1 of 9
1
Intelligent Design and Ethics
Posted: 19 September 2009 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4860
Joined  2007-10-05

By popular demand (OK, one person asked), this is the essay I wrote for my Philosophy 2306 - Ethics, class. The first draft was about 50 percent longer, and I had to leave out some good material to get down to five pages double spaced. Writing a 20-page essay would have been easier.

Teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in high school biology classes is unethical. ID is not science. ID proponents deceive people about the origins of ID and misrepresent other scientists’ work. Additionally, after the Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School District decision in 2005, teaching Intelligent Design in public schools is illegal.

ID proposes an unnamed agent created everything we see, including the universe and life on earth. ID grew out of creationism after the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited teaching creationism in public schools (Edwards v Aguillard, 1987). In 1989 Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon published “Of Pandas and People,” intending it as a high school level textbook for teaching ID. The majority of the scientific community regards ID as pseudoscience because it invokes supernatural causes, makes no predictions and cannot be falsified experimentally.

ID proponents’ often denigrate the Theory of Evolution as being a mere “theory.” In public vernacular “theory” means something that sounds plausible but may not be true. In science, a theory is a falsifiable hypothesis based on observations, supported by evidence, verified by independent experiments that could have proven the theory false, and accepted as the current most valid explanation for observed events.
Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is one of the most successful scientific theories of all time. Not only does it explain how and why species have evolved over billions of years, scientists have used the theory to predict where to search for specific fossils. Myriad fossils unearthed since Darwin’s time provide evidence supporting his theory. Geneticists using DNA sequencing have provided evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution.

During the Kitzmiller trial the plaintiffs’ attorneys introduced evidence proving conclusively that in an early draft “Of Pandas and People” contained language referring to a creator. A subsequent draft, after the Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard, changed the term “Creation” to “Intelligent design.” ID proponents left further evidence in the manuscripts. Plaintiffs’ attorneys found instances were the word “creationists” had been replaced with “Cdesign proponentsists,” which Nick Matzke of the plaintiffs’ team characterized as the missing link between creationism and intelligent design. “You’ve got the direct physical evidence there for a transitional fossil.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)

Judge John Jones, who presided over the Dover trial, came down harshly on the ID proponents in his court ruling. Finding for the plaintiffs, he wrote “The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” (Jones, 2005)

Another tactic of ID proponents’ is to misrepresent the work of scientists. While testifying for the defendants in Kitzmiller v Dover, biochemist Michael Behe stated other scientists had published peer-reviewed papers supporting his idea of irreducible complexity, and gave Dr. David Derosier of Brandeis University as an example. Behe’s irreducible complexity is an argument that some observed natural phenomena are too complex to have evolved, and if any portion of the wholes is removed the system will collapse and serve no evolutionary purpose. Behe cited the bacterial flagellum as an example of irreducible complexity. Behe argued that if any portion of the flagellum were missing, the flagellum would not function, and therefore had to be designed rather than evolved. Behe showed a slide quoting Derosier stating, “More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)

Derosier, in the film, said his article stated something completely different than what Behe claimed. “What I wrote was, ‘This is a machine that looks like it was designed by a human.’ But that doesn’t mean that it was designed, that is the product of intelligent design. Indeed, this, more, has all the earmarks of something that arose by evolution.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007) Derosier went on to explain the bacterial flagellum does have a less complex counterpart from which it could have evolved. The bacteria that cause the Bubonic plague have a similar flagellum that does not rotate, but acts as a syringe. “So the virulence factors that are made inside the cell, which is down here, can be exported, pushed up into this hole and exported out through this long, kind of, needle, perhaps into a cell in your body or mine, and thereby create misery,” Derosier said. (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)

Judge Jones, in his court ruling, excoriated not only the ID proponents’ misuse of science, but also their dishonesty. Throughout the trial ID proponents proclaimed purely secular purposes for promoting Intelligent Design. Their lack of scientific rigor, misrepresentation of scientific assent, and religious roots of Intelligent Design led Judge Jones to find the defendants were deceptively attempting to introduce religion into science classrooms: “Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause.” (Jones, 2005)

Behe’s actions misrepresenting other scientists’ works in the Kitzmiller trial were nothing new for ID proponents. In 1981 Stephen J. Gould decried creationists misquoting his words and using them to promote religion. Gould and his colleague Niles Eldridge proposed, in 1972, a theory they called punctuated equilibrium, in which evolution moves in jerky, episodic changes, not smooth transitions. This theory explains the apparent geologic suddenness of new species appearing, followed by long periods of stasis, wherein species remain relatively stable. Creationists used Gould’s and Eldridge’s theory as evidence against evolution, which angered Gould.

