Feb 11 2016

The Purpose of “Academic Freedom” Laws is to Promote Creationism

formbyEver since the theory of evolution won over the scientific community and became the established consensus scientific opinion, creationists have fought a cultural and legal war against it. They failed to win the scientific war, and they continue to do so.

This is not an uncommon tactic – if you lose in the arena of science, evidence, or facts, then fight in the arena of public opinion or regulation. Pseudoscientists are unfortunately savvy to this tactic.

In the case of evolution, creationists tried banning its teaching outright, which was eventually struck down as unconstitutional. So they demanded equal time, which was eventually struck down as unconstitutional (teaching religion as science in public schools). So they tried to disguise creationism as intelligent design, which didn’t fool anyone.

Now, in an attempt to further secularise their position in order to get around the first Amendment, they argue that schools should “teach the controversy” and that teachers should have the “academic freedom” to introduces the “strengths and weaknesses” of a scientific theory.

Several states have successfully passed such laws, most notably Louisiana. These laws aren’t fooling anyone either – everyone knows their purpose is to open a back door to allow creationism to be taught as science in public schools. The real purpose of these laws is to create deniability in order to survive legal challenge.

Out of context, the notion that teachers should be allowed to teach controversies and weaknesses of scientific theories sounds reasonable. However, these laws often target evolution specifically, in addition to the Big Bang, and now even climate change. The problem is that there is no scientific controversy over the basic fact of evolution. The “controversies” and “weaknesses” of evolution they want to be introduced in the science classroom are just the same tired old creationist arguments they have been pushing into the classroom for decades.

It is also completely unnecessary to have a law that says that science teachers can teach about genuine scientific controversies or discuss genuine weakness of scientific theories. They already can. What they cannot do is introduce religiously motivated science denial and pretend it is legitimate science. These laws are meant, however, to shield teachers who do just that.

Lawmakers who introduce and support these latest crop of anti-evolution bills are often coy about their true motivation. Again – the whole point is deniability as a shield against legal challenge.

Apparently Mississippi Representative Mark Formby did not get the memo. Regarding an anti-evolution bill in Mississippi he introduced, he told a local paper:

“I just don’t want my teachers punished in any form or fashion for bringing creationism into the debate. Lots of us believe in creationism.”

Here is the most relevant section of the bill:

(d)  Neither the State Board of Education, nor any local school board, public school superintendent, public school administrator or principal shall prohibit any teacher of a public school system from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of all existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.

(e)  This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion.

It uses the “strength and weaknesses” format, and then further tries to shield itself by specifically stating this is not about any religious belief. It seems that Formby has now stated this section is a lie – a calculated deception as part of a deliberate legal strategy.

Earlier in the bill it states:

The teaching of some scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education may cause debate and disputation, including, but not limited to:

(i)  Biological evolution;

(ii)  The chemical origins of life;

(iii)  Global warming; and

(iv)  Human cloning.

So again, evolution is specifically mentioned, along with other topics of particular interest to creationists.

The notion that “strengths and weaknesses” laws are being crafted specifically to subvert the First Amendment and decisions made by the Supreme Court, and teach religion in public schools has never been in any serious doubt. It is interesting still to have such a brazen admission in the public record.

I honestly don’t know what is taking so long for legal challenges to these laws to emerge and filter up to the Supreme Court. They need to be struck down.

The predictable response to this position is that if you oppose such laws then you are treating evolution as a dogma that cannot be questioned. This is nonsense, however. That is just another rhetorical point that is one of the purposes of such laws.

Evolution has already been questioned in the scientific community. It is now overwhelmingly accepted as true (the basic fact that life on Earth is the result of organic evolution and demonstrates common descent) by the scientific community. It has already survived vigorous scientific challenge.

I also think it is perfectly acceptable to teach students how we know what we know – to teach them historical challenges to evolution and how they were resolved.

That is not what is happening in states with these anti-evolution laws, however. What is happening is that teachers are using creationist texts to teach creationist arguments that are simply wrong. They are teaching misinformation and science denial. They are teaching the fake controversy.

106 responses so far

106 Responses to “The Purpose of “Academic Freedom” Laws is to Promote Creationism”

  1. carbonUniton 11 Feb 2016 at 9:02 am

    I imagine what has taken so long to strike these down is the legal system’s concept of “standing”. As I understand it, I’d pretty much have to have a child in the school system to be able to sue. Being a taxpayer whose money is being used to pay for this unconstitutional crap is not enough. Someone willing to take incredible grief from the believers upon themselves and their children and do it before they graduate is what it seems to take.

  2. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 9:25 am

    The debate is mired in confusion because words are used incorrectly. You say “evolution” but you basically mean Darwin’s theory of evolution (random mutations plus natural selection). You say “creationism” but you really mean the creation myth of the Jewish bible.

    There are many other possibilities! And most people don’t believe in either of these unsupported illogical hypotheses.

    Evolution has been demonstrated beyond any doubt.

    Natural selection is obviously a fact.

    Darwin’s theory (and its newer variations) is supported only by materialist ideology and has NO scientific evidence behind it. Yes you heard me right, I said NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

  3. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 9:26 am

    If you use words without bothering to define them, you are willingly and consciously adding to the confusion. You really don’t want people to understand what this controversy is about.

  4. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 10:22 am

    I think the scientific community needs to be more PR savvy when it comes to evolution.

    I like Dawkins approach here: evolution by common descent is a fact or law if we use those terms more colloquially, as most people do.

    It’s time to stop referring to it in scientific terms as a ‘theory’ in public debate. There are very, very few theories that are as strong and meaningfully unopposed as evolution. We’re not communicating that fact – we’re communicating that it’s just an idea that most scientists “agree with”.

    That’s not what it is. It is a fact.

  5. Logan Blackisleon 11 Feb 2016 at 11:19 am

    @hardnose
    “Darwin’s theory (and its newer variations) is supported only by materialist ideology and has NO scientific evidence behind it.”

    Oh, really?

    Darwin’s theory, somewhat simplified, goes like this: Mutations make small changes to individual animals. These mutations are selected and de-selected by different systems of natural selection. Some system of heredity carry the selected mutations down through generations, and slowly accumulates. Working backwards, all species on the planet come from the same source, and have slowly diversified through generations of the above-mentioned processes.

    And that’s pretty much it.

    Any scientific theory must, of course have predictions. So what predictions can we glean from the above?

    1. Fossils must be found in the right rock layers – the simpler the animal, the further down the rock layer it comes from
    2. Fossils must be aged consistently with the above – the older the fossil, the further down the rock layer it comes from
    3. Some system of heredity must copy information from parent to offspring
    4. The system of heredity cannot be perfect; some error must be there to account for mutations, among other things
    5. All living things must adhere to the above

    If you go into the nitty gritty, there’s a lot more, but let’s stay with the basics.

    So, how have those predictions turned out?
    1.-2. Thousands upon thousands of fossils found; all consistent with evolution. (each fossil can be considered scientific evidence for the theory of evolution)
    3. The system of heredity has been found! Yay! We’ve even based an entire field of science to the study of this system; we call it “genetics”, you might have heard of it?
    4. DNA copies almost perfectly, its precision have actually baffled scientists. *Almost* perfectly; and those tiny errors? Perfectly consistent with evolution – in fact, if it was any less precise, if there were even a tiny amount of errors more, then evolution would fall apart.
    5. From plants to fungi to fish to mammals (and yes, to humans too), all living things do indeed adhere to principles in evolutionary theory.

    Here’s a fun question: do you know the difference between a “strong” scientific theory and an “accurate” scientific theory? And why such a difference exists?

    Evolution: Mutations + various systems of natural selection + heredity + time.

    Really, that’s it.

  6. wellerpondon 11 Feb 2016 at 11:36 am

    Hardnose:

    What do you see as the difference between “evolution” when you say “Evolution has been demonstrated beyond any doubt” and “Darwin’s evolution?”

  7. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 11:39 am

    Didn’t realize that my comment had a wiki page associated with it!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_fact_and_theory

  8. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 11:40 am

    I would really encourage everyone to ignore The Troll.

