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Lobbyists Resort to Myth Information Campaign on Academic Freedom Legislation

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It's springtime (almost), which means that Darwin lobbyists are starting to come out in full force to spread misinformation about academic freedom legislation.

This is most unfortunate because their goal, plain and simple, is to prevent students from hearing about scientific critiques of neo-Darwinian evolution in the classroom.

I've already covered some of these bad objections here. Let's consider the false claims being promoted by critics of academic freedom legislation.

Myth #1. Academic Freedom Laws Have Led to Litigation
Some critics, especially those in Oklahoma, have felt the need to promote outright falsehoods by claiming that the Louisiana Science Education Act has been subject to lawsuits. The truth is that there has never been a legal challenge to an academic freedom act. In fact, after Louisiana passed its academic freedom bill into law in 2008, Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman reportedly acknowledged that "if the Act is utilized as written, it should be fine . . ." And to date there has been no legal action against Louisiana's law or any other academic freedom bill.

Unfortunately, the outright falsehood that academic freedom laws have led to litigation seems to have convinced enough Oklahoma legislators to kill an academic freedom bill in committee this week by a close vote of 7-9.

Myth #2. The Bill Forces Teachers to Change the Curriculum
"Climate Progress" is claiming the bill "forces teachers to question evolution." That's also false. Academic freedom bills are permissive, not compulsory, in their effect. An academic freedom bill does not require teachers to teach anything differently. Topics like evolution will still be taught as a matter of required state law. All students will still need to learn and will be tested upon all aspects of state science standards. The bill still mandates that teachers follow the curriculum and teach the pro-evolution evidence. But it also gives teachers academic freedom to teach about credible scientific viewpoints that challenge the neo-Darwinian "consensus" -- if they choose to do so.

Myth #3. Academic Freedom Bills will Bring Creationist Religion Into the Science Classroom
Of course, we're also hearing the standard false charges that the bills allow the teaching of creationism or religion. In the past, Scientific American has been eager to lead the way in printing such arguments, as seen in a 2008 article from NCSE's Glenn Branch and Eugenie Scott, alleging that "there is no scientifically credible challenge to evolution, only long-ago-debunked creationist claptrap." Many critics have followed in their footsteps.

Consider this gem from a self-published article on Examiner.com: "it is cleverly worded to disguise the intent to force the religion of Christianity into science classes in the Oklahoma public schools."

The blog Right vs. Left attacks one bill stating, "If America wants to compete in the world our schools should teach our children logic and rational thinking, not dogma."

Science & Religion Today states that "many people see the new act for what it is: part of the latest strategy to undercut the teaching of evolution and sneak religious theories like creationism." One of those people is New Mexico activist Dave Thomas, who states, "This is really just a ploy to get creationism in the classroom."

Despite the talking points of critics, academic freedom bills do not authorize or protect the teaching of creationism or any other religious viewpoint. According to a number of federal court rulings, creationism is a religious viewpoint that is illegal to advocate in public schools. Consistent with these rulings, most academic freedom bills contain language that expressly excludes the teaching of religion and only protects the teaching of scientific information. Such bills also typically contain a provision akin to the following:

The provisions of the Act shall only protect 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 nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

Those who claim that academic freedom bills authorize the teaching of religion disregard the actual text of the bills. The plain text of the bill shows that it does not cover or protect the teaching of creationism or any other form of religion.

The only way that the "ploy to get creationism in the classroom" argument could be valid is if all teachers were in on some massive -- and obviously non-existent -- conspiracy where they all believe that "objective discussion of scientific theories" really means "teach religion." Is this argument a sign of profound weakness in academic freedom legislation or a sign of profound desperation on the part of critics to find counter-arguments against these bills?

Myth #4. The Bills Bring Intelligent Design Into the Classroom
An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican states that the "[m]easure clears way for teaching of 'intelligent design'." This is also wrong. For example, the academic freedom bill in New Mexico (which recently died in committee) states:

The department, school district governing authorities and school administrators shall not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic. A teacher who chooses to provide such information shall be protected from reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so.

Other bills state that teachers should "be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught."

Under such language, academic freedom bills only pertain to topics already in the curriculum and the adopted science standards. Since ID isn't part of the required curriculum anywhere in the United States, ID doesn't come under such bills.

Myth #5. The Bills Single Out Evolution
Some critics are claiming that the bills single out evolution for special treatment. This too misrepresents the bill. For example, the Oklahoma bill doesn't just pertain to evolution. As the bill says, it pertains to "scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." Here's what one bill says:

A. ... The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects. B. The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators, and public school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

The bills go out of their way to not pertain to just evolution; they don't single out any one topic.

