Monday, July 17, 2006

The Controversy Evolves

We keep a close eye on the evoluation-versus-intelligent-design debate that is playing out in a number of school districts around the nation. Why? Because it's the same debate as our sex-ed controversy. In both cases you have a minority of people whose beliefs conflict with science, and they strongly believe their beliefs should be included in the public school curriculum. For the most part these arguments are religion-based, and it often turns out that the groups who try to effect these changes are well-funded and well-organized.

That means that the rest of us, who blithely walk around thinking that the world can be understood using facts and reason, need to organize as well, and fight back.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has an editorial this morning:
Once again, the State Board of Education is provoking a debate on whether evolution is a controversial scientific theory that should be taught with warnings and disclaimers.

This fight should have been dead and buried in February, when the board voted 11-4 to drop a science standard and lesson plan that called for "critical analysis" of evolution. But a few dogged members still insist on "teaching the controversy" about evolution, even though the controversy has been manufactured by disingenuous people who wish to introduce the supernatural into science classrooms.

At a Monday meeting in Columbus of the board’s Achievement Committee, member Colleen D. Grady proposed that the science standards be changed to guide teachers on how to present controversial topics such as global warming, stem-cell research and, of course, evolution, in science classrooms.

Grady borrowed words and phrases from different parts of the current science standards to create a Frankenstein monster of a standard. It would read:

"Describe that scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretation of data or about the value of rival theories, but they do agree that questioning response to criticism and open communications are integral to the process of science.

"Discuss and be able to apply this in the following areas: global warming; evolutionary theory; emerging technologies and how they may impact society, e.g. cloning or stem-cell research."

Context is important, and the public should see through this ploy. Evolving strategy: State board members failed to sneak in creationism, so they try a new tactic

Yes, this editorial hits on an important feature of the debate. "Teaching the controversy" would be an interesting approach if there were a controversy. But inside the fields mentioned -- global warming, evolutionary theory, etc. -- the controversies are small and inconsequential to the regular high school kid. In evolution, for instance, there may be a controversy about whether punctuated equilibrium better describes evolutionary prgoress, or is change more-or-less even over time? Doesn't matter, unless you're working in the field. The basics of evolution are not a matter of controversy.
The "rival theory," in the case of evolution, is no theory at all, but the untestable religious idea that an intelligent designer must have created every living thing.

Intelligent design is code for the Christian version of creationism.

The Education Department staff will be drawing up a draft for the board’s consideration in September. Why now?

What has changed in Ohio’s schools over the past five months that requires the board to revisit the standards? They are fine.

A good guess might be that, if this issue ends up in court, no one could claim that evolution has been singled out if global warming, cloning and stem-cell research also are listed.

Great, now they think they can win because they're fighting over the entire curriculum, and not just evolution. Classic case of lose the battle, win the war.
There is no debate within the scientific community that evolution occurs; the theory is bolstered constantly, as newly discovered fossils fill in the record.

The scientific community also has concluded that the globe is warming. Only the particulars, such as the conclusions to be drawn from the numbers and what to do about it, are up for debate.

Columbus is an ironic place to be challenging global warming: Ohio State University’s Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosely-Thompson have spent decades documenting the effects on glaciers and the snowcap on Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

As for stem-cell research and cloning, there is no debate about the science involved in these issues. The only debate would be over the morality of these practices, a worthy discussion, but not one appropriate for a class devoted to teaching the scientific method.

These few wily board members are the best possible evidence that evolution exists; their tactics mutate every time the public catches on to what’s happening.

Amen, brothers and sisters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this why JimK thinks whites are better than blacks?

July 17, 2006 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That does it. The old anon did not write that. From now on, I'm Historic Anon (HA).

