Friday, May 06, 2005

National Center for Science Education: Faked photos in textbooks are ok, as long as they affirm dogma

The pro-evolution National Center for Science Education has put together suggested answers to Icons of Evolution author Jonathan Well’s Ten Questions to ask your Biology Teacher. Wells is a biological intelligent design proponent, and the questions were designed to challenge biology teachers in areas where Wells thinks evolution is vulnerable to criticism.

One of NCSE's answers is absurd. (Another is almost as bad.) The question is about the famous peppered moths. Their changing color in response to a changing environment (industrial pollution darkening the trees with soot, rendering an advantage to darker moths) is a longstanding example of adaptation. In turns out, however, that the pictures were faked. This leads to Well's question:
Q: PEPPERED MOTHS. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
And the NCSE response:
A: These pictures are illustrations used to demonstrate a point - the advantage of protective coloration to reduce the danger of predation. The pictures are not the scientific evidence used to prove the point in the first place. Compare this illustration to the well-known re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. Does the fact that these re-enactments are staged prove that the battle never happened? The peppered moth photos are the same sort of illustration, not scientific evidence for natural selection.
The answer is horrible, regardless of your view on evolution. The pictures are not genuine, but they are justified as a sort of "Gettysburg reenactment" in a science textbook. It is hard to imagine the NCSE could have come up with a worse answer if they tried.

The correct answer, from their perspective, should have been: the fraudulent pictures represent a sorry episode in the history of science and should be expunged and replaced with legitimate photos demonstrating adaptation.

I am on a crusade to maintain a clear distinction between cosmological intelligent design, which holds that the fine-tuning in cosmology is evidence for design, and biological intelligent design, which holds that some biological systems are too complex to have arisen through evolution. I'm tilting at windmills: the biological IDers have co-opted the generic phrase "intelligent design."

No comments:

Post a Comment