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louisiana & intelligent design

For those who don't necessarily read the 'comments' & so may have missed Heraclides' heads-up - in the US the education board in Louisiana has made it possible to teach intelligent design in the state's schools:

On Tuesday, the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a policy that sharpens those fears, giving teachers license to use materials outside of the regular curriculum to teach "controversial" scientific theories including evolution, origins of life, and global warming. Backers of the law, including the Louisiana Family Forum, say it is intended to foster critical thinking in students. Opponents insist its only purpose is to provide a loophole for creationists to attack the teaching of evolution.

I'd have to say that I agree with those opposing the law. (Well of course, some might say.) And I agree for all sorts of reasons. What I want to comment on here is that wretched word 'controversial'. I've said it before: in the scientific community there is no controversy about evolution. What we're seeing here is a "manufactroversy". The scientific consensus is that evolution has happened & is happening around us. Scientists may debate the finer details of how  this happens ('punctuated equilibrium' vs 'gradualism', for example, or the relative significance of epigenetics, but they don't debate the fact of evolution. (And the same could be said for the other manufactroversies mentioned in the Louisiana bill.)

This is simply an attempt to sneak intelligent design materials into the science classroom, rather than a genuine attempt to foster critical thinking skills. There are plenty of ways to do that, using both good science & good educational techniques. (And for those teachers reading this who might be looking around for additional ways to do this within the specific context of evolution, the work of Passmore & Stewart might come in useful.)

Thanks, Heraclides :-)

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"foster critical thinking in students"? So they mean that students will now have to figure what parts of the information they are given is scientifically backed.

Sounds more like a strategy to allow the students to pick from the curriculum the parts that don't conflict with their world view and ignore the rest. Critical thinking doesn't enter into it.

The cynic in me would say that in some cases it might not even get to the point where students get to pick & choose - the choice would be up to the teacher, & dependent on their worldview. Given the Dover outcome you have to wonder why the board has done this, as it's bound to face a judicial challenge & cost them a heap of money.

in the US the education board in Louisiana has made it possible to teach intelligent design in the state's schools:

No, that is a lie.

As the Superintendent of Education noted:

I’m satisfied that you cannot teach creationism or intelligent design with other language in the rules, said Superintendent of Education, Paul Pastorek.

That’s exactly correct, and it would also be a violation of the constitution, (as if the creationists don't know this, duh), which only proves that the Barbara Forrest and company are motivated by their liberal agenda and the culture war, rather than the integrity of science.

That makes them worse, by far, than the fundies, because they commonly try to mislead the public into believing that they are the ones who are defending the integrity of science.

The worst kind of liar is (s)he who hides their politics behind the name of science.

It is critically important to absolutely accurate, honest, and scientific about this, if you intend to claim that you are only interested in the integrity of science, so distortions, embellishments and outright lies are not acceptable rhetoric against the actions of creationists unless you just want to throw your hands up and admit that you’re really just playing politics, which you won’t.

In which case, why is the Board even entertaining this concept of 'teach the controversy'? There is NO scientific controversy about evolution & to suggest otherwise strongly suggests that there's another agenda here. Given that the 'controversy' rhetoric is heavily used by the creationist/ID camp, it's a logical conclusion that ID is on that agenda.

it's a logical conclusion

It's even worse when people who are supposed to be protecting the integrity of science take action based only on their paranoid suspicions, (logical conclusions), rather than something that they can actually prove with hard evidence and facts.

There is NO scientific controversy about evolution & to suggest otherwise strongly suggests that there's another agenda here.

That's what you say, but the law says that they have a right to try as long as they don't try to teach ID or creationism, and an honest scientist would be chomping at the bit to let them, because.... that's how science works.

In which case - what would you expect to see in such a 'teach the controversy' lesson?

Just a quick bit of clarification before I start: Louisiana Family Forum is apparently apparently a YEC organisation, as the "Family" bit suggests. A key point to remember is the levels this is targeted at, both for the application of the rules, and who is being taught. You also need to know the players involved.

I'm sure the educational board means well, but creationists have shown in the past they have little regard for the constitution, etc. After all, some of the same people would like that changed too. They have presented quite a few things that are contrary to the constitution itself over the years, knowing that full well. It misses the point to suggest that this is a reason why this must be "a lie".

