A Story from Kansas: Pandora’s box has been opened

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Here’s a story to tell from what has been a busy two days in Kansas. I intend to add more from Kansas as time allows, but this was a very interesting experience that I’d like to share.

The most common question that I’ve been asked by reporters is what are the practical consequences of the Kansas state Board’s adoption of these standards. Part of my answer has been that the most significant immediate consequence is that in districts all over Kansas, all it will take is one Board member, parent, student or teacher to bring creationists claims to the classroom, pointing to the state standards as a rationale and justification for having those claims discussed. This opens up a Pandora’s box through which anyone with creationist leanings can expect some amount of equal classroom time.

This morning I got an unusual opportunity to make this point. Radio station WBUR, an NPR station in Boston with national listenship, invited me on their show “Hear & Now” to respond to comments made by a high school biology teacher in Topeka, Kansas. This teacher, Donnie Palmer, favors the new standards, and is an example of exactly the danger I have been referring to

Instead of being live, WBUR interviews people offline and then edits the discussion more or less immediately for their show. Therefore, I was able to listen to Mr. Palmer’s interview first, and then comment on them in my part of the show. I was very impressed with all the people involved in this short project, especially the woman Robin who interviewed me.

You can listen to the show (it’s about 15 minutes long) by going here.

I invite and encourage you to listen, and then comment here.

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Yes, it's Mu Haiku time again at The Huge Entity!... But wait a minute, as we bow our heads in respect for the loss of rationality shouldn't we also be celebrating the new opportunities an evolution free universe holds for the scientific process? [Be... Read More

94 Comments

I like where he (the teacher, Mr. Palmer) says that students are expected to ‘apply the scientific process’ to what they are taught in class, so that they can become critical thinkers. Perhaps we should take the focus off teaching facts in all classes, and instead present a fact and a lie about every subject and make the students figure out which. I can see US History going something like this:

Alright, children, today we’ll be learning about the early years of the union. Our first president was either George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. He served either two or five terms. After serving his terms, however many there were, he either stepped down, or was forced out by a bloody coup. His successor was either John Adams or King George.

Sure, they might not be -learning- anything, but now they get to think critically!

Based on what I heard, I honestly feel sorry for the students in that guy’s Biology classes.

Here’s some of what he said:

“The lack of evidence of seeing one species evolve into another species such as the lack of a fossil record at this time.”

“Really all we want is, we want good science to come out, and you know if evolution is good science, then it will come to be the better science.”

“I think if you look at the last 150 years, the great discoveries in science, like in microbiology and the medical fields, um, don’t really have a lot to do with evolutionary theory…Meaning the advances we’ve made, we don’t just apply those to the theory of evolution, we look at other aspects of science besides evolution.”

“Most teachers present evolution as a fact and, um, there’s no, um, question as to its validity, which I think is the wrong way to present it.”

“When you’re dealing with a theory that tries to explain the origins of life on earth, then of course your going to infringe upon people’s religious beliefs and their personal beliefs. And, you know, for a theory like this to do that, I mean, the topic of religion has to come up.”

“It’s a theory, it’s not a fact yet. Hopefully this will encourage more scientists to get involved and present more credible evidence in support of evolution and we can, you know, address that as it comes down the pipe. Hopefully this will just encourage more science to be done.”

For what it’s worth, I think you did great Jack.

Thanks for that, Jack. You did a super job. (‘Course, you’re getting pretty experienced, no?)

RBH

yikes. a better argument against tenure I’ve never seen.

again, this refererences to a “lack of credible evidence in support of evolution” is highly suggestive of some serious projection.

so far, denial and projection are so common among the IDiots I have observed, that it must be causally linked to the phenomenon somehow.

They want to hij*ck science and fly it with the Bible and no more knowledge than you would get by playing Flight Sim.

And they will if we let them.

yes, but it’s nothing new. we even discussed possible genetic components of this kind of behavior some months back.

a slight tangent, i wonder if the serious decline in the availability of mental health care in this country over the last 15 years or so has contributed to the increase in IDiots?

after all, if you require some crutch to use as a projection style defense for whatever ails ya, ID is tailor made.

