Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Common Core Standards

I really hadn't given a lot of thought about the Common Core Standards since they were approved in Ohio in 2010.  What I recall disagrees distinctly with some of what I have been reading since hearing about HB 597, an effort to repeal them here in Ohio.

If memory serves, the Common Core Standards initiative was not a Federally-driven program, but one driven by several states who were looking to set a common set of high standards for Science, Math, and English.  It was not part of the No-Child-Left-Behind nor any other Federal initiative.  Ohio adopted them primarily because of the high level AND the ability to have a common set of standards across the state.  These were standards, NOT curriculum, not teaching methodologies, and also not a ceiling.  Local school boards and districts could use the standards as a starting point and go even further.  The objective was preparing students for both college and their future.

What I have been hearing is that the standards dumb everyone down to the lowest common denominator.  I don't recall that at all.  In fact the minimum required level in most Ohio school districts went up when the standards were adopted.

I've also been hearing how the common core injects too much Federal Government into the local school systems.  Again, this was a STATE initiative, not a Federal program.  A number of States got together to pull these standards into a coherent set.  It has never been, nor is there any intention to mandate this at a Federal level.

Check out the CCSSO website for more information.  CCSSO stands for Council of Chief State School Officials.  The standards are a joint effort with the National Governors Center for Best Practices.  I think all of the made-up objections to the standards are politically driven!

Here's why I think that.  (1) If your district thinks the standards aren't high enough, raise them!  You have that right and in my mind that responsibility.  Don't whine, set a higher bar!  (2) Read the article about HB 597, the words say that they authors want to return school standards to the local level.  HELLO!  That's one reason why Ohio adopted the Common Core in 2010, because at the local level Ohio had a mixed set of some high, mostly low standards that were inconsistently applied and the results were poor, at best. (3) Now read more than just the words of the bill, but read the comments made to reporters questions by one of the bill's sponsors.  Political and religious ideas are going to be put on the podium alongside scientific ideas and the teachers are going to be prohibited from contrasting the ideas for any applicability or validity.  How many times do we have to face tactics designed to put pseudo-science like Creationism/Intelligent Design on par with real actual science?

Let's sum things up.  We give schools a limited budget, limited time frame, and we expect them to bring students to the point where they can be successful at college and in the job market following school.  And HB 597's sponsors want to saddle teachers and school districts with a methodology that was failing 4 years ago and further handicap them by letting school districts bring in their political and religious disagreements about science and use valuable resources presenting these concepts as if they are a core part of the curriculum.  How is this doing anything but a disservice to our students!

I recall a comic strip from 2012 that sums it up pretty well:  Doonesbury!  The final student comment in the strip really brings it home to me:  "Please stop, I would like to get into a good college."  Yes, Ohio lawmakers, please stop HB 597 so our children can get into a good college, so they can get a quality education, so we can compete in the future with other countries whose school standards are putting us to shame!  Please stop allowing a few to use our children to push a political or religious agenda!  Please Stop!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All not quiet on the Midwestern Front

One of the reasons I started blogging was in response to some of the anti-science activities here in Ohio a few years ago.  I guess things have been too quiet to suit Creationists because the war on science has reared its ugly head again.  Cleveland.com is reporting that a bill designed to remove the Common Core education standards will also have the impact of not prohibiting Creationism/Intelligent Design in the classroom.  Here's the article I caught this afternoon: "Common Core opposition bill won't limit foreign authors -- or teaching of creationism and 'intelligent design'

Now before I actually read the article, I noticed a little sideline on the page.  You might have spotted it as well, "Common Core is bad for students and teachers: Kelly Kohls, school board member, activist".  I'm not sure if you remember Kelly.  She was the president of the Springboro Ohio school board when they flirted with the idea of Creationism.  The Dayton Daily News had this article.  Kelly said

“Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country,”  . . . “It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country.”
That would immediately make me think there was something very right with the common core science standards.  Anyone else read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller?  You might know the part I am thinking about -- when an insane psychiatrist declares you as sane, are you?  To paraphrase, when an avowed Creationist declares the common core science standards bad, are they? 

In my opinion adopting a common core set of standards would annoy someone like Kelly because it would make it harder for a local school board to inject Creationism/Intelligent Design into the science curriculum.  Imagine how hard it would have been for certain members of the Dover PA School Board to push their religious agenda if the common core science standards had been in place.  It might have saved that school system some money and not been such a time waster or generated such negative publicity for Dover.  But then again, the fact the court case went the way it did might well be a silver lining.  As it was, Kelly and her supporters on the board didn't make much headway and eventually less evangelical board members were elected and sanity reigned.  Kelly herself 'retired' from the board and ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate.

OK, now back to this article.  The National Center for Science Education also reported on this new Ohio bill.  They noted this from the article the same points I saw when I read it::
" . . . prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another." Thompson said that clause prevents teachers and schools from only presenting one side of a political and scientific debate -- global warming, for example -- without also presenting the other side."
That pretty much says it all. Not only would it make it easy for Creationism/Intelligent Design to be brought into the classroom, it sounds like it would be mandatory to present it -- even though it's a political and cultural debate, not a scientific debate. Plus, as I am sure Kelly likes, the bill's sponsor makes it very clear that it
"the bill gives districts and teachers the freedom to teach religious interpretations of scientific issues as they deem best."
 I'm working on an email to my State Representatives in hopes this bill will die the nice quiet death it deserves.  But even if the death isn't so quiet, as long as it does before dragging the whole state into another round of 'Let's be Fair and teach both sides', 'Teach the controversy', or 'Evolution, it's only a Theory', like we were in 2002.

