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Tim Blair – pointy-headed liberal ?

June 15th, 2005

Tim Blair takes umbrage at a claim by Michael Gawenda that most Americans are creationists and also at my suggestion (put forward as a “fun factoid”), that “The great majority of climate change sceptics, globally speaking, are also creationistsâ€?.

I’ll leave it to Tim Lambert to deal with Blair’s numbers. Meanwhile, what interests me is why Blair apparently regards “creationist” as an insult, a point raised rather plaintively by one of his commenters. As this Gallup poll report shows, the only groups in the US to show majority agreement with the proposition “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Is a Scientific Theory Well Supported by the Evidence” are
* Those with postgraduate education (65 per cent)
* Liberals (56 per cent)
* College Graduates (52 per cent)

By contrast, only 29 per cent of Republicans and 26 per cent of conservatives believe evolution is well supported by the evidence. Surely Blair is not suggesting that there is an important issue on which pointy-headed academic types, and, worse still, liberals are correct, while right-thinking conservative Americans are wrong.

Of course, the liberals are right about evolution. But they’re also right about global warming. The evidence for and against the global warming hypothesis is much the same as the evidence for and against evolution (not quite as overwhelming, but more than enough for anyone who takes scientific evidence seriously). In favour of both hypotheses are the conclusions of the vast majority of scientific studies of the subject and the professional opinion of virtually all independent experts; against are the claims of a handful of qualified scientists (mostly with an obvious conflict of interest), and the fervent wish of large numbers of people to believe the opposite of what science says on the topic.

And far more damage is being done by interest groups denying the reality of climate change than by religious groups denying evolution. It’s the creationists and not the global warming contrarians who ought to be worried here.

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  1. S Brid
    June 15th, 2005 at 20:43 | #1

    John

    Where exactly is the hard science proof that Darwinism is a fact? It is nothing more than a theory, which you happen to believe in. It’s called faith. The theory that creationism is correct also is a theory called faith. There have been many hard science people who dispute the theory of Darwinism. Unlike our business John, hard science requires evidentiary proof before a theory becomes established fact.
    I am quite agnostic, but I don’t have the arrogance to base a faith, a belief in something to be irrefutable. I guess that makes me a … troll, or a sock puppet for suggesting the bet earlier.

    What is surprising is that you would move so quickly from theory to belief. Like global warming you have a belief that it is occurring. This is more than some of the most eminent experts in the field of climate would say. Some say they see evidence of global warming but do not know for sure.

    Some evolutionists would say they have a theory on Darwinism but don’t have the proof. Some eminent hard science researchers have said that they cannot believe genetic mutation can happen with happy consequences so they can’t go with Darwinism and therefore don’t have a clue what the hell is going on. The reason some of these guys say this is that all forms of genetic mutations found in humans are illnesses: sickle cell being a small example.

    If you believe in Darwinism, you must therefore believe that the human race is sub-specied carrying all the consequences that theory entails. Just recently the president of Harvard had to go on hands and knees before his board of trustees because he dared suggest women are different to men in mental make-up. Other extreme views of Darwinism suggest that humanity is a collection of sub-groups with IQ differences etc. I don’t really think you want to be going there, John. Too risky!

  2. doug
    June 15th, 2005 at 21:20 | #2

    Hmm, linguistic determinism. Because you can describe two different phonemena (belief in religion or belief in evolution) with the same word (‘faith’) you make the mistake of thinking they’re the same. I have ‘faith’ in my doctor…does that mean he may not exist? All the evidence I have points to his being real, just as the evidence points strongly to evolution by natural selection being correct. And I’ve seen no evidence to support any religion yet.

    Darwinism doesn’t require us to believe the human race is sub-speciated. Altho not a biologist I know that sub-speciation requires reproductive separation so that separate genetic ‘drifts’ occur in the respective populations. Humans haven’t been around long enough or had any groups sufficiently isolated long enough for this to happen. Have a look at Cavalli-Sforza’s work.

  3. markus
    June 15th, 2005 at 21:31 | #3

    oh, wow, the confusion of Darwin’s theory with evolution, the “just a theory” defense, and the “mutations are bad” claim all in one post. Amazing.
    What sweetens the deal is some new kind of guilt by association whereby a theory in one field _forces_ one to also believe wierd notions in other fields that borrowed terms from theother field. Plus a strawmany mischaracterisation of the Summer’s incident. The last ones were new to me, thanks for that.
    I suggest taking a visit to Panda’s Thumb or, for a quick rundown, this Letter to a young creationist to get some of the basic misconceptions out of the way.

  4. Jim
    June 15th, 2005 at 21:46 | #4

    John,

    Tim Blair obviously regarded the term “creationist” when used in association with human-induced global warming sceptic, as an insult/slur beacuse it is surely exactly how you intended it to be interpreted.

    I read your original post John and it seemed very clear that you were linking those who read someone like Kinimonth and acknowledge the sound reason of his argument with those who take literally the book of Genesis (something even the Catholic Church doesn’t do).

    For someone who proclaims to abhor ad hominem, your bent seems to becoming increasingly so on this subject.

    You also seem to suggest that those who believe in the existence of God as the original being ( in whatever form ) are as a consequence scientifically illiterate.

    Poor old Einstein!

    Still , he was probably a stooge of some sort eh?

  5. S Brid
    June 15th, 2005 at 21:52 | #5

    Have a look at Cavalli-Sforza’s work.

    I did, and he is a very brave or stupid man for touching a subject that went very close to the reason Lawrence Summer’s fired. Aren’t the color charts depicting the relationship of human groups interesting. Australian aboriginals are the least related group in the world according to Sforza’s work.

