Tuesday, 13 March 2007

False claims on the home page of Truth In Science

This is an extract of the home page of the ironically named, "truth in science" web site;

The theory of Darwinian evolution has been presented as scientifically uncontroversial and the only credible explanation of origins. This is despite the National Curriculum which states:

Pupils should be taught…
“how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example, Darwin's theory of evolution)”
The National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 Science (Sc1: Scientific enquiry)

Few schools have taught this controversy. This is partly because many popular textbooks present Darwinism as the only scientific theory of origins and give little coverage to alternative theories, sometimes misrepresenting them.

New GCSE Science Specifications in September 2006 give a fresh opportunity to reconsider what is taught about origins in science lessons. These specifications place an emphasis on students understanding 'How Science Works'. This concept is explained as follows by the Edexcel Examination Board:
“How Science Works is primarily about helping students to engage with and challenge the science they meet in everyday life. Students need to adopt a critical, questioning frame of mind, going ‘behind the scenes’ to understand the workings of science and how it impacts on society and their lives.”

We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be given fair and accurate presentations of alternative views.”


Ok lets just take the key points here in order. They categorically state that the theory of evolution has been presented as scientifically uncontroversial.

This is true. It has been presented as such because it is uncontroversial. Let me try to prove it to you.

Look here at the Steve project which has the names of PhD’s who have signed up to a very strongly worded statement that says this;

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.


You can only sign up to this if you have a PhD and your name is Steve i.e. about 1% of the population of Phd”s. They currently have 775 or lets say 775 x 100 = 77,500 scientists signing up to this.

Creationists/ID ers have also generated various lists - with much weaker statements - with few signatures and without making sure they are all PhD’s.

The most optimistic lists I can find have only about 600 sigs. A quick calculation based on these numbers shows 99% of scientists very strongly backing evolution and stating ID is rubbish. So no evolution is not scientifically controversial.

Truth in Science then quote a part of the curriculum which talks of scientific controversies being taught. They then say few schools have taught this controversy.

Now bearing mind what I have just said about how un-controversial this subject is then why would the government as part of the National Curriculum imply that it is? Something’s not right here.

The fact of the matter is that this is NOT, in truth, what the Government are actually talking about - why would you think they were? Oh yes Truth In Science “accidentally” gave you that impression didn’t they.

Have a look at this;

Truth in Science is currently pushing Intelligent Design. This is what Jacqui Smith, Minister of State for Schools, had to say about it in April 2006:

Intelligent design is sometimes erroneously advanced as a scientific theory but it has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community. - Jacqui Smith MP, Minister of State for Schools and 14-19 Learners


And this, again from the Minister for Schools;

The scientific controversy referred to in the programme of study is that arising from Darwin's rejection of existing scientific theories based on the evidence he had collected. An example of such a theory is inheritance of acquired characteristics supported, among others, by the French scientist Lamark and based on the available scientific evidence at the time.
Creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy as it has no empirical evidence to support it and no underpinning scientific principles or explanations. It belongs in a different realm of knowledge, that of religion.


The full letter can be seen here

So there we are. Truth In Science have deliberately set up the main page of their web site to mislead people and also to misrepresent the governments position.

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Quote for the day;

“The zeal which begins with hypocrisy must conclude in treachery; at first it deceives, at last it betrays”
Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)

8 comments:

Andrew Rowell said...

Mark,

The KS4 SC1 guidelines specifically state that Darwin's theory of evolution is an example of a scientific controversy arising from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence.

As far as I am aware the TiS homepage was written well before the government issued the clarifications you mention.

The fault is therefore with the original KS4 statement which could legitimately be interpreted in the way the TiS homepage did.

psiloiordinary said...

First of all, even if we grant what you say to have been true when the TiS site was set up (and I don't) then surely now that they are fully aware of the government position they should come clean on their web site?

This is a serious question for an organisation claiming that it's aim is "to promote good science education in the UK". Why don;t they put the record straight now?

Even if we pretend for a moment that this misinterpretation was an honest mistake on TiS's part prior to the clarification issued by the government, we cannot explain their lack of honesty so many months after that clarification was issued. Why don't they tell the truth now. Come clean, admit it was wrong and put people straight now. Don't they care about people's exam results?

Secondly, and more importantly, I have shown you why your assertion that TiS were justified in interpreting the government position as they did at the time is in fact wrong. I have demonstrated that the theory of evolution is not controversial by any measure or interpretation of the word "controversy" in the English dictionary. It wasn't controversial when TiS put their site and it still isn't now.

I have shown you the evidence why this is so in the very posting you are commenting on. Remember the bit about less than 1% of scientists signing a fairly ambiguous statement about evolution not explaining everything and 99% signing a very strong statement about evolution being extremely well supported by the facts?

Didn't you read it? Do you have any evidence to disprove it?

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It is only ID/creationist's who claim that evolution is controversial nowadays, and they do this because it interferes with their faith.

ID is used as a way to try and introduce the subject of a god without naming the god. This technique itself is rejected by many fundamentalist Christians as dishonest - Paul and the Athenians and the unnamed god comes to mind. It seems to me you are trying to generate an unnamed god so that your work in the evangelical movement has more grist to its mill. Most other Christians are happy to have their faith explained in RE lessons.

ID as science is bunk - we don't even have an explanation of the mechanism behind it.

"Sometime, somewhere, somehow, something was intelligently designed by someone."