Darwin is Responsible for . . .

I have a Google News Alert that doesn't seem to be working well.  I have it set that anytime the Discovery Institute posts something newsworthy, it should go off and I would get an email notification.  The problem is that it keeps going off even if they aren't posting anything worth looking at.

I won't give you a link this time because they have done nothing more than repeat a tired old line of theirs.  I'll give you a hint.  If we held a contest and tried to determine who is the single most reprehensible figure of the 20th century, who do you think  would win?  Yes, you already know the name, and he doesn't work at the DI.  Of course, he does appear to be some sort of hero for them because they cannot stop writing about him.  Not only that, but their pet 'historian', you know who I mean as well, has now tried to associate Darwin with the cause for not only the Second World War, but the first one as well.  They even had one of their own 'executives' produce a 12, or so, minute video explaining this most recent 'revelation'.  Of course everything their pet 'historian' has accomplished has met with a much success in historical circles as their pet team of crack 'scientists' has met in scientific circles will never deter the DI from continuing to post foolishness.

So, if you haven't heard by now, the Discovery Institute seems to blame Charles Darwin for the Civil War, WWI, WWII, disease, racism, poverty, crime, infidelity, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, divorce, the sub-prime mortgage debacle, the assassinations of Lincoln, both Kennedy's, and King,  the lack of Congressional term limits, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh, and the failure of the Chicago Cubs, to name a few.

I may have to cancel my Google News Alert because it's sure not doing it's job!  Maybe I'll just set it to go off once a year and hope for a change they actually post something worth reading at once in a given year.  I know, I am being way too optimistic!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kennie Ham is still making a fool out of Kentucky!

The people in the Great State of Kentucky should be outraged!  Back in 2011 I posted the following "Kentuckians, kennie ham is making a mockery of you!".  It was a post about how Answers In Genesis (AIG), a non-profit Evangelical Christian Ministry, is hiring people for jobs at the Ark Encounter Park, a for-profit business.  That was over three years ago.  Since then little kennie has struggled with funding and Kentucky has offered him even more tax breaks for his Noah's Ark replica.

Here we are in 2014 and AIG is still doing it.  "The dishonesty continues from Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis" lays out exactly what was happening.  Once again AIG, who also runs another ministry, the poorly named Creation 'Museum', is still advertising for positions.  The first part of the job opening says:

"Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
In order to be considered you must also sign a:
  • Creation belief statement
  • Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith (If you need a real laugh, you really need to check out their statement of faith.  It's hilarious and, in my opinion, should be illegal for a for-profit business who is using State tax money and incentives. 
Why are the people in Kentucky putting up with this?  I believe little kennie is ripping you off and breaking your own employment laws.  He's claiming since the employees will be working for AIG, he can flout the law and have them working on a for-profit business!  If this continues I expect someone to eventually sue AIG/Creation Museum/Ark Park Ministries and also name the State of Kentucky as defendants for letting them get away with it.

Based on this, what I think should happen is any and all tax breaks, subsidies, and incentives should be removed from little kennie and his pet project.  Unless he complies with existing laws and it's proven he has done so.  You shouldn't be subsidizing his ministries.  Plans to expand the roads and upgrade highway exits should be put on hold until his Park is up, running, and drawing in the 'crowds' little kennie has claimed it would.  I believe it was his own study that predicts fairly large numbers of tourists. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shades of Kristin Macguire

What is it about South Carolina?  Remember Kristin Macguire, the homeschooler Mom who ended up heading the State School Board briefly a few years back.  During her tenure, she caused extra expense by bringing in a couple of Young Earth Creationists to question the already selected science textbook.  Yes, the selection process had been followed, decisions were already made and, at the last minute, the incoming school board president, Macguire, brings in a couple of ringers to push her personal religious belief on the students of South Carolina.  That time sanity prevailed and the already selected textbooks were voting in after a number reviews and public testimony and additional time and expense.  I guess every school board has time and money to burn, right?

Well history is sorta repeating itself.  In this article "S.C. Education Department out of the loop in writing of new evolution standard" in the Post and Courier, things are still not kosher in SC.  While the headline tells the story, it's not the whole story.  Apparently in an effort to deal with some of the contentious issues around getting a new science standard approved, a new 'compromise' standard was drafted.  Guess who wasn't involved . . .but more interesting guess who was?  Obviously the Education Department, whose job it is to draft standards, was not involved.  However, a certain organization from the Northwest had inside knowledge of the process and was invited by . . . guess who to play?  You got it, Mike Fair -- yes, that Mike Fair -- he invited the Discovery Institute.  They presented to the group drafting the new standard.

Why am I saying history is repeating itself?  Well just like Kristin, certain players ignore the rules and push a personal religious agenda.  One of the Board members himself didn't know this re-drafting was going on.  That's right the group whose job it is to write the standards and at least one of the people who approve such standards were out of the loop!  Once again South Carolina violated their own rules and procedures for the express purpose of trying to weaken science education.  This time they invited the DI, an organization dedicated to doing just that. Anyone else see a problem here?

