Tag Archives: intelligent design

David Coppedge was not fired because he is a creationist.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA fired him for performance reasons.

Ars Technica’s John Timmer has the story:

Coppedge had worked on the Cassini mission to Saturn, starting as a contractor in 1996, and later becoming a full-time employee. But one of the projects he pursued on his own time was the promotion of intelligent design, the notion that the Universe and, most prominently, life itself, is too orderly to have come about without a designer. (Like many others in that movement, Coppedge is a self-identified evangelical Christian.)\

In 2009, he apparently got a bit aggressive about promoting these ideas at work, leading one employee to complain. … he had also aggressively promoted his opinion on California’s gay marriage ban, and had attempted to get JPL’s holiday party renamed to “Christmas party.” …. Coppedge was warned about his behavior at work, but he felt it was an infringement of his religious freedom, so he sued … part of a set of cutbacks on the Cassini staff, he was fired.

From another source:

JPL attorney Cameron Fox, however, contended Coppedge was a stubborn and disconnected employee who decided not to heed warnings to get additional training, even when it became clear the Cassini mission would be downsized and computer specialist positions eliminated.

The problem with appeasement of creationists is …

..that even when you try diligently to separate the politics of religion vs. creationism and to say again and again that religion can go along its merry way as long as it stays out of the science classroom, people like Casey Luskin will still find the words in your rhetoric to accuse you of attacking religion.

Back in May, Genie Scott appeared with me and Lynn Fellman on Atheist Talk Radio, where we discussed science education. Genie is the director of the National Center for Science Education.

In a recent posting on the Discovery Institute web site, Casey Luskin makes the contrast between the National Center for Science Education’s stance, and thus of Genie Scott’s philosophy (she’s the director of the NCSE) on one hand vs. what she said in this radio interview.

Luskin specifically contrasts Genie’s statement that the NCSE’s goals are “not to promote disbelief” but rather to “help people understand evolution and hopefully accept it.” Hey, folks, that is is indeed what Genie pushes, and what the NCSE promotes, and it is classic middle-ground nice-guy science education. This is as good as it gets from the point of view of “appeasement” because it says let the religion go its own way, as long at it does not go into the classroom (see this: Accommodationists and New Atheists Sail in the Same Boat)

Luskin then contrasts that position with this quote from the same interview:

“Evolution is the scientific explanation that has the most repercussions, shall we say, for people’s worldview and religious perspective. Evolution tells you that humans share kinship with all other creatures. For some, that’s a very liberating and exciting idea, and it makes them feel one with nature and it’s empowering and so forth. For others, it’s threatening. If your view is a human exceptionalism kind of view, that humans are separate from nature and special — especially if they are special to God as in some Christian traditions, then evolution is going to be threatening to you.”

This quote was Genie’s answer to Lynn Fellman‘s question: “[A caller has asked] Why is it always evolution that seems to be under siege?”

Genie’s answer is correctly quoted above but with the last part of the quote bolded to emphasize the “threat” language, and Luskin further emphasizes the part about evolution being threatening:

Did you catch that? She just stated that evolution is “threatening to you” if you believe that humans “are special to God as in some Christian traditions.”

And, I should mention, the title of Luskin’s essay is: Eugenie Scott Claims Evolution Is Threatening to Certain Christian Traditions

OK folks, listen. There is no significant national organization involved in the evolution-creation debate that bends over backwards more to be “nice” to religion than the National Center for Science Education. But here, in Luskin’s critique, we see two important things:

1) It is not good enough. In order for Genie’s philosophy or the position of the NCSE to be considered “ok” by the Discovery Institute, the contrast that Genie talks about in her quote would have to go away. Human exceptionalism would have to be incorporated into the science or the science teaching. Evolution would have to be taught along side creationism in the classroom.

2) Luskin practices out of context interpretation and quote mining here. Strangely, he is providing the fuller context and the quote mined in the same place, so we see Genie’s de facto statement of the relationship between religion and science being converted before our very eyes as “Religious people, Evolution is threatening to you!!!”

It is hard to say that one can win under these circumstances. It is hard to support a be nice to the creationists philosophy under these circumstances. Genie Scott must be some kind of saint.