  9. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 11:43 am

    Let me clarify a few points about trolls:

    Someone who knows little or who has odd beliefs is NOT a troll. They can be some of the most useful commenters in that they bring up questions that enlighten us all in the course of answering.

    The Troll is not one of these people. He derails conversations with denial and lying in service of some personality foible that, frankly, isn’t that interesting.

    Together, we can drive him from here.

  10. Steven Novellaon 11 Feb 2016 at 11:59 am

    I tend to have a high tolerance for trolls on my blog because people with dissenting opinions, or who are confused about the science and need educating, tend to engage in troll-like behavior. You have to be a really disruptive troll for me to take action as a moderator. I also pay attention to how other commenters are reacting – if they are a useful foil for teachable moments, I will also tend to tolerate them

    I understand Hardnose is close to the line because he so willfully misinterprets what others write. It is tiresome.

  11. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Logan Blackisle, you defined evolution, you did not define Darwin’s theory of evolution. You provided evidence for evolution, NOT for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

  12. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:10 pm

    At this blog, a troll is anyone who does not mindlessly follow the mainstream scientific consensus on all topics.

  13. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 12:12 pm

    “You have to be a really disruptive troll for me to take action as a moderator. ”

    And I think that’s as it should be. I know I’ve called for him to be banned, but I’m not sure that I agree with myself! Banning is a distasteful solution. People choosing to pursue more fruitful discussions (not that I’m always the paragon of this) is the better route IMO.

  14. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:13 pm

    “What do you see as the difference between “evolution” when you say “Evolution has been demonstrated beyond any doubt” and “Darwin’s evolution?””

    Darwin had a theory about what might cause evolution, involving random changes and natural selection. Yes random changes do happen and yes natural selection does happen.

    It does NOT follow that random changes plus natural selection can account for evolution.

    This is simple logic, but ideologically-clouded minds tend not to see it.

  15. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I didn’t wilfully misinterpret what Steve N. wrote, He equates evolution with Darwin’s theory of evolution, and he does it every single time he posts about the subject.

  16. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Once more:

    Evolution is a fact.

    Random variations are a fact.

    Natural selection is a fact.

    The idea that evolution is caused by random variations plus natural selection is a hypothesis.

  17. mumadaddon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:17 pm

    “I would really encourage everyone to ignore The Troll.”

    I’m with you there.

  18. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 12:32 pm

    “This is simple logic, but ideologically-clouded minds tend not to see it.”

    “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong”

    Simple is not analogous to parsimonious. Supernatural forces are a simple answer, but require an extensive amount of assumptions that make them not so simple in the long-term.

    Again, you fail to provide an alternative explanation other than what is essentially magic. Just like your HIV/AIDS denialism, simply having a case of the “feelies” that something must be wrong because “materialism” is not convincing, especially when you have no actual experience in these fields. Scientific discourse hinges on alternative explanations, not just espousing Socractic wisdom they we know nothing unless we admit we know nothing.

    I mean, at some point it simply stops even being possible to take you seriously – where are we now? HN the expert computer programmer, infectious disease specialist, virologist, philosopher of science, evolutionary biologist, and cognitive psychologist? Any more I’m forgetting?

  19. Steven Novellaon 11 Feb 2016 at 1:02 pm

    sigh! I wrote: “It is now overwhelmingly accepted as true (the basic fact that life on Earth is the result of organic evolution and demonstrates common descent) by the scientific community.”

    Did you skip over the parentheses.

    And, as I have pointed out before, in the context of this article we have Christian creationists who are pushing a very specific set of creationist arguments into public schools, arguments that call into question the age of the Earth, and the basic facts of common descent and evolution. They are generally not parsing the difference that Hardnose is making, so his comments are entirely irrelevant. But that is his narrative – facts will not dissuade him.

    His assertion as to what operationally constitutes trolling on this site is also patent self-serving nonsense.

  20. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Steve, posts like this one are a real embarrassment: I myself take most of my information about medicine, GMOs, alternative medicine etc from your blog. However, this does not have anything to do with “science” but with politics and constitution. Please, don’t pretend it’s about science. I am wondering would you be equally eager to expect the judicial resolution of this issue if you were to believe that the Supreme Court would jettison the existing a-historical interpretation of the 1st amendment and for example defer to the states, according to 10th amendment the issues of education, including religious instruction in public schools? Or if the majority tomorrow says – everyone has to teach creationism in public schools?

    It is you who are ignorant and need instruction in these issues: the entire “wall of separation” nonsense is based on a deliberate mis-construction of one half-sentence Thomas Jefferson had written in 1802. He was writing to to a New England church organization promising that he, as the new president, would not suppress religion in any shape and form. Namely, during the bitter presidential campaign in 1800 New England federalists were accusing Jefferson of being a Jacobin who will use his office to clamp down on religion, including even confiscation and burning the Bibles. Good ladies of New England were already burying their Bibles in the gardens in mortal fear of the Virginian Satan. Jefferson’s remark about the “wall of separation” was to calm those fears and to explain hat his administration would leave religion alone. This was exactly 100% the opposite of what Supreme Court “discovered” all of a sudden in 1947: it was a guarantee of protection of the church from the state, not the guarantee of the protection of the state from the church. Moreover, Jefferson himself, as the president, spent federal money to fund various churches as well as the work of Christian missionaries on Indian territories! So much about the “wall of separation” as invented in Everson vs Board.

    It’s perfectly irrelevant whether creationism should be taught and in which form in public schools: the issue is “who is to decide”? Let’s stop pretend it has anything to do with “science”.

  21. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 1:36 pm

    P.S. And in addition Jefferson (and pretty much everybody before 1947) believed that the “establishment clause” applied only to the federal government: many states had their established religion at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.

  22. NotAMarsupialon 11 Feb 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Ivan –
    “However, this does not have anything to do with “science” but with politics and constitution.”

    The post advocates for proper scientific education in public schools so in my mind it has everything to do with science. I don’t claim to speak for Steve, but I imagine that he would’ve been just as upset that these laws attempting to replace science with magic are being passed even if they were indisputably legal.

    Off topic, but I’m interested as to why you chose Ivan Grozny for your name. Ivan the Terrible was an unsavory character at best so it seems curious for someone to choose that as their handle.

  23. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Ivan:

    I’m not sure what you’re claiming?

    Are you saying that that Jefferson’s answer was not in regards to the 1st amendment? Or are you saying that Wall of Separation means gov’t can’t persecute a particular religion but can also endorse one, i.e., not a wall.

    Maybe TJ didn’t know what “wall” meant? Or maybe he was the kind of guy who didn’t put time into his writings? I’m thinking no to both.

    You have read the letters, right?:
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=65

    “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. ”

    I think he’s pretty clear!

  24. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 2:12 pm

    “P.S. And in addition Jefferson (and pretty much everybody before 1947) believed that the “establishment clause” applied only to the federal government: many states had their established religion at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.”

    14th amendment?

    You’re really into this shit, but as was the case with not understanding common law, you don’t know much about it.

    Actually, I think you’re a kid. I’d be shocked if you’re > 20 YOA.

  25. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Steve12 beat me to some of what I was going to comment about, in response to Ivan’s clearly ideologically motivated post. Ivan, you have a only some facts, some misinformation, and a lot of omissions. I don’t have time to go into full details on the topic (because it is a large one), but here are a few.

    You fail to mention the 14th amendment with regards to the federalism issue. Doing so indicates that you are either underinformed, or intentionally ignoring the issue because it doesn’t suit your argument. Are you advocating for a Clarence Thomas view of this issue? That states can have their own religions? Even motivated religious constitutional scholars realize that this is crazy town. The view of the 14th amendment needed to have this perspective would be so distorted in regards to individuals. It is not just a question of federal versus states power, but the citizens (or the people).

    Also, this topic of the establishment clause is not simply a misunderstanding of a single Jefferson letter. There are a lot of letters and exchanges regarding this question. Jefferson and Madison (he wrote the thing) both had much to say about the separation between religion and government. That does not mean that all of the founders had the same exact view, but it clearly isn’t how you describe it.

