Bill Zedler: Defending Academic Fraud

Mother Jones magazine has published excerpts of a conversation with state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, regarding the lawmaker’s House Bill 2454 — what should be called the Academic Fraud Protection Act. HB 2454 would force Texas institutions of higher education to look the other way when creationists fraudulently promote “intelligent design” as legitimate science in classrooms.

In his discussion with Mother Jones, Rep. Zedler pretty much says it shouldn’t matter that “intelligent design”/creationism proponents aren’t making claims based on science:

Bill Zedler: If somebody does decide to weigh in, why should they be discriminated against?

Mother Jones: Because they don’t have the scientific evidence to substantiate their views.

Bill Zedler: The debate ought to be: “How did it happen?” But we’re not gonna allow that one to be brought up! I don’t think they oughta be thrown off campus if they come up with it.

Of course, creationists aren’t being “thrown off campus” if they bring up the topic. Good grief. In any case, Rep. Zedler goes on to complain that campus creationists are victims of “political correctness.” Then Mother Jones traps him:

MJ: Is banning discrimination “political correctness”?

BZ: Not at all.

MJ: So banning discrimination against gay people, in your view, is not a reflection of political correctness?

BZ: Well, here’s the deal, all we are saying is that you should be able to debate it. There is a difference between having a law to do something and a law where we ought to be able to at least discuss it.

Never mind Rep. Zedler’s predictable attempt to change the subject from his hypocrisy on whom the state should protect from workplace discrimination. He goes back to an argument we’ve heard over and over: “intelligent design”/creationism gets no respect in science because scientists are intolerant of debate.

No, Rep. Zedler. “Intelligent design”/creationism gets no respect in science for the same reason alchemy and astrology don’t: they’re not science.

Texas colleges and universities already protect academic freedom for faculty and students. But the Legislature shouldn’t force them to protect academic fraud.

11 thoughts on “Bill Zedler: Defending Academic Fraud

  1. Yes, and they should also discuss the possibility that the earth is flat, and that the Holocaust never happened, and that vaccines cause autism, and that astronauts never landed on the moon, and…

  2. I was walking through a windstorm the other day and I was hit by a flying chicken. I can only deduce that windstorms create chickens. Weird, but you can’t argue facts.

  3. I wonder what Bill Zedler would have offered had Mother Jones asked him to state one hypothesis about creationism that can be tested?

  4. Soon medical schools will be reluctant to take students from Texas, thinking that they will have to re-teach them about evolution if all they learn is only creationism/intelligent design. There are very few doctors and scientist that support intelligent design.

  5. There is no doubt that Zedler is one of the most ignorant representatives in the legislature. He is ignorant of both the science and the case law. I mean, a 10-minute Google search would turn up enough information to “clue in” the most moronic of theocrats, like Zedler, that his bill has zero chance of being upheld constitutionally.

    However, what discourages me the most about politicians like Zedler is their abject dishonesty. Zedler is grandstanding for personal gain at the expense of public representation.

    It’s reprehensible behavior.

  6. But out of alchemy grew chemistry. Even astrology* played a major part in the early development of physics. I consider it unlikely that something similar will come from creationism.

    *not the modern kind, the type used millenia ago when astrology primarily meant precise observation and measurement.

  7. Modern chemistry no more grew out of alchemy than modern surgery grew out of slaughtering a goat to ensure good tides.

    Alchemy was always mystical. It would be closer to say that modern chemistry grew out of beer and wine making because it was systematic. Deliberate attempts to categorize and understand chemistry did start over 1000 years ago, but it happened in parallel to alchemy.

    It’s analogous to astrology being a precursor to astronomy. Simply not true. Attempts to study, categorize and understand heavenly bodies happened in parallel to astrology which only used the positions of the celestial objects to divine the future.

    It just occurred to me that both astrology and astronomy had a common ancestor, that is, observing the sky, much as alchemy and chemistry had a common ancestor of learning how to manipulate natural compounds.