Myth #6. Fearmongering: Academic Freedom Makes You Stupid, Dishonest, and a Science Adulterer

It's almost too kind to call this one a myth. Nonetheless, these are my favorite attacks on academic freedom legislation because they show the intense drive among critics who wish to attack something as pure and good intellectual freedom as something twisted and evil. Their reaction towards academic freedom says far more about critics than it says about proponents of the legislation. (To see some of the outlandish comments from previous years, click here.) Here are some of the best gems printed so far this year to malign those who would dare to ask for objectivity on topics like evolution:

  • Quoting the NCSE, Climate Progress states that "students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level."
  • Quoting an Oklahoma Darwin lobby group, ClimateProgress likewise says: "Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest."
  • A Freethought activist in Oklahoma has published multiple articles on Examiner.com copying and pasting from Wikipedia and arguing that academic freedom is "dishonest" or "promotes academic misconduct." He further claims, "Dr. Broughton informed that, 'HB 1551 makes the completely baseless association between academic freedom and freedom to teach pseduoscientific nonsense.'"
  • Right vs. Left states: "This is just a bit more lipstick on this ignorant pig."
  • It's tough to top such rhetorical flourishes, but Steve Newton of the NCSE should probably receive special recognition for his outlandish attacks. According to one news article, he's very worried about "injustice" being perpetrated by "creationist teachers":

    "Allowing creationist teachers to attack evolution is an injustice to the education of their students, who will live and work in a world increasingly dependent on understanding science and technology," Steve Newton, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education, said in an e-mail Tuesday.
     
    Newton argued that high-paying manufacturing jobs of the future will be in biotechnology -- "an industry that assumes workers understand evolution." Therefore, he said, New Mexico students would be put at a competitive disadvantage "if their teachers, under HB 302, are given cover to adulterate science education."

    "Adulterate science education"? Let's have a little reality check and remind ourselves what these bills actually say:

    teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
    Apparently for these critics, simply allowing objective discussion of controversial scientific theories is too much for them.

    What's most ironic about these tactics is that they show exactly why academic freedom legislation is needed.

    What type of climate is created in the classroom when you tell teachers and students that it is "dishonest" or "academic misconduct" to discuss scientific doubts about evolution? Is freedom of scientific inquiry enhanced when students are told that if study scientific criticism of evolution, they won't succeed in college? Do teachers feel free to objectively cover scientific controversies if activists charge that in doing so they will "adulterate science education"?

    The effect of these arguments, ironically, is to chill academic freedom through scare-tactics where teachers fear they will be subject to ridicule, intimidation, or worse if they raise these scientific controversies with students. This shows precisely why academic freedom legislation is needed in the first place.

    Moreover, despite the harsh rhetoric of critics, academic freedom laws permit the exact kind of science instruction recommended by a paper in the journal Science last year titled, "Arguing to Learn in Science: The Role of Collaborative, Critical Discourse." The paper found that students learn science best when they learn "to discriminate between evidence that supports (inclusive) or does not support (exclusive) or that is simply indeterminate." According to the paper, it's vital to teach students what scientific critique looks like:

    Critique is not, therefore, some peripheral feature of science, but rather it is core to its practice, and without argument and evaluation, the construction of reliable knowledge would be impossible.
     
    (Jonathan Osborne, "Arguing to Learn in Science: The Role of Collaborative, Critical Discourse," Science, Vol. 328 (5977): 463-466 (April 23, 2010).)
    In fact, Osborne's paper warns about presenting science as a "monolith of facts" or an "authoritative discourse":

    Typically, in the rush to present the major features of the scientific landscape, most of the arguments required to achieve such knowledge are excised. Consequently, science can appear to its students as a monolith of facts, an authoritative discourse where the discursive exploration of ideas, their implications, and their importance is absent. Students then emerge with naive ideas or misconceptions about the nature of science itself....

    There are numerous other science education authorities who recommend that students engage in inquiry-based learning, including critique, logical analysis, and consideration of contrary evidence. The National Science Education Standards recommend that students engage in "identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations." (I review these and many other similar authorities in " The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically.") Apparently critics don't want these beneficial educational methods applied when Darwinian evolution is involved.

    Newton calls objective evolution education an "injustice"--but I would say that restricting intellectual freedom is the true injustice. Evolution education deals with a fundamental question of humanity -- "Where did we come from?" Yes, modern neo-Darwinian evolutionary biology is the majority viewpoint and students must learn about this viewpoint. But there are significant numbers of scientists and peer-reviewed scientific papers that dissent from that viewpoint. From purely humanistic and pedagogical standpoints, it seems unconscionable to withhold from students the fact that there are credible scientific views that dissent from the majority viewpoint on this fundamental question of humanity -- even if those views happen to be in the minority right now.

    Myth #7. Academic Freedom Legislation Isn't Necessary
    In light of the previous harsh criticisms, it's incredible that some critics are claiming that teachers already have full freedom to examine the evidence for and against evolution, and the bills therefore aren't necessary. If only that were true.

    Without this legislation the case law shows that teachers have very little academic freedom. As a Sixth Circuit Appellate Court ruled last year, "The concept of 'academic freedom,' moreover, does not readily apply to in-class curricular speech at the high school level." (Evans-Marshall vs. Board of Education of Tipp City Exempted Village School District, 2010 WL 4117286 (6th. Cir. Ohio, 2010).) Likewise the Third Circuit ruled "it is the educational institution that has a right to academic freedom, not the individual teacher." (Borden v. School District of Township of East Brunswick, 523 F.3d 153, 172 n. 14 (3rd Cir 2007).)

    Without the protection of this legislation, teachers will be often subject to the whims of their administrators and intimidation tactics of others who disagree with them. The rhetoric that has already entered the debate over academic freedom legislation shows why it is important to protect these freedoms.

