A Tale of Two "Theories"

Common definition of 'theory': an unproved assumption: conjecture; abstract thought: speculation

Scientific definition of 'theory': mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation.

It's amazing! The difference between the two 'theory's. Almost like there needs to be another word to describe the Scientific Definition of Theory. But, there is not; since there is no alternative word today, there are factions of people who spin one definition of the word to the other definition of the word.
We've all heard. The main reason for the justification of 'Intelligent Design' is, "Evolution Theory is just a theory; it is not fact; we offer another 'theory' that should be taught alongside evolution to give THE CHILDREN another option."

Let's break down the theories, shall we. First, let's see what Scientific Theories are out there. For Example: Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation, Faraday's Law of Induction, Bernoulli's Equation, the Equivalence of Mass and Energy (E=MC^2).

Now, COMMON THEORIES: the Magic Bullet Theory, Jimmy Hoffa Buried Under the Meadowlands Theory, The Jesus Theory (The Priory of Zion), Princess Diana 'Murdered' Theory, Intelligent Design Theory, The Roswell Cover Up Theory.

There's a difference. One set of theories are tested over and over again; not to prove that the theory is correct, but to DISPROVE the theory. That is the point of Scientific Theories: to disprove the theory. Truth is the main goal with this type of theory. If an observation or experiment goes against the theory, the theory will be revise and re-tested. If the revised theory is tested and succeeds in prediction of the result, then that theory holds.

The other COMMON THEORY: a guess; based on NO SCIENTIFIC DATA (just like a Bush Administration Report). Hearsay. 'Just Throw Something At It And See If It Sticks'.

Gravitation Theory is a pretty accepted Theory. Einstein wasn't a 'kook'. Aircraft lifts according to Bernoulli, and Darwin's explanation of our origination is spot-on accurate (of course, new evidence could change the theory, just like any other theory; new methods could bring about a new way to look at data).

An old example of Common Theory: the Earth is FLAT. Remember back in the early 1500's? Nicolaus Copernicus introduced the idea of the Earth being round and the Sun Does NOT rotate around the Earth. That upset Christians. The good book said it wasn't true. The good book said the Earth was flat. But faced with the overwhelmingly mounting body of evidence to prove the Earth was round, what did the Church do? They labeled him a heretic. Who followed him? Galileo Galilei. What happened? He was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for "following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture".

Copernicus' ideas was spreading around 1520. How long did it take the Church to finally remove any prohibitions of heliocentrism? 1835!!!! It only took 300 years for the Church to admit that the FLAT EARTH was wrong. That gives me hope.

But we are in a different day and age. Now, America has to deal with a small, but very loud minority of Religious Fundamentalists whose only goal is to resort every citizen of this free nation to follow the beliefs of that one specific sect. Whenever Evolution is brought up in public school curriculum discussion (which it should be brought up since it is as close to fact as can be). But some kid's parent (who probably home-schooled the kid with more religious education per day than any other subject) would be 'offended' by the truth and they would tell a fellow follower, who would then tell another, then 'Viola'! A packed School Board of angry Fundamentalists demanding the removal of scientific fact. And, as the previous articles I placed on the blog states clearly, teachers and board members are pressured to not offend those who don't believe in those scientific facts.

The real problem is that most Christians have the capacity to agree with the science, but follow the Religion.

From the Times of India-

VATICAN CITY: A Vatican cardinal has said the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992 declaration that the church's 17th century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the centre of the universe.

"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future," Poupard said.

But he said science, too, should listen to religion. "We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: The atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said.

"But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said. "The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."

Religion has done more to help people than any other organization ever. Religion has also BEEN RESPONSIBLE for more pain, war, destruction, and evil that any other organization. Books like the Bible are open to the reader: You will get what you want to see. I see it as a collection of stories that was a rudimentary set of laws and morals for past civilizations to follow (either to keep the people in order or for the powerful to control the people). Back then, simple stories don't keep the people following. You need to add Power. Power that no man can possess. Power that is so powerful, you should be in fear of repercussion if you do anything wrong. Welcome to the Bible. Follow what the Bible means, not what it says.

And don't use a book that was written 2 millennium ago by people who worshiped sheep (in more ways than one) to define our CURRENT DAY SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES. We are too advanced scientifically to resort to superstitions and bed-time stories to tell us how to behave and learn.
Read more!


