Monday, June 13, 2005

Kansas Bans Theories (in the Jocular Sense)

This was just one of those dumb things that people forward to you in your email. It's just s-o-o-o close to being believable, though, that you've gotta jump back and think about it.

As the person who sent it to me wrote, in big red letters at the top: THIS IS A JOKE. I wanted to clarify that, since it isn't too far off base.
Kansas Board of Ed Bans All Theories From Classroom
The Kansas Board of Education has determined that every element of the school curriculum based on anything called a theory should be re-evaluated and that alternative views should be presented.

"Our recent inquiries into the biology curriculum and the role of the so-called theory of evolution have made it abundantly clear that "science" is full of theories," said board member Kathy Martin. "We've heard compelling evidence to suggest that evolution does not deserve a place in our classrooms, and I think we owe it to the children of Kansas to make sure that other questionable theories don't slide in under the radar."

The Board's four-day hearings on the teaching of evolution, held in early May, ended in acrimony as mainstream scientists accused the Board of attempting to sneak creationist views into the science curriculum under the guise of "intelligent design." Scientists say this is a form of creationism veiled in pseudoscientific jargon to appear more palatable as an alternative to the widely accepted theory of evolution.

While many observers anticipated that the Kansas hearings would end favorably for intelligent design proponents - since several members of the Kansas Board of Education stated prior to the hearings that they did not accept the theory of evolution - many were surprised at the sweeping scope of their recommendations.

"One does wonder what exactly they expect Kansas schoolchildren to study," said Martin Freeman, professor of geology at the University of Kansas. "If the Board's intention was to send a message to the world, they've succeeded. The message is: "Stay Away From Kansas.""

In common usage a theory is often viewed as little more than a guess or a hypothesis. But in science and generally in academic usage, a theory is much more than that. A theory is an established paradigm that explains all or much of the data available.

"By definition, a theory can never be proven true, because we can never assume we know all there is to know," explained Freeman.

"Aha!" shouted Martin. "See? They admit they can't prove any of it! On the other hand, the truth of the Bible is absolute. This can be easily proven, because the Bible says so. Q.E.D., mister scientist. Q.E.D."

Among the theories besides evolution that would be eliminated from the curriculum by the Kansas Board of Education's ruling are the theories of gravity, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, acoustic theory, plate tectonics, algorithmic information theory, computation theory, graph theory, number theory, and probability theory. Critical theory and literary theory would also be banished, effectively removing virtually all books from the curriculum as well.

"Well, that's not really a loss," said Martin. "You see, we figure that if the books agree with the Bible, they are superfluous; if they contradict it, they are dangerous. We are really just doing our job to make schools safe for our children."

"This is obviously some strange use of the word "safe" that I wasn't previously aware of," said Freeman. "Anyone leaving Kansas now? Can I get a lift?"

Look ... it's a joke, OK?


Anonymous Gleeful said...

Or maybe Kansas could go the radical way and label theories AS THEORIES. Whoa! Revolutionary!

No, wait. That's what they did in the first place.

Ah, well. Don't let the facts get in the way of your satire's agenda.

Otherwise you might have to admit that there's no scientific evidence that homosexual behavior is inevitable in some people.

June 13, 2005 5:05 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Washington Post May 19, 2005

She(Michelle Turner) added, "I will admit there could be a possibility" that in rare instances, people are born homosexual -- such as her cousin Steve.

"He's gay, and he's a great guy," she said. "He's a hairdresser. He's very artistic, very good at what he does, men's and women's hair. Fabulous decorator. And I remember playing together when we were young. . . . My brother was always into trucks and guns, knives and swords. . . . Steve was much quieter. He was much happier hanging out with the girls."

Kay R

June 13, 2005 5:23 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Homosexual behavior of course is a choice and not "inevitable," as you say. The scientific consensus is that sexual orientation is not.

June 13, 2005 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Gleeful said...

No, Jimbo. APA's opinion is that homosexual orientation is not a mental disease. There's a difference.

And note that there is no "scientific" proof of their position because you really can't gather much in the way of empirical evidence when it comes to psychology because it's nearly impossible to establish a baseline.

June 14, 2005 9:30 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

Sorry, Gleeful- but from the APA website itself- if you meant the American Psychological Association as opposed to some other APA

Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality

Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?

No, human beings can not choose to be either gay or straight. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed

June 14, 2005 11:17 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

There's nothing at all difficult about establishing a baseline. It would be difficult to conduct an experiment controlling the independent variables and measuring the dependent ones, and so it is impossible to determine cause beyond doubt. A high and reliable correlation between, say, a brain structure and sexual orientation might be taken as evidence of causation, and that would probably satisfy most people, including scientists. And that is not especially hard to establish either, though the prerequisite knowledge and technology are only now becoming available.

Existing studies show chromosomal correlates to homosexuality, neurological differences between gay and straight individuals, and genes that cause reversal of sexual orientation in other species. The human genome was only first mapped a couple of years ago -- it's only a matter of time before the causality of sexual orientation is well understood in those terms.

June 14, 2005 12:36 PM  

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