Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Truth in Science.



This organisation states that its area of initial focus is to be the origin of life and the origin of the diversity of life.
Their concerns seem to include the following:

1. Teaching on this subject has been “dogmatic and imbalanced.” Darwinian evolution is presented as uncontroversial and the only credible or scientific theory.

It is clear that evolution is controversial amongst the general population and amongst a substantial minority of parents. In this situation it is important for science teaching to go no further than the clear evidence warrants. It is clear that the overwhelming majority of scientists in the relevant fields believe that the evidence for common descent is convincing. However the history of the development of evolutionary thinking is on a backdrop of special creation thinking. Students cannot really grasp the complex nature of how science develops without appreciating the difficulties that Darwin faced. So from a historical perspective it is important to understand the alternative ways of thinking from a purely naturalistic view.

Where science becomes a simple platform for atheism as Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and Daniel Dennett and others advocate this is clearly going to cause signficant difficulties for far more people than evangelical creationists.

We actually know very little about the origin of life and it is important to stress this in science lessons. We actually know very little about the origin of the data required to build different types of living organisms and this should be stressed. It is crucial that parents should be confident that science lessons are focusing on what we know rather than what we hope will turn out to be true.

2. Other explanations of origins are sometimes misrepresented. Children should be given fair and accurate representations of alternative views.

It is hard to understand anyone objecting to this concern. Any fair minded person should want the truth to be told even about people they strongly disagree with. If creationist views are misrepresented those misrepresentations should be corrected as soon as possible. Attacking straw men is a waste of everyones time.

3. The way origins are taught in science lessons fails to address the concerns of a large minority of parents about a purely naturalistic view.

I have commented on this in my remarks above. There is plainly a large minority of UK parents who are unconvinced by the entirely naturalistic explanations of life and the universe and who believe that alternative explanations should be presented to their children. Science education is always going to be a collaboration between scientists and parents. It behoves scientists to tread very carefully in this area unless they want to risk the situation of a confrontation with strongly held religious views of a large number of parents. Compulsory education demands great sensitivity to parental concerns.

4. Some evidences presented for evolution in some texts are flawed and inaccurate.

I understand that this is a very sensitive area but it is clear from my own experience that bad examples of teaching and textbook materials persist in this area far longer that they should have done and improvement of accuracy here should be welcomed by all.

Conclusion.
If I have understood the aims and objectives of "Truth in Science" then I am strongly in support of what they are seeking to do.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Teaching on this subject has been “dogmatic and imbalanced.”"

A bunch of bigotted YEC calling the scientific community "dogmatic" is absolutely absurd.

"Darwinian evolution is presented as uncontroversial and the only credible or scientific theory."

This is perfectly correct. It is scientifically uncontroversial, and no other scientific theory has been introduced to challenge it.

"Where science becomes a simple platform for atheism as Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and Daniel Dennett and others advocate this is clearly going to cause signficant difficulties for far more people than evangelical creationists."

Irrelevant! Unlike the Creationists, none of these atheists seek to insert their non-scientific opinions into high school science classes.

"We actually know very little about the origin of life and it is important to stress this in science lessons."

Only if our prime concern is pandering to religious bigotry! We may "very little about the origin of life" (Abiogenesis) but we know an ENORMOUS amount about the development of life thereafter (Evolution).

"Other explanations of origins are sometimes misrepresented. Children should be given fair and accurate representations of alternative views."

The other, unscientific, explanations shouldn't be mentioned in science classes at all.

Further, it is impossible to give "fair and accurate representations" of views that are generally garbled, conflicting and keep changing.

"The way origins are taught in science lessons fails to address the concerns of a large minority of parents about a purely naturalistic view."

Then these parents should seek a religious exemption from having their children doing any science whasoever!

Get this straight Andrew: ALL SCIENCE IS NATURALISTIC! Methodological Naturalism is, either explicitly or implicitly (in the form of Testability or Falsifiability) one of the foundations of science.

"Some evidences presented for evolution in some texts are flawed and inaccurate."

The vast majority of these purported flaws and inaccuracies have been repeatedly proven to be unfounded Creationist canards.

Let me state in conclusion:
Truth in Science is nothing but a bunch of lying extremist religious bigots.

4:09 am  
Anonymous Brian said...

"It behoves scientists to tread very carefully in this area unless they want to risk the situation of a confrontation with strongly held religious views of a large number of parents. Compulsory education demands great sensitivity to parental concerns."

Andrew

I think this is the start of a slippery slope between science and religion. The two have been at odds with each other for a long time now, but in a respectful way? The internet has made access to information readily available (I wouldn't have become interested in this debate otherwise)and where religious attacks on science would have once been parochial events they are now (potentially) global. The Kitzmiller case did a lot of harm to religious fundamentalism in general and brought much unwanted publicity and scrutiny to this debate. TiS will not be able to sneak this in through the back door as there is much opposition, that I am aware of, already.

