Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level


2:52 pm - June 27th 2012

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contribution by Jonny Scaramanga

A Christian fundamentalist qualification which teaches that the theory of evolution has “no scientific basis” has been declared comparable to A-levels by UK Naric.

NARIC is the UK’s National Agency responsible for providing information and opinion on vocational, academic and professional qualifications from across the world.

The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) uses a curriculum that was previously criticised for claiming the Loch Ness Monster “appears to be a plesiosaur,” and that the mythical beast is evidence against evolution.

The Herald Scotland reports that they teach Nessie “has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others.”

Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) materials form the basis for ICCE. The workbooks state scientific tests “seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour.” They claim the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution, and teach that “if a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”

The 2012 evaluation marks the second time Naric has approved the ICCE qualifications. After Naric’s previous benchmarking of ICCE in 2008, their spokesman told the Times Educational Supplement that the study had not looked at content, only academic rigour.

The rigour of ICCE tests has also been questioned by critics however. Writing in the Australian Journal of Education, Professors Cathy Speck and David Prideaux said options on ACE multiple choice tests are often “meaningless”. One example: ‘Jesus died on the [cross, toss, chrome]”

Other questions from a year 10 ACE history test seen for this piece for Liberal Conspiracy include:

“True or false: Our peace – as Christians – is in Jesus Christ.”

“The very next event on God’s calendar is the __________ Coming of Jesus Christ.”
a. First b. Second c. Sixth

“The leader of the Katanga Province was _________________.”
a. Patrick Henry b. Mohammed Ali c. Moise Tshombe

In the past, ACE curriculum materials have also come under fire for racism. The TES reported that ACE materials claimed apartheid was beneficial.

In a training booklet for ACE staff, future teachers are told, “It’s interesting that in the African primitive languages there is no word for wisdom. We in the West find that surprising, but you see, the idea of wisdom came through the Biblical channels of the Judaeo-Christian religion and filtered into all of western culture and society.”

UK Naric points out that its recognition is not for the ACE materials in isolation, but for the ICCE as a whole, which requires students to complete additional essays and science projects.

The ICCE General Certificate is comparable to Cambridge International O-Level standard, while the Advanced Certificate is comparable to Cambridge International A-Level standard. UK Naric is operated by ECCTIS Ltd., on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS).

Daniel Govender, of ACE UK distributors Christian Education Europe, said organisation would not comment to the press on the content of the texts.


Jonny Scaramanga researches religious education and Christian fundamentalism within the UK. He also works as a musician and music teacher.

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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

“if a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”

So much for my theory that insects have more than four legs.

I really hope I’m missing something from this story.

Second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution eh? It’s never a good sign when people can’t grasp the concept of a closed system…

3. So Much For Subtlety

A Christian fundamentalist qualification which teaches that the theory of evolution has “no scientific basis” has been declared comparable to A-levels by UK Naric.

That is outrageously unfair. After all, the Christian children can probably read.

4. ActuarialChris

Ok, now I’m really confused… So Nessie a plesiosaur, which proves evolution is wrong yet do they not usually believe dinosaurs didn’t actually exist because the world is only 6000 years old?

I suppose they would have to believe in Nessie though as they’re used to believing in things they can’t see or prove…

5. Chaise Guevara

@ SMFS

“After all, the Christian children can probably read.”

Unlike ACE, then, if they think that the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.

6. Third rate Les

Jesus died ‘on the toss’ brings all kinds of images to mind that will no doubt see me burn in hell.

However, I felt it only right to teach my year 10/11 science classes about Intelligent Design and creationism. After all “This is what some people believe, but as you can see it’s bollocks and they’re idiots” only takes about a minute of curriculum time.

ACE are
a) retarded fuckwits
b) fuckwitted retards
c) pricks
d) all of the above

sorry that I can’t be more adult and constructive.

@4 I believe the current line is “they were killed off in the Noah’s ark flood”, or died off shortly thereafter because there was apparently less oxygen what with all the trees being drowned and they got out of breath quick as a result. I wish I were taking the piss.
I actually want to go to the creation museum in Kentucky so I can get my picture took on the saddled up triceratops for faceybook.

8. ActuarialChris

@7 That is hilarious! Presumably the aquatic dinosaurs also somehow hated this flood. I actually didn’t know creationists had started infecting the UK though, it’s a sad state of affairs that it’s not just confined to the American bible belt.

This is hot on the heels of the EXACT same thing happening in public education in Louisiana, USA

http://www.politicususa.com/louisiana-school-loch-ness-monster-disproves-evolution.html

10. Shatterface

If Jesus died ‘on the toss’ the Church is going to have to rethink its position on masturbation.

We are so fucked now. Our leaders have all signed on to this tosh. Pushed by the elites to keep the public stupid and teach them not to question. It’s akin to the Hitler youth. And it’s aim is similar. To produce an army of loyal rightwing nutcases all ready to serve their masters in the future. Seems to be working very well in the red states of the US.

Bush stacked his govt with graduates from the various wing nut universities. (If that is not an oxymoron) No wonder Murdoch is getting into education. We have a right wing military industrial complex. We have a right wing prison industrial complex. We are now creating a right wing education industrial complex. Fun times.

12. Shatterface

How did the trees survive the Flood?

13. ActuarialChris

@Sally,

I’m not sure why you seem to think this is a right wing conspiracy, ok granted the creationists in the US are mostly in the South and you probably can say mostly are republicans but we’re in the UK and in terms of politics and religion well you could hardly describe the Tories and the church as obvious bedfellows. The right doesn’t have a monopoly on idiocy, there’s plenty of that on the left also (take the BNP for example, yes they’re portrayed as far right but weed out the only right wing policy they have, immigration and the rest looks suspiciously like socialism/communism) and much of what the church believes is eminently left wing, not right. Idiocy of all forms must be confronted but to try to package this as a political point is ludicrous.

As for a conspiracy of teaching our youth to be right wing, I think most on the right would be far more worried about the opposite as so many teachers (including politics teachers who are often very vocal on social media) are often to the left. Personally I’d hope that there’s balance in our classroms and one side probably cancels out the rest and allows pupils to make their own minds up as to what they believe but it’s obviously very subjective and difficult to prove either way.

I’m not a Christian fundamentalist or a creationist; and I do care about educational standards. However, the OP’s links don’t support the claims made in the OP.

And, in any event, I’m not sure I care what religious groups teach their children – about evolution at least; but if we are to lay down the law, it must apply to Muslims, Jews and Christians and any other religious groupings. (So I hope that TRL @ 6 will tell his local Imam that he’s 6 (a)-(d). If so, he can probably expect a visit from plod investigating a potential hate crime.)

I am also uneasy that the theory of evolution is presented as a settled matter – a dogma almost. Yes, we know evolution occurs; but the processes by which it occurs are still imperfectly understood. And the retrospective ‘explanations’ of species-behaviour and -characteristics by evolutionists are not science but speculations that diminish in plausibility and rationality the more general they become. I am deeply suspicious of all mono-causal explanatory theories – whether neo-darwinism, Freudianism, Marxism…or any other.

@14 – As a physicist, I think your sense of unease at teaching any scientific theory (including evolution) as a certainty is entirely reasonable. However, there is a good deal of evidence in favour of the idea that animals evolved over hundreds of millions of years via natural selection rather than all being created 6000 years ago (see e.g. any book by Steve Jones for details).

I think the real problem is that this vocal minority is against the teaching of anything which *they feel* might cast doubt on the Bible; this is the same mindset which saw Galileo burnt at the stake for telling everyone the truth that the Earth orbits the Sun.

