Ohio Ditches the Discovery Institute

As reported on the Panda’s Thumb, the Ohio State Board of Education killed off Resolution 31 on Tuesday. The apparent Intelligent Design advocate strategy was to keep the Achievement Committee pondering the issue assigned to it last February until after the November elections. This strategy backfired when the full board met and decided to take direct action. They moved to close discussion on Resolution 31 permanently and remove the Achievement Committee’s authority to do anything about it. They then voted to take up the motion as an emergency measure. That passed by a substantial majority. Then they voted on the motion itself, again passing by a wide margin. The margin would not have been quite so wide but that two of the ID advocates on the board were absent from the meeting.

For too long, the ID advocates in Ohio have taken it as a given that they can manipulate the system at will to advance their agenda. The action by the full board today shows that they are no longer willing to extend that sort of benefit of the doubt to the ID advocates. If the Discovery Institute had advised the ID advocates on the board to wait for a better time, they took a large misstep.

For three years, Ohio was a showpiece for the Discovery Institute, with a state Board of Education that had given the DI what they wanted in terms of “compromise” language in the science standards to be exploited in getting the same old bogus antievolution arguments into the classrooms. That started to go sour for the DI when the BOE last February removed the compromising language from the standards and the deficient “critical analysis” lesson plan from its list of approved curriculum materials. The BOE had given the ID advocates something in return, though, in the form of Resolution 31, which gave the ID advocate dominated Achievement Committee the mandate to suggest whether some further change to the science standards should be made because of the removal of the “critical analysis” indicator. As usual in ID advocate land, the public was not welcome to peek at the progress of the Achievement Committe on this issue. When ID advocate Deborah Owens-Fink for the first time found herself in a real election race for her SBOE position with an accomplished and experienced politician, ex-Akron mayor Tom Sawyer, the wait-until-after-the-elections strategy seemed to be adopted. Perhaps the ID advocates thought that if the evolution/creation issue was not active in the weeks leading up to the election, the voters would simply forget about it. This seems rather doubtful, but I expect that there was a certain amount of desperation in the Fink campaign driving that assessment. The action by the SBOE yesterday both removes the remaining wedge the ID advocates had and raises the evolution/creation issue to prominence in the SBOE election campaigns just a few weeks prior to the elections.

Voters in other places have consistently removed ID advocates when given an informed choice on the matter. In 2004, citizens of Darby, MT voted out a set of ID advocates there. The new school board rejected the ID policy considered by the former board. The reason that most people know about Dover, PA and not Darby, MT lies in the timing of the school board elections: in Darby, the election occurred before the board could implement an ID policy and trigger a lawsuit. In Dover, PA, the voters narrowly turned out all eight ID advocates running for re-election to the board. The election was held just days after the close of the trial about the Dover ID policy. Primary elections in Kansas this past summer are a harbinger of a probable shift in the composition of the SBOE there from creationist dominance to moderate majority, and a likely rejection of the Minority Report science standards that treat antievolution arguments credulously. The ID advocates’ reliance on populist rhetoric somehow has not translated into actual votes in the booths on election day. American voters by proponderance are Christian believers, just as the Discovery Institute often reminds us, but Christian believers also often see passing off untruths to children as just plain wrong. They seem to have in significant measure wised up to the sham that ID’s marketing comprises and the sub-standard science education that ID advocates peddle as their sole product.

Please follow and like us:
error

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

7 thoughts on “Ohio Ditches the Discovery Institute

  • 2006/10/13 at 9:51 am
    Permalink

    What exactly is it that ID advocates are trying to introduce? It takes no special legislation or permission to mention those things that Darwinism fails to explain or finds difficulty explaining, and that should have been part of any good science education all along. It should be clear to students that they are learning the science of Darwinism’s natural selection, and not a philosophy of life, but that is picked up by the content that is taught, not by explaining to students what the philosophy part is.

    Are ID people trying to keep the philosophy from even being mentioned? If so, they may have a right to keep philosophy out of science classes through the democratic process, but I think they should be open to letting a teacher explain what the philosophy of Darwinism is, just so long as no teacher is trying to indoctrinate the students in that philosophy.

