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When am I going to get my Hugh Hefner Prize??

Here is the transcript of the May 11 speech in New York by Patricia Princehouse, as she accepted a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation for her efforts to preserve science education in Ohio public schools. Note that Eugenie Scott received this same award in 1999 (go here).

SCIENCE AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Patricia J. Princehouse

When I was a grad student, I had romantic notions about how knowledge was gained, how science was done and how democracy worked. Little by little, those notions have changed.

One blow came when I was doing field work at a 19-million-year-old fossil site in Africa. This wonderful site had six different species of fossil hominoids all living in the same place at the same time. It had been declared a national monument, and yet the shoestring budget couldn’t muster the funds to bring all the fossils back to the museum. Many had to be left to erode into dust, along with all the knowledge they could have offered.

I had the notion that scientific investigation was always well planned-out, with reasonably clear and specific expectations for how knowledge would advance. This view was challenged when my adviser at Yale explained how a crucial discovery in human evolution actually came about. They were in the field in Africa, he said, and they were really bored. No one had found much of anything and it was too hot to breathe anyway. The only thing they kept finding were piles and piles of fresh elephant dung. It’s not clear how it got started, but at some point somebody chucked a handful of elephant dung at someone, and pretty soon they were in the middle of an elephant dung slinging contest. At one point, he hit the deck to avoid getting plastered, and right in front of his eyes was a fossilized footprint. The dung-slinging escapade led to the discovery of a trail of 3 million-year-old footprints made by three individuals of the same species as the fossil hominid Lucy. Three million years ago, a volcano had erupted, and before the ashfall had hardened, these three had crossed the tuff. Two of the individuals were walking together, and the third, a tiny child, was stepping into the footprints of one of the adults. This wonderful find was the result of serendipitous elephant dung.

That’s not exactly how I thought science worked. But it turns out that gaining knowledge and doing science is a messy business, impinged on by all sorts of prosaic issues like funding and elephant dung. And I’ve come to love seeing how embedded science is in the rest of human endeavor. I’ve learned to value such stories as going to the heart of science as a very creative and very human enterprise.

But what about democracy? What about the noble Constitution? I used to think the US Constitution was fixed, an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press in this country. The past five years have shown me that the Constitution is valuable only insofar as people are willing to stand up for the rights it protects. Our freedoms are guaranteed only as long as ordinary, everyday people are willing to claim them–indeed, to insist on them.

People ask me, Why pour so much energy into protecting science education? Why not fight for literacy generally or any of a thousand other educational issues? I have two answers. One is easy: I know about evolution, so it makes sense that I would work on what I know best. The second is harder to grasp. And that is that freedom of religion is the bedrock foundation of liberty in this country. If we allow certain special-interest religious groups to co-opt the public school science classroom, to use it as a vehicle for converting children to religious views their parents don’t hold, if we allow them to spout outright lies about the nature and content of science, what do we really have left? If you can lie about science and get away with it, you can lie about anything.

Evolution is just the tip of the iceberg or, as the creationists put it, the leading edge of “the wedge.” The wedge they are seeking to drive through the heart of American democracy. The lies about science are not limited to evolution. Every day more lies about science seep into public consciousness. Lies about stem cell biology, lies about global warming, about clean air and water, lies about sexuality, about conception and contraception, lies about the effects of hurricanes on metropolitan infrastructure.

The war on science is a war on democracy itself. And the special weapons and tactics are rhetorical. The enemies of democracy use the language of tolerance to attack it from inside. Why, they ask, are we “censoring” the evidence for “intelligent design”? Why do we deny our teachers the “right” to use their “academic freedom” to teach “critical analysis” of evolution. Isn’t it only fair to teach both the evidence for and against evolution? All these clever ploys play well in the media on this issue and many, many others, and we will see these word games more and more in coming years. I call it the “orange is the new pink” strategy; every time the public cottons on to a catch term like “creation science” or “intelligent design,” they change to a more neutral-sounding term like “critical analysis” or “evidence against.” But defenders of American freedom are learning to stand up and say no, it really is fair to forbid teachers to lie to students, to prohibit school boards from using the power of the state to convert children to other peoples’ religions. Tolerance requires judgment.

So the rhetorical battle is pitched and the enemy is well armed. But it turns out that standing up for freedom and democracy is a lot like doing science. You start with noble principles and do the best you can, but when you get right down to it, you spend a lot of time dodging elephant dung.

