Thoughts on KC Star Editorial

| 15 Comments

In the thread “Update on Kansas - KU Speech” (9/18/04), Jay Manifold pointed out that the Kansas City Star had an editorial here about the Kansas science standards issue today. (Thanks for the heads-up, Jay.)

The editorial makes some very good points, which I would like to highlight, although it also says some things that I would like to take a bit of exception to. Let’s look at the highlights first:

Kansans should follow the debate, view the proposals, and weigh in with their elected state board members.

Heads up, Kansans! It’s time to start thinking about science standards for the public schools again. …

Kansas is on the verge of breaking into the bioscience research field in a big way. With efforts on both sides of the state line, the Kansas City area could become a hub for bioscience development, attracting top-rate students, scientists and companies.

A repeat of the embarrassing episode in 1999 could put a damper on those plans and hopes. Krebs will outline that fear in an address titled “Kansas Science Standards – 2004: Will It Be 1999 All Over Again?” on Tuesday at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

He says Kansas would be “making a statement to the rest of the country that you can’t count on Kansas”…”We are just going to go back and forth depending on political whim as to what we think kids ought to learn in science class. That is not a strong statement to a bioscience industry trying to locate in Lawrence or Kansas City.” …

Kansans should follow the debate, view the proposals, and weigh in with their elected state board members. Much damage will be done if the state board gets sidetracked on this issue again.

In addition to the quote concerning Kansas going back and forth on this issue, I offered to the reporter some other reasons why this should be of concern. Obviously, it’s not the vacillation itself that is the main problem; rather, it is that anti-evolution standards incorporate bad science and therefore are educationally unsound. The leaders and employees of bioscience companies thinking about locating in Kansas are not going to be enthusiastic about having their children in schools that have science standards which eliminate or distort a topic central to their business.

Sometimes in newspaper articles reporters juxtapose quotes from people with the reporter’s comments so that it is not easy to tell if the quoted person also discussed or endorsed the reporter’s statements. In this case, they are a couple of comments I want to make about some of the other things the reporter wrote.

First of all, I didn’t use the word humiliation in describing the potential effect on Kansas of adopting anti-evolution standards. I did say that this would most likely damage Kansas’ reputation badly. I’m sure many people, including in this case the headline writer for this editorial, might consider this humiliating, but I want to make clear that is not a word I used.

The editorial also says this:

A Kansas Board of Education committee is busy drafting new state science standards, which are due for revision. Educators like Jack Krebs, who teaches high school in Oskaloosa, Kan., are worried that the end result may not be good if the teaching of evolution takes a hit, as it did in 1999. They fear religious ideas may be introduced instead. …

Kansas got a black eye in 1999 when some religious conservatives on the state board rejected components of the recommendations of the science standards committee and made changes that discouraged the teaching of evolution.

Following another election, a new board restored evolution teaching to its traditional place in the standards.

But since 2002, the board has been in a 5-5 split over teaching religious concepts in science classes.

In the August primary, Bruce Wyatt of Salina, an incumbent board member, was defeated by Kathy Martin of Clay Center, who says she supports teaching both evolution and other theories of origin, including “intelligent design,” in science classes. Martin’s victory appears to have put religious conservatives in the majority.

First, some people here in Kansas have expressed the concern that it is not appropriate for me to be speaking publicly as I am doing since I am on the science standards committee. My response is that I am not talking about the specific details of what the science standards committee is doing, but rather about the general situation and especially the eventual decisions the Board of Education will make irrespective of what the science committee does.

On the other hand, I am sensitive to these people’s concerns, so I’m a bit worried about a misleading implication in the editorial. The last sentence of the first paragraph above says, “They fear religious ideas may be introduced instead.”

I want to make it clear that the “they” in this sentence does not refer back to the committee, mentioned in the first sentence. I know I have said nothing to any reporter about the positions, activities, or proposals of anyone on the committee.

I also don’t think that I emphasized the fear of religious ideas as the quote above makes it sound. Let me explain.