Can you fill in any of the "some"s?

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I've been following the charades of TiS since my brief exchange of letters with Dr Buggs in The Times.

Although I have twice emailed Dr Buggs to expand on my comment on inaccuracies on his website, I have received no reply or acknowledgement. I wonder if you would be interested in receiving a copy of the text for display on your site? It consists of around 20 points (each brief, but quite long overall and including expanded versions of the points in my letter) where the TiS website is either factually incorrect or so biassed as to come very close. TiS have not seen fit to correct the majority of this over the last 6+ months.

You have probably covered most of them yourself, but it might be interesting to see how TiS deal with criticism (i.e. by not acknowledging it).

Regards,

CP

psiloiordinary said...

Hi C P,

I would be very happy to include this and any other comments you may have.

email = psiloiordinary@mac.com

Regards,

Mark

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this whole argument is rather like a pantomime with different sections of the audience shouting in unison "Oh yes he did"/"Oh no he didn't".

Each side is accusing the other of lies. One side says there is proof, one side says there isn't.

Who are we to believe? The idea that "the majority must be right" is certainly not scientific. "Most scientists believe X" does not mean that X is true. Those who challenge the majority have often been right in the past.

A site where both sides present their evidence might be useful in helping an open-minded person decide.

psiloiordinary said...

You are right the evidence is the key.

That is why I have provided both sides and show you why the TIS group have published a pack of lies.

In fact I do this line by line and show you where you can find the evidence that I am quoting.

To use your pantomime analogy TIS are asking where Mr Evolution is because their script tells them he doesn't exist.

I am part of the audience telling them to look behind them - he is stood right there in plain view. Can't you see him either?

Of course if you can see something of their "case" which I have missed or if I am incorrectly quoting some of the evidence please let me know - I strive for accuracy.

This is not an even debate where both sides should be taught - in science some things are discriminated against - to be precise those things which don't have any evidence to back them up.

Your final comment implies I have not presented their side. Perhaps you haven't read very much before making your comment, if you read this site in detail you will see that I quote them word for word.

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BTW you might also notice that any negative comments on the TIS site simply vanish - There is not a hint of presenting anything other than their own fundamentalist view.

Please feel free to leave a comment which backs up any of your criticisms with some actual evidence.

I don't simply shout they are fibbing - I demonstrate it and give you third party references so you can check for yourself. I cover their case in detail - and then dismantle it piece by piece.

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If you see 99 doctors who tell you that you need an operation and one that doesn't what would you do? Looking at a broad spread of scientific opinion is certainly worth something in this debate. However I do not rely upon this at all and instead debunk the bogus TIS claims one by one with evidence.

Perhaps the fact that the majority scientific opinion does matter is why they lie about this issue. Again I show you their actual words and demonstrate their distortions one by one. Don't just mumble in vague terms that this is just one side of the story - show me which bit of their side I have missed and why it makes sense.

It is true that Einstein started as a minority of one - he quickly convinced scientists of his case - it was the evidence thing again.

Creationists have had more than a century to make their case scientific, show the evidence and convince people based upon the merits of their case - they have failed miserably.

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree with you. You haven't demonstrated that evolution is uncontroversial. The Steve project is intended to be slightly humourous and the authors admit that science is not conducted by voting (and encourage people to investigate the evidence for themselves).

Concerning doctors, I choose currently to ignore majority opinion in some areas and instead go with a minority because I can look at the evidence to reach a conclusion. (The particular area of medicine is the lipid hypothesis sometimes called the diet-heart hypothesis).

Now it could be that all those have signed up to the Steve Project actually understand the issues, but often people believe something without evaluating the evidence simply because many other people believe it. Many professional scientists have no time to study evolution in detail, and PhDs are incredibly specialised. Someone with a PhD in biology may not know much about evolution. One should never believe something simply because someone else believes, however eminent that person is or however many people believe it. One should believe on clear evidence.

Try asking your friends if they believe in evolution (or god for that matter). Then try asking them why. Unless you have a very learned set of friends many of them will not know why. Some will simply say "because science says so" (and still not know why). Some will say "because the majority of scientists believe it".

psiloiordinary said...

Good look with your health issues. You are free to take what advice you wish.

For primary and high school level kids should we teach the mainstream/majority/evidence backed view that evolution is well founded or the "shazzam" theory? Perhaps we should teach the controversy?

I demonstrate that there isn't one and that the TIS case is full of lies and errors.

You still haven't given one example of an error in these arguments - so can I take it you do agree with this case against TIS?

Yes the Steve project is slightly humourous.

If some of these Biology PHD's don't understand evolution I would be amazed - It kind of hangs the whole subject together you know.

If you are suggesting some people have just signed it wthout really thinking about it, this could equally be the case with the rather vague anti- evolution statement that AIG came up with.

Do you have any evidence that the folks who signed the Steve Steve are any less likely to have thought about it than the AIG signers?

If not then you don't have a point.

Finally I agree that the general public's level of understanding of science is not at all what I would desire but then again I am particularly interested in it myself.

It is of course the evidence that is important. School science classrooms are not the place for teaching anything other than science.

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I watched Dawkins Enemies of Reason last night. The arguments of Psychics, Dowsers, Astrologers et al remined me of the case TiS puts forward, although many of those on the TV did appear much more genuine in their beliefs.

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Its nice to disagree without being disagreeable -thank you for your polite approach.