Ohio: Fordham Evaluation Authors Weigh In

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Last month Dave Thomas reported on the Fordham Foundation’s report on America’s science standards. In that report, Ohio got a “B” on the science standards overall, and a 3 (out of 3) on the treatment of evolution.

The authors of the Fordham evaluation were recently made aware of the implementation of the Benchmark and Grade Level Indicator in the form of a creationist “Critical Analysis of Evolution” model lesson plan adopted by the Ohio State Board of Education, and in particular they were made aware of the flaunting of the Fordham “B” grade by ID proponent Michael Cochran of the Ohio State Board of Education at its meeting on January 10, 2006. Cochran implied that the B grade meant that the Fordham evaluation somehow sanctioned the creationist lesson plan created to operationalize the Standards. The motion before the Board was to delete that lesson plan from the model curriculum; the Benchmark was not mentioned in the motion on the floor (summary of the Board meeting). In response, the authors of the Fordham report on science standards, led by Paul R. Gross, have issued this statement to the press in Ohio and nationally:

Ohio’s K-12 Science Standards and Evolution

In the recent report, “The State of State Science Standards” (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2005), of which I am the lead author, we issued a grade of “B” for the Ohio standards. This was in recognition of documents unnecessarily long and with some errors, but dedicated, on the whole, to good and sufficient science content. My distinguished colleagues, members of the expert advisory committee, join me in the statement that follows.

The standards we reviewed present evolutionary biology well enough, and start it early enough, although the treatment is rather thin in relevant molecular genetics. In one benchmark, there is a mention of “critical analysis” of “aspects of evolutionary theory.” We gave Ohio the benefit of the doubt that such ordinarily innocuous words might raise in the current political climate. After all, modern evolutionary biology includes, in fact comprises, “critical analysis of evolutionary theory,” just as modern physics includes critical analysis of relativity and quantum theory. Serious science is a continuous critical analysis.

But the benefit of doubt we gave the benchmark may have been a mistake. Creationism-inspired “critical analysis” of evolutionary biology - as has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature, and recently in a Pennsylvania Federal Court - is neither serious criticism nor serious analysis. The newest version of creationism, so-called Intelligent Design (ID) theory, is no exception. Like its predecessors, it is neither critical nor analytic, nor has it made any contribution to the literature of science. Any suggestion that our “B” grade for Ohio’s standards endorses sham critiques of evolution, as offered by creationists, is false.

To the extent that model lessons are to be provided in Ohio as curricular guidance, lessons that refer favorably to, or incorporate, sham critiques of evolution, or bad science, or pseudo-science, the standards we reviewed are contradicted. That part of the state’s science education will be a failure. Moreover it will reflect badly on the entire standards undertaking, not just on biology and evolution. To devote scores of pages in the official standards to the principles of good science, and then to teach bad or pseudo-science in the classroom, is to defeat the very purpose of standards. If creationism-driven arguments become an authorized extension of Ohio’s K-12 science standards, then the standards will deserve a failing grade. Paul R. Gross University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus University of Virginia

So the question is whether creationism-driven arguments have become an authorized extension of the standards. The short answer is yes. The long answer follows below.

Analysis of the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” Model Lesson Plan

Ohio has a four-component system: At the top are Standards. Each Standard has associated Benchmarks and each Benchmark has associated Grade Level Indicators. Each Benchmark also has associated lesson plans in the Board’s Model Science Curriculum. The lesson plans in the model curriculum constitute operational definitions of the standards, benchmarks, and grade level indicators: they provide pedagogical guidance and content to fill out the skeleton formed by the higher levels in the standards hierarchy. The Fordham evaluation was of the standards and benchmarks, not the model curriculum. With one exception, we agree with the Fordham grade of “B” for Ohio’s Science Standards. The exception is one Benchmark, the so-called “Critical Analysis of Evolution”.

That benchmark, Benchmark H in Grade 9-10 Life Sciences, left an opening for intelligent design creationists to wedge in a model lesson plan that is comes directly out of creationist “challenges” to evolution. The Benchmark reads

H. Describe a foundation of biological evolution as the change in gene frequency of a population over time. Explain the historical and current scientific developments, mechanisms and processes of biological evolution. Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.) (p. 138 of linked document; emphasis added)

The Grade Level Indicator associated with that Benchmark is

23. Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.) (p. 152)

That’s the hole in the fence that ID proponents drove their creationist lesson plan through.

The model lesson plan sets up mini-debates among students, one group taking the “evolution” side (“Sample Supporting Answer”) and another the challenging side (“Sample Challenging Answer”). The aspects are titled Homology, Fossil Record, Antibiotic Resistance, Peppered Moths, and Endosymbiosis. Veterans of the creationism wars will recognize all of them. The first four “Sample Challenging Answers” are straight out of Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution (as were four more “aspects” dropped in the final version) , which (until a frantically scrubbed version was adopted by the OBOE) was among the recommended resources in the lesson plan. All have roots in Of Pandas and People. And in the end, all have clear antecedents in “creation science” – they are in fact some of the creationist criticisms of evolution that date back as far as Henry Morris’ 1974 Scientific Creationism. Here are a few extracts from the “Sample Challenging Answers”:

Homology Some scientists think similarities in anatomical and genetic structure reflect similar functional needs in different animals, not common ancestry.

Oh? What scientists? No references are provided for that “some scientists”. And then there is

Fossil Record Transitional fossils are rare in the fossil record. A growing number of scientists now question that Archaeopteryx and other transitional fossils really are transitional forms.

Anyone recognize that “growing number of scientists” locution? I wonder who they are. The “Sample Challenging Answer” identifies none.

And then

Peppered Moths English peppered moths show that environmental changes can produce microevolutionary changes within a population. They do not show that natural selection can produce major new features or forms of life, or a new species for that matter—i.e., macroevolutionary changes.