The reporter regularly referred to the religious conservatives” on the Board, said they were split about “teaching religious concepts,” and so on. I didn’t use the phrase “religious conservatives,” and I know those anti-evolutionists Board members would deny that they were explicitly desiring to teach religious concepts. (I know there is no doubt that intelligent design and creationism are religiously motivated, and that the Designer and Creator is the Christian God as understood in a particular way - a way which is not at all shared with all Christians by any means.)

But the more salient point is that ID has been created to look like science so as to hide its religious motivation. The first thing wrong with ID is that it is bad science - it’s wrong as far as the scientific community is concerned. For me it’s not so much that they want to open the door for teaching religious concepts as it that they are hijacking science as the vehicle by which to accomplish this. The anti-evolutionist Board members are willing (at least this is our concern about their possible future actions) to dismiss and ignore the widespread consensus of the world’s scientific community and to embrace pseudo- and non-science in order to attack something which they think threatens their religious views.

In addition to my committed concern about resisting this hijacking, I also regret the anti-evolution/intelligent design movement because it is an obstacle to more genuine discussions about religious matters … but that’s a thought for another post some time.…

15 Comments

Thanks Jack for your careful and insightful comments. You’re so nice that I’m going to expand a bit on some of your points.

To say that ID is bad science overlooks that ID is its strict sense is not science at all. Instead it is an elaborate disguise for the old argument from ignorance, especially the contrived ignorance of people who deny some scientific realities.

From ignorance to what? To God of the Gaps or: the Designer (formerly known as God) of the Gaps. Those who aren’t in denial about science know the way of gaps to well to want to base theology on it. God of the gaps is not standard theology, or as Jack gently says,

I know there is no doubt that intelligent design and creationism are religiously motivated, and that the Designer and Creator is the Christian God as understood in a particular way – a way which is not at all shared with all Christians by any means.

In other words, the churches, major ones anyway, know better. IDists know that theirs is not mainline theology. But if they can con the public schools into teaching it, and lying (at least by implication) that this ersatz theology is ‘scientific’, then they can score an end run around normal religion and gain immense power.

This is the real motivation of the drive to usurp public schools. It is quite clear from the nonsense that IDists and other creationists endlessly rehash as their ‘scientific arguments against science’ that they do not care about science, except in the sense that dislike of some science is a form of caring. They care about religion.

Jack concludes:

I also regret the anti-evolution/intelligent design movement because it is an obstacle to more genuine discussions about religious matters … but that’s a thought for another post some time . …

If the IDologists have their way, that discussion will be prempted politically. For practical purposes it will be over before it starts, unless some in the media raise the issue in time.

The problem I see with arguments from ignorance/god of the gaps arguments by the ID movement is that they provide powerful amunition to those opposing religion. As a Christian myself I find the idea that we can formulate a scientific hypothesis of Design to be troubling not just from a scientific perspective but also from a theological perspective. Let me explain. In order for an ID hypothesis to be scientifically relevant it has to be constrained in its explantory power. Saying “God did it” may work theologically but fails scientifically. So in other words ID requires us to constrain God or at least it requires us to present ways to falsify Design (and thus the Designer). Every time a gap argument is shown to be fallacious, ID has given powerful ammunition to those objection to religion. Worse, it may present strong arguments that can be used to insert doubt in the minds of many Christians. What if I am being told that the flagellum is powerful evidence of our Designer only to find out how natural pathways may exist that explain the origin and evolution of the flagellum? Would that not mean that the disproof is powerful evidence against such a Designer? Many may come to such a conclusion and imho ID provides strong ammunition to those who oppose religion. Children may be especially vulnerable to these arguments.

This is an important point - in fact, it is just this that has slowly eroded faith among some people. When religion ties itself either to empirically testable propositions that can be investigated by science (e.g., the earth is 6000 years old), or, as Pim says, to propositions about God that are tied to the gaps in our scientific knowledge, religion sets itself up for conflict.

Many people (including those theistic evolutionists the ID movement derides) believe that the natural world displays an internal consistency that is a physical manifestation of both the logical and willful aspects of God’s nature: that is, God is present in the outpouring of events via natural law in ways that we can study scientifically and He is also willfully and active present in ways which go beyond our human understanding. For such people, what we study in science represents God’s design in the physical world, while other aspects of our life represent and respond to his design for our spirit.