    May intellectual freedom win, and shrill rhetoric in favor of censorship lose.


    17 Comments

    Greetings again--I thought it would be a good idea to also make some comments on some scientific matters.

    CRW writes “evolution explains too much of biological change to be dismissed as wrong.” That is a mere assertion, and in fact a lot of scientists feel that neo-Darwinian evolution fails to explain a lot of data. CRW admits that we don't know how life arose. What about the diversification of life? To provide few links that document problems with neo-Darwinian evolution consider:


    - The failure of evolutionary biology to provide detailed explanations for the origin of complex biochemical features (For details please see: "The NCSE, Judge Jones, and Bluffs About the Origin of New Functional Genetic Information," "Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? A Response to Ken Miller & Judge Jones's Straw Tests of Irreducible Complexity for the Bacterial Flagellum," or "Opening Darwin's Black Box”) (CRW cites mechanisms like gene duplication to show how neo-Darwinism produces complex biological features, but this mechanism is inadequate)

    - The failure of molecular biology to provide evidence for universal common descent (For details, please see: "A Primer on the Tree of Life" or "Dawkins Whopper")

    - The failure of developmental biology to explain why vertebrate embryos diverge from the beginning of development. (For details, please see: "Evolving views of embryology," "A Reply to Carl Zimmer on Embryology," "Textbooks misuse embryology")

    - The failure of neo-Darwinian evolution to explain the biogeographical distribution of many species (For details, please see "Sea Monkey Hypotheses Refute the NCSE's Biogeography Objections to Explore Evolution" or "Sea Monkeys Are the Tip of the Iceberg: More Biogeographical Conundrums for Neo-Darwinism")

    - A long history of inaccurate predictions inspired by neo-Darwinism regarding vestigial organs or so-called "junk" DNA (For details, please see: "Intelligent Design and the Death of the ‘Junk-DNA’ Neo-Darwinian Paradigm," "The Latest Proof of Evolution: The Appendix has / No / Important Function," or "Does Darrel Falk's Junk DNA Argument for Common Descent Commit ‘One of the Biggest Mistakes in the History of Molecular Biology’?)

    CRW states: "no one has been able to scientifically disprove evolutionary biology or 'neo-darwinism' as you referred to it." Well, I'm not sure what standard of "disproof" CRW would accept, but I think it's clear that I just cited a lot of data that contravenes neo-Darwinism.

    (And for the record, "neo-Darwinism" is a standard term used in modern evolutionary biology. As we explain at "When Did 'Neo-Darwinism' Become a Dirty Word?," many textbooks use this term, as well as leading evolutionary biologists, to describe the current leading paradigm of evolutionary biology. For example, Jerry Coyne writes in Why Evolution is True that "Neo-Darwinism, like the theory of chemical bonds, has graduated from theory to fact." Many more examples could be given. Let's not pretend the term "neo-Darwinism" isn't regularly used by mainstream scientists!)

    Those articles cite extensively to the mainstream scientific literature, so I think arguably there's plenty of scientific debate to talk about when it comes to the failure of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolution.

    As a final example of scientific debate, CRW writes: "the fact the positive mutation is shown regularly in at least microorganisms, and the arguments to support ID get weaker and weaker under the weight of the evidence." But what is the nature of these "positive mutations"? Michael Behe recently showed in Quarterly Review of Biology that molecular adaptations tend to destroy or slight modify function--not add new molecular features. Doug Axe recently showed that bacteria could never evolve a feature that required more than 6 neutral mutations if given the entire history of the earth. In fact, he found that at most only two slightly deleterious mutations could become fixed into a population of evolving bacteria. Similarly, in their 2004 peer-reviewed paper in Protein Science, Michael Behe and David Snoke simulated the evolution of protein-protein interactions that required multiple amino acids. They found that for eukaryotic organisms, evolving a simple protein-protein interaction that requires two or more mutations might require more probabilistic resources (i.e. population sizes and numbers of generations) than would be generally available. This led to a spirited exchange in Protein Science among Behe, Snoke, and evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch. Another similar debate was spawned in 2008 when Rick Durrett and Deena Schmidt critiqued Behe's arguments in The Edge of Evolution in the journal Genetics, which later brought a reply from Behe. All this is further evidence that there are legitimate scientific questions at stake here that can be discussed, at the appropriate level, by students.

    Finally, I agree with CRW that ad hominen attacks aren't very helpful. So I want to compliment CRW's civil approach. We might disagree on some things, but this is a good model of how discussion can proceed. Thanks.

    Sincerely,

    Casey

    Sorry it has taken some time to get a few minutes to weigh in here--but I fear that this discussion has gone somewhat astray from my original article (above) on evolution-education. CRW seems to upholding the pro-neo-Darwinian-evolution view--and that's perfectly fine (I'll respond to some of CRW's comments below).

    For some reason, evolutionists commonly forget that it's OK to peacefully co-exist with people they disagree with. What many evolutionists forget is that even if you endorse the neo-Darwinian view, that doesn't mean you have to oppose teaching both the against neo-Darwinism.