Leaving aside the strange notion of “macroevolutionary changes”, there’s no mention of any claim that industrial melanism studies demonstrate “macroevolution” on the “Sample Supporting Answer”” side. The Sample Challenging Answer is a non sequitur meant only to cast generalized doubt on evolutionary theory.

And here’s the complete “Sample Challenging Answer” for the Endosymbiosis topic:

Endosymbiosis Laboratory tests have not yet demonstrated that small bacteria (prokaryotic cells) can change into separate organelles, such as mitochondria and chloroplasts within larger bacterial cells. When smaller bacterial cells (prokaryotes) are absorbed by larger bacterial cells, they are usually destroyed by digestion. Although some bacterial cells (prokaryotes) can occasionally live in eukaryotes, scientists have not observed these cells changing into organelles such as mitochondria or chloroplasts.

Gosh. Is there no evidence at all for endosymbiosis? If we don’t see it occurring right now in a Petri dish, does that mean it did not and could not occur? Poor Lynn Margulis, apparently speculating wildly in the total absence of evidence.

It is of mild interest that among the “resources” for this lesson plan, the only reference to Lynn Margulis is a 1987 paper with Dorion Sagan in Natural History, Margulis’ name being mis-spelled as “Margoulis” in the lesson plan resources. There’s no more recent ‘resource’ on endosymbiosis. Students attempting to research it are screwed. Many of the places that mis-spelling of Margulis’ name turns up in a Google search (59 hits) in conjunction with “endosymbiosis” are in the Ohio Department of Education’s model lesson plan and sites referencing it. (This is also the lesson plan that in the original form presented to the Board had a fake reference, one that exists only as a title on several creationist web sites. It is evident that none of the authors of the lesson plan actually read the references.)

What did the Ohio Dept of Education know, and when did it know it?

So the lesson plan is bathed in creationist canards (more analyses of the lesson plan here). Did the Ohio Department of Education know that when it originally evaluated the lesson plan? Yes, it emphatically did know that. ODE documents obtained by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State Public Records Requests show that both internal and external science consultants and reviewers repeatedly alerted ODE managers to the numerous problems with the lesson plan. Some quotations from those documents

    “The sentence … is a lie.” (an ODE scientist referrring to the Fossil Record aspect “Sample Challenging Answer”; the lie is still in the lesson)

    “Not the real scientific world. The real religious world, yes!” (Outside Field Test Reviewer referring to the lesson plan as a whole)

    “As a tool to develop objective scientific critical thinking it is an insult.” (Outside Field Test Reviewer)

    “Not ‘scientific critical thinking’” (Outside Field Test Reviewer)

    “The lesson relies solely on the vacuous pedagogical tool of staged debate. There is no … value placed on intellectual growth or learning; rather, indoctrination is the apparent point of this lesson plan.” (Outside Field Test Reviewer)

    “ODE does not support this kind of teaching strategy.” (ODE Staff Member)

    “This should have been out. Horrible non-scientific citation.” (ODE Staff Member)

    “Teachers need more information about intelligent design; …” (Outside Field Test Reviewer)

Several of those suggest that ODE’s Field Reviewers knew what was going on, even if ODE managers claim they themselves didn’t know.

The sequence of titles of successive drafts of the model lesson plan is instructive, too. It went from “Macroevolution on Trial” (sound familiar?) to “Great Evolution Debate” to “Critical Analysis of Evolution”. New labels, old creationist content: old garbage in a shiny new trash can.

Ohio Citizens for Science is exploring whether it is permitted to web publish the ODE documents obtained via the PRR now. As and if we can do so, I will link to them here. They are juicy reading. As I mentioned earlier, the managers of the Ohio Department of Education who were feeding (or not!) information to the Board of Education will be the ones under oath facing those and other documents if it comes to litigation in federal court. Board Members on both sides of the controversy said in their meeting last week that they did not know of the kinds of comments about the lesson plan that ODE documents prove were made. Power in organizations derives from control of information. The Ohio State Board of Education may want to inquire into how the information flowing to them is controlled, and by whom.

Finally, consider the definition of “theory” in the lesson plan:

* Theory A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.

It’s hard to comprehend how even a high school biology teacher (which is what the author is), aided by a tenured biology faculty member at the University of Akron (Dan Ely of the writing committee) could imagine that is what “theory” means in science. But the reason is clear: Both testified in the Kansas BOE creationist hearings, and both denied common descent in those hearings: they’re creationists.

I could go on, but while the supply of electrons is (nearly) unlimited, my patience is not. The lesson plan is a farrago of creationist distortions and misrepresentations. It was wedged into the model curriculum by intelligent design creationism proponents at the urging of the Disco Institute, to attempt to cast unjustified doubt on one of the strongest theories in science for purely sectarian reasons. The Disco Institute’s goal, as we all know, is

To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.

The Trojan benchmark and creationist model lesson plan exist only in aid of that goal; they have no other reason for being.

Once again, the last sentence in the Fordham authors’ statement is

If creationism-driven arguments become an authorized extension of Ohio’s K-12 science standards, then the standards will deserve a failing grade.

As demonstrated above, and as Ohio Department of Education documents unequivocally show, the condition “If creationism-driven arguments become an authorized extension of Ohio’s K-12 science standards, …” is fully satisfied: Creationism-driven arguments are an authorized extension of the science standards. It follows that the standards do in fact deserve a failing grade.

