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The trouble with teaching evolution
Posted: 31 October 2005 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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The more I think about dubious debates whether evolution is a "theory" or a "fact" or whether magical design theory has to be taught in schools the more I am convinced that the problem is not with the growing scientific illiteracy and evangelical christianity (same thing in more ways than one), but with the way evolution is taught.
Let's consider first what opponents of teaching evolution want - eliminating it from curriculum, or teaching an alternate "theory" of magical design, or at very least affixing a sticker to it that would proclaime it merely a "theory" and not a "fact". Why do they want that? Well, for no other reason but to safeguard their own biblical STORY of creation from being supplanted by another competing, naturalistic STORY of creation. The story of evolution as described in high school textbook is nothing short of an apocrypha, with essentially nothing more than plausible conjectures about past and unobservable events being described with an air of absolute scientific truth: and so the holy Dinosaur beget an Archaeopteryx, etc.
Naturally, people get upset.  They want to hold on to their stories, and so they would seek to undermine the competition. Why do you think Discovery Institute, this abode of mediocrities, still exists and rolls in money? For no other reason than providing an alternate, scientifically sounding challenge to the offending creation story. Purely on the merit these clowns would get no more funding than snake charmers. It's the stubborn adherence to the outdated presentation of evolutionary theory what keeps them in business.
So my recipe to fix the school curriculum would be to do the following:
To admit that evolutionary theory is in fact a theory, the one that is consistent with the bulk of biologically relevant observations, but a theory nonetheless;
To stipulate that the story of evolution is a string of plausible conjectures, and not a factual story;
To stipulate that the theory of abiogenesis (that's what most creationists think about when they say "evolution") is not even a well developed theory (hurry up, Harvard!);
To introduce the theory of evolution not from fossils but from the basic emergent properties of biological replication with mistakes and examples of bacterial drug resistance, adaptation to xenobiotic nutrients, etc. Naturally, that would happen late in the high school years, when kids are going to stop talking to their parents anyway, so the parants wouldn't even know their offspring is being taught evolution. Moreover, most of the kids would have spent enough time in the failing educational system to not understand a single word about fidelity of replication, and would not know themselves that they are being taught evolution. The few ones alert and smart enough to understand would be smart not to let anybody on the secret wink
This is gonna take the edge off the offense the Nascar dads feel, and strip Discovery Institute of any relevance.

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Posted: 04 November 2005 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I haven’t looked at any high school textbooks for a very long time, so I really have no idea how evolution is presented in them. Can someone provide some actual titles of books used in their areas so I can take a look?

Assuming that midgardsormen has looked at some real textbooks and is providing correct information, then there certainly is room for improvement. The impression I have, generally, is that what is not being taught properly is any understanding of what science is, how it works, and what scientists actually do. Science is not a “belief system” and does not form the basis for any kind of “belief system.” Science is a collection of methods used to collect data about the natural world. Scientific theories, including the theory of evolution, suggest ideas to be tested by collecting data that will support a particular theory or require changes or adaptations within the theory to bring it closer to what the data indicates. No scientific theory, including the theory of evolution, somehow equates automatically with atheism. Or with any other kind of belief system, no matter what conclusions some might reach from them.

Now it just happens that there are plenty of scientific facts that contradict the understanding of the natural world that existed when the Bible and other religious books were written. No matter how you choose to deal with this, these facts are facts, not matters of opinion. Estimates of geological age and carbon dating do indicate that the world was not created in six days a few thousand years ago. The fact that we share some genes even with plants does indicate that some kind of evolutionary process took place and life as we experience it originated on this particular planet from some common source.

However much they may have screamed about scientific discoveries in the past, the vast majority of Christians, Jews, and other religions have no problem accepting these facts as facts once the evidence becomes overwhelming because they neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. A better understanding of the natural world can require adapting their beliefs, but ultimately they don’t seem to have much of a problem. Mistaken scientific theories, such as the idea of spontaneous generation, are dropped once they are disproved, and so are mistaken religious beliefs. The vast majority of religions, including even the ultra-conservative Roman Catholics, don’t have any problem with teaching science, including evolution, in their schools.

