ID Proposal and Responses in Kansas

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A group of eight ID/creationists on the Kansas state science standards committee recently submitted a proposal for revisions to the first draft of the standards that are a mishmash of typical claims: science needs to not be limited to natural explanations, “origins science” is different because we can’t really observe the past, common descent and macroevolution are unproven and in doubt, and so on. (The proposal can be found here)

Fortunately, at the science standards meeting last Thursday all but one of the ID proposals were rejected by committee vote (and the one was a reasonable suggestion.) Reporters from all over the state (and from the London Times) were at the meeting: you can read newspaper reports here at the Salina paper, here in Topeka, here from the AP, and here this morning in the London Times.

However, one interesting part of the story has gone unpublicized: committee chairperson Steve Case received responses to the ID proposal from a number of quite respectable and reputable scientists, all of whom gave the committee permission to make their responses public.

Consequently, Kansas Citizens for Science is putting these papers on our website: visit KCFS: Standards 2005 to see reviews by * Joe Heppert, University of Kansas * Kenneth Miller, Brown University * Robert Dennison, Texas biology teacher * E.O. Wiley, University of Kansas * Taner Edis, Truman State University * Gary Hurd, Ph.D. * Douglas L. Theobald, University of Colorado at Boulder * Scott Brand, University of Alabama at Birmingham * Patricia Princehouse, Case Western Reserve University

I don’t have time to summarize the results here, but this all makes pretty interesting reading - there are some pretty scathing and on-target remarks here. The IDnet’s proposal is quite a bit more thorough and extensive than any of the disclaimers or policies that have been in the news elsewhere recently, and so it provides more specific issues to respond to. Enjoy.

25 Comments

What was the ID proposal that was accepted by the board?

For the second newspaper link, use bugmenot.

First, these were accepted by the writing committee, not the Board. When the committee is through with its work (in May or so), the Board will then vote on the entire document. We were just voting within the committee.

There is a a section in the introduction entitled Teaching with Tolerance and Respect that is a product of the sensitive discussions done back in 1999.

The paragraph in question reads:

A teacher is an important role model for demonstrating respect, sensitivity, and civility. Science teachers should not ridicule, belittle or embarrass a student for expressing an alternative view or belief. In doing this, teachers display and demand tolerance and respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students. If a student should raise a question in a natural science class that the teacher determines to be outside the domain of science class, the teacher should treat the question with respect. The teacher should explain why the question is outside the domain of natural sciences and encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and other appropriate sources.

We agreed, by a 19-4 vote, to eliminate the second half of the paragraph, in bold above.

I’m interested: what is it in the second part that you objected to? Personally, that would be exactly my take on things, and I’m an atheist who spends most of his time defending evolution and rejecting the idea that ID should be taught in schools.

Good question. Speaking for myself (and I seconded the motion to adopt the chane), I felt that the first part of the paragraph covered the issue, and that the second part was unnecessary because helping students know what is and isn’t science is already covered in the standards themselves.

I also didn’t like the underlying unstated implication that this section was just about creationism, which I think is particularly implied by the “talk to your family” part. If a student brought up ghosts, or pyramid power or astrology, for instance, we would explain what was wrong with that without thinking that we had to refer them to anyone.

One of my colleagues who voted against the proposal said he was concerned about students wasting time with discussions that were outside of science, so he liked this sentence. But I didn’t agree with that concern - we as teachers already have full authority to keep class discussion on target. In general, in policy statement I don’t like clauses that state things that are already covered just to emphasize a point.

There are different ways of handling such questions briefly. I still remember my high school biology class. My teacher made a careful and well-rehearsed introductory statement before teaching evolution that went something like this:

“Whether or not you have a problem with the theory of evolution, it is my job to present the material to you. My personal belief is that evolution does not conflict with religious belief, including creation, and I myself am a practicing Catholic.”

The second part of the last sentance is certainly not necessary, ie. to divulge one’s own personal beliefs, but I think the first part may be helpful. It may be prudent to offer 15-20 minutes during that class period for students who have questions on the subjects of religion or ID/creationism, during which the teacher can refer students to books and papers that refute creationist claims and philosophical ones that argue for the peaceful co-existance of science that seeks natural causes and religion (Such as “An Evolving Creation” edited by Keith Miller). In conclusion, the teacher can say that the topic will not be discussed after that day, only the material will be presented.

