that has no structure.

Let us take a quote from one Philip Johnson

If we understand our own times, we will know that we should affirm the reality of God by challenging the domination of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind. With the assistance of many friends I have developed a strategy for doing this,...We call our strategy the "wedge." pg. 91-92, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds" Phillip Johnson, 1997

From this statement it is difficult to see how they can perform the single thing that science uses to verify the phenomena, the experiment.One must deal with materialism in order to do so.

To quote my favorite author

"Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In this simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is - if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong"

Richard Phillips Feynman

I would equate the intelligent design movement with the Cargo cult science also described by Feynman

So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science.

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

There is the crux after all no? They will never get any wealth in their system because they are not willing to explore the world to see what it is saying , but rather insist on seeing the world conform to their cherished preconceptions.
Intelligent design is a lost cause and no doubt one that will remain forever on the fringe. If I may apologize to the bard for an out of context phrase

And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

I think it would,however,make an excellent case study for a class on critical thinking and logic. An example of what clear thinking is not.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
Douglas Adams
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Message 7 of 337 (291145)
03-01-2006 5:01 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

My blood ran cold!
Every time I see a header with the OT title my blood turns to ice.

When I think if ID I think of 'The Wizard of OZ'. If Dorothy and co had not looked behind the curtain they would belive the wizard was all powerful and was not to be questioned.

ID tells us a god is all powerful and should not be questioned; somethings are beyond the wit of man and to meddle in things that men were not ment to what of is dangerous, dangerous indeed.

Isaac Asimov once talked about the "Frankenstein Complex". That we fear to know too much and that what we make will one day turn on us. ID tells us not to look or enquire bceause to do that is to step out of line and risk all. Teach it in schools and you will have generations of intellectual children afraid of the stampings of the sky gods.

We have moved on hav'ent we?

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Message 8 of 337 (291250)
03-01-2006 2:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

In my opinion, the main reason that evolution should be taught in US public schools and that creationism/ID should not is because we, in the US, have a tradition of separation of church and state. Evolution is the central theory of biology, the single, coherent explanation of a wide variety of biological phenomena. The vast majority of biologists accept it; the only conceivable reason not to teach it would be because it goes against the religious beliefs of a minority. Likewise, creation/ID is considered an acceptable alternative by religiously motivated people, not by the biological community at large.

And let us not forget the reason for separating church and state. Traditionally, Christianity has been a very intolerant religion -- not only demanding proselytizing by its members, but the violent suppression of alternative religious views (even heresies within Christianity itself), and even used to justify the suppression of political dissent.

The main parties advocating the teaching of creationism/ID in the US are a particularly intolerant religious group. They are also working to suppress homosexuality and other forms of sexual expression, reproductive freedom for women, the repression of various alternative religions, and even straying into the advocacy of hyper-free market capitalism, the elimination of social welfare programs and the implementation of police power to control the resulting unrest, and a violent, military-based foreign policy based on the self-interest of Americans as opposed to everyone else.

Also, Rremember that the religious right itself does not actually believe in "equal time" -- what they are really aiming for is to do away with evolution altogether and replace it completely with their religious dogma. If they were to succeed and the non-fanatics were to ask for "equal time" for evolution, they would be the ones saying "f*** you" (and probably throw them in jail, if they could).

In my opinion, creation/evolution is a silly, unimportant debate...except it is an important plank for a group whose goal is to determine what everyone else thinks and believes. Not only is fighting the religious right in this area a way of distracting their resources from more dangerous policies, but when they succeed in this one area, as unimportant as I feel that it is, then they are one small step closer to their totalitarian hegemony over thought.

"Intellectually, scientifically, even artistically, fundamentalism -- biblical literalism -- is a road to nowhere, because it insists on fidelity to revealed truths that are not true." -- Katha Pollitt
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Message 9 of 337 (291257)
03-01-2006 3:00 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Chiroptera
03-01-2006 2:43 PM

Dammit, Chiroptera, I wish I still had some of that youthful fire you show in posts like this! Don't let it get away from you.....

[/OT comment]

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Message 10 of 337 (291264)
03-01-2006 3:18 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

ID Blows the curve
The two reasons I don't think ID should be taught in class are practical (though I agree with everyone's above posts)

First - how do you grade students, when the correct answer to every question is "I dunno, God did it." Everyone is always going to get an A+ on every test by pleading stupidity.

Second - How do you determine which version of ID/Creationism you use. In other words, do you say "There was an intelligent force" and stop there, or do you say, "God did it", or "Thor did it" or "ET did it"... Is the Jewish God the God of creation, or is it any one of the thousands of God's that predate him/her/it?

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Message 11 of 337 (392267)
03-30-2007 4:19 AM

Spam I Am
Spam Deleted

Edited by AdminQuetzal, : No reason given.

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Message 12 of 337 (392327)
03-30-2007 10:50 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

The standard water cycle: The sun warms the sea, the water vapor forms clouds, the clouds condense and it rains, the rain returns to the sea.

However, some people don't think water vapor can form as the result of warming from the sun, so:

The ID water cycle: An intelligent agent causes the water vapor to seperate from the sea, uses an unseen force to clump it together to form clouds and at an opportune moment causes it to rain. Since rain cannot find the sea without knowing where it is going, the agent guides it in the form of 'rivers'.

