Live Blogging the Science Debate

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Note: A link for audio from the state board debate and vote is available here.

9:17 – The Texas State Board of Education meeting has begun, and we have some encouraging news. Dallas member Mavis Knight, a strong supporter of sound science standards, is participating by videoconference. It appears that Mary Helen Berlanga from Corpus Christi is not present, but no motion can pass on a 7-7 tie. So if all votes hold from January, the pro-science board members should be able to block bad amendments today. (We said “if” and “should be able.”)

The board has not yet reached the agenda item on science standards.

9:24 – A representative of the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation is talking to the board about early revisions of the social studies standards, which the board will take up after science. We’re waiting for a copy of the document the representative is presenting to the board.

9:40 – Board member Terri Leo decries any suggestion to leave out of the social studies standards important historical figures to make room for “multicultural” issues and personalities. “I’ve never heard of half of these people,”  Leo says of one proposed list of names. Well, we haven’t seen the list of proposed names or those who might be left out, and everyone agrees that key historical figures should be covered in social studies classrooms. But that Ms. Leo has never heard of someone in history is hardly a sound criterion the state should be following for deciding who gets in and who gets left out of standards.

9:53 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar is suggesting that the board should perhaps start the social studies process over. Let’s recap: board members have appointed members to social studies writing teams, who have already met once. The board has received one report on their work, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The teams have not finished their work. In fact, a representative of the Texas Education Agency has informed the board that writing teams were still very early in the revision process. Ms. Dunbar, however, is concerned that the writing teams will present drafts based on “entrenched” interests (“academia,” she says), not parents and others. (Are many teachers not parents?) Chairman Don McLeroy wants to cancel the social studies revision process at this point and then come up with a new proposal for how to proceed.

10:01 – It appears the board will defer a decision until tomorrow on how to proceed on social studies standards.

10:03 – By the way, we now have the document presented by Brooke Dollens Terry of Texas Public Policy Foundation. Following are the names she says have been added to the standards for third grade. (Terri Leo says she has never heard of half of the names being added, but it’s unclear if she means for all the standards or just for third grade.)

Grace Hopper, Margaret Knight, Quanah Parker, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Maya Lin, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Kadir Nelson, Jean Pinkey, Angela Shelf Medear, Elisabet Ney, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Bill Martin.

10:07 – The board is about to begin its debate on science.

10:09 – Board member Ken Mercer of San Antonio moves to add “strengths and weaknesses” back into the science standards.

10:12 – Mercer: This about allowing students to discuss and question strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories. He claims receiving 15,0000-16,000 e-mails on this from around the state.

10:15 – Mercer goes down the “microevolution” vs. “macroevolution” path again. And he brings up “Piltdown man” and a list of other “weaknesses” he claims plague evolutionary theory.

10:19 – OK, it looks like board member David Bradley’s computer screen has TFN Insider up. Good morning, Mr. Bradley!

10:20 – Member Bob Craig of Lubbock offers a substitute amendment. “I am fully cognizant to the difference between faith and science. But I believe they can co-exist.” He argues that what the writing teams suggested in December still allows students to freely discuss all aspects of science. Mr. Craig proposes to keep the work group language (without “strengths and weaknesses”) but adds “including discussing what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

10:26 – Dallas member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller supports Mr. Craig’s motion.

10:30 – This should be interesting. Mr. Mercer and other creationists have argued that taking “strengths and weaknesses” out of the standards will bar students from discussing and asking questions. Mr. Craig’s amendment addresses that, explicitly affirms the right of students to discuss and question while keeping phony “weaknesses” out of textbooks.

10:32 – Mavis Knight speaks in favor of Mr. Craig’s motion.

10:34 – The creationists have a difficult decision to make here. Is this about the freedom of students to ask questions, as they have argued, or is this about promoting phony attacks on evolution in textbooks?

10:36 – Pat Hardy speaks in favor of Mr. Craig’s motion.

10:37 – Terri Leo opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She says the language is “too ambiguous.” She wants teachers to tell students specific “weaknesses.”

10:38 – Lawrence Allen supports Mr. Craig’s motion.

10:39 – By the way, Texas Freedom Network supports Mr. Craig’s motion (although we hadn’t seen it until now). It’s a wise and responsible way to ensure that students are free to ask questions. That’s how they learn.

