Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

A Concerned Student

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design on June 2, 2008 at 10:51 AM

The following is a complaint received by the Student Guild that supports our group. The sender not only signed the letter anonymously but took the time to set up an anonymous email account to send it. For context the email is addressed to our Guild liaison Jessica, and the university has a firm policy of not affiliating with any religious or political group. Thankfully while one of our aims as stated in our constitution is to stimulate meaningful dialogue among religious and nonreligious students of all faiths and beliefs, we as a group have no religious or political affiliation whatsoever. We welcome people of all backgrounds, nationalities, denominations, faiths, fashions and whatever else tends to divide people to join our group or just attend a presentation or meeting if you choose.

Like Baruch Spinoza before me

I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.

This has been, and will continue to be the central motivation for me doing what I do in this regard.

The article in question can be read here

https://gussf.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/summary-of-intelligent-design-lecture-with-thomas-e-woodward/

and I’ll leave it to you to judge the validity of this response.

Dear Jessica,

In the latest edition of the Student Guild Magazine there is an article written by the Skeptics Society on the recent lecture given on Intelligent Design. Being aware of the Student Guild’s policy regarding religious affiliation I find it very troubling that you would condone such a piece. The denouncement of a faith or religious perspective is no different from advocating any unsupported belief.

The writer states on multiple occasions that the Griffith Christian Students sponsored the event and later, refers to “the power of propaganda” by the sponsors. Religions require faith, and whilst evolutionary theories are supported by substantial evidence, at some point there is a requirement to believe that the evidence is sufficient for it to be correct, faith if you will.

Whilst I am not prepared to enter into a discussion as to whether Intelligent Design is a truly religious concept, I would merely ask that you ask yourself whether, were I to start a club advocating (or denouncing) that “something with intelligence” created life as we know it, would pass the requirements for Guild affiliation.

I have had concerns for some time that the Skeptics society is merely a club dedicated to advocating the religious perspective of nontheisim. I would appreciate your comments to the contrary. In the alternative, I fail to see how the Guild can continue to support and fund such a group.

Kind Regards,

A Concerned Student.

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  1. OK, I don’t think this needs a point by point, but I’ve got 15 minutes to spare.

    “The denouncement of a faith or religious perspective is no different from advocating any unsupported belief.”

    No, it’s not, but anyway, we didn’t denounce, we were critical of. Advocating an unsupported belief is assertive and imposing (I could give you a few examples of groups that do this, but I’m sure you know who I’m getting at). Being critical and examining the motives of Tom Woodward’s lecture is not advocating any particular belief at all. It simply requires the application of reason, rationality and skepticism.

    “The writer states on multiple occasions that the Griffith Christian Students sponsored the event and later, refers to “the power of propaganda” by the sponsors.”

    No, this was NOT the case. The article refers to the propaganda of the ID crew who got Tom Woodward his lecture – the Christian Students were the victims of the propaganda!

    “Religions require faith, and whilst evolutionary theories are supported by substantial evidence, at some point there is a requirement to believe that the evidence is sufficient for it to be correct, faith if you will.”

    Faith is belief without evidence, or in spite of evidence, which is clearly not the case with evolution. Religious faith is an entirely different ballgame to the so-called ‘faith’ required to accept hard evidence.

    “Whilst I am not prepared to enter into a discussion as to whether Intelligent Design is a truly religious concept”

    Because it most definitely is…

    “I would merely ask that you ask yourself whether, were I to start a club advocating (or denouncing) that “something with intelligence” created life as we know it, would pass the requirements for Guild affiliation.

    I have had concerns for some time that the Skeptics society is merely a club dedicated to advocating the religious perspective of nontheisim. I would appreciate your comments to the contrary. In the alternative, I fail to see how the Guild can continue to support and fund such a group.”

    Sorry, Concerned Student, but you based your question on a faulty premise. GUSSF does not advocate or denounce any particular world view. We promote critical thinking, rationality and reasoned debate about a range of topics, whether it be political, ethical, philosophical, scientific or religious. Our topics of discussion and presentations have covered a wide range of areas (including the paranormal, mysticism, vaccination and a raft of others); ID and creationism just one of many.