Muslims and Christians Working Together....

Destroying Science

BBC News
Teachers 'fear evolution lessons'
The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London's Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

This could leave pupils with gaps in their scientific knowledge, he says.

Prof Reiss says the rise of creationism is partly down to the large increase in Muslim pupils in UK schools. He said: "The number of Muslim students has grown considerably in the last 10 to 20 years and a higher proportion of Muslim families do not accept evolutionary theory compared with Christian families.

"That's one reason why it's more of an issue in schools."

Prof Reiss estimates that one in 10 people in the UK now believes in literal interpretations of religious creation stories - whether they are based on the Bible or the Koran.

Many more teachers he met at scientific meetings were telling him they encountered more pupils with creationist views, he said.

"The days have long gone when science teachers could ignore creationism when teaching about origins."

Instead, teachers should tackle the issue head-on, whilst trying not to alienate students, he argues in a new book.

'Not equally valid'

"By not dismissing their beliefs, we can ensure that these students learn what evolutionary theory really says - and give everyone the understanding to respect the views of others," he added.

His book; Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism, gives science teachers advice on how to deal with the "dilemma".

He supports new government guidelines which say creationism should not be discussed in science classes unless it is raised by pupils.

But Prof Reiss argues that there is an educational value in comparing creationist ideas with scientific theories like Darwin's theory of evolution because they demonstrate how science, unlike religious beliefs, can be tested.

The scientist, who is also a Church of England priest, adds that any teaching should not give the impression that creationism and the theory of evolution are equally valid scientifically.

Dr Hilary Leevers, of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said science teachers would be teaching evolution not creationism and so should not need a book to tell them how to "delicately handle controversy between a scientific theory and a belief".

"The author suggests that science teachers cannot ignore creationism when teaching origins, but the opposite is true," she said.

Teachers could discuss how creationism differed from scientific theory if a student brought up the subject, but any further discussion should occur in religious education lessons, she said.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said it had recently published guidelines to teachers on the issue.

"Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories nor testable as scientific fact - and have no place in the science curriculum. "But we advise science teachers that when questions about creationism come up in lessons, it provides an opportunity to explain or explore what makes a scientific theory."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/04 23:28:30 GMT
Read more!

Well, At Least We Beat Turkey...

And I don't mean Thanksgiving. What we should be thankful for is the overwhelmingly acceptance of Evolution all over the globe. The subject matter is real difficult to understand; even some American school science teachers can't grasp the idea well enough to properly convey the message to children. After the jump will be a chart from a study of 34 countries who scientists asked the population "whether they thought the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” was true, false, or if they were unsure.

A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

Among the factors contributing to America's low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.

Source: Science
Read more!

Our Government At Work

Nice to see religion being separated from our government. Warren Chisum, Representative from TEXAS, is attempting to discredit the Theory of Evolution (you know, the Scientific Theory proven over and over again for 150 years). Not only is fringe Religious Extremists groups are pushing for discrediting Evolution, but Congressman (who are supposed to work only with OUR Constitution) are working to turn science back to the Dark Ages. Here are memos written by Mr. Chisum stating his purpose. Notice that he blames the Jews for Evolution.

Read more!

The Silencing of Science Teachers

The New York Times
February 1, 2005
Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes

Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.

"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."

Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology classes, stories like the one Dr. Frandsen tells are more common.

In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.

Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.

"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.

Dr. Frandsen, former chairman of the committee on science and public policy of the Alabama Academy of Science, said in an interview that this fear made it impossible to say precisely how many teachers avoid the topic.

"You're not going to hear about it," he said. "And for political reasons nobody will do a survey among randomly selected public school children and parents to ask just what is being taught in science classes."

But he said he believed the practice of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many people adhere to fundamentalist faiths.

"You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over," Dr. Frandsen said.

Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she heard "all the time" from teachers who did not teach evolution "because it's just too much trouble."

"Or their principals tell them, 'We just don't have time to teach everything so let's leave out the things that will cause us problems,' " she said.

Sometimes, Dr. Scott said, parents will ask that their children be allowed to "opt out" of any discussion of evolution and principals lean on teachers to agree.