July 17, 2006 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

‘It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Dr. Mann’s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.’
– Excerpt from Wegman report

July 17, 2006 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Our committee believes that the assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade in a millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year in a millennium cannot be supported by the MBH98/99 analysis. As mentioned earlier in our background section, tree ring proxies are typically calibrated to remove low frequency variations. The cycle of Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age that was widely recognized in 1990 has disappeared from the MBH98/99 analyses, thus making possible the hottest decade/hottest year claim. However, the methodology of MBH98/99 suppresses this low frequency information. The paucity of data in the more remote past makes the hottest-in-a-millennium claims essentially unverifiable.”
-Excerpt from Wegman report

July 17, 2006 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A social network analysis revealed that the small community of paleoclimate researchers appear to review each other’s work, and reuse many of the same data sets, which calls into question the independence of peer-review and temperature reconstructions.

It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications."

This is so eerie. It's just like the APA's political statements about gaiety.

July 17, 2006 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also like when the Piltdown Man was used to prove that evolution was more than a theory. The Mann hockey stick graph will go down in history as one of the great scientific hoaxes of all time.

Poor dumb ole Al Gore! That guy can't get a break!

H. A.

July 17, 2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

I am glad you brought this up Jim.

I was just thinking that I was going to have to go back and reread the last time you posted this and the debates on it.

So, I am reading Ann Coulter's Godless - that should not be a great surprise.

She addresses this subject. Several chapters on it.

Apparently the issue is that the fossil record does not support the theory of evolution. They haven't found any "transitional" fossils - as a matter of fact, all the current fossils of today's animal phyla appear to have all appeared around the same time (in a 5-10 million year period) which is apparently "short" according to evolutionary period. THis is the Cambrian period "revolution".

And though it can be argued that maybe one could have said 20 years ago that the fossil record was not complete, you can't make that argument anymore because the fossil record is much fuller than it used to be, and still no transitional fossils.

Also, we know more about microbiology than we did back then, and a couple of prominent scientists (not crack pots) have pointed out that the design of even something like a flagellam would have been mathematically impossible to have evolved via
a series of accidents.

And not only was Piltdown a hoax, but the "peppered moth" was also incorrect, and the other widely quoted experiment was simulating the atomsphere of Jupiter, not Earth, so invalid.

And the guy that drew the pictures of fetal organisms saying all organisms were alike in the womb apparently made them up, according to actual pictures now available...

I would have reacted just like you Jim, evolution is a known fact, come on anon, you are pushing it here, but after reading these couple of chapters - widely quoting scientfic studies and responses, I am not so sure anymore....

I will be happy to send you a copy of the book...

July 17, 2006 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Jim, his hippy world is coming to an end right before his intelegently desined eyes.
ps. Dr. Dan you can be my spell checker. I know you need the work.

July 17, 2006 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Daisy said...

Well, that's it then. Ann Coulter's book has decided the evolution/intelligent design controversy so it's all over now.

There is no separation of church and state -- the church is the state and all nonbelievers should be flogged and jailed if they refuse to convert. We'll all bash gays now that we see the light. And we'll all have our kids study Biology with Ann Coulter, the only science expert to figure out what all the world's scientists couldn't.

Thanks so much for sharing the information and showing us the way Theresa. We will follow your lead and take our kids out of MCPS even if we too decide that the alternative is academically inferior. This is you, isn't it?

"Bio - Theresa Rickman

I am married with three children, one at Holy Cross and two at North Chevy Chase (I transferred them out of Holy Redeemer last year after a comparison of the curriculums which clearly indicated NCC was educationally superior). I was raised Catholic, I am parishoner of and contribute to Holy Redeemer Church, however I have to admit that my family attends church sporadically. My husband is an atheist and he is also strongly opposed to the new curriculum.


[Date=01-08-2005] Name:Theresa Rickman, [Msgid=761235]"

And thanks for lurking in the shadows with your brilliant insults Anon. We need your example to learn how a good Christian is to behave.


July 18, 2006 7:40 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Theresa writes,

I am glad you brought this up Jim.

I was just thinking that I was going to have to go back and reread the last time you posted this and the debates on it.

So, I am reading Ann Coulter's Godless - that should not be a great surprise.