I am often amused by the more extreme creationist attempts to rationalise every single detail of their literal interpretation of the Bible. I saw something by the creation research institute a while ago where they actually invoked “limited” evolution to explain why there is now a greater variety of animals on Earth than would comfortably fit in an Ark…. This is a great example of believing any old tosh (regardless of evidence) if it fits with scripture, and that’s the reason this should not be taught as part of *science* curricula, as it is the opposite of the scientific method.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 TONE

“I am also uneasy that the theory of evolution is presented as a settled matter – a dogma almost. Yes, we know evolution occurs; but the processes by which it occurs are still imperfectly understood. ”

The theory of evolution IS settled as a theory, i.e. we know that evolution occurs and is the cause of speciation. In other words, it’s settled to the degree that you yourself agree that it’s settled. Who do you know of that claims we know everything about it?

17. Planeshift

“We are so fucked now”

Sally, has there been in a point in say the last 30 years, that you do not think we have been fucked?

The mind boggles – every so-called ‘photo’ of the Loch Ness Monster is obviously faked!

I’m a chemist and I don’t know what @14 means by the processes of evolution being “imperfectly understood”.

Do you mean the process at a molecular level eg. mutations in DNA or do you refer to the process as a whole ie. natural selection/survival of the fittest? If you let me know I will try and explain. Please also let me know your general level of scientific education, I don’t want to over or underestimate your ability thus going over your head or patronising you.

Regards

How did the trees survive the Flood?

Questions like that make Ken Ham shuffle nervously, and make baby Jesus cry.
;)

21. Peter Stewert

#14 and #16
Read together your comments make good sense.

Whatever else can be said of these exams it’ll not prevent people picking-up daft/dangerous notions elsewhere. We really could do with teaching all kids the meaning of critical scientific thinking so that pupils can tell the difference between a conspiracy and a scientific consensus, and understand why a scientific theory has more rigour than a pub theory.

Hopefully there is nothing in the Christian bible about the speed of light, because I don’t want to go back to people thinking that mirrors and cameras capture a piece of your soul rather than the reflected illumination.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Chris

I think he’s referring to the fact that we don’t know every detail of every evolutionary development, i.e. exactly “why” it evolved and so on. Which is true, obviously, but it poses no threat to the validity of the theory.

23. Chaise Guevara

“We really could do with teaching all kids the meaning of critical scientific thinking so that pupils can tell the difference between a conspiracy and a scientific consensus, and understand why a scientific theory has more rigour than a pub theory.”

This.

Dave, Galileo wasn’t burned, just threatened.

The trees had to go because once they were out of the Ark all the marsupials had to get back to Australia, the lemurs had to get to Madascar etc. The dead trees formed a floating raft over which all the animals returned to their assigned places. New trees grew out of dormant seeds.

That is an actual explanation presented by creationists.

25. Robin Levett

@TONE #14:

I am deeply suspicious of all mono-causal explanatory theories

The why do you have a problem with current evolutionary theory?

<blockquote.Hopefully there is nothing in the Christian bible about the speed of light, because I don’t want to go back to people thinking that mirrors and cameras capture a piece of your soul rather than the reflected illumination.
To be honest you get all sorts of anti-science cranks with every generation, at the time of the lunar landings after the publishing of pictures of Earth from space and the moons surface, newspaper editors were receiving green ink letters claiming that the ‘obviously forged’ pictures of a spherical earth were merely to discredit their preferred theory of a flat earth. A theory that had been thoroughly debunked centuries ago by Columbus.
Given that geologists had determined that the earth was considerably older than the bible claimed long before Darwin was born I’d guess that young earth creationism is a bit like that throw back to flat earth theory.

27. Molesworth

@ 15.

Erm, Galileo wasn’t burnt at the stake, he died of fever and associated heart problems on the 8th January 1642 at the ripe old age of 77.

His argument wasn’t strictly speaking about the Earth orbiting the sun – that had been taught for over a century. It was called the Copernican theory, after Nicolaus Copernicus – himself an observant Roman Catholic.

Galileo’s crime was in stating that there was only one truth, and that he knew it. The Church was quite happy to go along with the idea that there were two simultaneous truths as any epistemological relativist do kno.

Molesworth @ 27:

“Galileo’s crime was in stating that there was only one truth, and that he knew it. The Church was quite happy to go along with the idea that there were two simultaneous truths as any epistemological relativist do kno.”

Of course, calling the Pope a simpleton probably didn’t help much either…

@Tone – I’m not quite sure about Chaise Guevara’s description of evolution as ‘settled as a theory’. It could still be disproved. But this group does not admit the same possibility for Biblical teaching:

“if a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.”

It could still be disproved.

Well it could if Richard Lenski hadn’t actually observed it happening in his own lab.
http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html

Christians should be far more worried about this group than anyone else – after all, they claim to be Christian, while meeting the Biblical definition of false prophets.
Sally, as usual, is trying to blame the Conservatives for evils perpetrated by the Labour government – NARIC approved these people in 2008 and unless every newspaper in the country has missed Gove sacking the whole of its staff the ones approving them in 2012 are overwhelmingly Labour appointees.
One might give them a foot or two of rope on Apartheid of the grounds of invincible ignorance because Apartheid, in theory, would proscribe any white South African having a black employee – the Boer farmers would all have lived like the Amish. It just didn’t happen like that. No blacks should have had to work in gold mines managed by whites. No servants of another colour. Anyone who thinks that South Africa under Verwoerd’s National/Labour coalition applied Apartheid doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. A rigorous application of Apartheid *would* have improved conditions for the blacks and reduced the white standard of living to something similar to European/American/Australian farmers/farm workers before the CAP threw £billions at European farmers. Gold and diamond mines could only have been owned and managed by the same race as the workers.

32. So Much For Subtlety

5. Chaise Guevara

Unlike ACE, then, if they think that the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.

Being stupid does not mean you can’t read. No education system is perfect. So they get taught that evolution is an Evil Theory. Big deal. State School children get taught all sorts of Revealed Truths too. That race is a social construct. That all the scientific evidence does not say that IQ is racially linked. That gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not.

It wouldn’t matter if they turned out alright. And they don’t from the State school system. They turn out illiterate and feral. I suspect a lot of parents will be much happier to send their children to these Christian schools because on the whole they provide a much better education – and because the consequences of doubting the official orthodoxy is so much less with Christians.

33. captainfop

John,
Apartheid is just the word we white South Africans (and, you know, everyone else) use to describe the political system pre-1994. You don’t have to get pedantic about the meaning of the term, which in common usage refers to the political reality of the system, and has done for at least half a century.

Besides which, your description of “a rigorous application of apartheid” sounds suspiciously wistful, and is almost entirely beside the point.

I grew up in South Africa and I studied the ACE curriculum. I was even accepted into college in the UK on the basis of an NCSC qualification (I guess it’s ICCE now) – so this news is actually nothing new. It would also seem to invalidate your anti-Labour argument, as this policy was in place prior to 1997 when I moved to the UK.

What I can tell you is that, besides the obvious absurdity and fundamentalism of their ‘science’ teaching (as a result of which, I learned almost no actual science until college), they had a very clear idea of what apartheid was like. ACE is a popular curriculum amongst private schools in South Africa (or, it was, when I was at school in the apartheid era), and their description of the regime reflected the consensus amongst fundamentalist christian white (and yes, racist) South Africans.

And yes, the ACE curriculum really did include this nonsense. Every workbook had a bible verse you had to memorise, which was included in the tests. They taught that the Grand Canyon had been carved out by the Flood. Just utter nonsense.

34. So Much For Subtlety

33. captainfop

And yes, the ACE curriculum really did include this nonsense. Every workbook had a bible verse you had to memorise, which was included in the tests. They taught that the Grand Canyon had been carved out by the Flood. Just utter nonsense.