Let's hope sanity once again breaks out and this 'compromise' standard goes the way of the dodo.  Is it too much to hope that Mike Fair's political career goes the same way?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Keith Blanchard and Belief

Interesting article "Why You Should Stop Believing in Evolution".  It's by Keith Blanchard who is identified as  the chief digital officer of World Science Festival.  I'm not sure what the World Science Festival is or what a Chief Digital Officer does, but I am pretty sure Keith Blanchard is not a biologist.  Even my high school and college biology wouldn't have characterized a few of the things about evolution as he did.  But to his credit, I think his heart is in the right place and his basic message is sound.  Yes, I said his basic message is sound.

Should we stop 'believing' in evolution?  I would put to you that the answer is yes, we should.  Primarily because evolution is real and it is happening all around us whether we believe in it or not.  Our 'belief' plays little in the value and validity of evolution as a fact.  What I think the term does is open the door for misinterpretations of the term 'Belief'.  I've said this before . . . but it does bear re-consideration.

Since I said belief in evolution in no way impacts it's validity, let's look at that for a moment.  Let's look at any other scientific theory, say one of my personal favorites, Gravity.  If I did not 'believe' in Gravity, would I suddenly go flying off of the planet Earth?  Of course not.  By the same token, If I believed the Earth was the center of the Solar System, would that automatically position the Earth so that everything, including the Sun, would start revolving around it?  Do you see what I mean?  Belief does not impact the fact of gravity, nor does it have much impact in the explanation of how gravity works.

One of my issues with the term 'Belief' is that many Creationists try and equate Belief in things like the Bible, Creationism, and Intelligent Design as the same thing as Belief in Evolution.  I disagree with that completely.  Belief in a theistic concept is also known as faith, and it's a belief without any form of actual support.  Belief in a scientific theory is an acceptance of the theory based on evidential support.  There is a world of difference between no evidence and evidence!  That is why, in my opinion, we should stop using the phrase of 'belief in evolution' and start more saying 'acceptance of the theory of evolution'.  I think it's more accurate and less likely to be abused in word games with Creationists.

My main issue about using the term 'Belief' revolves around those word games and I think continuing to use it might not impact scientists, but it can impact the people who are working with and within the education system concerning science education.  How many school board meetings does this subject come up and one of the standard lines you hear is "I don't believe in Evolution!"  Imagine if you refuse to play that game and agree, "I don't believe in it either, I accept it as the only explanation we have that actually works!"  Not sure if that would help, but the double-take look you would get might make it worth doing.

Like I said I don't think Keith Blanchard is a biologist and while I didn't want to get into all the reasons why I think that.  I will leave you with one thing to consider.  Blanchard makes a comment about common ancestry, claiming that if you go back far enough you can find a direct common ancestor between people, trees, and insects.  I think the weakness of his argument is that he seems to see reproduction as the only method of gene transfer.  He's missing many others, like gene drift and Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT).  All I am saying is that natural selection is one of the methods of gene transfer, but not the only one.  Therefore, finding a common ancestor to incredibly diverse species might be a bit more challenging that Mr. Blanchard seems to think.  But I do think it's time we stopped 'believing' in a scientific theory because of how easy it is to confuse belief based on nothing and belief based on actual evidence.

Didn't the comic Lewis Black stated that whenever someone tells him they don't believe in evolution, he throws a fossil at them! 

Is this an issue of Academic Freedom?

Just recently University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rescinded a job offer to Steven G. Salaita.  While I understand rescinding a job offer, especially one made after a pretty significant selection process, is pretty rare -- but my issue is whether or not this is a matter of academic freedom.  I'm confused and hope someone can help me out.

First off, I've written about Academic Freedom before and I have always separated the issue from Free Speech.  Professors, in the conduct of their work, do not have free speech.  What they have is the right and, in my mind the responsibility, to present all facets of a subject area, even the controversial ones.  Academic Freedom means the academic organization cannot take negative action when teachers are doing their jobs.  What teachers do not have is the right to bring in unrelated topics into the classroom under the guise of academic freedom.  So, in other words, bringing Intelligent Design/Creationism into the science classroom as science does not fall under academic freedom because ID/Creationism is not science and therefore not in the subject area.  I know the Discovery Institute disagrees with me on that, but then they will use any tactic no matter how dishonest or reprehensible to push their pet ideas.  Remember the DI is the place who defended John Freshwater and failed to defend Chris Comer!  One was fired for not doing his job and one was fired for doing theirs.  Their idea of academic freedom is not the one shared by:

The American Council on Education (ACE) issued a statement endorsed by a pretty impressive list of collegiate organizations. It's called "Statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities". Here are a few highlights:
  • Colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas.
  • Academic decisions, including grades, should be based solely on considerations that are intellectually relevant to the subject matter under consideration.
  • The validity of academic ideas, theories, arguments and views should be measured against the intellectual standards of relevant academic and professional disciplines.
  • Application of these intellectual standards does not mean that all ideas have equal merit.
  • Government’s recognition and respect for the independence of colleges and universities is essential for academic and intellectual excellence.
I posted about this before here. check out the 4th one, all ideas do not have equal merit.  Certainly explains the inequalities between Scientific Theory of Evolution and Religious concept of Intelligent Design/Creationism, doesn't it?

Now Professor Salaita was the associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, he resigned his position to accept a new one, starting this fall, as a tenured professor of American Indian studies at Urbana-Champaign.  So we have basically an English teacher becoming a teacher in American Indian Studies.

