Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Discovery Institute produces a guideline for budding creationists in high school

The discovery institute's CSC section recently released a report about "preparing students to intelligently question Darwin this fall." Casey Luskin prepares three guides for ID students when they are taking biology.
Luskin's first point”

Tip #1: Never opt out of learning evolution"

Sounds good on the surface but then it's explained;

“Despite the one-sided nature of evolution-education, I found that the more evolutionary biology I took, the more I became convinced that the theory was based upon unproven assumptions, contradictory methodologies, and supported weakly by the data. So my first tip is to never be afraid to study evolution. But when studying evolution, always think critically and stay proactively informed about a diversity of viewpoints.”

Unproven assumption, contradictory methodologies and weak data say what? I’ll start with the so-called weak data in tip number 1. Talk Origin's discussion that evolution is a fact has some excellent points about this that I want to bring up. First - there are examples of evolution that are apparent; e.g. modern populations are evolving and the evidence of Homo sapiens and chimpanzees common ancestor. There is so much evidence in support of primate evolution that it is basically a fact. The next point offered is that while in some cases, like about all organisms having a common ancestor, pieces are still being worked out there is no opposing evidence. Because this isn't entirely worked out it is not yet a "fact" and there are reasonable alternatives. Finally the epistemological argument against evolution as fact - nothing in science can be "proven" including evolution. Well, true but in the case of evolution and other theories we are so certain to be 99% certain it is true and really there is always going to be doubt because science is open to being wrong and we will never ever be 100% sure.

Next point "Tip #2: Think for yourself, think critically, and question assumptions."

“Though my professors rarely (if ever) would acknowledge it, I quickly discovered in college that nearly all evolutionary claims are based upon assumptions. Modern evolutionary theory is assumed to be true, and then the data is interpreted based upon Darwinian assumptions.”

I don't think I need to redo my point again even though Luskin feels the need to do so.

“Biological similarity between two species implies inheritance from a common ancestor (i.e. vertical common descent) except for when it doesn’t (and then they appeal to processes like "convergent evolution" or "horizontal gene transfer").”

Common decent concerns genetic origins and says that all life is genetically related. Not necessarily that it is vertical. This seems be a common misconception, evolution is not vertical, it is simultaneous. Next

“Neo-Darwinism predicts transitional forms may be found, but when they’re not found, that just shows that the transitions took place too rapidly and in populations too small to (statistically speaking) become fossilized.”

WHAT? No transitional forms? Hasn't this been beat into the ground? I am just referring you all to Dr. Novella over at neurologica blog and his bit about Archaeopteryx.

“Evolutionary genetics predicts the genome will be full of useless junk DNA, except for when we discover function for such “junk” DNA. Then evolution predicts that cells would never retain useless junk DNA in the first place.”

Yes, we are continuing to find out what DNA does and how it works but evolutionary genetics doesn't move the goalpost. Genetics will, and does only answer the questions we have about how species are related. As scientists learn more, more of the links are revealed. Check out this for a better argument, talk origins is a wonderful place to find the refutations of all these points.

The last bit in this tip is to think independently. It would be nice if people like Luskin practiced this given he isn't open minded about science, specifically evolution.

The final "Tip #3: Proactively study credible scientific viewpoints that dissent from Darwinism. "

What credible viewpoints? Surely Luskin doesn't mean "intelligent design"? Apparently:

“To gain a balanced understanding of the scientific evidence, students may need to take the time to pro-actively research the pro-ID scientific arguments that many faculty may be opposing, misrepresenting, or perhaps even outright censoring. Yes, take courses advocating evolution. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can one truly make up his mind in an informed fashion.”

What pro-ID scientific arguments? I am not going to dignify this with an argument. It isn't worth it.

We need to be aware of the ID/creationist brainwashing because this is what we are going to be counteracting later when these kids grow up, so watch out. Just when we think the old generation of ID “scientists” will go away, their protégé grow up.

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