When someone says, “the science isn’t settled yet—it’s too soon to make a decision,” why are we suspicious?

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Josh, Steve, and I just returned from spending 8 days with a group of 21 NCSE members on NCSE’s Grand Canyon raft trip. Steve regaled us with the actual geological history of Grand Canyon, and Josh supplemented with a tongue-in-cheek presentation of the creationist view – with me helping a bit around the edges. Josh also kept up the natural history side of things as he introduced us to a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate varmints along the trail.

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Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m still happily kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. (Look, I don’t give you a hard time about your idea of fun, do I?) You’ll recall that in 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. Of the criticisms of Everitt’s I’ve addressed so far (part 1, part 2), the most important is that Midgley wrongly denies that young-earth creationism was “once the mainstream Christian position, endorsed by both intellectuals and the layperson in the pew” (p. 5). But a position held by Christians in the pulpit and in the pew is not necessarily a Christian position as such, and the fact that Christians have not generally regarded young-earth creationism as definitive of or central to their faith seems to show at least that Everitt fails to establish his case. Now to the consequences for the classroom.

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Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Popcorn in hand, I’m kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. In 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. In part 1, I managed to address just two of Everitt’s criticisms. The first was about the definition of “creationism”; although Everitt prefers a definition on which all Christians are creationists, I noted that there’s ample precedent for a more restrictive definition such as Midgley presupposes. The second, more important, criticism was about the connection between creationism (in the more restrictive sense) and Christianity. Everitt claimed that young-earth creationism is the “traditional position of Christianity,” as opposed to Midgley’s claim that it is a latter-day aberration, but his claim seems to me either to involve a fallacy or to be unsupported. Now read on…

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Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 2007, the philosopher Mary Midgley published a pamphlet entitled Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems (PDF) with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Prompted by controversies over the teaching of evolution in both the United States and Britain, she sought, as she explains, to address problems “about the current promotion of Intelligent Design Theory,” to consider them in a broader historical context, and to offer a few suggestions “about the best way for schools to handle problems such as those presented by Intelligent Design Theory” (p. 2). Now, in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) of Midgley’s pamphlet in the Journal of Philosophy of Education, the philosopher Nicholas Everitt writes that although “I expected to find myself in substantial agreement with what Midgley says … having examined [the pamphlet], I find that I disagree with much that it claims” (p. 1). What could be more blogworthy than a philosophical kerfuffle over creationism?

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In Part 1 of this post, I introduced this new series, Misconception Monday, and let you in on the secret to my misconception know-how: student test papers. In this conclusion, I want to get into some ways that this misconception, that natural selection eliminates all bad variations, could be tackled, or even headed-off, in the classroom.

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William Jennings Bryan (1902)

In a so far successful effort to avoid having to unpack a bunch of boxes that are cluttering my office at the moment, I’m talking about four scientists cited in a footnote in William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922), evidently to support Bryan’s assertion, “If Darwin had described his doctrine as a guess instead of calling it an hypothesis, it would not have lived a year.”

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William Jennings Bryan (1902)

Recall, from part 1, that I’m discussing four scientists cited in a footnote in William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922), evidently to support Bryan’s assertion, “If Darwin had described his doctrine as a guess instead of calling it an hypothesis, it would not have lived a year.” Three of them were reasonably familiar to me.

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William Jennings Bryan (1902)

There are probably better motivations for reading William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922) than wanting to avoid unpacking boxes, but needs must when the devil drives.

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Themed birthday party, ca. 1910-1915, likely in New Jersey. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In part 1, I reported that in 2006, there were eight state Republican parties with antievolution planks embedded in their official platforms, and that in 2014, there were again eight such state Republican parties. In part 2 and part 3, I offered pairwise comparison between the earlier and the later versions of those planks in the states in both lists, namely Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, along with a few comments.

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