In my class, the teacher did not allow for the 15-20 minute discussion, but merely made his statement. This helped a majority of the students get on with learning. One or two still had objections, but that was their problem. This was way back in 1994, but I still remember it becasue I thought it such a wise way to handle the social controversy, and saved time in the long-run.

Front-page, above-the-fold news in yesterday’s KCStar: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansa[…]10768962.htm

(use http://www.bugmenot.com/ for registration if needed)

Next hearing is *tomorrow night* at Schlagle HS in KCK. Start time is 7 PM; address is 2214 N 59th St. Take I-70 to 57th St exit, go N ~1½ mi (57th, er, evolves into 59th, heh).

Schlagle HS website: http://kancrn.kckps.k12.ks.us/schla[…]chlagle.html

I hope to cover this event but am extremely busy at work and should not promise quick turnaround of a blog post.

I am totally going to threadjack this but I have a question and I’m not sure where to ask.

I am planning on responding to a letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News and I’m not what the person means by.

“Her implication that Darwin’s theory is not a faith system is equally absurd. Leading evolutionists candidly admit that guessing at origins is not scientifically verifiable and that they accept Darwinism by faith, not because it has been proven. Indeed, they admit it is impossible to prove origins.”

What is “…impossible to prove origins.” supposed to mean?

thanks,

lee

Who knows what it means, Lee?

You’re responding to the letters against Lee Cullum’s column last week, I presume.

I would point out that no scientist, let alone a “leading evolutionist” (whatever that is) guesses at origins. In point of fact we have sent probes to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn based partly on the facts science has about how life originated. No scientist I know accepts Darwinian theory on faith. It is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. The origin of life is uncertain, but that is not the same as saying we must guess at it. Scientists typically make informed guesses when they do guess.

Critically, in the origins of life paragraphs in high school texts, there is no guesswork.

Looking back, I would assume “impossible to prove origins” means that, because you weren’t there when the Earth was created, or when life arose on Earth, you cannot say how the Earth was created, or how life was created on the Earth. The next line would be that God was there, and what God says should settle the matter. The author will fudge what the Bible says, claiming that Genesis was authored by God, though neither God nor the Bible makes that claim.

I guess it means that we will never know for sure what happened during abiogenesis, because no direct traces are left. At best, we can come to a reasonably accurate account that is consistent with all available information.

There are many errors in that comment: a) it conflates “darwinism” with abiogenesis, b) no one “guesses” at origins (except those who guess Genesis is a literal account of it): abiogenesis is a field of study based on hypothesis-testing and empirical evidence like any other; c) science in general doesn’t “prove” stuff. We make models that can be more or less accurately verified, and we trust them accordingly. The only “faith” scientists have is that reality exists, and that our physical senses and logic are adequate ways to perceive and investigate it. We can’t prove either proposition, of course, we just hope we are not “brains-in-a-vat” or something.

Creationists of all stripe seem to be rallying around the deliberately ambiguous term “origins.” Do they mean the origin of life, the origin of the universe, the origin of species, the origin of order, or what? This looks like another attempt to muddy the discourse.

Notwithstanding, there is indeed an underlying statement underlying all of science, the need for our models to conform to natural (i.e., physical and biological)law. To quote James Watson:

Cells obey the laws of Chemistry.

If we didn’t accept this underlying statement (and if it weren’t borne out by experience) we simply couldn’t do science or technology. It’s interesting how some of the creationists are technically trained people who talk on cell phones, ride on airplanes, take statins to lower their cholesterol, etc. They will tell you that their willingness to do so is based on science, and indeed it is. They expect that nature will work forward the way it has in the past. Odd how they don’t believe that expectation applies in the reverse direction.

By contrast, studies of abiogenesis, spontaneous order, etc. implicitly accept that these processes obeyed (and obey) the laws of nature and therefore we can’t invoke any ad hoc process.

Thanks for the quick responses and all of the help.

Yep, the reponses to Lee Cullum’s column.

I had a feeling that was what the author was refering to, but I did not know for sure since it was so vague.

Here is the first draft of my letter.

Mr. Reinarz comments that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is not the case and is a common misconception. The 2nd law of Thermodynamics applies to only closed systems. Life is not closed system. The Sun provides more than enough energy to drive life. If life were a closed system, then an apple tree would not have any more energy than the seed that it grew from and eventually there would be no apple trees because no new energy is introduced into the system.

