The Commissar gets it right

Not all conservatives drink the "intelligent design" Kool Aid. For example, the Commissar takes the "argument" of "let the students decide" what should be taught to its "logical" conclusion! Sadly, I've seen some course lists that sort of look like the one he describes.

Quoth the Commissar: "The best part is... if this curriculum is all wrong... the kids can figure it out for themselves!! Put it all out there and let the students decide."

Sadly, that's what ID adherents are in essence saying when they say, "Let the students decide."

The Commissar also gets it right when he lambastes pseudoscientists for whining rather than doing what real scientists do (looking for evidence) when their ideas are not immediately accepted, and he gives the examples of several real scientists whose ideas were rejected at first--until the weight of evidence forced scientists to revise their opinions. I've said more or less the same thing in the past: real scientist claims that the "Theory du Jour" is the "final word." Such thinking is anathema to scientists. Real scientists consider every theory as merely provisionally accepted as the best presently existing explanation for a natural phenomenon. All theories, including evolution, are subject to revision or replacement if new evidence mandates it. Indeed, the greatest joy a scientist can achieve is not to confirm current theory (although that can be satisifying) but rather to challenge and go beyond current theory, filling in its flaws or even overturning it altogether in favor of something new that leads to new understanding and new areas of inquiry. But achieving that is not easy. It takes evidence so compelling and in such quantities that the bulk of scientists are finally forced to admit that present theory can't stand against it, something ID proponents don't seem to understand. If they think ID is a superior explanation for evolution than present day theory, they need to produce the goods to prove it, just as every scientist who has successfully challenged current theory has done before. It is not up to the skeptics to prove ID is not the best explanation for the diversity of life; it is up to its adherents to prove that it is.


  1. H. Allen Orr has an excellent ID article entitled "Devolution" up at "The New Yorker". I posted about it over at my place earlier today: Broadsheet

  2. Oh dear. It seems Mr. Orr at the New Yorker makes one thoroughly innacurate statement early in his article.

    "A random mutation in an organism, like a random change in any finely tuned machine, is almost always bad."

    No, Mr. Orr, a random mutation is not "almost always bad". Most mutations are inherently neither good nor bad. The effect of most mutations depends entirely upon the environment in which it is expressed, and even then its effects are usually subtle; many don't have any immediate effect. What mutations really do is introduce variation to the species they spread through a population, and it's the effect of the new mutation on the population that's important.

    That aside, he does a pretty good job of debunking ID.

  3. Not all conservatives drink the "intelligent design" Kool Aid.

    Be careful to differentiate between "conservatives" and religious fundamentalists. They're not one-in-the-same. There's really no need from a literary standpoint to throw an anti-conservative message in a post like this.

    I'm a conservative simply because I enjoy following basic economic principles such as: lower taxes creates more jobs. I have nothing to do with the religious anti-evolution crew. There are many types of conservatives and one type--my type--is the type that enjoys freedom and, you know, a good economy (to oversimplify)

    Beware of your own stereotypes!

  4. Actually, I lean right of center myself, which is why the "intelligent design" fundamentalists annoy me so much. I hate having conservatism associated with such pseudoscience.

  5. Fair enough.

    The best part is... if this curriculum is all wrong... the kids can figure it out for themselves!! Put it all out there and let the students decide."

    Young students don't really have many skills to critically evaluate evidence (critically evaluating scientific data is a skill in itself), so it's imperative that scientific theories presented to young students not be up for a lot of debate--as in, scientific debate.

  6. Can I propose a theory of Unintelligent Design, where G(h)od is a real dolt, whose only idea is to shove all the bits of matter and energy together randomly, and see what happens ... say, every 15 billion years or so?

    I can certainly point to many design features currently in existence to support the Unintelligence required :)


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