After receiving the job offer last year, it did say is still had to be approved by the Board, but it also said that was usually pretty perfunctory.  It became an issue when the professor tweeted some seriously inflammatory comments about Israel and the recent things going on in the Middle East.

Here is my thing.  Is this a matter of academic freedom?  I think not!  I'm not trying to defend or attack Israel or the professor, I'm trying to focus on the actions of the professor and the University.  Professor Salaita has the right, under free speech, to tweet whatever the hell he wants.  The University has the right to hire whoever the hell they want. 

The professor wasn't being hired to teach anything about Israel or the Middle East, so how is this a matter of academic freedom?  To me it's a matter of free speech.  Tweeting, like any form of communication, comes as a right and it also comes with some responsibilities.  You are free to yell 'Fire!' is a crowded theater, but afterwards, you will be held responsible!  There had better have been a fire or you will be help accountable for your actions, including any injuries as a result or even the lost revenue from the theater.  A few years the Dixie Chicks made a few political comments about then-president George Bush at a concert in England.  While I disagreed with their comments, they had the right to make them.  The negative impact to their career is a direct response to their exercising free speech, and accountability.  Now the folks who threatened them and their children I think have serious mental health issues, but that's a different issue.  Was anyone going to tell me I HAD to purchase their music regardless of their political statements?   That if I refused to purchase their music I was violating their rights in some fashion?  Of course not.  But that seems to be what's happening here.

Maybe the underlying question is does a position as a professor of any topic automatically grant you freedom from any level of personal accountability for anything you might say in any forum on any other topic?  Put that way it sounds pretty silly, doesn't it?  But claiming that  Professor Salaita's right of academic freedom has been violated because the University rescinded a job offer because of his exercise of free speech sounds exactly like that!  He is and should be accountable for his tweets, whether the later ripples in the water are to his benefit or detriment.

Does anyone remember when William Dembski was nearly fired?  Back when he was working at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he caused a mild stir when someone realized that he actually suggested that the Bible might be less than historically accurate.  OK, he didn't actually suggest it, he out and out stated in in his book "The End of Christianity".  He went so far as to say Noah's flood was just a Middle-Eastern phenomena and not a global deluge.  He immediately came under fire by his bosses and recants incredibly quickly.  He even came out and said he was wrong!  No relying on 'academic freedom' for him because he knew exactly what was going to happen if he tried that route . . . it's called unemployment, so said Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson (about halfway down the article). 

Should the University be required to hire Professor Salaita ?  Maybe, but not because of academic freedom!  We are getting into a legal issue of acts and actions concerning job offers and offer-ers and who is entitled to what and when.  Complaining about academic freedom is, to me, just foolish smoke!  Be honest, if the University doesn't want to hire him because of his tweets, address the issue as one of free speech, not academic freedom!  If I were to post on Facebook or tweet comments that brought negative publicity to my employer, I would expect to get fired!  If between my acceptance of a job offer and the start of work something came up that would cause a negative reflection on me and my soon-to-be new company, I would expect to see the job offer fade into the dust.  I might not like it and would have potentially legal actions concerning it . . . it wouldn't be an issue of academic freedom!

I wonder if anyone from my current company pays any attention to this blog?  Imagine if the company owners were hard-core Creationists.  Could this blog get me fired?  That might be interesting, but not a fight I would want to get into.  I think as long as this blog didn't detract from me doing my job, my bosses shouldn't have an issue -- just like I shouldn't have an issue of their beliefs.  After all, what does their religious beliefs have to do with my being a computer programmer?  I think that's a lesson Nathaniel Abraham learned a few years back.  Do you remember him?  He was fired from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for refusing to do the job he was hired to do.  He tried the discrimination route to fight it and sued for all sorts of damages because he said his religious beliefs made it impossible to be an evolutionary biologist  . . . maybe he should have tried the 'academic freedom' complaint. 

Am I off base on academic freedom?  Let me know.  You can comment here or even email me direct at tedhohio@gmail.com.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Programming Children?

A recent article on the Discovery News site kinda seemed more than a bit off kilter.  I know, something from the DI that wasn't quite right, really?  Normally I don't send people to their site, but if you want to read it, here it is: "More Studies Show Children Are Wired for Religious Belief: A Brief Literature Review", by that less-than-stalwart fellow, casey luskin.  I've written about little casey before and haven't been too impressed.  Well, this time casey is joining his brother in arms, David 'I'm Jewish so Intelligent Design isn't about Religion' Klinghoffer and trying to make a couple of cases, first the children naturally are inclined to believe in the idea of God, and second that scientists, those evil bastards, are trying to inoculate children against God.