Dr Wilkin is also making a common mistake. ID is not science as it fails one of the basic tenets of science, falsifiability. He even makes this distinction by not referring to current research as scientific research. Scientists do not (and should not) accept Darwinian theory on faith. It is proven and is demonstrable. He comments about “origins”. I assume he means abiogenesis. Which is different from Darwinian theory and like all science is based on hypothesis-testing and empirical evidence. Faith is not involved.

As much as Dr Wilkins wants evolution to be dieing off, that is not the case. If some other theory were to supplant evolution it would not be ID as ID is not science.

Here is the link to the letters I am responding to (reg req) http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcon[…]s.2c3cf.html

here is the text Order from chaos?

Re: “Separate science and religion in teaching origins of life,” Thursday Viewpoints.

Lee Cullum says those of us who know science, but have serious problems with evolution, “are ignoring phenomena by which “sufficiently large numbers of molecules … will catalyze each other into complex systems, “bringing natural order into chaos.”

No, we have problems with order out of chaos. This violates the law of entropy, which dictates that entropy increases unless energy is introduced into the system from an outside source. Has there ever been an instance of decreasing entropy without an outside energy source?

Believing such is to believe in the fountain of youth or other fables.

Paraphrasing Ms. Cullum, “To be ignorant of physics is to be ignorant, period.”

Roy Reinarz Jr., Lago Vista

Intelligent design

Lee Cullum’s suggestion that intelligent design is not science is ridiculous. She is simply unaware of the current research.

Her implication that Darwin’s theory is not a faith system is equally absurd. Leading evolutionists candidly admit that guessing at origins is not scientifically verifiable and that they accept Darwinism by faith, not because it has been proven. Indeed, they admit it is impossible to prove origins.

Darwinism is on its way out. Intelligent design is on its way in. The idea that what we see on earth came about by chance is beyond belief.

One need not go to the Bible to postulate the existence of an intelligent Creator. The vast majority of Americans believe God exists and is the Creator.

Lee Cullum is defending a dying tradition.

Bob Wilkin, Ph.D.,

Executive Director,

Grace Evangelical Society,

Irving

thanks again,

lee

Lee, Good letter. A grammer problem: … he means abiogenesis. Which is different … possible repair: … he means abiogenesis, which is different …

Spell check “dieing” you should get “dying”

A bit more sophisticated 2nd LoTD argument is that life in fact does encrease entropy at a higher rate than non-life. In this sense, the 2nd LoTD actually drives reactions toward the higher entropy of life.

Research is not endless publication of out-of-context quotes, or quasimathematical nonsense. As those activities exaust the “research” promoted by the Intelligent Design Creationist movement, we would love to see the “current research” that Bob Wilkin refered to in his letter.

Gary

Lee, Good letter. A grammer problem: … he means abiogenesis. Which is different … possible repair: … he means abiogenesis, which is different …

Spell check “dieing” you should get “dying”

A bit more sophisticated 2nd LoTD argument is that life in fact does encrease entropy at a higher rate than non-life. In this sense, the 2nd LoTD actually drives reactions toward the higher entropy of life.

Research is not endless publication of out-of-context quotes, or quasimathematical nonsense. As those activities exaust the “research” promoted by the Intelligent Design Creationist movement, we would love to see the “current research” that Bob Wilkin refered to in his letter.

Gary

Made the changes.

Thanks for reading.

lee

The link for Gary Hurd on the Standards 2005 page does not work.

{Returning to our previously schedualed program}

I want to congratulate Jack and the majority of the committee members. They now will need to face several more public meetings, and the creationist friendly state school board.

Best of luck.

Re: Link

The web link was to an early draft of my letter and is being replaced with the final draft that hopefully hasn’t any grammer errors.

The IDnet revision document (p. 15) has a supposed quote from a Scientific American article by Ernst Mayr:

“Whether microevolution can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes (such as new complex organs or body plans and new biochemical systems which appear irreducibly complex) is not clear. These kinds of macroevolutionary explanations generally are not based on direct observations and are historical narratives based on inferences from indirect or circumstantial evidence. [Ernst Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought,” p. 80, (July 2000, Scientific American)]”

Taner Edis was unable to find the quote in a quick skim of the article. I read the article carefully. There is nothing in the article even remotely like this. So I guess this does not even qualify as a quote-mine. It’s just a dumb mistake.

I did a Google search for the quote but found nothing.

Would anyone like to bet that this misquote will appear in other future creationist writing?