Defending the Constitution is a messy business, but is it worth it? You betcha. Our future depends on it.

Source: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060529/princehouse

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22 Responses to When am I going to get my Hugh Hefner Prize??

  1. “But defenders of American freedom are learning to stand up and say no, it really is fair to forbid teachers to lie to students, to prohibit school boards from using the power of the state to convert children to other peoples’ religions. Tolerance requires judgement.” Oh, yes, I almost forgot, and “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength”

  2. This wonderful find was the result of serendipitous elephant dung.

    Perhaps all the “scientific” dung-slinging at the ID community will result in a serindipitous discovery.

  3. Princehouse:

    If we allow certain special-interest religious groups to co-opt the public school science classroom, to use it as a vehicle for converting children to religious views their parents don’t hold, if we allow them to spout outright lies about the nature and content of science, what do we really have left? If you can lie about science and get away with it, you can lie about anything.

    Princehouse must believe that the science classroom is a worldview free zone. So when Miller and Levine write in thier widely used Biology textbook that evolution proceeds without plan or purpose, they’re presenting scientific fact as opposed to philosophical opinion. Presenting such statements to students as science apparently isn’t lying in Princehouse’s world. I guess what really matters is who gets to do the lying.

  4. 4
    LowenheimSkolem

    As I understand it, lying involves deliberate distortion or misrepresentation of the truth. So when we claim that someone is lying, as this woman above does, we’re making some sort of a truth claim. That is, when we accuse someone of lying we’re saying: “we know the truth, and what you’re saying contradicts it.” So one gets the sense from the above article that this woman is making some truth claims about, among other things, human origins, sexual developement, and the way natural disasters effect the social order. This is exactly what’s gotten me upset with and disenchanted by the current scientific orthadoxy, along with their response to ID.

    I constantly see people throwing around words like “proof” and “truth” when talking about the ND evolution story and it irks me. In fact, the evidence for ND evolution might be stronger than anything else we’re currenty thinking about. That shouldn’t mean other possibilties are out of the question. There are certainly some valid arguments for ND evolution, but certainly many questions reamin insofaras their soundness is concerned.

    People like Princehouse seem to think that trying to talk about origins outside of the evolutionary framework is like trying to talk about round-squares. That’s the down fall of their view, at least as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Maybe you’ll get the prize when you champion a feel good philosophy for the morally irresponsible.

  6. “If you can lie about science and get away with it, you can lie about anything.
    The wedge they are seeking to drive through the heart of American democracy.”

    If you can publish Playboy and get away with it, you can get away with any deception.

  7. “The war on science is a war on democracy itself.”

    Yet some more alarmist words. The Darwinian despair is reaching hilarious levels.
    Can you believe that all those scare-mongering words are only due to the fact that people are skeptical of Darwinism?
    Can you imagine physicists saying that anyone who attacks one of their theories, attacks science itself, and attacks democracy ?!!

    “So the rhetorical battle is pitched and the enemy is well armed.”

    That’s right. The enemy (ID) has the evidence on their side, while Darwinism has nothing.

  8. When am I going to get my Hugh Hefner Prize??

    lol How much Darwin-defending have you done lately?

  9. Mats: Actually, it’s a little known fact that I suffer with dissociative disorder. My alter ego is in ardent evolutionist and is about to start publishing in this area. Stay tuned.

  10. 10

    My own blog’s response to this award is at –

    http://im-from-missouri.blogsp.....w-not.html

  11. An interesting evolutionary conundrum for the Playboy Foundation, namely that Playboy bunnies don’t have has many kids as do women who think Playboy bunnies are quite silly creatures, which means that according to Darwin, the Playboy Foundation will soon be extinct. OTOH, maybe Darwin is wrong, which means the Playboy Foundation may survive and continue giving prizes praising the Darwin’s great contributions towards incorrectly understanding biology.

  12. “The wedge they are seeking to drive through the heart of American democracy. The lies about science are not limited to evolution. Every day more lies about science seep into public consciousness. Lies about stem cell biology, lies about global warming, about clean air and water, lies about sexuality, about conception and contraception, lies about the effects of hurricanes on metropolitan infrastructure.

    The war on science is a war on democracy itself. And the special weapons and tactics are rhetorical. The enemies of democracy use the language of tolerance to attack it from inside.”

    This has to be the oddest thing I have ever read, given the lies being told be “her side” in the debate about stem cell research, global warming, sexual practice etc.