It’s only those who insist that every word of their sacred texts were dictated by God, and that we now have the correct versions of those texts, unchanged over time, which in itself is an unrealistic expectation, who equate evolution with atheism and insist on teaching alternative theories in the schools. There’s really no reason to take this seriously and actually debate the validity of ID. What seems to be needed in the public schools is better teaching about the difference between developing scientific theories and testing them and developing and sustaining belief systems.

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Posted: 04 November 2005 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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MJ, pray do tell me what genes do you share with plants? Man, you gotta be the first case of horisontal gene transfer between plants and humans…
Anyway, what you say illustrates the very point I was trying to make, namely how poorly evolution is taught to the general public, in this case you. For example, existance of homologous genes, that can be connected through parsimony to a common ancestor, and even complement each other genetically (like rpb1 from mouse substituting for yeast ortholog ) - I guess that what you incorrectly refer to as “sharing genes” - does not imply evolutionary releationship. All it implies is a commonality. Many people believe that such commonality is inconsistent with the concept of special creation, but only if one assumes that each instance of creation was an idiosyncratic act. Unfortunately, there is no grounds for such assumption, not in the Bible, not in logic. And that’s what a more advanced variety of creationists would not hesitate to point out - commonality (homology) can come not only by the way of descending from a common ancestor, but also by being created according to common principle. So they can claim that some genes are homologous across the phyla simply because one can not create them in any other way. Or, to put it another way so as not to offend the omnipotent Creator, they are similar/homologous, because this is the most perfect way to create such genes. The same kind of a flawed argument is often used for fitness/adaptation as an evidence for evolution. In fact, it is impossible to distinguish whether an animal adapted to its environment got that way through evolution/survival of the fittest or through teleological design of a benevolent Creator. If there is any a priori distinction between evolution and design it concerns things that are dissimilar, like non-orthologous replacements, or non-utilitarian/useless, like pseudogenes.

Naturally, your ideas about science are similarly off the mark. Science is not atheistic in a sense that it does not call for denouncing the God, but it is certainly non-theistic, in a sense that we do not consider God as a factor in either the subject or the process of study. Most of the heaven-bound don’t see much difference between denying God and ignoring Him. wink Science is by design naturalistic, as it based on assumption that all events should have physical causes, which goes expressly against Christian tenets with their omnipresent, omnipotent deity whose will is manifested in every however minute fluctuation. And of course science is belief system - we take for granted, i.e. without proof, its naturalistic tenets. That’s what makes science such an uncomfortable subject for the religious people, and forces them (as far as education is concerned) into religious schools or home schooling.
Indeed we can take care not to be overtly offensive to religious people as in not calling them names and such, but insisting that somehow science is compatible with religion is a lie, well-intentioned but a lie nonetheless. The most one can do being a religious person is halfheartedly memorize scientific trivia and spit it back at the teacher. Actual practice of science appears to be a work for atheists, at least on the highest, most productive levels - as the predominantly atheistic/agnostic make up of the National Academy of Sciences indicates.

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Posted: 05 November 2005 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Sheesh! What raving and what insults! I seem to have hit a nerve!

My first question to midgardsormen should be to ask exactly what Christian denomination do you think you speak for? (My first question would really be, How old are you, and who brainwashed you?) I can only repeat what I said before. The vast majority of Christian denominations have no problem with evolution, much less with the rest of science. Sorry if you don’t like that answer, but it’s true and not hard to verify.

Typically for those of your particular intellectual (or lack thereof) persuasion, you do your best to be insulting rather than examine the issues. Sorry, but in this case it doesn’t work. I first studied genetics in a Jesuit college and couldn’t have had better training. ‘Jesuit’ means a Roman Catholic order of priests, in case you’ve never heard of them. As for sharing some genes with plants, I did some research on genetic “markers” way back and was bemused by the fact that the most simple form of one cluster of proteins thought to be a ‘marker’ is also present in legumes like peas and beans. That requires lots of genes performing a particular function inherited by lots of different species. That sure does imply an evolutionary relationship. I doubt very much that God put them there to trick us.<g> There are plenty more examples, but it would be a waste of time to point them out to you.