    “It’s perfectly irrelevant whether creationism should be taught and in which form in public schools: the issue is ‘who is to decide.’ ”

    No, that is not the issue, because that is an answered question. Since that question has been answered, so has the ‘who is to decide’ question. Steve is not embarrassing himself. You are. Plus Hardnose. But you too.

  26. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 4:02 pm

    “14th amendment?

    yes, adopted in 186os, at the time when school prayers were universal fact of life, and continued to be for more than a century. QED. it does not have anything to do with “incorporation”; even if you accept it, the fact of the matter is that the framers of the 14th amendment did not mean to give the federal government the power to control education. So, the issue comes down to “originalism vs Living Constitution”, which is a political, ideological and constitutional problem, and just perfectly illustrates my initial point.

    “I think he’s pretty clear!:

    yes, its pretty clear: it means. as it says, that the Congress [emphasis] shall not make laws establishing religion. Which did not mean at all that the states shall not make such laws (many did) and even less, God forbid, that the states shall not make school prayers mandatory. They did for more than 150 years after Jefferson. QED.

    You really don’t seem to be the smartest guy in the world…

  27. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 4:16 pm

    “No, that is not the issue, because that is an answered question.”

    No, it’s not.

    “Also, this topic of the establishment clause is not simply a misunderstanding of a single Jefferson letter. There are a lot of letters and exchanges regarding this question. Jefferson and Madison (he wrote the thing) both had much to say about the separation between religion and government. That does not mean that all of the founders had the same exact view, but it clearly isn’t how you describe it.”

    I challenge you to produce one single sentence written by any founder in which he argues that the Supreme Court or any other federal body should be in charge of deciding what the public schools could teach. Put up or shut up, enough BS.

    “You fail to mention the 14th amendment with regards to the federalism issue. Doing so indicates that you are either underinformed, or intentionally ignoring the issue because it doesn’t suit your argument. Are you advocating for a Clarence Thomas view of this issue? That states can have their own religions?”

    yes, exactly, I share Clarence Thomas’ view on federalism. But, even if you don’t share this particular view, you still have problems in imposing this expansive view of the 1st amendment. Namely, if you say that 14 “incorporated” the Bill of Rights, it still did not incorporate the right of the SC to ban or mandate any particular educational content to the states and local communities. Nobody in their right mind in 1867 believed such nonsense. That’s absolutely crystal clear. If you now say, ok it does not matter what they believed in 1867, it only matters what we now believe, then you don’t need the whole “incorporation” business, you just say – I believe in the “elastic” Living Constitution, every day is new day, I don’t give a damn for the “dead hand of the past”. So, you cannot win by simply carryign the banner of “incorporation”, you need the Living Constitution to boot.

  28. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 4:29 pm

    “You really don’t seem to be the smartest guy in the world…”

    Stings so bad!

    Actually, if you thought I WAS smart, I’d be worried.

    “yes, its pretty clear: it means. as it says, that the Congress [emphasis] shall not make laws establishing religion. ”

    But TJ went further in explaining it, didn’t he? I guess you’re not a strict constructionist when it comes to reading the founders writings? What part of a WALL are you having issues with? And you still don’t understand common law, and precedence of rulings. Everson happened. Get over it.

    “Which did not mean at all that the states shall not make such law…”

    But we’re talking about today…Everson +14th=you’re wrong.

    Seriously – how old are you? Seriously. Remember you’re wrong on the facts, not because you’re a kid. I’m just curious. 17?

  29. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 4:33 pm

    “I challenge you to produce one single sentence written by any founder in which he argues that the Supreme Court or any other federal body should be in charge of deciding what the public schools could teach”

    CCbowers was CLEARLY talking about separation between religion and government and not school per se.

    That’s in the section you cut and pasted in yourself. This is just twisting his words to your (supposed) rhetorical advantage.

    Jesus…. (no pun intended).

  30. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 4:36 pm

    You all know how I feel about The Troll, but Ivan is still more insufferable with the ideological shoe-horning of the entire known Universe into libertarian politics while simultaneously chastising us for being ideologues.

  31. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 4:38 pm

    “What part of a WALL are you having issues with? And you still don’t understand common law, and precedence of rulings. Everson happened. Get over it.”

    Jefferson was talking about the Congress, the federal government not the states, ok? Do I need to repeat it 20 times for you to understand? The “wall of separation” means for Jefferson that the CONGRESS shall make no laws establishing religion, not that the STATES cannot make such laws (they did), let alone that the states cannot mandate school prayers or allow teaching religion. Are you really that dense that you cannot understand this simple fact? Dear God…

    “But we’re talking about today…Everson +14th=you’re wrong.”

    no, that’s exactly what I ‘ve repeated two times at least, but you are seemingly too dense to catch: you DO need 14th incorporation plus Living Constitution (nicely illustrated by Everson) to defend this nonsense.

  32. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 4:42 pm

    “CCbowers was CLEARLY talking about separation between religion and government and not school per se.”

    Steve Novella argues in this post that the Supreme Court has to strike down the right of schools to teach the things he thinks are wrong. The Supreme Court has or does not have a right to do this: to dictate educational content by banning criticism of evolution and teaching any for of ID. If it does, then my asking ccbowers to produce citations by any founder supporting such purported right is justified. If the SC however does not have this right, then Steve Novella’s entire post is meaningless.

  33. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 4:43 pm

    So 17 was right?

  34. steve12on 11 Feb 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Luckily for the rest of us almost no one agrees with your Southern Planter c. 1880 “interpretation” of the constitution, so it’s a moot point, isn’t it?

    You and the 29 others can have your meeting where you shake your fist at the heavens and complain that the CDC shouldn’t even exist, etc., all you like.

  35. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 4:53 pm

    “Evolution is a fact.

    Random variations are a fact.

    Natural selection is a fact.

    The idea that evolution is caused by random variations plus natural selection is a hypothesis.”

    Gravity is a fact

    The sun is a massive object at the centre of a gravity well – is also a fact

    The idea that the Sun’s mass causes gravity is only a hypothesis.

    Therefore my explanation involving magic is equally plausible and only your ideological commitment to materialism prevents you all from seeing it.

    Next move materialists

  36. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Just one clarification: the reason why I insist on these constitutional details is to show that Steve Novella’s position is not ideologically neutral and ‘scientific”, that it assumes a highly specific and ideologically charged view of society and politics, and then tries to hide it behind the veil of “expertise” and “science” This is not about science but about the proper role of government in education and about the proper relationship between the state and federal governments, and also about the right constitutional philosophy. The problem is not that he takes any particular position in any of these debates, but that he takes them while pretending they are self-evident and the only possible ones. That’s a typical, sometimes even unconscious, arrogance of a liberal academic from the East Coast who honestly cannot understand how that damn Reagan could have won when nobody he knows voted for him…

  37. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 5:06 pm

    “even if you accept it, the fact of the matter is that the framers of the 14th amendment did not mean to give the federal government the power to control education.”

    You clearly don’t understand the issue. It is not about federal control of education. Section 1 of the 14th amendment is relevant in this issue to the extent it was about limiting the states power to deprive citizens of rights. There are historical reasons why this wasn’t done in the very beginning. But this is clearly the purpose. You are framing it as a federal versus states question, but that is missing the point.

    “I challenge you to produce one single sentence written by any founder in which he argues that the Supreme Court or any other federal body should be in charge of deciding what the public schools could teach. Put up or shut up, enough BS.”

    Wow. You really don’t understand the issue. Read above. Even if this were as you are framing it (which it is not), imagine making that argument to the Supreme Court. That unless the other party could show the founding fathers discussing the very question at issue, that the other party loses the argument. The whole point is taking the principles contained in the law, and applying it to specific situations.

    But again, it is not the case that this is about the federal government dictating what is taught in schools. It is about the limitations that any government (in this case, at the state level) has on restricting the freedoms of the people. Do you not see how explicitly teaching creationism (in most cases that arise, that means Christianity) in schools, is constitutionally problematic? And yes, this has been decided, several times.

