Monday, January 17, 2005

Georgia and Science Class

WorldNetDaily: Separation of sticker and state: "Suggesting that evolution is a theory rather than fact endorses religion and causes anguish among impressionable school children in an Atlanta suburb, at least in the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper.
On Thursday, the Clinton-appointed district judge dove head first into the evolution versus intelligent design debate by ordering the Cobb County Board of Education to remove a sticker from science textbooks stating that 'evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.'"
David N. Bass is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate who writes for World Newspaper Publishing and is a regular columnist at, and While attending college, he interns at a pro-family public-policy organization. Bass is currently working on his first novel.

I don't know much about David N Bass, but since he is 19, I would advise him, friendly like, to learn a bit more about science, so that he can understand what sets science apart from other endeavours. Then he might understand why ID is not acceptable and calling Evolution "just a theory" is plain, unadulterated ignorance of the wide application in the life sciences of that very theory.

ID has ambitions (if an inanimate objects and ideas can have such a thing) at being science, but hasn't made any progress on the proof side, particuly the falsablity of the theory. We need to know exactly what the intervention of the Intelligence is in Life, and does it restrict it's self to the living world. It is all very well to talk about irreducible complexity (Behe) or specified complexity (Dembski), but to claim some intelligence did it because of the existence of those concepts seems a long stretch and can't be established in a scientific method. To date there has been only one feeble attempt in a book review.

Intelligent Design has, without a doubt been set up by the same group as the Duscovery Institute in Seattle to break into the Science curricullum in US Secondary Schools on a State by State basis, School Board by School Board. In this case a sticker is placed in a science text book in the appropriate section that covers Evolution saying something like Evolution is just a theory and that there are other theories. This implies that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is somehow, unspecified, inadequate to the task. Yet biological sciences of one kind or the other consider this theory to be a foundational theory, one which underpins all their work, shouldn't that take priority over a school board opinion. Surely a philosophy of Science class or Comparative Religion class would be more apropriate in an honest world.

Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before atheists began experiencing concern (perhaps we should call it theophobia) that school children might actually seek alternatives to evolution to account for origins of the human species.

This is an insult to many good Christians, to equate defending science with being an atheist is just plain polemics and a narrow field of view for a Christian, the sort of misrepresentation common in dictatorships when referring to any opposition that may occur.

Their rationale for the lawsuit raises some interesting questions. Can a sticker that never mentions the words Creator or creationism be construed to endorse intelligent design? Can stating a fact (namely, that evolution is only theory, a reality conceded by many evolutionists themselves) be somehow tied to religious extremism? Can merely implying that there might be other theories to account for mankind's origins establish a state-sponsored religion?

Indeed is Intellegent Design creationism? It doesn't matter how much they cry and wave etc., ID is Creationism, the sticker was placed by a school board intent on influencing the children to a particular religious view of the world in science class. The State can't be seen condoning one particular religious idea, particularly in a Science class. If science agreed ID was science, it would be a different matter, but that is not the case, and we have a particular branch of Christianity, indeed a twig on a branch we will call Fundamentalist Creationists. They will betray their motives in cross examinations in court, but free to say what they please in public, they blindly parrot the mantr that ID is science. Why then do they have to get the school board stacked to place such idiocy in the text book? Surely if ID was esablished as legitamate science then there would be no problem.

The children need to understand science and introducing debates that are outside the science curricullum is irrational, unfair to the childrens time, and intelligence.

He says further our young erstwhile correspondant

The Judge declares in his ruling that an "informed, reasonable observer would understand the school board to be endorsing the viewpoint of Christian fundamentalists and creationists that evolution is a problematic theory lacking an adequate foundation." How can a sticker that comes nowhere near to specifically backing creationism or debunking evolution accomplish this, one might ask? According to Judge Cooper, it does this by somehow conveying "an impermissible message of endorsement" and by telling "some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others that they are political insiders."
That's a central theme of Judge Cooper's rationale. To avoid offending the small number of atheistic children in public schools, every possible vestige of God or religion must be wiped away, including any insinuation that there just might be legitimate theories on origin aside from evolution. Forget about the vast majority of Jewish, Christian and Islamic students who believe in alternative origin theories – the all-important goal is to appease atheists.