    For example, I'm perfectly comfortable having students learn about ideas I disagree with--i.e. I personally disagree with neo-Darwinism but I feel students should learn about the evidence for the pro-evolution consensus view (as well as the evidence against). Likewise, one could be an evolutionist and still feel students should learn about both sides of neo-Darwinian theory. As my article above explains, that's just good pedagogy. Sadly, most evolutionists don't support teaching views they disagree with (see here) for a discussion). Why does that tell you?

    In any case, on to CRW's comments. My article explained that academic freedom legislation doesn't protect teaching creationism or religion, and also does not include teaching intelligent design (ID). Rather, when it comes to evolution, the bills only protect a scientific investigation of the evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. CRW seems to want to shift away from this point by bringing “intelligent design, literal biblical creationism, theistic evolution” into the discussion. These are irrelevant to this discussion because I'm not advocating that any of those be taught.

    CRW also argues:

    "it is fair to identify which portions of modern evolutionary biology are part of the theory of evolution and which parts are simply hypotheses or conjectures. This requires no legislative support. ... There is no issue when it comes to pointing out gaps or issues in valid scientific theories ... When staying in the realm of science, none of this academic freedom legislation should ever be necessary"

    I wish that were always the case. I have worked with multiple public school teachers who were expressly ordered by their administrators to cease from discussing any scientific problems with evolution. These orders were not aimed at ID or creationism--they were aimed to terminate any scientific critique of neo-Darwinism.

    Moreover, surveys show that many teachers are afraid to teach controversial topics objectively, chilling free speech. Despite the fact that criticisms of neo-Darwinism are entirely scientific, the fact that something is legal doesn't mean it is tolerated. Dissent from Darwinism is often not tolerated, which is exactly why this legislation is needed.

    More to come soon.

    CRW wants to bring ID into the discussion even though academic freedom bills don’t cover ID. Nonetheless CRW has made quite a few inaccurate statements about ID which ought to be corrected.

    For one, CRW claims ID says "There! This could not have evolved. It is too complex" and "This requires religion".

    It's always illuminating how ID-critics must rebut ID by misrepresenting what ID proponents say. In contrast, the argument for ID from irreducible complexity is a positive argument. As Stephen Meyer and Scott Minnich explain:

    Molecular machines display a key signature or hallmark of design, namely, irreducible complexity. In all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system ... in any other context we would immediately recognize such systems as the product of very intelligent engineering. Although some may argue this is a merely an argument from ignorance, we regard it as an inference to the best explanation, given what we know about the powers of intelligent as opposed to strictly natural or material causes.

    ("Genetic analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic Bacteria," in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Design & Nature, Rhodes Greece (2004).)

    Minnich tests irreducible complexity through genetic knockout experiments, which have shown the flagellum is in fact irreducibly complex.

    And ID doesn't require religion. It requires a goal-directed process of intelligent action. That isn't "supernatural"--it's intelligence. To claim the intelligence is supernatural goes beyond what the data can tell us. Stephen Meyer explains that ID infers intelligent causation, not a supernatural causation in Signature in the Cell:

    The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the "supernatural" realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information.

    (Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, pg. 428-429 (HarperOne, 2009).)

    CRW responds to Ryan stating "You accused me of not understanding ID," but CRW’s repeated inaccurate claims about what ID says seem to suggest that Ryan was correct.

    Thanks again.

    Casey

    Now here I find some things worth disputing:

    "Unfortunately, there has yet to be a biological trait or attribute that is irreducibly complex. All of the core examples from ID can be shown to be sliding scales from more to less complex."

    This is probably one of the most common misunderstandings of Behe's arguments - he was not arguing that IC systems are impossible to evolve any more than it's "impossible" to win the lottery. It might happen, but this is not something we should treat as a real likelihood.

    Are you claiming that not a single cellular system is unable evolve piece-by-piece while retaining the same basic function or are you rehashing Ken Miller's straw man?

    I think a good start in clarifying this dispute can be found here:

    http://www.discovery.org/a/3408

    ...the fact the positive mutation is shown regularly in at least microorganisms..."

    Can you give me a few key examples? And how do you define "positive" mutation?

    I think Ryan has tackled the rest of what I disagree with on your comment but in the meantime I look forward to your response to what I had said/asked so far.

    While I wholeheartedly doubt the alleged efficacy of things such as horizontal gene transfer or duplication (I think they both just shuffle information that's already there while not producing anything new), I understand that time and space constraints make that a difficult topic to address here, but nonetheless the following caught my attention:

    "ID is religious but not of a particular religion."

    So it's not of any particular religion but it's still religious? Could you elaborate on this?

    "To assert "intelligence" logically implies a designer/creator. Call it god, Yahweh, Allah, whatever. ID requires a designer, which means some supernatural force is required."

    I am the intelligence behind this very comment, so by your logic I must be a supernatural entity right?

    CRW:

    You said: "the best way to learn about the world is to put aside your assumptions and see where the facts take you."

    Yes, on this we agree. Therefore, why is it not possible to allow factual evidence that may challenge the counterintuitive theory of evolution (your own description)or support the intuitive theory of Intelligent Design (again according to you) into the classroom.

    Common sense has always worked pretty well for me . . . to claim that it must be discarded when scientifically examining the big questions of our day is very revealing.

    I guess once you reach a certain level of education you can disregard logic and common sense . . . kind of makes me question the value of higher education.