  38. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I’m so glad we live in a common law nation and not some fucked up libertarian hero novel.

  39. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:11 pm

    @Ivan, as a non-american I have always had the impression that the separation between church and state was enshrined in the constitution and a fact only really disputed by religiously motivated historical revisionists and ideologues.

    Are you really suggesting that America’s highest court the rules on constitutional matters is mistaken about the constitutionality of the separation between church and state?

    Personally, I think secularism is essential for freedom of religion in any society. I have no problem if you think my belief in religious freedom is an ideological position.

  40. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 5:14 pm

    “So 17 was right?”

    Ha ha. I was thinking he is closer in age to the actual Ivan Grozny. As described in wikipedia “intelligent and devout, yet given to rages and prone to episodic outbreaks of mental illness.” Well, 2/3 anyways.

  41. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:21 pm

    “I have no problem if you think my belief in religious freedom is an ideological position.”

    Same with me. I understand “ideology” has a powerful negative connotation, but I’m perfectly comfortable being accused of promoting an agenda that people be both free to practice a religion as well as free from practicing a religion.

  42. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Maybe some of you on here could help me clarify my thoughts on something.

    Am I right in thinking that causal relationships can only ever be inferred?

    For example:

    IF A always precedes B;
    AND B never occurs except for after A;
    THEN we can infer that A causes B.

    With enough data we can become very confident our inference is true (although without absolute knowledge we can never rule out the possibility that B might occur without A somewhere in the universe). We might even develop a theory explaining the mechanism for A causing B and confirm it to a very high degree. Our inferential conclusion may as well be considered a fact in practical terms – it is unlikely to ever be overturned.

    But we can never know with absolute certainty that A causes B because we cannot rule out the possibility that some deeper underlying unknown cause (C) might cause both A and B. ‘A’ might just be a marker for ‘C’ which is the true cause.

    Is this what Hardnose is doing with evolution and evolutionary theory? Is he using the tiny degree of uncertainty that exists with evolutionary theory to say ‘aha, you can’t prove it – therefore my belief that evolution is driven by some mystical universal consciousness is equally plausible’. And he then pretends that this view is actually the majority position.

    Is this what’s going on?

  43. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Robney – HN does use this form of hyperskepticism for some topics (as you describe), and uses virtually no skepticism for topics he advocates for. But it is simpler than that; he think contrarianism is skepticism, and therefore he confuses his idiocy for cleverness.

    He is best ignored, and occasionally briefly refuted when necessary. It is best to not take the bait, but only counter when necessary, which isn’t that often.

  44. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:44 pm

    @ hammyrex

    The concept of religious freedom is perhaps more of a value than an ideological position but perhaps it could be tied to classical liberalism and individualism which are ideologies.

    Such are the vagaries of language.

  45. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 5:51 pm

    @ ccbowers,

    Maybe, but as someone still very much developing their own critical thinking skills, I like to read Hardnose, Michael Egnor and Ian Wardell to analyse their arguments, read other peoples’ responses to them and reflect on my own thinking.

  46. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:09 pm

    “Is this what Hardnose is doing with evolution and evolutionary theory? Is he using the tiny degree of uncertainty that exists with evolutionary theory to say ‘aha, you can’t prove it – therefore my belief that evolution is driven by some mystical universal consciousness is equally plausible’. ”

    No, you did not comprehend what I said.

    The evolution of life, from primitive to complex, has not been explained. Neither has the origin of life, for that matter.

    Materialists like to believe that it can be explained pretty simply — there are purposely genetic mutations and some happen to be advantageous. The advantageous variations reproduce more and, well, you probably know that story.

    We know that the theory can often explain, or seem to explain, adaptation. But we do not know that it can explain evolution in general. We have no evidence that it can, and in fact we have no reason to think that it can.

    Darwinism has been accepted, without evidence (or even logic) because it justifies materialism, and the belief that dead and mindless matter can somehow transform into complex living organisms.

    I have said what I believe here before — that the universe is made out of information and that it is therefore intelligent. Of course materialists hate that idea.

    But aside from all that, the fact remains that Darwin’s theory has most certainly not been demonstrated scientifically. It is extremely implausible, but you believe it anyway and you are under the illusion that it is scientific. There is nothing scientific about it.

  47. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:10 pm

    purposely -> purposeless

  48. Steve Crosson 11 Feb 2016 at 6:11 pm

    @Robney,

    The fact that you realize that it is important to (constantly) develop your own critical thinking skills proves that you are already better at critical thinking than HN, ME or IW.

  49. RickKon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:17 pm

    hardnose said: “If you use words without bothering to define them, you are willingly and consciously adding to the confusion. ”

    hardnose said: “materialism”

  50. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:32 pm

    @Robney,

    “Is this what Hardnose is doing with evolution and evolutionary theory? Is he using the tiny degree of uncertainty that exists with evolutionary theory to say ‘aha, you can’t prove it – therefore my belief that evolution is driven by some mystical universal consciousness is equally plausible’”

    Your analysis is correct. Although we’ve become conditioned to hearing it over and over we’ve found a more concise way to state it: “We don’t know everything, therefore we know nothing”

  51. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:34 pm

    We already know that DNA can respond to the environment by, for example, generating more mutations than normal when under stress. We also know that acquired traits can be inherited (although Lamarck’s theory was discarded without any scientific justification).

    We have absolutely no idea what the possible explanations for evolution might be. The mainstream consensus has chosen a weak, illogical and unscientific hypothesis and will not allow anyone to question it. If you dare question it, you are a “creationist.”

    Teachers are not free to allow their students to question Darwinism. Are we becoming a totalitarian society? Sometimes it seems like it.

  52. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:35 pm

    There is NO evidence for Darwinian evolution. There are NO logical or scientific reasons to believe in it.

  53. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:37 pm

    People are confused because evolution is true and natural selection is true and adaptation is true.

    You don’t even want to TRY to understand this.

  54. Steve Crosson 11 Feb 2016 at 6:56 pm

    As has been repeatedly explained to Hardnose, the Theory of Evolution has been “proven” as completely and thoroughly as anything in science. Not only has it been demonstrated in the the lab, the predictive power alone is the basis for all of biology and is constantly re-confirmed with new scientific knowledge.

    The basic mechanisms are well understood and undeniable. Recent refinements to the theory (epigenetics, etc.) have served to STRENGHTEN the overall logic of the theory rather than weaken it.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with “justifying” materialism. Quite the opposite actually. Materialism is the ONLY world view to date that has ANY evidence whatsoever.

    HN is welcome to hypothesize whatever magic sauce he wishes, but no one has ever demonstrated either the existence or requirement for any force beyond that which is observable and measurable in the “material” world. It is absurd to try to justify teaching unsubstantiated wishful thinking on an equal footing with established science.

  55. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:57 pm

    @ hardnose

    “No, you did not comprehend what I said….We know that the theory (evolution) can often explain, or seem to explain, adaptation. But we do not know that it can explain evolution in general. We have no evidence that it can, and in fact we have no reason to think that it can…the universe is made out of information and that it is therefore intelligent. Of course materialists hate that idea.… But aside from all that, the fact remains that Darwin’s theory has most certainly not been demonstrated scientifically. It is extremely implausible, but you believe it anyway and you are under the illusion that it is scientific”

    So I didn’t comprehend what you said. Everything you just wrote conforms precisely with my characterisation of your position.

  56. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 6:59 pm

    @ HN

    “We know that the theory can often explain, or seem to explain, adaptation. But we do not know that it can explain evolution in general”

    This makes no sense, ‘evolution in general’ is the accumulation of multiple adaptive changes over time. Macro evolution is the long term expression of micro-evolutionary changes. How can the theory explain adaption but not ‘evolution in general’?

    The inferential evidence that random mutations and natural selection are primary drivers in evolutionary adaption is very strong. It’s been observed in Lenski’s Long Term E.coli experiment.