Now the children are atheistic, perhaps every atheist should be burnt at the stakes? No David, the Judge was not trying to accomodate atheists, he was trying to prevnt creationists putting an irrational message in a SCIENCE text book. It seems to me that David doesn't fit the "informed reasonable observer". The "vast majority of Jewish, Christian and Islamic students who believe in alternative origin theories", now where does he get this data, and how does he know these students agree with him. I know plenty of Jews, Christians and Moslems who would be happy to study sciences as science and discuss Genesis in their seminary classes or Bible classes. Get a grip man, the world is a lot bigger and more diverse than you think, clearly, this isolated school or state district does not represent the world or the nation or Georgia for that matter. It represents the internal dynamics of that community, define your claims otherwise you will sound rediculous in any debate with rationalist, let alone evil atheists.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Dover teachers get "relief" - York Daily Record

The apparent compromise on Thursday suggests a farce in Science Class for the Grade 9's. The lesson will start, the teacher will give the subject for the day "Darwin's Theory of Evolution", and then an administrator will be invited in to read the statement:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
"Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
"Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.
"With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."

After which the kids in the back row will snicker, the administrator walks out, the teacher walks back in and continues with the lesson, with no reference to the aforementioned administrative statement? I think not. Children are inquisitive creatures and will ask questions, like

  • Why is Evoultion not a fact?
  • Why arn't we being taight ID?
  • My Dad says "Of Pandas and People" is not science, what does he mean?

It's a minefield fro the poor science teacher, and the lesson could end up taking two or more periods.

Dover teachers get "relief" - York Daily Record:

"Dover Area High School science teachers won't have to read a statement informing ninth-grade biology students that there are problems with Darwin's theory of evolution, and that intelligent design is a theory with a differing view of the origin of life.

"And there is a great sense of relief, though there is still no great sense of trust in the district," said Bill Miller, a Dover Area Education Association spokesman.

On Thursday, teachers in the high school's science department sent a letter to the administration requesting they be allowed to "opt out" of reading a four-paragraph statement about intelligent design to students. On Friday, the district, through its attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, released a statement that said administration officials will read the "one minute" passage including intelligent design."

Referring to a religious text in a science class as a refernce and ID as an alternative to Evolution is simply irrational, lying, corrupt ethics, you name it, they are not science and would be better off in a philosophy of science lesson, in where all the theories of life can be considered, and why they didn't make the grade, and why Darwin's Evolution did. I don't know whether the age group would do it, but I, as a science teacher, would recommend for further reading, Dawkins, Gould and Zimmer for starters. In these works they will learn, not only the history of a great theory, but als how it came about and what other ideas fell by the wayside and why. The students would then be better equiped than any others to move on to Senior Biology, rather than reading the nonsense that is Of Panda's and People

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Scientist :: Darwin Meets Chomsky, Dec.20, 2004

"Charles Darwin spotted it. In The Descent of Man, he wrote: 'The formation of different languages and of distinct species and the proofs that both have developed through a gradual process are clearly the same.' He'd been struck by ideas that William Jones had advanced 50 years earlier, that the similarities between languages as disparate as Sanskrit, Latin, and Old Persian, suggest a common historical ancestry."

Says the first paragraph of an article in The Scientist Magazine for Dec 20th 2004 p 16. What an excellnet introduction to the work being done linking Linguistics with Evolutionary Biology. It shows how one theory can help in explaining another in a synergistic way that enlightens both to the benefit of Science in general, and the understnding of how we aquire language in particular.

I'm no linquist, but I do remember reading Chomsky's book On Language some time ago, and I think I understood the basics, at least that we all seem to be born with some inate basic grammar (Universal Grammar) that allows us to pick up our parents language rather quickly, regardless of where we are born, which culture, etc. This article tells us that liguists are now looking at the biological reasons for this, requiring co-operation between these two previously unrelated field.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Lesson will be brief, attorney says - York Daily Record

Lesson will be brief, attorney says - York Daily Record

The attorney for the Dover Area School District said no one will be teaching intelligent design.

But lawyers for the 11 parents suing the district said they still like to get that on the record from the people who fought to get the concept in the science curriculum."

The entire statement on the subject of intelligent design in next semester's ninth-grade biology class will take about a minute, said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the district.

And because intelligent design "the concept that life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection, and therefore must have been created by an intelligent designer" is only "mentioned," Thompson said; it's not being 'taught.'

This, of course is nonsense, mentioning a theory that implies that Evolutionary Theory is in error is false teaching. Enquiring minds will want to look at it and, perhaps, be taken down overgrown and confuded paths that yield no understanding of science. Given the allegations that evolution in class represents just one 45min session in teh whole year, I would argue theer is no room to consider non -scientific explanations for the phenomena being discussed.

