Monday, January 31, 2005
It may well be impossible to reason with the board -- all of the six members who support intelligent design, including many who supported so-called creation science in the 1999 go around -- accepted large campaign donations from the Free Academic Inquiry and Research political action committee that funnels money to anti-science right-wingers, but Kansans may well want to reflect on at least two of the possible outcomes of that vote:
- With the courts having already ruled that Kansas schools are grossly underfunded, do we really want to spend money defending this ruling against the inevitable court challenge, or would we rather spend it on our kids and their education?
- Having opened the door to non-naturalistic science teaching, how will the board prevent other groups, such as the Kansas witch, wiccan and pagan community with 19 covens in the state -- ranging from Atchison's Northwest Pagan Group, Orbis Nox in Hays, Church of the Coven of the Wolf in Hutchison, and the Circle of the Silver Cord, in Whicita -- from demanding equal time in the science curriculum.
We may all laugh, but spend a minute trying to elaborate a principle that differentiates between the teleology of the biblical literaliststs and the beliefs of the witches and wiccans. The truth is, adopting the revisions proposed by the ID proponents who are a minority on the standards committee but a majority of the board will open a Pandora's Box of unforseen, and unintended consequences.
Science on their side? They like to think so...
A must read: http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=9125
Be there or be square
You have a problem with that?
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Darwin put to flight in Bible Belt
"The Republican “red states” that voted for President George W Bush in America’s Bible Belt are claiming their reward in an unexpected area: rolling back the teaching of evolution in schools.
"Bold initiatives to introduce the concept of “intelligent design”, wrought by a god or higher being, into theories about Earth’s creation are being sponsored in towns and communities across America.
"Religious fundamentalists — or “theocons” — opposed to Darwinism have adopted sophisticated tactics enabling them to pass under the political and legal radar that keeps church separate from state and forbids the promotion of religion in schools.
"The champions of intelligent design, who are mindful not to specify a particular creator, are poised for victory in Kansas later this year after a new school board favouring the teaching of evolution as a theory rather than a fact was elected in November by a majority of six votes to four. "
Read it an weep: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1462123,00.html
The Wedge Project
"...(I)n order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip ]ohnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
The project? Junk 500 years of scientific progress.
Read the The Wedge Project here: http://www.kcfs.org/Fliers_articles/Wedge.html
Design supporters contend that the current definition of science supports beliefs such as atheism, which they call a “nontheistic” religion. Harris and Calvert want the definition changed to provide equal time for a “theistic” point of view. A theistic view might lead one to believe in a creator, they say, but does not identify any particular god.
“When you can detect design in a living system, the implications of that are very, very significant,” Calvert said. “If you conclude the system is designed, it shows life has an inherent purpose.”
Joseph Heppert, director of the University of Kansas Center for Science Education, said he saw a worrisome subtext in the proposed changes.
Design supporters imply that science as practiced today is somehow inherently negative, Heppert said. They seem to suggest that science has hurt moral values and is antagonistic to religion.
Heppert said he could only guess at their ultimate goals. However, he said, since they were arguing that science was a dogma that was anti-religious, they could put that idea forward in a court of law as a way to defend intelligent design.
“Whether that will be the case, I don't know,” he said. “But it is certainly ominous.”
This article is basically a history the battle over evolution in Kansas and of the Intelligent Design movement in Kansas with profiles of its leaders and their influence in other states such as Ohio.
Read it here (free subscription required): http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/10768962.htm
Saturday, January 29, 2005
"The net effect of Clarence Darrow's great speech yesterday seems to be preciously the same as if he had bawled it up a rainspout in the interior of Afghanistan. That is, locally, upon the process against the infidel Scopes, upon the so-called minds of these fundamentalists of upland Tennessee. You have but a dim notice of it who have only read it. It was not designed for reading, but for hearing. The clangtint of it was as important as the logic. It rose like a wind and ended like a flourish of bugles. The very judge on the bench, toward the end of it, began to look uneasy. But the morons in the audience, when it was over, simply hissed it. During the whole time of its delivery the old mountebank, Bryan, sat tight-lipped and unmoved. There is, of course, no reason why it should have shaken him. He has these hillbillies locked up in his pen and he knows it. His brand is on them. He is at home among them. Since his earliest days, indeed, his chief strength has been among the folk of remote hills and forlorn and lonely farms. Now with his political aspirations all gone to pot, he turns to them for religious consolations. They understand his peculiar imbecilities. His nonsense is their ideal of sense. When he deluges them with his theologic bilge they rejoice like pilgrims disporting in the river Jordan.... "
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Get the full flavor from Douglas Linder's Famous Trials website here: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/menk.htm
Evangelists to tackle Darwin
Cynthia Davis: this is our country and we're going to take it back
Section A. Chapter 170, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 170.032, to read as follows:
170.032. All biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state of Missouri
shall have one or more chapters containing a critical analysis of origins. The chapters shall convey the distinction between data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."