ID star formation: Since nuclear reactors are too complex to build by chance alone (Source), an intelligent agent gathered together all the correct molecules and arranged them in near perfect spheres. The theory of gravity has lots of holes in it - and there are many that doubt that gravity alone can keep stars and galaxies together. This agent exerts a force to keep them from flying apart and ensures they don't burn out of fuel. This agent also ensures that just the right amount of material is produced in these heavy element factories, to be used in creating life.

It is difficult to get it across in conversation. However, teaching kids known untruths about biology is bad for kids. Teaching kids that the tentativity of science gives them licence to invent unparsominous entities to fill gaps in our knowledge (or worse yet, having teachers use untruths to imply a non-existant gap in knowledge in which to fill with an unparsominous entity) is bad.

Science is about discovering the truths about the universe using a chain such as

negative evidence -> positive evidence -> reasoning -> theory.

Life wasn't created 6000 years ago -> [evidence for natural history/evolution] -> Natural History/evolution -> The theory of evolution, and the concept of natural history.

ID is closer to

negative evidence -> reasoning -> theory.

Flaggella cannot possibly evolve! -> if it can't evolve it must be designed by an intelligent entity -> An Intelligent Designer was involved in the creation of the flaggella.

Since this is not science it should not be taught in science. The idea of going from negative evidence to reasoning without positive evidence is something that should be discussed in philosophy class.

Imagine this:

We don't die when we lose consciousness -> When we die we might not lose consciousness -> afterlife.

This is the same kind of construct that ID seems to work from.

It might be great to try thinking like this, and it might be useful - but it should not be taught as a scientific way of thinking, because that will cause problems for kids if they want to go into science and their head is filled with the wrong way to think about things.

Less able to compete with other, more disciplined, scientific thinkers they may find themselves in the position of only having the skills to teach - allowing the cycle to build momentum.

Would it be an unmitigated disaster, no - not necessarily. Kids can throw the shackles of miseducation - but it would be at least a small disaster...think of the Wedge Document and its insidious plan.

Would it open the way for other nonscientific theories?

Behe said it best when he conceded that if we changed the definition of theory so that it included Intelligent Design it would also include astrology.

And we know one thing - a determined group of wealthy charismatic people will try and get their own agenda pushed, including astrologers (there are plenty of celebrity psychics/fortune tellers, and many of them are as greedy and opportunistic as many of the evangelists are).

Infringe on the first ammendment?

I don't think the first ammendment, on its own, guarantees a secular science education.

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Dan Carroll 
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Message 13 of 337 (392339)
03-30-2007 12:06 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Coragyps
02-28-2006 8:33 PM

The other big problem with teaching ID has had a thread here before: what would the lesson plan be?

There was an old thread about this that never really went anywhere.

But for sheer fun, look at how it dates itself! Rei! Mr. Hambre! Ned apologizing for being new at moderating!

Aw. Memories.

"I know some of you are going to say 'I did look it up, and that's not true.' That's 'cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut."
-Stephen Colbert
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Message 14 of 337 (392351)
03-30-2007 1:17 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
02-28-2006 6:59 PM

To simply put, ID is just lazy thinking. Just imagine the following questions and answers.

Q: How does the lipid bi-layer of a cell keep itself together while allowing certain molecules to pass into and out of the cell?

A: An intelligent designer designed it that way.

Q: How do birds know which way to fly when they do their yearly migration?

A: An intelligent designer designed it that way.

Q: Why is the pythagorean theorem true for every right triangle?

A: An intelligent designer designed it that way.

Q: Why do many languages in certain regions are so much alike? For example, Italian and Spanish.

A: An intelligent designer designed it that way.

Q: Why do we see a rainbow everytime there's sunlight and rain?

A: An intelligent designer designed it that way.

The answer is just a simple modified version of the typical "goddunit" answer many adults give to their children everytime they ask curious questions. I grew up being force fed the "goddunit" answer. I entered high school and college believing the world operated on god's magic and that there was little more explanation for what goes on with planetary motion or biology than "goddunit".

What ID proposes is institutionalizing lazy thinking. By giving the answer "an intelligent designer designed it that way" everytime a phenomenon is encountered that at the moment cannot be understood, progress is permanently suspended.

I once attended a lecture by a very famous philosopher of science (can't remember his name). His lecture was on how ID attacks science and intellectual progress. One of the things he pointed out was this: Let's say that an intelligent designer designed the biological processes we see today. Then what? The so-called discipline of Intelligent Design leads to nowhere. Neither the scientific community nor the intelligent design advocates could name a single foreseeable progress made to science or humanity with Intelligent Design. Its very nature is to impede progress by savoring ignorance.

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Message 15 of 337 (392360)
03-30-2007 3:43 PM

An evilutionist wedge
Evilutionists, listen up. Here's how we can have a wedge strategy of our own: let's allow ID to be taught in science class, and see which students swallow it, and which don't. Let's give university grants only to those students who see right through ID, and let the dunces have the McJobs when they leave high school. That way, we'll fill our universities with bright people, which is good for science, and we'll be able to say to the person handing us our hamburger: "See? Told you. Survival of the fittest, always works."

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." - Charles Darwin.

Did you know that most of the time your computer is doing nothing? What if you could make it do something really useful? Like helping scientists understand diseases? Your computer could even be instrumental in finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Wouldn't that be something? If you agree, then join World Community Grid now and download a simple, free tool that lets you and your computer do your share in helping humanity. After all, you are part of it, so why not take part in it?

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