Answers In Genesis website explains some of the risks of the IDM (Intelligent Design Movement)

the IDM’s refusal to identify the Designer with the Biblical God, and in particular with the history in the Bible, means that:

  • Acceptance of ID thinking en masse could just as easily lead to New-Age or Hindu-like notions of creation, as well as weird alien sci-fi notions. In such instances, a Christian might well see that the metaphorical exorcism of one socio-philosophical demon would have achieved merely its replacement by others, possibly worse.
  • There is no philosophical answer to their opponents’ logically-deduced charge that the Designer was monstrous and/or inept (‘look at all the horrible, cruel, even defective things in the living world’), since bringing up the Fall is deliberately, tactically excluded. (However, the Fall was a major event in history, that changed everything. The world we are looking at now is a world that has been corrupted by sin, not the original world that God designed). Thus, the movement’s success could very likely even be counterproductive, by laying the Biblical God open to ridicule and contempt in new ways.

As far as their 2nd concern, this already seems to be happening: In “The Science Teacher, “The Risk of Intelligent Design “ (by Lawrence C. Scharmann) Subscription requireed.

I have not read the article but it is mentioned Here

An article in The Science Teacher, “The Risk of Intelligent Design “ (by Lawrence C. Scharmann), makes a moral objection to intelligent design stating that we would not “like” to infer intelligent design to explain how some male insects hijack and kil other males who are mating to inject their sperm through the dead male into the female.

Is this a risk we are willing to take as parents?

Dembski and others realize the risk

The design in nature is actual. More often than we would like, that design has gotten perverted. But the perversion of design–dysteleology–is not explained by denying design, but by accepting it and meeting the problem of evil head on. The problem of evil is a theological problem. To force a resolution of the problem by reducing all design to apparent design is an evasion. It avoids both the scientific challenge posed by specified complexity, and it avoids the hard work of faith, whose job is to discern God’s hand in creation despite the occlusions of evil.[8]

(theodicy: A vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.)

Pim writes:

What if I am being told that the flagellum is powerful evidence of our Designer only to find out how natural pathways may exist that explain the origin and evolution of the flagellum?

Worse, what if you learn the Discovery Institute’s teaching that bacterial flagella are the Designer’s handiwork, and then learn that these same flagella greatly aid bacteria in causing human diseases, from plague to diarrhea? Diarrhea is no joke. It remains a leading cause of infant mortality in the third world.

Very good point Dunk, I had not even thought of that. A very powerful argument indeed. Imagine the impact of such a statement on the mind of a child: ask you what impression would this leave?

He says Kansas would be “making a statement to the rest of the country that you can’t count on Kansas” … “We are just going to go back and forth depending on political whim as to what we think kids ought to learn in science class. That is not a strong statement to a bioscience industry trying to locate in Lawrence or Kansas City.”

I fully believe in science and the scientific enterprise, and as a Kansan I also believe in promoting economic development. But I do not believe in economic fear-mongering PR political tactics in the name of science education.

With others, I look forward to carefully listening to Jack Krebs’ speech on Mp3, (as I know I will not be able to attend his speech in person).

But having said that, this particular approach, and some of the public statements that have already been made, comes across to me as economic fear-mongering at its most odious. I can’t think of a more diplomatic way to say it, I’m sorry. This is not a personal attack, it’s the line of argument that I oppose.

Apparently it doesn’t matter whether or not a more thoughtful, more critical, “teach the controversy” approach advocated by ID advocates may in fact carry scientitic instructional merit in some areas (especially regarding some textbook issues) concerning the way we teach schoolkids about Darwinism and of origins.

To date, there have been no proposals by KBOE members to teach the ID hypothesis as part of the official Kansas science standards. However, for some, it apparently doesn’t matter whether or not ID is in fact genuinely scientific even though there exists reason to believe that it may in fact be:

…Given the interconnected nature of the conceptual components of science, the idea that concepts intuitively more at home in upper levels of the hierarchy (including design concepts) can be systematically screened off from methodological, theoretical, pragmatic, and other factors constitutive of science, does not appear promising. And “gap” objections seem mistaken on all counts–conceptual, logical, empirical, and historical.