The saddest part of this lesson plan fiasco is that the Ohio State Board of Education has set a “Dover trap” for every school district in Ohio. I have already heard remarks attributed to a creationist middle school teacher to the effect that he can “supplement” his teaching with creationist materials because the State Board says it’s OK. Well, it’s not OK. If that district is taken to court because of that creationist teacher, it will pay a price like that Dover, PA, will have to pay, now estimated to be on the order of $1 million. And by abandoning its responsibility for honest science education, the Ohio State Board of Education – the majority led by creationist thought leaders and the members they’ve dragged along with them – has passed the buck to the federal courts. Some members have resisted that push courageously. But it is not the pro-creationist State Board members who will pay the price. It will be some poor district in Vinton County or Holmes County or the like, where there are scant resources and teachers depend on the state’s model curriculum for guidance. That is an unconscionable act by the State Board’s pro-creationist thought leaders.

RBH

143 Comments

Wow. Strong statement by Professor Gross. How can these people not be embarrassed to be the object of such censor by respected scientists and educators?

Dover was a sweet vistory. One that should be savored by all of you who gave of your time and your intellect to bring about. It was, however, just one of many battles that will have to be fought to hold the forces of ignorance and superstition at bay.

Given that the pro-creationist advisors to and members of the state board of education have been negligent in formulating the model lesson plan; and given that local boards of education are likely to suffer financial loss of they follow the pro-creationist advise; is their any possibility that those pro-creationists would be personally liable for the losses?

Tom: maybe, if a pattern of deliberate fraud and deception against the state can be proven. I’m not sure about the law here, but it looks like an uphill battle, even if it’s for a good cause.

The NYT has an article called “The Evolution Wars, Revisited” behind the subscriber wall. Anyone got a TimesSelect login you can email me? [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

But it is not the pro-creationist State Board members who will pay the price. It will be some poor district in Vinton County or Holmes County or the like, where there are scant resources and teachers depend on the state’s model curriculum for guidance.

After RBHs long and detailed explanation, I still have a question. Are the schoolteachers in Vinton or Holmes county *required* to preach creationism, because the lesson plan has been heavily salted with it? I can understand this sort of lesson plan basically being interpreted by creationist teachers as giving carte blanche to start pounding their pulpits in biology class. But are legitimate biology teachers required to follow suit?

For that matter, are the school administrators in Vinton or Holmes county, who are surely well aware of the Dover case (and cost), permitted to advise their teaching staff that following the lesson plan is guaranteed to result in an adverse legal decision and cost the school district a bundle, so don’t do it!.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that any non-creationist biology teacher could tolerate teaching Icons of Evolution or Pandas material. At the very least, it should violate their religious principles.

In the Ohio ID-inspired “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plan (L10-H23), on the section on endosymbiosis, the author(s) state:

“Brief Supporting Sample Answer: Complex eukaryotic cells contain organelles such as chloroplasts and mitochondria. These organelles have their own DNA. This suggests that bacterial cells may have become established in cells that were ancestral to eukaryotes. These smaller cells existed for a time in a symbiotic relationship within the larger cell. Later, the smaller cell evolved into separate organelles within the eukaryotic ancestors. The separate organelles, chloroplast and mitochondria, within modern eukaryotes stand as evidence of this evolutionary change.”

The way the lesson plan is set up is to contrast the “pro-evolution” position with some problems with the position. The “Brief Supporting Sample Answer” is thus intended to represent the consensus position of the scientific community (IMO, at least). But the quoted section in this post is a flat-out misrepresentation, insofar as it implies that the consensus is that chloroplasts and mitochondria diverged from a common proto-organelle after the initial endosymbiotic event. (The last sentence is worse than this, as it mis-states entirely what we take as evidence.) Until I read this, I had never seen anyone anywhere propose such a thing, and I am pretty sure that the consensus is rather different.

This illustrates another problem with this lesson plan — not only are the alleged problems creationist-inspired flights of fancy, the supposed support for evolution is botched and mangled.

GT(N)T wrote: “Wow. Strong statement by Professor Gross. How can these people not be embarrassed to be the object of such censor by respected scientists and educators?”

Simple. The jerks in the SBOE are not scientists, not educators, have no scientific background and do not care what any scientists think of them. The head of the SBOE and some of the members are creationists, religious zealots following one doctrine of Christian extremism: that the ends (forcing all children to believe in their version of the literal truth of select parts of the bible) justify the means (lying, cheating, stealing). They flaunt their ignorance and call it good common sense.

Ohio has the unenviable condition of having many accredited universities per capita, many making significant contributions to scientific research, but a grossly ignorant populace controlling the state government. Consequently, people come to Ohio’s universities to get their degrees and then leave the state to get jobs and raise families. The brain drain in Ohio is a raging torrent.

By the way, if my students in a couple of the different universities where I’ve taught are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt them, then many if not most of the rural school districts in Ohio teach biblical creation fables and flood mythology in their biology classes. They do not fear lawsuits because the populace that these schools (inadequately) serve are mostly poor, scientifically ignorant, and extremely Christian. Christian radio has metastasized throughout rural Ohio (and geographically speaking, most of Ohio is rural) with every station hosting one jerk or another ignorantly railing against the ‘evils’ of evolution. One of the three broadcast television stations we are able to receive at our home is a extremist Christian station and the network affiliates routinely run Creationist programming on weekend mornings - and this happens in the larger metropolitan markets as well. There are few places in Ohio to escape the stranglehold of biblical literalism and the oppression, ignorance, and poverty that inevitably follow. Ohio continues its economic death spiral (as the head of Ohio’s board of regents, Roderick Chu, put it), swirling down the bowl, and it is Christian extremism that soiled the water and pulled the handle.

Flint asked

After RBHs long and detailed explanation, I still have a question. Are the schoolteachers in Vinton or Holmes county *required* to preach creationism, because the lesson plan has been heavily salted with it? I can understand this sort of lesson plan basically being interpreted by creationist teachers as giving carte blanche to start pounding their pulpits in biology class. But are legitimate biology teachers required to follow suit?