    Having faith in you doctor by seeing him is not even close to this discussion. You go to the doctor because he has training to listen to a certain set of ailments, offer a prognosis and if possible medication which has been hard tested in labs. We have reasonable proof tied to probabilities that the medication won’t (Probably) kill you and also because of the doctor’s training a great chance he will offer correct or somewhat correct care. This is identical to my argument as evolution is only a theory at this stage. There are just as many evolutionary biologists who refute Darwin. I suggest you read a book- I can’t recall the exact name, but it went something like…….. ” Tornado in the Junkyard. The book quotes a Nobel prize winning biololgist who says evolution has the same odds as a tornado hitting a junkyard, twisting all the junk and turing it into a 747 jumbo. In other words a possibility, but near improbability.
    I am not arguing this from a religious point as I have no truck in this. However Darwinism is a theory, a good one which hasn’t been proved. To say Darwinism is proved is insincere or just silly.

    Altho not a biologist I know that sub-speciation requires reproductive separation so that separate genetic ‘drifts’ occur in the respective populations. Humans haven’t been around long enough or had any groups sufficiently isolated long enough for this to happen.

    Actually this is not true. European Jews had racial separation and there is now an argument suggesting the reason this group has an average IQ of 120 is because evolution may have forced this to happen and compensating deficits occured elsewhere such as sickle cell disease.
    Sforza’s work also flies in the face of your comment as he argues human species are in fact a series of sub-groups mutating in order to survive in various environmental harzards.

    Again these are all unproved theories.

  6. S Brid
    June 15th, 2005 at 21:55 | #6

    Have a look at Cavalli-Sforza’s work.

    I did, and he is a very brave or stupid man for touching a subject that went very close to the reason Lawrence Summer’s was almost fired. Aren’t the color charts depicting the relationship of human groups interesting. Australian aboriginals are the least related group in the world according to Sforza’s work.

    . You go to the doctor because he has training to listen to a certain set of ailments, offer a prognosis and if possible medication which has been hard tested in labs. We have reasonable proof tied to probabilities that the medication won’t (Probably) kill you and also because the doctor’s training a great chance he will offer correct or somewhat correct care. This is identical to my argument as evolution is only a theory at this stage. There are just as many evolutionary biologists who refute Darwin. I suggest you read a book- I can’t recall the exact name, but it went something like…….. ” Tornado in the Junkyard. The book quotes a Nobel prize winning biololgist who says evolution has the same odds as a tornado hitting a junkyard, twisting all the junk and turing it into a 747 jet. In other words a possibility, but near improbability.
    I am not arguing this from a religious point as I have no truck in this. However Darwinism is a theory, a good one which hasn’t been proved. To say Darwinism is proved is insincere or just silly.

    Altho not a biologist I know that sub-speciation requires reproductive separation so that separate genetic ‘drifts’ occur in the respective populations. Humans haven’t been around long enough or had any groups sufficiently isolated long enough for this to happen.

    Actually this is not true. European Jews had racial separation and there is now an argument suggesting the reason this group has an average IQ of 120 is because evolution may have forced this to happen and compensating deficits occured elsewhere such as sickle cell disease.
    Sforza’s work also flies in the face of your comment as he argues human species are in fact a series of sub-groups mutating in order to survive in various environmental harzards.

    Again these are all unproved theories.

  7. jquiggin
    June 15th, 2005 at 22:12 | #7

    Jim, your example refutes your argument. Einstein is a fine example of a scientist who was a theist but (like nearly all serious scientists for the last 100 years) not a creationist.

  8. June 15th, 2005 at 22:31 | #8

    Actually John it’s not even clear that he was a theist, anymore than Stephen Hawking is for referring to the ‘mind of God’. Not that any of this proves anything about the existence of God but it’s worth getting straight as this ‘Einstein was religious’ meme keeps cropping up again and again and deserves to be nailed in the head once and for all.
    See http://www.skeptic.com/archives50.html

    Combining key elements from the first and second response from Einstein there is little doubt as to his position: “From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist…. I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our being.”

  9. June 15th, 2005 at 22:37 | #9

    Oh god here we go. A quick evolution FAQ for the great unwashed:

    Q) Evolution is just a theory, I have seen no evidence.
    A) Go to a library and find it. Try anything by Richard Dawkins for starters.

    Q) Surely mutation is just a degradation.
    A) No, it’s a random change.

    Q) I find it hard to believe evolution exists. Explain how the human eye came into being?
    A) Is your god that puny that he couldn’t have devised evolution? Not omnipotent after all then. By the way, the human eye is not perfect.

    Most objections to evolution come from the armchair “I find it difficult to believe”, hardly a starting point for any informed discussion.

    And now I’m going to run away, as these creationist dudes are the biggest bunch of cyclical crackpots you’ll ever come across. Ask Rob Corr.

  10. June 15th, 2005 at 22:54 | #10

    The best part about believing evolution is that we don’t have to worry about global warming because we’ll just evolve to changing conditions. ;)

  11. June 15th, 2005 at 23:29 | #11

    here we go…
    don’t wish to add to what flutey has already said except to summarise it thus – Stephen Brid, do some reading outside your speciality (whatever that is)

    would just note that S Brid is employing the classic ‘theory A may have nasty political implications’ tactic to argue against evolution that Mark Bahnisch used to argue against assigning a non-trivial contribution to genetics in the determinatio of various psychological traits. this is what naturally flows from the ‘all science is politics’ meme

  12. June 16th, 2005 at 00:27 | #12

    ‘all science is politics’

    Which is something I never claimed, Jason. Nor did I argue that the contribution of genetics to various traits was trivial, just not the primary causal factor.