One thing that always amazes me is that folks like you always claim to have a direct pipeline into the mind of God. It’s as though you’ve never heard of Christian humility and you assume your private theological ideas somehow exactly equate with exactly what God was thinking when He created our simple little planet. I hate to break it to you, but there’s really no reason why God couldn’t have used evolution as the most direct and efficient means to create life on Earth, is there? It just makes such, uh, divine good sense.<g>

I gather from the rest of your blather that you don’t just hate evolution but hate the rest of science as well because you consider it “atheistic” at best. Too bad for you! I doubt that the many generations of priests, ministers, and devout Christians of various denominations who spent their lives unraveling scientific mysteries would care very much what you think. I think they’d conclude that you’re—not exactly thinking at all. I can only repeat what I said before, that science is merely one of many human activities with no particular theological implications, and definitely not some kind of “belief system.” That’s a matter of fact, not of opinion, and your opinion is mistaken.

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Posted: 05 November 2005 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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midgardsormen:

Indeed we can take care not to be overtly offensive to religious people as in not calling them names and such, but insisting that somehow science is compatible with religion is a lie, well-intentioned but a lie nonetheless. The most one can do being a religious person is halfheartedly memorize scientific trivia and spit it back at the teacher. Actual practice of science appears to be a work for atheists, at least on the highest, most productive levels - as the predominantly atheistic/agnostic make up of the National Academy of Sciences indicates.

Midgardsormen, the above paragraph is fascinating to me. You imply that thinking rationally and attempting objectivity over ancient highly subjective wisdom is difficult or impossible for a religious person. Well, that’s pretty much what I and many other anthropomorphic-god atheists have been preaching since last winter. Thanks for solidifying the point so eloquently.

But I’ll back off just a bit to introduce a concept that’s been on my mind ever since the weekly PBS series about Origins recently started airing. It seems apparent to me that current use of the word “theory” has problems. Different scientists seem to have differing definitions of this word. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, the origins of Earth’s moon was discussed, and one proposal-hypothesis that is now considered by many astronomers to be true was called a “theory” on the show by the man who came up with the idea. I realize he was only speaking casually, but we need to be ultra aware of our use of the word “theory,” since it seems to have taken on so many levels of certainty. Evolutionary theory is on much more solid ground than the currently-popular moon formation hypothesis, for instance. (See Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God.) I suspect that we already have enough words to solve this problem, but not everyone is properly using them.

Midgardsormen, do you think more careful use of language would help religious people feel more comfortable with science? Can’t the two co-exist honestly without the need for religions constantly needing to catch up with the actual world? Don’t forget that your kind of people once tortured and killed innocent believers in a certain—now so obvious that it’s not even referred to as “theory”—planetary system.

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Posted: 05 November 2005 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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MJ - you did hit a nerve indeed. You see, after many evolution vs. creation debates I learned there are two groups of people that are helping to usher creationism into American educational system. One of them is clueless opponents of evolutionary theory, and the second is the clueless defenders of it. Your 2 posts clearly put you in the second category. But if in the first one you merely regurgitated some greengrocer-level evolutionary mantra, the second post of yours is just a little darling of cluelessness and poor reading comprehension. So, according to you, I claim to have a direct “pipeline into the mind of God”, and “don’t just hate evolution but hate the rest of science as well”...
OK, man, you don’t get the terms like “horizontal gene transfer”, but you could have clicked on my profile, for crying out loud. I am in fact an atheist, a molecular biologist, who just before deciding to check if there were any replies at this forum, was dividing his attention between a belligerent cat and Thornton’s Protein Families and Their Evolution - A Structural Perspective. Got a discussion to write for our manuscript about rapid fold evolution among a particular family of proteins, cool stuff, fresh off the beam line. So you see, with genomics and all, proper understanding and application of evolutionary theory is not a whim of an armchair Jesuit evolutionist wannabe, but a necessity. Like when we have got a clatter of homologs in some fairly odius bacterial genome, with rather tenuous similarity to anything else studied in any detail, and have to sort out one paralog from another. Why? Intellectual curiosity. And the fact that one of them is a general transcription factor, while another is a virulence regulator. It is kinda important to know which is which.
Have to go back to the lab for a while, but I shall return later with more details why clueless evolutionists have a circle reserved for them in atheistic Hell, next to the one where creationists are.