They reference a Wall Street Journal article: "See Jane Evolve: Picture Books Explain Darwin".  My guess is they are more than a little annoyed with the article's author, Alison Gopnik , especially for closing with this line

"The secret may be to reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place."  
As usual casey and davey are taking the article as an attack on ID, which . . . it is -- but not for the reasons they seem to think.  If you take a step back and actually think you would realize that any teacher will tell you that teaching something is always easier when you don't need to un-teach something previously learned.  People tend to get an idea in their head and the first thing you have to do is get them to remove that idea before they can fully understand a new one.  Or at a minimum get them to set aside that idea so they can at least examine the new one with limited prejudice. One of my favorite examples is discrimination.  How many people have dis . . . no, let's just say it more plainly, how many bigots have no actual experience in dealing with the people they are bigoted against?  Remember the term 'prejudice' means pre-judging!  By the time someone who typifies the Archie-Bunker-like mentality gets some experience with whoever they are bigoted against, it's usually a bit late.  Oh they can learn, but it takes something extremely critical to make it happen.  I remember a presentation by Dr. Morris Massey called "What You Are Is Where You Were When"
used the term a 'significant emotional event' to show it's possible even for the worst of bigots to learn, but it does take something significant to get through years of bigotry.

Children are not born bigoted, it's a learned behavior and one rarely seen in nurseries and child day care centers for young children.  I don't think children are born looking for a deity either.  I think they are born curious and like to seek answers.  The idea of a deity hits them from many directions.  It's the answer they receive from many adults for nearly any question that's tough to answer.  From the simple 'God only knows' to weekly sermons from authority figures.  Kids get bombarded with the message about one deity or another from birth.  The reason, at least to me, is that it's easy.  It's far easier to let 'God' be the answer than digging deeper and determining a better answer or even harder is explaining something to a child that you may not understand yourself.  Even with the best of intentions, adults try and soften difficult things for children..  Think of a traumatic event in any kids life, maybe the death of a Grandparent.  Even if they choose to dig deeper, the odds are they will never know why Gramdma passed away.  But to comfort a child we say things like 'She's in a better place.'  Funerals are most often religious services, as are Weddings, Baptisms, Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, Confirmations,and Upanayana (Hindu rite of passage) ceremonies.


So by the time a child gets to school they have a bunch of ideas already in their head and one of them is about the idea of a deity.  Even children raised as Atheists, aren't immune to this.  Think of the exposure to TV, movies, music, and their friends.  I had two friends growing up in NYC, Issac and his little brother Jay, and while I wasn't Jewish I was curious about their religion.  One of the most popular figures in pop culture today is American Idol winner Carrie Underwood whose first hit single was "Jesus Take the Wheel".  I was raised Catholic and I can assure you, from Baptism through school you get hit with religion on an almost daily basis, especially during times of emotional upheaval (significant emotional events, remember?). 

Is it any wonder that the earlier you reach children with real, although simplified, explanations, the easier it will be for them to understand the more complex realities later?  Do you remember John Freshwater?  The Ohio teacher who was fired for a number of reasons, including failing to teach the science he was supposed to be teaching.  If you read the reports and transcripts of his various hearings (Panda's Thumb probably has the best links to all that material), you might have noticed that not only did teachers in subsequent grades have to re-teach basic science and biology to his former students, but his 'teaching' actually made their job harder.  That's what the article is about.  Of course casey and davey doesn't see it that way, they see it as an attack in their pet religious notion, Intelligent Design..

What caught my eye in casey's article was this line:
"What was intriguing was not just how evolutionary scientists are scrambling to indoctrinate children against perceiving intelligent design in nature, but also how children have an innate tendency to recognize that design and, furthermore, to believe in a personal creator"  
First of all, there is nothing wrong with children perceiving design in nature.  Please note the word 'perceiving'.  How many things have we built that end up mimicking nature whether by intent or as a result of the evolution of manufactured items.  Another recent article "One rule to unite the evolution of birds and airplanes" reminded me that there is nothing wrong with looking at the design in nature.  Little casey and his buddies keep forgetting that the perception of design in nature and their idea of 'Intelligent Design' are two separate things.  There is a great deal of nature that has the appearance of being designed.  It's there in front of us and cannot and should not be ignored.   But does the appearance of design in nature automatically mean intelligence?  Of course not!  That's what casey and his buddies would like you to believe because it's the only arrow in their quiver.  Aside from it being a tautological argument that's been shown time and time again to be meaningless.  It's also been clearly identified as a religious belief, not a scientific theory.  However if you teach Creationism or Intelligent Design, you are making it tougher on teachers later in life to teach actual science. 

That's why casey and david are annoyed.  The article states pretty clearly that if we introduce simplified concepts of evolution earlier, then by the time kids get older and start learning real biology, they grasp the concepts much more easily and a more intuitively.  Casey simply cannot stand the idea that actual science might get in before he's finished doing all he can to make sure they've had first crack at molding children's minds.

One last thing to mention, which is 'indoctrination' teaching science or teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design?  Well according to Merriam-Webster, to indoctrinate is to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.  Does science class consider alternative ideas?  All the time!  However, as we've stated many times.  Creationism/Intelligent Design is not an alternative scientific theory to the Theory of Evolution and thereby calling the teaching science 'indoctrination' is just another word game, like re-defining 'theory' or the idea of a 'belief'.  Many science textbooks mentioned Creationism in a historical context when teaching Biology.  But as an idea that should be taught at any age . . . not as if it were really science!

However, can you say teaching Creationism/Intelligent is anything but indoctrination?  Remember the original Wedge Strategy document, the one where materialistic view of science were going to be replaced by more theistic understanding?   Here's a little snapshot of their goals, check out number 2 under 'Governing Goals'.
If you can't read that poor image quality, it says
"To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding of nature and human beings are created by God". 
And we aren't just talking science, look at the second of the 5-year goals.  Doesn't sound like a whole lot of consideration for other ideas there at all, does it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One of my favorite places on the Web is Jesus and Mo.  Today's strip summed up all the recent comments supposedly in support of Creationism perfectly. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

South Carolina and Mike Fair

If ever a politician is misnamed, I think it's Mike Fair.  I'm sure he'll disagree, but in pushing for forcing his religious beliefs on other people, is he really acting in a fair manner?