They want to hij*ck science and fly it with the Bible and no more knowledge than you would get by playing Flight Sim.

In defense of Flight *SIMS* they will actually teach you pretty solid flight dynamics and theory (Sims as in: Microsoft flight simulator, Lock On: Modern Air Combat)

“I think if you look at the last 150 years, the great discoveries in science, like in microbiology and the medical fields, um, don’t really have a lot to do with evolutionary theory…

Stunning. Just… stunning. This guy is teaching biology? Can we send some kind of Peace Corps style volunteer effort to Kansas to set up a functional education system?

“It’s a theory, it’s not a fact yet. Hopefully this will encourage more scientists to get involved and present more credible evidence in support of evolution and we can, you know, address that as it comes down the pipe. Hopefully this will just encourage more science to be done.”

With that statement alone, you can pretty well discount anything else he might say. For a science teacher, he sure doesn’t know much about science.

I’m not sure why everybody is so down on this idea.

All we need to do is make sure that we can get some students who want to hear about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and see what the reactions from the pro-ID educators are. I can smell the hyprocri-tea brewing already.

Palmer is a great argument form banishing tenure from K-12 schools.

On another point, Jack, the rebellion by qualified biology teachers refusing to teach ID in any form is likely to provide fertile grounds for initiating a suit against the Kansas Board of Education. Are there any moves afoot to locate teachers, or local school systems, willing to challange the Kansas BOE in court? I I haven’t tried to weigh all the possible outcomes of such a case, but it may provide greater potential for a precedent setting decision than Dover. A key factor would be the nature of the Tenth Circuit. Is it considered conservative, liberal, or neutral?

Hello everyone. 1st post on this site, I enjoy the science and quality of the people who write here and that know and understand science. Special hello to Burt Hamburg who I met and sat beside at the Dover trial on the one day I was able to attend in October. I, myself am a 33 year Biology teacher in the state of Ohio. If someone can give me Donnie Palmer’s address I will personally send him the recent copy of Natural History (Darwin and Evolution). That wingnut needs help!

I strongly agree with Russell & Rick. Palmer’s comments suggests he’s stunningly ignorant about the fundamentals of science itself, not to mention the role of evolutionary thinking in current biology.

How can he teach students what a scientific theory is, when he clearly doesn’t understand it himself?

A question for Chuck Fetrow:

As a long time biology teacher, have you commonly encountered Palmer’s level of ignorance in other high school biology teachers?

How can he teach students what a scientific theory is, when he clearly doesn’t understand it himself?

I teach a low-level chemistry course at my college - a chemistry course roughly equivalent to high school chemistry for adults who haven’t had it (or any other science, for that matter). One of the first things I do in the class is to ask them what they think of when they hear the words “theory”, “law”, “hypothesis”, etc.

Palmer’s comment about evolution’s status as a theory reminds me of the stuff I hear from my students before we’ve discussed what scientific theories, laws, etc. are. To have a science teacher talking like that is appalling. He should know better.

Gulp. Palmer’s one messed up dude. I wish I could help you guys somehow, but I have nothing really to suggest. (As a Canadian, I can only look on, appalled, though vigilant, because we’ve got a few tiny pockets of ignorance here too.)

Wait a minute. Isn’t Palmer just trying to help his students be better scientists? Who needs the mediation of theories developed by so-called experts to understand the world? I agree with Palmer. Let’s help the kids become critical thinkers by using the scientific process. I suggest they only be given raw data in science class. Just teach ‘em with gene sequences, pictures of in situs, northern blot radiographs, etc. Then they can make up their own minds.

Really, why even bother to present the accepted view? It takes -real- critical thinking for a kid to figure out about evolution all on his own. We’ll give them no raw data, and just teach lies. That way, we’re not cheating them out of the experience of applying the scientific method. I also think it’s a mistake to wait until high school biology for this. Ask kindergarteners to figure it out.

Yes, there are thousands of science “teachers” in our public schools who wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to teach creationism. I teach in a district where a long-time biology teacher supplied his classes with *Pandas & People*. I have seen those tiny Jack Chick comic books passed out by teachers. I know a physics teacher who, in the service of young Earth creationism, tells kids that the speed of light has slowed down–so the universe may not really be billions of years old.