    I apologise for talking about this here, but I’ve been very frustrated by Jason’s constant distortion of my positions so I feel I have to respond. You can follow the archive of various posts from here, should you wish.

  13. S Brid
    June 16th, 2005 at 01:19 | #13

    Let’s not mince words:
    The real argument in this is religion vs sectarianism. John and Gawenda think that anybody who believes in God (primarily the Christian variety) thinks they ought to be banished to the bleaches in the stadium of contempt.
    There is a place for religious/moral teaching in schools. It ain’t gunna kill anyone. I thought it was crap but it did me no harm. It might even do some good. That’s what the real fight is about, not whether some of us evolved from mice and others from skunks.

    This all came about because Downer made a speech in which he explained to the reasons behind US/Australian relations.

    Borrowing from Blair: This is what Gawenda said,

    “The Australia of vast empty spaces still to be settled and conquered, fabulous beaches, perennial sunshine, gorgeous women, incredibly friendly, uncomplicated people and unlimited opportunity, doesn’t exist”.

    Where was this dude living when he was the editor of the Age.
    I know Melbourne is a cold, usually cloudy place, so we could leave the sunshine bit out. If you don’t agree with any of this, how could anyone take this miserable little mouse seriously. He ever ride a plane across the continent? He lived in Australia and never saw a great beach? Australians not friendly?? Out side of Melbourne no sunshine? He’s never walked around town on a warm day and there are no pretty gals with little clothing on? Is he mad? No wonder tiny took over!

    John, if you want this guy on your side, Please take him, he’s all yours.

  14. S Brid
    June 16th, 2005 at 01:22 | #14

    Jason:
    you lost me after the “Here we go part”. can you please explain it all for a real dumbo like me.

  15. Andrew
    June 16th, 2005 at 05:20 | #15

    Evolution is a fact, not a theory. The most obvious example is the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

    The only serious theory that lets us understand evolution is the work started by Darwin and since greatly expanded on by (literally) millions of scientists. And by theory I mean coherent framework of ideas diligently tested and argued about, not any old half-arsed idea pulled from a hat.

    And let’s be clear here. Creationists may have a personal belief in creation all they like, but anytime they wish to have their idiot idea taught by schools, or used as a basis for political decision making, they deserve to be slapped down hard.

    S>Brid — an argument from personal incredulity is no argument at all. And don’t change the subject.

  16. jquiggin
    June 16th, 2005 at 05:44 | #16

    S Brid

    Your comments have been derailing discussion and have forced me to shut down several threads. Since you’ve made some useful contributions, I’m not going to ban you, but I’ve put you on moderation, and I’m limiting you to one comment per day for the moment. Use it wisely.

  17. Jim
    June 16th, 2005 at 07:04 | #17

    John,

    I didn’t link Einstein to evolution-denial but to a belief in God.

    Lambert’s post to which you refer however, seems to link a belief in God to literal acceptance of Genesis.

    My example intended to demonstrate that ;

    1. science and religion can co-exist

    2. belief in God doesn’t have to equate to evolution denial OR human-induced global warming scepticism.

    Jim

  18. Katz
    June 16th, 2005 at 08:34 | #18

    If all creatures were created in one moment of divine gumption, how come there aren’t any Republican and Fundamentalist fossils scattered among the dinosaur fossils?

    Oh, Oh, I think I now see the flaw in that argument.

    Re S Brid’s moderation:

    Looks like it’s survival of the fittest on this blog, Sunshine.

  19. Steve Edney
    June 16th, 2005 at 08:34 | #19

    The “tornado in a junkyard” quote is by Fred Hoyle. Fred Hoyle was a mathematician and Astronomer and science fiction writer who never won the nobel prize, but was very well regarded scientist none-the-less. Despite his mainstream work he maintained some non-standard views.

    He also coined the term “big-bang” as a term of derision for the theory as he continued to believe in steady state universe. This also drove his evolutionary beliefs it appears as he believed in evolution to some degree, but rather as being started not spontaneously, but by some sort of seeding from space.

  20. June 16th, 2005 at 08:35 | #20

    “Lambert’s post to which you refer however, seems to link a belief in God to literal acceptance of Genesis”
    I’m not sure where you get that idea, Jim. Here is the relevant bit from Tim’s post:
    “The round-up of polling reports that about 45% of Americans that God created humans pretty much in their present form at some time in the last 10,000 years. But this is just the number who believe in Young-Earth Creationism, which is only one flavour of Creationism. A CBS News Poll conducted in November 2004 found that 55% of Americans believed that God created humans in their present form, 27% believed that humans evolved with God guiding the process and just 13% believed that humans evolved without divine guidance”
    Since all good Tim had to establish to refute bad Tim was that the majority of Americans believed in creationism, the 55% would be sufficient. The 27% figure would not be creationists under Tim’s definition nor would they be literal believers in the Bible. show me where good Tim said that ‘believed that humans evolved with God guiding the process’ equals creationism.

  21. Steve Edney
    June 16th, 2005 at 08:41 | #21

    John its also quite likely, at least given the numbers of creationists in the US that the majority of people there who accept global warming are also creationists of some stripe.

  22. Simon F
    June 16th, 2005 at 09:26 | #22

    John

    You omitted to say that only 38 % of Democrats believe Darwin’s theory is supported by the evidence. Selectivity isn’t making you any more credible on this.

    What exactly is your point ?