When asked about Missouri House Bill 34 -- a bill that eliminates the requirement that course materials and instruction on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases include discussion of contraception methods -- which Davis, a Republican from St. Charles County, also prefiled, she said, "It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go. I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country back somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."
Dover residents don't like their new national notoriety and fear expensive lawsuits
"'There is support for the board, but there is considerable consternation about whether they should have prioritized this issue and made it so high profile,' said James Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling Research, which conducted the survey.
"Lee added that residents don't like their new national notoriety and fear expensive lawsuits may result in higher taxes. "
Intelligent Design: The Scientific, Theological and Civil Dimensions of the Debate
- Michael J. Behe, a national proponent of intelligent design and Lehigh University biology professor, and Niall Shanks, author of the current best-selling critique of intelligent design and East Tennessee State University philosophy professor, have agreed to debate the scientific aspects of intelligent design.
- John Haught, Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, and Rev. Dave Martin, senior pastor at Evangelical Free Church of Hershey, Pa., will debate the theological aspects.
- Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, which is representing eight Dover families in their federal lawsuit, and Robert Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, who will defend the school district, will debate the civil/legal issues.
Contact Michael Silberstein, associate professor of philosophy and ECCSR director, 717-361-1253; email@example.com for more information.
Religion-based efforts to introduce misinformation in the classroom
Georgia legislator introduces legislation to ban evolution
"It's in the book that it's a theory, but these teachers teach it like it's a fact," says Bridges. "Let's teach them the truth or don't teach them anything."
Read more here: http://www.11alive.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=58116
Friday, January 28, 2005
Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.
What they call theory -- Intelligent Design -- does not even rise to the level of working hypothesis. Why? Because they are unwilling to make even tentative statements that might lead to deductions that could be tested.
As an aid to my friends in the ID movement, I'm supplying the following suggestions for the development of testable hypotheses that might guide ID reasearch:
1. The designer is _____? (fill in the blank)
2. Creation of the universe/solar system/earth took place _____ years ago. (fill in the blank)
According to the Discovery Institute -- the ID think tank -- "the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design." ID isn't science, it's sophistry. That's why there's no research to support its claims, and proponents have no real plans to conduct any.
Playing in the back seat
Although science educators have been explaining the difference for years, the notion that a theory -- such as the theory of evolution -- is somehow less certain than a fact keeps coming up at school board meeting across the country.
So here, once again, for ID proponents who were playing in the back seat while Sam Cooke was playing in the front, are the definitions from the National Academy of Sciences:
Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as "true." Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.
Don't know much...
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
-- The immortal Sam Cooke
That's the theme music that's been playing at school board meetings in Kansas, Cobb County, Georgia, Dover, Pennsylvania, and Grantsburg, Wisconsin lately.
Ever since Darwin... The Why Files
"And that hostility to evolution has now morphed into intelligent design. According to the Intelligent Design Network, 'The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.'"
The Why Files is an informative site that gives a good summary of where things stand on the evolution/intelligent design battlegrounds in Cobb County Georgia, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, and Dover, Pennsylvania. It also gives short, highly focused answers to the common objections raised by intelligent design, and creation science proponents.
From the "Why Files." Take a look at this excellent new resource from the University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents: http://whyfiles.org/216evolution_qu/
Kansas Science Standards Committee rejects Intelligent Design proposals
In December, an eight-member minority of the standards committe, led by William Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri -- Kansas City and a founder of the Intelligent Design Network, bypassed other members of the standards committee and submitted proposals that would have downplayed teaching of evolution in state science classes directly to the Kansas Board of Education.
The controversy will now go to the State Board of Education in a series of public hearings that begins Feb. 1 in Kansas City, Kansas. Following the election last November, the state board now has a 6-4 majority who support the teaching of intelligent design.
Read more here:
Thursday, January 27, 2005
O'Reilly spins intelligent design
GRANT (Michael Grant, a Professor of Biology at the University of Colorado): Well, my view of what would be wrong with that is it’s not science. And that’s not the place to talk about those kinds of things. The proper place to talk about those kinds of issues is in comparative religion. It’s in the philosophy classes. Biology classes should be science.
O’REILLY: OK. But science is incomplete in this area of creationism, is it not?
GRANT: Science is always incomplete in all areas.
O’REILLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science.
Intelligent design: relying on research
"Encouraging our teachers to teach the controversies with respect to biological origin, within a secular content, not relying on anything other than the research," says board member Dr. Don McNelly.
The one problem?
To the best of the school boards' knowledge, there isn't a current text book that teaches intelligent design. For now, teachers will have to design their own curriculums.
What will they do when they find there's no research, either?