What this bill does is to provide a loophole (of sorts) bring the level that this is dealt with first to the school board level, i.e. only later at any higher level, which is the way the DI and there supporters want it. (They have a written plan stating this on their website.) By bringing it down to a school board level, it allows individual teachers to present what follows from their beliefs (i.e. religion) as "science" if their board chooses to let them.

Contrast these two. The sponsors of this bill asked that direct references to creationism and ID be removed as they argued it was "targeting", yet left in targeting evolution, etc. Inconsistent, eh? Speaks for the position that the sponsors of the bill have, doesn't it? (island, re "as long as they don't try to teach ID or creationism", actually this bit got stripped out of the bill that was past, you may be behind the eight-ball as it were.)

A key point to remember is who this is bill is targeted at: high school level teaching. Material taught in science at high school does not have, nor should have, any science controversy, at least not for the earlier years. Science controversies, proper, really belong in a research setting. The kids at this level are not really able to sort facts from fancy particularly well, so the distinction with non-science material needs to be made clearer. It is usual, and I believe correct, to start with material that is well-established, then once they understand how this is science, proceed to consider less well established material. In the end, this bill is just trying to target the vulnerable.

Certainly, the things referred to are not science controversies, but (creationist) "manufactroversies" and as such the "other" view is not even science at all. From that, it follows that this bill does actually support non-science material to be presented in a science class.

You could argue for "critical thinking" in the sense of "here is a piece of non-science, let's see how we know this" (something I'm not entirely against if it's presented as "how science works", rather than the negativity of the creationist stance and the baggage that comes with it). But to present that something isn't scientific is a part of scientific controversy is nonsensical, not correct for a science class and certainly inappropriate at a high school level where students are still learning what science is at all. (As Darcy was saying, students would be confused as to what is what for one thing.) The theory of evolution is not a scientific controversy today and hasn't been for a very long time.

For example island's "they have a right to try" belongs at a research level and until it's "resolved" one or the other at that level, it doesn't belong as "science" in schools. But, hey!, it has already been resolved at university level and for a very long time: it's not science ;-)

I would note that hiding "their politics [or religion] behind the name of science." (see island's earlier post) is ironically precisely what the backers of this bill are doing.

I just want to note that I made a post that was meant to appear after and in response to Alison's statement:

"In which case - what would you expect to see in such a 'teach the controversy' lesson?"

Did that make it to moderation?

"their supporters' for 'there supporters'. And 'was passed' for 'was past'. Ugh. I really must proof-read before posting...

This is my third post since Alison replied to me, and two of them have not appeared since I made that post, whose examples are relevant in context with the following:

Heraclides said:
For example island's "they have a right to try" belongs at a research level and until it's "resolved" one or the other at that level, it doesn't belong as "science" in schools.

This is a the crux of the issue, and your position is not as valid if there is any accuracy at all in Ben Stein's claim of suppression at that level, which there is historical precedence for, for example:

http://knol.google.com/k/richard-ryals/the-anthropic-principle/1cb34nnchgkl5/2

In which case, all bets and formalities are off.

FYI: "Heraclitus" was right... ;)

I would note that hiding "their politics [or religion] behind the name of science." (see island's earlier post) is ironically precisely what the backers of this bill are doing.

I would note that Heraclides failed to account for and differentiate what I actually said:

Only one side is claiming to be protecting the integrity of science, while the other is trying to challenge the mainstream, so no, they are not equally guilty of abusing science to further their politics.

One side claims the good name of science, so abusing it for political gain is a far worse offense for them.

No, I didn't get an alert for it in my in-tray. I should add that posts aren't instantaneous on this blog - the Uni has a strict moderation policy for its blogs and since I'm in the middle of our enrolment process at the moment the time I have available for 'extras' like blogging is rather limited. But I have never yet blocked a posting & there would have to be fairly way-out content (obscenity, for example) before I would consider doing so.

You're seriously not suggesting that 'Expelled' was a serious documentary? Ben Stein's claims about suppression are indeed just that - claims. Unsubstantiated claims, at that: http://www.expelledexposed.com/

This was the post that I had originally made back to Alison, and it is important because it includes a relevant link to stuff that would make creationists feel like they are being screwed by the scientific community. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong about what the evidence means, they are right about that point.

Alison said:
In which case - what would you expect to see in such a 'teach the controversy' lesson?

I know what you're getting at, but I don't work for the DI, so I'm not going to offer up any of the materials that you will then insist has been "thoroughly refuted" even they don't buy it, which is where you were leading me.