    Time constraints too would prevent a valid argument refuting your points, but I will toss something out. Computer simulations are one of the things that often casts some serious doubt on IC and ID.

    Consider evolutionary programming. A computer scientist named Koza owns patents for digital to analog filters that were "designed" using this technique. Essentially, a computer simulation is run where circuit components are randomly assembled and a fitness function is applied, measuring how well the assembled components match the digital to analog translation. An oversimplified explanation is that the top half of the population based on fitness is preserved, evolutionary mutations and other changes are applied and the process is repeated. The result is that a random design process has produced some of the most complex and robust digital to analog filters with "no intelligence required." You can argue that a man designed the system, etc. However, it is impossible to refute that random processes can produce things of high function and complexity. The "design" portion of this activity was constraining the system or establishing "the natural laws." The process of change and component level design was random.

    This is not very convincing to most proponents of ID and IC, but it is crack in the intellectual iron curtain of IC.

    Genetics have been used by both the ID crowd and neodarwinists to argue for their respective positions. ID folks claim most genetic change is negative, while evolutionists argue that DNA is the final piece of the puzzle firming up the role of evolution. Rather than go down this long argumentative path, I would ask that you research some simple mechanisms in genetic change:

    1. Horizontal gene transfer
    2. Gene doubling
    3. Retroviral gene insertions
    4. Transposition
    5. Chromosomal merging

    One of the strongest arguments of ID is the complexity of particular components of life such as the eye, enzymes, etc. Please look at the link between things like gene doubling and enzymes to see the how complex biological substances can be made gradually more complex. Most genetic change resulting in new biological complexity is not caused by a single gene being flipped on or off.

    Darwin had several things wrong in his original theory. Most of what he had wrong had to do with the absence of an understanding of genetics. He assumed a Lamarkian model of biological change. One of the most common ways evolution is "refuted" is by going back and quoting things from that are wrong such as:

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

    We know from even just observations of microorganisms that change does not necessarily follow this path.

    The modern theory of evolution is the contribution of thousands of scientists born after Darwin, with the most dramatic contributions coming in the last century. Like most scientific theories, one man might get the credit but thousands do the work.

    You accused me of not understanding ID (please see my other recent post about the inductive arguments of ID), but I would say that you also are too dismissive of neo-darwinism.

    Unfortunately, theistic evolution is viewed as unpalatable by both camps. However, it appears to be the only way out for believers who understand the science. What is wrong with saying "god made the universe and the natural laws under which all things are bound?" if you believe in god, isn't this a logical consequence of this belief? Are things accidental, or is this only an observational bias? Evolution will never reconcile with a literal interpretation of genesis. However, there are still many believers willing to accept that moral and ethical messages of the bible are its most important virtues and not how it conflicts with science.

    ID is religious but not of a particular religion. To assert "intelligence" logically implies a designer/creator. Call it god, Yahweh, Allah, whatever. ID requires a designer, which means some supernatural force is required.

    When teaching controversies in the science classroom, the issues must be scientific and not philosophical or religious. Students should know what Darwin got wrong, and how these errors have been addressed. They should also be told what the limits are in modern science, where more research and better theories are required.

    "Logic" cannot be used to dismiss facts. I believe what you are implying is that evolution violates "common sense." Many things in science are counterintuitive.

    Quantum mechanics has caused an incredible rethinking of what is logical. The simplest example is the fact that particles such as photons show behavior which says that depending on how the photon is observed, it is both a particle and a wave. This contradicts "common sense." Similarly, in relativity as speeds approach the speed of light, time dilation effects occur. Why? The math is very complex, but the reason is "because it is predicted by a model that best fits the evidence."

    Statistics are one of the most counterintuitive forms of the sciences. For example, how many people do you have to have in a room before there is a 50/50 chance that two people share the same birthday to the month and day? 19. When I taught, that simple example opened people's eyes. If you are curious, look up type I and type II statistical errors.

    ID is based on logic through induction. Hundreds of examples are tossed around showing how life is organized, features have function, and structures are complex. The assumption is made that many of these structures cannot be simplified since our experience tells us that to tamper with them is to cause the death of the organism or a complete loss of function, violating the incremental change assumption in evolution (which "neodarwinism" has shown is not a requirement). Common sense or logic tells us that life must have emerged with purpose, that organisms are designed intelligently, and that random chance is an impossible agent for building what we see. We see a watch and we see the impact of the designer on the watch, yet when we see an organism that is infinitely more complex than a watch, why is the evolutionist blind to role of design in biology?

    We live in a physical world. Why does water boil at 100 degrees C at one atmosphere of pressure? The answer.... because it is what has been observed and we have a model to show the connections between pressure and the boiling point of water. There is no a priori logic. This is observation and a model. The ID approach would argue that the physical laws have been designed and established to create a predictable world with established behavior. The inductive aspect comes from looking for design in organisms, which is a biased form of observation. The reality is we don't know.

    People are not comfortable "not knowing." Is the universe infinite or finite? Is time endless or bounded? Is matter made up of infinitely many parts or is there a smallest particle? These are questions that people have been asking since ancient times. Applying logic is no help. Kant called these the antinomies of pure reason. Similar questions drive people to religion. Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Doesn't this world have some purpose? ID says yes. Evolution is actually agnostic.