Even where evolution is taught, teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, said that evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it. But he avoids controversy, he said, by teaching it not as "a unit," but by introducing the concept here and there throughout the year. "I put out my little bits and pieces wherever I can," he said.

He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent."

"I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."

In this, he is typical of many science teachers, according to a report by the Fordham Foundation, which studies educational issues and backs programs like charter schools and vouchers.

Some teachers avoid the subject altogether, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a physicist and historian of science, wrote in the report. Others give it very short shrift or discuss it without using "the E word," relying instead on what Dr. Lerner characterized as incorrect or misleading phrases, like "change over time."

Dr. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist who heads the National Science Teachers Association, said many members of his organization "fly under the radar" of fundamentalists by introducing evolution as controversial, which scientifically it is not, or by noting that many people do not accept it, caveats not normally offered for other parts of the science curriculum.

Dr. Wheeler said the science teachers' organization hears "constantly" from science teachers who want the organization's backing. "What they are asking for is 'Can you support me?' " he said, and the help they seek "is more political; it's not pedagogical."

There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science. But in a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.

These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent rejecting it and the rest undecided.

In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.

"In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.

Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.

Dr. Gerald D. Skoog, a former dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University and a former president of the science teachers' organization, said that in some classrooms, the teaching of evolution was hampered by the beliefs of the teachers themselves, who are creationists or supporters of the teaching of creationism.

"Data from various studies in various states over an extended period of time indicate that about one-third of biology teachers support the teaching of creationism or 'intelligent design,' " Dr. Skoog said.

Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. Skoog said.

Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."

While plenty of scientists reject religion - the eminent evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it to a disease - many others do not. In fact, when a researcher from the University of Georgia surveyed scientists' attitudes toward religion several years ago, he found their positions virtually unchanged from an identical survey in the early years of the 20th century. About 40 percent of scientists said not just that they believed in God, but in a God who communicates with people and to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious groups in the United States led to competition for congregants. This marketplace environment, he said, contributes to the politicization of issues like evolution among religious groups.

He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."

But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.

"They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about this."
Read more!


Anyone Know The First Amendment? Anyone?

Is Evolution Arkansas's "Hidden" Curriculum
by Jason Wiles

Originally published in RNCSE 25 (1-2): 32-36. The version on the web might differ slightly from the print publication.

As I was working on a proposal for a project at the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in MontrĂ©al, I received an e-mail from an old friend back in Arkansas, where I was raised, whom I had known since high school. She was concerned about a problem her father was having at work. “Bob” is a geologist and a teacher at a science education institution that services several Arkansas public school districts. My friend did not know the details of Bob’s problem, only that it had to do with evolution. This was enough to arouse my interest, so I invited Bob to tell me about what was going on.

He responded with an e-mail describing the scenario. Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the “e-word” with the kids. They are permitted to use the word “adaptation” but only to refer to a current characteristic of organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term “natural selection”. Bob fears, and I agree with him, that not being able to use evolutionary terms and ideas to answer his students’ questions will lead to reinforcement of their misconceptions.

But Bob’s personal issue is more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, “I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these Ordovician rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.” As a person with a geology background, Bob found this restriction a bit hard to justify, especially since the new Arkansas educational benchmarks for 5th grade include introduction of the concept of the 4.5-billion–year age of the earth. Bob’s facility is supposed to be meeting or exceeding those benchmarks.

The explanation that had been given to Bob by his supervisors was that their science facility is in a delicate position and must avoid irritating religionists who may have their fingers on the purse strings of various school districts. Apparently his supervisors feared that teachers or parents might be offended if Bob taught their children about the age of rocks and that it would result in another school district pulling out of their program. He closed his explanatory message with these lines:

So my situation here is tenuous. I am under censure for mentioning numbers … I find that my “fire” for this place is fading if we’re going to dissemble about such a basic factor of modern science. I mean ... the Scopes trial was how long ago now??? I thought we had fought this battle ... and still it goes on.

I immediately referred Bob to the people at the NCSE. He wrote to them explaining the situation, and they responded with excellent advice and support. Bob was able to use their suggestions along with some of the position statements found in the NCSE’s Voices for Evolution in defense of his continued push to teach the science he felt he was obligated to present to his students, but his supervisors remained firm in their policy of steering clear of specifically mentioning evolution or “deep time” chronology.