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Posted: 05 November 2005 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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May I just throw out a personal request that we all realize we are all clueless in some respects and it is difficult to assimilate ideas from people who constantly point this out to us. Looking back on some of the less than pleasurable situations in grad school, and especially med school and residency, it is easy to see how that crap arose and rolled down hill, but it’s not a given that it has to go on indefinitely. Shouldn’t we view knowledge as a gift that is our responsiblity to pass on and take pleasure in doing so. We are all standing on the shoulders of others before us. Watching that little light go on in the mind of another when understanding comes is a pure human enjoyment; and I hate to see people waste the moment through impatience or misplaced arrogance when information is seen as a measure of personal worth.

It is a great and admirable personal habit to develop that when we feel someone is “clueless” we simply present the opportunity to understand, and realize that those who want to be, can be persuaded by the facts. You wouldn’t start off a publication with ” For the clueless out there…”

Now for those who might want to comment, could I say:

Science makes no claims for or against gods, except that it denies the existance of any god whose religion claims it interacts with nature in any way. Wouldn’t this make science atheistic, at least from our major religions’ standpoint.

Later, Rod

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Posted: 05 November 2005 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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homunculus - so whom did “my kind of people tortured and killed”, heh? Looks like we here are awash in perspicacity…
To tell you the truth, I like to torture people, and in most disturbing, devious forms. Like in good old times on talk.origins, when another bunch of creationists was dispatched of, bloodied by the few overqualified champions of evolution like yours truly, and the utter victory would appear at hand, I’d log on under some fictitious name and post an anti-evolutionist argument of my own making just to rattle everybody’s cages. And did they rattle indeed… The trick was to fashion such an argument from a bona fide scientific article, like one of many Orgel’s works on abiogenesis, where he would usually solve one of the problems with spontaneous origin of life, only to run into another. The task of debunking such an argument is torturous indeed, because it requires a good grasp of molecular biology and prebiotic chemistry. As MJ just demonstrated, it is not something every supporter of evolutionary theory has at his disposal.

As for your question whether more careful use of words can make religious people more comfortable with science, I sure hope so. But as I tried to outline in the original post, not merely by adjusting the word usage, but also by changing the presentation of evolutionary theory we should be able to reduce the irritability factor to the level they can tolerate. Well, tolerance is not what evangelicals are really known for, so let’s shoot for their short-term memory threshold.
By doing that I see achieving three goals - getting them off our collective backs, so we can do our job without interference; depoliticizing the issue so they can’t use it to rally the ignorant; and taking away support from Discovery Institute and such, whose only role (extremely well paid considering the productivity) is to coat creationism in long words.

How we can take the edge of irritation caused by teaching evolutionary theory in schools?
For once, by teaching it as a science, and not a worldview point. Believe me, there is a difference. A believes in creation, B says that scientifically everything happened not like in the Bible, but through evolution. So A is made to learn and recite the story of evolution as a part of a school curriculum. Naturally, a God-fearing A feels that reciting evolutionary story as a fact is a test of faith.
My approach would be to tell kids that SCIENTISTS believe that the life on Earth got to be what it is now through the process of evolution. How do we know what scientists believe? - Well, by looking at scientific publications, of course. One visit to Pubmed and we get the idea that this is true. I tried that on a limited scale and got very good response even from a local pastor’s son. After all, they are talking about somebody else belief in evolution and their relationship with God is safe.
Next question might well be “Why scientists like evolution so much? - Well, I am glad that you’ve asked! Incidentally, not because all of them are gay, but because it makes a useful framework for thinking about different biological phenomena, like antibiotic resistance, etc.” Now we are getting on the scientific track, aren’t we? So my point would be not to convert students into evolutionism, but to persuade them for starters that evolutionary theory is a useful scientific tool, rather than a conspiracy of a liberal-pinko-sodomites from Harvard and UC-SF. A great start, if you ask me.

Next, if we continue teaching it as a science - i.e. a sum of published work, and not just some final product, semi-digested and packaged for kids consumption like a Gerber food, we will not have a problem with Intelligent Design theory. Why? Because it gets equal footing with Theory of Evolution only as alternate theories of life’s origins. If we look at the publication record in biomedical sciences we’ll see that ID has made no impact on science, not historically, not presently on the hottest topics like genomics, proteomics, etc.-omics. So for the purpose of school education let’s quantitate the papers published using evolutionary postulates/analysis and those that deal with ID, and allocate the time accordingly. By this standard ID’s impact on biosciences would earn it about “eh?”

So that’s my general idea, I am still working on the particulars.