    I imagine that polling will show that more “liberals” or “democrats” believe in a large variety of nonsensical new age theories than “republicans” or “conservatives” do. So what ?

  23. Paul Norton
    June 16th, 2005 at 09:43 | #23

    Once again the evolution debate is occluded by confusion about the meanings of the terms “fact” and “theory”, and the relationship between them. Let me state it simply: a “theory” is not a less certain truth-claim than a “fact”. A theory is a hypothesis (or logical system of hypotheses) providing an explanatory framework within which to understand and relate the facts. The following link should help to cast light on the matter:

    http://www.evonet.sdsc.edu/evoscisociety/evolu_fact_theo.htm

    Also, let me play bush-theologian here and show how evolutionary theory and religious belief can be reconciled (I’m actually an agnostic, but let’s imagine I’m on Joe Ratzinger’s staff). As St. Augustine explained, God exists in, and can perceive and act in, the dimension of time in the same way that we lesser mortals exist in the three spatial dimensions. Therefore God can create in four dimensions, not just the three spatial ones. In other words, as well as creating an earth (and a Universe) in which different combinations of organisms exist in different bioregions, oceans, continents, etc.), God can and almost certainly has created an earth and universe in which different combinations of organisms exist in different periods of geological and cosmological time.

    To frame the issue another way. The types and number of life forms we observe on earth at the present time is surely only a small subset of the possible types and numbers of life forms that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God could create. However the finitude of the earth and the principles of ecology mean that not all possible species could coexist at the same time. The solution to this difficulty is to have a four-dimensional creation in which different possible combinations and kinds of species exist in different eras and epochs, succeeding each other in accordance with evolutionary principles.

    Of course the kind of God who is capable of such a four-dimensional creation is not likely to be the kind of God who sends people blind for masturbating, or casts people into Hell for doubting Her/His existence.

    Do I have a future in the priesthood?

  24. calmo
    June 16th, 2005 at 10:22 | #24

    The most astounding thing though is overlooked: Even after 7yrs of university education more than 1 in 3 still have trouble agreeing with this:

    “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Is a Scientific Theory Well Supported by the Evidence.”

    Is it because we are too lax with the polls, allowing anything to count as a “university”?
    Is it because we are too stringent taking “Darwin’s Theory” too literally and so offending those Post-Darwinians who want to distinguish themselves from that man?
    Is it because those Post Graduates are too tolerant? The Post-Graduates may have agreed it was well-supported, but they themselves could not muster the resolve to actually come out and flatly support it. That could be construed as the mark of an intolerant person and in their eyes, a blow to their self-perception as educated scholars.
    Is it because there are smart and dumb Post Graduates and all those years of graduate school don’t matter a wit? [Some are now tempted to look at the marginal differences between the College Graduates et al to put a number on this too, but I jest. There is no need. Really. You dummies get back here.]

  25. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2005 at 10:39 | #25

    >

    True, there’s also a place for foreing languagew studies.

    In neither case is that place in the science curriculum.

  26. Hal9000
    June 16th, 2005 at 10:41 | #26

    The interesting debates are not between wilfully ignorant and obscurantist religious cranks (who may or may not constitute a majority of the US population) and those who believe scientific observation to be rationally valid, but among evolutionary theorists about what is determined by evolutionary selection and what is random. Last weekend I listened to a fascinating discussion among scientists on Radio National about the female orgasm and whether it has been selected for or is a random outcome of other developments. The late great Stephen Jay Gould was a major proponent of the random element in biological divergence over time, developed as I recall it from his study of Cambrian fossils – when life was at its most diverse in terms of general blueprints. There is some neo-Lamarckianism also worthy of note in the scientific debate.

    Although as an atheist I can see nothing attractive about religious belief, what saddens me about so-called Creationism is its aggressive attempt to pose as science and to suppress knowledge and understanding. Science has nothing to say about religious belief, and people are entitled to believe in all manner of seemingly absurd propositions. It’s just that they shouldn’t be able to hijack the education system to promote their beliefs. Since Creationism presents as non-falsifiable (all contrary data and observations being forced to fit the line) it is also, as Popper would have delightedly pointed out, non-verifiable. As science, it is therefore rubbish.

    Last, I note that Creationism is by no means a central dogma of Christian faith. Belief in the literal truth of the King James English version of the first book of the Old Testament is probably heretical in that it ascribes divine guidance to the committee responsible for the translation. It is hard to read the New Testament – ie the writings held central to Christian doctrine – without being struck by what seemingly interested the prophet Jesus believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Over and over and over again, the message is about how people ought to behave towards other people in what might universally be perceived as a civilised and thoughtful manner. Not a word ascribed to the Saviour about the need for believers to suppress homosexuality, execute criminals or deny scientific observation. Strange then that these seem to be the values imprinted on the banners of the vanguard of the faithful.

  27. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2005 at 10:45 | #27

    Apologies for the erros in the previous post – I was responding ot S. Brid’s statement that there is “a place” for religion and ethics teaching in schools.

    I tend to believe that if the US allowed religiousd instruction in public schools (on an opt-in basis) there would be cosndierably less hostility to the teaching of evolution.

    What does puzzle me thoguh is why the hostility to evolution doesn’t also extend to the teaching of geology and astronomy which also directly contradict the tenets of young-Earth creationism (i.e. teaching that the Earth and the universe are more than 6,000 years old).

