Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy New Year. Have an ID Bill Missouri!

It's been quite some time since I've seen any pro-Creationism bills introduced in my home state of Missouri. In general, it seems we learned from our neighbors in Kansas when they had their big kerfuffle and had their pro-ID standards struck down and were embarrassed nation wide (if you don't remember, Kansas' bill actually was put into law for some time and changed the definition of science to include the supernatural, whereas most bills die before ever becoming law).

But it seems Missouri has forgotten the lesson and a pro-Creationist bill introduced recently. And boy is it loaded with some stupid. Let's take a look.

One of the first things it does is define a bunch of terms:
"Biological evolution", a theory of the origin of life and its ascent by naturalistic means.
Uh, no. Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life. That's how you can tell real scientists didn't have anything to do with this bill. Real scientists know what words mean.

A second quibble is that "ascent" is a poor word choice that makes the assumption that evolution has a goal towards "higher" species. This is nonsense.
Theory philosophically demands only naturalistic causes and denies the operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure in the initial or subsequent development of life;
Again, it's pretty painfully obvious this was written by scientifically illiterate Creationists. Evolution doesn't deny the existence of God; it just makes Him superfluous.
"Biological intelligent design", a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence.
Hey! That one is almost right! It didn't attempt to pass Intelligent Design off as a theory, whereas they admit that evolution is, although they don't make any indication that they know what the difference is.
Since the inception of each original species, genetic material has been lost, inherited, exchanged, mutated, and recombined to result in limited variation.
Wait, what? So this bill is passing straight lies into law? No, genetic material has not been "lost". Sometimes it is, but through gene duplication and other methods, the amount of information increases. Creationists often deny this. Furthermore, we've seen species diverge, thus giving lie to the idea that there is "limited variation" with "each original species".
Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms.
A claim without any supporting evidence.
The hypothesis does not require the identity of intelligence responsible for earth’s biology but requires any proposed identity of that intelligence to be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation.
It claims not to, but every major ID proponent, from Behe, to Dembski, to Johnson, have claimed otherwise at some point.
Concepts inherent within the hypothesis include:
(a) The origin of life on earth is inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism;
Um, argument from ignorance.
(b) All original species on earth are inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no significant mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic development of earth's species from microscopic organisms;
Another argument from ignorance, and one that's actually untrue. Genetics "proves" the common ancestry.
(c) Complex forms in proteins, enzymes, DNA, and other biological structures demonstrated by their constituent molecules in regard to size, shape, quantity, orientation, sequence, chirality, and integration imply intelligent design was necessary for the first life on earth. Intelligence is capable of designing complex form;
Intelligence is capable of designing complex form. However, it's not exclusive. Roll a rock down a mountainside and the chips and nicks it accumulates are exceptionally "complex". But that doesn't mean it was done in any intelligent manner. Thus, they're trying to confuse people with a possibility as the only possible answer.
(d) Complex functions demonstrated by growth, reproduction, repair, food metabolization, waste disposal, stimuli response, and autonomous mobility in microscopic organisms imply intelligent design was necessary for the first life on earth.
In other words, "we're going to assume the first life was as complex as life is today requiring all these things." Evolution has never made such a claim. Thus, this is a strawman.
(e) Within the history of human experience, all exhibits of recurring discrete symbols from a set of symbols arranged in a specific sequence which store information and can be read by human intelligence, is itself the result of intelligence.
Since when are nucleic acids "discrete symbols"? We assign symbols to represent them, but that doesn't mean that's what they are. We use symbols to make things comprehensible, but we can't project backwards and assume the reverse.
(f) Intelligence-directed design and construction of all original species at inception without an accompanying genetic burden is inferred rather than random mutational genetic change as a constructive mechanism. Random mutational genetic change results in an increasing genetic burden and species degradation rather than species ascent;
Again with the ridiculous humancentric notion that there are "higher" and "lower" species. Also, they're making the absolutely false claim that mutations are only harmful. This is an outright lie.
(g) Intelligence-directed action is necessary to exceed the limits of natural species change, which is a combination of autogenous species change and environmental effected species change. Multi-generation breeding experiments illustrate the limits of natural species change and its inadequacy for developing required genetic information found in dissimilar species;
No. We have directly seen species diverge.
(h) The irreducible complexity of certain biological systems implies a completed design and construction at inception rather than step-by-step development, as indicated by the structures observed for sight, hearing, smell, balance, blood coagulation, digestion, and hormone control;
Wait... did they really just invoke Irreducible Complexity? That notion that got destroyed in the Dover trial? Hell, they're even including some of the exact systems that were shown to be reducible in that trial! It's cute they found some new ones to list, but it's still an argument from ignorance. Logical fallacies don't fly in real science.
(i) The lack of significant transitional forms between diverse species existing today and in the fossil record implies all original species were completed at inception rather than by a step-by-step development from other species. A lack of transitional forms is illustrated by the appearance of large complex life forms in the Cambrian fossil record without any significant previous fossils;
Wow. Two lies in one point. 1) We have a ton of transitional fossils. And even if we didn't, genetics and homology establish evolution beyond a shadow of a doubt. The fossil record is just bonus. 2) The Cambrian explosion has many fossils prior to it. Creationists just pretend they don't exist.
(j) Common designs and features evident in different species imply the intelligent reuse of proven designs analogous to the reuse of proven designs by human designers;
This is the gibberish that "common design implies common designer". No. If things weren't similar, then Creationists could claim it "implies a creative designer." Indeed, only a few hundred years ago, this is exactly the argument Creationists made. God was invoked to explain diversity.

