Something to think about…

“Whatever people want to believe in the privacy of their own home, in the privacy of whatever religion they practise, they are free to do that. But to teach young people things that we know are not true is tantamount to an abuse of young people within the classroom situation.”

– Canon David Jennings, Theologian, Leicester Cathedral

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Here it is in greater context:

 

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Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011, in Creation vs Evolution. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Very true – which is why I find it so distasteful when teachers speak of evolutionary theory in absolute terms, rather than couching it in more honest terms such as “most scientists believe that…”, or where they claim that things have been proved (such as abiogenesis) that actually have not.
    Of course, the quote is probably directed at YECs, who also have a case to answer, but in quantitative terms the evolutionary camp have committed the greater abuse.

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    • Yes the quote was directed at YECs, although the quote – on its own – is applicable to just about anything, really.

      Right now, the consensus among scientists is that the evidence for evolution, ie, common descent is so overwhelming that there is no longer a need to couch the language anymore. (I’m okay with that.)

      Abiogenesis – and other scientific fields – is a different matter. I agree it would be better to say, ‘(Most) scientists believe…’ in those cases.

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  2. “…the consensus among scientists…”

    I’m curious what you mean by “consensus”. Here’s some dictionary definitions:
    Macmillan: “agreement among all the people involved”.
    Merriam Webster: “a: general agreement b: the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned”
    Oxford: “a general agreement”
    Collins: “general or widespread agreement”
    And of course I can’t overlook the Macquarie: “1. general agreement or concord, 2. majority of opinion.

    The Macmillan says it’s agreement among ALL the people involved, and one of the Macquarie’s meanings is the MAJORITY opinion (which could be 51%), but ignoring those two extremes, there seems to be a consensus(!) that a consensus doesn’t imply unanimity, but does imply near-unanimity.

    Which raises the question of how many dissenters there would have to be before you could no longer claim “consensus”. This is not the sort of thing one can put a precise figure on, but at the same time I’m sure that you would agree that 51% does not amount to a consensus. But what about one in four (75%)? Or one in ten, or one in 100? Just where should the line be drawn between “consensus” and “no consensus”?

    According to the video, there are some people who still believe that the Earth is balanced on the back of an elephant. Now, what proportion of scientists believe that? One in 20? One in 50? One in 10,000? The figure—assuming it’s not zero (although it probably is)—is probably nearer one in ten million.

    Or what’s the figure for those scientists who believe that the Earth is flat? Around the same (one in ten million)?

    How many scientists believe that the moon is made of cheese? Around the same?

    How many scientists believe that the sun goes around the Earth? Well, I’ll have to admit, this figure is probably higher. Maybe it’s around one in a million.

    I would agree that in all those cases, there is a consensus. The dissenters are so few that one truly can say that there is a consensus.

    But, to repeat my question, around what proportion does it cease being a consensus? One in 100? One in 1000? What?

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    • The level of support for evolution is close to 100%.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution

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      • So that anti-creationist site Wikipedia claims. But that doesn’t answer the question.

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      • I’m still waiting for an answer to the question.

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      • But, to repeat my question, around what proportion does it cease being a consensus?

        Why do you want to know?

        Since the level of support is close to 100%, this is a moot point.

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      • Isn’t my question a reasonable one? That is, how am I supposed to take seriously a claim that “the consensus among scientists is that the evidence for evolution, ie, common descent is so overwhelming that there is no longer a need to couch the language anymore.” if there is no definition of what constitutes a consensus? Without this, the claim is hollow rhetoric.

        Wikipedia doesn’t say that support is “close to 100%”. It does, however, cite a Brian Walters as saying that support is around 99.9%. Is that what you are referring to? Should I therefore take your comment to mean that consensus in this case means something significantly more than 999 in 1000? Say 9999 in 10,000?

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      • I see that after well over a month there is /still/ no reply to this! You claim that the “consensus” is for evolution, but are unwilling to explain what “consensus” means.

        I need to make a correction, though. In my previous post, I wrote “I therefore take your comment to mean that consensus in this case means something significantly more than 999 in 1000? Say 9999 in 10,000?”
        I went the wrong way. I should have said:

        I therefore take your comment to mean that consensus in this case means something significantly more than 999 in 1000? Say 99 in 100?

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  3. “support is close to 100%”

    Is that not good enough for you?

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    • It’s not good enough without knowing how close is “close”. Is 75% “close”? 90%? Perhaps “close to 100%” means 98%? Or is it 99%? Or perhaps 99.99%?

      To put it another way, how many dissenters would you agree means that there is NOT a consensus? You said that “the consensus among scientists is that the evidence for evolution, ie, common descent is so overwhelming that there is no longer a need to couch the language anymore”.

      So at what point would there be a need to couch the language?

      Does your argument have substance, or is it merely rhetoric?

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      • That wikipedia article (which is footnoted to this article: http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2006/07_28_2006/story03.htm ) says that support for evolution is 99.9% among scientists.

        Are you thinking that as more evidence gets uncovered that the number of scientists that hold to Evolutionary Theory will diminish to a point that there is no longer a consensus, and, simultaneously, that more and more scientists will hold to Young Earth Creationism?

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      • Given your refusal to define what you mean, I’ll have to assume that “consensus” equals 99.9%.

        That being the case, I will point out that the supposed “consensus” does not exist. You are basing your claim on a completely unreliable and biased source (Wikipedia), which itself (in this case) ignores its own rules and bases its claim on a biased source.

        One of Wikipedia’s rules is that it’s information is base “on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability#What_counts_as_a_reliable_source).

        Yet the source of the “99.9” that you cite is a Brian Alters, who is an anti-creationist and therefore not a third-party source, but a biased source, and the figure of 99.9% is not from peer-reviewed research, but supposedly from a talk he gave, and no evidence for his figure is provided. Actually, the reference is to an article based on his talk, but I’ve watched the video of his talk, and (unless I missed it, because it was a long video), he didn’t mention the 99.9% figure! So just where /does/ the figure come from?

        Further, even Wikipedia goes on just after providing that figure and gives a true third-party, unbiased figure, from properly-done research, a Gallup Poll. And this figure is not 99.9%, but 95%. That’s ONE IN TWENTY scientists who accept creationism. So Brian Alters figure of one in 1000 is out by a factor of 50!

        Incidentally, Alters /does/ mention figures for the general population from one of the same Gallup polls, but curiously omits the figure for scientists!

        Conclusion: Although I agree that a large majority of scientists support evolution, the claimed “consensus” is imaginary. It is NOT “close to 100%”.

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  4. Fine, the ‘large majority of scientists support evolution’.

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