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Darwin Days in the heartland
Lincoln, Nebraska: Feb. 10 at 7:00 pm at the Nebraska Union at the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln City Campus, 14th and R Streets
Professor Guillermo Orti, a geneticist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will give a public talk, followed by discussion.
Cosponsored by the Lincoln Forum on Science and Religion, Center for the Advancement of Rational Solutions, and the UNL Campus Freethought Alliance.
For more information contact: Clay Farris Naff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 402-477-0205
Norman, Oklahoma: Feb. 12 at 7:00 pm at 1309 W. Boyd St.
- "Current Creationism: Politics. Litigation and the Public Schools," presented by Victor H. Hutchison, George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus, OU Department of Zoology
- "The Life and Legacy of Charles Darwin," presented by Rebecca Sherry, Research Scientist, OU Department of Botany and Microbiology
- "It's only a Theory: Some Common Creationist Arguments," presented by Susan Cogan author of "The Pocket Darwin."
Sponsored by the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
For more information contact: Susan Cogan, email@example.com, 405 226-9712
Omaha, Nebraska: February 10, at 7:30 pm at the The Antiquarium Gallery, 1215 Harney St.
Charles Austerberry, PhD, will speak on "What Darwin Didn't Know: How Mutations Can Increase Complexity and Diversity." Chuck is a member of Creighton University's Biology Dept, and a co-founder of the Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education.
Sponsored by: R.E.A.S.O.N. Rationalists, Empiricists And Skeptics Of Nebraska
For more information contact: Jim Bechtel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 402 556 8312
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Stealth attacks on evolution in Kansas reported in Time
Read the whole article here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1019856,00.html
Kansas Citizens for Science www.kcfs.org board member Dr. Keith Miller will participate in two upcoming events:
- Evolution Panel: sponsored by the Kansas Geological Society featuring Alfred James III, of the Kansas Geological Society, Dr. Keith Miller of the Department of Geology at Kansas State, and Dr. Peer Moor-Jansen of the Departmemt of Anthropology, at Wichita State University. The event will be held Thursday, February 10 at 12:30 pm in the BankAmerica Bldg, corner of Broadway and Douglas in downtown Wichita.
Darwin Days at Eastern Illinois University
- An Evolving Creation: No Oxymoron: A visiting scholar presentation by Dr. Keith Miller in Lumpkin Hall, Roberson Auditorium (Room 2030) on Wednesday, February 9, at 7:00 PM on the Eastern Illinois University Campus, 600 Lincoln Avenue, Charleston, IL 61920-3099, 217-581-5000
- Darwin, Common Descent, and the Fossil Record: A visiting scholar presentation by Dr. Keith Miller, on Thursday, February 10 in the Physical Science Building, Room 3120 at 10:00 AM on the Eastern Illinois University Campus, 600 Lincoln Avenue, Charleston, IL 61920-3099, 217-581-5000
Check here for the complete EIU Darwin Day program: http://www.eiu.edu/~biology/news/darwin_day_2005.htm
Darwin Day, February 12th, is the birthday of Charles Darwin who was born in the 1809, in Shrewsbury, England. People from all over the world will honor the life, work and influence of Charles Darwin with events and activities that celebrate science and our shared humanity during the month of February.
New fossils help scientists piece together the earliest chapters of human evolution
The fossils were unearthed from the Gona Study Area at As Duma in Ethiopia's Afar region and are dated to between 4.3 and 4.5 million years ago.
The research team said the fossils were of the Ardipithecus ramidus species. This hominid species lived shortly after hominids split from the common ancestor that gave rise to both chimpanzees and hominids some six to eight million years ago. " Read the whole article here:http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/01/0121_050121_hominid.html
Monday, January 24, 2005
What's at stake
On Dec. 7, the 26-member science writing committee -- appointed last May by the Kansas State Board of Education submitted Draft 1 of the proposed 2005 Science Standards.
Then, on Dec. 10, an eight-member minority of the science standards committee led by William Harris submitted recommendations for for further revision of the draft standards which they say claim, in a letter to the board, "presents a purely naturalistic perspective on a question (“Where did we come from?”), the answer to which has profound implications for ethics, religion and government. This restriction is assumed to be a means of keeping public science education free from religion. However, “religion” includes both theistic and non-theistic beliefs. The naturalistic view that physical and chemical laws plus chance are adequate to explain all natural phenomena supports non-theistic religions and belief systems, while the competing view, that some form of intelligence may be involved, supports traditional theistic beliefs.
Here are excerpts from their proposed revisions
"Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena. Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. Science does so through the use of observation, experimentation, and logical argument while maintaining strict empirical standards and healthy skepticism." (Words highlighted in blue are maked for deletion in the revised draft submitted by minority -- all supporters of Intelligent Design Theory)
They go on to explain that:
"The principle change here is to replace a naturalistic definition of science with a traditional definition. The current definition of science is intended to reflect a concept called methodological naturalism, which irrefutably assumes that cause-and-effect laws (as of physics and chemistry) are adequate to account for all phenomena and that teleological or design conceptions of nature are invalid."