  28. observa
    June 16th, 2005 at 11:41 | #28

    So Prof Q believes a Christian God and Creationism is bunkum, because it doesn’t stand up to rational empiricism. Presumably like me, he also believes the same about the Dreamtime or Islam and even MrsO’s penchant for a bit of New Ageism. The cameraderie of the rational skeptic, which means there is no truth that any aboriginal born in Australia, has any more connection with the land than the native Observa, unless of course they are older than he. It may well be that a naturalised immigrant who has been here for half the Observa’s time, has more real connection with the land than any of us indigenes. Belief in the Great Goanna clearly has no rational bearing on the matter.

    While this sort of analytical stuff is all very neat for we rational, analytical skeptics, unfortunately we live in a world full of true believers in Gods, fengshui, crystals and aromatherapy. The only rational way to deal with all that absolutism, is to rank it in some kind of rationally deduced spectrum, from the positively benign and harmless to the downright nutty and dangerous and that’s unfortunately where we intelligent rational types begin to part company and get a bit irrational. Try it simply with Christianity, the Dreamtime and Islam and if you think that’s relatively easy start adding in libertarianism, anarchism, liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, racism, fascism, etc, etc, etc……

  29. S Brid
    June 16th, 2005 at 12:36 | #29

    Ian:
    I’m using up my one time post on this so consider yourself privileged.

    The whole creationism/evolution thing in the US is in reality a fight between militant secularists and militant religionists. Religionists feel hard done by because they aren’t allowed under SCOTUS to teach religion as it breaches the constitution. The secularists to be quite honest have in some ways abused their position by using evolution theory to close the argument with Christians in some parts of the country. Christians rightly feel shut out.
    This is a difficult thing for most Australians to understand because we don’t seem to have the enormous impediments to religious teaching as they do in the US. Government in Australia supports private schools through direct support grants and it seems the public at large has no real problem with this. In other words if you want to send your kid to the Catholic school in Australia you are not impeded financially as you are in the US as your tax dollars apportioned for education in a loopy sort of way gets to the school of your choice. This doesn’t happen in the US as private schools don’t get any support from the government and so private school education is very expensive. In effect therefore, you are paying out twice if you want to send a kid to a US private school.
    I really think most Americans would have no problem with limiting religious teaching in Government schools (read most, not all). There have been recent challenges to this rule but US state courts have stopped government funding, even vouchers to be used in support of education at religious and private schools. The principle of separation of church and state has been wheeled out. Again note the difference between Australia and the US.

    The argument goes to the foundation of the original structure of the US system of Government and how some see clear federal abuse by federal courts. Quite a few Americans believe that the original intent has been corrupted by Supreme Court rulings that have usurped the power of the states and congress by making laws. In other words over-reaching. Separation of Church and state is a case in point. This ruling has been taken to what even most Australians would feel is an abusive level. Recall my example of Australian govt funding of private schools compared to the US. The US was originally intended to be a Republic with a relatively weak Federal structure, at least compared to the Australian system. The reason is that laws, which make sense in a place like New York aren’t really appropriate to people say in the Southern states in republic system of government.

    This also makes a case of why people from a long distance see the abortion fight in the US to be unhinged. Unlike all countries, which have liberal abortion laws, this fight was not taken up in the US legislatures where it ought to have been. Compare the fact that Australian abortion laws were voted on in Federal Parliament and rightly so. This fight was won in the US Supreme Court in the US. Think what you like about abortion, but there are enough people who are offended by SCOTUS intervention like this. There are enough reasonable Americans who believe this fight ought to have resided in state legislatures, not the Supreme Court. I don’t think it takes a legal genius to work out that the intent of the right to privacy should not have extended out to abortion when in fact this decision should have been made by state houses. You need to understand the US is not a democracy in the same sense as Australia, but a republic and only thenyou begin to understand what may at first appear to be silly arguments to be more of a pressure cooker building up until it explodes.

    Think of the argument Australians had about the way in which Marbo was decided. I am not expressing an opinion on the Aboriginal land rights issues, but there were many fair and decent people who had no problem with granting land rights per se only that that decision was made in the High Court. Think of the pressure that issue built up within the electorate and the anger felt towards the High Court.

    This is the basic problem in the US.

  30. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2005 at 12:52 | #30

    Observa: “The only rational way to deal with all that absolutism, is to rank it in some kind of rationally deduced spectrum, from the positively benign and harmless to the downright nutty and dangerous and that’s unfortunately where we intelligent rational types begin to part company and get a bit irrational.”

    Or we can recognise that all religious beliefs have equal validity ot their holders while refusing to allow them to be the basis for either public policy or scientific questions of fact.

    An earlier thread here discussed the theory that the Old Testament fixes the value of Pi at precisely 3. I know that most Christians (i.e. 99.99999&% of them at least) don’t believe that. But some tiny minority of them quite sincerely do.

    And that’s fine, unless they want it taught in schools or want to work in areas such as surveying and use the “correct” value in their work.

    Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite free to refuse blood donations. They aren’t however entitled to refuse them on behalf of their minor children.

  31. June 16th, 2005 at 12:56 | #31

    -”argument Australians had about the way in which Marbo [sic] was decided. I am not expressing an opinion on the Aboriginal land rights issues, but there were many fair and decent people who had no problem with granting land rights per se only that that decision was made in the High Court. “-

    No, the High Court recognised that native title already existed, and continued to exist where it hadn’t been extinguished. THey didn’t ‘grant’ it; they recognised it. If anyone granted it that would be the judges behind significant precedents in the common law world, and the statesmen who recognised it way back when Australia was occupied.

    Yes, I know i’m responding to an off-topic analogy by Mr Brid, back to creationism y’all…

  32. RoD
    June 16th, 2005 at 13:05 | #32

    It is an interesting point that its only evolution which gets attacked by the religious-right in the US. I hadnt considered that before.

