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Monday, December 24, 2007

Ann Coulter on legacy media's obsessions with candidate Huckabee's views on evolution

Ann Coulter, whose wit has savaged many Important People, asks an interesting question: Why do media reports focus on potential Republican presidential candidate Huckabee's doubts about the Darwinian version of the history of life, but not on those of peole who may be suspected of knowing more about it:
The media are transfixed by the fact that Huckabee says he doesn't believe in evolution. Neither do I, for reasons detailed in approximately one-third of my No. 1 New York Times best-selling book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism."

I went on a massive book tour for "Godless" just last year, including a boffo opening interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today," a one-on-one, full-hour interview with Chris Matthews on "Hardball," and various other hostile interviews from the organs of establishmentarian opinion.

But I didn't get a single question from them on the topic of one-third of my book.

If the mainstream media are burning with curiosity about what critics of Darwinism have to say, how about asking me? I can name any number of mathematicians, scientists and authors who have also rejected Darwin's discredited theory and would be happy to rap with them about it.

Ann, you and I both know why. What you would tell them is just what legacy media types DON'T want to hear or broadcast. The story is so much easier to tell if we ignore the fact that the evidence does not support Darwin's mechanism as the main explanation for the evolution of life.

Update note: If anyone has gained the impression from Ann Coulter's comments that she is a Huckabee supporter, read "Huckelujah" and reconsider. Note: If you do read it and are offended, please don't write back and tell me how awful Ann Coulter is. Just take my word for it then. She is NOT a Huckabee supporter.

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What's wrong with science education today?

Some friends and I were discussing what is wrong with science education today. One person asked, "I wonder whether anybody else gets tired of the continually repeated suggestion that intelligent design (or even young earth creationism is the factor that's going to hold the US back in science education and achievement?"

My friend is an American, so I offered him some suggestions as to how to respond: In addressing such claims, I think you must insist that people explain what they are talking about. Here is what I usually say, when confronted with similar claims:

1. Quit crying wolf. The United States has been a world leader in science since at least World War II and there is no good evidence that that is changing significantly. Of course, there is always some evidence supporting any given trend claim, which is why the half century picture is so important. Fifty years ago, people were saying that the United States was falling behind in science. Yeah? Tell it to the Mars Rover.

2. Quit comparing apples and oranges. Many countries do not have a No Child Left Behind Act, let alone great concern about gender equity or minority disadvantage. Some countries have few resources and put all the ones they do have into the high performers. But they are not a useful comparison because the United States would easily outstrip them in their own area of expertise (producing geniuses) if it did the same thing. Check out the math genius school at Princeton in the film, A Beautiful Mind, for example ....

For reasonable and useful comparisons, compare - say - a prosperous U.S. state like New York with a prosperous contiguous Canadian province like Ontario. Absent cherry-picking, I wonder how big a difference one will find.*

*It might be quite easy to find inner city schools in New York City that perform worse than similar inner city schools in Toronto (Canada's largest city and the capital of Ontario) . But New York is much larger than Toronto so there may be room for more statistical anomalies. The significant question is, do average New York State students receive a significantly poorer education than average Ontario students, and if so, what might be the real-world reasons?

3. Quit engaging in fact-free discourse. Does young earth creationism (YEC) actually result in poorer individual scores on standardized tests? Less knowledge of Darwin's theory? I suspect that one reason Darwin activists in your area are not making an issue of test results - but rather sticking to generalities and suppositions - is that the results may show the exact opposite of what the activist wants the public to believe. If so, it is probably due to the fact that the YEC student may actually be expected to learn what he is supposed to dissent from. The worst aspect of propaganda masquerading as education is that it kills the desire for knowledge. All you need to know is what they want you to parrot back, and - because you MUST parrot whatever they tell you back without question or dissent - the exact nature of the foolishness in which you are being indoctrinated is unimportant.

Actually, that's not even the main problem, in my view. What's wrong with science education today is what's wrong with all education today: Feeling good has replaced doing well. And fixing that would require the replacement of much of the current education establishment, which takes time. People who are looking to blame this or that social group - as a group - in the meantime are opportunist agitators who should, in my opinion, be ignored.


David Warren: "Darwinism blocks our view of the past, as well as the present and future"

My friend Toronto-based journalist David Warren on why teachng Darwinism alone in schools is a bad idea:
On that term "evolutionary biology" -- it is important, for more than antiquarian reasons, to understand that evolutionary biology has roots deeper than Darwin, going down all the way to the Greeks. "Darwinism" blocks our view of the past, as well as the present & future. And I say, more than antiquarian, for again & again we find some insight in an older source that
has been overlooked & is ripe for reappraisal.

On my opposition to teaching "Darwinism" (as opposed to strictly empirical evolutionary biology) in schools - & may I add, on my insistence that history of science be taught broadly & openly, & not narrowly & ideologically -- let me add, that it is no small thing. Children have no
equipment to test the claims of their teachers until they have acquired the equipment, & few are genuinely sceptical by disposition. (I myself was sceptical from a very early age, & thus the bane of smooth-talking gliberal teachers, but I was also obviously some kind of freak.)

You cripple a child's potential for artistic, philosophical, & spiritual growth, by ramming a desiccated, politically-correct materialism down his throat from an early age. It is an attack on his very sense of wonder, & thus on his capacity for science, too. This is a seriously wrong thing to

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Who actually believes in science?

In an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, asks "Will the secular left soon attack the religious right for being pro-science?". He is referring to the recent advance that eliminated the need for human embryonic stem cells in research. He observes,
I have long suspected that science, in the context of the editorial page of the New York Times, was simply a stalking-horse for something else. In fact, for two something-elses: a chance to discredit America's religious believers, and an opportunity to put yet another hedge around the legalization of abortion. After all, if our very health depends on the death of embryos, and we live in a culture that routinely destroys early human life in the laboratory, no grounds could exist for objecting to abortion.

But just about everything that the editorialists fanatically maintained was counterfactual:
Shake loose from the narrative of antiscience fundamentalists and pro-science liberals, however, and a different story starts to be visible. Abortion skewed the political discussion of all this, pinning the left to a defense of science it doesn't actually hold. The more natural line is agitation against Frankenfoods and all genetic modification, particularly given the environmentalism to which the campaign against global warming is tying the left.

An interesting thesis, and one with parallels in the intelligent design controversy. For example, there is overwhelming evidence for actual design in the universe (the usual term is fine tuning), which means that it would be strange indeed if life forms showed no evidence of design. Yet, you would never guess any of this if you listen only to the hysterics of editorialists and do not consider the evidence.


New blog: "A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable".

Tying up some loose ends here, I note that retired physiologist John A. Davison, a non-Darwinian biologist and sponsor of the prescribed evolutionary hypothesis, has started a blog on that, and on the perils of climate change as well. Davison, who contributes frequently to Internet debates on these subjects, had a paper on his prescribed evolutionary hypothesis published in Rivista di Biologia, which is available at his site.

Pos-Darwinista aims for 100000 site visitors by Christmas

I sort of consider Pos-Darwinista, a Portuguese-language ID news blog which Brazilian Enézio E. de Almeida Filho offers, a godchild, because its name recalls this blog's name, the Post-Darwinist. (See the blogroll at the right, "Never a Dull Moment ...")

Enezio also like to call his blog, Desafiando a Nomenklatura científica (Defying the Scientific Nomenclatura). He writes to say that for Christmas he would like to pass the 100 000 visitors mark.

As of December 16, he had 93,477 visitors. If you know any Portuguese or know someone who does, perhaps you can help him out by visiting ...

Who links to me?