And (turn down the sensitivity level of your irony meter) this is in a science-oriented magnet school, recognized as one of the best in the nation, and awarded Blue Ribbon status by the US Dept. of HEW.

I did a web search on ‘Donnie Palmer Topeka Kansas’. Came up with a reference to a track coach. So is this the representative Kansas ID biology teacher? This looks to me suspiciously like a coach filling in his load with some Biology classes.

Rick @ shrimp and grits Wrote:

Palmer’s comment about evolution’s status as a theory reminds me of the stuff I hear from my students before we’ve discussed what scientific theories, laws, etc. are. To have a science teacher talking like that is appalling. He should know better.

I can’t vouch for Palmer, but sadly, many people do know better, but feed the misconceptions anyway.

Bloody good show. Very clear and considered.

I think that the interviewer was kinda rooting for you, which always helps.

Rick Wrote:

One of the first things I do in the class is to ask them what they think of when they hear the words “theory”, “law”, “hypothesis”, etc.

At another university, students in the first day of “Environmental Geology” were asked “What is pH?” Many replied that it had something to do with shampoo. They obviously had paid attention to television commercials but did not know rudiments of chemistry (this was not a freshman course).

Yesterday I went to a presentation at my college about evolution and creationism in the classroom. The presenter was an anthropology professor I have a class with, and she discussed problems with teaching a World Prehistory course where she often has creationist students object to the teaching of human evolution. Other professors from a variety of fields shared their experiences. In mythology classes, for example, there are students who object when the definition of mythology includes their own beliefs. Suprisingly, the biology professors had little friction (I guess of you don’t “believe” in evolution, you won’t sign up for a class titled “evolution”)

Conversely, as anyone following the events has noticed, at the high school level the friction is always in the biology classes. Of course, due to funding constraints, most high schools do not offer courses in anthropology, mythology or philosophy.

Just because the state board illegally changed the standards, teachers do not have a right to illegally teach creationism in reliance on such standards. I can imagine a suit by a parent against that teacher quoted, and when the teacher pulls the Nuremberg Defense (“I was only doing what I was ordered to do!”) the state board’s action goes into play.

And the state board’s actions are most certainly illegal. An administrative agency may order things be changed in accordance with changes in information. Agencies do not have the right to set up a kangaroo court to provide the data, however.

Scopes XXXIV, in Kansas: Here we come!

“I think if you look at the last 150 years, the great discoveries in science, like in microbiology and the medical fields, um, don’t really have a lot to do with evolutionary theory…

Well, I guess the next time he sees his doctor for a Staph infection, he’ll ask to be treated with Penicillin G. Good luck, dude!

Tiax said I also think it’s a mistake to wait until high school biology for this. Ask kindergarteners to figure it out.

The sad thing is kindergarteners can figure out what is real and what is not. If they are fortunate to have enlightened parents and religious leaders it’s plain sailing if they have Fundies its no different to being in a Madras.

Just a thought: Does Palmer actually “do” science? One of the sad realizations that science majors have when they enter the profession of teaching is that most stop “doing” science when they start “teaching” science. This is one of the reasons attracting scientists to education is so difficult. Science teachers should do science as well as teach it. They should be given the time and resources to participate in actual science. (It is not necessary that it be in their field-as teachers, we should be generalists first.) That way, they see the whole process-experimental design, equipment choice, methods, technology use, literature search, writing and publishing, peer reveiw. As my colleagues in my school say-teach by example! Let your students see you are doing science. They will be more inspired by your excitement and interest than with memorized facts and cookbook lab experiments.

Tenth Circuit? OOooooooh.

That’s the bunch that ruled in about 1980 that, in a civil suit, it’s not enough to establish that the U.S. attorneys lied to the court (committed a fraud upon the court) to get the case reopened, because one must expect U.S. attorneys to lie.

Seriously, generally it’s a good court. It’s not liberal by any stretch. It usually has a Mormon or two on it, and generally it’s got someone who’s had to deal with some odd science issue as an attorney or judge, and is consequently relatively up on the science.