    I reckon they just cant understand the first thing about the speed of light or radioactive decay of ancient rock strata and thus dont even have a go at astronomy or paleogeology. They probably reckon spaceships go whoosh through space to the nearest star in a few hours and the rocks have always been here (at least since Sunday evening October 23, 4004 BC!).

    Katz: “Re S Brid’s moderation: Looks like it’s survival of the fittest on this blog, Sunshine.”

    Seems the struggle against a changing enviroment has mutated S Brid’s commentary into something about the separation of powers (or why we should shoot judges who makes decisions we dont agree with).

    When tomorrow comes around, perhaps S Brid can defend the re-introduction of bill of attainder by the current US adminisration against suspects at Gitmo: something which totally undermines the basis of the US Constitution in the first place.

  33. euan
    June 16th, 2005 at 13:37 | #33

    Actually, the attacks on science do include attacks on mainstream astronomy and cosmology. The creationist lobby groups include Answers In Genesis which is strictly young-earth in its interpretation of the Bible, and The Discovery Institute which doesn’t officially rule out an old Earth but tries desperately to keep the young-earthers onside.

    Here’s one astronomer who’s mad as hell and is not going to take it any more.

  34. snuh
    June 16th, 2005 at 14:39 | #34

    It is an interesting point that its only evolution which gets attacked by the religious-right in the US. I hadnt considered that before.

    the new york review had an interesting article on this topic a few years ago:

    As everyone knows, it was the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 that set off the counterrevolution that eventually congealed into creationism. It isn’t immediately obvious, however, why Darwin and not, say, Copernicus, Galileo, or Newton should have been judged the most menacing of would-be deicides. After all, the subsiding of faith might have been foreseeable as soon as the newly remapped sky left no plausible site for heaven. But people are good at living with contradictions, just so long as their self-importance isn’t directly insulted. That shock was delivered when Darwin dropped his hint that, as the natural selection of every other species gradually proves its cogency, “much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.

  35. observa
    June 16th, 2005 at 15:08 | #35

    “Or we can recognise that all religious beliefs have equal validity ot their holders while refusing to allow them to be the basis for either public policy or scientific questions of fact.”
    Fine in theory Ian, but ultimately religious beliefs are not easily segregated from social, cultural, ethical, political, etc beliefs and so which benevolent, omniscient dictator is most qualified for the task? If it’s not to be this grand censor, then it comes down to offering competing choices, most notably in education. Personally I’m comfortable that certain truths will be self evident for the vast majority and am prepared to tolerate the relatively benign and harmless outliers.

    “Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite free to refuse blood donations. They aren’t however entitled to refuse them on behalf of their minor children.”
    Interesting choice of analogy here, if blood transfusions prove to have unleashed some terrible medical or genetic legacy for future generations. I guess we can all apologise profusely to the JWs for ever doubting their beliefs because of our current scientific truths.(I’ll declare some personal interests here- I have some considerable ethical qualms about organ transplanting, but would have died at 18 after a motorcycle accident, without 9 units of someone elses blood)

  36. ab
    June 16th, 2005 at 15:45 | #36

    We wouldn’t have to apologise at all. We’d just have to recognise that one manifestation of JWs’ infantile superstitions happened to coincide with some biological phenomenon. They aren’t onto anything, just like I’m not onto something when I say: ‘Don’t look at the sun ‘cos the Satan’s blind-o-rays will get you.’

  37. jquiggin
    June 16th, 2005 at 16:26 | #37

    Contrary to quite a few claims above, there’s no necessary logical relationship between theism (and particularly Christianity) and creationism. Intelligent Design is an example of a non-theistic version of creationism (at least purportedly). And most Christian churches, including Catholics, Anglicans and most mainline Protestant denominations regard evolution as being compatible with their beliefs.

    The correlation between creationism and climate science scepticism in the US reflects a willingness to put wishful thinking ahead of science.

  38. Tom Davies
    June 16th, 2005 at 17:20 | #38

    Is Intelligent Design non-theistic? What Intelligence can you have other than one or more Gods?

    Observa, if blood transfusions prove to have unleashed some terrible medical or genetic legacy for future generations. I guess we can all apologise profusely to the JWs for ever doubting their beliefs because of our current scientific truths. I’m not sure if you are being facetious here, but the JW’s are not owed an apology under any circumstances — they are not presenting any reason for rejecting blood transfusions that any rational person has any reason to even examine, let alone accept. We don’t doubt their beliefs because of our ‘current scientific proofs’ but because they present no evidence whatsoever.

  39. snuh
    June 16th, 2005 at 18:13 | #39

    surely to believe in such a thing as intelligent design, you must also believe in there being an intelligent designer [which doesn't sound particularly non-theistic to me].

  40. Ros
    June 16th, 2005 at 21:13 | #40

    Phillip E. Johnson along with Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, formed the wedge movement. As Johnson said, informed by a cadre of intelligent design (ID) proponents.

    Johnson’s underlying philosophy of the strategy:
    “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.”

    Not convincingly non-theistic.

  41. June 16th, 2005 at 21:33 | #41

    See what I mean, a bunch of circular ignorami wrapping up creationism with pseudophilosophical bunk. Wrapping a cowpat in a chocolate doesn’t make it easier to swallow.

  42. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2005 at 21:52 | #42

    In theory one could construct a non-theistic version of Intelligent Design.

    This would involve life on Earth being the product of an intelligent being or beings which were not Gods.