    The angry atheists such as Dawkins will say god is unnecessary, blah, blah, and evolution proves this. I go back to evolution being a model of explaining observed phenomena. It says nothing about the meaning or purpose of life.

    Human common sense is rarely a valid way to explain complex and counterintuitive phenomena. We have seen this over and over again in physics, astronomy, and biology.

    So when you say I am not thinking "logically," my response is that the best way to learn about the world is to put aside your assumptions and see where the facts take you.

    CRW:

    Can you really prove evolution in the laboratory, (a condition you appear to hold as necessary for any theory to be scientific)?

    You hold onto the faith that life could have originated without direction (a position that contradicts all historical observation) because no one has been able to "prove you wrong." Doesn't the fact that your favored theory of evolution is also dependent on "faith without proof" make it just as, if not more religious, than those you discredit?

    You’re not thinking logically.

    You appear to think that science with its emphasis on physical evidence is the sole gatekeeper of historical truth. Doesn't logic also play a necessary role in the discovery of what really happened?

    For that matter, when did “science” become the description of a group of like minded people ("science says") and not the description of one methodology for discovering the truth.

    You and your fellow "scientists" seem to favor the importance of physical evidence when your theory isn't logical . . . but then claim that any one who wishes to present physical evidence contradicting your theory is motivated by religion alone. It appears to me that you and those who argue similarily are the ones who have taken the debate from science and logic to dogma and belief.

    Casey has provided a great summary of some of the frequently encountered objections to academic freedom bills. Providing these will hopefully aid those considering such legislative bills when they are confronted with these myths such that they will not be intimidated by or incorrectly led that such myths are true.

    I’ve found it curious that some of the comments (midwifetoad and CRW) suggest that such legislation is not required. Apparently, they are unaware of the documented cases in which those who have brought forth scientific criticisms of evolution have been subject to some kind of poor treatment (e.g. reprimand, reassignment, loss of job, etc.).

    Additionally, when it comes to discussing evidence that is contradictory to neo-Darwinism, CRW claims that:

    “to identify issues [i.e. problems – my addition] with modern evolutionary biology requires that alternatives be mentioned to better explain the evidence.”

    There is no such requirement in the bills (granted, CRW did not say this, but it is an important point to keep in mind), nor is it pedagogically necessary to cover alternatives – while it may be an appropriate time to do so, it is not required. Discussing the evidence that is supportive and contrary to a given hypothesis or theory is part of teaching critical thinking – ensuring that such learning takes place is what these academic bills are aimed at doing through providing educators the necessary protections to do so.

    These next statements get beyond the primary post by Casey related to academic freedom bill myths, but I thought it worthwhile to discuss. While CRW does not explicitly state that ID is religious in CRW’s posts, it is implied with these statements

    “Unfortunately, most of these involve issues of religion or "the divine" and are out of bounds in the science classroom.”

    As has been so frequently stated in other articles and books, ID is not religious, nor does it rely on a particular religious view. Further statements by CRW suggest that they are not actually familiar with the ID:

    “The core problem with ID is that advocates point to something and say - "There! This could not have evolved. It is too complex."”

    This is incorrect. As has been exhaustively noted in other articles (e.g. see http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1156) and books, ID requires that the positive evidence incorporating the hallmarks of design be present to be able to infer design. ID is just design detection – it is not an argument from ignorance as suggested by CRW. How ID does make use of the scientific method is best illustrated in this short article: http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1154.

    Additionally, frequently the positive evidence for design includes negative evidence for purely naturalistic mechanisms that are associated with neo-Darwinism. This can be seen in the concept of irreducible complexity (IC). As Darwin stated,

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

    Conceptually, this is what IC does. From a design perspective, IC includes elements associated with positive design characteristics. The key thing to be considered from a neo-Darwinian perspective are the steps to arrive what is claimed to be IC. IC is testable since experiments can be conducted in which the genetic code associated with a given molecular machine are removed. If these ‘handicapped’ organisms are able to develop all of the required mutations in the genetic code to arrive at the end product, then the IC claim for that is false. Frequently in science, proving a negative is easier to do than prove a positive – this is what is being suggested here. This does not prove in a positive sense that IC is true, but it does provide support that it might be true and correct. What I’ve just described addresses the following comments by CRW:

    “”Unfortunately, this cannot be proven because it requires that this irreducible thing appeared in its entirety. How do you prove that? This requires religion, or aliens, or some external force that doesn't do well in the lab.”

    There are other areas, such as disparate organisms having the same or similar parts, which provide positive evidence for ID but negative evidence for common ancestry. While there are many examples of these ‘convergent evolution’/common design examples, the most recently discussed in the ID community is that between bat and whale echolocation at the genetic level discussed by Casey in a recent podcast: http://www.idthefuture.com/2011/02/bat_and_whale_echolocation_gen.html

    There are other items that could be discussed and clarified related to apparent misunderstandings of ID, but personal time restraints/commitments prevent such from occurring.

    For the purpose of comments to Casey’s post, I suggest focusing discussions on the need required for the academic freedom bills to allow educators to explore scientific theories in rigorous analytical ways that improve critical thinking skills in students – something that benefits everyone.