The take away less is that a designer is assumed either way and since, no matter what, that's the case for common or different structures, there's no way to falsify the hypothesis. And if it can't be falsified, it's not science.
(k) The lack of significant present-day observable changes in species due to random variation, mutation, natural selection, adaptation, segregation, or other naturalistic mechanisms implies intelligence as the cause for all original species;
Again, an outright lie. We've seen numerous species diverge. When they diverge, that's very significant. But Creationists pretend that doesn't happen or use the term "species" so vaguely that it's meaningless.

From there, the bill goes on to proscribe "Equal treatment" which is defined as "the approximate equal teaching of each specified viewpoint for a single course of instruction in course textbooks" which should "contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint."

That's right. The bill acknowledges that ID is merely a hypothesis, but claims it deserves as much time as a full fledged theory (which it spent considerable time lying about).

As expected, they go on to attempt to define "theory" but botch it:
"Scientific theory", an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. The inferred explanation may be described as a scientific theoretical model;
Nothing is ever "completely understood" in science. To do so would require infinite knowledge, something science doesn't claim to have (yet Creationists do!). Theories in science are not "proven" in an absolute sense. They are, however, proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If they are "partially proven, unproven or false ... based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate" then it's not a theory. The end.

Similarly, the sponsors of the bill can't manage to define a scientific law either:
(10) "Scientific law", a statement describing specific phenomena about the physical universe which has been verified by observation or experimentation and has no exceptions of verified empirical data. The statement may be described by formula;
"No exceptions of verified empirical data" you say? What about Newton's laws? There are numerous exceptions. Which is why the law had to be replaced... with a theory.

There's quite a few other ironies in the bill. For example:
If empirical data is taught, only such data which has been verified or is currently capable of being verified by observation or experimentation shall be taught.
Since every point listed in defining the thrust of ID is a logical fallacy, it is not "capable of being verified by observation or experimentation" in a broad sense. In narrow senses, some specific points may be, but every time those points have been raised, they have been found to be false.
Data with the appearance of empirical data which has never been verified and is currently incapable of being verified shall be identified as nonverifiable when taught orally or in writing;
You mean like Behe's claims of IC, or Dembski's entire concept of Specified Complexity which make up the core of many of the points previously raised?
If scientific law is taught, written textbooks statements identified as scientific law shall have no known exceptions of verified empirical data;
As previously pointed out, this actually has more of an effect on Physics than it does Biology.