In fact, if the preceding investigations are correct, there is no compelling conceptual basis for any blanket prohibition on exploring applications or implications of the idea of supernatural design wihing the scientific context. Some design theories may be inappropriate in some instances, but that is perfectly consistent with others being in principle legitimate. (Del Ratzsch, Nature, Design, and Science, pg 149).

But instead of considering important items like the above quotation, all that really matters, apparently, is that we Kansans imbibe ourselves in the memories of the terrible international beating we received in 1999-2000, and then simply let the “Economic Fear Factor” determine our collective political responses in 2004-2005.

Do we Kansans desperately need economic monies so very badly? Driven by “Economic Fear Factor”, do we just turn our back on public policy science education issues pertaining to potentially plausible and reasonable ~changes~ in certain aspects of how we teach science students about science and origins?

All that matters, appparently, is that we Kansans remember with appropriate shivers, all that ridicule, all that “embarrassment”, and all those pro-evolution folks who never figured out that Kansas never banned evolution nor introduced religion, YEC, or ID theory into science curriculum. (Since, after all, some of them never bothered to actually read the standards for themselves prior to doing their criticism and ridicule!)

But nevertheless, we gotta remember, relive, and revive the fear of that 1999 beating, and let it guide our 2004 choices, don’t we?. No, we don’t have to. We could choose a more courageous path as a state. The worst part is that this apparent evolutionist PR-tactic of promoting fears of producing scientifically uneducated or undereducated Kansas students and losing coveted influxes of business and economic $$$$, appear clearly to be baseless - and said baselessness was apparent as far back as the 1999 controversy.

Even back then, there was good reason to believe that to doubt Darwinism or to believe in YEC, OEC, or the ID hypothesis, did not mean that individuals couldn’t be scientifically well-educated and authentically contribute to the advancement of science, technology, and the economy, just as well as any evolutionist could.

Certainly Dr. George Washington Carver was one example of that. But he was never the only example.

On Aug. 13, 1999, for example, the front page of the Topeka Capital Journal carried this article which seemed to bolster the position of the economic fear-mongerers:

The president of a small Oregon software company was reviewing a list of potential Midwestern expansion sites Wednesday when news came of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to remove evolution from the state’s science teaching standards.

He quickly scratched Topeka off the list of possible locations for Broadcast Software International’s new regional technical center.

“The issue for us, a rapidly growing software and technology company, is whether or not we can count on finding a good selection of well-educated future employees in the area,” BSI president Ron Burley said in an e-mail to The Topeka Capital-Journal on Wednesday evening. “Following today’s decision, that is in doubt.”

http://cjonline.com/stories/081399/[…]duvote.shtml

The outstanding irony here, which Kansans were never informed of by our papers and pundits and politicians, is that if this pro-evolution businessman was so very desperate to find well-educated software science wizards, one of the best-known of said wizards (within the field of geophysics) had ALREADY made his mark on national-level science:

Inside (Los Alamos Natl. Lab’s) doors, signs on the walls direct you to the Theoretical Division, home of a computer program named Terra. Terra was created by a Los Alamos lab scientist, the world’s pre-eminent expert in the design of computer models for geophysical convection, the process by which the Earth creates volcanoes, earthquakes, and the movement of the continental plates.

Terra is a fascinating program, but what is perhaps most fascinating about it is that it exists because its creator, John Baumgardner, is a fundamentalist Christian who believes, in accordance with the Bible, that the Earth was created by God less than 10,000 years ago.

In fact, Baumgardner created Terra expressly to prove that the story of Noah and the flood of Genesis 7:18–“And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the Earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters”–happened exactly as the Bible tells it.

Not only did he come up with a tool used by geophysicists around the world, but his “numerical code” actually proves the Bible is correct. Or at least in Baumgartner’s view it does.….

Chandler Burr’s US News and World Report article (“The Geophysics of God”, June 16, 1997) went on to carefully explain about Terra, its workings and assumptions; Baumgartners’ own religious beliefs; the universal disagreement with Baum’s views among geologists, and Baum’s own admission of one portion that was not evidentally supported.

However, the article also showed the universal agreement by scientists as of 1997, of Terra’s worth per se as a genuinely scientific and powerful geophysics tool on its own merits.