No teacher is required to use the model curriculum in general or that lesson plan in particular. However, if a creationist science teacher, or a non-degreed bio teacher desperate for materials, elects to use it, the kids in that classroom will have no choice. The teacher has a choice; the students don’t.

Flint asked further

For that matter, are the school administrators in Vinton or Holmes county, who are surely well aware of the Dover case (and cost), permitted to advise their teaching staff that following the lesson plan is guaranteed to result in an adverse legal decision and cost the school district a bundle, so don’t do it!.

Sure they are. But teachers are not the only school functionaries who are creationists, and, as the Ohio Board demonstrates, some of them do not give a damn if they’re sued. One hopes they’d show good sense, but I’ve learned over what is now becoming a reasonably long life to not depend on peoples’ good sense in planning.

RBH

For those not paying close attention, the author of the creationist lesson plan was Bryan Leonard, the creationist high school teacher that organized (or was organized by?) a creationist PhD dissertation committee (whose composition ran afoul of the degree program rules) and almost got a PhD from Ohio State University for the “research” that “validated” the DI-supported stealth-creationist lesson plan. The dissertation defense was scheduled for June 6, 2005. Six months later, as far as I know, the dissertation is still on hold, and the university is still “investigating” the situation.

RBH:

My point was that, in order for this lesson plan to be followed, would require BOTH a creationist teacher and a creationist school administration. So now I have another question: Where this has been the case, hasn’t some sort of stealth creationism been preached in high school biology anyway, all along? Is Chris Caprette right?

I’m wondering if these benchmarks and lesson plans, as implemented, might be a pretty good thing, because they march the creationist agenda and practices right out in the open where a court can take aim and hit them pretty squarely. Like our military, our courts aren’t well placed to fight a guerilla war against individual teachers’ emphases and selection of materials. The courts are much more suited for stand-up battles against stationary, organized targets.

Chris Caprette Wrote:

Ohio has the unenviable condition of having many accredited universities per capita, many making significant contributions to scientific research, but a grossly ignorant populace controlling the state government. Consequently, people come to Ohio’s universities to get their degrees and then leave the state to get jobs and raise families. The brain drain in Ohio is a raging torrent.

This is a factor why I moved out of Ohio. Not that I think that the problem can’t pop up anywhere…

Flint asked

My point was that, in order for this lesson plan to be followed, would require BOTH a creationist teacher and a creationist school administration. So now I have another question: Where this has been the case, hasn’t some sort of stealth creationism been preached in high school biology anyway, all along? Is Chris Caprette right?

In my experience, yes, Chris Caprette is right.

Flint remarked

I’m wondering if these benchmarks and lesson plans, as implemented, might be a pretty good thing, because they march the creationist agenda and practices right out in the open where a court can take aim and hit them pretty squarely. Like our military, our courts aren’t well placed to fight a guerilla war against individual teachers’ emphases and selection of materials. The courts are much more suited for stand-up battles against stationary, organized targets.

That’s probably true as a tactical point. However, while the necessity is sometimes compelling, in general the federal courts are not a real good venue for setting educational policy, and I would much prefer that the Ohio State Board of Education display leadership in emphasizing honest science education. As I noted, some members have done so, in some cases to their political peril, but the majority, composed of the two thought leaders and the members they’ve dragged along with them, have not done so.

One might legitimately ask why some members who are not themselves creationist ideologues follow along with the ideologues. It varies from member to member, and no generalizations are possible as far as I can see. However, one reason is political coercion, and I hope soon to have a post with some specifics on how that kind of coercion has been exercised on and against the Ohio BOE.

RBH

RBH:

My point was that, in order for this lesson plan to be followed, would require BOTH a creationist teacher and a creationist school administration.

Not necessarily. A friend of mine who was an art teacher in a West Virginia school was teaching biology after the regular teacher left (not that he had any particular knowledge about biology, but he was the one with enough free time to take on the extra work), and he was told by the headmaster that he wasn’t to mention anything about evolution or anything else that might make the children uncomfortable. I don’t recall if he was actually asked to teach creationist biology, but it was made clear to him that if he went into that classroom and supported evolution, he’d be looking for a job shortly thereafter.

people come to Ohio’s universities to get their degrees and then leave the state to get jobs and raise families. The brain drain in Ohio is a raging torrent…

one reason is political coercion, and I hope soon to have a post with some specifics on how that kind of coercion has been exercised on and against the Ohio BOE.

Political coercion ultimately takes the form of votes, and if Chris is right, the State of Ohio is self-selecting a population of slope-browed, knuckle-dragging ignorati. And if Dawkins is right, we have a feedback effect where those who do not escape this virus become carriers themselves.

I agree that the courts are not where education policy should be set. They are, however, quite suitable for establishing what schools can NOT teach. Unfortunately, I’d willing to predict that even a Supreme Court decision echoing the Dover decision in detail, is not going to prevent creationists from preaching in Ohio classrooms. As RBH notes, creationists are congenitally undeterred by facts, laws, or costs. The only workable solution to the Ohio problem for the victims, as Chris implies, is to leave the state.

I’ve read periodically about cases here in Alabama where local districts have been sued, lost, owe the court costs, and have owed them for *generations*. They never pay up. Sometimes they have also lost subsequent suits trying to get them to pay up, and aren’t paying the cost of those losses either. What are you going to do, throw all the voters in jail? Any political candidate who even suggested paying up has no chance of election.

Albion:

Yes, I agree, but I had hoped to draw a distinction between preaching creationism, and simply ducking the entire issue. My understanding is that avoiding the topic of evolution is the default behavior in many if not most school districts nationally, simply to avoid all these legal hassles.