A news release issued last month by Dover's administration states that intelligent design will not be taught. Instead, teachers are to read a prepared statement and note that students can read "Of Pandas and People," a book about the concept.

The news release goes on to state that Nilsen "has directed that no teacher will teach Intelligent Design, Creationism, or present his or her, or the Board's, religious beliefs."

In the meantime, teachers also say they're still not sure how they're supposed to comply with the board's decision. Bertha Spahr, who heads the district's science department, said last month that a problem could occur after the statement is read to the students. Once this topic is introduced, Miller said, she wonders how many questions will be asked.

Here you have the concern of the teachers as to the efficasy of even mentioning such material. If "The Theory Of Evolution" is just a theory like any other and not an excellent representation of the development of species on this planet, then teh School Board should be establishing the bona fide position of ID in the world of science, not the school board or the law courts. The plaintiff is simply trying to prevent establishing a precedent in the schools their children go to

A Breed Apart, or Creationism Has A Problem

A breed apart - Science -

"'Darwin and Wallace would be pleased,' adds White. 'What better demonstration that humans play by the same evolutionary rules as other mammals?'"

Indeed, and I wander if our Creationist friends are watching this story as it develops. The Flores discovery is being held up at the moment by R.P Soejono of in Jakarta. If we can get better cooperation from Academia in Indonesia and try an allay the fears that we may steal the credit for the discovery or some such, more progress will be made to answer the question.

Were these creatures, a new species or not?

"Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Iowa, says: "I suspect that creationists will act very negatively toward this discovery. It shows that humans were not alone. There may be other dwarfed species lurking in the caves of other isolated islands. Each new discovery will subtract some essence from the uniqueness of humans."

Russel Ciochton is hoping to make as most as he can on this issue with creationists.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Creation Museum in Kansas (Where else?)

The news of this momentous event came to me vi athe radio from the BBC over the News Radio ABC station. Although, by itself, it just seems like an odd thing that only happens in Queensland (here in Australia) or Kansas in the USA by analogy, on further thought it appears more dangerous. The reason I say that is simple The Creation Museum is a travesty of any facts. It will teach that Adam walked with the dinosaurs, when he clearly would not have known of their existence, and man did not exist when the dinosaur roamed the Earth. That Noah had dinosaurs in the Ark, if Adam could not possibly have known about them, how could Noah?

I would like to know, where in the scriptures does it tell us dinosaurs existed, and, being in this Great Land of Australia, I would like to know where in teh scriptures does it tell us about kangaroos. Apparently marsupials were not known to Adam or Noah or the scripture.

This would concern me if my children were being taught in this school district where "Evolution is Just a Theory" is stamped or posted in the text book, or where excursions are to this museum. How are they going to understnd Geology, Biology, Paleontology, Micro-Biology, etc, etc.

Are students from the midwest going to fail there subjects on mass. Is the US going to give all the progress in those subjects and others related to China and Europe?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In the classroom, teachers should stick to science

Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, is another school district with a group of people on the board who have no idea about what constitutes science and what doesn't. This article below gives an opinion I support as both a Christian and a supporter of Evolutionary Theory based initially on the book "On The Origins Of The Species By Natural Selection" by Charles Darwin.

Today the political right has a group of fundamentalist Christians (Fundies by some people) who are pushing the ID hypothesis into science class before any scientific proof has proven ID or ID has made any verifiable predictions. They all need to wait until all comes about with that hypothesis before putting it on the K12 Science curriculum. Have these Fundies tried to put on the University curriculum I don't know, but it maybe a more difficult task if professors like Richard Alley (below) have anything to do with it.

In the classroom, teachers should stick to science

Penn State Perspectives Posted on Mon, Jan. 03, 2005 Penn State University Centre Daily Newspaper

By Richard Alley

The board of the Dover Area School District this fall mandated the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" alongside Darwinian evolution in science classes, and although a lawsuit has been filed against this decision, similar mandates are at least being considered elsewhere.

As a scientist and a religious person, I hope that school boards will avoid mixing apples and angels in science classes.

Like many scientists, I am fortunate to teach. We know that our students will soon discover things we missed, often correcting our mistakes in the process. Thus, a scientist would be foolish to claim that science gives absolute knowledge of truth.

If I successfully predict the outcome of an experiment, I'm never sure whether my understanding of the world is true, whether I'm pretty close but not quite right, or whether I'm really confused and was just lucky this time.

But our society has agreed to act as if science is at least close to being true about some things, and this makes us very successful doing those things. Carefully crafted bits of silicon really are computers, airplanes designed on those computers using principles of physics really do fly, and medicines from biological laboratories really do cure diseases.

