Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Texas School Board Rejects Scientific Method

27.03.2009 (8:48 pm) – Filed under: Education,Evolution ::

image The Texas State Board of Education has overturned its own requirement that public schools teach the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories presented in the classroom, watering down its language to this less stringent standard:

“in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations … including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

Republican board member Barbara Cargill says that the old rule had to go because the words “strengths and weaknesses” are creationist code words and under the new rule “we’ll teach all sides of scientific explanation, using scientific evidence.”

Those with long memories will recall that the rule was implemented in the first place because evolution was being force-fed to an audience of captive children as if it were fact rather than the theory it is.  The new language does nothing more than explain the purpose of a teacher’s job, something that was equally obvious 20 years ago when it wasn’t being properly carried out in science classrooms.

Moreover, beating a linguistic retreat from the language of a perfectly fair rule – one that is in precise harmony with the scientific method – because Darwinists see will-o-the-wisps of meaning in plain English grants them high ground their argument does not deserve. 

This is a terrible idea because ceding control over language and its meaning to one’s opponents allows them to dictate the course of future arguments by claiming offense and/or lack of clarity where none exists, as Jeff explains.

Yet even this undeserved verbal victory isn’t enough for some evolution advocates.  Critics of the new rule say it casts doubt on 2 key tenets of the theory of evolution — natural selection and common ancestry. 

This is another attempt to dictate the terms of the debate.  By linking a truth and a falsehood together, this argument deliberately attempts to branding proponents of the status quo as ignorant fools for criticizing both elements of Darwin’s theory when in fact they do no such thing.

Is there really anyone of consequence who disputes natural selection in nature as an established fact?  Certainly not here in the agricultural part of the Bible Belt where it plays out in the fields, farms, and pastures on a daily basis.  And if not there then where?

Common ancestry, on the other hand, deserves to be doubted and must be taught as a theory if teachers are to respect the true state of human knowledge about our origins and the scientific method itself.  The fossil record is missing more than one link – many more – and it’s unlikely that evolution will ever be proven to the same extent as physical laws in chemistry and physics are.  This, coupled with the number of scientists who reject random evolution as the mechanism by which life originated on this planet, mean that Darwin’s theory of creation deserves to be held in question.

Unfortunately that seems less likely to happen now.  To the extent that these questions are not asked in Texas classrooms because of today’s vote, the Board of Education has rejected the scientific method and weakened the science curriculum in this state by removing from schools the one essential element that science cannot function without:  doubt.

Darwinists Weigh in on Texas Education

24.03.2009 (4:05 pm) – Filed under: Education,Evolution ::

Lisa Falkenberg’s commentary at the Houston Chronicle leaves no doubt that she’s in favor of teaching Texas children that Darwin’s theory about the origins of species as if it were proven, incontrovertible fact.  If only that were the case – then perhaps this tiresome debate could finally be put aside.

Darwin’s theory about our origins is just that – a theory supported by substantial evidence that is, to-date, still far from comprehensive.  Falkenberg and other Darwinists dismiss such inconvenient observations as mere trifles, ignoring the fact that by definition scientific proof is about known evidence and not about shepherding our theories past criticism.

As this debate has clearly shown there are large numbers of those who believe otherwise, including Falkenberg and Houston’s own Polimom, who says:

If the SBOE moves any further off the rails, the voting public (like me) will have to stumble out of our group lethargy and push (shove!!) back.   Hard.

Excuse me?  If Darwinists shove any harder they’ll be starting fistfights with those who dare to question Darwin’s assertion that mankind evolved from a protoplasmic slime mold.

The facts will ultimately speak for themselves.  In the interim, Darwin’s ideas about the origins of species must be taught as the theories that they are if we are to give children in this state the education they deserve. 

The purpose of the education system is to teach children the truth about the world which they are to inherit.  Presenting a theory as fact (or a fact as theory) is a poor way to do that.  Why?

  • It’s a lie and students, being expert liars themselves, see through them
  • The knowledge that their education is not based on truth demoralizes students
  • Demoralized students don’t have the desire to ask questions or to learn.  Why should they if they can’t be sure the answer they’ll be given is true?