So the teacher in your case wouldn’t follow the lesson plan either, I think. Although you may be right, there may be school administrations who say “preach my religion in your science class or you’re fired.” Creationists as I understand them wouldn’t have any problem with this at all. They’d applaud.

Just to be clear, in re homology, most (if not all) evolutionary biologists in fact believe that “similarities in anatomical and genetic structure reflect similar functional needs in different animals, not common ancestry”. Functional convergence is commonplace and obvious – a brief look at fishes and marine mammals will give students the right answer without even knowing what “scientists” think.

It’s a stupid question, and it’s misleading, but it’s also non-controversial.

And these cases are exactly the reason why politicians have no reason setting education guidelines.

I would consider that many of the school authorities around the country are feeling the heat right now,I have found several of them to be quite disingenuous when approached by the media.When asked for her comments on the recent Kitzmiller v DSB trial,the local schools superintendent in my district stated that” We are teaching evolution in our science classes and any questions regarding ID are discussed in our humanities classes” This was a totally false statement, I knew for a fact that the E word was hardly ever used in any science class and that ID is being openly discussed within those classes. After many letters and repeated phone calls, I eventually was able to express my concerns to her, and draw attention to the legal ramifications that may ensue.(not to mention the substandard education for her students).After a lot of arm waving and being evasive, she admitted to me(of the record)that there was a great deal of pressure on her and on the teachers, from parents and students alike.”Its a balancing act, I just find it hard to upset the status quo.” I wonder how many others are finding it hard to upset the status quo?

Matthew Thompson -

“Just to be clear, in re homology, most (if not all) evolutionary biologists in fact believe that “similarities in anatomical and genetic structure reflect similar functional needs in different animals, not common ancestry”. Functional convergence is commonplace and obvious — a brief look at fishes and marine mammals will give students the right answer without even knowing what “scientists” think.”

That’s a good point, but what do they mean by “similarities in…genetic structure”?

Obviously, anatomical similarities sometimes reflect convergent evolution, and recent common ancestry can be masked by superficial anatomic dissimilarities.

But overall, the question is too poorly worded to really make sense. It seems to imply that genetic homology - which usually does imply common ancestry, to put it mildly - has the same implications as anatomic convergence.

And it seems to imply that convergent evolution is evidence against evolution, which is bizarre. Why do modern dolphins look like fish, when their ancestors didn’t?

How can these people not be embarrassed to be the object of such censor by respected scientists and educators?

BTW, the correct word is “censure” not “censor”. http://www.hyperdictionary.com/sear[…]efine=censor http://www.hyperdictionary.com/sear[…]fine=censure

Given that the pro-creationist advisors to and members of the state board of education have been negligent in formulating the model lesson plan; and given that local boards of education are likely to suffer financial loss of they follow the pro-creationist advise; is their any possibility that those pro-creationists would be personally liable for the losses?

No, in the United States, people serving on quasi-legislative boards typically have absolute immunity from suit for civil damages. If you think about it, this is a good thing. If people could threaten to financially ruin school board members through a civil suit, creationists would certainly use this tactic to keep evolutionary theory out of the science classroom. The mere threat of financial ruin would be enough to intimidate many people, not to mention the cost of hiring an attorney if the state wouldn’t provide a defense.

RE: Flint’s thoughts about economics and law.

I just finished reading an AP article in the local paper about the Kern ID class.

It finished by by paraphrasing the Superintendent of that district, John Wright:

Superintendent John Wright defended the concept of the class, but said that concern about expensive litigation was one of the reasons the cash-strapped district settled.

The class was clearly not about the “philosophy of design” or even comparative religion, but rather about purely denigrating evolutionary theory and teaching creationism instead. Nobody disputed that. However, having a superintendent saying that he defends the “concept” of the class just supports the idea that unless there WAS an issue of economics, he apparently would have been more than happy to waste everyone’s time and money to have this become yet another federal court case.

so, while philosophically i agree with you, that economics shouldn’t decide issues like this, it is just as readily apparent that common sense and reason wouldn’t have decided it either.

so, while not the perfect solution, I personally can accept a settlement in this case being decided upon the unwillingness of the superintendent to further defalate the local district’s funding.

at least that shows SOME sense, if not educational in nature.

I don’t see this as an abuse of economics in suppressing a legitimate case, but rather a lucky break for all involved (including the superintendent) that it did at least play a role.

make that deflate, not “defalate” (ugh).

so, while not the perfect solution, I personally can accept a settlement in this case being decided upon the unwillingness of the superintendent to further deflate the local district’s funding.

But meanwhile, I suppose the local biology/gym teacher will go right on preaching creationism in science classes. Just as they have for 100 years. So the question is, would a Supreme Court decision matching the Dover decision change this practice in any substantive way? Having an ACLU stringer auditing every biology class nationwide smacks an awful lot of the thought police…

So the question is, would a Supreme Court decision matching the Dover decision change this practice in any substantive way?

A different question than the economic one, but I think the answer to that on the face of it is obvious.

yes and no (lol).

given 20 years since the Supreme court did, in fact, decide on this very issue, and we now have the exact same level of debate regarding “ID”, we can conclude that no matter what the law says, there will be True Believers™ who will always interpret that it doesn’t apply to them.

However, at least if the supremes did rule on it again, it might take another 20 years before we reach the same state again.

It also would add ammunition for those teachers in heavily creationist oriented districts that actually WANT to teach evolutionary theory and decent science.

They need all the help they can get!

Having an ACLU stringer auditing every biology class nationwide smacks an awful lot of the thought police…

no more than having armed guards in high schools to help prevent school shootings smacks of making our high schools “prison camps”.