    I would encourage the concerned student to come along to one of our discussion groups – his or her anonymity is already assured, so we would not know that they were the person with the objection – and see what we’re about before trying to get our guild affiliation revoked. I expect that this will not happen – jumping to conclusions and anonymously trying to get a group deregistered don’t strike me as particularly open-minded behaviour – but I would like to be pleasantly surprised.

  2. To the “concerned student”

    Firstly, I’m disappointed that someone with such concerns would send an email to the student guild rather then discussing it with Jayson and the rest of the gussf. As a group we are open to all faiths, creeds and the like and one of my personal enjoyments is having intelligent debate with people with different backgrounds of my own to further my understanding and views as a whole. I believe it stops ignorance. I consider if anything this club encourages tolerance of different religious, ethical and other ideology by engaging in intelligent debate. The problem, which some members of the gussf, feel very passionate about, is that Intelligent Design continues to disguise itself as science when it is not. No scientific methods are used to find evidence of intelligent design and later peer reviewed before the final product is released to the general public. This is a “belief” claiming to be science as is evident from Woodward’s attempts at pursuing the scientific departments of universities and then, as a second resort, approaching the Christian Student Group, which I also find insulting as a regular member of their bible readings. Not only was Woodward claiming that Intelligent Design was a science, he manipulated the beliefs of a religious group to have his “beliefs” heard. I find it quite hard to believe that the gussf was denouncing a “belief” when Woodward couldn’t seem to decide whether it was a religious or scientific cause himself.

    As for the evolutionists, or Darwinist as I prefer, there is substantial evidence to validate Darwinism. Genetics, medicine, psychology even all validates that we have evolved into sophisticated beings. Evolved. It’s not faith, its science.

    Lastly, the gussf does advocate nontheisim. As seen in the club’s agenda, it quotes

    “Debate the philosophy of science, skepticism, and theism and;
    Stimulate meaningful dialogue among religious and nonreligious students of all faiths and beliefs”.

    This within itself validates that the gussf does not simply advocate one belief system but encourages a wide array of philosophical debate from different faiths and ideologies.

    As university students do we not endevours to better ourselves and our mind. The gussf is a club that helps this process and as a member of gussf I certainly believe the club has helped me in this development.

    Kind Regards,

    Stephanie Gaynor

  3. David, you miss the underhandedness of the following statement and the philosophical premise which espouses this irrationality.

    “Religions require faith, and whilst evolutionary theories are supported by substantial evidence, at some point there is a requirement to believe that the evidence is sufficient for it to be correct, faith if you will.”

    This statment is nothing less than an attack on man’s rational faculty. In it the writer aims to cut any debate right off at the ankles. It is not the evidence that this person is questioning, but our ability to obtain that evidence. The use of the word ‘evidence’ makes the word ‘sufficient’ redundant. The use of the phrase “believe that the evidence is sufficient” points to a process prior to rationalising the evidence. An attack on our senses. By questioning man’s capacity to hear and see as well as our capacity to rationalise our observations the writer is denying man’s relationship to reality and/or that reality is simply unsubstantial. As if both man and the reality he lives in are insufficient to know the ‘true’ reality which supercedes our capacity to understand – in which case our reality becomes unreality. Evidence becomes something that can be less than what its name implies. In such a subjective reality you can choose to believe in the evidence or simply not to. That is the position of the author of that letter. The author doesn’t know the meaning of the word belief because he/she doesn’t recognise by what standard such a word (and concept) came to exist. That standard is nothing less than the scientific method.

  4. Wow Chad, that’s a very detailed analysis, nice work! Now where have you been in Chemistry…

    I didn’t miss the underhandedness, I just didn’t have the inclination (or the eloquence!) to really nail it. I’ve heard it so many times that eventually, you just… well…

    http://xkcd.com/386/

    You get over it!

    That said, you should go over to phdcomics.com and start an argument with the philosophy people on that forum about the scientific method as a way of knowing. Apparently science isn’t better than any other way of understanding the natural world because it all depends on your epistemological framework. One cannot provide any evidence to the contrary because the people espousing the viewpoint refused to support themselves by offering an example (even a hypothetical example) to show their point, simply maintaining that they were correct and I clearly didn’t understand what was being talked about. Reminded me of talking to someone who is preaching God’s love, only with bigger words.