Newtonian physics was every bit as entrenched at one point as Darwinism is today.  Yet Einstein’s work ultimately displayed Newton’s as the basis for modern physics.  Where would modern science be had Newton’s theories been brandished about as undeniable facts and Einstein and his contemporaries barred from pursuing their research by Newton’s fanboys?

Every theory has its strengths and weaknesses and these characteristics need to be evaluated objectively for what they are, both in the classroom and in our own lives. 

Liberals’ Take on Texas Science Ed Misses Wide Left

23.01.2009 (5:39 pm) – Filed under: Education,Evolution,Liberalism ::

Writing about the controversy the Texas Board of Education sparked by removing a requirement to teach evolution on its merits, Steven Benen neatly summed up the left’s position in his article at the Washington Monthly.  His points and my replies are below, his in plain black, mine mine in blue italics.

Enjoy!

At some point in the future, we’ll stop seeing foolish disputes like these.

No, I don’t think so.  I’ll paraphrase Robert Bork here by saying that conservatives, Christians in particular, deliberately set themselves apart from the kind of cultural relativism that would allow the let-the-liberals-win kind of end to the debate the Benen is dreaming of. 

…the creationists want public school science classes to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence." As a practical matter, that means incorporating religious dogma into the curriculum to undermine modern biology.

Does it?  Or is the liberal paranoia brought on by the realization that their pet scientific theory is insufficient to meet the scrutiny of people interested in the raw, unvarnished truth? 

That last is the ideal that scientists are supposed to strive for – the revelation of facts, the discovery of the unknown, the making certain of beliefs.  Yet here is another liberal pundit on record as saying that truth-seeking is not important.  Wrong – it is the fundamental purpose of science.

First, Texas is "one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material." Weaker science classes in Texas has far-reaching consequences for students elsewhere.

Publishers produce what is demanded.  If 49 other states wish to pursue an evolution-only science curriculum then publishers will print the books they want – unless there is government interference with the textbook market that prohibits them from acting in their best interests.  In this scenario it might be difficult for Texas to find the textbooks it wants to teach from. 

But that surely is not Benen’s concern.  Rather his concern is that a rebel state like Texas might stray from the official dogma of the big government heroes in Washington who in their wisdom must whip the ignoramuses in backwards states like Texas into compliance, for their own good.

Second, Texans have elected nutjobs to the State Board of Education, but that’s not a good reason to punish the state’s public school students.

Allowing the statement for the moment, of course it is.  The BoE conducts its business in such as way as to best represent the views of the citizens in the state.  That is the purpose of democratic elections.  Further, voters in the state have every right to expect and demand that their values be reflected in the state’s education system.  To the extent that there is substantive dissonance, government is failing to fulfill its purpose.

…this nonsense really needs to stop as a national phenomenon.

According to who?  Steve Benen is the final authority on public discourse?  Hardly.

Before spouting off lines like this from their self-created pedestals, liberals would do well to remember that it was their radical revolution that created the conflict in the first place.  If Benen and those on the left want to unite the country they should tone down their self-righteous rhetoric and remember that the nation was doing pretty well, thanks, before their nihilist ideology began to metastasize in the 1960s.

The country just can’t afford to tolerate this nonsense anymore — the competitive advantage the United States used to enjoy is vanishing, and conservatives’ anti-science push comes with too high a burden for the country.

Our competitive advantage in science and engineering is more than vanishing – it’s effectively gone.  In part that’s due to progress in other countries such as China, Korea, and Japan.  But it’s also due to the stunting effects of rampant liberalism in our schools that has resulting in mind-numbingly inane policies that keep too many schools from tracking the best students together to maximize their outcomes, forcing schools to include discipline problems and special needs students in classrooms at the expense of the vast majority of students, the expansion of school curriculums into non-essential programs that diminish the emphasis placed on "hard" subjects like math and science, and the removal of schools’ ability to properly discipline students at school which in turn causes the predictable lack of discipline in their behavior and study habits, to name just a few of the results of a modern liberal educational system.

