Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Saturday, August 20, 2005

No news from the minister is bad news

So, I emailed the Minister's Office about his pro-ID comments one week ago. Nothing. Nada. Zip. In the meantime, a pro-ID Op-Ed was published in the increasingly disappointing Melbourne Age. It looks very much like there is, in fact, a growing movement influenced by the American political movement to have ID introduced here. I truly hope that the electorate is smarter than its representatives (a reasonable assumption, but not one to be accepted uncritically, even in Australia).

Barney Zwartz, the Age's religious affairs correspondent turned out to be a pretty decent fellwo when I emailed him. He seemed, as many people of good faith tend to, to have swallowed what he had been told by his coreligionists who have accepted ID as science. It's not his fault, really - people in traditions whether religious or not follow authority figures. It even happens (but not for very long) inb science. However, an experience on mine suggests that these people are neither stupid nor malicious, just ignorant of science.

I was given a chance last year to speak on Why ID is not Science to a course at the University of Melbourne entitled "God and Science", taught by a friend of mine, Stephen, who has a PhD in physics, a PhD (now) in History and Philosophy of Science from Melbourne (on Philosophy of Physics; really interesting thesis, which I disagree with, of course), and who is an ordained Anglican priest and canon at the local cathedral. I respect Stephen greatly - we've had many great discussions on notions of information, and on religion.

So I take Stephen to be the exemplar of a Good Faith Theist. He is careful, honest, and has a good sense of humour (essential if you deal with the likes of me). After an entertaining lecture and Q&A from his students, Stephen approached me afterwards and said that he was surprised I hadn't used the exemplar case for ID. Which is what? I asked. Well they have to have one, he replied.

Any scientific theory has an exemplary case where the basic ideas and methodologies are laid out clearly and convincingly. It's one of the things that makes a theory accepted in the scientific community. Einstein had the bending of light around a solar eclipse. Natural selection had the moth experiments in England (and don't believe the ID propaganda - those experiments were perfectly fine), and also Endler's guppy experiment in Jamaica. These were sufficient to convince scientists that the ideas were good, although of course considerable work was done later on extending and refining the results.

So Stephen rightly thought that if ID is science, there ought to be one. Guess what?

There isn't.

Sure, they blather on about flagella and clotting cascades, but again and again they has been shown to be non-problematic. And even if they weren't, the science overall has plenty of progressive research. ID hasn't. Not one. They are simply lying through their teeth.

I feel sorry for the believers of good faith like Stephen, being misled by second-rate shamans. It's a professional hazard in religion. If you have a community that is basically decent, it is open to corruption by those of bad faith, like Wells, Meyer, Behe and Dembski, and even those IDevotees I think are probably good folk at heart, like Paul Nelson, fall into the trap of defending the indefensible simply because they are part of that scam.

Back to the Minister. There's increasing evidence, all anecdotal, of a tendency to marry religion and politics in Australia. Apart from the Family First crew, the latest ID round involves Campus Crusade for Christ, which is an extreme evangelical group (Catholics not included) trying to get state education bodies to make their execrable DVD "Unlocking the Mysteries of Life" available to biology teachers. Great. We already don't teach science properly. Now they want to dilute with further confusion and crap.

I wonder why? Answer: Politics. Around 30 years ago, the evangelical movement started a culture war, to "retake America" and "return it to Christian values" (which is of course historical revisionism; all kinds of dissenters founded America, and a great many of the educated ones were deists or even atheists). I recall my pastor/friend/mentor at the time in discussions with Francis Schaeffer and his disciples. A political movement to make religion compulsory began. And it has had enormous, and rather obvious, success at hijacking the Republican Party, and forcing the Democrats to follow on.

Is this happening here? Well, our evangelical treasurer, Peter Costello, who was once a leading light in the revivalist church, Blackburn Baptist, in the 70s (it had 2000 attendees at three services on Sunday, as I recall), has now started attending revivalist churches like Hillsong. And our "Edumification Minister" is also a self-confessed Christian (why announce it? Does it make you a better politician or something? Is the implication that Muslims, Jews and Atheists can't be good representatives?). So forgive me for worrying.

Politicans since the Hawke government have been meddling with education to serve their policy agendas. It's a short step to serving other agendas. I weep for the next generation.

But on a lighter note, Zwartz has indicated he will try to publish some corrections. Good for him.