    To get sf-y for a second, if a race of aliens were able to survive the big crunch/big bang and outlive their universe they might go on to seed life in another universe.

    Fred Hoyle believed that life on Earth was descended from primitive organisms which came from outer space. This is another example of a theory which is an alternative both to young-Earth creationism and to the standard view of Darwinism. Hoyle’s theory is arguably compatible with a sort of weak version of intelligent design which argues that there has been insufficient time for complex life to emerge on Earth ab initio.

    (Personally I think Hoyle overstated his case although I do think complex organic molecules from space may have played a critical role in the origin of life.)

  43. June 16th, 2005 at 22:16 | #43

    “In theory one could construct a non-theistic version of Intelligent Design.

    This would involve life on Earth being the product of an intelligent being or beings which were not Gods.”

    But in this case
    (i) Either one believes that these beings themselves evolved without an intelligent designer in which case this non-theistic version of ID isn’t really ID or
    (ii) One believes that these non-God beings were the product of a God in which case one is back to a theistic ID

    I therefore conclude that the concept of a non-theistic ID theory is a contradiction in terms. ID is necessarily theistic or it isn’t really ID

  44. abb1
    June 16th, 2005 at 22:20 | #44

    Ian, this theory doesn’t help, IMO. For those hypothetical organisms that came from the outerspace the question still remains about their origin; after the big-bang or before – doesn’t matter.

    The ‘God’ concept is convenient precisely because it has all kinds of supernatural characteristics, it exists outside of space and time, it’s omnipotent, etc. Any problem – you just assign God another supernatural characteristic and – boom – the problem is magically solved. Not so with those space aliens guys.

  45. calmo
    June 16th, 2005 at 22:57 | #45

    Jesus. Do we need to go over that distinction between a story and a theory again?
    In the beginning, there were no theories.
    Just stories forchrisake.
    But we evolved and consolidated the stories to a few good ones.
    Time passed, til this poll indicated that 1 out of 3 highly educated human beings thought that maybe the story was true afterall.

    This is proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that Darwin was right. And that evolution is slower than you might imagine.
    No benevolent God would have tolerated such a dismal performance.

  46. June 16th, 2005 at 23:32 | #46

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses were onto something; they were up against a similar faith based certainty of what was or was not good medical treatment. That same certainty has already killed many in the early days of AIDS, by forcing blood products on desperate haemophilacs who just happened to know better than the unquestioning experts and who had had the incentives to check out early reports about AIDS.

    In other words, we have already had bad consequences from blood transfusions administered by those of secular faith.

    I sometimes wonder whether the particular methods (shared needles “sterilised” in field conditions) used to wipe out smallpox inadvertently spread AIDS in Africa. Nobody has ever really checked into this – it would challenge the prevailing secular faith. I’m not the only one to have wondered about this, and the only answer that ever comes back is of the “we can assure you…” variety, which sounds like a faith-based argument to me.

  47. observa
    June 16th, 2005 at 23:37 | #47

    Dunno if it was God or not, but I do know the leg I put an extra right angle in at 18, gave a real twinge while watching Nathan Brown get an extra knee on the nutbox the other week. Jesus Christ probably!

  48. June 16th, 2005 at 23:44 | #48

    Must say, as a social historian, the theory of evolution can sometimes appeal in a reverse arrow. I’m reminded of this by the disdainful contributions from S Brid.

  49. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 00:10 | #49

    Seems I’ve got the perfect comeback for MrsO and her claque of New Agers now, as to why I haven’t given up smoking http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,15638405-1702,00.html

  50. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 00:17 | #50

    Perhaps the Women’s Christian Temperance Alliance will want to bring back smoking in pubs again with this new Evolution.

  51. June 17th, 2005 at 09:55 | #51

    PM Lawrence

    “The Jehovah’s Witnesses were onto something; they were up against a similar faith based certainty of what was or was not good medical treatment”

    Science can (and did) tell us that those experts were wrong, Christian Science can’t – they’re not so much right as “not even wrong”.

  52. Hal9000
    June 17th, 2005 at 10:50 | #52

    Doesn’t the non-theistic intelligent design thesis go along the lines that our universe is geared towards the emergence of intelligent life, coz if it weren’t so, there wouldn’t ever be anyone to observe and theorise about it, and there is, so it must be so? I heard Davies in conversation with Phillip Adams saying something of the sort. I note in passing that the basis for this view appears to be a logical tautology, and it bears some familial similarity to the old phenomenological conundrum about leaves falling in the forest. Nonetheless, give me a tautology any day rather than the hocus pocus of holy writ.

  53. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 11:17 | #53

    So John Quiggin, you haven’t told us if you see the Dreamtime, Islam, New Age pecadillos, etc alongside Creationism as a load of unscientific hogwash and baloney, with no place in a rational education policy for our schools. The total secularist approach, or is some baloney more equal than others for you?. This seems to me to be a much larger problem for those who have a preference for large monolithic state education systems. My own view is we need to allow parents a diversity of choice as to their faith or secular based educational preferences for their children. Competitive choice and let the devil take the hindmost.

