Ohio: Here We Go Again

Regular readers of the Thumb will recall that in February, the Ohio State Board of Education removed the “critical analysis of evolution” standard, benchmark, and lesson plan from the state’s science standards. The matter was referred to the Achievement Committee of the Board, with instructions to consider whether a replacement should be inserted, and if so, what it should be. That was a hammer blow to the creationists on the board and to the Disco Institute.

Now, consistent with the creationist tradition of repackaging old trash, we learn that the creationists on the Achievement Committee of the Ohio State BOE are pushing yet another load of of the same odoriferous garbage, this time extending it to include global warming as well as evolution. This is the Disco Institute’s replacement for its failed “teach the controversy about evolution” tactic, broadening it to include still more pseudoscience.

More below the fold.

First, recall the Wedge document’s Governing Goals:

To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

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

In aid of the latter, the Disco Institute and its allies are widening their assault on science in Michigan and Ohio.

We have learned that at the Board’s June retreat, shielded from the scrutiny of the public and the press, a subset of the Achievement Committee discussed a proposal to implement the Discovery Institute’s latest strategy. Watchdog groups did not attend because this meeting was not scheduled on the OBE agenda. Thus, the meeting appears to violate sunshine laws.

The proposal brewing in the Achievement Committee is very similar to a bill recently introduced in the Michigan legislature – see Ed Brayton’s posts on the Michigan situation. Part of the Michigan bill, supported by the Disco Institute, says

(a) Use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution.

Apparently, as in football, there’s a race between Ohio and Michigan creationists to subvert science.

Why global warming? Religious attacks on global warming/climate science have been growing, and they parallel attacks on evolution. As with evolutionary theory, the scientific consensus is clear. According to a very recent report from the National Research Council, the earth’s temperature is increasing rapidly, and the increase is at least partly anthropogenic.

The committee pointed out that surface temperature reconstructions for periods before the Industrial Revolution – when levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases were much lower – are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that current warming is occurring in response to human activities, and they are not the primary evidence. (Emphasis added)

The science is there.

Like the attacks on evolution, the attack on climate science is driven by the sectarian conviction that “materialistic” science is untrustworthy and must be replaced. As with intelligent design creationism, science-deniers’ so-called evidence takes the form of claims for the insufficiency of current scientific explanations rather than concrete, testable alternative hypotheses. As in the evolution debate, religious extremists use the clever strategy of denigrating the scientific consensus on causality (global warming is human-caused via pollution) by pretending it contrasts sharply with an alternative scientific theory that, properly-understood, is really just a more nuanced view that’s not really in opposition (current global warming is part of the earth’s natural cycle but is being exacerbated by pollution). This exaggerates the intensity of normal scientific debate in order to suggest there’s something wrong with climate science, and then uses this manufactured controversy to cloak the anti-science view and smuggle it into classrooms – sectarian religious evangelism masquerading as science.

The Ohio proposal being considered takes a legitimate passage (originally taken directly from the National Science Standards) in the current Scientific Ways of Knowing section of Ohio’s Science Standards (10th Grade Indicator 2 under Benchmark A, pp. 90, 146, 237) and sabotages it by tacking on a section directing students to apply it preferentially to Evolution and Global Warming (and cloning & stem cell research). The effect would be to undermine students’ understanding of scientific methods and processes by singling out evolution and climate science for special scrutiny not needed in other sciences. Once again, the Ohio State Board of Education is being pushed to set Dover traps for unwary local districts.

We urge our friends in Ohio to attend the July Ohio State Board of Education meeting, and to contact their representative on the board. The July meeting is July 10th and 11th at the Ohio School for the Deaf, 500 Morse Road, Columbus. The meeting agenda is here. The Achievement Committee meets at 9:00 a.m. Monday, July 10, in the Delaware Room. The President of the Board has apparently set aside time on the agenda of the full board to discuss the matter, but our current information is that there’s no concrete proposal ready for Board action yet.