I was going to be in Arkansas in December anyway, so I decided to investigate Bob’s issue in person. He was happy for the support, but even more excited to show me around the facility. Bob is infectiously enthusiastic about nature and science education. He is just the kind of person we want to see working with students in this type of setting. He had arranged for me to meet with the directors of the facility, but he wanted to give me a guided tour of the place first.

Self-censorship in defense of science?

I would like to describe the grounds of the facility in more detail, but I must honor the request of all parties involved to not be identified. It was, however, a beautiful setting, and the students, 5th graders that day, seemed more engaged in their learning than most I had ever seen. To be sure, the facility does a fantastic job of teaching science, but I was there to find out about what it was not teaching. Bob and I toured the grounds for quite some time, including a hike to a new cave he had recently discovered nearby, and when we returned I was shown to my interview with the program director and executive director.

Both of the directors welcomed me warmly and were very forthcoming in their answers to my questions. They were, however, quite firm in their insistence that they and their facility be kept strictly anonymous if I was to write this story up. We talked for over an hour about the site’s mission, their classes, and Bob’s situation specifically. Both directors agreed that “in a perfect world” they could, and would, teach evolution and deep time. However, back in the real world, they defended their stance on the prohibition of the “e-word”, reasoning that it would take too long to teach the concept of evolution effectively (especially if they had to defuse any objections) and expressing concern for the well-being of their facility. Their program depends upon public support and continued patronage of the region’s school districts, which they felt could be threatened by any political blowback from an unwanted evolutionary controversy.

With regard to Bob’s geologic time scale issue, the program director likened it to a game of Russian roulette. He admitted that probably very few students would have a real problem with a discussion about time on the order of millions of years, but that it might only take one child’s parents to cause major problems. He spun a scenario of a student’s returning home with stories beginning with “Millions of years ago …” that could set a fundamentalist parent on a veritable witch hunt, first gathering support of like-minded parents and then showing up at school-board meetings until the district pulled out of the science program to avoid conflict. He added that this might cause a ripple effect on other districts following suit, leading to the demise of the program.

Essentially, they are not allowing Bob to teach a certain set of scientific data in order to protect their ability to provide students the good science curriculum they do teach. The directors are not alone in their opinion that discussions of deep time and the “e-word” could be detrimental to the program’s existence. They have polled teachers in the districts they serve and have heard from them more than enough times that teaching evolution would be “political suicide”.

Bob’s last communication indicated that he had signed up with NCSE and was leaning towards the “grin and bear it” option, which, given his position and the position of the institution, may be the best option. I was a bit disheartened by the situation, but still impressed with all the good that is going on at Bob’s facility. I was also curious about the climate regarding evolution in other educational facilities in the state, so, I decided to ask some questions where I could.

The first place I happened to find, purely by accident, was a privately run science museum for kids. As with Bob’s facility, the museum requested not to be referred to by name. I was only there for a short time, but I’m not quite sure what to make of what happened there. I looked around the museum and found a few biological exhibits, but nothing dealing with evolution. I introduced myself to one of the museum’s employees as a science educator (I am indeed a science educator) and asked her if they had any exhibits on evolution. She said that they used to at one time, but that several parents — some of whom home-schooled their children; some of whom are associated with Christian schools — had been offended by the exhibit and complained. They had said either that they would not be back until it was removed or that they would not be using that part of the museum if they returned. “It was right over there,” she said, pointing to an area that was being used at that time for a kind of holiday display.

Because I had happened upon the place by accident, I had not made room in my schedule for a longer exploratory visit. I did call the museum at a later date to find out more about the removal of the evolution exhibit. After calling several times and leaving a few messages, I finally reached someone who explained that the exhibit had not been removed due to complaints, although people had in fact objected to the display. Rather, it had been taken down to make room for their merger with another science education institution. I am not speculating here, only reporting information that I was given, but when I asked when the newly partnered institution planned on moving in, I was told that the grant for the new space had not yet been written. It could be quite some time.