Forbes online has this article "South Carolina Legislator Wants To Force Students To Learn Creationism" and while I've been out of the fray for a while, it's nice to know some things never change.  Fair is a pretty typical Conservative Christian, in 2008 he he introduced a bill that would have specifically allowed public school teachers to critique evolution in their classrooms. The bill died in committee!  The National Center for Science Education identified this bill, and others like it, as designed to undermine science education rather than actually encourage critical thinking.  I'm sure he's other brushes with changing science education.  I do wonder if he was a support of Kristin Maguire when she was trying to stop the purpose of a science text because it failed to give equal standing to Creationism/ID.  Remember her?  She was the home-schooling Mom who was the President of the SC state school board.

Well in addition to the same old things, I have been commenting about the article on Forbes site and once again, the same old thing.  Knee-jerk reactions from Creationists who claim that evolution has been refuted, yet fail to provide any evidence of that.  Comments claiming scientific support for Creationism and forgetting to tell us what that support is.  Attacks on evolutionary theory form apparently unarmed Creationists.  It's been a while for me, but in some ways it's nice to see some things never change, but I was hoping they would.  Luckily there are some very intelligent and well-thought out rebuttals of the various forms of Creationism attacks. 

In my humble opinion Mike Fair seems to be the type of person who believes in Freedom of Religion providing your religion is the same one he believes in.  If not, well he is perfectly happy spending other people's money . . . State and Federal tax money . . . to make you fall appropriately in line.  Why does he keep getting re-elected?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Texas Governor truly is a politician!

Rick Perry (poor Texas' current Governor and Presidential hopeful) just lied to a child. In a recent campaign stumping in New Hampshire he told a child that in Texas they teach both Evolution and Creationism in public schools. (Gov. Perry: "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution") He lied!

First of all there is no mention of Creationism in the Texas School Standards and there hasn't been for decades. I can see some of his confusion, I mean he's appointed three very conservative Christians as the head of the State Board of Education (two were refused confirmation and the third hasn't stood for confirmation . . . yet) and they have done pretty much all they can do and still Texas refuses to go back to the 19th century. I guess he assumed that as the Governor his commands instantly become fact.

Second, if Texas was teaching Creationism in public schools, the Governor of Texas, a Presidential aspirant, would be in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Hmmm, this is the man who wants to . . . let me copy this straight from the oath of office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."(http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html)
Really? This guy just lied to a kid and claimed that Texas was violating the Constitution. Is this who we want as the President?

On a related note, the present Democratic Governor of Kentucky has been promoting kennie ham's latest brainstorm, the Ark Encounter ministry, to the tune of millions in tax and property incentives. Guess what? The Republican candidate for Governor is against the park and all the breaks it's getting.(The world is upside down in Kentucky) What is this world coming to? And guess what? little kennie isn't happy. Awww!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Letter to the Editor

When the mild brouhaha over Creationism in the classroom reared its head in Springboro, Ohio I dashed off a letter to the Editor of the Dayton Daily News. It took a couple of weeks, but it finally made it. Oh it's edited to be sure, but they simply removed text rather than changed the points I was trying to make. So if you are interested here it is the published version:
Ohio may very well be heading down a path it has already been before and one we certainly do not need to travel again. In the early part of this decade you might remember former State School Board member Debra Owens Fink and her efforts to get Creationism, and later Intelligent Design, adopted as science curricula. Since that time an expensive lawsuit was brought against the School Board of Dover PA when they attempted to weaken science education and open the door for religious alternatives.

Creationism and Intelligent Design are religious alternatives not scientific theories. Teaching them as if they are science does a disservice to our teachers and, more importantly, our students.

This is not a debate about science; this is a cultural and political debate. It should not be a topic for any school board until proponents offer actual viable and repeatable science supporting their philosophy. During the Dover Trial it was stated that in order for Creationism/Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to the point of making Astrology science as well. Is this what we want and need in our educational system here in Ohio?

I think the school board members should not be supporting their own religious views, but focus on the education of all our children. They should be the first line of defense when others try and introduce pseudo-scientific ideas into the curricula.
What I liked the most was not just getting a letter published, but that the three accompanying letters all spoke out against teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design as if it were science -- including two from Springboro. That was the best part. Hopefully the folks in Springboro will continue to make their voices heard and the members of the School Board that voiced this little potential disaster will realize that there is no room in a modern science classroom for such nonsense.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Surprise, Surprise

My responses to the ID 'Quiz' made it posted. This is a first. Every other submittal to Uncommon Descent got lost in the ether somewhere. But the 'quiz' promoter doesn't like my responses, oh well.

He did respond to my first comment, about this is not being a quiz. Here is his response:

"[vjtorley responds: This is a rather pedantic quibble. OK, maybe I should have said "questionnaire" rather than "quiz". And no, I am not planning on using this survey for marketing. I simply wanted to get people's opinions.]"
Aw, he thinks it's a pedantic quibble. So what? I take it any form of Master's level research skills are not in your background. If you ever tried to defend your thesis and called your 'survey' a 'quiz', you probably wouldn't not have made it past the first page. It's called rigor in your methodology. Maybe it is a quibble-- but try and do a better job next time.