    Back to the point, it boils down to something like this: Evidence does not require belief. You accept it, or you do not, and the evidence will remain the same no matter what you believe (or have faith in). As you said, the author of the letter is questioning the validity of evidence in general. There’s not much you can do to convince someone of that viewpoint of, well, anything, without overturning the very foundation of their way of knowing.

    Aaah, internet rambling. It’s been a while.

  5. it does all depend on your epistemilogical framework. thats where you have to question them and eventually obliterate any leg they have to (pretend to) stand on. people who dont explain anything because they tell you the subject matter is too complicated and you simply wouldn’t understand it dont have a solid understanding of it themselves.

    your statement “evidence does not require belief” requires definitions. and then those definitions require a direct link to objective reality. They require you to link knowledge to experience (epistemology). the apposing understanding of epistemology touts that knowledge is gained from anything but experience. simple concepts like the word ‘table’ are claimed not to originate from objective reality. if you want to argue your point you will have to understand epistemology, otherwise exactly like the writer of this letter, they will attempt to just cut you off right at the base of your point, and if you dont know the nature of that base (epistemology), you cannot defend it. epistemology will be your trump card because their kind of epistemology is selfdefeatest.

    on a different note, i defered uni which is why i havent come to chem. i dont want to do that program anymore so i probably wont be going back, but there is still a slight possibility i may. just to finish it. but i think it would be a waste of even more money and time. i have to think about it some more.

    for fun: this is the base of ecology (my major) as stated in the ecology, wildlife and conservation textbook (3rd year).

    1 state desired goal 2. management option 3. what action is 2 best achieved. first decision requires a judgement of value, the others technical judgements.

    definition: by its essence a value judgment is neither right nor wrong.

    if you had the means to exterminate a species there would be two opposing opinions. 1 to exterminate. 2 not to exterminate. the textbook states “there is no way of characterizing either competing opinion as right or wrong. That dichotomy is meaningless.” the first and foremost decision in ecological management is based on nothing at all. there are no standards by which to make a decision and the people who do make this decision (not me the wildlife management graduate but a politician) will be making this decision by way of touch and feel, grabbing at ‘the right thing to do’ with no moral objective simply to appease ‘the masses’ as if there was one such entity. The last sentence highlights the lost and confused nature of the mind of the person who thinks like this. there are no dichotomies. if you find yourself confronted by one, check your premises. but this sentence makes it glaringly obvious that there are no premises. there are no standards. there are no morals. there are no black and white issues, only a grey inbetween that a wildlife manager must submit to. the fickle nature of the textbook continues with “A value judgment can be characterised as hardheaded or sentimental (these are also value judgments) … it cannot be declared right or wrong.” the authors attempt to live up to his standard of no standards and no objective morals invalidates his opinion with the bracketed phrase, in which case what is he really saying? what am i really learning in this course and any of the other courses and the program as a whole? the paragraph is conluded with “in contrast, technical judgments can be classified as right or wrong according to whether they succeeed in achieving the stated goal.” and then a sigh of relief comes to the mind of every torpid student in the room, “i can be right!” the technical judgment which can be right or wrong is based on a decision that has no value because of its indiscriminate nature. it is a void that the technical judgment sits on ready to be sucked in to that nothingness. but for the safety of all involved that fact must be ignored. This is evidence of an existential philosophy guiding environmental science. deny the mind and uphold physicality. i think that is base and irrational. and to play to peoples needs or simply to be illusive to our occupational role the teacher (guy) then questions our opinion on the culling of kangaroos and pits two sides of the class against eachother. the conclusion? neither side was right, but it was a healthy intellectual excercise! i think not.

    hows that for internet rambling

  6. Wow, that is some seriously amazing internet rambling. You would make a fantastic (or just really confusing, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) philosopher.

    Probably not so much a terrestrial ecologist. Hence I understand why you might not come back to finish the degree. Well, I’m sure you could do a satisfactory job, but you would be so wracked with criticism and self-doubt about the nature of your actions and those of your peers (?) that it wouldn’t be worth the meager pay!

    Fortunately blue-sky chemistry research doesn’t require you to make decisions like those. I can just continue making nice pretty pictures of things and increasing our understanding of sediment biogeochemistry, unassailed by philosophical doubts about being right or wrong. (Oooh! A dichotomy! Kill it!)

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