    There may be some unknown mechanisms we’ve yet to uncover but it is just not true that our current theories cannot account for the evolutionary changes we observe. And there is no reason to jump from the possibility of some unknown mechanism to invoking some kind of universal teleological consciousness. That’s a huge jump not justified by any evidence other than an argument from ignorance.

    You could just as easily since fit your super natural explanation into any natural phenomenon. I mean, we can’t absolutely prove that the Earth orbits the sun due to gravity. Maybe the Gods are moving Earth along.

  57. RickKon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:08 pm

    hardnose said: “There is NO evidence for Darwinian evolution. There are NO logical or scientific reasons to believe in it.”

    Right – the best way to convince people of your position when everybody knows you’re wrong, and you even suspect you’re wrong, is to emphatically repeat it over and over and over and over. That’s a great way to influence people and to even win friends.

  58. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:09 pm

    “The origin of mutants” is a very, very famous paper in evolutionary biology and genetics for a good reason, but it does not provide evidence for directed evolution – Cairns and his collaborators were extremely clear on this.

  59. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 7:12 pm

    “Maybe, but as someone still very much developing their own critical thinking skills, I like to read Hardnose, Michael Egnor and Ian Wardell to analyse their arguments, read other peoples’ responses to them and reflect on my own thinking.”

    Robney. Understood, although I think what I said still applies. It is hard to learn from HN, not because he is right, but because he is always fighting strawmen. Even in this discussion, notice that he changed evolution to ‘Darwinian evolution,’ which he even simplifies more to being merely random mutations plus natural selection. Modern understanding of evolution is far more sophisticated than his description, but he doesn’t engage it because he can’t. He simply does not have the background to do so, and it is not in his best interest. Notice that no one here made any of the arguments that he is refuting.

    You might learn something about critical thinking by engaging a troll (or pseudotroll), but I think that the best lesson there is to know when your efforts are better put elsewhere. I agree though, that argument with others is a great way of learning about topics and argument itself as you gain understanding. “Truth springs from arguments amongst friends.” Although the occasional argument with a troll can be hard to resist, I find it much more beneficial to engage people who I otherwise respect intellectually. I comment nearly everytime I disagree with Steve. It just doesn’t happen much. Same of the other commenters here (and life in general) that I respect intellectually.

  60. hardnoseon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:13 pm

    “Theory of Evolution has been “proven””

    I have said, over and over and over, that evolution is true. Somehow you missed it.

  61. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:49 pm

    @ Hardnose,

    The ‘theory of evolution’ primarily refers to our explanation of the mechanisms that drive evolutionary.

    Evolution more generally refers to the occurrence but both terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

    We understand your point that you accept the historical occurrence of evolution but dispute the theory. We get it.

    But your claim that there is no evidence for our current theory of evolution is wrong. Until you address the evidence for the theory (including Lenski’s E.Coli) and explain why it is invalid your claims are just naked assertions.

  62. Robneyon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:49 pm

    @ccbowers,

    I understand and I try to challenge myself by reading the best arguments against my own position, and seek out the most effective proponents of beliefs with which I disagree. It helps me find errors in my own thinking and sharpens my own arguments.

    But there is still a lot to learn by analysing even self-evidently stupid arguments. Precisely diagnosing the error in a chain of arguments is a skill that must be developed. Some people may already have highly developed skills in this regard and would gain nothing from deconstructing Hardnose’ posts – but I’m not there yet.

  63. Steve Crosson 11 Feb 2016 at 7:57 pm

    hardnose at 6:09 pm

    The evolution of life, from primitive to complex, has not been explained.

    hardnose at 7:13 pm

    I have said, over and over and over, that evolution is true.

    These two statements are contradictory, at least they are if you understand the meaning of the word “evolution”.

    FYI, evolution is not directed. It certainly is NOT from primitive to complex. Organisms adapt to their current environment. If less complex is better adapted, then it is more likely to survive. For example, whales, snakes, etc. have vestigial organs/limbs that tend to shrink or disappear as they are no longer beneficial to the organism.

    You are arguing against a straw man based completely on your own utter ignorance of the topic.

  64. Ivan Groznyon 11 Feb 2016 at 8:20 pm

    “You really don’t understand the issue. Read above. Even if this were as you are framing it (which it is not), imagine making that argument to the Supreme Court.”

    you are moving the goal posts. You criticized me for making big deal of the fact that Jefferson did not agree with modern interpretations of the establishment clause by lecturing me how uninformed I was because other founders, including allegedly Jefferson himself in other letter, did agree. I challenged you to prove that by providing any quotations, you could not, so you are now talking about other completely unrelated things, pretending you are debating the old question.

    “Do you not see how explicitly teaching creationism (in most cases that arise, that means Christianity) in schools, is constitutionally problematic?”

    No I don’t. Because it is not. It maybe stupid or harmful for children, but it is not unconstitutional. Where the Constitution says that Christianity cannot be taught in public schools? It only says that the government cannot establish one church legally. That’s all. It does say nothing, nothing whatsoever about the content of educational curricula with regard to religion, or any other issue. There are only power-hungry judges and sanctimonious liberal control freaks who twist the Constitution to impose whatever policy preferences they have.

    Robr: “Are you really suggesting that America’s highest court the rules on constitutional matters is mistaken about the constitutionality of the separation between church and state?”

    You’ve got to be joking. American Supreme Court made a mockery of constitution: it amended it illegally 1000 times, twisting, distorting or most often – brazenly and directly falsifying the obvious meaning of constitutional provisions to promote policies favoured by the judges. This included both economic libertarians in the early 20th century (eg Lochner case) and left-wing liberals ever since. every single “landmark” decision of the Sc in the 20th century is a direct and brazen act of lawlessness and “government by judiciary”, as famous left-liberal scholar Raoul Berger had nicely put it. American Constitution is a meaningless empty paper.

    “Personally, I think secularism is essential for freedom of religion in any society. I have no problem if you think my belief in religious freedom is an ideological position.”

    I don’t know what you mean by “secularism”. According to American constitutional tradition, secularism means that there will be no religious tests for public office and that the government will not legislate to favour any particular church or religious group over any other group. That however had never meant, until the militant atheists became powerful force in American society recently, that religion is to be banished from public space, or that there should be no school prayers, or anything of the sort.

    However, this case cited by Novella is even worse: it includes teachings that are not directly religious in character, such as the crackpot theories of “Intelligent design”. People teaching this stuff simply teach a wrong scientific theory, not religion. They do not transmit biblical creationism. You see, Novella wants to ban not only this but also teaching of unapproved heretical and sinful thoughts about global warming (scientific and social issue) or human cloning (ethical issue). What does all that have to do with the Establishment clause?

  65. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 8:35 pm

    “But there is still a lot to learn by analysing even self-evidently stupid arguments. Precisely diagnosing the error in a chain of arguments is a skill that must be developed. Some people may already have highly developed skills in this regard and would gain nothing from deconstructing Hardnose’ posts – but I’m not there yet.”

    I see. I agree with your assessment. Hardnose has been doing this for long enough that most of the commenters here are tired of refuting the same lame arguments, with absolutely no progress. But I agree that bad arguments can be good ways of learning critical thinking, especially as examples for explaining the basics of critical thinking.

    I like how you pointed out HN simultaneously acknowledging the fact of evolution, while denying the science of evolution. It is really a contradiction given the robustness of the evidence. Notice, he never really explains how it is wrong in any meaningful way, because he can’t. Any evidence would be from within science, and good ideas in a mature science like evolutionary biology will persist in the long run. If you challenge him, he may provide a source, but usually the source doesn’t support his argument. Most often he is fighting a caricature, due to his own ignorance. Illusory superiority exemplified.

  66. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2016 at 8:50 pm

    “you are moving the goal posts.”

    No, I was merely pointing out where the goal posts actually are. You were too busy off the field. Section I of the 14th amendment is about limiting the power of the states to restrict freedoms of the people, not the federal government having power over the states. You wanted quotes that were irrelevant to the question, and you want to dictate the argument when you don’t know what you are talking about.

