Shermer & Wells @ Cato (video online)

Update: This event will be on BookTV three times this (Thanksgiving) weekend:
On Thursday, November 23 at 5:30 pm and Friday, November 24 at 6:15 am and Sunday, November 26 at 3:00 am. See BookTV on CSpan-2.
My original post, with links to the Cato and the C-Span pages for this event:

At the Cato Institute today (Oct 12, 2006), Michael Shermer spoke on themes of his book Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design, followed by Jonathan Wells, author of the “Promiscuously Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.” MP3 Podcast and RealMedia video recordings of the event are linked from the Cato site.

Shermer did a fine job, and Wells was predictably lame–especially in his vacuous responses to strong questions from the audience. Still, I can see how Wells’ arguments could seem plausible to people who don’t understand what science is, and I don’t think Shermer and the rest of us have yet worked out how to puncture that surface plausibility.

One point Wells was forced to voice repeatedly is that ID is not a theory that deals with how things happen, or with “mechanisms” and “causation.” I’ve been quoting Dembski for this; here’s somebody else to quote for showing this stance of ID.

Oh, BTW, though, Wells did say he’s doing scientific ID research, and gave a “promissory note” to provide results sometime in the future.

Unlike the science blogs that follow this, my blog is devoted to curriculum, so for my purposes one of the most concerning aspects of this event was the common agreement by Shermer, Wells, and the Cato moderator that the desirable solution for curriculum would be for public schooling to be replaced by private schools, so that all parents could just send their own children to a school that will teach what the parents want their own kids to believe.

What do you think of that solution?

(see the previous post here, & the linked document, for a cogent argument that I see as relevant to the point about privatized schooling as a solution.)


From the C-Span archive page for this event:

Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design
Cato Institute
Washington, District of Columbia (United States)
ID: 195042 – 10/12/2006 – 1:10 – $29.95

  Shermer, Michael Director, Skeptics Society  
  Wells, Jonathan Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute, Center for Science & Culture  

Michael Shermer talked about his book Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, published by Times Books. He was joined in discussion by Mr. Wells.Mr. Shermer, a former evangelical Christian and creationist, argues that “intelligent design” theory appeals to a human predisposition to look for a designer behind life’s complexity. But in fact the theory of natural selection is supported by the scientific evidence and is the foundation on which modern biology rests. He arguesd that conservatives and Christians should accept evolution because it explains family values, social harmony, human nature, and the origins of morality. Jonathan Wells, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, disagrees with Mr. Shermer.


  1. Posted November 22, 2006 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    on subscribing to this post for notice of BookTV rebroadcasts in the future.

  2. Posted February 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I guess I have to ask a question: What is the definition of freedom? Is it a freedom to ask someone to give up his/her own belief just because I don’t have that belief? My thought is in order to provide enough sources and in the name of diversity, all sides of story should be presented. Students, on the other hand, can take their own side and decide which one they want to follow. Isn’t this the main reason for education? Isn’t this the true meaning of freedom? Yes, public school system should not decide which one is the “correct” one but present all of them. (Has anyone looked at what Buddism and Mulism’s belief about the origin of life?) School should be a place to learn how to solve a conflict, not to create one.

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  1. The Cato Institute has release a report titled Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict by Neal McClusky, which makes the case for school choice as a preventive solution for avoiding conflict over public school curriculum.

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