    As far as talking about those parts of intelligent design which are natural science, such as the mosquito-pesticide example which Wesley Elsberry strongly supports as being fine with him, again, I don’t see where any special decision or board ruling is required for that.

    So what really is the deal? Are some ID people also Creationists and is it just that they are pushing Creationism? Well, that is illegal in the USA according to our Constitution, so there is nothing to discuss there either.

    What exactly is the point any political controversy going on in the states such as Ohio? Is it more about young earth theories vs. old earth theories, or is it really about ID? Is it about flood theories and common descent, or is it really just about naturalistic ID?

  • 2006/10/14 at 10:54 am
    Permalink

    Props to Ohio Citizens for Science, which organized much of the opposition to the ID shenanigans within the Ohio Board of Education.

  • 2006/10/16 at 2:30 am
    Permalink

    Glenn Shrom wrote:

    As far as talking about those parts of intelligent design which are natural science, such as the mosquito-pesticide example which Wesley Elsberry strongly supports as being fine with him, again, I don’t see where any special decision or board ruling is required for that.

    I agreed that teaching that a hypothesis that a pesticide could conceivably have an effect upon the genome of a targetted organism, such as a mosquito, could be studied scientifically. At no time have I ever said that such a conjecture constitutes something that could be classified as an “intelligent design” hypothesis. There is no such thing as an “intelligent design” scientific hypothesis. I doubt that there ever will be such. In order for an “intelligent design” hypothesis to exist, there would have to be a coherent theory of “intelligent design” that said something other than just, “evolution sucks”. In the particular case of positing that a pesticide may cause some change in mosquitoes, there is not the slightest pretense here that such a conjecture flows in a principled way from any “intelligent design” basis. “Intelligent design” advocates often claim that some conjecture or other should be classified as an “intelligent design” contribution to science, with nil support for the assertion. This one is no different in that respect. Science can study the genomic effects of particular factors in an organism’s environment; pesticides are not excluded from that. The label “pesticide” changes not a whit the fact that such studies proceed under the same rules of science that have long been the standard method for investigations of natural phenomena, and not the special versions of operation proposed by various “intelligent design” advocates as defining “science” elsewhere, such as the one testified to by ID advocate Michael Behe in court last year, which would have brought astrology under the aegis of science.

    As for what was proposed as curriculum content in Ohio, one could actually decide to become informed about the topic, rather than bloviating on in ignorance. The lesson plan submitted to provide a curriculum component for the “critical analysis” language in the indicator was chock full of standard old, bogus antievolution arguments. The aim was not to aid students in learning science, but rather to teach them to sneer at it.

    What exactly is the point any political controversy going on in the states such as Ohio? Is it more about young earth theories vs. old earth theories, or is it really about ID? Is it about flood theories and common descent, or is it really just about naturalistic ID?

    The point is that we should be teaching science in science classes, and keeping non-science out of those classes. That this is a political issue doesn’t change that. Since ID has been shown to be the same old, bogus antievolution arguments with a new label stuck on (cf. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), yes, this is really about ID, since it really is about those old, bogus antievolution arguments.

    There is no such thing as “naturalistic ID”. The study of intelligence within the scientific method is not “intelligent design” activity in any sense. “Intelligent design” activity is socio-political action to try to cram as many old, bogus arguments from the antievolution ensemble as possible into public school science curricula. It helps no one to try to tar legitimate scientific research with a label associated with anti-science political action.

  • 2006/10/18 at 9:40 pm
    Permalink

    It sounds to me like circular reasoning. You are defining ID as something necessarily outside of the scientific method, so that any time ID follows the scientific method, or any time ID is plainly within the realm of naturalism and pro-evolution, you accept the science of it but deny that it is ID.

    Hey, I don’t really care what label you call it, whether you recognize it as ID or not. I just don’t want science held up by a lot of people trying to put the brakes on because of rejecting any scientific evidence, hypotheses, or experiments which they think are ID-originated, ID-related, or which they think imply ID. I will call such research “ID”, and you will call it just plain science … no matter. A rose by any other name will smell just as sweet!