    “You criticized me for making big deal of the fact that Jefferson did not agree with modern interpretations of the establishment clause”

    Jefferson died >40 years before the 14th amendment, which is the major mechanism by which the establishment clause was applied to state and local governments. You are way over your head on this topic, as you keep making pretty silly arguments.

  67. hammyrexon 11 Feb 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Intelligent design is theological – even if you argue it’s not religious by using a precision laser to slice those definitions, it’s still not scientific.

  68. Steve Crosson 11 Feb 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Ivan,

    Your arguments are terrible.

    How can you claim to understand “the government will not legislate to favour any particular church or religious group over any other group” and still pretend that permitting any one religion to have pride of place doesn’t do exactly that?

  69. CKavaon 11 Feb 2016 at 11:00 pm

    @Ivan Grozny

    Times have changed since 1789 so the fact that the document requires amendments and needs to be constantly reinterpreted is not some diabolical conspiracy; it’s just an inevitability when you live in a changing world.

    There is also a body of constitutional law that addresses the question of whether prohibiting the teaching of evolution/promoting creationism is against the constitution and the results in such cases have been consistent… it is. That you and other libertarians might be distraught at the Supreme Court having the power to interpret the constitution or disagree with their views is great to know but it changes exactly nothing in reality.

    Steve shouldn’t have to write his posts pandering to a specific libertarian interpretation/dream of how the US government should function unless this becomes a practical reality.

    Also, intelligent design is not a competing scientific theory, it is transparently religious for anyone who takes the time to look into the issue. That you regard it as a viable scientific alternative says much about your research and critical thinking. Look up the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial and in particular the ‘Of Pandas and People’ fiasco for a good entry into how Intelligent Design and Creationism are not exactly entirely distinct things.

  70. CKavaon 11 Feb 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Oh and on hardnose, he seems to be occupying the exact same ‘resident troll’ status of sonic- whatever happened to him?

    It doesn’t seem to be a productive use of time to engage with hardnose because he is clearly not interested in discussion or responding to criticism only in promoting his agenda in every single comment section. I appreciate Steve’s reluctance to ban anyone but in this case I think the level of disruption and derailing that he causes might make it a reasonable choice. Critical voices should be welcome and it is instructive to debate with those with different perspectives, but if someone has repeatedly demonstrated little actual willingness to actually engage in productive debates and a constant need to promote their pet ideologies it seems keeping them around is done so at the expense of other readers. As they have to chose to either a) ignore the comments, thus potentially presenting the impression to new visitors that they are difficult to address or b) engage them and point out the problems and end up in an endless cycle of presenting the same arguments to be ignored in every single comment thread.

    So in short, I’m in favour of banning hardnose because I think there is more than enough evidence that he makes basically no real attempt to engage in debate or respond to criticism and his endless repetition of his ideological statements cause derailment and disruption to other posters. Just one opinion though.

  71. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 3:53 am

    hammyrex,

    “I mean, at some point it simply stops even being possible to take you seriously – where are we now? HN the expert computer programmer, infectious disease specialist, virologist, philosopher of science, evolutionary biologist, and cognitive psychologist? Any more I’m forgetting?

    You forgot physicist — one who doesn’t know about entropy. Embarrassing, ain’t it.

  72. SteveAon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:38 am

    CKava: “Oh and on hardnose, he seems to be occupying the exact same ‘resident troll’ status of sonic- whatever happened to him?”

    Sonic bowed out a couple of months ago. I think HN and Sonic overlapped for a while. But I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check.

    I keep wondering if HN is a re-incarnation of ‘bacteria boy’. That wasn’t his real name, which I don’t remember, but he kept banging on about directed evolution and bacteria experiments that somehow proved it. However, he had a one-track mind and rarely commented on anything else, whereas HN seems to consider himself an authority most everything.

    I quite enjoy the trolls, until they start endlessly repeating themselves. Then it gets dull.

  73. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:40 am

    SteveA,

    I think you might be referring to cwfong.

  74. BillyJoe7on 12 Feb 2016 at 7:04 am

    …yeah, cwfong, also known as bindle and artfulD in previous incarnations.

    cwfong could never quite understand that the fact that epigenetic processes were themselves the product of random mutation and natural selection simply made them part of the modern synthesis and not a challenge to it. And he could never quite answer the question about how epigenetic processes could possibly direct evolutionary processes.

    And, yeah, he loved his bacteria – which he had to imbue with intelligence and consciousness, otherwise how could they direct their own evolution. He was famous for linking to articles that did not say what he thought they said, and he was not averse to sending you on wild goose chases by providing links that didn’t say anything at all about the topic at hand.

    And sonic left because he was losing the argument on climate change.
    He was completely fooled by baseline manipulations and cherry picked starting points. He decried climate science for the slightest errors but sucked up without question everything they spewed forth from the mouths of climate change denialists. He didn’t understand enough about real climate science to see through the BS of climate “sceptics”.

  75. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 7:47 am

    It is possible to observe something and to know that it happens, without necessarily understanding why or how it happens. That is the case with biological evolution, and many other things.

    Some of you cannot seem to see that something can be observed without being well understood.

  76. etatroon 12 Feb 2016 at 8:02 am

    “Steve Novella’s position is not ideologically neutral ” — I don’t think he ever wrote or stated this. It’s something you’ve attributed to him.

  77. etatroon 12 Feb 2016 at 8:09 am

    These academic freedom bills have been bandied about for a long time. When I was in college, I started a letter writing campaign at my school against a Student Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution in Ohio that was an effort to legalize creationism. Not sure if it did any good.

  78. Steve Crosson 12 Feb 2016 at 10:03 am

    hardnose:

    It is possible to observe something and to know that it happens, without necessarily understanding why or how it happens. That is the case with biological evolution, and many other things.

    “Why” and “How” are two different things. 

    The mere fact the that the theory of evolution has excellent explanatory and predictive power proves that we do indeed understand how it works very well. Each new refinement actually reinforces the fact that the underpinnings are sound.

    Why is a rather loaded word. If you agree that the mechanisms of natural selection operate exactly in accordance with the physical laws of the universe as we understand them, then, yes, we DO understand why.

    If instead you are trying to claim that “why” entails some mystical reason or meaning, then the burden is entirely on you to prove that there actually is a meaning. Until you can do that, it is meaningless to demand that we “understand” it.

  79. RickKon 12 Feb 2016 at 10:05 am

    Ivan said: “However, this case cited by Novella is even worse: it includes teachings that are not directly religious in character, such as the crackpot theories of “Intelligent design”. People teaching this stuff simply teach a wrong scientific theory, not religion. ”

    Name one Intelligent Design advocacy group or a single state or local promotion of allowing ID teaching in classrooms (or challenging evolution) that is not driven by religious activism. The only reason that the debunked/false claims of ID (in the rare case where it really makes a claim) haven’t gone the way of N-rays and the Luminiferous Aether is because it is pushed by religion.

    ID is religion – it didn’t take a judge to know that, it just takes honesty.

  80. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 10:51 am

    “The mere fact the that the theory of evolution has excellent explanatory and predictive power proves that we do indeed understand how it works very well.”

    You are wrong. No one knows what causes evolution. The consensus theory says the environment does not influence DNA, and that mutations happen only by chance, and that acquired traits cannot be inherited. That is ONLY a theory, and there is no scientific evidence for it.

  81. hammyrexon 12 Feb 2016 at 11:45 am

    Hypermutation mechanisms are not the same thing as directed evolution. The original researchers that discovered this specifically warned that directed evolution was an incorrect interpretation of their work.

    As usual, you don’t even know enough to know what you do not know.

  82. Steve Crosson 12 Feb 2016 at 12:07 pm

    hardnose:

    The consensus theory says the environment does not influence DNA, and that mutations happen only by chance, and that acquired traits cannot be inherited.

    Everything in this statement is wrong. You literally have no idea what the current research shows or what the current consensus is.

    Try “Ars Technica” to help cure your ignorance. They often have excellent articles on evolution, physics and many other topics in which you have displayed a profound misunderstanding. Their articles are aimed at the layman, and they have an excellent comment section in which you can ask questions if you don’t understand something.