But if it were me, I'd tell my students that there are valid scientific interpretations of the anthropic principle that can indicate that we are not here by accident, (which I'd support with papers by Davies, Wheeler, and others), and then I'd sit back and watch the fireworks fly when both sides of the debate misinterpret this to mean that god did it, which also exposes my personal interest in this, but here are a few other points that I'd make along those same lines.

It starts at the bottom:

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?plckPersonaPage=PersonaBlog&plckUserId=f4af536be6e34501aa356a4a76ef99cf&U=f4af536be6e34501aa356a4a76ef99cf&plckScript=personaScript&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckElementId=personaDest&category=PluckPersona&sid=sitelife.tallahassee.com

All of this is taking us away from the only point that I made, that it is an unacceptable, unscientific, and a politically motivated lie to claim that the US the education board in Louisiana has made it possible to teach intelligent design in the state's schools ...since... this is a violation of the constitution ...AND... you cannot teach creationism or intelligent design with other language in the rules, said Superintendent of Education, Paul Pastorek.

You're seriously not suggesting that 'Expelled' was a serious documentary?

No, I did not say that, at all. I very clearly stated and supported my position that there is historically recorded evidence in support his claim that ideological predispositioning affects the suppression of evidence that appears to support the creationist's position.

I repeat:

You're seriously not suggesting that 'Expelled' was a serious documentary?

No, I did not say that, at all. I very clearly stated and supported my position that there is historically recorded evidence in support his claim that ideological predispositioning affects the suppression of evidence that appears to support the creationist's position.

Damn. I've lost a long reply addressing all island's errors. I don't know if I have time to revisit this.

Nutshell in the meantime is that creationists have been unable in well over a hundred years able to present a serious alternative to evolution that is plausible to the scientific community and until they do, it is not science and cannot be presented as science in science classes.

I wasn't trying to trip you up - I did really want to know what you'd consider sufficient content to justify the term 'scientific controversy'. Strictly speaking the anthropic principle - a cosmological construct - doesn't have a great deal to say about the process of evolution of life on Earth, so that's not a particularly good example. (And if you were going to present a paper by Davies in its support, then I'd hope you'd also present papers giving the other point of view.)

Coming back to evolution - it's quite fair to say that the DI's offerings in this area have been thoroughly refuted. Take Behe's idea of 'irreducible complexity', for example. During the Dover trial he continued to insist that the blood-clotting cascade was an example of irreducible complexity and that scientists knew next to nothing about how it might have evolved. This rang rather hollow in the face of around 50 published peer-reviewed papers & a stack of books on the topic. Contrary to the DI, evolutionary biologists are doing a great deal of research into these areas - & that research has to date failed to suggest that evolution fails as an explanation for the origins of diversity.

Which brings me to another, related, point. It's simply not enough to say, as the DI people do, that 'evolution's wrong', & therefore alternative 'explanations' are correct. This is setting up a false dichotomy. Before those alternatives can be seriously entertained they need to do more than say, 'this was designed' - 'intelligent design' proponents have to say how the designer achieved what we see. (After all, that's what evolutionary theory does.) And that level of explanation, so far, is lacking.

Heraclides exclaims:
Damn. I've lost a long reply addressing all island's errors.

LOL... uh huh... I doubt it, since you apparently don't comprehend much of what I've said, because academic freedom and critical analysis does NOT equate to creationism and ID.

You automatically equate the two without any justification for doing so, and I do not make this unscientific assumption because that is not what those terms indicate.

You likely make this critical error because you know the history of the DI, so you eagerly make the unfounded leap of faith to assume something that is yet to be established. This is not the wedge document, and it is not Dover or you would have been able to stop them from passing an unconstitutional law, which you can't do, because this is a different and completely legal situation.

Their history means that you have every right to be suspicious of their intent, but that by no means indicates that you have any right to automatically pre-assume and make "factual statements" about crap that you don't actually *know* didly squat about, until it happens. It's these *assumed* facts that make Barbara Forrest a liar.

Sorry that I don't have time for ALL of your errors... ;)


Alison says:
It's simply not enough to say, as the DI people do, that 'evolution's wrong', & therefore alternative 'explanations' are correct. This is setting up a false dichotomy.