    This is where Behe got his ignorant tail in a crack at Kitzmiller by stating that “in its time” astrology was considered science. Nonsense. Simply not true. Behe attempted, and failed, to claim that current intelligent design creationism is a precursor (unpopular in his words) to intelligent design science much as astrology was a precursor to astronomy. Behe was both historically and scientifically wrong on both accounts and I can only assume that Behe thinks that nobody in the world has ever studied these subjects. Creationists prey on the ignorant and Behe is no exception.

    Creationism is an offshoot of religious thought, not scientific thought. Thus, creationism in any form can never be held as “scientific” no matter how loud ignorant fools like Zedler bray nor how many press releases and opinion pieces the Discovery Institute issues.

  8. A lot of the tools in a chemistry lab can be traced back to alchemist labs and scripture and not necessarily connected to any ‘practical’ use at first*. There was a slow separation over time with one side step by step dropping the philosophical/esoteric parts while the other dropped out of any further practical research (add to that the mere scammers that just use(d) their practical knowledge to fool people). A lot of famous scientists still clung to parts of the alchemical canon (like the idea of transmutation) while they had long abandoned the center of it, which is ‘I improve matter and in the process improve myself/my soul’. Newton is an odd case because on the one hand he almost defines ‘pure’ physics** while at the same time he was a devoted believer in old-fashioned alchemy. Alchemy had enough to ‘show’ as results to keep even serious people ‘hooked’. And there can be neither alchemy nor chemistry without actually getting one’s hands dirty. Personally I’d say alchemy lost its justification for existence somewhere in the late 18th century when analytics seriously began to undermine the basics of alchemical theory. Btw, some areas of modern chemistry like catalysis research are bordering on alchemy again using theoretical models that are able to describe parts of reality but without solid footing in the same (and let’s not talk about the jargon).

    Astrology is a different case since there are at least three strains in the ‘look at the heavens’ business:
    1.observing/measuring for its own sake
    2.speculating/thinking about the mechanics behind it without necessarily doing any practical observations
    3.trying to ‘read’ it to gather practical infos about down here (like predicting the future)
    All three go as far as the records we have and it is rather hopeless to try to cleanly separate them. All of them are primarily theoretical in that they apply models to something that cannot be manipulated experimentally. At least the math part was developed and used by all groups interchangably. The difference lies/d in the purpose***. Some astronomers simply did astrology to put bread on the table and in some cases (e.g. Kepler) we simply don’t know whether they themselves believed it.
    Astronomy did not come from astrology nor are they independent. They had a large overlap and profited from each other for a long time. Not because astrology had a value by itself but because math and observation data are value neutral. The moment it could not deliver on that front anymore, astrology should have ceased to exist.

    Intelligent design is like the ‘goldmaking’ scam part of alchemy that got the whole thing into disrepute. A few centuries ago it could have been a work hypothesis followed by serious scholars (Darwin admired Paley and his natural theology, Scheuchzer discovered and described extinct fossilized species in his search for proof of Noah’s flood etc.). But (as with astrology and ‘true’ alchemy) there is no justification for that anymore since those hypotheses have been either thoroughly disproven or there is a complete lack of evidence (that’s not the same but it does not matter here).

    *it sometimes took very long before they ‘left the lab to do useful work’
    **still believing though that a divine entity had to watch over the laws of nature, otherwise they would be broken.
    ***e.g. the prediction of eclipses, or the dispute about the ‘star of Bethlehem’ interested both the astronomers and the astrologers and involve(d) high doses of serious math.

  9. Something I forgot to mention: In chemistry there is still a lot of ‘we have a product but we have little idea of how the process works’. It took 80 years to really understand how the Haber-Bosch process works but ammonia is produced by it on the megaton scale since WW1. The exact details about the contact process for the production of sulphuric accid are still not fully understood.
    =>Chemistry can be done successfully with little theory (or even with theories that turn out to be wrong in the end).
    One of my professors used to say that chemistry is till more of an art/craft applied systematically than a ‘hard’ science. Physics can at least built on the reliability of math.