    This is truly Orwellian double speak at its finest. I read that bit and thought, “You are absolutely right but it is not the ‘creationists’ who are doing the lying”.

    I guess the women has no shame, or perhaps it is a classic case of projecting “her sides” wrong doing onto those she disagrees with.

    Jason

  13. Larry Fafarman makes this excellent point on his blog:

    “In her acceptance speech for the award, Princehouse said, ‘freedom of religion is the bedrock foundation of liberty in this country.’ I disagree. The right that was saved in Ohio is basically the ‘right’ to not be offended, which is not even in the Constitution. This ‘right’ to not be offended was saved at the expense of the principle of the free exchange of ideas which is embodied in the 1st Amendment right of freedom of expression. That does not seem like good priorities to me. And Darwinists are abusing the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause for the purpose of suppressing scientific ideas that they disagree with.”

    Of course, the right to not be offended that he mentions is the right of those who are offended by the implications of design. But what about those who are offended by the teaching of blind-watchmaker Darwinism, the notion that everything, including each of us as individual human persons, is the product of chance events that were unplanned, unpurposed, unguided, and ultimately meaningless?

    Let’s face it: design or not-design is the only thing that ultimately matters when it comes to meaning in life. If not-design is true, life is ultimately absurd, and most people recognize this intuitively.

    So why not present the evidence, and let young minds decide between design and not-design? The answer to this question is obvious. Given the evidence, almost all of them will opt for design, which is what Darwinists most fear.

  14. “So why not present the evidence, and let young minds decide between design and not-design? The answer to this question is obvious. Given the evidence, almost all of them will opt for design, which is what Darwinists most fear.”

    I think the answer to that question is the same as why we don’t present evidence and tell the kids “You figure it out” on the rest of science.

    There’s two problems with what you said. First of all, I can’t think of another science where something is taught with such certainty that nothing contrary is even mentioned and at the same time a science that about 50% of the adult population don’t believe is true. Second, past evolution is a forensic science – no one witnessed it and it works so slowly its major claims can’t be observed. I’ve heard it compared to plate tectonics but in that case we can actually observe the major claim happen (plates move), and continental plates aren’t self-replicating machines with digital program code so there’s nothing extraordinary to explain. -ds

  15. Shalini: You don’t seem to have quite the right spirit for our little band. Go in peace, but go. –WmAD

    I have no idea how Shalini escaped the moderation list. I reviewed his comment history and nothing in it warranted letting him off the leash. -ds

  16. There is a huge difference between hard empirical science — like mathematics, chemistry, physics, computer science, and engineering — and Darwinian evolutionary theory, which involves extravagant and unverifiable extrapolations from minor, trivial changes to explain all of life. In addition, the hard sciences do not have such profound implications about where we came from (chance), why we are here (no reason at all), where we are going (oblivion), and what it all means (nothing).

    Is this not obvious?

  17. 17

    “First of all, I can’t think of another science where something is taught with such certainty that nothing contrary is even mentioned.”

    Gravity.

    Wow. You didn’t even quote mine me. You edited what I said by cutting it off short with a period.

    Here is what I said: “First of all, I can’t think of another science where something is taught with such certainty that nothing contrary is even mentioned and at the same time a science that about 50% of the adult population don’t believe is true.”

    You are SO

    Figure 1 -ds

  18. Hey, what prevents Darwinism from being legitimately recast as an argument from ignorance?

  19. Keeping some Darwinists around on these threads would help generate interesting,and lively, discussions, or has there been too much ugliness around here when dissent was given free reign?

  20. apollo230,
    There are plenty of places on the web to observe and/or participate in what passes for ‘lively discussion’ of these issues (witness Larry’s blog, for instance).
    When Dr. Dembski stated to Shalini

    Shalini: You don’t seem to have quite the right spirit for our little band.

    he demonstrated what he wants from this blog.
    I, for one, am grateful that this forum exists as is and that I have been able to drop my two cents in at times – even when I’ve dissented.

    When I want ‘lively discussion’ (read: to be called an “idiot”) I know where to find it.

  21. William Dembski: “Actually, it’s a little known fact that I suffer with dissociative disorder. My alter ego is in ardent evolutionist and is about to start publishing in this area. Stay tuned.”

    Tell us when both of you guys start debating each other. That would be something!

  22. (RE: Post 20)

    I hear you, Charlie! This debate does get a little rough at times! I can see why people with particular views would crave a safehouse where they can associate without hassle. :)

    Best regards,

    apollo230

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