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October 28, 2008

Sounds Like a Cult

A group of Texas scientists is trying to stop Texas teachers from teaching students the "strengths and weaknesses" of Darwinian evolution.   

Science writer Denyse O'Leary analyzes the situation thus:

Any theory whose strengths and weaknesses cannot be discussed is not a theory in science. It is a creed. If you want to be received into a sect, you cannot doubt the sect’s interpretation of obscure doctrines in Scripture. But you should be surprised and concerned if, when you want to learn about evolution, you are not allowed to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the prevailing evolution theory.

It sure does make one wonder why some scientists are refusing to be--well--scientific about the whole issue. 

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Suricou Raven

Because the scientists know that in this case the call for discussion is really an excuse to introduce religious dogma and pseudoscience.

It would be exactly equivilent if a collective of astrologers were to demand the right to question astonomy, or if a practitioner of voodoo demanded students be required to debate the merits of that view of disease vs the existance of microorganisms.

While in princible science is supposed to consider all theories worthy of debate, in practice some are so obviously nonsense they do not merit the waste of time - espicially precious teaching time.

Denyse O'Leary is not a science writer. She has written exactly three books, two of which are incompetant attacks on evolution and one of which is an attempt to prove that the sould does in fact exist and resides in the pineal gland. It also features her claiming in the title to be a neuroscientist, dispite having not a single scientific qualification. In any field. Or a single published work *anywhere* except those three books and a great many books.

If Denyse O'Leary is a science writer, then everyone who has written a blog comment on science qualifies to be one too.


Others such as Phil Johnson have pointed out that it is no longer the scientific method, but the religion of atheism, or if you wish, philosophical materialism, that is being promoted as dogma by the Darwinists.



Apologize for the drive by. I couldn't resist.

Please see the dictionary.


1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.

7. guess or conjecture.

A scientific theory is not conjecture. Ask Regis if he would support students debating the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of relativity. Scientific theories, by definition are not disproven. If the hypothesis is wrong, theory and experiment disprove it and it never becomes a scientific theory.

The scope of scientific theory is extended. Special relativity extended the scope of Newton's laws of motion to account for near light speeds. General relativity extended special relativity to find equivalence between acceleration and gravitation. The same goes for evolution. New mechanisms (e.g. punctuated equilibrium) and new techniques (genetics) have been added to the science, but the underlying theory (not conjecture) of natural selection remains what it is, "a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena".


He's back - yaaayyy!!!

FriarThom, how was it Einstein became Einstein? Was it by following conventional wisdom in lockstep? So I believe students learning the strengths and weaknesses of Relativity Theory would be an excellent thing. We could certainly use more geniuses, and fewer drones.

And the rub in the theory of natural selection is that word "coherent" in your definition. When actually studied, versus merely memorized, the propositions don't cohere with the phenomena. In fact, the phenomena have frequently been invented to support the propositions - my favorite is the ol' peppered moth that I had to memorize in high school. The discovery of that hoax really disillusioned me; do you want other students to suffer the same disillusionment? Or would you rather have an open and honest examination of the evidence for and against evolution?

If breaking out of the mold was good for Copernicus, why not for the rest of us? Or are you one of those who think Galileo had it coming?

Orthodoxy in scientific beliefs at all cost, hmmm?

Chris Clukey


This excerpt from a column I wrote in 2005 shows why simply going by the rank in a dictionary definition isn't the way to evaluate the use of the term "theory."

That word, “theory,” is a big part of the problem. Many of those in favor of teaching intelligent design (especially non-scientists) use the word as a synonym for “speculation” or “hypothesis,” much in the same way that Creationists do. “Evolution is just a theory,” they will say. For their part, many opponents of teaching it (especially non-scientists) use the word as a synonym for “law,” or “proven facts.” They will point to ironclad theories like atomic theory or the theory of relativity as examples and make accusations of ignorance, bias or trickery against those who see evolution as anything but a proven fact on the level of gravity or germ theory.

The problem with this is that a theory is not a guess or a fact, but a system or a model. It is a way of looking at phenomena, and sometimes it is new and relatively speculative and flawed, and other times it is well-proven and factual. The word “theory” is like the word “automobile.” Both the Edsel and the Corvette are a type of system described by the word “automobile,” but one was a disaster and the other is a revered classic. What we have is one group of people saying “Automobiles are Edsels” and another saying “Automobiles are Corvettes.” Most of the scientists seem to realize that neither statement is true; most of the people arguing on the talking head shows and on the editorial pages seem to be missing it.

Astronomy gives us a number of examples of scientific Edsels. Take for example the model of the Universe put forth by the 2nd Century astronomer Ptolemy. He had the Earth at the center of the Universe, with the stars on a rotating globe that surrounded the solar system. In his theory, the planets not only rotated around the Earth, but also circled around in a smaller orbit called an epicycle. Ptolemy’s model even fit the available data: The epicycles explained the retrograde motion of the planets, a phenomenon no one had properly explained before.

Of course, we know Ptolemy was way off. But we also know that his model was a theory, and that the correct model that replaced it was also a theory.

Samuel X

The problem with evolutionary theory is that, once the fabricated data and name-calling and obsessive followers are pruned away, one word is left over.


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