That may be. And yet look at their questions:

“The leader of the Katanga Province was _________________.”
a. Patrick Henry b. Mohammed Ali c. Moise Tshombe

I would be impressed with any British state school child who had heard of Patrick Henry. Much less Muhammed Ali. Much less Moise Tshombe.

Whatever their position on evolution is, or deep time for that matter, they are clearly providing a much better standard of education than the State system.

Sarah@29: “settled as a theory” and “could be disproved” are not mutually exclusive. Classical mechanics was settled as a theory. Special relativity disproved it. This is good. It’s how science works. “Settled as a theory” means “everyone with the slightest idea what they’re talking about believes it hasn’t been disproved yet”.

When people use the fact that current theories of evolution by natural selection could one day be disproved (*) to argue that schools should teach creationism, this is functionally the same as a pre-1905 speaker using the possibility that classical mechanics could one day be disproved to argue that schools should teach Aristotle’s theories of motion.

SMFS@34: hmmm, doesn’t surprise me you view pub quiz memorising of names and dates as the high point of education.

* indeed, many have – that’s what evolutionary biologists do, they test hypotheses about how evolution works and confirm or reject them…

36. So Much For Subtlety

35. john b

hmmm, doesn’t surprise me you view pub quiz memorising of names and dates as the high point of education.

Nor does it surprise me one little bit that once more you have made sh!t up.

* indeed, many have – that’s what evolutionary biologists do, they test hypotheses about how evolution works and confirm or reject them…

No they do not. They cannot. Or by and large they cannot. Evolution (in the macro sense) has taken place once. It cannot be repeated. They can assume evolution and use it to explain things. But like evolutionary psychology, they rely on mostly Just So stories that are not susceptible to test or even proof. Every now and then they intersect with other disciplines and then they have other things to test. But if the Dodo became extinct, they cannot test the hypothesis that rats and pigs were responsible.

Why is SMFS going on about state schooling when A-levels are a college level qualification?

38. James from Durham

The issue between evolutionists and creationists isn’t really about the theory. It’s about the appropriate methodolgy for determinig truth. The argument is really scientific method vs scripture.

39. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Sarah

“I’m not quite sure about Chaise Guevara’s description of evolution as ‘settled as a theory’. It could still be disproved.”

ANYTHING, with the possible exception of your own consciousness, could possibly be disproved in the face of unexpected evidence. It’s just that the amount of evidence for evolution at this stage makes this obscenely unlikely assuming no black swans (and they’d have to be bloody big swans; the only one I can think of is “God exists and he’s falsified the evidence for evolution because he thinks it’s funny”). When I say “unlikely”, I mean it’s roughly as likely as my head turning into a pumpkin at midnight.

I think you may be confused about the scientific meaning of the word “theory” as well – where creationists tend to interpret it too weakly, you seem to be going the other way and taking it to mean “proved with 100% probability”. It doesn’t. First definition I could find online: “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena”. Not sure if this is the accepted definition but it’s in the right ballpark.

Evolution is actually considerably stronger than those criteria. Mountains of evidence, scientific consensus, no alternative hypotheses with any credible evidence whatsoever. It is true to any useful real-world definition of the word true, just as it’s true that my head will not be turning into a pumpkin.

“The leader of the Katanga Province was _________________.”
a. Patrick Henry b. Mohammed Ali c. Moise Tshombe

Cor, that’s pretty recondite. If their syllabus really covers Central Africa in the 60s, then it must be pretty wide ranging. I wonder how many children (adults, come to that) would actually know the answer to this, other than by process of elimination.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 SMFS

“Being stupid does not mean you can’t read.”

Yes, but as state school kids generally can, in fact, read, I assumed we were exchanging amusing hyperbole.

“No education system is perfect. So they get taught that evolution is an Evil Theory. Big deal. State School children get taught all sorts of Revealed Truths too. That race is a social construct. That all the scientific evidence does not say that IQ is racially linked. That gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not. ”

I didn’t get taught any of that in state school. The closest I got to political indoctrination was all the God bullshit, followed by stuff along the lines of “sexism, racism and bullying are bad”. Can you link me to the class materials used to teach these revealed truths?

“It wouldn’t matter if they turned out alright. And they don’t from the State school system. They turn out illiterate and feral.”

Your insane curtain-twitching prejudices =/= real life. I went to state school, as did most of the people I know. We can all read and I am definitely not presently rooting through someone’s dustbin for chicken.

“I suspect a lot of parents will be much happier to send their children to these Christian schools because on the whole they provide a much better education – and because the consequences of doubting the official orthodoxy is so much less with Christians.”

You should start your own group. You could call it the Supporting My Prejudices Via Sweeping Unsupported Statements Club, or perhaps Confirmation Bias Addicts Anonymous.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ 38 James from Durham

“The issue between evolutionists and creationists isn’t really about the theory. It’s about the appropriate methodolgy for determinig truth. The argument is really scientific method vs scripture.”

Exactly – or call it rationality vs faith, observation vs revealed truth, evidence-based policy vs policy-based evidence etc.

If amazing evidence proving evolution untrue were to turn up tomorrow, a true scientist (after carefully examing the evidence to ensure that it managed to overturn the existing evidence and end up with higher probability that evolution) would immediately announce that evolution could be considered false and that we were living in a time of an amazing new discovery.

43. Shatterface

No education system is perfect. So they get taught that evolution is an Evil Theory. Big deal. State School children get taught all sorts of Revealed Truths too. That race is a social construct. That all the scientific evidence does not say that IQ is racially linked. That gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not.

Who teaches that gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not?

44. Shatterface

“I suspect a lot of parents will be much happier to send their children to these Christian schools because on the whole they provide a much better education – and because the consequences of doubting the official orthodoxy is so much less with Christians.”

Those burned for heresy suffered pretty severe consequences for doubting official orthodoxy.

45. Shatterface

No they do not. They cannot. Or by and large they cannot. Evolution (in the macro sense) has taken place once. It cannot be repeated

No, it hasn’t taken place: it is taking place.

It is an ongoing process and it is observable – as in the evolution of anti-biotic resistant infections.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 43 Shatterface

“Who teaches that gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not?”

I fear that, due to SMFS’s canny use of passive voice, the answer to this question will be lost forever.

Unless it’s “nobody”.

The issue between evolutionists and creationists isn’t really about the theory. It’s about the appropriate methodolgy for determinig truth. The argument is really scientific method vs scripture.

Very well put.

“Who teaches that gender is a social construct but homosexuality is not?”

I doubt it happens much at school, but the dominant sociological and gender studies academic trend a decade ago (when I was doing this sort of drek at University) was that gender was indeed largely a social construct. But then, they said the same about race, caste and tribal identity too.

Dave @ 15:
Yes, of course, animals evolved over 100s of millions of years. We have the fossil record, comparative embrology, etc. Also, we can replicate the process with drosophila etc and observe micro-ecvolution in the wild.

However, that evolution happens does not mean that we understand all of the mechanisms involved. I’m not trying to introduce some supernatural causation here by the back door: rather, it’s just that I find evolutionary theory quite implausible in explaining sudden apparent evolutionary ‘jumps’ (cf S Gould) and also in the evolution of social species, particularly homo sapiens (where culture seems to take over from evolution). And when we get on to altruism (for example), I begin to reach for my revolver…;)

Unfortunately, the moment one questions evolution, it is assumed one is a fundamentalist theist of some description and the barriers go up. Yet if one questions the status of (say) quantum mechanics – ie is it a true description of reality at the micro-level or just a ‘recipe’ that works for the present until we discover more? – one can have a cool and steady discussion….The softer the science, the more bitter the debates.