She addresses this subject. Several chapters on it.

So, what is your take on Coulter's book?

A former professor went to school with her at Cornell. I asked him about this, the latest primal scream of Ms. Coulter, specifically wondering what "church" she belongs to...he answered, "the Church of Mammon".

And me? Frankly I am repulsed by someone who appears to be using religion as a club to beat those with whom one disagrees. And the sleek and sexxy black outfit with the cross so prominently displayed on the dust jacket cover is repulsive, not to mention the height of narcissism.

Sorry, I don't have the time or money right at the moment. I'll wait until I can pick it up off the remainder table at the local Barnes & Noble here in Fort Collins.

July 18, 2006 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, that's it then. Ann Coulter's book has decided the evolution/intelligent design controversy so it's all over now."

There are scores of books by estimable scholars explaining intelligent design theory. Stephen Jay Gould himself stated in one of his books that the "dirty secret" of paleontology is that no transitional forms have ever been found. The fact that Ann Coulter cites them doesn't disprove them just like the fact that lunatic fringe groups quote the Constitution doesn't discredit it.

I've never read Ann Coulter but I remember seeing her years ago when Bill Maher still had his network show. I can only guess that she's doing something right though if she stirs up this kind of animosity among CIC (Citizens for Irresponsible Curriculum).

"There is no separation of church and state -- the church is the state and all nonbelievers should be flogged and jailed if they refuse to convert."

This kind of stark dichotomy has lunatic fringe written all over it. Either you agree with a questionable theory or you want everyone who doesn't agree flogged. Yeah, makes sense to me.

"We'll all bash gays now that we see the light."

See above

"And we'll all have our kids study Biology with Ann Coulter, the only science expert to figure out what all the world's scientists couldn't."

The problem presented by the apparent intelligent design of the universe has been acknowledged by scientists, both secular and believing, worldwide.

"Bio - Theresa Rickman".....

I don't think I've ever heard Theresa personally attack any of you- and, especially not your families. Her graciousness has been excessive. The fact that you would attack her and her family personally says so much.

"And thanks for lurking in the shadows with your brilliant insults Anon. We need your example to learn how a good Christian is to behave."

You know, when Christians play football, they're expected to tackle just like everyone else. It's part of the game. I've received plenty of insults here. Occasionally, they were even brilliant. Chill out.

July 18, 2006 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last comment should be signed H.A.

H.A. didn't make the comment at 10:20pm last evening.

July 18, 2006 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For an interesting perspective on global warming, check out the front page of today's Wall Street Journal for the reaction of people who live in Greenland to melting glaciers, flowering trees and the appearance of swans. One guy says it's like "genesis".

Maybe life will even spontaneously spring forth from random chance.


July 18, 2006 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Daisy said...

Since she pulled her kids out of "clearly...educationally superior" MCPS and put them back into private schools again, Theresa has talked about her kids, particularly their sex education classes and textbooks on this blog many times. I suppose some might consider it a personal attack to ask someone about their own words. But how, pray tell, does asking someone about their own words differ from what you do in the comments here Histrionic Anon?

Theresa's a big girl. I'm sure she can handle anyone's remarks herself.

You should take your own advice. Chill out.


July 18, 2006 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Noah's Ark Been Found?
Christian Archaeology Team Believes It's Found Biblical Remains

(June 29) - Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah's Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.

"I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark," said Arch Bonnema of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute, a Christian archeology organization dedicated to looking for biblical artifacts.

Bonnema and the other B.A.S.E. Institute members hiked for seven hours in the mountains northwest of Tehran, climbing 13,000 feet before making the apparent discovery.

"We got up to this object, nestled in the side of a hill," said Robert Cornuke, a member of the B.A.S.E. Institute. "We found something that has my heart skipping a beat."

At first, they didn't dare to hope it was the biblical boat.

"It wasn't impressive at first," Cornuke said. "Certainly didn't think it to be Noah's Ark. But when we got close, we were amazed. It looked similar to wood."