    It’s hard to believe you’ve read my book and still cannot contemplate ID outside of the socio-political agenda, believing it will always consist of what you call “the same old bogus anti-evolution arguments”. Anything apart from those arguments you simply refuse to consider as ID. You’ve made very sure that you win your arguments by fastening your definitions rigidly and only considering what certain ID proponents have to say, to the exclusion of all others.

    My prediction is that Intelligent Design will outlive the Discovery Institute and will soon be taken out of the hands of Christians and put into the hands of secularists. When ID is finally an inconspicuous, innocuous part of the science program (which it is already starting to be), it will be something that American Christian voters will want to fight against, because it will be very far from establishing any Creationist or anti-evolution agenda.

    It will be exactly what you already support: “Science can study the genomic effects of particular factors in an organism’s environment; pesticides are not excluded from that. The label “pesticide” changes not a whit the fact that such studies proceed under the same rules of science that have long been the standard method for investigations of natural phenomena, …” Scientists will still be able to pursue ID in that fashion without any help from the Discovery Institute or from Creationism, and the political/religious/cultural agendas will fade into the history books. Science will be following up on ID right along with following up on evolutionary theories in wondrous harmony. We WILL get past the culture wars regarding intelligent design, and all parties will be the better off for it.

    For now, one side sneers, while another side snubs, and it is a lose-lose situation.

  • 2006/10/18 at 10:02 pm
    Permalink

    Wesley states: “There is no such thing as ‘naturalistic ID’. The study of intelligence within the scientific method is not ‘intelligent design’ activity in any sense.”

    How can you talk at all intelligently about “intelligent design” unless you are first studying intelligence within the scientific method? You have said that there is nothing new about my book, but how many other people out there are exhorting the ID movement to base itself on the study of intelligence within the scientific method, and to give up the supernatural and philosophical types of ID in favor of a new type of “naturalistic ID”. You are right, naturalistic ID does not really exist at all right now in any movement – so what is so new about my book is that I am trying to point people to this new direction where a naturalistic ID movement could be started, and the old one discarded as unconvincing and unscientific.

    The only other people I could find hinting at this kind of avenue were Drs. Chadwick and DeHaan, which is why I quoted them on the back cover and gave them a whole appendix in my book. Independently, both I and they saw the lack of good scientific research into the concept of “intelligence” as a key “gap” in ID which needs to be closed.

    Although I independently wrote pages 62 and 64 in October of 2005, in April of 2006 I came across a paper from December of 2000 which agrees with me.

    Quoted from: The Trilobite: Enigma of Complexity

    A Case for Intelligent Design

    by Arthur V. Chadwick (and Robert F. DeHaan?)

    From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 52.4 (December 2000): 233-241

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2000/PSCF12-00Chadwick.html#The

    “We have few if any conceptual tools at this time with which to pin down the elusive concept of intelligence in biology so that it can be studied and characterized. The mode, mechanism, locus, domain, or modus operandi of intelligence in biology is not known. The interface between intelligence and the material world remains a mystery at this time.

    At least two possible approaches to studying intelligent design can be explored. First, one may posit that there is a purposive or functional logic embedded in living organisms that is as real and objective as the laws of physics. The nature and origin of this logic and its role in effecting change in the biological world would be the focus of study. This approach places design squarely in the natural order.

    The second approach may be to grant the above, but to claim further that the designer acted in nature throughout the history of life in the universe to bring about certain purposes…. While the authors also believe that intelligent design originates in the mind of a Supreme Intelligent Designer, the Christian God, and is actualized as part of God’s purpose for the universe, this belief is not essential to the study of Intelligent Design as a scientific theory.”.

    So at least three of us are advocating that there be a “naturalistic ID” movement in the future, in glaring contrast to the ID movement which you are so currently against in the present. The anti-science fringe in America would not be behind it, and would probably be opposed to it, but it is in the best interest of open-minded science to develop that field.

  • 2006/10/18 at 10:28 pm
    Permalink

    On October 16th under this topic, you posted that there is no such thing as naturalistic ID. Yet on August 9th you wrote:

    “Intelligent design advocates has been steadily ignoring ‘Why Intelligent Design Fails’ since its publication. The question is why you would ignore it in your advertisement, since it rather precisely meets the criterion that you state, and instead you choose to focus upon a book that never promised to deliver that sort of examination of the arguments. At best, this oversight indicates an essential ignorance of the relevant literature. At worst, it indicates a deliberate misdirection intended to mislead the reader.”