  83. Ivan Groznyon 12 Feb 2016 at 12:38 pm

    “Times have changed since 1789 so the fact that the document requires amendments and needs to be constantly reinterpreted is not some diabolical conspiracy; it’s just an inevitability when you live in a changing world.”

    you are just illustrating my point: my friend, your eloquent statement above is not a neutral, “reasonable” and common sense statement of fact, but an ideological screed: you are pushing the Living Constitution doctrine, which says that there is no fixed meaning of constitutional provisions, they “evolve” with times. The alternative to that is not ignorance but the doctrine of originalism propounded by such judges and legal philosophers as Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Lino Graglia, Richard Epstein, and many others. Nothing is inevitable, living Constitution is not a product of blind historical forces, but of conscious propaganda and educational efforts by leftists and progressives over the last century to change the way how people understand the Constitution. Nothing is inevitable. Moreover, many leftists are alarmed by the perceived resurgence of originalism in the last 30 years or so. How come, if your doctrine is historically inevitable?

    Second, you don’t seem to make a clear-cut distinction between amending the Constitution legally and illegally- by judicial fiat.

  84. Ivan Groznyon 12 Feb 2016 at 12:44 pm

    “ID is religion – it didn’t take a judge to know that, it just takes honesty.”

    Environmentalism is religion as well, if we relax the standards that way. It’s in the eye of beholder. Teaching that the planet will end if we don;t pay our carbon indulgences is the worst and most sinister apocalyptic screed imaginable. Pure, fanatical religion. But, that does not mean that teaching environmentalist religion (or “religion”) has anything to do with the establishment clause of the 1st amendment.

  85. jsterritton 12 Feb 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Ivan,

    It is clear from your comments that you either do not understand the basics of case law (or our system of common law) or that you would deny those basics in favor of an alternate universe made to your liking. Your arguments, in service to your ideology, are fundamentally flawed, since they are premised almost entirely on denying the validity of the Establishment Clause. Your second go-to premise (also faulty) is that the EC’s application to a state’s authority over its schools is not valid. With such absurd assumptions, it’s no wonder you arrive at flawed arguments and silly conclusions. GIGO.

    Where you see a conspiracy of “conscious propaganda” that reduces the 20th century to an irrelevant judicial footnote, the rest of us live the real world, where the seminal American document contains an Establishment Clause, incorporation happened, and the judiciary “finds” the rules (i.e., common law). Here are 10 SCOTUS cases for you to bellyache about. You will notice that they all cite the EC, many cite the 14th Amendment, and after a while (chronologically) they begin to cite each other as precedent (e.g., the Lemon test). This is the law of the land. This is how the law works.

    1. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

    Citing the EC and the 14th Amendment, SCOTUS held 8-1 that schools could not allow religious instruction by outside groups.

    2. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)

    SCOTUS held that school prayers sponsored and written by a state violate the EC and are unconstitutional.

    3. Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)

    SCOTUS held 8-1 that state-sponsored Bible readings in public schools constitute “an impermissible religious exercise by government.”

    4. Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968)

    SCOTUS unanimously decides that states cannot ban teaching of evolution in public schools, because a state’s control over that state’s curriculum does not allow the state to exclude or withdraw secular material for religious reasons.

    5. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)

    SCOTUS decided unanimously that states cannot provide financial support to nonpublic (religious) schools and programs, because doing so violates the EC.

    6. Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)

    Invoking the “Lemon test,” SCOTUS reasoned that the 10 Commandments permanently posted in a classroom could serve no secular purpose, and could only be for the purpose of promoting religious views.

    7. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)

    In another “Lemon test” case, SCOTUS finds Alabama’s “moment of silence” law unconstitutional, since its sponsors’ purpose was explicitly to promote school prayer.

    8. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)

    SCOTUS held 7-2 that Louisiana’s “Creationism Act” violated the EC.

    Specifically, the Court found that the Act did not advance academic freedom, but instead stifled it by restricting what and how educators must teach.

    9. Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)

    SCOTUS held 8-1 that religious student clubs DO NOT violate the EC, because they don’t constitute endorsement of religion.

    10. Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)

    SCOTUS rules that pre-game prayer over school’s PA system violates EC. Duh.

  86. The Sparrowon 12 Feb 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Another potentially promising comment section completely derailed by HN and friends.

  87. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 2:48 pm

    I don’t think hn and Ivan are friends, somehow….

  88. Robneyon 12 Feb 2016 at 3:36 pm

    @hard-nosed

    “That is ONLY a theory, and there is no scientific evidence for it”

    You don’t know what a scientific theory is. You are conflating the coloqiual meaning of the word with its meaning in a scientific context.

    In science a theory is an explanatory framework or model. It does not reflect the level of confidence scientists have in the probability of it being true. Some theories are confirmed to such a degree they become as close to established fact as one can get in science – they are unlikely to be ever overturned.

    But no matter how strongly we confirm a particular theory it is still an explanation so still a theory.

    Claiming something is only a theory makes no sense Replace the word theory in your original sentence with the actual definition and see how meaningless it becomes;

    “that is only an ‘explanation that has been confirmed by a vast body of evidence’ and there is no scientific evidence for it’

    You are scientifically illiterate.

  89. BillyJoe7on 12 Feb 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Another brilliant example of a post by the resident troll that illustrates his absolute ignorance about the subject on which he presumes to pontificate.

    “The consensus theory says the environment does not influence DNA”

    False. As an example, the environmentally induced methylation of DNA is well and truly part of Modern Synthesis. It is a mechanism whereby genes are switched on and off by short term changes in the environment. These mechanisms were built into the genome by the usual evolutionary process of random mutation and natural selection and, therefore, falls well and truly within the Modern Synthesis.

    “and that mutations happen only by chance”

    False. Mutations are random with respect to whether or not they are beneficial. Mutations are obviously constrained by the laws of physics and chemistry. They are also constrained by mechanisms built into the genome by random mutation and natural selection. This includes mechanisms that increase the mutation rate in certain areas of the genome in response to short term environmental changes. These mechanisms evolved through random mutation and natural selection.

    “and that acquired traits cannot be inherited”

    False. It is well recognised that methylation of DNA can be passed onto the next several generations. However, when the short term environmental changes revert, the process is reversed restoring the original demethylated DNA. There is no evidence that any of these changes persists through more than a few generations. As a result, it is impossible for this mechanism to play any role in evolution. The fact that the actual genetic code remains unchanged throughout this process should make this obvious.

  90. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:22 pm

    BJ7,

    “False. Mutations are random with respect to whether or not they are beneficial. Mutations are obviously constrained by the laws of physics and chemistry. They are also constrained by mechanisms built into the genome by random mutation and natural selection. This includes mechanisms that increase the mutation rate in certain areas of the genome in response to short term environmental changes. These mechanisms evolved through random mutation and natural selection.”

    50 shades of cwfong! I lurked for ages on this blog before ever posting a comment, but cwfong pre-dates even my lurking. One xmas I was manning the office alone and got into a few old comment threads with you and cwfong going at it. You repeatedly posed the question, “and what does random mean in the context of genetic mutation?” I have been wondering for ages what the answer was (or, more accurately, it disquieted me that I didn’t know what you meant), precisely because, as you stated above, mutations are deterministic. That had been bothering me for ages, but now you cleared it up.

  91. steve12on 12 Feb 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I see that this discussion has progressed nicely….

    Previously I had proposed a band called the Clockwork Clocks in honor of The Troll , Ian, Sonic, etc.

    While that never came together, I think I have a better idea. A wacky Morning Zoo style radio duo called Ivan & The Troll. Can you imagine? Reactionary political views that your grandfather considers regressive meet a smarmy contrarian conspiracy nut with fake scientific credentials.

    Here’e the rub: they both know it ALL, yet they don’t agree on anything! Pepper their spirited yet incoherent repartee with suggestive sound effects and you’ll have a train wreck from which there is no looking away – or changing the channel.

    Whaddya say guys? I can bring this to Kickstarter right now…..