And now we can’t afford to tolerate conservatives’ nonsense?  What we can’t afford, Mr. Benen, is to indulge ourselves in the fantasy that the Bill Ayers-era "reforms" that modern liberalism foisted upon American society have done anything except denigrate the nation and literally destroy its future.  That’s what we cannot tolerate.

A software executive told the NYT, "The political games we are playing right now are going to burn us all."

The vast majority of Americans believe that life on this planet was initially formed by a Creator.  A relative handful of overly vocal activists have managed to adjudicate the right to have that belief reflected in the education system that citizens are effectively forced to put their children in the care of.  So who is playing the games? 

The truth will come out in the fullness of time.  Christians could be proven wrong by scientists and if I am then so be it.  I don’t reject that possibility simply because I believe otherwise, but I will continue to believe until there is proof to the contrary.

Conversely, liberals should be honest and admit that evolutionary theory is a best-guess that isn’t getting much better as time goes on.  They may in fact be proven wrong by an unexpected Divine Appearance someday.  Or they may not. 

What is imperative is that we all acknowledge the truth, which is that no one is certain, that no one has all the answers, and that only investigation of all facts and evidence can lead us in the direction of the answer.

That’s not a game.  It’s just the way it is.

Texas Board to Block Teaching Evolution’s Shortcomings

23.01.2009 (1:10 pm) – Filed under: Education,Evolution,Law,Liberalism,Science ::

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas State Board of Education has tentatively decided drop its 20-year-old requirement mandating that science teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of the scientific theory originated by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, capping a heated debate on the topic. 

In Texas, the theory of evolution now has no faults and teachers who know better have no recource but to bite their tongue in the classroom.  This falsehood rightly incenses many Americans, for a variety of reasons:

“It’s outrageous that our highest elected education officials voted to silence teachers and students in science class,” said Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the Free Market Foundation. “Despite being overwhelmed by e-mails and phone calls to keep strengths and weaknesses, the divided State Board of Education ignored constituents and sided with a small group of activists.

“This decision shows that science has evolved into a political popularity contest. The truth has been expelled from the science classroom.”

Expelled, indeed.  The reasoning from the winning side has but a single, razor-sharp focus – the complete elimination of creationism from the American education system:

Kathy Miller, president of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network, has argued that the word weaknesses “has become a code word in the culture wars to attack evolution and promote creationism.”

Miller is certainly right in what she says.  Evolution’s many weaknesses are exploited in the ongoing battle over what should be taught in America’s schools.  However, what’s not said – ever – is that it was the liberal, evolution-only, there-is-no-God side that started the culture wars in the first place.  Now, after decades of liberal radicalism on the streets and in the courtrooms, the left frequently attempts to take the legal high ground, as Miller does in this case.

Yet the fact is that the theory of evolution is just that.  While that may incense many people on the left and some on the right, the truth is what it is.  Darwin’s idea of radical mutation is far, far from proven and the skeletal record is in many ways just that – skeletal. 

For pro-evolution advocates to say straight-faced that their idea is the complete definition of a natural law is ludicrous as relates to the origins of life on this planet.  Few people question the validity of natural selection to work changes in species over time.  It’s readily observable in experiments with fruit flies, in addition to being intellectually obvious.  But natural selection has nothing to say about where life came from.  Woe to the rare objective scientific researcher who actually cares enough about the truth to consider every possible bit of evidence.  That, you must understand, is not allowed.

Expelled, the movie, is an excellent documentary about the scientific censorship that has taken place in this country over the last 50 years in regard to the research, publication, and teaching of intelligent design.  I highly recommend it.  Save for an unfortunate ramble through the briar patch of Nazism and eugenics, it’s certainly thought provoking and worthy of 90 minutes of your time.  If nothing else, an important take-away is that anti-God political forces are actively limiting scientific research and debate in this country using every means, fair and unfair, available to them. 

That’s unacceptable.  Even if evolutionists turn out to be 100% correct with one of their Darwinistic sub-theories – something that’s highly unlikely – the completely cynical act of using the country’s political and legal processes to stifle scientific research debate and force America’s young people to be educated exclusively in their dogma is anti-America, anti-truth, and anti-rational in the extreme.  Science is about seeking the truth.  But the left seeks to put blinders on all of us, researchers included.