Gould wrote “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” (Gould, 1981)

Twenty-eight years later, Don McLeroy, then interim chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, misquoted Gould in the Austin American Statesman. “Stephen Jay Gould stated: ‘The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. [This is called ‘stasis.’] These species appear ... without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants’.” (McLeroy, 2009)

On May 28, 2009, the Texas State Senate voted along party lines and did not confirm McLeroy’s permanent appointment as chairman of the State Board of Education. Opponents cited his refusal to listen to scientists and educators while drafting science curriculum standards. McLeroy’s editorial in the Statesman makes his views clear. He said the difficulty in writing science standards for Texas classrooms centered on a culture war over evolution. “The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom.” (McLeroy, 2009)

Despite the transgressions of ID proponents being a matter of settled case law in this country, the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education went on record stating scientists are to blame for the controversy over teaching Intelligent Design. This is a continuation of the duplicity creationists have practiced since the 1970s. Judge Jones wrote in his legal opinion that although the Dover school board consistently asserted secular purposes for injecting ID into science classes, their actions belied their words. “The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District’s science teachers. The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the (Thomas Moore Law Center).” (Jones, 2005)

Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, and the overwhelming evidence Intelligent Design is not science, its proponents hiding the religious origins of ID and misrepresenting scientists’ work, one can only conclude teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is unethical. Given Judge Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller v Dover, teaching ID in biology classes is illegal as well.

 Signature 

You cannot have a rational conversation with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 September 2009 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

Thanks for that, fotobits.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 September 2009 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23

Wow!  Check and mate.  Nicely done!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 September 2009 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2457
Joined  2008-06-03

Love the Dover trial references. Lovely work. You get an “A” from Jules.  wink

The only thing I might have added is more info on the specific harm done to students by intelligent design; causing confusion and ruining their understanding of the scientific process. That to me is one of the most unethical parts of “intelligent design.”

 Signature 

Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 September 2009 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4860
Joined  2007-10-05

That’s an excellent point, Jules. We had an example of that very confusion in our class. She just got out of high school, and told the class that studying the Theory of Evolution in high school biology class offended her because she is a Christian and she thinks ID should get equal time. She refused to acknowledge, or could not understand, that ID is not science. I refrained from asking if she bothered watching the film and reading the assigned essays.

 Signature 

You cannot have a rational conversation with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 September 2009 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2457
Joined  2008-06-03

Poor girl! Probably brainwashed.

 Signature 

Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2009 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  86
Joined  2009-07-11

Fotobits, thanks for posting your paper. I have some comments and questions.

fotobits - 19 September 2009 05:41 AM

By popular demand (OK, one person asked), this is the essay I wrote for my Philosophy 2306 - Ethics, class. The first draft was about 50 percent longer, and I had to leave out some good material to get down to five pages double spaced. Writing a 20-page essay would have been easier.

Teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in high school biology classes is unethical. ID is not science. ID proponents deceive people about the origins of ID and misrepresent other scientists’ work. Additionally, after the Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School District decision in 2005, teaching Intelligent Design in public schools is illegal.

What exactly was the assignment? The connection of your topic with ethics as a philosophical subject seems tenuous to me (though in view of what you have related in other posts about the course, much of the course’s content seems to have little connection with philosophical ethics anyway!).

fotobits - 19 September 2009 05:41 AM

ID proponents’ often denigrate the Theory of Evolution as being a mere “theory.” In public vernacular “theory” means something that sounds plausible but may not be true. In science, a theory is a falsifiable hypothesis based on observations, supported by evidence, verified by independent experiments that could have proven the theory false, and accepted as the current most valid explanation for observed events.

This, especially the part that I have set in red, does not seem right to me. According to this explanation of what a theory is in science, there is no such thing as a scientific theory that has not yet been accepted or a theory that has been rejected. What was called the theory of the luminiferous aether, for instance, is not a theory, according to your definition, and never was one (since it was never verified: put to the test by Michelson and Morley, it failed). Darwin’s theory of natural selection, according to this definition, was not yet a theory when Darwin published The Origin of Species, but only became one gradually as it came to be accepted within the scientific community. That does not seem plausible to me. Perhaps something has to have some evidence in its favor to count as a scientific theory, but to require that it be verified and accepted seems to me to require too much.

fotobits - 19 September 2009 05:41 AM

During the Kitzmiller trial the plaintiffs’ attorneys introduced evidence proving conclusively that in an early draft “Of Pandas and People” contained language referring to a creator. A subsequent draft, after the Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard, changed the term “Creation” to “Intelligent design.” ID proponents left further evidence in the manuscripts. Plaintiffs’ attorneys found instances were the word “creationists” had been replaced with “Cdesign proponentsists,” which Nick Matzke of the plaintiffs’ team characterized as the missing link between creationism and intelligent design. “You’ve got the direct physical evidence there for a transitional fossil.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)

That was a sweet moment, wasn’t it?

fotobits - 19 September 2009 05:41 AM

Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, and the overwhelming evidence Intelligent Design is not science, its proponents hiding the religious origins of ID and misrepresenting scientists’ work, one can only conclude teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is unethical.

