Saturday, April 7, 2007

FRC's Charmaine Yoest Drops the Evolution Ball on CNN

Anderson Cooper recently had a discussion entitled "What Is a Christian? God, Faith and Hard Science." In it there was a debate on evolution and creationism that illustrates very well the disinformation perpetuated by the creationists. A full transcript can be found here. In it, Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council gives us these gems:

"... mainstream science, throughout history, has been challenged by questions. And that's how we make advances in science, is being open to all different perspectives. "

Initially perhaps. One of science's strengths is that no question is forbidden, so long as it leads to falsifiable predictions and can therefore be experimentally validated or invalidated. However, there is little to be gained pursuing lines of inquiry based on perspectives that have already been examined thoroughly and discredited. Science is unlikely to advance being open to the question of a flat earth, of Apollo pulling the sun across the sky, or that disease is caused by demons. Likewise, creationism has been examined in detail for many years and has been found wanting. Until the creationists come up with something new (changing the name from "creationism" to "intelligent design" doesn't count), there is little reason to expect any scientific advancement being open to what they have to say.

"And that's all that we're calling for, is saying that, you know, have we gotten to a place in our culture where science has such an orthodoxy around Darwinian theory that we can't even question it, that we can't even look at some of the gaps in the theory, and ask, how can we do better and how can answer some of these questions?"

This shows an utter ignorance about how the scientific process works. There is nothing stopping any creationist from publishing his findings in the scientific journals except a complete lack of such findings. Indeed, all journals started for the express purpose of publishing ID/creationism articles have gone defunk for lack of material. There is simply no there there.

However, practically any scientist would kill to be the one to make such a breakthrough. A scientist who could validate creationist theories experimentally would be in the running for a Nobel prize. The idea that there is some sort of conspiracy suppressing factually dissenting opinions is simply removed from reality. Were that the case, something as bizarre and as yet unexplainable like quantum theory would never have gotten off the ground. But quantum theorists had the experimental goods the IDer/creationists lack.

The other glaring absurdity of Charmaine's position is that the location she pushes to have this debate is not in the science journals, but in the classroom, not by learned scientists, but by schoolchildren who are there to learn about science. Just what exactly is the basis for the position that the best way for students to learn a subject is to have them debate it? And why should evolution be singled out for this treatment? Should students in history class debate the causes of the fall of the Roman empire? Should students in algebra class debate the best way to solve equations? Should students in chemistry class debate what valences are correct? Of course not. There is a reason the scientists doing the research and publishing in the journals ultimately decide the content of schoolbooks - they are the ones that understand the subject.

"What we are looking at here is saying, there are legitimate scientific questions on the table. And it is not true that -- that there is a complete cohesiveness among scientists."

No Charmaine, ID/creationism is not a legitimate scientific question. "That looks too complicated to have evolved", which is essentially what ID amounts to, is not a scientific statement. And again, legitimate scientific questions are addressed in scientific journals, not schoolrooms.

No one claims there is complete cohesiveness in the scientific community. Indeed, diversity of opinion is one of sciences strengths, and there are many in evolutionary science. The questions raised by creationists, however, are not among them. They had their chance, and they were found wanting.

COOPER: Charmaine, do you want your children to be exposed to a belief which the scientific community has disproven? I'm not saying that they have disproven all of this. But, in certain cases, I mean, some things clearly...

YOEST: Sure.

So in Charmaine's world, we would spend time talking about the flat earth in astronomy class, Lamarkianism in biology class, holocaust denial in history class, and that 2 + 2 = 5 in math class. Hey, who is to say these are not legitimate questions, right? Would you try to suppress those questions Ms. Yoest?

Michael Behe, shining star of the ID movement, in order to redefine "science" so as to include ID, during his testimony at the Dover trial, did so in a manner that by his own admission would include astrology. Ms. Youst would have us believe the best way for our children to learn the best theories we have on various subjects is to have them be exposed to and debate discredited theories. This is a facade. Creationists will simply say anything, back any position, no matter how intellectually untenable, in the pursuit of their agenda to water down science education on evolution. In a world more and more dependant on a good scientific understanding, that is not comething we can afford.

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