What's all the fuss about? Well, all they want to do is take the science out of science classes. If you read their revisions carefully, you'll see that they don't just want an alternative (teleological) explanation for evolution taught in biology. They now challenge the naturalistic explanation for what happens when students add aqueous ammonia to a beaker containing a few drops of aqueous copper sulfate in chemistry class. Maybe, it wasn't the chemical properties that turned the solution blue, maybe it was God or some unknown designer. The danger is that while they didn't win over many members of the science standards writing committee, who, by and large, are scientists and educators, they do have a majority on the board.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
The Times weighs in...
"Before installing intelligent design in the already jam-packed science curriculum, school boards and citizens need to be aware that it is not a recognized field of science. There is no body of research to support its claims nor even a real plan to conduct such research. In 2002, more than a decade after the movement began, a pioneer of intelligent design lamented that the movement had many sympathizers but few research workers, no biology texts and no sustained curriculum to offer educators. Another leading expositor told a Christian magazine last year that the field had no theory of biological design to guide research, just "a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions." If evolution is derided as "only a theory," intelligent design needs to be recognized as "not even a theory" or "not yet a theory." It should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative to one of the crowning theories of modern science. "
A must-read: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/23/opinion/23sun1.html?ex=1107496361&ei=1&en=d99a8172fb1d004f
Changing the subject
Hey, wait a minute, isn't that intellectual dishonesty? How can it be science, then?
Intelligent Design Theory:What if it was a party invitation?
*Just turn left at that big ol' apple tree
Listen to the whole essay here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4458516
Here's another reason why thoughtful people of all political stripes and religious beliefs should be concerned:
"We who were born at the end of the Weimar Republic and who witnessed the rise of National Socialism—left with that all-consuming, complex question: how could this horror have seized a nation and corrupted so much of Europe? ...
"Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."
Acceptance speech delivered by Fritz Stern, a refugee from Hitler's Germany and a scholar of European history, who has devoted a lifetime to analyzing how the Nazi barbarity became possible, upon receiving the Leo Baeck Medal at the 10th Annual Dinner of the Leo Baeck Institute, No.v. 14, 2004.
You can read the whole speech here: http://www.lbi.org/fritzstern.html
Saturday, January 22, 2005
- All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy -- National Book Award, 1992
- Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver -- PEN fiction prize and Edward Abbey Ecofiction Award, 1991
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin -- The 1899 classic
- The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver --American Library Association, 1988
- Beloved, Toni Morrison -- Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved, Toni Morrison won the National Book Awards NBF Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Black Boy, Richard Wright -- Named among the top 25 non-fiction works of the century
- Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Meyers -- Coretta Scott King Author Book Award, 1988
- Hot Zone, Richard Preston -- 42 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou -- Nominated for a National Book Award, 1970
- Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy -- Conroy won a humanitarian award from the National Education Association for The Water is Wide, 1972
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey -- made into an Academy Award-winning movie
- Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison -- National Book Critics Circle Award, 1977
- Stotan, Chris Crutcher -- Best Books for Young Adult Readers American Library Association, 1986; Best of the Best in Young Adult Literature, School Library Journal
- This Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff -- From a PEN/Faulkner award winner
This link http://www.bluevalleyk12.org/Contacts.cfm will take you to a Blue Valley schools web page where you can send e-mail opposed to banning books to Superintendant Tom Trigg and Board of Education members.
Public hearings on Kansas Science Standards
Feb. 1 - Kansas City, Kansas
Schlagle High School Auditorium
2214 N. 59th St.
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Feb. 8 - Topeka
Kansas State Department of Education Board Room
120 SE 10th St.
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Feb. 10- Derby
Derby Middle School Cafeteria
801 E. Madison
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Feb. 15 - Hays
Hays High School Lecture Hall
2300 E. 13th St.
7:00 – 8:30 pm
A draft of the revised science curricular standards is available on the Kansas State Department of Education web site at www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestd.html.
Follow the money
- John Bacon (District 3) -- $1,000.00
- Connie Morris (District 5) -- $1,500.00
- Kathy Martin (District 6) -- $1,000.00
- Kenneth Willard (District 7) -- $2,000.00
- Iris Van Meter (District 9)-- $1,800.00
- Steve Abrams (District 10) -- $1,500.00
Many of these candidates also report large contributions from the Kansas Republican Assembly, John Calvert, of the Intelligent Design Network, as well as top FAIR contributors, Dennis Marten, Harold Hutcheson,and Lloyd and Nancy Hanahan.