However, having an “ACLU stringer” (not sure exactly what that means, actually) in every class doesn’t sound practicable.

instead, i would certainly hope that the parents who are concerned their kid’s get a decent education would stand up and use legal rulings as ammunition in their own defense.

In that sense, at least, legal rulings would serve as substantive in this “debate”.

this all presumes that the supremes, if ID got that far, would rule on it in the same way they did on “creation science”.

With the addition of “scalito”, as several (including yourself, i think) have pointed out, this isn’t quite as sure a bet as one might hope.

In which case, one would start to think that the reverse decision would be used in quite a substantive fashion by those who favor the teaching of ID, yes?

ST:

Here’s what a stringer is, with the law enforcement version coming as close as any. The implication is an informant who provides solid evidence of something in exchange for payment, but does not draw any salary. It could take the form of an agreement by the ACLU to pay $10 to any student who could produce hard evidence.

In my legal classes, I once took a course analyzing the impact that Supreme Court decisions actually have. These impacts vary from considerable, to zilch. Like you, I’d hope that such a decision would help real teachers in creationist strongholds, but I’m not all that optimistic.

To be honest, I haven’t the slightest clue how many creationists teachers are keeping their faith hidden while teaching evolution. I find the thought incongruous; I haven’t met any creationists who could do such a thing and still answer to God at their next prayer.

Flint Wrote:

Having an ACLU stringer auditing every biology class nationwide smacks an awful lot of the thought police.

I know what you mean, but it really comes down to just plain policing, as in preventing and correcting violations of law. Fools, of course, will believe whatever they want regardless, and would surely cry “thought police!”, forgetting that they are perfectly free to preach religion, just not in public schools. Not to mention that they are free to think whatever they want wherever they are.

When the religious begin resembling barbarians at the gate, I’m starting to think the wall separating church and state needs archers in the crenellations.

I haven’t the slightest clue how many creationists teachers are keeping their faith hidden while teaching evolution. I find the thought incongruous; I haven’t met any creationists who could do such a thing and still answer to God at their next prayer.

Well, our friend Bryan Leonard (author of the controversial lesson plan) testified in Kansas that he teaches his students the 4.5 billion year old earth - even though he’s a YEC. But since the god he answers to is the one envisioned by the Disco Institute, a little artful dodging is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s probably considered positively holy.

To be honest, I haven’t the slightest clue how many creationists teachers are keeping their faith hidden while teaching evolution. I find the thought incongruous; I haven’t met any creationists who could do such a thing and still answer to God at their next prayer.

I haven’t met any creationists who could keep their mouth shut about their religious opinions. No matter WHERE they are.

given 20 years since the Supreme court did, in fact, decide on this very issue, and we now have the exact same level of debate regarding “ID”, we can conclude that no matter what the law says, there will be True Believersâ„¢ who will always interpret that it doesn’t apply to them.

Indeed, the fundies themselves will not go away. Ever. They are like cancer. Eternal.

But …

The IDers are utterly completely absolutely totally dependent upon the Republican Party for any and all political power that they have. The reason we are re-fighting the creationist fight 25 years later is simple —- the loony Right Republicans are still in power, and are still kissing fundie ass. As long as they do, the fundies will still have a bully pulpit.

I think that will not be true 25 years from now.

First, the Repubs themselves are showing definite signs of flipping the proverbial bird at the fundies. After all, the R’s have had complete control of the House, the Senate, the White House and most of the courts – and they STILL have not passed any substantive part of the fundie social agenda. The reason is obvious – they don’t WANT to. The Repub’s know just as well as I do that nobody supports the fundie agenda, and passing it would be political suicide. Hence, the Repubs treat the fundies the same way that the Demos treat the, uh, “labor movement” — they make lots of speeches at rallies to give them lip service, they happily take their votes and their money, and then they don’t actually DO jackshit for them.

On top of that, the Repubs themselves are in serious trouble. The Neocon glory boys shot themselves in the head, fatally, with their little Iraq adventure. The Bush-ites have the lowest approval rating they have ever had, and as we learn more about all the naughty illegal things that the pooh-bahs have been doing, that’ll sink even lower. The corporados, who have always been the real power behind the Repubs, don’t want the fundies to get into their pocketbooks — theocracy is bad for business.

I think the whole loony Right is on the ropes, and they know it. In 25 years, I doubt they will remain any sort of effective political movement. And as they sink, so too do their ID hangers-on.

Comment #74830 posted by RBH on January 22, 2006 01:48 PM

LArry wrote

“And I am the one who recognized that the evolution lesson plan was deliberately omitted from the board’s agenda in order to give a lame excuse for holding the vote before hearing the public comments. The Ohio Citizens for Science and the media didn’t have a clue.”

You “recognized” nothing but a spurious signal embedded in noise, since the facts on the ground belie your interpretation.

Here are the “facts.” The expectation that the evolution lesson plan would be on the board’s January agenda was so strong that the Ohio Citizens for Science and the media did not even bother to check the agenda to see whether it actually was. This expectation was especially strong because the Dover decision ruled against ID as well as against the religious motivations of the Dover school board members. The media even sent television crews, and television crews are not sent where there is no expectation of something big happening. And no one expressed surprise that the lesson plan was not on the agenda. And how was it that something that had the support of nearly half of the board members present – the proposal to remove the lesson plan – was not on the agenda ? The Dover decision was released three weeks before the board’s January meeting and was anticipated long before that, leaving plenty of time to consider the decision’s impact on Ohio. Furthermore, as I pointed out, scheduling the vote for the February meeting probably would have prevented any lawsuits from being filed in the interim, and there would still have been plenty of time to reach an out-of-court settlement if a lawsuit were filed in the interim. Ironically, the majority of the board members in this so-called “emergency” vote voted to accept the risk (probably small) of a lawsuit. “Emergency,” my eye !