But perhaps one of the most vile things the bill does, is after working so hard to (mis)define theory, they nearly admit that it's irrelevant anyway because they're going to mush everything up with false equivalence:
As used in this subsection, the term "theory" shall mean theory or hypothesis;
In other words, they don't care that ID hasn't been established. They're just going to promote it for no reason.

Here's another doozy:
If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation
Either the sponsors of this bill are fiendishly smart, or incredibly stupid with this point.

As written, it would seem the intent of this passage is to prevent discussion that would link the designer to the Biblical God, thereby keeping it from running afoul of 1st amendment challenges under the guise that it doesn't promote any specific religion and is therefore secular. But Behe, Dembski, Johnson, et al claim to be able to infer the identity of the designer. Thus, if that was the intent of the sponsors, since those arguments are presumably scientific, there is a gaping loophole.

But then again, that may well be the intent, that those very arguments could sneak God into the discussion while excluding all other options. Again, either very clever or very stupid (as if the rest of the bill doesn't indicate the latter).
(6) If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing.
Wait... doesn't that mean the entire bill defeats itself?

As noted previously, the bill requires that all textbooks conform to this "equal time" nonsense. Obviously, this doesn't mean all textbooks are thrown out immediately, but all new ones purchased must be. In the meantime, the bill requires that a "supplemental textbook" be created. But the identity of the people to create it is asinine:
shall consist of nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design and reside in Missouri.
Wait... so they don't need to be Biologists? They can just be knowledgeable about any form of science to qualify?

It's no surprise why this is included: You probably wouldn't find 9 people that are Biologists in Missouri that would support such anti-science. Rather, as the Dissent From Darwin list shows, the vast majority of "scientists" that support ID aren't in any relevant fields. According to one survey, only about 0.01% of "dissenting" scientists are from a field which is applicable.

In other words, they want to include people that are illiterate in Biology to write material for a Biology class.

So here's a quick recap:
  • The bill admits that evolution is a theory and ID is a hypothesis.
  • It promptly tosses that distinction out the window to engage in some false equivocation.
  • It incorrectly defines most of its terms.
  • It throws out all of the typical Creationist/ID false claims against evolution and pretends that they're 1) honest criticisms and 2) a positive argument for ID.
  • Leaves a wide open door to promote the Christian God as the identity of the Designer.
  • Appoints non-experts to develop classroom material.
I sincerely doubt this bill will make it too far. However, I've looked at the wording of quite a few Creationist bills and I think this one rates pretty highly on the stupid density scale.


Lance Finney said...


Thank you for reading this in detail.

How disappointing.

RBH Third said...

This one drives me bats:

"(e) Within the history of human experience, all exhibits of recurring discrete symbols from a set of symbols arranged in a specific sequence which store information and can be read by human intelligence, is itself the result of intelligence."

The "symbols" (A,T,G,C in DNA) represent chemicals that have lots of properties the symbols don't capture. It's fucking chemistry, not the symbol manipulation of syntactic systems like human languages.

IvarHusa said...

Excellent takedown, but sorry that this 'fight' is between an adult (you, Jon), and an uneducated toddler (the bill writers). It wasn't a fair fight! OK, but one that needs to be fought.

Cal said...

You left out, in your response to the claim of a "lack of significant transitional forms," that EVERY species is a transitional form.

You also seem to have overlooked that this bill defines "faith-based philosophy" as one of the components of scientific theories.

Nazani14 said...

I hope some lexicographers will join with scientists in humiliating the writers of this bill. I'd love to see The Oxford English Dictionary v. Missouri.

Sarah Crews said...

I almost peed myself I just laughed so hard.

Sarah Crews said...

Jon! I didn't know you had a blog! This. Was. Brilliant.

MartyMcConnell said...

I've read every bill that has been introduced over the last several years. This one is flagrantly unconstitutional as opposed to last year's "Academic Freedom" bill which is the latest sneak attack on science. But I don't think our Baptist friends in the legislature (I think all the sponsors and co-sponsors are Baptists) don't intend to necessarily get it passed. But they can claim submittal during their next campaign cycle in an effort to pander to their base supporters.