The military has investigated psychics as well as physicists, but it continues to rely on the physicists because they are so much more successful.

The cartoonist Sidney Harris once drew a panel showing two long strings of blackboard equations connected by the phrase "Then a miracle occurs," with one scientific-looking character saying to the other, "I think you should be more explicit here in step two."

For a plane to fly, for a medicine to cure disease, every step must be tested, and everyone else must be able to follow those steps. Science students are welcome to rely on divine inspiration, but they cannot rely on divine intervention in their experiments. Scientists, like athletes, must follow the rules of the game while they're playing.

What, then, are the rules?

First, scientists search for a new idea by talking to people or exploring traditional knowledge or visiting the library or other places. We look for an idea that explains what we see around us but that also disagrees with an old idea by predicting different outcomes of experiments or observations.

Then we test the new idea against the old one by doing the experiments or making the observations. An idea that repeatedly makes better predictions is kept; an idea that repeatedly does more poorly is set aside.

An idea that can't be tested also is set aside; it isn't scientific. Even if I really love an idea, or really believe it is true, but I can't think how to give it a fair test, I have to set it aside for now.

Some people find this limiting and avoid science; others find it exhilarating and are drawn to science. Doing this well gives us good things from good science.

Does science have limits? Will we run out of new ideas? Will we hit problems that we can't solve? Perhaps. But when I come out of a classroom of bright young students, I am convinced that we're nowhere near any limits that might exist and that there is much to discover yet.

So, what about intelligent design, or even young-earth creationism, and teaching them in science class? They're interesting ideas, but some parts we don't know how to test.

Even if they are said by scientists, they aren't science. And the testable parts have been tested and found wanting -- they don't do as well as the "scientific" view in explaining what we see around us, or in predicting what we find as we collect new tree-ring records and ice-core samples, or as we search for oil and valuable minerals, or as we watch dangerous new diseases appear faster than our bodies can respond to them.

The classes I teach spend a few hours discussing the main pieces of evidence: a lifetime isn't enough to cover all the details, but scientists have been working on these questions for centuries and have a pretty good idea of what works. Evolution "in the dark backward and abysm of time" is scientific theory, not truth, but it is very good science.

How does this fit into the bigger picture?

Although some people are happy to view science as merely a tool, others do believe that the remarkable success of science means that we are getting closer to truth. But even these people sometimes disagree about that truth: a mechanistic universe, a benevolent and omnipotent deity, or something else? Fascinating as they are, such questions are for now outside of science.

Many scientists and religious people are thinking about such questions, but no experimenter knows how to guarantee the cooperation of an omnipotent deity.

By all means, students should ask deep questions, think, and discuss and probe. Science does not tell us what we ought to do, and students will have to join us in addressing what ought to be as well as what is. But if we want to face the big questions with better medicines, with computers that function and planes that fly, with clean water and buildings that don't fall down, I believe that we should teach science in science class.

Richard Alley is the Evan Pugh professor of geosciences at Penn State. The opinion of the columnist does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the university.

Evolution/Creationism: Intolerance in Boulder Colorado

There is plenty of debate on the Internet these days about the Origins of the Species (Charles Darwin) and the whole Biological Evolution Theory that has developed since the publication in 1859. In this modern age where science has proven many theories including Evolution, I find it odd that the creationists are now bullying people in school if they accept Evolution to explain the development of the species including us, Homo Sapien Sapien. Why should a young woman in Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette Colorado (A suburb of Colorado, USA) K12 be subject to such bullying in the school ground to such an extent she wished to commit suicide.

Where were the teachers, and how did they deal with it. I don't know who that was or the details, but Barrie Hartman below put an article in the Denver Post for Jan 02 2005 that horrified me. Christian Fundamentalists should understand Science, and freedom of religion, there young ones should not conduct any campaign against anyone that disagrees with them on the subjects of Science or Religion.

Such ignorance of basic rights in such a country as the USA is non-defensible.

Apparently, according to the Daily Camera article School district,police investigating charter school by Amy Bounds 10 December 2004, this sort of thing is not uncommon for this school and quite a number of parents have got the police in to investigate.

Louise Benson, one of the parents at that school wrote a letter to the editor published 30.12.04, "Religious discrimination is immoral and illegal" and thus I say those offenders need to be taken to court and charged. This was in response to Amy Bounds original report School Harassment Debated.

New year, new level of tolerance, perhaps?