As for the quote above - i think science has been too sensitive with regards to religion. It endures the attacks but rightly ignores them and goes about it's business - advancing our knowledge. I wonder how long this tolerance will last?

I strongly disagree with your comment that science is a simple platform for atheism* - real science is a religion-free endeavour (it doesn't know the answers a priori). However, given the shameful tactics of some theistic groups to distort science to suit their religious ends (eg the DI, TiS, AIG etc) I can understand the intolerance to religion that some prominent scientists are now making. How long before more mainstream scientist have to make a stance or even science teachers? I say not long?

As hrafn said - in the world of real science (not the pseudoscience junk of ID/C) there is no controversy with evolution.

* I still do not accept the argument that atheism is religion - it is the denial (or absence) of religion

8:25 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

"It is clear that evolution is controversial amongst the general population and amongst a substantial minority of parents."

But not among scientists. That is why it should be taught as the best available sience in science classes.

Any other rival "theory" must gain respect and support in the usual scientifuc process of publish, peer review, provablity, disprovability and a history of being attacked and defended in scientific debate.

ID has never done any of that. It is barely a hypothessis, or rather it has been at the level of a weak hypothesis for ten years, with no progress towards making it a real scientific idea, never mind theory.

TiS is a religious group with religious aims.

9:49 am  
Blogger allygally said...

Sorry... missed a bit..

TiS is a religious group with religious aims. Any idea that they are interested in science in the sense of making science teaching better is not true. If they say so they are mistaken, probably lying.

10:07 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:
"Unlike the Creationists, none of these atheists seek to insert their non-scientific opinions into high school science classes."

You have missed my point. These atheists actually believe that science is atheistic. In other words they believe that atheism is not just their opinion but the only view consistent with scientific fact. If the Dawkin's view is presented then other views should be presented too.

11:42 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:
"we know an ENORMOUS amount about the development of life thereafter (Evolution)."

I agree that a huge amount of work has been done and a huge amount of data has been collected but our actual knowledge about the mechanism of macro-evolution is at a fairly rudimentary level because we are only just begining to understand how development works.

11:47 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

ALL SCIENCE IS NATURALISTIC!

I would say that all science is REALISTIC but makes no artificial restrictions upon what must or must not be in the domain of the REAL without evidence.

11:51 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

"The vast majority of these purported flaws and inaccuracies have been repeatedly proven to be unfounded Creationist canards."

I notice that you did not say that ALL of these purported flaws and inaccuracies...etc

Which are the canards?

11:55 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"These atheists actually believe that science is atheistic."

UNSUBSTANTIATED ASSERTION!

The closest they come is considering that science, due to (among other things) the principle of parsimony) is more supportive of theism than atheism.

However, even if this were true, unlike the fanatical cranks of the Discovery Institute, who are determined to insert their theism (in the form of ID-Creationism) into the science classroom, the atheists show no similar interest in inserting atheism into these classes.

"If the Dawkin's view is presented then other views should be presented too."

COMPLETE AND UTTER BALONEY!

Andrew: can you name a single secondary school that uses any book by Dawkins (let alone one that advocates atheism) as a textbook?

Andrew: this whole line of argument is completely lacking in any factual or logical basis!

3:46 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

...but our actual knowledge about the mechanism of macro-evolution is at a fairly rudimentary level...

Macroevolution is not a mechanism! Evolution (both maco and micro) occurs by a number of mechanisms: mutation, recombination, natural selection, genetic drift and genetic flow -- all of which a fairly well understood.

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I would say that all science is REALISTIC but makes no artificial restrictions upon what must or must not be in the domain of the REAL without evidence."

Andrew: I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU "SAY"! I only care what you can substantiate. And you cannot substantiate your claim that methodological naturalism is an "artificial restriction."

ALL SCIENCE IS NATURALISTIC! Whether this is explicitly, due to the principle of Methodological Naturalism, or implicitly, due to principles of falsifiability or testability, the result is the same. Get used to it -- it's not going to change!

4:04 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I notice that you did not say that ALL of these purported flaws and inaccuracies...etc"

Certainly ALL the ones I have come across (e.g. on the TiS site) have been "unfounded Creationist canards."

I cannot guarantee however that some teacher, somewhere isn't teaching about Punctuated Equilibria, or some other legitimate disagreement within evolutionary thought. Hence I was careful to leave open that possibility.

4:10 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

I had a biology teacher who enthusiastically promoted Dawkin's views and set as homework reading sections of "The Selfish Gene."

If one teacher does this then I am sure there will be plenty of others.

8:00 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew: there are two problems with your argument:

1) "Homework reading sections" of a book will have far less influence than using a book as a textbook.