Bottom line: a YEC had clearly advanced the cause of science on the national scene, with acknowledgment of same by his peers, even despite his lack of success in proving his personal YEC views to same peers, two years before that evolutionist Oregon businessman publicly offered his empty and biased worries about finding science-educated hiring prospects in Kansas.

I’m not trying to be lengthy here, I apologize for sure. Sincere thanks if you have read this far. But this is important.

Clearly, that Oregon evolutionist businessman’s public front-page criticism about the 1999 KBOE decision showed his own gross ignorance of what a YEC scientist, for example, was capable of producing even in the businessman’s own chosen field of computer software technology.

And now, in 2004, it looks like instead of educating and assisting bioscience businessmen to avoid similar errors and evolve themselves up and away from any such fears and ignorance, pro-evolution advocates are again preparing, (though with the best of intentions I’m sure) to seemingly promote and exploit similar fears and ignorance amongst today’s bio-businessmen, politicians, educators, media, and voters.

Odious. Such a situation has to be opposed.

(Footnote: some apparently worried evolutionists subsequently took time to make sure to remind everybody that Los Alamos itself was absolutely unconnected with Terra and that assorted geologists and other scientists totally disagreed with Baum’s YEC views (which Burr already had accurately reported). However, the specific positive points concerning Baum’s software and coding expertise/accomplishment or the popularity of Terra per se, that were mentioned in the Burr article, the evolutionists could NOT refute that.)

FL

FL Wrote:

Bottom line: a YEC had clearly advanced the cause of science on the national scene, with acknowledgment of same by his peers, even despite his lack of success in proving his personal YEC views to same peers, two years before that evolutionist Oregon businessman publicly offered his empty and biased worries about finding science-educated hiring prospects in Kansas.

That’s nothing new. There are all kinds of YECists in scientific fields both in the past and currently working. YEC engineers and doctors have produced useful research. It’s important to note that said research has been well insulated from their YEC leanings, however.

In this case I believe what Jack and others are pointing out is that bioscience firms and consortiums, who are being courted by several potential local groups to build facilities in their respective areas, might pass Kansas by if the fundamental principles upon which their field is based were being undermined.

I believe it is a legitimate tactic to point out this very real possibility, for hopefully it gives potential supporters of pseudoscience pause to consider both the effects on their pocketbook and the consensus opinion of the relevant experts on the validity of ID.

FL … Florida … Martian Skye … hmmm … Pensacola by any chance?

A good thorough article on the speech is on the front page of the Lawrence Journal World today here.

Among other things, it’s got some good quotes from various state Board members.

The biggest problem with ID is, as one noted above, it makes God directly responsible for designing some of the evils in this world. There is no buffer between God and that evil. Take the E.coli which killed a little child up in Washington State. That E. coli has lots of genes which don’t appear in other E. coli. If God is the only one who can fiddle with DNA then God placed those vicious genes into the E. coli causing, rather directly, the death of the child. I would hope that that isn’t what God does for a hobby–figure out how to make virulent bacteria.

FL relies on anecdotal (at best) data.

Not being a geophysicist, I have no opinion about Baumgardner’s software. (If there are any geophysicists reading this, I’d be happy to hear from them.)

But as a biologist who has been involved in recruiting efforts, I can tell you Ohio’s flirtation with creationism is distinctly not helpful.

Russel wrote:

But as a biologist who has been involved in recruiting efforts, I can tell you Ohio’s flirtation with creationism is distinctly not helpful.

In the long run, of course, undermining science education is going to have a pretty chilling effect on what comes out the other end in sixteen or seventeen years. No more scientists getting pumped out of a state’s educational system is going to have effects right up to the university and private sector. If a state has to start importing researchers and professors from out of state, then it is essentially paying twice, once for people programmed to buy into pseudo-science, and then again to bring in outsiders to keep everything afloat.

In this excellent interview with Craig Barrett, he complains that crappy science education in America is a very big problem. I’m sure he would count Kansas’s teach-magic-as-science crowd in.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/artic[…]V88SI8T1.DTL

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on September 24, 2004 10:08 PM.

Introduction to Multiple Designers Theory was the previous entry in this blog.

The sanctimonious bombast of George Gilder is the next entry in this blog.

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