Larry wrote

Here are the “facts.” The expectation that the evolution lesson plan would be on the board’s January agenda was so strong that the Ohio Citizens for Science and the media did not even bother to check the agenda to see whether it actually was.

False. The Board’s agenda is published well in advance of the meeting. The decision by a Board member to offer the motion to delete the creationist lesson plan was made the Sunday night before the meeting began on Monday. As in his various “legal” analyses, Larry is making up “facts”. How do I know? I was there when the decision was made.

But then, making up “facts” is endemic among creationists.

RBH

Comment #74857 posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on January 22, 2006 02:48 PM

“As for my being just a ‘guest,’ the ‘crew’ of Panda’s Thumb should recognize that it is the commenters who make Panda’s Thumb what it is.”

We’ve had a commenter tell us that we didn’t dare ban him, that PT would wither and die without him. As I have noted before, our site visits have gone up since then.

I was not talking just about myself – I was talking about the commenters in general.

I never said that I am essential here, or even that I am terribly important. PT was obviously doing quite well before I arrived. But I don’t feel I am being immodest by saying that I am one of the star commenters here, if not the star commenter. Consider –

(1) On the “Go Read” thread, I counted 15 direct replies to a single post of mine. Senseless posts here do not get so much attention.

(2) Commenters here frequently take potshots at me even when I am not involved in the discussion.

(3) Urging the equivalent of a “secondary boycott,” one commenter said that the way to get rid of me is to ban all commenters who reply to me ! A few minutes or a few hours later, he himself replied to me ! I have no respect for the toadies here who encourage the “crew” to tyrannize other commenters.

For all I know, I could be the best “troll” ( your name for me ) in PT’s history.

Posted by Larry Fafarman on January 22, 2006 08:25 PM (e) … For all I know, I could be the best “troll” ( your name for me ) in PT’s history…

LOL. I have to admire your style.

BTW. You are fun, Larry.

OT. Are you an individual or a tag team?

Senseless posts here do not get so much attention.

On the contrary. Senseless comments made here on PT often attract much attention. That doesn’t mean that they are a necessary feature when they exceed a decent moderation in frequency of occurrence.

OT:

Wes, I’m trying to track down the definition of science that AAAS uses.

have you run across it anywhere?

thanks

Comment #74932 posted by RBH on January 22, 2006 08:23 PM Larry wrote – “Here are the ‘facts.’ The expectation that the evolution lesson plan would be on the board’s January agenda was so strong that the Ohio Citizens for Science and the media did not even bother to check the agenda to see whether it actually was.”

False. The Board’s agenda is published well in advance of the meeting. The decision by a Board member to offer the motion to delete the creationist lesson plan was made the Sunday night before the meeting began on Monday.

OK, that would explain why the reporters and the television crews were there — they can respond quickly. But how do you explain the following advance notice that was given in the website of the Ohio Citizens for Science – “ACT NOW! Ohio’s board of education will meet next Tuesday Jan 10 in Columbus to decide whether to comply with the recent federal court ruling against intelligent-design creationism and its disingenuous ‘teach the controversy’ ploy” ? The OCS knew that no proposal to delete the lesson plan was on the agenda ( I take back what I said about the OCS not knowing ), because the self-contradictory “ACT NOW” notice also said, “You can arrive around 1pm and speak out in ‘Public commentary on non-action items,’ or you can arrive any time after 8 am.” (emphasis added). I now suspect that the OCS and the board member who introduced the motion conspired to blindside the opposition – the member would make the motion and the OCS would provide the warm bodies ( who were not permitted to testify before the vote ) to show public support for it. There was no honest reason to wait for the last minute to introduce the proposal to delete the lesson plan, because the member who introduced the proposal had weeks or months to think about it before the January board meeting, as did the seven other members who also voted in favor of the proposal. And I suspect that the only purpose in giving the tiny amount of advance notice was to invite the media to the meeting.

But then, making up “facts” is endemic among creationists.

I am not a creationist. I could be considered to be a designist or an irreducible-complexitist, but mostly I am just an anti-evolutionist.

Now Larry I’m glad you agree with me when earlier I characterized your argument as leaving out your religious opinion which IS EQUIVALENT to creationist in an attempt to hoodwink others by saying: I am not a creationist. I could be considered to be a designist or an irreducible-complexitist, but mostly I am just an anti-evolutionist.

So let me get this right

Larry you have no religion you wish to promote except a denial of the factual evidence for evolution? So do you deny religion as well?

That would make you a completely useless freeloader, with not one positive contribution to make on the subject,if I can be direct.

mostly I am just an anti-evolutionist.

Like I said, Larry is just a crank.

Maybe Larry’s a Raelian.

I wonder if his theory about the origin of biological diversity has anything to do with the real story behind meteor showers?

Comment #74980 posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on January 22, 2006 11:02 PM

“Senseless posts here do not get so much attention.”

On the contrary. Senseless comments made here on PT often attract much attention. That doesn’t mean that they are a necessary feature when they exceed a decent moderation in frequency of occurrence.

You don’t have the right to criticize anyone. You have been deleting my on-topic posts from your threads merely because you disagree with them, without even giving me a chance to defend my position – not that I should be required to persuade you about anything. Here is an example, Comment 74342 from your “On the Other Hand” thread –

Larry Fafarman wrote:

And I gave a common-sense reason why public comments should be heard before a vote rather than after.

What Larry has failed to establish is that the public commentary period was intended for the topic of the vote. ********* I consider this the end to topicality for the “impropriety” issue. Further comments taking it up should be on the Bathroom Wall. You can put them there, or I will.