Here is the rest of his response. It's pretty funny."

[vjtorley responds:

Well, I have posted your response, T.H., although I have to say that its sneering, arrogant, know-it-all tone only confirms my belief that you're blustering.

T.H., you state on your Website that Information Technology and computer programming are your areas of expertise, and that you teach at a college. Fine. I'd like you to have a look at the Website of Dr. Don Johnson, who has Ph.D.s in both informational and natural sciences, who taught 20 years in universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Europe, and who once believed anyone not accepting the "proven" evolutionary scenario was of the same mentality as someone believing in a flat Earth. Now he's an ID supporter. Please tell me why I should believe you instead of Dr. Johnson. It seems that he has a lot more academic experience than you do. By the way, have you read his book, "Programming of Life"?

You talked about "real Science, Biology, Evolution, Astronomy, Cosmology, Geology, Paleontology, Physics, Chemistry." Funny. There are real scientists in all those fields who support Intelligent Design. How do you explain that?

You say ID proponents should get out in the lab more often. Have you ever heard of a guy named Douglas Axe, and the work he's doing with proteins? And there are dozens more people doing good scientific work like Dr. Axe. Have a look here, to see just a few names: http://biologicinstitute.org/people/ . You're saying all these people are deluded, and you're not?

By the way, your own post contains one spelling mistake and one major grammatical error. I won't even bother mentioning the other minor ones.

"Evidenciary" is a mis-spelling. The correct spelling is "evidentiary". And "dissociate" is preferable to "disassociate".

Finally, we say "bereft of", not "bereft from".

I dislike pedantry myself, but I won't tolerate being lectured by you in that tone, thank you very much. Goodbye.]

Hmm, you dislike my tone? Oh well, interesting how you ask my opinion and then criticize what you assume to be my tone. Sounds like you are revealing your own prejudices.

No, I am not familiar with Dr. Don Johnson or his website, I have no idea what his thinking is when it comes to Intelligent Design. I am also not asking you to believe me. You were asking for my opinion, I didn't realize I was supposed to temper it for your sensibilities.

I am familiar with the Discovery Institute owned-and-operated Biologic Institute. I am also quite familiar with the lack of scientific work that has come out of that Institute. Oh they have published a few things, but how much their actual peer-reviewed scientific publications have supported ID? However they are as guilty as the rest of the DI who publish ID marketing materials in the popular press rather than scientific or academic press, present their 'work' in front of supporters at religious gatherings, and have an annoying tendency of failing to support their popular press writings with any sort of scientific methodology or even visibility.

The Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at SMU, Dr. Mark A. Chancey has this to say about ID:
  • Intelligent Design originated within certain religious circle.
  • [ID] has credibility only within those same circles-mostly theologically conservative Christian groups that find aspects of evolutionary theory threatening.
  • Few ID advocates hold full-time professorial positions in pertinent fields at mainstream colleges and universities.
  • Many ID proponents with academic positions work at religious institutions devoted to promoting particular theological views.
  • ID proponents have published very few articles in peer-reviewed journals.
  • They have created their own in-house journals that they describe as "peer-reviewed." . . . universities do not consider a self-serving house organ as truly peer-reviewed; such venues are regarded as fake journals.
  • IDers sometimes publish books-but most of these are with religious, not academic, presses.
  • ID research is not rigorous, substantial or convincing enough to be published in genuine academic venues.
  • Unable to publish their work in legitimate academic venues, they nonetheless present it as cutting-edge science.
  • Unable to gain acceptance in the scientific community, they nonetheless claim to be gaining momentum
  • They deny or obscure the fact that ID is grounded in a particular religious worldview and yet regard it as a tool to promote socially and theologically conservative Christian positions.
His closing comment is something many have been asking, for years now:
"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
You obviously are a drinker of the particular kool-aid and you can call my comments blustering or not -- but I did notice you did not address the meat of any of my comments. Why is that? You point me to Biologics and yet you fail to recognize their own lack of ID research. You toss Don Johnson under the bus, yet you never explain why ID cannot be explained without eventually resorting to religion and belief. You certainly never addressed the lack of visibility and methodology in the popular press publications that claim to be cutting edge science?

Obviously you are less interested in opinions that do not already support your position, because you also failed to note why Uncommon Descent is your choice of venue.

No, instead of addressing it, you correct a spelling and grammar error.

BTW, 'evidenciary' is a term frequently used in legal circles and is an accepted alternate spelling for evidentiary -- neither of which is frequently found in spell-checkers. Also 'Bereft' is frequently used with 'of', but that is not its only use, simply a very common one. Thanks for nothing. Bye!