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Posted: 05 November 2005 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Rod - I agree that we all are clueless about something. However, I am not in the habit of lecturing people about the subject I have no clue about. It was said that it takes a lot of learning to perceive the depth of one’s cluelessness, and a lot of learning I had. Now I can recognize cluelessness in myself, but that’s not all. Oh, no, I CAN SEE CLUELESS PEOPLE! Damn, man, they are everywhere!..
So if I point the cluelessness of some pompous ass, believe me I do it as a public service - how else are they going to learn, they who got the best training possible from some Jesuit college…

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Posted: 05 November 2005 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I’m fairly clueless regarding many of the things your’re
talking about, but I like your style!!! LOL

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Posted: 05 November 2005 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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I make it a practice to try not to argue with someone who writes more fluently than me to avoid coming off sounding mentally retarded so I won’t make that mistake, midgardsormen. Also, I apologize for misreading you earlier. MJ, by the way, seems to have words that don’t jibe with current technical jargon. I’ve never met or spoken with her, but I feel that she’s a friend of sorts because I’ve admired her occasional philosophically-oriented comments over the past 8 or 9 months. Therefore I’m compelled to ask you to tone down the abuse before she takes serious offense.

As for flawed textbooks, why not take some time off your research and give it a go yourself? Kenneth Miller says he makes lots more money writing textbooks than teaching-researching at Brown.

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Posted: 06 November 2005 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Thanks, homunculus. I learned years ago to stay as far away from contemporary, technical, scientific, or whatever kind of jargon as I possibly can, especially in public discourse. It doesn’t necessarily follow that I don’t know them big words.<g>

As for our abusive friend, I had indeed looked up his profile and seen that he’s a microbiologist. My reaction was, he’s got to be kidding! I think I see what’s happening here. He claims to be both a scientist and an atheist. What’s confusing us is that he writes fluidly but not exactly articulately. There are indeed fanatical, fundamentalist atheists, and he parallels so closely exactly what the fanatical fundamental religionists have to say that it’s impossible to spot any difference.<g>

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but “science” is not a belief system. There are many who attempt to build belief systems based on what they think about science, but that’s a problem for philosophy, not for science.

Doing science is how we carefully, and with interesting restrictions, collect data about the world and interpret it. “Naturalism” is a philosophical system which some people, not necessarily scientists themselves, find very attractive. However, “science” itself is neither inherently part of that philosophical system nor subject to it. There are other philosophical systems which have also tried to kidnap “science” and make it their very own. Doing “science” does not require adherence to any particular belief system, and manages to continue on its merry way regardless of what anyone “believes”, at least when applied by relatively sane and competent scientists. It couldn’t matter less who tries to apply what kind of belief system to it, at least over the long haul.

There is nothing about science that requires that one adhere to any kind of belief system, and it would be a tragic mistake to try to impose any kind of dogma on science. Science can’t survive where scientists are required to wear the blinders of dogma—any kind of dogma. There are some wonderful illustrations of this in the history of science; for example in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union, both of which attempted to impose their dogma on their scientists with disastrous results. Christians tended to mostly burn their scientists at the stake.<g>

Rod states that: “Science makes no claims for or against gods, except that it denies the existance of any god whose religion claims it interacts with nature in any way. Wouldn’t this make science atheistic, at least from our major religions’ standpoint.”

The answer to this is no; science doesn’t even put that much of a restriction on itself. The vast majority of religious people, including Islam during the middle ages when it had its own scientific renaissance, have managed to do very well at science. Since science says absolutely nothing about whether some form of god does or doesn’t exist, there is no requirement that one be an atheist, just as there’s no requirement that one believe in any particular version of god. There seems to be a rampant misunderstanding of what science really is.

As for midgardsormen’s claim that the members of the National Academy of Science are atheists, he’s done a poll, or what? Prove it.

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Posted: 06 November 2005 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Midgardsormen….your point well taken, I guess, when dealing with a pompous ass….I just had not detected any ass-idity in any of the previous posts. I think MJ did misinterpret your downgrading of certain aspects of evolutionary theory from proofs to implications, and fact to theory, as an attack on the idea. Personally, I agree with your stance that the approach and teaching of evolution could be a little more intellectually honest without sacrificing any power to explain. You also said:

My approach would be to tell kids that SCIENTISTS believe that the life on Earth got to be what it is now through the process of evolution.