CG @ 16: No, in science, no theory is ever settled: all theories are tentative, to a lesser or greater degree. You remind me of those scientists who could never see any alternative to phlogiston or the ether…

Chris @ 19: See my response to Dave above. Since you ask, I passed A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and a couple of other subjects – in the 60s when these exams were quite demanding. My concern with evolution, as explained above, is not to deny it occurs or to introduce additional supernatural causation, but rather (a) with the plausubility of explaining all evolution with reference to natural and sexual selection and (b) with the retrospective (and untestable) explanations that evolutionists (like R Dawkins) come up with. Perhaps I’m being unjust, but your tone suggests you might be one of those who think ‘The Selfish Gene’ is a work of science, which it most certainly isn’t….

RL @ 25: Many neo-Darwinists imagine that the extension of their basic theory (which is largely true) explains everything in social and individual psychology, ethology, ethics, etc. Compare and contrast Freudianism and Marxism…

SarahAB @ 29: Well said

Cylus @ 30: See my responses above

CG @ 39: “the amount of evidence for evolution at this stage makes this obscenely unlikely… When I say “unlikely”, I mean it’s roughly as likely as my head turning into a pumpkin at midnight.” I think that’s putting it far too strongly (and, forgive me, rather silly). Again, think of all those scientific theories taken as settled and then disproved – everything from geocentricism, phlogiston and the ether to stomach ulcers being due stress….The evidence that evolution has occurred and does occur is very strong: however, that does not mean that we have discovered all the mechanisms by which evolution occurs. Even back in the 19thC, Kropotkin* suggested in response to Darwin that cooperation was as important a factor as competition in evolution, and I suspect he had a point with reference to social species.
*btw, a lovely name for a cat!

50. Shatterface

I doubt it happens much at school, but the dominant sociological and gender studies academic trend a decade ago (when I was doing this sort of drek at University) was that gender was indeed largely a social construct.

Which it is, hence the use of the term ‘gender’ to distinguish it from ‘sex’. Do yiu think biology accounts for different dress codes, social status and levels of pay? That sexual dimorphism is even greater in Saudi Arabia than in Europe so women there aren’t safe to let behind the wheel?

But then, they said the same about race, caste and tribal identity too.

I’d like to see you account for those in biological terms too. Is there a gene which makes one group ‘untouchable’, for instance, or which distinguishes the English from the Germans, or accounts for differences between tribal culture?

And you didn’t answer my question about who teaches all of the above are social constructs while homosexuality is not.

51. gastro george

“The issue between evolutionists and creationists isn’t really about the theory. It’s about the appropriate methodolgy for determinig truth. The argument is really scientific method vs scripture.”

Precisely. As mentioned in a comment earlier – the scientific method also sets criteria for the disproof of any current theory – which scripture doesn’t.

52. Shatterface

Even back in the 19thC, Kropotkin* suggested in response to Darwin that cooperation was as important a factor as competition in evolution, and I suspect he had a point with reference to social species.

That was in response to Social Darwinism, not to Darwin. The debate was over the meaning of fitness – whether it meant competativeness at the level of the individual, or whether co-operation as a species made us ‘fit’.

The debate was within Darwinism, not between Darwinists and others – just as there are continuing debates between gradualism and punctured equilibrium.

Darwinism defines the parameters of the debate.

As to the parallel with ulcers and stress – its nonsense. Darwinism is supported by a wide variety of disciplines from geology to epidemiology. The sheer scope of evidence is staggering compared to the rather parochial subject of ulcers.

50 – I’m not sure why you’re shouting at me – I have absolutely no difficulty in seeing gender, caste and even tribe as predominantly social constructs (although there are reasonably clear ethnic differences between, say, the Zulu and the Khoi-san which go well beyond a learned social difference). Equally, I thought the current line of thinking on homosexuality was precisely that it wasn’t a social construct: that homosexuality is a biological and not a social category.

I’ve not kept up with sociological studies because they are generally over-written and too dull for words, so I may have missed something, but I’d have said that the current academic line is precisely what SMFS is complaining about – that gender is a social construct, but homosexuality is not. Foucault isn’t nearly as in as he used to be.

54. Robin Levett

@TONE #49:

Many neo-Darwinists imagine that the extension of their basic theory (which is largely true) explains everything in social and individual psychology, ethology, ethics, etc. Compare and contrast Freudianism and Marxism…

What do you mean by a “neo-Darwinist”? Do you mean a biologist who accepts the theory as the current best description of nature? Indeed, what do you mean by “their basic theory”? I see very few biologists arguing that genetic drift, for example, explains anything much in ethics.

55. Robin Levett

@TONE #49 (again):

rather, it’s just that I find evolutionary theory quite implausible in explaining sudden apparent evolutionary ‘jumps’ (cf S Gould)

Perhaps you’re assigning far too much signficance to the word “sudden” (which does not mean overnight) and not enough to the word “apparent”.

This perhaps isn’t the place for a prolonged discussion on the issues; but notwithstanding your Biology A-Level, I suspect that the reason you find this implausible is that you either haven’t read the explanations, or haven’t considered them carefully enough.

Three other points:

1 If you are restricting your explanations to the natural, what is your feeling as to the explanation of punctuated equilibrium;

2 “the plausubility of explaining all evolution with reference to natural and sexual selection” is somethign with which many, if not most, biologists would have a problem, if that were the be-all and end-all of the Darwinian synthesis. Genetic drift is only one part of evolutionary theory separate from natural and sexual selection;

3 This:

Unfortunately, the moment one questions evolution, it is assumed one is a fundamentalist theist of some description and the barriers go up. Yet if one questions the status of (say) quantum mechanics – ie is it a true description of reality at the micro-level or just a ‘recipe’ that works for the present until we discover more? – one can have a cool and steady discussion….The softer the science, the more bitter the debates.

is disingenuous in the extreme. The reason for the assumption that one is questioning the theory from a fundamentalist theist standpoint is that that is where the vast bulk of (usually uninformed) criticism of the theory comes from. Evolution is so well-established as an explanation that the valid scientific challenge comes from within as to emphasis, not from without as to overall validity. There are even young earth creationists (such as Kurt Wise – who is informed) acknowledge that as science, it is indisputable; but reject it because of their theology.

56. Shatterface

Homosexuality is a social construct because sexuality itself is a social construct.

We don’t talk about the sexuality of monkeys because monkey sex is instinctive and directed towards reproduction: we just call it mating.

Sex between humans is a far more complex phenomena because it is embedded in norms and rituals which have little to do with actual reproduction. ‘Straight’ and ‘gay’ define overlapping areas within this complex of social interactions and these complex relationships aren’t reducable to biology. Hence no ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ gene: even if you found a common genetic difference between straights and gays you haven’t established a ‘gay gene’ because the category of ‘homosexual’ is socially defined, not a biological catagory like blue eyes.

We don’t define the difference between the English and the Germans in terms of biology. We recognise that nationality is a social construct. What makes one person English and another German is a complex web of social phenomena not reducable to biology. There’s no English gene and no German gene.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 TONE

Both your responses to me suggest that you need to look up what “theory” means in a scientific sense. I am fully aware, and in fact have already said, that it does not mean “100% definitely true”, so there’s no need for your sermons to the choir.

That said, I can’t think of any possible way that evolution could be found wrong without invoking something at the level of divine interference, or us all living in a computer simulation. What theory other than evolution (except higher powers tricking us into believing in evolution) could possibly explain how close human and chimp DNA is? Now, that might be a failure of imagination on my part, but until someone comes up with an idea that has higher probability that evolution, our working assumption is that evolution occurs.

The “theory” of evolution basically refers to the fact that species arise through natural selection. That is settled AS A THEORY: not 100% proof. I’m not sure whether you think that, because I know that evolution is a theory, I’m under the impression that every hypothesis formed about it (empathy evolved because it helped us work in packs etc.) is also proved to the same extent? Because that might explain the weird tangents at which you are attempting to criticise me. If so, you’re wrong.