In addition, some B.A.SE. members say, their discovery didn't look very distinctive.

"It looked like the deck of any boat today," Bonnema said.

The Bible places the Ark in the mountains of Ararat, a mountain range theologians believe spans hundreds of miles, which the team says is consistent with their find in Iran.

The Bible also describes the Ark's dimensions as being 300 cubits by 50 cubits -- about the size of a small aircraft carrier. The B.A.S.E. Institute's discovery is similar in size and scale.

"It is provocative to think that this could be the lost ark of Noah," Cornuke said.

Previous scholars have searched for the Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey.

"Czar Nicholas, actually, in 1916 sent two expeditions to photograph it on top of Mount Ararat," said Feiler.

One former U.S. president, Feiler said, looked for it in the mountains of Iran.

"There is a story that Jimmy Carter, on his way to visit the Shah of Iran in 1977, purposefully flew over it," he said.

As recently as March, researcher claimed to have satellite photos that proved the presence of Ark remains. The B.A.S.E institute hopes the physical evidence they've brought back from Iran will hold the answer to this enduring mystery.

"People will always be looking for it, always be skeptical, always be excited of the search," Cornuke said. "But I think we found something here that's very notable."

The B.A.S.E. Institute's samples are being examined at labs in Texas and Florida. B.A.S.E officials concede that there would be no way to conclusively prove that their finding is actually Noah's Ark.

So the hunt goes on. The biggest hurdle in identifying Noah's Ark comes down to "gopher wood." The Bible says the Ark was made of gopher wood but no one knows what it is.

ABC News' Chris Cuomo reported this story for "Good Morning America."

06-29-06 17:31 EDT

Copyright 2006

July 18, 2006 11:51 AM  
Blogger digger said...

Orin said:

"I'll wait until I can pick it up off the remainder table at the local Barnes & Noble here in Fort Collins."

I get all sorts of cool books from the remainder table at the Barnes & Noble here in Arlington. We really should get together for that cup of coffee.


July 18, 2006 6:14 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

You know, just because it is Ann Coulter who said it doesn't mean it is then automatically not true.

She is definitely over the top with her sarcasm - I find her quite humorous - more of the TTF's I am sure would find her very annoying.

But, I have found her books to have extensive bibiliographies and in general seem to be well researched.

I didn't see anyone debating the fact the lack of existence of "transitional forms". Anyone ? Are there any ?

Daisy - yes this is Theresa Rickman - and I did pull my kids out of NCC.

I didn't want them taught all about masturbation at age 10 - or - sodomy at 13. Thanks but no thanks.

I am quite happy with that decision.

July 18, 2006 11:42 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

So, I was considering this more yesterday evening.

Assume we will havent' been able to locate any transitional fossils (tell me I am wrong if I am, I really have no idea if Coulter made this up or not).

Doesn't this come down to a simple statistics problem ? (for those who can remember hints of their statistics classes from college).

If you have some idea of the number of fossils the should exist today based on some guess of the total number of animals we believe existed x number of hundreds of millions of years ago, and some idea of what percentage of fossils should be transitional fossils based on Darwins theory - then simple combination theory should be able to calculate the probability that out of how many total fossils we have located from that period what the statiscal probability is that we would not have found any transitional fossils yet.

If that probability is approaching infinitisimal, then, Darwin's theory is not correct for the origin of the species and science needs to find a new answer....

July 19, 2006 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theresa your asking for a scientific opinion on TTF’s web site your not going to get an answer They don’t know about this stuff. Do you think that JimK or Dr. Dana? Knows anything about this. Yes, you are correct Darwin is dead. Neo-Darwin is dead. But it still makes the news, on slow news days. Everything they pull from the ground is called the missing link, a couple of weeks a go there was an article in the BBC about the missing link to birds, turned out to be a bird. But righting an article about an extinct bird is not going to get a lot of attention. It is not going to make the papers. Through in “Missing link” and know you have a story.

July 19, 2006 9:49 AM  

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