An Intelligent Design Quiz . . . not really

Over on Uncommon Descent, a poster added this: "A short quiz on Intelligent Design for both advocates and opponents of ID" I have a number of issues which I will address while answering, but one jumps to mind immediately -- this is not a quiz. A quiz is designed to test your knowledge of a subject. This is a survey. It's asking your opinion. I am sure the poster will take the results and turn it into some sort of marketing message in support of ID. After all posting it on Uncommon Descent already shows their prejudice. Well here goes:

1. On a scale of 0 (diehard disbeliever) to 10 (firm believer), how would you rate your level of belief in Intelligent Design? (Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.)
  • I dislike that definition, diehard supporters have stated time and time again that the designer is the Christian God, so wording it this way perpetuates the constant marketing efforts to disassociate ID from its religious underpinnings. But I will be happy to answer: 0
  • Second answer: 'What, no negative numbers allowed?'
2. What do you regard as the best argument for Intelligent Design?
  • There aren't any. All arguments for ID are unsupported philosophy, wishful thinking, and/or conjecture. There is no evidence, no one seems to be working on providing any evidence. Your own little 'quiz' is another example of marketing instead of substance.
3. What do you regard as the best argument against Intelligent Design?
  • Anything that has some actual evidence, like real Science, Biology, Evolution, Astronomy, Cosmology, Geology, Paleontology, Physics, Chemistry, to name a few.
  • The next best argument against ID are the ID publications and public presentations themselves. Self-published (Discovery Institute Press), religious imprint of publishers, like HarperOne, and publications in the popular press offer the argument that you already know you have no substance. The constant appearance of ID proponents giving presentations at religious locations, religious schools, and sponsored by ministries also add to the picture that not only is ID religious, but you are trying to hide it and doing a poor job.
  • Another argument against ID is the unwillingness of ID to follow even the most basic scientific methodology. You declare it a scientific theory and demand space at the science lectern. This unwillingness also shows the paucity of your own position more clearly than anything I say.
4. I’d like you to think about the arguments for Intelligent Design. Obviously they’re not perfect. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?
  • Stop marketing and go to the Lab. If you want ID to be taken seriously as anything more than conjecture and wishful thinking, YOU need to provide the evidenciary support for it. Don't whine that other folks aren't agreeing with your philosophies, get off your ass and do the actual scientific work, follow scientific methodologies. It is the ONLY way you will belong anywhere other than the Fiction section of the library, right next to the Tarot Cards, Astrology, and Feng Shui books.
5. Now I’d like you to think about the arguments against Intelligent Design. Obviously they could be improved. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?
  • These arguments against ID do not do any work specific toward ID to make them more effective. These argument continue exploring the world around us and we learn more and more on a daily basis. Learning more about the world shows us how bereft ID is from anything resembling support. It must be galling to be a sideshow instead of a mainstream effort of scientific research.
6. (a) If you’re an ID advocate or supporter, what do you think is the least bad of the various alternatives that have been proposed to Intelligent Design, as explanations for the specified complexity found in living things and in the laws of the cosmos? (e.g. The multiverse [restricted or unrestricted?]; Platonism; the laws of the cosmos hold necessarily, and they necessarily favor life; pure chance; time is an illusion, so CSI doesn’t increase over time.)
  • None, it's all garbage. ( I know, I shouldn't have answered this one, but it's irresistible!)
(b) If you’re an ID opponent or skeptic, can you name some explanations for life and the cosmos that you would regard as even more irrational than Intelligent Design? (e.g. Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; the future created the past; every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation.)
  • No, ID is irrational, along with other pseudo-scientific explanations. It's not possible to compare these different explanation on any scale of irrationality.
See what I mean, a survey, not a quiz. I do plan on posting my responses, it will be interesting to see if it even makes it on the site.

Friday, August 12, 2011

So much for Inerrancy

One of the constant themes I hear from anti-science folks is the inerrancy of the Bible. Not only is it the 'Word of God' but the word has been unchanged since . . . well some say 6,000 years, others are more honest and claim the beginning of the Universe, you know Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists.

When you dare to question this inerrancy one of the things mentioned in its defense is the Hebrew tradition of copying the Torah. Here, Wikipedia said it better:

"They are written using a painstakingly careful methodology by highly qualified scribes. This has resulted in modern copies of the text that are unchanged from millennia-old copies. It is believed that every word, or marking, has divine meaning, and that not one part may be inadvertently changed lest it lead to error. The fidelity of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered paramount, down to the last letter: translations or transcriptions are frowned upon for formal service use, and transcribing is done with painstaking care. An error of a single letter, ornamentation, or symbol of the 304,805 stylized letters which make up the Hebrew Torah text renders a Torah scroll unfit for use, hence a special skill is required and a scroll takes considerable time to write and check."
I have heard of this tradition many times. However . . . the Associated Press (AP) today "In Jerusalem, scholars trace Bible's evolution" explains that the Hebrew tradition isn't nearly as precise as folks would like to believe. Over the past 53 years a group has been studying the Hebrew Bible, also know as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, and they've discovered that is has changed and we aren't talking about just a word or two. A couple of the more interesting changes show that the Book of Jeremiah is longer today and a 'prophecy' was added after the events actually happened.

Interesting article! I have said it many times since joining this political and cultural debate. The Bible may be a good book, it may even be a great book, but it certainly is not the only book! It's been written, re-written, translated, re-translated by men over the centuries. What is considered canon was decided in the First Council of Nicea (325), and has been changed in the many Ecumenical Councils since then, like the Council of Trent (1546) (Development of the Christian biblical canon). The most popular English version of the Bible was re-written in part by the direction of King James (Authorized King James Version).

Biblical inerrancy is a fun myth, but it's only a myth! Sorry to burst anyone's bubble -- but then having discussed this with a number of folks, I doubt I am going to make any believers change their mind, but with any luck a couple my just engage the brain a little bit.