By the way, I wasn’t aware that the idea of stomach ulcers being due to stress was ever a theory, in the scientific sense of the word. Got a source for that?

Perhaps I’m being unjust, but your tone suggests you might be one of those who think ‘The Selfish Gene’ is a work of science, which it most certainly isn’t….

You do know there’s two ‘the Selfish Gene'(s) right? There’s the scientific theory which regularly hands group selection theory it’s arse, and then there’s the book for general public consumption explaining the theory in basic layman terms.

, it’s just that I find evolutionary theory quite implausible in explaining sudden apparent evolutionary ‘jumps’

There are no ‘jumps’, just gaps in the fossil record, Gould like Dawkins tends (or tended in Gould’s case) to wax poetic and metaphorically when explaining evolution. If you’re really interested I recommend Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish where he basically applies theory to locate where a specific and at the time undiscovered fossil would be and then went and did just that with the unearthing of Tiktaalik.

59. Robin Levett

@ Tim J #40:

<blockquote.Cor, that’s pretty recondite. If their syllabus really covers Central Africa in the 60s, then it must be pretty wide ranging. I wonder how many children (adults, come to that) would actually know the answer to this, other than by process of elimination.

I’m not quite sure why, at the age of 15, having learned about decolonisation in Africa in the 60s to the extent of being able to name a major player in one of the major conflicts of the time can be seen as particularly difficult. It’s not as if either of the other two characters mentioned had anything to do with the Belgian Congo. One was 2 centuries away, the other most of 2 continents away.

@TONE 49

“Chris @ 19: See my response to Dave above. Since you ask, I passed A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and a couple of other subjects – in the 60s when these exams were quite demanding. My concern with evolution, as explained above, is not to deny it occurs or to introduce additional supernatural causation, but rather (a) with the plausubility of explaining all evolution with reference to natural and sexual selection and (b) with the retrospective (and untestable) explanations that evolutionists (like R Dawkins) come up with. Perhaps I’m being unjust, but your tone suggests you might be one of those who think ‘The Selfish Gene’ is a work of science, which it most certainly isn’t….”

Firstly, I have never read The Selfish Gene or any of Dawkins other works. I find RD’s approach too aggressive although I did enjoy his explanations of the development of various anatomical features in the series “Inside Nature’s Giants” where he stuck to the subject rather than ‘fighting’ creationism.

I’m not sure what you’re problem is with the plausibility of natural and sexual selection. The changes that they create are minor and take many generations however we have hundred of millions of years for this to happen. It’s not about a huge change from mother to child, think more about getting taller by a millimetre each generation (say 20 years) and 500 years to grow an inch. However in 6000 years that would become a foot taller. Think what these small changes can do over a million.

Natural and sexual selection are just a focus to get rid of useless features and keep beneficial ones like a camel’s hump or a peacock’s tail. With reference to modern humans we have largely shaped our own evolution over the last 50,000 years which was partly due to the development of language. Language meant that we were able to share our knowledge, skills and culture with the next generation. This lead to our rapid progression from cavemen to farmers to complex civilisations within a relatively snort period of time.

Hopefully this will go some way to demonstrating how it is plausible that tiny changes can lead to dramatic changes over a long period of time.

61. Chaise Guevara

@ 60 Chris

“With reference to modern humans we have largely shaped our own evolution over the last 50,000 years which was partly due to the development of language. Language meant that we were able to share our knowledge, skills and culture with the next generation. This lead to our rapid progression from cavemen to farmers to complex civilisations within a relatively snort period of time.”

We shaped our *development*. There’s nothing exactly wrong with calling it “evolution” but I’d advise against it, at least on the internet, due to the tendency for people to take metaphors on the subject literally.

It’s bad enough that we inevitably default to talking about evolution in terms of goals (“we evolved language to communicate ideas” etc). As shorthand it’s almost unavoidable, but then you get people taking it literally and going away thinking either than evolution is a motive force, or that evolution happens because animals consciously choose to evolve.

We don’t talk about the sexuality of monkeys because monkey sex is instinctive and directed towards reproduction: we just call it mating.

Not quite, bonobos use sex, hetero or homo, as a way of settling disputes, as well as for general reproduction. Plus the less said about that seal that tried shagging a penguin the better.

@ captainfop
Lots of people enjoying watching expletive-deleteds hoist on their own petard: it may not be very Christian, but it’s difficult to resist.
I was born when Smuts was premier and grew up when Malan was, so was introduced to “Apartheid” as the desire of Boer farmers to be able to live their own lives without interference from the meddling English. Describing the Vorster system as “Apartheid” is sloppy.
I maintain my view that Christian racist is an oxymoron, so anyone spreading racist views while pretending to be a Christian is a liar and those peddling subtly racist views while claiming to be Christians are dangerous liars.
I was not, on this occasion, making an anti-Labour argument, just pointing out that Sally’s habitual demonisation of anything right of Dennis Skinner was, as usual, false.

shatterface @ 52:

“Darwinism defines the parameters of the debate.” Indeed, it does. I never denied this.

Kropotkin’s point “was in response to Social Darwinism, not to Darwin. The debate was over the meaning of fitness – whether it meant competativeness [sic] at the level of the individual, or whether co-operation as a species made us ‘fit’. ”

Yes, up to a point. Kropotkin’s point in ‘Mutual Aid’ was also more generally about how social species evolve; and the evolution of social species is one point where evolutionary theory becomes less plausible…

“As to the parallel with ulcers and stress – its nonsense. Darwinism is supported by a wide variety of disciplines from geology to epidemiology. The sheer scope of evidence is staggering compared to the rather parochial subject of ulcers.”

Glib, rhetorical device – of the sublime-to-ridiculous variety – on my part perhaps; but not nonsense*. Yes, yes, Darwinism is supported by a multitude of disciplines – geology, comparative embryology, etc; but I never denied that! My point was about scientific blindspots – and geocentricism, phlogiston, the ether and even the aetiology of stomach ulcers are examples of this…

Remember, all I am suggesting is that there may well be a supplementary and additional (non-supernatural) mechanism at play in evolution, because some evolutionary explanations seem to be imperfect….Why the opprobrium? By the standards set by physics and chemistry, the theory of evolution is soft science – it has some hard elements, but many of the retrospective ‘explanations’ produced by evolutionary theorists are little more than fairytales — because utterly unverifiable.

RL @ 54: “What do you mean by a “neo-Darwinist”?” It is the fusion of Darwinian theory nd Mendelian genetics, and the term has been in use since the 1930s. Do keep up ;)

RL @ 55: I find little to disagree with in what you write until:

“The reason for the assumption that one is questioning the theory from a fundamentalist theist standpoint is that that is where the vast bulk of (usually uninformed) criticism of the theory comes from.”

This is the Genetic Fallacy. Why even make that assumption? Every comment or challenge should be taken on its merits, not on its source!

“Evolution is so well-established as an explanation that the valid scientific challenge comes from within as to emphasis, not from without as to overall validity…”

Can you not see that I’m challenging it from within? Duh!

CG @ 57:

“I am fully aware, and in fact have already said, that it does not mean “100% definitely true”…”. Which means that a theory cannot be “settled”! But, please, let’s not be arguing about words…again.