    Hmmmm.... Your ad hominen attack isn't very helpful.

    I have tried very hard to understand the arguments of ID. I have looked at essays regarding DNA, enzymes, the eye, the brain, the mind, etc. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a biological trait or attribute that is irreducibly complex. All of the core examples from ID can be shown to be sliding scales from more to less complex.

    Add to this the issues with time frames, the coming and going of various species, the fact the positive mutation is shown regularly in at least microorganisms, and the arguments to support ID get weaker and weaker under the weight of the evidence.

    Where ID has wiggle room is in the foundations of life itself. Where did DNA come from? How did the first organisms emerge and reproduce? We already know that DNA can do all sorts of acrobatics once it is in the wild - transposition, gene doubling, retro-viral insertions, chromosome merging, etc. Consequently, the idea that DNA cannot garner more information through biological change is provably false. However, where did the first strand of DNA, RNA or any of the other variants actually come from?

    Evolution has established an intellectual hegemony because every other alternative, including ID, falls apart under scrutiny. Like Newtonian mechanics, evolution explains too much of biological change to be dismissed as wrong. There might be more to it than just evolution, such as the necessary additions of quantum mechanics and relativity to Newtonian physics. However, no one has been able to scientifically disprove evolutionary biology or "neo-darwinism" as you referred to it.

    Why on earth wouldn't a scientist want to establish a new theory? This person would be an instant celebrity. Research money would be endless. The reason is because no one has been able to find a *viable* alternative to evolution.

    The core problem with ID is that advocates point to something and say - "There! This could not have evolved. It is too complex." Unfortunately, this cannot be proven because it requires that this irreducible thing appeared in its entirety. How do you prove that? This requires religion, or aliens, or some external force that doesn't do well in the lab. Our best scientific evidence says that species came and went at different times. If someone could prove that we humans truly existed with dinosaurs, or could show that humans had to have been created, we would have a viable alternative. That hasn't happened yet.

    Show me an alternative theory you can prove, and I will throw evolution out like last week's trash. I keep looking, and all of the alternatives require religious explanations that also require faith without proof.

    The creation you refer to is constructing a species from DNA fragments. This is very different from the primordial soup hypothesis. If I was not clear, this is what I meant. We have thousands of GMO plants and new species of bacteria that have been engineered in a lab. This is not creation.

    No one can scientifically prove how life began... yet. Whether it was god or a bolt of lightening, there is only lack of evidence without firm support in one directly or the other.

    ok, so instead of addressing the issue you argue for neo-darwinism. This is not in any way what the issue is. In fact, if it is so proven in modern science then it should logically stick up on its own merits.

    However, towards the end you are in fact, finally addressing the actual issue.

    "When staying in the realm of science, none of this academic freedom legislation should ever be necessary."

    I am not sure where the cognitive dissonance is to be honest. I agree with this statement you made completely just to be clear. However, notice that as you say correctly that the legislation should not be necessary. Agreed! However, (and I believe this is the problem with the modern psuedo-science which could be more accurately called "bully-mythology") there is a vast difference between theory and reality as well as the same difference between what "should be" and what is (reality).

    Using the same rigorous approach to logic and reason as the above then we can all agree that since there 'should not be' theft then 'logically' we do not need laws to protect against it. Perhaps if the self-labelled 'scientists' would a) start applying and embracing scientific methods, principles, and adopt the true spirit of a scientist and b) would stop their hateful thuggery, then there will not be a need for this.

    "So... as long as science teachers are teaching science and not religion, there should never be an issue like the Dover case."

    Again, another dogmatic assertion... religion is not being taught unless you include the super-dogmatic theology of darwinism (by any name, even if 'modern').

    The very fact that people like you refuse logical discussion using critical thinking with factual based reasoning... well that is the problem with all of this.

    So, what are you folks so scared of? Really, why the blatant and obvious hypocrisy? I mean, do you realize how absurd you appear as when your thuggery lashes out at any who would dare to apply the very things you imply are important to science? (things like critical thinking, logical analysis, etc)

    This knee-jerk reaction of whining that religion is being taught simply when there is a critical analysis of facts and theories is embarrassing.

    So, I jokingly propose that there be a new word invented for such a body of thought and discipline that utilizes critical thought, etc. You guys with your dogmatic uber-religous (cult like) approach to the zealotry of modern Darwinism can use the word 'science' all you want. Go with our blessings and continue your brain-washing and mind-numbing of yourselves all you want.

    Meanwhile, instead of so much effort, money and energy being spent on protecting people from persecution for critical analysis, we can actually restart the true scientific movement and steer away from the group-think, herd mentality of the joke that is Darwinism and other such pushes that are nothing but results of fertile imaginations and blind zealous faith.

    "oh, but SOME day they will prove me right" <-- that is pretty much a summary of Darwinism.

    Thinking humans refer to that as blind faith.

    When taking about creation, man can show biological creation in the lab as provided by the works of Dr. Craig Ventor and this brings up issues in the classroom that teachers are not allowed to discuss and must stick to the current evolutionary curriculum.

    Most will say that if a teacher is allowed to discuss anything outside of the realm of the current Evolutionary theory that it does a great injustice to the validity of the field and this is harmful to the students. But when it's the students that want to know about current biology in creating life and how to place this science into perspective, for the proponents of evolution to deny the discussion of such biological creation, which falls under the field of ID, kind of defeats the purpose of learning to begin with.