The issue of whether “the public commentary period was intended for the topic of the vote” had not even been raised before you raised it above. And any three-year-old can see that the comments were about the vote’s topic, that topic being the proposal to delete the evolution lesson plan. In a sense, though, the public commentary period that was used was not really “intended” for comments about this topic, because this period was specifically for “non-action items” whereas this topic was an action item because it had been voted on — but that fact only reinforces my point that the comments should have been heard before the vote.

I can make a fool of myself here without affecting PT’s reputation, because I am not a member of the “crew.” But what about you ?

I just wish that Scientific American magazine were more careful about which websites receive its Web awards.

You have been deleting my on-topic posts from your threads merely because you disagree with them

This falsehood does not become true, no matter how many times it is repeated. I move comments to the Bathroom Wall for the purpose of preserving good discussion on the thread. There are quite a number of posts with which I disagree that remain in my threads.

Larry wrote

There was no honest reason to wait for the last minute to introduce the proposal to delete the lesson plan, because the member who introduced the proposal had weeks or months to think about it before the January board meeting, as did the seven other members who also voted in favor of the proposal. And I suspect that the only purpose in giving the tiny amount of advance notice was to invite the media to the meeting. (Bolding added)

Since Larry is so good at correlated randomly related events, let him try correlating events that are actually related. The Kitzmiller decision was published on December 20, 2005 three weeks before the January 2006 monthly OBOE meeting and after the December 2005 OBOE meeting. Is it unnatural that OCfS would then plan to make public comments it in the non-action items portion of the OBE meeting at the next opportunity after the decision was published?

I think Larry is auditioning for a job as Casey Luskin’s gofer. He has the requisite disregard for the facts down pat.

I will add that Larry’s use of “no honest reason” would be immediately subject to moderation on Infidels. I will leave it here as a testament to Larry’s style of “debate”. I think it’s of some interest to lurkers to see the nature of the arguments creationists offer, even creationists who style themselves merely as “anti-evolutionists”, concealing their genuine agenda. That last is another important qualification for the Luskin gofer job.

RBH

irreducible-complexitist

ahh, in other words, a flagellator???

Comment #75036 posted by RBH on January 23, 2006 09:51 AM

Is it unnatural that OCfS would then plan to make public comments it in the non-action items portion of the OBE meeting at the next opportunity after the decision was published?

No, there is nothing unnatural about that. What is unnatural is that the OCS falsely indicated that a proposal to delete the evolution lesson plan was on the agenda: “ACT NOW! Ohio’s board of education will meet next Tuesday Jan 10 in Columbus to decide whether to comply with the recent federal court ruling against intelligent-design creationism and its disingenuous ‘teach the controversy’ ploy” ( actually, this statement even suggested that the board was meeting for the sole purpose of dealing with that proposal, but I’ll overlook that because I don’t want to be nitpicking here ). What the OCS should have said was that an effort would be made to persuade the board to respond to (not “comply with”) the federal court ruling by deleting the evolution lesson plan. What was also unnatural – for reasons that I have amply shown – was the introduction of this proposal as an emergency motion needing a vote during the meeting. There was no real emergency. What the board should have done was postpone a vote on the motion until the February meeting. Under California’s Brown Act, an emergency vote requires either (1) a catastrophe or something close to it or (2) a situation that came to the attention of the governmental body after the deadline for adding items to the agenda ( it is inevitable that someone will comment again that Ohio is not part of California ).

Once at a meeting of a Los Angeles County commission, as I was starting to give my 3-minute speech on a particular topic, the chairman interrupted me and then made a motion to hold an immediate vote on that topic, and the vote was held. I was really pissed off royally.

I will add that Larry’s use of “no honest reason” would be immediately subject to moderation on Infidels.

I originally was going to say that there was “no good reason” to wait for the last minute to introduce the proposal, but then changed it to “no honest reason.” I realized that the board member had a “good” reason to introduce the proposal at the last minute — to blindside the opposition.

Gee Larry it took you less than 3 minutes to piss off that chairman?(giggle) I hope you practiced your speech for weeks before hand.

Comment #75032 posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on January 23, 2006 09:37 AM

“You have been deleting my on-topic posts from your threads merely because you disagree with them”

This falsehood does not become true, no matter how many times it is repeated. I move comments to the Bathroom Wall for the purpose of preserving good discussion on the thread. There are quite a number of posts with which I disagree that remain in my threads.

Considering what you did to me (see Comment #75024 of this thread), you are only making yourself look even more foolish by making lame excuses for your actions. The only proper thing for you to do now is apologize and promise not to do it again.

Comment #75014 posted by k.e. on January 23, 2006 07:34 AM

Larry you have no religion you wish to promote except a denial of the factual evidence for evolution?

I deny evolution itself. I don’t deny the factual evidence for evolution.

So do you deny religion as well?

That has nothing to do with it.

That would make you a completely useless freeloader, with not one positive contribution to make on the subject,if I can be direct.

That is just your own opinion, if I can be direct.

If you would think really hard, LaLa, about your response above, particularly the “just your own opinion” line, you might even learn something about yourself from yourself.

Unlikely, but not impossible.

What makes one opinion better than another, LaLa? Why are some opinions “just” opinions, while other opinions command credibility?

Any ideas?

ahh, in other words, a flagellator???

lol. exactly!

Posted by Ubernatural on January 23, 2006 10:34 AM (e)

… irreducible-complexitist

ahh, in other words, a flagellator???

Well, Larry does seem to be the PT “whipping boy”.

Posted by Ubernatural on January 23, 2006 10:34 AM (e)

… irreducible-complexitist

ahh, in other words, a flagellator???

Larry does seem to enjoy “flogging a dead horse”.

Well, Larry does seem to be the PT “whipping boy”.

Most cranks are indeed masochists. They enjoy being “repressed”. (shrug)

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on January 18, 2006 4:05 AM.

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