Watch to see what Judge Jones does in the Harrisburg trial (the Dover case). He’s probably a good bellwether on how conservative judges and courts will act on these issues.

Especially to the extent any business interest involved in the case that is clear in the record – the evolutionary science behind the attempt to eradicate the cotton boll weevil, the evolutionary science behind the treatment and potential cure for diabetes, the evolution behind the fight against the rapid mutation of influenza, the genetic engineering of better crops and livestock, for examples – the more likely the ID folk are to lose.

Kansas universities do an awful lot of agricultural research for Kansas farmers that is based in evolution. Standards that label Kansas farming as “hooey,” as the new science standards in Kansas do, should have a short life. Of course, it may take some careful explanation to the farmers there to point out just who and what it is that is urinating on their business, but isn’t that always the problem?

According to “Don Asmussen BAD reporter” that Kansas voted 4:1 to allow intelligent design. The 1970,s rock band now says “we’re all more than just ‘dust in the wind’”. The 1st progressive rock band to champion science, the majority of Kansas now believes it’s biggest hit should have had a lyric mentioning that other theories exist. New lyrics are more balanced to include I.D.theory. Old lyric: “I close my eyes only for a moment and the moment’s gone”. New lyric: “I close my eyes, eyes too complicated to evolve randomly”. Old lyric: “all my dreams pass before my eyes in curiosity”. New lyric: “all my dreams pass before my eyes, eyes so well designed it would take a diety”. Old lyric: “dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind”. New lyric: “Dust in the wind, all we are is dust to Darwin, but his is only ONE opinion, come in and join our religion, help us stop those gays from marryin’”. As would be predicted scientists warn against calling 1970’s rock anthems “science”, only Foreigner’s “cold as ice” holds up.

RDLenny Flank Wrote:

What exaqctly is this “traditional doctrine of creation” that DI wants to defend, and, if ID has nothing to do with creationism, why do they want to see a “traditional doctrine of creation” defended?

Lenny, if you want those answers, wouldn’t you do well to ask the DI directly?

k.e. Wrote:

Blast just answer one question

define the “Intelligent designer”

Your reply will indicate your intellectual honesty

The brain of JFK is missing from the National Archives. If I conclude that on the basis of their normal security and document protection, such a thing could only have occurred by theft, is my conclusion in error if I can’t tell you how tall the person was, whether it was a man or a woman, a citizen or not, or whether they were left-handed or right-handed?

The logic here is very clear. You might not like it–maybe it makes you uncomfortable–but it’s rather clear nonetheless.

Lenny, if you want those answers, wouldn’t you do well to ask the DI directly?

there goes that inability to pay attention, again, blast.

Lenny has in fact, asked those same questions directly to DI representatives, and you know what answers they gave? same as yours. none. in fact, you have posted yourself in many of the threads where lenny has repeatedly asked these questions of DI representatives. Seems you paid about as much attention there as everywhere else you insert your drivel.

but it’s rather clear nonetheless.

the only thing that is abundantly clear is that you are insane. Would you care to answer my question about why you continue to post here on PT that i posed to you in another thread Blast? do you need me to spell it out for you again?

here you go:

really, i (and all here) find you nothing but a source of constant amusement. Have you not yet noticed that all you do with your drivel is just encourage us to laugh at you?

why do you like playing the jester so badly? is it just for the attention? I really am curious. You are incapable of actually posting anything worth serious discussion, so is that it, do you actually like the abuse we heap on well deserving trolls like yourself?

I’ll make a deal with you.…

Give me a truly honest answer as to why you continue to post on PT, and I’ll never respond to another of your posts ever again. do remember to include the fact that nobody here has ever supported or agreed with ANY of your arguments, EVER.

My point is made about uncivil behavior, I think, and the thread is closed.

In the future, on one of the threads I start:

To Blast - if you don’t have anything to say related to the thread, please don’t post.

To everyone else, if someone that you are perennially upset with does post here, please ask me to take care of it.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on November 9, 2005 11:26 PM.

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