    Well, now you have the answer to your question. If there is no such thing as naturalistic ID in your opinion, then there is no possible way that “Why Intelligent Design Fails” could meet precisely the criterion of addressing naturalistic ID (Chadwick and DeHaan’s “first approach”). If someday you want to write about about naturalistic ID (everything falling under the scientific method, without allowing for the supernatural, and remaining very comfortable with evolution by common descent and through natural selection, etc.) … then by all means go ahead and write it, but it will not address what the Intelligent Design movement has been sensationalizing to date, and it will probably not be very controversial or interesting to most readers. You’d have to leave out the names you know from the Discovery Institute and fall back on other work.

    You could not rely on your tried-and-true counter-arguments to the “bogus anti-evolution arguments” that are so old-hat to you. You’d have to start thinking outside that box.

    I think you finally have to admit that the misunderstanding was not due to any ignorance or misdirection on my part, but rather due to your ignoring the pro-evolution, pro-scientific and novel naturalistic approach I advocate in my book. I am planning a second edition where I can spell it out more plainly, so that readers like yourself will not fall into the error of seeing anti-evolution sneering in my book where there is none.

  • 2006/10/19 at 1:08 am
    Permalink

    Shrom wrote:

    It sounds to me like circular reasoning. You are defining ID as something necessarily outside of the scientific method, so that any time ID follows the scientific method, or any time ID is plainly within the realm of naturalism and pro-evolution, you accept the science of it but deny that it is ID.

    and

    Well, now you have the answer to your question. If there is no such thing as naturalistic ID in your opinion, then there is no possible way that “Why Intelligent Design Fails” could meet precisely the criterion of addressing naturalistic ID (Chadwick and DeHaan’s “first approach”).

    So Shrom still hasn’t read “Why Intelligent Design Fails”. I’m trying to think of someone more resistant to learning about a topic before spouting off about it… just not coming up with anyone.

    There’s no circle in my reasoning. If “intelligent design” met the criteria of scientific scholarship, it would be OK. “Why Intelligent Design Fails” set out to examine the “intelligent design” claims on their supposed scientific merits. Those ‘merits’, it turned out, were non-existent. And that answers what passes as a conundrum to Shrom and is obvious to everyone else: something that claims to be grounded in science but isn’t can be evaluated on the basis of its pretense to be science, but then be found (accurately) that it is no such thing. The sciences that deal with intelligence have had no need of the old, bogus antievolution arguments that are the sole content of “intelligent design” as promulgated thus far, and definitively do not need to be saddled with a label that so far only identifies weak and shoddy apologetics with no scientific merit. I’m not *defining* the “intelligent design” arguments; I am recognizing them for what they are and where they came from. Shrom can’t do that, because he remains ignorant of the history of antievolution. Therefore, we see a new attack upon me with every round we go through. Unable to support his arguments and rhetoric given that the facts are decidedly against him, Shrom’s sole route out is to erroneously try to place blame upon me. I suspect that Shrom’s notions that he “wins” any arguments is based solely upon the observation that if he talks trash long enough, everybody else goes away.

    The only other people I could find hinting at this kind of avenue were Drs. Chadwick and DeHaan, which is why I quoted them on the back cover and gave them a whole appendix in my book. Independently, both I and they saw the lack of good scientific research into the concept of “intelligence” as a key “gap” in ID which needs to be closed.

    Golly. Jeff Shallit and I wrote that not even attempting to define “intelligence” was a problem for ID in 2002, and posted it free for everybody to read online in 2003. Of course, if Shrom had read “Why Intelligent Design Fails”, he might have realized that other people had already noticed the “gap”; we have a chapter in there, too. Then there was the Reports of the National Center for Science Education article concerning challenges that ID advocates should take up, including animal cognition. So, when Glenn Shrom says that his search only turned up one other source, I think it speaks volumes about the rigor with which he conducts those searches.

