Update on Kansas - KU speech

| 21 Comments

Although most Panda’s Thumb readers are probably not in northeast Kansas, I would like to announce here a speech I will be giving at the University of Kansas on September 28th. The speech is being sponsored by the science departments and the Office of the Chancellor. Complete information can be found here.

If you or people you know might be interested in this and able to attend, please pass the word on to them.

For those of you are who are watching Kansas from a distance, let me explain that there are issues here that we should all be concerned about. If for no other reason, watching what happens in Kansas will help prepare science activists for episodes that might show up in your backyard.

The first issue is that the ID movement targets science standards and related curriculum policies, with both boards of education and legislatures, as convenient places to influence the teaching of science without establishing ID as science - attempting to do an end-run around established procedures both for getting ideas accepted as scientifically solid and for getting ideas into the core public education curriculum.

The second issue is the nature of the Wedge strategy itself: given that ID is not established yet as science (which many ID advocates admit), how do they justify these actions? Their targets are the nature of science - attempting both to “upgrade” the definition of science to include supernatural intelligent causation and to downgrade the “historical” sciences, so as to put the theory of evolution and the “theory” of ID (non-existent as it is) on an equal footing.

The third issue is the effect this has on targeted states - why should a concerned citizen be worried about this (besides the reasons listed above)? One reason is that these affairs take up a large amount of time and energy that could be more profitably be spent improving science education. Secondly, the resulting negative publicity is not good for a state. Mention Kansas in scientifically literate circles anyplace in the world, and people are likely to first remember that we were the state that passed anti-evolution standards.

The third reason is a critical subset of this second reason: just as with many states, Kansas is trying to attract bioscience industry to Kansas. Companies thinking about locating in an area want an well-educated work force, with universities training knowledgeable workers at many levels as well as good public schools for the children in the industries. Being known as the state that again adopted anti-evolution, creationist/ID-influenced science standards will be no good for Kansas. Stakeholders at all levels - university and industry leaders, legislators, educators, scientists, and all citizens concerned about the education of their children, should be concerned about the prospect of the ID movement being successful in Kansas.

21 Comments

When the school board people in Kansas last tried to teach Genesis as biology, I tried to read their reasons, but they were just recycled gibberish which made as much sense as this painting of Bea Arthur wrestling a Velociraptor. http://www.brandonbird.com/bea.html

Sir:

Will you possibly be posting your speech here, after the KU event, for those of us not located in a geographically convenient part of the country? I’d be very interested in hearing you expand upon the points made above, and would attend your speech if it were even remotely possible.

- PQ

Steve Wrote:

When the school board people in Kansas last tried to teach Genesis as biology, I tried to read their reasons, but they were just recycled gibberish which made as much sense as this painting of Bea Arthur wrestling a Velociraptor.

To be fair, the 1999 episode to which I think you refer, did not “try to teach Genesis as biology,” but merely attempted to exclude evolution from the curriculum. Granted, proponents of that strategy are probably politically sympathetic to those who would teach Genesis - any of the mutually contradictory “literal” versions - as biology. And they are certainly politically sympathetic to those who advocate the Ohio strategy (teach evolution along with a phony “critical analysis”). The only explanation for anyone who would prefer both the Kansas and Ohio strategies to evolution alone is a childishly spiteful “if you won’t let me teach my pseudoscience, you shouldn’t teach your science either” attitude. To be fair again, I don’t recall any one person publicly advocating both strategies, but neither have I heard of “Kansas” and “Ohio” advocates criticizing each others’ strategy. So “childishly spiteful” is probably a fair accusation.

To Paul: After the speech, I will post mp3’s of my speech that you can listen to on my own website, as well as my Powerpoint slides. Thanks for the interest – I’ll post a comment here when those are online.

To Frank: While it is true that they didn’t try ““try to teach Genesis as biology,” they did more than exclude large parts of evolution – they deleted references to the age of the earth and the history of the universe, and inserted numerous creationist examples, including some that implied flood geology. This was definitely a young-earth creationist project. This time around it will be all ID-oriented: teach the controversy, teach alternative scientific theories, teach objective origins science, etc.

There have been so many attempts–Georgia, Ohio, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas… –I wouldn’t doubt that my memories of the particular form of creationism wanted by some Kansas evangelicals that time are flawed. I do have a pretty clear memory of laughing really hard after reading that Linda Holloway, who led that effort, didn’t proceed until she’d ‘made a detailed study of the arguments for evolution and concluded that it was just bad science.’

But, Steve, if elected officials can make a study of the issues, and NOT find the facts of evolution and evolution theory clearly laid out so they can understand it, isn’t that a symptom of a problem?

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 276, byte 276 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

to Ed: if what one studies is the creationist literature, and I can virtually assure you that is where Linda Holloway’s “information” came from, then of course you will draw the conclusion that evolution is bad science. “Studying the issues” at the level where one can knowledgeably critique the issues requires at least some specialized college education in the subject and more reasonably some advanced education and/or professional experience.

That’s why a science standards committee (and even more so a Board member) has the responsibility to represent the mainstream science community. It is not our job to second-guess or evaluate whether mainstream science is correct – it is our job to adequately describe the essentials of the consensus view.

As I said to our committee this week, our job is descriptive, not prescriptive. Even though we make it clear to students in the standards that scientific knowledge is always provisional, we also make it clear that core theories have been extensively tested and are very widely accepted. Therefore, as writers of the standards, we trust that mainstream science is the best explanation out there at this time.

if what one studies is the creationist literature, and I can virtually assure you that is where Linda Holloway’s “information” came from, then of course you will draw the conclusion that evolution is bad science.