By Barrie Hartman Sunday, January 02, 2005 - Here in Boulder land, where the left is always right and the right is always wrong, a debate is raging over whether a public school is really a religious school. Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette is just a stone's throw from the liberal city of Boulder. Some parents are accusing Peak to Peak of turning into a Christian academy funded by tax dollars. The tension, they say, has caused a few teachers to quit and some parents to pull out their kids. Even worse, a girl attempted suicide last month after complaining she was bullied by students for believing in evolution, not creationism. Peak to Peak and district officials staunchly defend the K-12 school, saying that it is neither plagued by "fundies" (fundamental Christian bullies) nor subservient to an evangelical agenda. Because I know parents who founded Peak to Peak, I'm skeptical about the validity of the accusations. However, if religious education is actually making inroads into the liberal heartland of the state, what, for goodness sakes, is happening elsewhere? It's a serious matter that needs to be watched. Yet, I worry about the growing tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, a category into which the Lafayette situation may well fall. In any case, religious tolerance is being tested like never before, and we liberals can be just as guilty of seeing a conspiracy at the drop of a Bible as the right can be in seeing hatred for Jesus in every religious challenge. Granted, there's good reason for liberals to be wary. The born-agains, with their newfound power, are letting their true feelings hang out, such as judging homosexuality as sinful rather than as a biological roll of the dice. Or teaching children that the Earth is 6,000 years old, as the Bible says, not 4.5 billion-plus, as scientific evidence makes clear. Or not just opposing abortion, but admitting that the ultimate target is contraception.

Or condemning stem-cell research, even though exploration could lead to improving lives for victims of savage diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's in decades to come. And then there's the Iraq war, which many evangelicals defend as a crusade for Christ. As wrong as I feel Christian rightists are on these issues, there are others that we liberals shouldn't be so reticent about supporting - such as resisting gay marriage. It's clear that the nation isn't ready for that yet. But - hooray! - the right may be willing to accept civil unions as a compromise. Let's go for it. Also, how many of us Christian libs were just as bothered as the right - but said nothing - when the Downtown Denver Partnership barred floats with religious themes from the holiday parade? Or how many of us stood with the right in expressing displeasure as schools and cities went overboard making certain no one was offended by saying "Merry Christmas" or by singing a Christmas song?

My grandson, a fourth-grader, sang in the "winter program" at his school in Thornton. I didn't recognize a single song. Apparently, neither did anyone else. "Good grief," grumped a mom. "Couldn't they at least have sung 'Frosty the Snowman?"' We liberal Christians must be careful not to judge conservatives as being of one mind on everything. We're certainly not. My mail, phone calls and friendships show as many differences among Christian rightists as among any grouping of adults. To place them solidly in the mindset of the Jerry Falwells and James Dobsons is as wrong as labeling liberals as anti-American and morally vapid. Jim Vandel of Cheyenne illustrates the dilemma so many of us experience. "As a conservative, I want to have a balanced budget and a strong national defense," he writes. "As a Methodist, I want to be able to tolerate others' beliefs while they tolerate mine. I want to support the Constitution but don't want it changed in order to protect the flag or deny rights to gays or anybody else not exactly like me. "What I don't understand is why others call themselves conservative and yet support politicians wanting to spend us into bankruptcy, conduct a totally unnecessary and probably counterproductive war and support actions that would stifle freedom in this country. "Bottom line, I have become confused about liberal/conservative." Vandel then goes on to suggest that many of us on the left and right actually belong in "the radical center." The point is most of us are not purely one way or the other. And that means there ought to be ways to break down the walls of arrogant resistance between us. Nothing like a brand new year to get the ball rolling.

As one of the families complaining of religious harassment at Peak to Peak, I have read with interest the responses of other families. Obviously, not all families have experienced what we have, but this does not mean it did not happen to some families, and there is plenty of commentary supporting that it did. But the hysterical critique of Daily Camera journalists Amy Bounds and Aimee Heckel by Peak to Peak founder Raul Campos (Open Forum, Dec. 22) begs for a response. We are not complaining about someone saying "God bless you" or having "In God We Trust" on money. We are talking about persistent, vicious religious harassment by Christian fundamentalists, which has gone unaddressed by the administration, with tragic consequences. The term "witch hunt" was used by Campos, and elsewhere by a teacher. It's pretty obvious that the only witch hunts are occurring in the halls at Peak to Peak. Religious discrimination is immoral and illegal! I don't doubt that Peak to Peak founders designed the curriculum with good intentions. The question is what is happening now at the school, and why, and whether it can be fixed. A little bright light is a good thing: don't kill the messenger.