The conclusion that you state here was also stated in the opening sentence of your paper, which gives it considerable prominence; but this one sentence contains all the argument for it that you ever supply. Maybe this was an effect of cutting the paper down to a length limit, but even so the stated argument contains a non sequitur: that proponents of ID have used unethical means to get it into school curricula does not warrant or even support the conclusion that teaching ID is unethical. (Comparison: If some pro-evolution types tied up some pro-ID members of a school board and left them in a ditch so that they would miss an important meeting to decide on the science curriculum, would it follow that including the theory of evolution in the curriculum is unethical?) To support your conclusion, it seems to me that you would have to argue in something like the following fashion (this is just a schematic representation, not an attempt at expository prose): ID is fake science; to teach fake science in a science class is unethical; therefore, to teach ID in science classes is unethical.

I shall be very interested to see what comments you get from your instructor. I’m just giving you some friendly criticisms for comparison.

 Signature 

My blog: Skeptical Observations

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2009 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4860
Joined  2007-10-05

Where we you when I needed you, Kritikos?  LOL

These are all excellent critiques, and show why writers need good editors. The assignment was to answer the question: Is teaching Intelligent Design in high school biology classes ethical? I agree it is only tangentially related to ethics. So far, and we are more than 1/4 through the semester, the entire course has been only tangentially related to ethics.

The sentence you highlighted in red needs rewriting for clarity. We have plenty of old theories that have been rejected, and some new ones that have not been verified. Fortunately for me, my philosophy professor let that one slide.

My concluding paragraph is about 1/2 of what I had originally written. The assertions in the sentence you quoted refer to material covered earlier in the essay. I had to delete some wording referring to the trial, scientists’ testimony, and quotes from Dover school board members. As I said, a 20-page essay would have been easier. My first draft was nine pages, and I left a lot of material unused in that draft. I left a lot of excellent material in the trash bin getting down to five pages.

I received maximum points (15) on the essay. The instructor called it concisely written and well thought out. I’m glad he let me slide on the sloppy definition of a theory. He should have taken off one point for that.

 Signature 

You cannot have a rational conversation with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2009 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23
Kritikos - 27 September 2009 12:55 PM
fotobits - 19 September 2009 05:41 AM

Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, and the overwhelming evidence Intelligent Design is not science, its proponents hiding the religious origins of ID and misrepresenting scientists’ work, one can only conclude teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is unethical.

The conclusion that you state here was also stated in the opening sentence of your paper, which gives it considerable prominence; but this one sentence contains all the argument for it that you ever supply.

I have problems with your critique.  First, it is standard practice to restate your thesis in the conclusion of your paper.  That is pretty classic.

Maybe this was an effect of cutting the paper down to a length limit, but even so the stated argument contains a non sequitur: that proponents of ID have used unethical means to get it into school curricula does not warrant or even support the conclusion that teaching ID is unethical.

Second, the “its proponents hiding the religious origins of ID and misrepresenting scientists’ work” portion does refer to methods, but it isn’t a non-sequitur.  It is neither illogical nor absurd especially in the context of the ethics argument.  For a teacher to accept ID and validate it by teaching it to students is unethical if all of the evidence to support it comes from subterfuge and misrepresentation.  You’ve got to consider the power dynamic between student and teacher.  9 times out of 10 a student accepts lessons taught by their teacher as the best and most verifiable information at the time.  The fact that the methods used were so flawed and unscientific brings into question the ethics of a teacher who puts this in her/his curriculum, or even the school board (or however each particular state’s laws work).  Especially when you consider that teachers can object, refuse to teach, get their union involved, and any number of things to prevent the spread of misinformation.  I was following orders isn’t an ethical excuse, and an educated teacher should know and do better.

(Comparison: If some pro-evolution types tied up some pro-ID members of a school board and left them in a ditch so that they would miss an important meeting to decide on the science curriculum, would it follow that including the theory of evolution in the curriculum is unethical?) To support your conclusion, it seems to me that you would have to argue in something like the following fashion (this is just a schematic representation, not an attempt at expository prose): ID is fake science; to teach fake science in a science class is unethical; therefore, to teach ID in science classes is unethical.