Yes, you are, because they don't necessarily make that claim and they CAN very easily challenge the motivations behind a number of the assumed solutions to some of the more weakly supported mechanisms of evolutionary theory, as I described in the previously linked page.

And your assumptions that "the anthropic principle - a cosmological construct - doesn't have a great deal to say about the process of evolution of life on Earth" is bogus, especially if there is a strong anthropic constraint on the forces.

Educate yourself:
http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/ast123/lectures/lec19.html

http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/2007/02/goldilocks-enigma-again.html

http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/2006/11/very-strong-anthropic-principle.html

And if you were going to present a paper by Davies in its support, then I'd hope you'd also present papers giving the other point of view.)

Of course, I would. Even the creationists are willing to do that... ;))))... but there is one most-apparent solution that falls from direct observation, per the scientific method, and that takes precedence over all other more speculative solutions in lieu of a final theory to back them up as being anything more than that.

A fact that few willingly recognize, and only because creationists find god there.

LOL... uh huh... I doubt it, since you apparently don't comprehend much of what I've said, because academic freedom and critical analysis does NOT equate to creationism and ID.

Erm, actually I did, and I'm quite annoyed at losing it, as it had some good points which I doubt I have time to resurrect.

Ad hominem attacks on me suggest that you are not serious, it's the sort of I'd expect of trolls. (e.g. implying that I am a liar and writing the likes of since you apparently don't comprehend much of what I've said). If you want to correspond to me, keep it civil, please.

The "academic freedom" issue you referred to is well-known to be a myth which Stein and the like, like to try spread. I haven't time to repeat what I wrote earlier (its lost along with the lost post; at least not right now, as I have a meeting to go to). It's a bit of conspiratorial claim, and like most "conspiracy theories", it's nonsense.

You automatically equate the two You might want to point me to where I supposedly have made this claim. I'm confused here, as I would be making the claim that the former (academic freedom and critical analysis ) usually results in the trashing of the latter (creationism and ID), not equating these two as you make me out to have! ;-) I presume you've left out a 'not' or something.

You likely make this critical error [...]: you are making a "critical error" of trying to tell me what I am thinking ;-) Please let me speak for myself, thank you.

Their history means that you have every right to be suspicious of their intent, but that by no means indicates that you have any right to automatically pre-assume and make "factual statements" about crap that you don't actually *know* didly squat about, until it happens. It's these *assumed* facts that make Barbara Forrest a liar.

You seem to be in a blind fury over something I haven't done. I'm going to let this go.

but there is one most-apparent solution that falls from direct observation, per the scientific method, and that takes precedence over all other more speculative solutions in lieu of a final theory to back them up as being anything more than that.

Except that no-one has ever been able to substantiate it, or demonstrate it. This, in turn, means it cannot be "per the scientific method" as you write.

Creationists in over one hundred years have not been able to present a substantial, plausible alternative to evolution that is of anything like the quality needed to be considered by the scientific community. In that same time evolution has gained so much support that it is now regarded as fact.

A part of the reason for the formation of the DI was to "find" evidence. It was effectively a tactic admission by leading creationists that they had (and have) nothing substantial to present to scientists. Some of these people have admitted as much themselves.

This brings us back to the point I made in my previous post: until creationists can present a serious alternative to evolution that is reasonable to the scientific community, it is not science and cannot be presented as science in science classes. This has not happened yet, and to put it very politely is exceedingly unlikely to ever happen.

1. "Challenging the motivations..." is not the same as putting up a robust scientific explanation.for a set of observations/data. DI has so far demonstrated unwillingness or inability to do the latter.

2. "strong anthropic constraint on the forces" - what? On the 'forces' of evolution? When mutation is random & natural selection is demonstrably non-directional?

3. As Heraclides has already said - the 'solution' that there is a designer is not arrived at by the scientific method. This requires more than observation & belief.

And on it continues, it never seem to end! A member of the state house of representatives in Mississippi wants to add a disclaimer to all textbooks on evolution...:

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/01/mississippis_proposed_evolutio.php

Jokingly, I think picking apart the string of errors in the disclaimer might make a good class lesson :-)

You have to say that country has a real silly element when members of the state house of representatives start proposing bills like that. (The Mississippi Atheists report that this may be "dead in committee", which is what you'd hope for.)

Although the NZ parliament does come out with some silly-ish proposals from time to time, at least they are not quite a silly as that. (I'm sure someone will now pop up and prove me wrong...)

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