2) The Selfish Gene, at least from the reviews I have read, appears to be focused on the science of evolution, rather than the metaphysics of atheism. Do you claim that it explicitly advocates atheism? If so, can you provide quotes?

That is not to say that I consider a book as controversial as this to be appropriate for secondary school reading -- merely that it does not appear to amount to advocacy of atheism in schools, opening the door for a claim for the similar advocacy of theism. Advocacy of neither is appropriate in a secondary school science class -- so the appropriate response even if one were found to be advocated, would be its immediate removal -- not the introduction of the other.

"If one teacher does this then I am sure there will be plenty of others."

I dare say there are many things that you are "sure" of that I find utterly uncompelling. Your certainty is not acceptable substantiation.

4:05 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
re: Understanding of Macro-evolution.

By the "mechanism of macroevolution" I meant the issue of how unintelligent genetic change can assemble a program for building a new creature. Our understanding of developement is at a fairly rudimentary level let alone our understanding of the evolution of development.

11:17 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

The nature of science.

re: ALL SCIENCE IS NATURALISTIC!
Has this been determined scientifically?

11:19 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"By the "mechanism of macroevolution" I meant the issue of how unintelligent genetic change can assemble a program for building a new creature. Our understanding of developement is at a fairly rudimentary level let alone our understanding of the evolution of development."

"Rudimentary" is still a highly inaccurate description. A better adjective would be "patchy". This patchiness is for two reasons:
1) The patchiness of the fossil (due to certain types of fossil being more likely to be preserved than others) and genetic (due to genes being overwritten due to mutation and lost due to extinction) records.
2) The large amount of work required to piece together what information we do have into a cohesive explanation.

Because of this, in certain areas the explanations are very detailed, in other areas they remain very tenuous.

5:45 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"re: ALL SCIENCE IS NATURALISTIC!
Has this been determined scientifically?"


Of course not.
1) This question lies within the field of Philosophy of Science, not Science itself.
2) It would appear to be against, at least the spirit of, Gödel's Second Incompleteness Theorem for the definition of Science to be scientifically determinable.

A more relevant question is: does there exist any, widely accepted (within the field of Philosophy of Science), definition or conceptualisation of "Science" that does not (explicitly or implicitly) exclude the supernatural (for a reasonable definition of "supernatural")?

I would claim that the answer to this is "no."

5:56 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said ' "Rudimentary" is still a highly inaccurate description.'

I still think that Rudimentary is the correct word to describe our level of understanding of the molecular biology of development... but I confess I am not an expert so I would be interested to hear what words they would use. I acknowledge that there have been some real breakthroughs but putting together the whole story is a different matter.

2:18 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Yes Andrew, "Evo-Devo" is the hottest new development in evolutionary biology. As such, it is still under development. It is however not the entire field of macroevolution, it is merely one "patch" that has only recently started to be filled in (but is being filled at a rapid pace, apparently). I don't know how long it will be before the field is "tapped-out" in terms of exciting developments, and the bulk of evolutionary biologists move on to concentrating on a new and (most probably as yet undiscovered) "patch."

1:07 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

Re Philosophy of science.
Is the only justification for methodological naturalism the fact that x% of philosophers agree that it should be the definition of science.
Plantinga has done some good work in this area.

12:06 pm  
Anonymous Billdunc said...

More Intelligent Design and creationist nonsense - this time from a British group Truth in science. Misrepresenting what can be legitimate scientific debate about the details of evolutionary mechanisms as though these call into question the issue of evolutionary devlopment as a whole. I couldnt stop laughing at your "orchard" picture of the development of different life forms from basic ancestral types. So we had some long ago basic dog form which then evolved into the dog forms we have now? What utter nonsense. What is clear is that religious believers get unnerved by those of us who see evolutionary evidence as weakening arguments which rely on there being a "God" who created this world. They are so nervous about this that they are forced into distortions maskeradin a science. Well my friend science has always faced ingorance and superstition - from arguments about a flat earth through to Darwin himself.
You make the illogical step of arguing that because our theories are an imperfect fit or have gaps in them that we have to ditch the whole thing and invoke some "intelligent designer". Never heard of Occams razor my friend?

The Scientific debate about evolution is about the details of its mechanisms - not about whether we should replace it with some mumbo jumbo nonsense of the type that Truth in Science clearly wishes to peddle.

Answer me one question -
The "orchard view" proponents view suggests for example that cat type life forms evolved from some early basic cat type anscestor. So did humans and apes evolve from some common proto human/ape anscestor? If they did then at what point di "God" insert the soul? Did he only do it for humans or back with the early human ape ancestor. Or would you say the evidence points to humans having ancestry all of their own? Because if you do then you clearly reveal the nonscientific and religious roots of your arguments.

2:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no place in the modern world for loony religious fundamentalists like you. Get real or go away and stop trying to force your crazy ideas on young minds.

9:04 pm  

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