    Having said that, it doesn’t let me off the hook entirely, because at some stage I’m going to have to make an absolute judgement about some of the nuttier and socially unacceptable indoctrination of minors.(Wahhabist Madrassas and Hitler Youth programs spring readily to mind here)

  54. June 17th, 2005 at 11:20 | #54

    “Doesn’t the non-theistic intelligent design thesis go along the lines that our universe is geared towards the emergence of intelligent life, coz if it weren’t so, there wouldn’t ever be anyone to observe and theorise about it, and there is, so it must be so? ”
    hal9000
    i’m not sure whether there is any ‘intelligent design’ involved in this theory. The theory as I recall is that to ask the question of how we came to be around to ask such questions as how we came to be is fallacious, extrapolating from a sample of one, because if we hadn’t been produced then of course no such questions would be asked. You’re right, it is tautological but whether it is testable or not is an open question. I have come across theories of ‘evolutionary cosmoology’ to wit that perhaps there were other millions of universes in the past created before ours – however statistically unlikely our emergence is, given enough of a sample space to play around for millenia then the fact that we finally emerge wouldn’t be that surprising just as if you toss a coin enough times it might eventually land on its edge. I’m not sure how this theory might be testable but I’m not ruling the possibility out that it might be.

  55. Homer Paxton
    June 17th, 2005 at 12:39 | #55

    I have news for you atheists.
    You can believe in evolution and ID!

    JQ you are taking on Andrea Harris tendencies.
    I will say that this is a result of people having a go at S Brid which I find unimpressive.
    The best thing of this blog was that even though you disagree with a person the personal pejoratives were left elsewhere.
    I would hope that re-appears

  56. June 17th, 2005 at 12:48 | #56

    “I have news for you atheists.
    You can believe in evolution and ID!”

    Homer, you seem to be the only one on earth who believes this.

  57. June 17th, 2005 at 13:28 | #57

    My apolgies. When I wrote “Christian Science” I meant the Jehova Witnesses, not to say that the Christian Science church is particularly either.

  58. Nabakov
    June 17th, 2005 at 13:30 | #58

    I wouldn’t mock ID. Here’s a compelling new argument why you shouldn’t.

    http://www.venganza.org/

  59. Homer Paxton
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:34 | #59

    Jason, they address different questions.

    ID does not really address the mechanics of how the Earth started and continued.

  60. observa
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:35 | #60

    Well, I’ve gotta say Nabakov, that theory and drawing you linked to looked a whole lot more convincing than the Barry Jones spaghetti and meatballs theory of education that was trotted out by the secularists a while back.

  61. craigm
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:38 | #61

    Yeah Jason the shit happens theory makes much more sense doesn’t it.

  62. Katz
    June 17th, 2005 at 15:35 | #62

    Observa, the Jones diagrams were an organisational chart. They weren’t a theory.

    Whether or not they were proof of Intelligent Design is a matter of faith … and that’s a fact.

  63. John Quiggin
    June 17th, 2005 at 15:45 | #63

    “So John Quiggin, you haven’t told us if you see the Dreamtime, Islam, New Age pecadillos (sic), etc alongside Creationism as a load of unscientific hogwash and baloney, with no place in a rational education policy for our schools”

    As others have said, these things have a place in schools. It’s just that science classes are not that place. I’m entirely happy for my children to be presented with a selection of creation stories: the more the merrier, as long as they are not presented as science.

  64. jquiggin
    June 17th, 2005 at 16:41 | #64

    Jason, I don’t think your argument works if you accept ID at face value. ID advocates claim to show, on the basis of evidence from the geological record etc, that life on earth must have been designed, at least in part.

    That’s perfectly consistent, in logical terms, with the hypothesis that the designers were aliens who arose from an undesigned process of evolution. Of course, no actual IDer would accept this, because the whole thing is a stalking horse for traditional creationism, but that’s by the bye.

  65. SimonjM
    June 18th, 2005 at 10:45 | #65

    With JQ on this one let them learn about Creation Science and ID in religious studies and keep the science class for science.

    Better still throw in some critical thinking and philosophy class time for children so they can ask their own questions and discuss these issues.
    I do think it is time though to actually teach some philosophy and history of science, especially the scientific method and Ockham’s razor so they can see how dishonest the Creation science really are.

    Ditto, on ID and the assumption that it is the Christian God is doing the designing.

    I know that Paul Davies’s ‘God’ isn’t the Christian God but I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?

  66. calmo
    June 18th, 2005 at 13:06 | #66

    I don’t know Simon –learning ID and Darwin might be OK if a guy could keep them separate and distinct,
    but that critical thinking stuff that goes by the name of philosphy is a real danger.
    We have enough negativity on this planet without any of that crap.
    We need more constructive thought.
    More positive people saying and doing, rather than asking and complaining.
    Creativity is what we need.
    Like this:
    “I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?”

  67. SimonJM
    June 18th, 2005 at 14:53 | #67

    Calmo you’ve lost me critical thinking and using philosophy to think and reason for ones-self is ‘negative’ or complaining????

    “I always wanted to ask those scientists who think their god of the Gaps is the Christian God why he is the default creator?�

    Questioning assupmtions, looking out for bias -your own and others- is part of critical thinking, and philosophy also encourages, this especially trying to understand things from different perspectives.

    There is enough room for creativity and philosophy as long as you can make the distinction.

  68. Simonjm
    June 19th, 2005 at 22:43 | #68

    BTW the fundie creationist is not only live an well over in the States we have our home grown variety as well.

    Have a look at Margo K’s Origin of the Species debate and wonder at the heights of CS sophistry.

    http://webdiary.smh.com.au/index.html

  69. Paul Norton
    June 20th, 2005 at 12:48 | #69

    This is probably the thread in which to report that yesterday I measured my height, the height of my navel above the floor when standing erect, and calculated the ratio of the two. It was *not* the Divine Proportion (1.618 to 1), being approximately 1.743 to 1.

  70. August 11th, 2005 at 16:48 | #70

    What do you know, prominent global warming skeptic Roy Spencer is a creationist.

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