Texans have a chance to repent

Next time I get down on you slack-jawed yokels in Texas, which could be any time, I don’t want to hear any flack. No excuses. You can take my critique in the gut and live with it OR you can tell me to stuff it. But the latter is only an option if you get off your bovine Texas asses and do what you need to do.

State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, faced searing questioning during his uncommonly long confirmation hearing Wednesday at the Senate Nominations Committee.

And Chairman Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, said McLeroy’s nomination is on shaky ground because he might not be able to get the required two-thirds vote from the Senate.

Democratic senators Kirk Watson of Austin and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso challenged McLeroy over his leadership during a number of controversial Board of Education decisions, including the recent adoption of new science curriculum standards that critics say undermine the teaching of evolution.

Shapleigh said he plans to have McLeroy separated from the others when his nomination comes up on the Senate floor so that it could be debated and voted on individually.

“You’ve created a hornet’s nest like I’ve never seen,” Shapleigh said, noting that 15 bills – “the most I’ve ever seen” – have been filed during this legislative session to strip various powers from the State Board of Education.


Texans, call or email your Senator now! Put the pressure on! Get this guy out of there!

And then, you can hang your head high and ride into town on that longhorn of yours with pride.

HT: Pharyngula

Creationism and Evolution in the Classroom

So, yesterday Afternoon, there was a meeting of the Minnesota Atheists that included a one hour panel discussion of evolution, creationism, science education, and so on. The panel was moderated by Lynn Fellman, and included (in order from right to left as the audience gazed on) Randy Moore, Sehoya Cotner, Jane Phillips, Greg Laden, and PZ Myers.

There were several ways in which this discussion was interesting, and I’ll tell you a few of them here. Presumably PZ will have something as well. (UPDATE: PZ has this.)

To begin with, this was a pretty full room (a hundred or so?) and almost everyone in this room was an atheist, agnostic, rationalist, or some such thing, so the kinds of questions one gets are different than in other contexts. This did not obviate some of the common sorts of misunderstandings about human evolution, somewhat conservative/libertarian welfare stigmata, or even the occasional notation that “well we don’t call it a soul but there is a soul.”

One of the most interesting things that came out, I thought, was when PZ Myers, preparing to follow up on a comment I made, admitted publicly (and this was recorded on audio tape and at least two video camera, and there were plenty of witnesses) that I am meaner than he is.

An important theme that came up was how we teach evolution in classrooms that include dyed in the wool creationist student. Randy talked about being very straight up with the students about the fact that this is a science class. Sehoya talked about an experiment she is doing with her students, in which she does not mention Darwin the whole time but still teaches evolution.

Jane and I are not currently teaching at this level in UG college, so we did not have as much to say, but I noted my technique of yore: I make an explicit statement on day one that creationism would not be mentioned ever in this classroom. Then, for the rest of the semester, I mention creationism, always as an aside, always snarkily, always with disdain, always with humor, so an increasingly large number of students join in with uproarious laughter at the expense of the increasingly smaller and smaller number of “out” creationist. In other words, I invoke the ugly Weapon of Mass Destruction known as peer pressure.

PZ probably has the best method, which is to teach a course in the history of scientific thought with creationism/evolution as a theme, and then eventually get to the details of the biology. Even if that does not leave as much time as one might like to do the details of the biology itself, this would be a very valuable experience for the students.

I’m teaching a more advanced evo course next year. Maybe I’ll try something like that.

I just want to mention one point that I made that I feel is very important: There is a big difference between what can and should happen in a college classroom and a high school classroom, owing to the difference in relationship between instructor and administration, instructor and student, and instructor and parents. And school boards (colleges, we don’t have ’em!). These differences need to be kept in mind when discussing strategies. For example, PZ’s strategy and my strategy would not work in a high school. For long.

Intelligent Design

Here is a preliminary list of resources for people to find out more about Intelligent Design. Please feel free to put this on your own site. If you want, email me and I’ll send you the HTML code to make this one step easier. But you can also, if you are using Firefox, use “ctrl-u” to display the code and cut and paste it from there.Please feel free to add to this resource for people who want to learn more about Intelligent Design. Continue reading Intelligent Design