Later that evening, I had a visit with the coordinator of gifted and talented (GT) education at one of Arkansas’s larger public school districts. As before, she has requested that she and her school system be kept anonymous, so I will call her “Susan”. Susan told me about a situation she had been trying to decide how to deal with. She had overheard a teacher explaining the “balanced treatment” given to creationism in her classroom. This was not just any classroom, but an Advanced Placement Biology classroom. This was important to Susan, not only because of the subject and level of the class, but also because it fell under her supervision as part of the GT program. Was she obliged to do something about this? She knew quite well that the “balanced treatment” being taught had been found by a federal court to violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause — perhaps there is no greater irony than that two of the most significant cases decided by federal courts against teaching creationism were Epperson v Arkansas and McLean v Arkansas Board of Education. She is quite knowledgeable, and her husband is a lawyer who has written about the Edwards v Aguillard evolution case. She also knew that this was unsound pedagogy, but dealing with the issue is not easy in Arkansas.

Susan sincerely wanted to do something about it, but in the end, she had decided to let it go. Her reasoning was that this particular teacher is probably in her final year of service. To Susan, making an issue out of this just was not worth the strife it would have caused in the school and in the community when it would soon be taken care via retirement.

As the discussion progressed that evening, I learned that omission was the method of dealing with evolution in another of Arkansas’s largest, most quickly growing, and wealthiest school districts — an omission that is apparently strongly suggested by the administration. I decided to check on this, but made little progress, receiving the cold shoulder from the administration and the science department at that school. However, I spoke with a person who works for a private science education facility that does contract work for this district: “Helen” — she, like the other people I had visited, requested that she and her employers not be identified. I asked Helen about her experiences with the district’s teachers. Her story was that in preparation for teaching the students from that district, she had asked some of the teachers how they approached the state benchmarks for those items dealing with evolution. She said, “Oh, I later got in trouble for even asking,” but went on to describe their answers. Most teachers said that they did not know enough about evolution to teach it themselves, but one of them, after looking around to make sure they were safely out of anyone’s earshot, explained that the teachers are told by school administrators that it would be “good for their careers” not to mention such topics in their classes.

Inadequate science education

How often does this kind of thing happen? How many teachers are deleting the most fundamental principle of the biological sciences from their classes due to school and community pressure or due to lack of knowledge? How many are disregarding Supreme Court decisions and state curriculum guidelines? These are good questions, and I have been given relevant data from a person currently working in Arkansas. I was introduced to this person, who has clearly expressed his wishes to be kept anonymous (are you noticing a pattern here?), through the NCSE. I will call this science educator “Randy”. When I began looking into Arkansas’s evolution education situation, the NCSE sent me Randy’s contact information.

Randy runs professional development science education workshops for public school teachers. He’s been doing it for a while now, and he has been taking information on the teachers in his workshops via a survey. He had a bit of data that he was not sure what do with while maintaining his anonymity, but he shared it with me. He later posted the same results on an e-mail list-serve for people interested in evolution education in Arkansas, but this is the way it was reported to me.

According to his survey, about 20% are trying to teach evolution and think they are doing a good job; 10% are teaching creationism, even though during the workshop he discusses the legally shaky ground on which they stand. Another 20% attempt to teach something but feel they just do not understand evolution. The remaining 50% avoid it because of community pressure. On the list-serve Randy reported that the latter 50% do not cover evolution because they felt intimidated, saw no need to teach it, or might lose their jobs.

Apparently, by their own description of their classroom practices, 80% of these teachers are not adequately teaching evolutionary science. Remember that these are just the teachers who are in a professional development workshop in science education! What is more disturbing is what Randy went on to say about the aftermath of these workshops. “After one of my workshops at an [state] education cooperative, it was asked that I not come back because I spent too much time on evolution. One of the teachers sent a letter to the governor stating that I was mandating that teachers had to teach evolution, and that I have to be an atheist, and would he do something.”

Of course the dichotomy of “you’re either an anti-evolutionist or you’re an atheist” is a false one. Many scientists who understand and accept evolution are also quite religious, and many people of faith also understand and accept evolution. But here is a public school teacher appealing to the governor to “do something” about this guy teaching us to teach evolution. Given that evolutionary science is prescribed in the state curriculum guidelines, and given that two of the most important legal cases regarding evolution education originated in Arkansas and Edwards v Aguillard originated in Louisiana directly to the south (all of these cases resulted in support of evolution education and restriction of creationist teachings in public schools), how exactly would we expect the governor to respond? I am not sure how or even whether Governor Mike Huckabee responded to this letter, but I have seen him respond to concerned Arkansas high-school students regarding evolution in the schools on television.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network produces a program called “Arkansans Ask” on which the state’s citizens confront the governor about various issues affecting the region. I’ve seen two episodes on which students have expressed their frustration about the lack of evolution education in their public schools. These students obviously care about their science education, and for two years running Huckabee has responded to them by advocating that creationism be taught in their schools. Here is an excerpt from one of these broadcasts, from July 2004:

Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?
Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?
Student (stunned): No, of evol … well, of evolution specifically. It’s a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.
Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you … ?
Student: Yes.
Huckabee: I’m not familiar that they’re dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.