Might their response then be ” Well then, I don’t want to be a scientist”. Why not tell them just that “Science implies that life on earth….” and then go on to show the usefulness of that approach.

If there is any a priori distinction between evolution and design it concerns things that are dissimilar, like non-orthologous replacements, or non-utilitarian/useless, like pseudogenes.

I tend to agree.

Science is not atheistic in a sense that it does not call for denouncing the God, but it is certainly non-theistic, in a sense that we do not consider God as a factor in either the subject or the process of study. Most of the heaven-bound don’t see much difference between denying God and ignoring Him.  Science is by design naturalistic, as it based on assumption that all events should have physical causes, which goes expressly against Christian tenets with their omnipresent, omnipotent deity whose will is manifested in every however minute fluctuation. And of course science is belief system - we take for granted, i.e. without proof, its naturalistic tenets.

I guess I’m still confused because it seems to me that if science denies the constant intervention of God, which religion supposes, if he exists…. isn’t it atheistic? And I’m not saying that one actually has to be an atheist to practice it.  And MJ, I think we’re all on the same page; we just seem to have different ways of describing the situation.

MJ, there was a recent poll, and over 90% of the National Academy claimed to be atheist.

Later, Rod

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Posted: 06 November 2005 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Dear H., let me see if I got you right - you want me to tone down my “abuse” of MJ because she is a “sort of friend” of yours? Why, I would certainly grant this request if you at the least took upon yourself to pretend to be civil and asked your friend first not level insults at my intelligence, religious and scientific affiliations? Insults, I must add, that were not provoked by anything I wrote. It is really not my problem nor fault if she doesn’t recognize modern evolutionary discourse as such, and thinks that any deviation from her views on the subject is necessarily the creationist point of view.

As for your question about me taking time off research to write textbooks there are several answers to that. I don’t do research for the money - don’t get me wrong, I still like to get paid at the end of the month, but if money was a motivation I’d be working half as much for three times the paycheck at Elly Lilly. Second answer is in my ivory tower I didn’t know we had it so bad until very recently. Third answer is I am still working on what I am going to say and how, and for that I look at what other people do re introducing evolutionary theory for mass consumption, what works and what doesn’t.

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Posted: 06 November 2005 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Please don’t misquote me, midgardsormen.  And I hope you can ignore current incompetent textbook authors.

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Posted: 06 November 2005 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[As for midgardsormen’s claim that the members of the National Academy of Science are atheists, he’s done a poll, or what? Prove it.

No, precious, I haven’t done a poll, or what. You see, as a scientist I naturally tend to incorporate other people’s data and insight into design of my own work and overall thinking, to avoid redundancy in the former and to enrich the latter. You should give a try reading something on the subject you decide to disgrace with your discourse, right now you come off not only as ignorant but lazy too.
OK, you don’t read Nature (nice journal BTW, top-notch, lots of long words though) and generally don’t follow debates on the subject of religion vs science, unless they involve you. But how long would it take you to google the subject instead of challenging me to prove it? Well, there you go
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6691/full/394313a0_fs.html
Larson and Witham did the polling, and according to their data in 1998 7% of NAS members expressed personal belief in God, whereas 72.2% - personal disbelief, and 20.8 - doubt or agnosticism (in some derivative reports of this poll people seemed to have to count atheists and agnostics together to arrive at 93% of atheists, which is strictly speaking incorrect).

As for you disputing the fact that the science is a belief system, I can only suggest that you read something on the subject of its underlying rationalism and naturalism. Science in its unadulterated form is a rational and naturalistic intellectual enterprise, and explicitly so. I am not talking about simply coming up with descriptions of birds and bees or carrying out little vivisections that constitute but elementary descriptive or exploratory acts. Yes, medieval Muslims did well at these. But it isn’t science just yet. Rationalistic/naturalistic part of science comes at the analytical and synthetic stage, and that’s where it clashes with irrationality of religious beliefs. It is up to theists to deal with such a schizophrenic situations like that. Me, I never got that kinda training - to rationalize the irrational. Working the whole day in the lab, where not a single time God is being praised for the success of the in vivo cross-linking experiments, and then going home and telling kids that they should thank God for something as trivial as roast beef with potatoes…

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