Yup. And this is where the good ol’ Internet turns out to be an insidious foe to the truth. Remember several weeks back there was a post here re a woman up for some school administrative position who had a website up which contained a statement along the lines of “evolution is based on faulty science”? A friend of mine wrote to her asking her where she had gotten her info and she replied by including a link to the Answers in Genesis website. Can you believe it?

It might be worthwhile to commission a panel of scientists, including as many Christian scientists as possible (for obvious reasons), to rate and review various websites for their scientific soundness and publish the review in Nature or Science or the PNAS. For political purposes, it might be best to use National Academy members to perform the survey, to give it some stamp of officialness. Or perhaps it would be best in these diseased times to rely on scientists who had served in some capacity for Republican presidents.

Remember several weeks back there was a post here re a woman up for some school administrative position who had a website up which contained a statement along the lines of “evolution is based on faulty science”? A friend of mine wrote to her asking her where she had gotten her info and she replied by including a link to the Answers in Genesis website. Can you believe it?

Things like Answers in Genesis exist to muddy the waters to the point that uninformed christians who already want to believe in creationism, easily can. I personally know people who think AiG is a superior scientific resource. It’s impossible to argue against so much nonsense if someone wants to believe it’s true. I think intellectually honest, and at least semi-intelligent, people know that their mastery of the world is very small, and the consensus of experts in other fields should be deferred to, unless you’re willing to take the time to become an expert. Would Linda Holloway tell Jeff Gordon how to drive? Steven Weinberg how to think about the weak force? Kip Thorne what parts of general relativity are sound? If the bible said otherwise, I think she would. It’s not a problem with what scientists say, or how they say it, it’s a fundamental stupidity. The NAS, NCSE, the Harvard Bio dept, anybody can argue until they’re blue in the face with the Holloways, it won’t mean anything to them.

Example: I’m teaching economics to high school kids in one of my jobs right now. If I want to know about monetary policy, I can go to a website of the Federal Reserve Board, or of one of the dozen regional banks, and get solid information on what monetary policy is and how the open market committee works. Now, there are conservative wackoes who disagree with the justification for the Fed, and some of them have websites – but unless I try to get the crackpot stuff, an internet search tends to produce good information on how economics works in any given area.

That’s not so for evolution. There is no site from NIH or any other government agency which lays out exactly how evolution works and why billions of dollars are spent in research based on the evolution paradigm. There are a few documents from the National Academy of Sciences, but they don’t pop up high in a Google search.

I don’t have access to the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service stuff anymore, so I don’t know what they would say. But were I still in government, I don’t know of a source of information about evolution that any government official of any and all persuasions would rely on at least to get the basics.

Yes, I’m sure Linda Holloway got her information from some creationist wacko.

My point is this: That Holloway or any other government official CAN get information from a creationist viewpoint, and think that they have the full story, is symptomatic of a problem we advocates of Darwinian-style evolution have. We don’t have a front-and-center line of discussion, and when people seek information on the topic they are more prone to get bad stuff than good stuff.

And, yes, I’m sure Linda Holloway would love to tell Steven Weinberg how to think about the weak force. Evolution is more important at the moment. As Weinberg noted in his testimony in Texas, evolution is as solid as anything in physics. If they can shut down the teaching of evolution, Big Bang and all the rest of physics is next, I’d wager.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

If they can shut down the teaching of evolution, Big Bang and all the rest of physics is next, I’d wager.

Of course, that would mean all out, guerrilla war.

The Rest of Physics is already being questioned by certain young-earth creationists.

Here’s my favorite, “Common Sense Science”, which trashes all of Quantum Mechanics, and replaces it with something called the “Spinning Ring Model of the Atom.”

Look for a page called “Hydrogen Gas Molecule,” and you’ll read that

“Two ring electrons and two ring protons combine to form a molecule of Hydrogen gas (H2). Measurements of proton and electron magnetic moments in hydrogen gas indicate the proton is 658 times smaller than the electron.”

That’s not a typo! These guys think electrons are “bigger” than protons!

Creo physics bashing is not just a possibility. The Future is Here!

Cheers, Dave Thomas

I forgot to post the URL for you:

Try http://www.commonsensescience.org/

or this

Dave T.

That‘s a parody right? No one is really preaching against atomism?

And yes, the term “world view” can be found by clicking on the “Science and Philosophy” link. Imagine that.

Whoa! These guys have invented a whole parallel system (that just happens to be consistent with the biblical book of Ezekiel). If there’s ever a critical shortage of hallucinogenic drugs, it’s good to know there’s a viable alternative!

Seriously, though: Young Lucas is currently a grad student at CalTech? I wonder how that works.

And secondly:

“Two ring electrons and two ring protons combine to form a molecule of Hydrogen gas (H2). Measurements of proton and electron magnetic moments in hydrogen gas indicate the proton is 658 times smaller than the electron.”

Here’s a serious question from this physics moron: what, exactly, do “regular” scientists understand the “size” of an electron to mean?

Thank Darwin for the internet, so I can just link to a good explanation

http://www.physlink.com/Education/A[…]ts/ae191.cfm

You got a plug on the editorial page of today’s KCStar!

See http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansa[…]/9743970.htm.

I will try to attend the speech and blog it sometime later in the week.

See also the KS Board of Ed district map at http://www.ksde.org/commiss/bdmem.html. Strong urban/rural split in KS politics implies that Districts 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are safe for anti-evolutionists and Districts 3 and 4 may be at risk of takeover by them, so I expect long-term equilibrium to be 6-4 or 7-3 anti.

Humiliation looms again in Kansas

now that’s funny

While the idiots at the Kansas City Star have redirected the above link to a registration page–I suppose annoying your prospective customers into giving you false info is good business strategy?–there’s always Google Cache:

http://216.239.41.104/search?q=cach[…]nt=firefox-a

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on September 18, 2004 3:45 PM.

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