Friday, August 22, 2008

So ID is creationism: ask Denyse O'Leary

A few weeks ago, Rob Breakenridge of The Calgary Herald wrote an article that questioned Albertans' commitment to creationism. He refers to the choice of Albertans because a poll was taken of Canadians from across the country, giving them evidently three options: evolution, humans were created in their present state about 10,000 years ago by God, and don't know. The overall results:

Overall, 58 per cent of Canadians say they are believers in evolution.

But Breakenridge notes a tendency:

By region, the numbers are more or less in keeping with the national average.

And an exception:

However, there's one notable exception in this poll: Alberta.

A shockingly low 37 per cent of Albertans supported the position that humans beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years. An even greater number of Albertans -- 40 percent -- agreed that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years.

He then wonders about why Albertans are different from other Canadians:

Does this represent some serious shortcomings in our educational system? Have we been swayed by the charlatans of the Intelligent Design movement? Is there some truth to the stereotype of Alberta as a hotbed of religious fundamentalism?

And rather than providing an answer suggests:

If these numbers are accurate, we need to understand the source of the problem and correct it. The fact that Alberta boasts Canada's first creation museum suggests that these depressing numbers are not the product of some rogue poll.

And one thing he looks into is the lack of evolution education included in the school system:

but here in Alberta two trouble spots need to be addressed.

Evolution is taught in Alberta schools, but not to the extent that it ought to be. Evolution is a component of Biology 20, and further explored in Biology 30. Of course, for high school students, those courses are optional.

Other experts have cited the need to further incorporate evolution into the science curriculum and, poll numbers aside, the case for such an overhaul is strong.

Furthermore, although Alberta's model of school choice is commendable, is may also be a source of the problem.

Alberta taxpayers should not be subsidizing pseudoscience and religious dogma masquerading as legitimate curriculum.

The government recently announced an increase in per-capita funding to private schools, providing those schools meet a specific set of criteria. That criteria should include a ban on the teaching of creationism and its gussied up offspring, Intelligent Design.

And it is the final sentence in this passage that upsets O'Leary who states her own preference for "humans were created in their present state in the last 10,000 years, writing:

Breakenridge also frets, “An even greater number of Albertans—40 percent—agreed that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years.” That’s easy to explain. It was the only other option (barring “don’t know”). The ever-popular “God uses evolution” choice wasn’t offered.

Forced to choose between excluding God and including him, I’d pick option two, even though I accept NASA’s estimate of our Earth’s age (4.5 billion years) and consider common ancestry a reasonable idea.

That she supports Intelligent Design (she is now a co-blogger at William Demski's blog, Uncommon Descent) and believes that "humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years" and that "God uses evolution" are fairly synonymous with ID is quite telling.

ID has worked hard at its PR campaign (and that's about all ID is, since they haven't produced anything resembling real (scientific) research) distinguished its views from creationism; part of the whole point of calling it Intelligent Design was being able to talk about creation through design without having to discuss the nature of the designer (that's God, in case you lost track).

The strategy has failed thus far. They lost the only important court case they were in (Dover, Pennsylvania) and it was revealed there that their textbook was rewritten from a creationist textbook after the Supreme Court prohibited the teaching of creationism in 1987. No credible scientist has professed an interest in ID. The few that have have only furthered the criticisms that mainstream scientists have of ID by failing to produce any form of research that supports ID.

The columnist, Breakenridge, has a rebuttal to O'Leary's piece which was published by the Herald. He notes:

O'Leary's piece ran Saturday in the Herald, although there is no web link for it. Her piece, though, is very typical of the ID movement - she offers nothing to make the case for ID, but rather attempts to point out flaws in evolutionary theory.

He also presents evidence that undermines her criticisms of evolution.

But O'Leary's biggest mistake was associating her answers with God.

Remember this for the next case; with all these gaffes I'd be surprised if it even makes it to trial.


PTET said...

Hi! GZ on an excellent post.

I don't think O'Leary is a YEC tho. She writes in the piece:-

"Forced to choose between excluding God and including him, I’d pick option two, even though I accept NASA’s estimate of our Earth’s age (4.5 billion years) and consider common ancestry a reasonable idea."

Her and me go way back :)

Nada Platonico said...

ptet wrote: "I don't think O'Leary is a YEC tho"

I agree -- most IDers are not YECs either. That doesn't mean they're not creationists though.

I was worried that she would comment here after my article; from what I saw over at your blog, I don't think she ever commented (though several UDers did, including the unbearable DaveScot).

I liked your post on her, btw.

PTET said...

Hey! I'm not so sure that most ID *supporters* aren't YECs. It'd be interesting to know what goes on in their private list-serves.

O'Leary won't comment here. She won't comment anywhere people have an open right of reply.

She'll probably add you to her "list" thought.

Welcome to the "low end" of the debate :)