    Unfortunately, teaching evolution is not as simple as it is portrayed. The original theories proposed by Darwin have significant issues that have been resolved in the 20th century through the introduction of molecular genetics, as well as further elaboration on other ideas such as rapid evolutionary change, punctuated equilibrium, stasis, etc. Critics are correct in saying "Darwinism" is an incomplete theory worthy of critique. However, modern evolutionary biology is a much more complete theory where controversies are more around timelines and morphology and less about whether evolution is in fact "true."

    Consequently, to identify issues with modern evolutionary biology requires that alternatives be mentioned to better explain the evidence. What are those alternatives? There are only a few such as intelligent design, literal biblical creationism, theistic evolution, and Lamarckism. Unfortunately, most of these involve issues of religion or "the divine" and are out of bounds in the science classroom. Lamarckism was a component of Darwin's original theory, but it has been shown to be false in light of molecular genetics. In particular, organisms can control the expression of a trait through use or disuse, but the expression of that particular trait is not passed onto offspring unless the offspring also engage in the same use/disuse or a mutation occurs. In the end, *modern* evolutionary biology is the best explanation we have for drug resistant bacteria, mutating cold and flu viruses, speciation of isolated animal populations, common genetic structures between man and great apes, vestigial organs, and inactive genotypes in animals like birds and whales, who have genes for teeth and legs respectively. A valid theory is one that best explains the evidence.

    There are hypotheses attached to evolution, which are controversial and unproven. For example, how did life first appear on earth? Since life has never been created in the lab using any of the proposed mechanisms, this is truly a hypothesis and not a part of the core theory. This is why theistic evolution has so much appeal to some Christian groups. Common descent has been well established among groups of related animals such as the great apes, but identifying the first ancestor species from which all animals evolved is incomplete. Consequently, it is fair to identify which portions of modern evolutionary biology are part of the theory of evolution and which parts are simply hypotheses or conjectures. This requires no legislative support.

    Similarly, when it comes to climate change, there are many good scientists who question the general consensus. For example, changes in the weather have not been as great as predicted and surface ice away from the shoreline in antartica has actually thickened. Global warming indicates that the "average" global temperature has risen, but this is by no means on the same footing as evolution.

    There is no issue when it comes to pointing out gaps or issues in valid scientific theories. We know that Newtonian mechanics fails at high speeds due to relativistic changes, and at the very small where quantum effects come into play. Newtonian mechanics is not "wrong" but it is more constrained than when it was first formulated. By analogy, it is perfectly reasonable to say where some of Darwin's original ideas fell down, and where modern evolutionary biology has filled in those gaps.

    When staying in the realm of science, none of this academic freedom legislation should ever be necessary. So... as long as science teachers are teaching science and not religion, there should never be an issue like the Dover case.

    I'm not aware of any class of argument against evolution that was not elaborated and discussed by Darwin in Origin of Species.

    I fail to see how any teacher would be subject to discipline for discussing the history of the theory, both the problems and the approaches that have been used to find solutions.

    One might seem biased if one portrayed lack of complete and detailed knowledge of the history of life as an argument against the mainstream theory. Perhaps if one could demonstrate that gaps in knowledge are not being addressed, it would be an argument against the science establishment, but I'm not aware of any problems that are not being investigated.

    As the Dover trial revealed, the debate at a local level can get pretty testy whenever discussing the teaching of evolution in the science classroom. It's easy for the other side to throw in the word "creationism" and elicit a variety of emotional resonses from uninformed observers.

    I propose a flanking strategy that will lay the groundwork for academic freedom in the science classroom. I think with the recent events in Madison revealing the true motivation of many in the education business, now may be a good time to follow this strategy.

    Take a look at the mission statement of most school districts, (the one where I live is called the "Strategic Roadmap"). What you'll probably discover are a number of statements supporting diversity, acceptance, cooperation and preparing students for "productive lives in a worldwide society." It's likely however, that you won't find any mention of "pursuing or teaching objective truth" as a guiding principle.

    When I brought this up to our local school board I had some memebers some state that they assumed this would be foundational, while others asked me to define objective truth . . . and even claimed that we each have our own truth. Obvioulsy it is a topic that needs to be addressed.

    If we can raise this issue at our local school boards I think it will be easier to point out that the schools are opening themselves up to teaching what the government, or union influenced individual trachers think is right without accountability for what is actually true. In the end our local communities suffer if our children don't get the truth but are indoctrinated by curriculums set up by powerful yet uninterested parties(I think most would agree with this statement while they may initially have a hard time with a debate on evolution). Without a statement that holds the school accountable to the objective truth, lies can be taught as long as the board determined it fits their very nebulous guidelines.

    In the long run this problem is going to be solved when we, as participants in our local governments, point out the conflict of interest between us, and a bloated and power hungry federal government and its colluders. I would argue that if each individual disrict clearly stated that teaching "objective truth" was part of their mission we would be in better shape to have science taught as science is supposed to be taught.

    Casey and those at Discovery are doing great work at the state and national level. Let's do what you can to get involved at the local level. What do you think?