Governor Huckabee’s answer has several problems and is laced with some very important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on one of the most basic of American values: Huckabee appeals to our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy and violates the Establishment Clause.

Furthermore, Huckabee claimed not to be aware of the omission of evolution from Arkansan classrooms. From my limited visit, it is clear that this omission is widespread and no secret; but it is even harder to understand the governor’s apparent ignorance about the situation in July 2004, when another student called in with similar concerns almost exactly one year earlier on the July 2003 broadcast of “Arkansans Ask”:

Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met … have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?
Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism … .

The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:

Moderator (to student): You’ve encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?
Student: Yes, I’ve found that quite a few people’s high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they’re a bit afraid of the controversy.
Huckabee: I think it’s something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I’m afraid that somebody might find out what it is …

Sisyphean Challenges

How are teachers like “Bob”, administrators like “Susan”, and teacher trainers like “Randy” supposed to ensure proper science education regarding evolution in accordance with state standards and within the bounds of case law and the Constitution if politicians like Huckabee consistently support and advocate the teaching of non-science and pseudoscience that flies in the face of sound pedagogy and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause?

It is quite telling that none of the people I spoke with were willing to be identified or to allow me to reveal their respective institutions. In the case of “Bob” and his facility’s directors, they were concerned about criticism from both sides of the issue. They did not want to lose students by offending fundamentalists or lose credibility in the eyes of the scientific community for omitting evolution. “Susan” has been trying to avoid a rift in her district, so identifying her school is out of the question. “Randy” believes that much of the good that he does is at least partly because of his “behind- the-scenes” activity and that he “may do the cause more good by not standing out.”

Some people might assume that the evolution education problems of Arkansas and its governor end at its border. In fact they do not, but I think that we seldom realize the wider influence our local politicians might have. For instance, the Educational Commission of the States is an important and powerful organization that shapes educational policy in all 50 states. Forty state governors have served as the chair of the ECS, and the current chair is — you guessed it —Governor Huckabee of Arkansas.

Because anti-evolutionists have been quite successful in placing members of their ranks and sympathizers in local legislatures and school boards, it is imperative that we point out the danger that these people pose to adequate science education. Although each school, each museum, or each science center may seem to be an isolated case, answering to — and, perhaps trying to keep peace with — its local constituency, the larger view shows that evolution is being squeezed out of education systematically and broadly. Anti-evolutionists have been successful by keeping the struggle focused on the local level and obscuring the larger agenda, but the educational fallout is widespread ignorance of the tools and methods of the sciences for generations to come. The scientific literacy of our future leaders may very well depend on it.
Read more!

Father, Son, Holy Ghost? More Like...

Guns, Germs, and Steel. That was the three biggest things that have shaped our civilization. Our species (just like any animal) was molded and shaped by our environment. How did we form huge cities when we started out as nomadic hunter-gatherers? We adapted. About 11,000 years ago, the 'Fertile Crescent' underwent an environmental change. The area became colder and more arid. Food became scarce. We went from traveling in small packs and hunting wild game to setting up small settlements, cultivating crops, and domesticating livestock for milk, work, clothing, and food.

Humans striven under those conditions. Once the land was over-worked till production went down (about 9,000 years ago) the earliest known farmers went nomadic again. There the principle of farming and domestication spread to other parts of the globe.

Humans adapted over time to fine tune the cultivating process. They were able to support a much larger population; and, in turn, less people were needed for maintaining the crops and with the advent of storage methods, wheat and barley was able to be stored for later use. That gave way for specialized professions since not everyone was needed just to find the food. That also gave way for FREE-THINKERS to invent new tools and also mix iron and copper to create the first steel tools.