Sundry coments on proposed letter

Evolution goes on around us all the time. If it violates the second law of thermodynamics, physics must be wrong. But of course there is no violation.

The second law is an inequality: for a spontaneous process in a closed system, dS >= 0. For an open system,

dS >= dq/T or dS - dq/T >= 0

S is entropy, dS is change in entropy, dq/dt is heat flow across the system boundary. All life processes, including copying DNA with or without variations, satisfy the inequality. End of story.

People get confused by metaphors about order & disorder. These are sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Snowflakes form without an outside energy source.… It’s only backward creationists that still go on about the second law. Most of them grew tired of being told they were idiots about it. So they dropped that argument – but they replaced it with a new improved version: Somehow, random mutations never increase information! Dumb and dumber.

‘abiogenesis’ is not a well known word. You might use ‘origin of life’ in a letter. And instead of this creo-speak:

“Her implication that Darwin’s theory is not a faith system is equally absurd. Leading evolutionists candidly admit that guessing at origins is not scientifically verifiable and that they accept Darwinism by faith, not because it has been proven. Indeed, they admit it is impossible to prove origins.”

you might use correct terms. The correct term for evolution (a process in nature) is ‘evolution’. The correct term for the corresponding branch of science is ‘evolutionary biology’. It has grown far beyond one man’s theory just as physics is not simply ‘Newton’s theory’.

A good place to discuss issues such as the one you interjected here is the talk.origins news group. If you don’t have a news reader you can find it this way: http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search

Evolution dying? Longest running lie.

Should have mentioned: in the inequality, T is the absolute temperature at the place where heat crosses the boundary.

Gary Hurd’s response to the IDnet proposal is now online at http://www.kcfs.org/standards05/idc[…]es/hurd.html

Also, I’m glad Tim pointed out the misuse of the Mayr quote. Calvert uses that quote all the time, and I will post on that when I get some time.

Over on the DI’s Media Complaint Division this morning we have John Calvert of the ID Network’s take on the first hearing in Kansas on the science standards. Other than conceding that the numbers of those testifying for each side were roughly equal, there is little else where his observations agree with Josh Rosenau’s comments over on Pharyngula.

Interestingly, Calvert claims to believe that “ … we won the battle for the minds of the lay person but probably not of those leaning to a more liberal view … “ acknowledging tacitly that “ … there were more credentialed scientists on the other side..”

But then he revealinglystates that “This is not the proper process for deciding this issue … “ and calls for “Focused hearings from experts … to cut through the misinformation, ridicule and half-truths … “ He then closes with the lament that “It would have helped to have more scientists on our side … “and speculating that “If that had been the case we would have won the debate hands down.” I’m afraid he’ll never be able to remedy that, even with copious amounts of prayer and lots of luck. The lesson of Project Steve, to say nothing of data and logic, will always swamp them.

He also wished for theologians to rebut argument “ … argument of the Christian biology teacher that there is no conflict between evolution or naturalism and Christianity.” Here’s hoping his wish comes true, since it will lay bare for all to see the religious underbelly of the ID beast.

Then he crowed about the support garnered from two Muslims who testified in support of ID, and promised a separate post on that topic. ‘Tis nice to see an ID backer acknowledging the alliance between the Taliban the ID backers.

He then blathered on about the deep scientific problem with methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism, a topic on which he promises another post soon.

Then he crowed about the support garnered from two Muslims who testified in support of ID, and promised a separate post on that topic.

I’m still laughing about Dembski’s comment about the Hindu “scientists” who favor “multiple designers theory”.

Somehow I don’t expect Buddhists to be jumping on the bandwagon anytime soon.

Then he crowed about the support garnered from two Muslims who testified in support of ID, and promised a separate post on that topic. ‘Tis nice to see an ID backer acknowledging the alliance between the Taliban the ID backers.

The blanket assertion by Keanus that all Muslims are equated with the Taliban is false, and an example of offensive religious bigotry. Such comments have no place at PT.

Gary Hurd observed…

The blanket assertion by Keanus that all Muslims are equated with the Taliban is false, and an example of offensive religious bigotry.  Such comments have no place at PT.

…and he’s right. Mea culpa. It is true (or so I’ve gleaned from several sources), however, that most Muslim funadmentalists’, of whom the Taliban are one example, view of origins differs little from that of Christian creationists, although I doubt many subscribe to the approach of ID proponents.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on January 30, 2005 8:17 PM.

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