The irony is, of course, that the new radical liberalism is supposed to be all about individual truths, rights, and freedoms.  The truth is that the freedoms the left promises are fantastic chimeras that disappear the moment you use that freedom to disagree with them.

Sadly, the intellectual fascists of the left, who can allow no other views than their own to be put forth, have one another battle in the war for America’s soul.

Self-selecting DNA

15.05.2008 (10:09 am) – Filed under: Evolution,Society,Welfare ::

Michael Medved writes that the idea that Americans have an inherent – even Darwinistic – advantage over other peoples is gaining additional respect in the scientific community as a result of new research.  The reason?  Immigrants who self-selected themselves have a greater tendency to exhibit risk-taking and inventive skills.  Perhaps.  But I wonder if we’ve not lost that aspect of ourselves.

According to Peter C. Whybrow of U.C.L.A.:

Compared to the Irish or Germans or Italians or Chinese or Mexicans who remained behind in the “Old Country,” the newcomers to America would naturally display a propensity for risk-taking, for restlessness, for exuberance and self-confidence –traits readily passed down to subsequent generations. Whybrow explained to the New York Times Magazine that immigrants to the United States and their descendents seemed to possess a distinctive makeup of their “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.”

Whybrow isn’t alone.

John D. Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School makes a similar case for an American-specific genotype in “The Hypomanic Edge”—celebrating the frenzied energy of American life that’s impressed every visitor since Tocqueville. The United States also benefited from our tradition of limited government, with only intermittent and ineffective efforts to suppress the competitive, entrepreneurial instincts of the populace.

Medved’s conclusion is that this particular bent toward American ingenuity is in inflict with liberal policies such as expanded welfare programs and federal regulation and that such policies can only fail when brought to battle with our predispositions.

If only that were true.  I would suggest that the idea of a ever-present government has been firmly implanted in the minds of a majority of Americans who are now unable to envision life any other way.  Personal responsibility and personal choice is out of vogue now, in large part because the "safety net" that leftist policy provides has become so much more than that.  It’s a way of live that seems to be overwhelming the individualistic qualities that Americans have historically prized.

PZ Myers disagrees with Medved too, taking issue with Medved’s assertion that descendents of the American slave population may not share the American drive to create that he assigns to voluntary immigrants. 

Regarding the slave question, it’s true that they did not self-select their fate.  However, slave traders presumedly attempted to select stronger, healthier persons to sell into bondage, perhaps offsetting the self-selection effect.

Myers would probably take issue with that, too.  It’s a matter of unproven science for him, which is an admirable perspective, if limited.  Not all things must be proven to be true, although it certainly helps an argument.  Take, for example, Myer’s first counter to Medved’s argument about self-selection:

Wouldn’t this imply that Moslem immigrants to Europe, with their risk-taking willingness to move to new environments, are their true hope for the future?

Actually, given Muslims’ aggressive socio-theology, their relatively closed, controlling society, and extraordinarily high birth rates relative to their European hosts, the answer is clearly "Yes", barring an unforeseen change in European demographics.

Travel and Evolution

05.09.2007 (10:36 am) – Filed under: Evolution ::

Dave Winer says that we like to travel because natural selection favors those who like to travel:

Leaving one place for another is a big part of being human. And the reason we like travelling so much is that evolution culled out those of us who didn’t.

And maybe this also answers the question why, when I travel, I’m always thinking about what it would be like to live there. It’s not my mind that’s wondering, it’s evolution’s mind.

I’m down with the first part of this.  In general, people who adapt more easily to changing circumstances are more likely to be successful and therefore able to support and nourish the next generation.

Of course that depends on their adaptation technique and whether it’s a short-term fix such as turning to a life of crime or something more meaningful.  The colonization of America and the resulting republican form of government that migration spawned instantly comes to mind.

Where Winer goes astray is with the notion of an “evolutionary mind”.  There’s no such thing.  The rule of dog eat dog does not imply a guiding force behind natural selection.  Indeed, by definition it allows none.