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Monday, December 26, 2005

Timeline: Recent Dover ruling against teaching ID in US schools

I haven't followed the Dover case much, principally because lots of competent bloggers were doing it. And in truth I have hardly had time to blog anything recently. But a correspondent kindly wrote me to offer the following timeline of court cases and their effect on the intelligent design controversy, for what it is worth. My comments appear in brackets:

1982 McLean v. Arkansas, hailed as the beginning of the end for dissent from Darwinian evolution.

1984 Thaxton, Bradley, Olsen publish The Mystery of Life's Origin. Apparently they forgot to study the McLean decision.

(Thaxton is chemist Charles Thaxton, who — I think — coined the term "intelligent design" in 1988 ( see By Design or by Chance? , p. 172). Bradley is Walter F. Bradley, distinguished professor of engineering at Baylor University.

1985 Michael Denton publishes Evolution, A Theory in Crisis. Mike Behe reads the book shortly thereafter, thereby displaying his ignorance that important scientific questions are usually settled by federal judges.

(Denton and Behe are both biochemists. Denton considers himself a post-Darwinian ( equivalent to a post-Darwinist like me) and Behe is a key figure in the intelligent design community.)

1986 Richard Dawkins publishes The Blind Watchmaker , a vigorous defense of Darwinism against various doubters. Dawkins also apparently didn't realize the McLean decision had already settled matters. A long string of books aimed at the same end (defending Darwinism) follow over the next 15 years.

1987 Edwards v. Aguillard. Now, it's REALLY the end of dissent from Darwinism. Look, we mean it this time!

1987-8 Phil Johnson, in London, reads Denton and Dawkins at the same time, writes the core of Darwin on Trial. The manuscript begins to circulate informally, being used among other places in an evolution graduate seminar at the Univ of Chicago taught by David Raup. Raup not only forgot about McLean, he neglected to genuflect to THE AUTHORITY OF US SUPREME COURT, dammit!

(Phillip Johnson was a professor of constitutional law, and he looked at Darwinism from the perspective of a prosecuting attorney.)

1991 Darwin on Trial is published, and read by hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of people who show a distressing lack of respect for judicial authority.

1993 The Pajaro Dunes meeting, the kernel of what would become the much larger ID community.

(My correspondent is talking about a meeting that Johnson convened, of scientists who were interested in ID — to find out what they had and didn't have. I saw a DVD of the Pajaro Dunes meeting in 2002. It made a profound impression on me, perhaps because it confirmed my news judgement of a year or so earlier that ID was bound to be major news.)

1996 Darwin's Black Box is published, and widely reviewed.
Someone forgot to send a memo about McLean and Edwards to the editors at the Free Press who won Mike's MS in a competitive auction with other publishers.

(Yes, I remember hearing about that from a publisher's agent.)

1996 The Mere Creation meeting at Biola. The ID community continues to grow.

1998 Dembski's The Design Inference is published.

(Dembski's book was peer reviewed and published by Cambridge University Press.)

2000 Wells's Icons of Evolution is published. Can't these people use Lexis or Westlaw? Don't they know that precedent is binding?

(Wells's book took on textbook representations that paint a much rosier picture of Darwinian evolution than the evidence supports.)

And so on, down to 2005, when we find:

2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover, logging in at 139 pages. It's all over! No more dissent! Darwin rules, and evolution is the story of the year on the cover of Science.

Bottom line:

Speaking for myself, I am unaccustomed to letting federal judges do my thinking for me. And I expect, on the basis of past history (above) that we will see great things to follow yet another judicial catastrophe.

(In 2005, the Pope started using the term "intelligent design" to talk about the Catholic Church's view of origins.)

Well, so far my prediction that ID would be big news by the mid-decade has held up. Yup, journalism is the first draft of history.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

O'Leary's new post at ARN: Cognitive Dissonance: Could Kong really be your sweetie pie?

O'Leary's new post at ARN: Cognitive Dissonance: Could Kong really be your sweetie pie?

Ever hear the term "cognitive dissonance"? This first year psychology concept refers to the ways we handle two different mental states that are in apparent conflict. For example, Joe likes to smoke but knows that smoking is bad for him. He could quit smoking. That's one way to handle it. Another way is to simply deny the evidence that smoking is bad for him and continue to smoke. A third way is to adopt the belief that smoking helps him control his weight. Or that his particular brand is less harmful than others. These strategies vary a great deal in the extent to which they agree with facts or common sense, but they all have one thing in common: They reduce the anxiety Joe feels around smoking.

A zoo story

Last summer, when urban zoos competed with the beach, the London Zoo staged a "daring" show. For four days, August 26 through 29, it put three male and five female humans on display in the wooded habitat on Bear Mountain as homo sapiens. Spokeswoman Polly Wills explained that the exhibit "teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate."

The exhibit actually demonstrated the opposite.

A label was coyly affixed to the display: "Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment."

Associated Press enthused, "At London Zoo, you can talk to the animals — and now some of them talk back."

Hmm. No surprise there. Conveniently for the humans, they were separated from our primate relatives by an electric fence. Why, I wonder?

[ ... ]

Now what happened here psychologically is that when naturalistic beliefs (humans are just like apes) conflicted with evidence (pins, swimsuits, flats in London), onlookers chose Joe's second option—they simply denied the evidence and continued to assert the belief.

Read more.

O'Leary's new post at ARN:The unfeeling reptilian brain: Don't mess with its babies

Recently, while doing research for a book on human neuroscience issues, I ran into a really neat explanation of the brain, as follows:

Neurologist Paul MacLean first proposed in 1970 that the human brain has three parts, each one of which grew on top of the other, over evolutionary

- the reptilian brain (includes the brain stem and cerebellum)

[ ... ]

This "three brains" hypothesis sounds neat — three nested brains — but it does leave the reptile without the ability to feel emotions other than aggression or perhaps fear.

Indeed, Maclean himself liked to say that "it is very difficult to imagine a lonelier and more emotionally empty being than a crocodile." For example, two behaviors that he did not think crocodilians could manage were care for offspring and playfulness.

[ ... ]

One really good thing about the "three brains" hypothesis is that it can be tested. That's a key sign of a good hypothesis in science. Does the evidence reasonably show that crocodilians do not show emotions other than fear or aggression?
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Nice review of By Design or by Chance? at American Scientific Affiliation

Yes! I am told that a nice review of By Design or by Chance? has appeared in Perspectives the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christians in science. (I don't think it's on line yet. When it is, I will link to both reviews.)

In part, it reads,

By Design or by Chance? took first place in its category in the 2005 Write! Canada awards, a Canadian competition similar to the Christie awards in the US. It is not hard to see why: the book is a delight to read. O'Leary writes in a clear, vivid style. She defines technical terms in a way the intelligent layperson can understand. Her characterizations of the various positions advocated by those engaged in the controversy are accurate and fair. Whether you are pro-ID, anti-ID, uncommitted, or uninformed, By Design or by Chance? is worth reading for yourself; it also would provide an excellent introduction to the ID controversy for your nonscientific friends.

- 0 -

Well, indeed, I am most flattered by the kindness of reviewer Rogland, a science teacher! My whole purpose in sinking three years of my life into writing the book was to provide an account of the controversy that an intelligent layperson can bear to actually READ.

And this is all the sweeter because a redoubtable Episcopalian science boff, George Murphy, published a stinky review of the book in the September edition of the same journal.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.

World class chemist dissed at Catholic university because he sympathizes with intelligent design.

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