“I can’t think of any possible way that evolution could be found wrong without invoking something at the level of divine interference, or us all living in a computer simulation.” That’s a fact about the limits of your scientific imagination: not a fact about the world. Substitute ‘geocentricism’, ‘phlogiston’ etc, etc for ”evolution’…and reflect…

“What theory other than evolution (except higher powers tricking us into believing in evolution) could possibly explain how close human and chimp DNA is?” Indeed; yet (to put it crudely) the difference between a chimp and human is greater than the difference between their respective genomes…And we haven’t even touched upon epigenetics yet…Evolution explains our origins very well; but it’s much less good at explaining human behaviour now – because genes are not as determining as once thought, because of the influence of culture, and because…

Chris @ 60:

“I find RD’s approach too aggressive…” Me, too! Though good in parts, as you suggest. And I don’t disagree with the rest of your post, subject to CG’s gentle qualifications @ 61. Thank you.

___________

* My late – very placid – father suffered appallingly from stomach ulcers in the 60s and 70s. He consulted the finest medical minds in the UK and Sweden; and he trawled the literature in that pre-internet age. The ‘scientific consensus’ was absolute: he was suffering from anxiety. No anxiety symptoms? Oh, then repressed anxiety, obviously. Try psycho-analysis, as one Swedish consultant said to him….Now, we know that it’s heliobacter…

65. Chaise Guevara

@ 64 TONE

“Which means that a theory cannot be “settled”! But, please, let’s not be arguing about words…again.”

Stop arguing about words, then. Christ.

“That’s a fact about the limits of your scientific imagination: not a fact about the world.”

It’s awfully clever of you to have noticed that and pointed it out, especially since the only help you got was from me pointing it out myself in the post you’re replying to.

” Substitute ‘geocentricism’, ‘phlogiston’ etc, etc for ”evolution’…and reflect…””

Geocentricism was never a scientific theory; if you want to convince me that phlogiston was, you’ll need a source. And I’m still waiting for your source on stress-based ulcers being considered a theory.

And *on top of all that*: there was never any evidence for geocentricism and phlogiston. Nobody had considered how they might be falsified. Whereas there’s mountains of evidence for evolution and certain people keep trying to falsify it and failing rather hugely.

“Indeed; yet (to put it crudely) the difference between a chimp and human is greater than the difference between their respective genomes…And we haven’t even touched upon epigenetics yet…Evolution explains our origins very well; but it’s much less good at explaining human behaviour now – because genes are not as determining as once thought, because of the influence of culture, and because…”

You’ve wandered off-topic and then finished mid-sent…

CG @ 65:

“Stop arguing about words, then.”
Err…but you are the one who’s trying to have it both ways, saying theories are never 100% definitely true and yet maintaining that they can still be “settled”. Theories are never settled: even the evidence supporting them awaits falsification and disconfirmation….

“It’s awfully clever of you to have noticed that and pointed it out, especially since the only help you got was from me pointing it out myself in the post you’re replying to.”

Well, it is a major failing of your scientific imagination – and rather dogmatic. And, by the way, utterly irrelevant – except perhaps to psycologists and sociologists of science some centuries hence.

“Geocentricism was never a scientific theory;”
So Ptolemy was not doing science??? *face/palm*

“if you want to convince me that phlogiston was, you’ll need a source”
Easy: ‘Cambridge Illustrated History of the World’s Science’, C A Ronan, CUP 1983, pp 386-9 (Also see for Ptolemy, passim)

“there was never any evidence for geocentricism and phlogiston”
Simply wrong. The theories explained phenomena – up to a point – and had some predictive capacity. Ptolemy’s geocentricism broke down because Copernicus’s theory was (a) simpler and (b) had greater predictive capacity.

“there’s mountains of evidence for evolution and certain people keep trying to falsify it and failing rather hugely.”
Straw man! I have NEVER denied that! Call it a hunch if you like, but I suspect that there might be some other (non-supernatural) mechanism at work in evolution other than those already identified. Is that so heretical? Is the theory of evolution so important to you, so embedded in your world-view and that of others on this thread, that you cannot imagine that the theory might be amended?

As for my point about ulcers, see above. But that is tangential.

“You’ve wandered off-topic…”
It’s not off-topic here to make a fair point about the explanatory limits of Darwinism.

GG @ 51:

“As mentioned in a comment earlier – the scientific method also sets criteria for the disproof of any current theory – which scripture doesn’t.”

Erm, check to see if a theory contradicts Scripture?

68. Chaise Guevara

@ 66 TONE

“Err…but you are the one who’s trying to have it both ways, saying theories are never 100% definitely true and yet maintaining that they can still be “settled”. ”

Absolutely not. I believe that when our conversation started there was genuine confusion between us about my use of the word “settled”, creating the illusion of a substantive disagreement. However, I have since clarified that what I mean is that it is confirmed as a theory (i.e. it meets a certain standard of evidence and acceptance), not that it is completely proved. As such, your claim that I am contradicting myself is a barefaced lie.

Now, you may dislike my application of the word. Fair enough. But that’s a semantic issue that YOU are insisting on arguing about. So don’t complain to me that we’re arguing semantics, as you’re the one who apparently wants to do it.

“Well, it is a major failing of your scientific imagination – and rather dogmatic.”

OK, what alternative explanation for the evidence can your superior scientific imagination generate?

“And, by the way, utterly irrelevant – except perhaps to psycologists and sociologists of science some centuries hence.”

No idea what you’re on about here.

” So Ptolemy was not doing science??? *face/palm*”

Are you ten? I didn’t say Ptolemy was not doing science, I said geocentricism was not a scientific THEORY. Here, look it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory. Can you tell me how geocentricism or phlogiston could even hold up to the first sentence of that entry?

While you’re doing your background reading, you would probably benefit from reading this, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_scotsman

“Easy: ‘Cambridge Illustrated History of the World’s Science’, C A Ronan, CUP 1983, pp 386-9 (Also see for Ptolemy, passim)”

I meant a source I can access, as well you know.

“Simply wrong. The theories explained phenomena – up to a point – and had some predictive capacity.”

Vacuum cleaners are powered by fairies. Fairies get sad and stop working if not connected to the earth by a wire. Therefore, I predict that unplugging this vacuum cleaner will make it stop working. Oh look, it did. Evidence!

” Straw man! I have NEVER denied that!”

Never said you did. I am explaining to you why evolution is not comperable to geocentricism. You can’t call something a scientific theory if you haven’t even tried to falsify it.

“Call it a hunch if you like, but I suspect that there might be some other (non-supernatural) mechanism at work in evolution other than those already identified. Is that so heretical? Is the theory of evolution so important to you, so embedded in your world-view and that of others on this thread, that you cannot imagine that the theory might be amended? ”

Now who’s throwing straw men around? I have specifically said that I am NOT claiming that everything supposed about evolution is “true” to the level that evolution itself is “true”. So grow up. If you can’t argue with me without lying about my arguments, stop wasting my time.

“As for my point about ulcers, see above. But that is tangential.”

Your point about ulcers seems to be based in either a) your lack of understanding of what “theory” means in a scientific sense, or b) your decision to equivocate for shits ‘n’ giggles. I’m honestly not sure which is the issue here.

“It’s not off-topic here to make a fair point about the explanatory limits of Darwinism.”

No, but given your extreme disingenousness thus far, I assumed it was yet another attempt to put words into my mouth.

69. theophrastus

Now, you are being petulant. I’m afraid you have shown yourself to be muddled about the nature of science and ignorant of the history of science.

70. Robin Levett

@TONE #64:

“What do you mean by a “neo-Darwinist”?” It is the fusion of Darwinian theory nd Mendelian genetics, and the term has been in use since the 1930s. Do keep up

I do apologise – you confused me when you referred to “neo-Darwinists” using evolution to explain “…everything in social and individual psychology, ethology, ethics, etc. Compare and contrast Freudianism and Marxism”.

Now I know you’re referring to the biological theory, I am left wondering just who these neo-Darwinists are that you’re referring to. Can you help at all?

Oh, and you seem to have forgotten to deal with (from my #54):

Do you mean a biologist who accepts the theory as the current best description of nature? Indeed, what do you mean by “their basic theory”? I see very few biologists arguing that genetic drift, for example, explains anything much in ethics.