The Spanish Conquistadors spread destruction all over the New World. All for the attainment of Gold and Silver. Not only did they have guns and steel (the finest swords on earth), they also brought with them a hidden weapon, one they didn't know they have: Smallpox. Through adaptation, Europeans (over many centuries) developed a resistance to the Smallpox germ. Over many years, Smallpox decimated Europe; those who survived happened to have a genetic mutation that fought off the germ better than others (Darwin's Theory at it's best). Those who didn't have the protection died; those who had the protection survived and mated with other survivors. Their offspring then had the same protection, thus, eliminating the ill-effects of Smallpox.

The people of Inca's and Aztec's never was exposed to viruses like Smallpox. Why? because Incas and Aztecs never had such a close relationship with livestock as the Europeans had. Most of humans most violent germs were spawned from the close contatct with livestock like pigs, sheep and cows. There were none of those animals in Central America, and the animals that was used by them were not as revered and protected as the sheep and pig in Europe (they never slept alongside their animals)

At the end it is suggested of 20 million humans died from the spread of Smallpox in the America's. And once Europeans spread to Africa and destroyed that continent, the spread of guns, germs, and steel was complete. The adaptation and evolution of human man; brought up to a point of intellectual and scientific advancement that nobody thought we'd be at even twenty years ago. But now some factions want to take us back to those proverbial nomadic hunter-gatherer days.

The term "intelligent design" came into use after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 case of Edwards v. Aguillard that to require the teaching of "creation science" alongside evolution was a violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits state aid to religion. In the Edwards case, the Supreme Court had also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction." In drafts of the creation science textbook Of Pandas and People, almost all derivatives of the word "creation", such as "creationism", were replaced with the words "intelligent design". The book was published in 1989, followed by a "grass-roots" campaign promoting the use of the book to teach intelligent design in high-school biology classes.

The same Supreme Court ruling prompted the retired legal scholar Phillip E. Johnson, in his 1991 book Darwin on Trial, to advocate redefining science to allow claims of supernatural creation. A group including Michael Behe, Stephen C. Meyer and William Dembski joined Johnson in aiming to overturn the methodological naturalism of the scientific method (which he describes as "materialism") and replace it with "theistic realism" through what they later called the "wedge strategy". Behe contributed to the 1993 revision of Of Pandas and People, setting out the ideas he later called "irreducible complexity". In 1994 Meyer made contact with the Discovery Institute, and in the following year they obtained funding to set up the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture to promote the intelligent design movement seeking public and political support for teaching "intelligent design" as a creation-based alternative to evolution, particularly in the United States.

Intelligent design is presented as an alternative to natural explanations for the origin and diversity of life. It stands in opposition to conventional biological science, which relies on the scientific method to explain life through observable processes such as mutation and natural selection. The stated purpose of intelligent design is to investigate whether or not existing empirical evidence implies that life on Earth must have been designed by an intelligent agent or agents. William A. Dembski, one of intelligent design's leading proponents, has said that the fundamental claim of intelligent design is that "there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence." In the leaked Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document, however, the supporters of the movement were told, "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. 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."

Proponents of intelligent design look for evidence of what they term "signs of intelligence": physical properties of an object that point to a designer (see: teleological argument). For example, intelligent design proponents argue that an archaeologist who finds a statue made of stone in a field may justifiably conclude that the statue was designed, and may reasonably seek to identify its designer. The archaeologist would not, however, be justified in making the same claim based on an irregularly shaped boulder of the same size. Design proponents argue that living systems show great complexity, from which they infer that some aspects of life have been designed.

Intelligent design proponents say that although evidence pointing to the nature of an "intelligent cause or agent" may not be directly observable, its effects on nature can be detected. Dembski, in Signs of Intelligence, states: "Proponents of intelligent design regard it as a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes ... not intelligent causes per se." In his view, one cannot test for the identity of influences exterior to a closed system from within, so questions concerning the identity of a designer fall outside the realm of the concept. In the 20 years since Intelligent Design was first formulated, no rigorous test that can identify these effects has yet been proposed. No articles supporting intelligent design have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, nor has intelligent design been the subject of scientific research or testing.

How can Intelligent design be a scientific process if, by the CREATOR'S own acknowledgment, it CANNOT be tested. Almost like you have to have a BLIND FAITH in a 'science'?
Read more!