    You have said that there is nothing new about my book, but how many other people out there are exhorting the ID movement to base itself on the study of intelligence within the scientific method, and to give up the supernatural and philosophical types of ID in favor of a new type of “naturalistic ID”.

    Please. The DI has been shovelling that sh… horse manure for a long, long time. On the one hand, they assure scientific audiences that they have a new scientific paradigm, and in front of the church groups, they talk about how ID is just the Logos theology stated in the idiom of information theory. If Shrom thinks that he can claim novelty for the sham that was supposed to slide ID past the US courts, he’s even worse off than I supposed in his ignorance of the source material. Behe and Minnich were testifying in court last year that ID was not at all based upon theology or faith, that it was all just science… given the right definition of science. Nothing “novel” in that.

    It’s hard to believe you’ve read my book and still cannot contemplate ID outside of the socio-political agenda,

    Since Shrom’s book simply re-presented the same old socio-political stuff, as I documented already, I see only that it would be hard to believe that anyone knowledgeable about evolution/creation could possibly confuse Shrom’s book with anything except an extension of the same old culture wars.

    believing it will always consist of what you call “the same old bogus anti-evolution arguments”.

    It always has so far. I might wish that rainstorms would always in the future skirt my house, but I’d have to be an idiot to fail to fix the roof based upon that wish.

    Anything apart from those arguments you simply refuse to consider as ID.

    I refuse to accord solid scientific work done under a non-ID definition of science that owes nothing to the ideas promulgated by the ID advocates as being, in any sense whatever, “intelligent design”. “Intelligent design” has established itself for what it is: a failed strategy to escape legal rulings in the USA against establishment of religion in the schools. Sure, science deals with intelligence, and science deals with design. I’m a student of animal behavior, where both of those are within the ambit of the field. Nothing we know about either is due to the movement that chose to ruin the perfectly good label of “intelligent design”.

    You’ve made very sure that you win your arguments by fastening your definitions rigidly and only considering what certain ID proponents have to say, to the exclusion of all others.

    Excuse me? I’m pretty sure I’ve cited more different people from the ID movement in my weblog alone than Shrom takes notice of in his whole book. Weird. Recall our chat about Paul Nelson? Oh, right, Shrom is probably trying to forget it.

    You’d have to leave out the names you know from the Discovery Institute and fall back on other work.

    Other work? Like illegitimately claiming that stuff that owes nothing to “intelligent design” must be labeled as “intelligent design” simply because it deals with intelligence, design, pattern recognition, probability, or somebody just wanted to label it that way because it would make “intelligent design” not entirely a sewer? Dumping a liter of distilled water into a sewage treatment plant doesn’t make it all clean now; the sewage still smells just as bad.

    There is no other work, other than stuff that you want to drag into the sewer, even though there is no reason to do so and every reason for people to fight your attempts to mislabel valuable research. Shrom said on the back cover of his book, “My hope is that this book will find its way into the minds of school board members, parents, teachers, university communities, religious advocates, scientists, the news media, philosophers, judges and other government officials. It is possible that no reader will be entirely comfortable with the cognitive dissonance it produces, but if you are open to the thinker’s challenge of a cutting-edge text on ID, you’ve picked up the right book!” Shrom doesn’t put any effort into demonstrating that it is in any way ethical to appropriate unrelated work to improve the status of “intelligent design”, yet he is insistent that “intelligent design” be advocated in just the same socio-political way as ID advocates have been doing for years: putting it in front of non-scientists long before any scientific validity is demonstrated and the scientific community is convinced that there is something to it. It’s just the same old culture war, just in a more disingenuous package.

    I think you finally have to admit that the misunderstanding was not due to any ignorance or misdirection on my part, but rather due to your ignoring the pro-evolution, pro-scientific and novel naturalistic approach I advocate in my book. I am planning a second edition where I can spell it out more plainly, so that readers like yourself will not fall into the error of seeing anti-evolution sneering in my book where there is none.

    In order to avoid “anti-evolution sneering”, Glenn Shrom would have to become acquainted with the content of antievolution through history. Based on his track record so far, Version 2 looks like it either is going to fail spectacularly in just the same way, or will only be released a long, long time in the future. Shrom has a lot of catching up to do.

Comments are closed.