…or indeed any part of my #55; claiming to agree with it, when it seems to contradict what you had been claiming, also confuses.

This part however:

“The reason for the assumption that one is questioning the theory from a fundamentalist theist standpoint is that that is where the vast bulk of (usually uninformed) criticism of the theory comes from.”

This is the Genetic Fallacy. Why even make that assumption? Every comment or challenge should be taken on its merits, not on its source!

is wrong. The genetic fallacy is when an argument is confronted not on its formulation, but on the argument from which it is derived. It’s like arguing that a word can’t mean X because the Latin components of the word mean Y.

In this instance, it is observably true that the vast bulk of criticism of evolutionary theory in terms of its explanatory power is religious.

I’m not even sure that the criticism you make – that “I find evolutionary theory quite implausible in explaining sudden apparent evolutionary ‘jumps’” – can be made sensibly in scientific terms. By which I mean; what is it about evolutionary theory, as you understand it, that is inconsistent with the possible explanations of “sudden apparent evolutionary jumps”?

I’m quite serious – given the well-established nature of evolutionary theory, it’s difficult to see that any better scientific explanation than is currently available is going to be anything other than an extension of that theory.

71. Christian in Peterborough UK

As a regular church worshipper, I would like to assure people that we don’t all believe in creationism as a comparable scientific theory. And I hope that Naric is taken to task about the less rigorous parts – as demonstrated in the above article – of the ACE exam syllabus.
Scientific theory and methods have changed over the years, so that what our 17th/18th century counterparts believed true, is not always the same as scientists today believe. There is a steady discovery of new observable facts.
Christians are no more or less in the world than any non-believer or person of another creed. Everyone of us has to decide if a new piece of information can be assimilated into our views or whether to change those views, or reject the information. The early Christians had to get used to the idea that Jesus would not have a 2nd earthly coming necessarily in their lifetimes. It was a revelation.
I tend to measure new theories and obervable fact against my belief that God is at work through people of faith, and that the main message is one of expressing love between people just as Jesus loved us. Science may get round to scrutinising or explaing that fact someday; an understanding of quantum theory is more likely to affirm love than merely digitise it. And you should hear me when I ramble.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 69

Are you talking to me? Regardless, accusations like that are meaningless if you can’t explain your reasoning.

I’m not quite sure why, at the age of 15, having learned about decolonisation in Africa in the 60s to the extent of being able to name a major player in one of the major conflicts of the time can be seen as particularly difficult.

I didn’t say that it was difficult, did I? And, as someone who taught Central African history, I’m naturally delighted to see it feature in A-level syllabuses, but sadly it’s really not a mainstream topic, and I’d be staggered if many A-level candidates had heard of him – or Katanga for that matter.

CG @ 68:

Why so irascible and accusatory?

“barefaced lie”? “Extreme disingenuousness”? Hardly, dear boy.

I contend that, to avoid contradiction, you want to define ‘settled’ to your advantage. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you; and if so, I apologise. Our dialogue is there for all to see; so there might be a misunderstanding, but hardly deceit or intentional untruths…So no lie, which is an intentional untruth .

Geocentricism IS a scientific theory – at least , it was until it was disproved. It easily meets your criterion of the first sentence of the wikipedia entry on scientific theory – viz. “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Ptolemaic geocentricism could make useful and accurate predictions about eclipses etc – but only by making increasingly complex assumptions..Or are you saying that any theory ceases to be a scientific theory once it has been disproved? Has the steady-state theory ceased to be a scientific theory because the balance of evidence suggests that the big-bang theory is true?

“Vacuum cleaners are powered by fairies. Fairies get sad and stop working if not connected to the earth by a wire. Therefore, I predict that unplugging this vacuum cleaner will make it stop working. Oh look, it did. Evidence!”

*sigh* That is utterly pathetic; and not even a valid inference. I’m sorry, CG, but you need to read a basic history of science. As I said, Ptolemy’s geocentricism broke down because Copernicus’s theory was (a) simpler and (b) had greater predictive capacity. Even false theories can have predictive capacity – but true(r) theories have even greater predictive capacity. Theories generate hypotheses, which in turn can be tested…Heliocentricism ultimately generated more true hypotheses than geocentricism. And it was a simpler and more elegant theory….(Curiously, the more simple and ‘elegant’ the scientific theory, the more likely it is to be true.)

My general point remains. Biology remains a soft science; and the predictive capacity of the theory of evolution is more limited than many of its proponents realise. And to cope with challenges to the orthodoxy, it has recourse to ever more baroque amendments (as did Ptolemaic geocentricism). Perhaps – just perhaps, I say – the theory of evolution will subsequently be amended, supplemented and refined….

Yet to suggest as much on here brings obloquy, as though neo-Darwinism is somehow an ideological commitment for every Guardian reader.

75. Robin Levett

@TONE #74:

Perhaps – just perhaps, I say – the theory of evolution will subsequently be amended, supplemented and refined….

Not perhaps – certainly. The theory is being amended, supplemented and refined as we speak. What I would like to know is why you think that this is going to be by by a theory inconsistent with, as opposed to supplementing, the well-established fundamentals of the theory of evolution.

Perhaps its because you see this:

And to cope with challenges to the orthodoxy, it has recourse to ever more baroque amendments

as being true. Would you care to identify one of these “ever more baroque amendments”?

Has anyone come up with a credible theory to explain how an intelligent creator embedded pandemics, tsunamis and earthquakes in the construction of the universe?

77. Bitter & Twisted

@ 76 Bob B

Yep, that would have been the Gnostics. In short, the creator of the material world is a malicious idiot demiurge who was trying to copy a creation of spirit that existed before but got it all badly wrong hence the unpleasantness. Inside each of us exists a small spark of the spirit trapped in a material shell.

There is some logic to this, after all if we look at the Genesis story, the character known as ‘God’ is clearly very unpleasant. The way he lies to Adam and Eve – telling them that the fruit of the tree of knowledge is poisonous when it isn’t, the way he punishes them for ‘sinning’ by eating said fruit when they were unable to understand the concept of sin or disobedience – they couldn’t comprehend this until they had eaten it.

Even the British legal system gives leeway to people who are unable to understand the concept of crime or the difference between right or wrong.

78. MarkAustin

On evolution, there are a couple of points to be made that are not generally clarified, and are generally deliberatley confused by creationists.

The first is that evolution is a FACT. There is no such thing as the “Theory of Evolution”. Evolution is an observed fact (see here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ for a good expousal of this).

The only way of getting round this is with “God the liar”—saying that God created the world 6-10 thousand years ago, but with all the evidence of evoluition in place to confuse us. This is also know as lastwednsdayism, as the same thing could be said—equally un-disproveable–that the universe was created last wednesday with all evidence, memories etc etc in place.

Darwin assumed evolution: his Theory of Evolution BY NATURAL SELECTION (my emphasis) attempted, highly successfully, to explain evolution. Ne0-Darwinism is probably, after Thermodynamics, the most settled scientific theory of all. There is no serious scientific doubt about it, althought there is debate about mechanisms and evoluitionary family trees.

79. Chaise Guevara

@ 74 TONE

“Why so irascible and accusatory?”

It’s a bizarre thing, but if you act like an arsehole, straw manning people and patronising them, they get annoyed. Must be a strange quirk of psychology.

“I contend that, to avoid contradiction, you want to define ‘settled’ to your advantage. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you; and if so, I apologise. Our dialogue is there for all to see; so there might be a misunderstanding, but hardly deceit or intentional untruths…So no lie, which is an intentional untruth .”