I think your comparison is not equivalent.  You fail to see that the argument put forth, in regards to the methods, was in a large part using testimony from trials.  Dr. Derosier’s testimony and the judges comments are important pieces of information, legal proof of the “fake” science the ID is pushing and that teachers should be aware of which would prevent any ethical teacher from including it in her/his curriculum.  Here’s a more apt example:  It would be unethical for a teacher to give her/his students a math book that taught 3+3=7 and 5x4=32, even if the school board had just been wowed by the author’s thoroughly confusing and misleading presentation which left the school board believing that 3+3 did =7.  (FYI- there is a thread on here somewhere where someone was trying to convince us that 1+1=3).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2009 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23
fotobits - 27 September 2009 02:04 PM

I received maximum points (15) on the essay. The instructor called it concisely written and well thought out. I’m glad he let me slide on the sloppy definition of a theory. He should have taken off one point for that.

CONGRATS!!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2010 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6162
Joined  2009-02-26

Thanks Darron, very informative, in fact as well as presentation.

 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2010 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6162
Joined  2009-02-26

I saw a program once that showed how a computer could design and build a walking entity, just from a set of given parameters. i.e. a set of tools, instructions to move from point A to point B, and a set of limitations where only a ground based propulsion method was acceptable. There was no input as to shape, form or known ways of propulsion.
The computers came up with a number of viable shapes and propulsion methods, from wriggling (snake), to limbs (quadrupeds), paralell and alternate gaits, pulling and pushing, and a host of other ways to move from point A to point B, without leaving the ground. Some were very crude, but some solutions showed remarkable “intelligence” in design. But all came up with a way to move from A to B, which could be usable in the natural world.
To me this proved that, given enough time, nature as a universal computer (operating system), can and has created by evolution all that we know in the universe. If a computer can do it in a few hours, the universe can certainly do it in 13+ billion years.

[ Edited: 20 March 2010 04:09 PM by Write4U ]
 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2010 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6162
Joined  2009-02-26

Here is such an example (though not the one I referred to above)

Evolution: Creativity Engine
Evolution is an inherently creative process. Left to its own devices, it will automatically generate complex and beautiful forms.
Only three ingredients are required for a runaway evolutionary process to take hold: replication, variation, and selection. In nature, DNA is the replicator. It is able to make high-fidelity copies of itself under the right conditions. Variation comes from occasional errors during the copying process, and selection comes from the environment as some life is better suited to live and reproduce under the extant conditions of the planet than others.
Interestingly, these three ingredients are relatively easy to program into a computer. Replication is something computers do inherently. Copying data from one place to another is their most basic function. Variation is achieved by artificially adding some randomness to the copying process, again trivial for a computer. Selection requires a little more work. The programmer must decide what makes some entities more “fit” than others which usually requires a simulation of some kind. The fitter entities are then given more of a chance to copy themselves.
My masters thesis at the University of Sussex in 2005 was to design running, springy robots in simulation (called Metapets). The design task itself was too difficult to solve on my own due to the complex interaction of the springs and coordination of the limbs although I tried. Eventually, I appealed to evolution to work out the details. The fitness of each robot was determined by how far it moved forward, thus selecting robots for speed.
At the start of the evolutionary process, most robots would just fall down and go into convulsions. Others walked backwards, went in circles, or just stood still. But, after letting evolution run for several weeks, more functional designs gradually emerged, and the longer I ran the simulation, the better the designs became.
Many of the designs that evolved were quirky looking, while others dragged their legs, walked on their elbows, or moved in ways that one would not consider intuitive. Therein lies artificial evolution’s primary caveat: it may provide a means of automatically solving a specific problem in a creative way, but not necessarily the way you intended or expected. When this happens, the evolutionary pressure can be refined by adjusting the “fitness function” which determines each model’s fitness score in the selection step
http://skitterbot.com/blog/?p=31

 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2010 04:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  441
Joined  2009-12-17
Kritikos - 27 September 2009 12:55 PM

This, especially the part that I have set in red, does not seem right to me.

Well said cool smile .. give that man a biscuit

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2010 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  308
Joined  2009-11-30

Intelligent Design is too advanced for science. Ironic huh!

 Signature 

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” -Voltaire
“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.” - Thomas Paine
“It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” - Carl Sagan
“It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” - Baha’u'llah

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2010 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  29
Joined  2010-02-11

Very interesting stuff. By way of feedback, I would comment only that you need to establish a premise that connects the unscientific and unscrupulous passage of ID to the statement that it teaching ID is unethical.  This appears to be crucial assumpition of your argument, yet it is only paid brief lip-service in the closing sentence.  The argument itself, this premise in particular, likely has more subtleties than you credit to it.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 9
1