  92. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Steve12,

    I spot a coming rift of the same proportion as that which caused Michael Egnor to break off into his (failed) bid as a solo artist. There may be some magic now, but it will be short-lived. Egos will wreck the dream machine.

  93. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:39 pm

    “Previously I had proposed a band called the Clockwork Clocks in honor of The Troll , Ian, Sonic, etc.”

    Actually, I have to correct you on the line up. It was Ian Wardell, Leo100 (bass)… oh sh*t I can’t remember….

    Here it is:

    Ian: singer (unflinching ego)
    Leo: guitar (way too much to say, most people don’t want to hear any it)
    Sonic: bass (he just IS a bass player – hard to explain)
    Berardo: keys (for some reason I can see it in my head)
    M_Morgan: drums (he’s like a cross between Animal and Keith Moon late in the evening – just absolutely out of his gourd)

    Anyway, hn ain’t in it.

  94. steve12on 12 Feb 2016 at 4:40 pm

    “Egos will wreck the dream machine.”

    I fear that you’re right – but we can give it a go for a bit!

    I actually already have some sponsorship lined up from Dunning-Kruger Corp.

  95. steve12on 12 Feb 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Ha! You found it! What would have made the Beatles look like Creed!

    Leo was cute one and M_Morgan was the crazy one. Which is saying something

  96. steve12on 12 Feb 2016 at 4:43 pm

    How could HN not be in it?

    I must’ve been drinking….

  97. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:46 pm

    hn has been kissing up to that well known skeptic, Steven Novella, of late. He’ll be the Yoko Ono fly perfect soup of technicolour magic.

    On a more serious note:

    IG: No! You may not say something was “ruled unconstitutional” if you do not agree with my fringe interpretation of the constitution!

    hn: Materialist ideologue!

    I can just see that rift on the horizon.

  98. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:47 pm

    hn has been kissing up to that well known skeptic, Steven Novella, of late. He’ll be the Yoko Ono fly in the perfect soup of technicolour magic.

  99. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 4:50 pm

    “How could HN not be in it?”

    I don’t think he was there….

    Oh no, I was wrong: “AliSina and Hardnose can be a little horn section, I guess. Nothing strikes me there.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comments

    Effed if I can remember hn being there though…

  100. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I know I said that I was up for ignoring hn. But now I’ve started to talk about him, I’m doing this. These are all hn quotes from ‘The Brain is not a Receiver’ thread, and I took at least one from every single comment he posted.

    “The brain does not generate the mind — one of its functions is to mediate between the mind and the body. Data enters the system through the sense organs, and is transferred into the brain for processing. The mind interprets the processed sensory data, and responds by sending data to the brain, which may involve activation of voluntary muscles.”

    “The fact that mental states correlate with brain states does not explain the relationship between mind and brain.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-74721

    “No one knows how the brain works. So neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists have that ignorance in common.

    I am a computer scientist (with a Ph.D.). I think someone in my field might have a better grasp of what intelligence is than a typical M.D.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-74826

    “And changes in the mind influence the physical brain. How do you explain that in your 19th century materialist world?”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-74955

    “But even if you prefer a simple world where you don’t have to wear out your brain with too much thinking, that is not reality.”

    “Things will only get worse for you quantum-deniers, as the research continues. This might be fun to watch.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75014

    “What is a quantum denier? Steve N is one example. He states, as if it’s a proven fact that quantum “weirdness” does not exist at the macroscopic level.”

    “Steve N is a quantum denier because he either ignores scientific facts that don’t fit his 19th century world view. Or he does not pay attention to research outside his own field (a very bad mistake, I think).”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75041

    “Materialism is wrong because it doesn’t make any sense given current scientific knowledge. We know that “matter” is not made out of little particles of “matter,” for example.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75042

    “You take a word, such as “materialism,” and then do with it whatever you like. That’s fine, but don’t expect anyone to understand what you mean by the word. I have absolutely no idea what you mean by “materialism.””

    Now that is rich!

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75073

    “Materialists love to say this is all woo and nonsense. But as more evidence is collected, it will get harder for them to ignore.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75156

    “Nobody is smart enough to figure out what “matter” is made out of. It certainly is not little tiny ball bearings, or whatever your 19th century imagination dreams up.”

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-brain-is-not-a-receiver/#comment-75289

  101. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 5:26 pm

    (I posted this with a link to every comment but it went into moderation. Too many URLs, in spite of the fact that they all link back to Neurologica….Wordpress is stupid…but anyone who would like to verify these comments, and the fact that I quoted from ALL of hn’s entries, can just go to the comments page, CTRL+F “hardnose” and work their way through. [other methods are available])

    I know I said that I was up for ignoring hn. But now I’ve started to talk about him, I’m doing this. These are all hn quotes from ‘The Brain is not a Receiver’ thread, and I took at least one from every single comment he posted.

    “The brain does not generate the mind — one of its functions is to mediate between the mind and the body. Data enters the system through the sense organs, and is transferred into the brain for processing. The mind interprets the processed sensory data, and responds by sending data to the brain, which may involve activation of voluntary muscles.”

    “The fact that mental states correlate with brain states does not explain the relationship between mind and brain.”

    “No one knows how the brain works. So neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists have that ignorance in common.

    I am a computer scientist (with a Ph.D.). I think someone in my field might have a better grasp of what intelligence is than a typical M.D.”

    “And changes in the mind influence the physical brain. How do you explain that in your 19th century materialist world?”

    “But even if you prefer a simple world where you don’t have to wear out your brain with too much thinking, that is not reality.”

    “Things will only get worse for you quantum-deniers, as the research continues. This might be fun to watch.”

    “What is a quantum denier? Steve N is one example. He states, as if it’s a proven fact that quantum “weirdness” does not exist at the macroscopic level.”

    “Steve N is a quantum denier because he either ignores scientific facts that don’t fit his 19th century world view. Or he does not pay attention to research outside his own field (a very bad mistake, I think).”

    “Materialism is wrong because it doesn’t make any sense given current scientific knowledge. We know that “matter” is not made out of little particles of “matter,” for example.”

    “You take a word, such as “materialism,” and then do with it whatever you like. That’s fine, but don’t expect anyone to understand what you mean by the word. I have absolutely no idea what you mean by “materialism.””

    Now that is rich!

    “Materialists love to say this is all woo and nonsense. But as more evidence is collected, it will get harder for them to ignore.”

    “Nobody is smart enough to figure out what “matter” is made out of. It certainly is not little tiny ball bearings, or whatever your 19th century imagination dreams up.”

  102. Damloweton 12 Feb 2016 at 5:42 pm

    @ Robney

    I have learned over the last couple of years that the very best question to ask people like HN, IW, ME and my brother, to name but a few, is:

    “What evidence can I present to you that will change your mind?”

    The honest answer I received from my brother (and I would suspect from above) was that there is no evidence that I could present him that would change his mind!.

    Once ‘you’ realize that this is the territory that ‘they’ occupy, discussion is utterly pointless for their benefit. But, I (and by what you have written) agree with you that there is great opportunity to learn from their writings and delusions as a great number of their ramblings are de-constructed and laid bare by the Neurologica community.

    Ultimately, the Trolls mentioned above do more good than harm here, and Clearly Steve N is aware of this, which is one reason why ‘they’ are free to make (in my opinion) dicks of themselves.

    Damien

  103. ccbowerson 12 Feb 2016 at 8:34 pm

    I wish I new what they looked like to envision the lineup of the ‘Clockwork Clocks.’ I agree that Sonic is on bass. Maybe HN can be hype man as to not disturb the original proposed lineup.

  104. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 6:03 am

    Hn can just be like Bez was to the Happy Mondays, a sort of loosely affiliated pill head that follows the band around and throws shapes while gurning.

  105. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 6:07 am

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=bez&client=ms-android-orange-gb&prmd=ivn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjPsdqRzPTKAhVItRQKHVtODhYQ_AUIBygB&biw=360&bih=511#imgrc=c8gLngALTtU3iM%3A

  106. steve12on 15 Feb 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Those quotes are pretty funny, Mumadadd.

    And on the plus side, now I know who Bez is….

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