Um, how can I define it to my advantage when I’ve REPEATEDLY made it clear that more than one meaning is in effect? I can understand and even take blame for the initial misunderstanding, what I don’t see is how it could possibly still be going on. I can only assume that either you’re not reading my posts before replying, or reading them but ignoring the bits you find inconvenient.

“Geocentricism IS a scientific theory – at least , it was until it was disproved.”

Hmm. I’ve checked and indeed the word is generally used to describe it. In which case, if our definition of “theory” hasn’t shifted, our effective definition of “substantiated” certainly has. Wikipedia’s list of superseded theories included spontaneous generation, which never had any evidence beyond “I can’t think of anything else”. Likewise phlogiston.

So your attack on me @49 is still based on massive equivocation. It’s like me saying “I reckon a dice rolled 60 times will come up 6 about 10 times” and you going “your remind me of those people who claim it will come up 6 50 times”.

“It easily meets your criterion of the first sentence of the wikipedia entry on scientific theory – viz. “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” ”

No it doesn’t, because it wasn’t substantiated. As far as I know, no attempt was made to falsify it, so they hadn’t even done the most basic of basics in substantiating the hypothesis. No criticism to them – they weren’t as advanced as we are now. But that doesn’t mean we should pretend that it was better-supported than it is.

“Ptolemaic geocentricism could make useful and accurate predictions about eclipses etc – but only by making increasingly complex assumptions..Or are you saying that any theory ceases to be a scientific theory once it has been disproved? Has the steady-state theory ceased to be a scientific theory because the balance of evidence suggests that the big-bang theory is true?”

No, not at all. It appears that I’ve been assuming the standards for “theory” are retroactively applied, whereas the internet says otherwise, so apologies there. Be that as it may, geocentricism would not have been considered a theory by today’s standards, even before it was disproved.

However, there are examples of old theories that qualify for the term under today’s standards despite being disproved. Newtonian physics, for example.

“*sigh* That is utterly pathetic; and not even a valid inference. I’m sorry, CG, but you need to read a basic history of science. As I said, Ptolemy’s geocentricism broke down because Copernicus’s theory was (a) simpler and (b) had greater predictive capacity. Even false theories can have predictive capacity – but true(r) theories have even greater predictive capacity. Theories generate hypotheses, which in turn can be tested…Heliocentricism ultimately generated more true hypotheses than geocentricism.”

Yeah, ok, I was being facetious out of annoyance.

“My general point remains. Biology remains a soft science; and the predictive capacity of the theory of evolution is more limited than many of its proponents realise. And to cope with challenges to the orthodoxy, it has recourse to ever more baroque amendments (as did Ptolemaic geocentricism). Perhaps – just perhaps, I say – the theory of evolution will subsequently be amended, supplemented and refined….”

I keep asking you this: who are you arguing with? Who is claiming that evolutionary theory will definitely never be amended?

“Yet to suggest as much on here brings obloquy, as though neo-Darwinism is somehow an ideological commitment for every Guardian reader.”

From whom? You’ve spent the entire thread presenting yourself as (mildly) persecuted for your beliefs, but you still can’t name a persecutor. And the problem is, in the absence of a named antagonist, it comes off (rather strongly) as if you’re implying that me, Robin et al would refuse to update based on new evidence. Hence your raising of hackles, along with the straw man attacks and general patronising attitude.

80. Chaise Guevara

@ 78

“There is no such thing as the “Theory of Evolution”. ”

No objection to the meat of your post, but evolution is a theory; it’s just that in scientific terms “theory” means something that is very well substantiated, like the theory of gravity. What we laymen call a theory (i.e. an untested idea) is what scientists would call a hypothesis. This is what creationists miss when they make their stupid “It’s Only A Theory!” banners: being a theory in the scientific sense is a GOOD thing in terms of how solid your evidence is.

81. Robin Levett

@MarkAustin #:

The first is that evolution is a FACT. There is no such thing as the “Theory of Evolution”.

Wrong. As it used to be put when I was regularly posting to talk.origins; evolution is both a fact and a theory.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. David Cullen

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  2. Serena Turchi

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  3. Barbara Spence

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  4. Eileen Cowen

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  5. C. Dorr

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  6. Simon Edwards

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  7. Colin Kavanagh

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/phaH7KjS via @libcon

  8. arimaraka

    Govt body approves Christian school curriculum thst disputes evolution and says homosexuality "learned" http://t.co/1dJOE9cr (icymi earlier)

  9. Jason Kay

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/eoV3lNZ3

  10. BevR

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KX5K1uBm via @libcon

  11. Virginia Moffatt

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KX5K1uBm via @libcon

  12. Susan Munro

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KX5K1uBm via @libcon

  13. praise salasi i

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KX5K1uBm via @libcon

  14. Nick Blackshaw

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/biEZg8Lj via @libcon

  15. Jonny Scaramanga

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as 'comparable' to A-Level http://t.co/48g1ntpu

  16. Magic Paul

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as 'comparable' to A-Level http://t.co/48g1ntpu

  17. NSS

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  18. David Robert Grimes

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  19. Paul Hampson

    RT @natsecsoc: Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/h4htEYwd (link fixed)

  20. Piloti

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  21. Rob Myers

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  22. Piloti

    "A Levels" in Mythology. More scary than you think.http://bit.ly/Owm1U7 Thanks to @NatSecSoc for the info.

  23. Kate Walton-Elliott

    Oh joy. http://t.co/gQjLSf6I

  24. Skeptics in the Pub

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  25. Alan McElligott

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  26. Alan Henness

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  27. Tessa Kendall

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  28. graham taylor

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Y5tZs1Av
    Read this it is appalling…

  29. James Poole

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  30. Dominic Luxton

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  31. Simon Scott 2012

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  32. John R. Hutchinson

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  33. The National Academic Recognition Information Centre rubber stamps International Certificate of Christian Education | eChurch Blog

    [...] Liberal Conspiracy have now picked up the baton revelaing further information based on the research of Jonny Scaramanga. Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) materials form the basis for ICCE. The workbooks state scientific tests “seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour.” They claim the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution, and teach that “if a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.” [...]

  34. nigel thompson

    "@SITP: Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4PAmihzM http://t.co/pI4oicNn&quot; face/wall

  35. David McGuire

    Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/4Nphey6p http://t.co/yyTFVsxZ

  36. Jon Tennant

    http://t.co/9SSOuuq3 Fundamentalist christian bullshit is given academic equivalence to A-levels. Next generation = fucked. HT @SITP

  37. Nigel Hartley

    “@SITP: Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/G2eKhEi9 http://t.co/z5OWsHFr” knobs

  38. crashmatt

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  39. Roger Shaw

    RT @SITP Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/w3wR4lpn http://t.co/BQJiNmP8

  40. j hindsight

    “@SITP: Government approves Christian fundamentalist exams as comparable to A Levels http://t.co/G2eKhEi9 http://t.co/z5OWsHFr” knobs

  41. Kilsally

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/Wk5110EE (link fixed)

  42. Cazimodo

    School curriculum: evolution has "no scientific basis"; homosexuality is learned behaviour + other nonsense approved http://t.co/1dJOE9cr

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  44. Kevin Beynon

    Oh dear RT @sunny_hundal: Govt agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level qualifications http://t.co/OZeIDsUX

  45. Patrick Walsh

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/DFdmemGD

  46. Jo Hancox

    Good grief. Govt agency approves Christian fundamentlst exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level | Liberal Consp http://t.co/GpuFP1Cq via @libcon

  47. Graham Mullan

    Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level http://t.co/2TWcL1Sl via @libcon

  48. Why do people fall for “old” Christian Fundamentalism? | Unbiased TRUTH

    [...] Government agency approves Christian fundamentalist exams as ‘comparable’ to A-Level(liberalconspiracy.org) [...]





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