Friday, August 05, 2005

ID Google Bomb

Via Leiter:
Post something on "Intelligent Design" (which is currently the #1 search on Technorati) which links to the authoritative statement by the National Center for Science Education, which I've linked to here by way of illustration. This way when those genuinely seeking information start Googling, they'll get to the right place.


  1. tell me more bout it darling..sure you still got lots of things to say bout that article..

  2. I htink the argument is a bit weak - I also dont see it at the top of the search engine so Im surprised it was picked unless the person who did so had an alterior motive although it does give that history approach - maybe they wanted that.

  3. Genius,

    Notice the citation at the bottom of the essay. It is from a publication called School Board News. It is not intended to be a scholarly work on the merits of so-called Intelligent Design theory. It is a case against teaching ID in primary and secondary school, and it's main argument for that seems pretty strong:

    1. The defining principles behind ID (esp irreducible complexity) have not yet led to any successful research programs.
    2. The theory is not accepted nor regarded as a credible alternative by the scientific mainstream.
    3. Nothing should be tought in primary and secondary science education unless it has at least one of: a) led to successful research programs; b) become incorporated into the scientific mainstream.

    Then there's the more pragmatic: By the way, this looks like it might just be religion in desiguise, so you might get sued.

    I think there are important questions about what science education should really be about that get pushed aside by both sides with their rhetoric over this issue. The IDers use rhetoric of debates within the scientific community and letting students hear all sides. The opponents respond, as in this essay, by pointing out that whatever debates mainstream scientists are having, ID isn't even a live option.
    But every disciple has 'at the highest levels' debate about the details (and often even of the broad strokes) of what the best theory is for the subject matter at hand. Evolutionary biologists disagree amongst themselves on a number of issues, as do phsycists and chemists. For that matter so do historians, linguists, mathematicians, etc.
    Does that mean that young students just getting their bearings in those areas should be made party to those debates? Are we being dishonest with young students if we ignore such debates in teaching those subjects? If so, is that bad?
    On the one side we risk giving students a false sense of certainty in the sciences (along with other disciplines). On the other side, we risk confusing students - how can we expect them to process two (and more) sides of a debate over theories we haven't finished teaching them yet?

  4. > Notice the citation at the bottom of the essay. It is from a publication called School Board News.

    1) that was the point that I was making but hadnt bothered to spell out - you have many articles available and to google bomb with anything other than the strongest or most popular is odd.

    as to the wider argument - if education was focused on achieving aims such as employment the whole debate would be "academic". But it would seem education is focused also on controling the minds of the public or as part of some poorly defined search for truth where truth is a variable.

    Maybe evolution and ID need not be taught at all until later when people start to specialize by which stage ID can be largely eliminated as "not sueful for employment".

  5. "This way when those genuinely seeking information start Googling, they'll get to the right place."

    The right place??!!! One annoying characteristic of many defenders of evolution is their arrogant disregard for the right of others to decide claims for themselves. A key feature, surely, of scientific reasoning is that it is democratic (or should be): We are not told what to think by lords spiritual or temporal, but instead we can each examine the evidence for and against scientific claims, all of which is (or should be) in the public domain, and we can all (at least, in principle) re-create the experiments which support the claims of established theory. This feature, I contend, distinguishes science from creationism or ID, neither of which is subject to democratic debate and contestation.

    It is because I believe in science and in scientific modes of reasoning that I favour plastering school textbooks with stickers saying "Evolution is just a theory". Neither ID nor Creationism are theories, in any scientific sense of this word, since their contestation and defeasible replacement by other theories are inconceivable for most of their adherents.

    If we supporters of science really believe in the superiority of science, we should trust the informed judgment of ordinary people to decide for themselves between Creationism/ID and Evolution, rather than trying to rig the result by google-mandering.

  6. Scientific reasoning is evidence-based, not decided by popular vote. They are most certainly not the same thing. (Otherwise U.S. science classes would be teaching creationism rather than evolution.)

    "we should trust the informed judgment of ordinary people"

    The point of this google-bomb is precisely so that people can become more well-informed. How well-informed is the average layman going to become by reading the ID propaganda that currently tops the google results? Wouldn't it be better if they instead had easy access to "the authoritative statement by the National Center for Science Education"?

    P.S. Those stickers are utterly misleading, since most people have no idea what the word "theory" means in scientific discourse. And what is this "just a theory" nonsense? Theory, yes. But there's no "just" about it. The selectivity is also misleading. It would be okay if we also put "warning: theory" stickers on physics textbooks too, but of course nobody is proposing that. There is no reason for singling out evolution for special treatment here, and those who want to do so almost invariably have ulterior motives.

  7. Richard --

    I didn't say that science is decided by popular vote. I said that each of us -- you, me, the President of the Royal Society, and the cleaning lady -- can decide the veracity of scientific claims for ourselves. Deciding claims invididually is not deciding them by popular vote. (Indeed, how a consensus builds around particular claims in science is another matter entirely, and one still to be explained by philosophers of science, IMO.)

    I stand by my post: Your reply demonstrates a contempt for the reasoning capabilities of ordinary people which was my point precisely. Pity.

  8. One cannot reason well if they are deprived access to accurate information. Like I said, the point of this google bomb is precisely to enable people to make informed decisions. But you don't seem to care about that. A pity, indeed.

  9. Things always seem to sit somwhere in the middle of the continum of free sharing information and brainwashing the opposition.
    rather like military spending you do the latter because you dont trust the other side not to.

    Having said that I suggest that if you print "evolution is a theory" one must also place "this history is a theory" on text books about the american revolution or the roman empire for example so people can understand hte sense in which you use the word.

    This is a better example than a physics text book because physics is more comparable to natural selection (ie testable and proveable) evolution itself is more historical.

  10. Genius, to get a better idea of what scientists mean by the word "theory", there is a rough introduction here. The theory of evolution stands on equal footing with the theory of general relativity. The analogy with history is unhelpful. There the word "theory" has an entirely different meaning.


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