10:41 – Cynthia Dunbar opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She notes a comment from Ms. Miller that she (Ms. Miller) is a committed Christian. Ms. Dunbar says that religious beliefs are irrelevant to what the board should so. Oh, really? Then why have her creationist colleagues and their allies questioned the faith of those who oppose putting “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards.

10:43 – Rick Agosto opposes Mr. Craig’s amendment. “If it’s not ‘fully understood,’ then I don’t consider that science.”

10:44 – Once again, Mr. Craig has moved that the board retain the language proposed by writing teams in December (without “strengths and weaknesses”) but add to the expectation that students analyze and evaluate scientific explanations: “including discussing what is not fully understood so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

10:46 – Barbara Cargill opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. She says “strengths and weaknesses” language protects the ability of teachers to tell students “weaknesses” of evolution (however phony those “weaknesses” are, apparently). “Darwinists have tried to smother all the challenges … (and) weaknesses of evolution.”

10:52 – Mr. Mercer opposes Mr. Craig’s motion. “What are they afraid of? Why all this national attention over one word, ‘weaknesses’?”

10:54 – McLeroy calls a 10-minute recess.

11:08 – They’re back. Ms. Knight moves to change Mr. Craig’s amendment to read: “fully understand IN ALL FIELD OF SCIENCE.” So the wording would be: “including discussing what is not fully understood in all fields of science.” The board accepts that change without objection. We’re back to Mr. Craig’s motion.

11:12 – Mr. Craig’s motion fails 6-8. We’re back to Mr. Mercer’s original amendment adding back “strengths and weaknesses.”

11:13 – Mr. Mercer’s motion fails 7-7!!!

11;15 – This is huge victory for sound science education in Texas. Moreover, the creationists’ opposition to Mr. Craig’s motion exposed their hypocrisy about wanting to ensure that students can ask questions about science.

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68 Responses to “Live Blogging the Science Debate”

  1. Bob Says:

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
    – Charles Darwin

  2. jdg Says:

    I wonder if ScienceUneducated will now advocate the “strenghts and weaknesses” of the holocaust since he wants “sound” scientific study.

  3. Charles Says:

    TFN needs to look out on that social studies stuff. The next big push after phoney science is going to be insertion of phoney Religious Dominionist American history into social studies classes. See David Barton.

  4. Ben Says:

    “I’ve never heard of half of these people,” Leo says of one proposed list of names.

    Leo went on to say, “I can’t SEE gravity, so it must not exist.”

  5. Mikey Says:

    Way to go Mr. Craig.

  6. C. Beth Says:

    Mrs. Knight was fantastic!!

  7. C. Beth Says:

    Or maybe that wasn’t Mrs. Knight? I’m not sure–the lady who spoke about Mr. Craig’s amendment. She did a great job explaining that not knowing everything doesn’t make a theory weak, and that students will still be encouraged to question.

  8. TFN Says:

    That was Ms. Miller, and yes, she was very eloquent.

  9. C. Beth Says:

    I’d like to read the quote to which Ms. Leo is referring when she says that some of the “neo-Darwinists” have claimed that evolution “is fully understood.” I’d be shocked to hear any evolutionist claim such a thing, and I doubt it’s been claimed here.

  10. Scott Says:

    Please introduce me a to a foe of evolution that is not religiously motivated. The inability of the God Squad to do find such a person says a lot about the supposed weaknesses in evolution.

    The real weaknesses: Evolution is not consistent with scripture. Guess what, neither is astronomy or geology or chemistry or…..

  11. Joe Lapp Says:

    Ugh, I’m dying here. What was Mr. Craig’s motion? Specifically?

    Maybe I’ll have to start up the audio — but it’s too late to hear the motion.

  12. Robangel Says:

    Mr. Craig has called them on their bluff, let’s see how they react!! Thank you TFN for keeping us up to date!! This is too important!!!

  13. Mikey Says:

    Disgusting. A perfectly legitimate compromise is proposed and totally ignored by the creationists. Let’s hope that their constituents are wise enough to see their ideology, ignorance and arrogance and send them packing in the next election cycle.

  14. Charles Says:

    And oh by the way, I never saw a science class where you cannot ask questions about some subject. Going tee-tee does not have to be legislated so why should this?

  15. Scott Says:

    Is it too much to ask that the science curriculum for the state be set by people that even know what science is? (Rick Agosto)

  16. Mikey Says:

    Mercer knows damn well why the word “weaknesses” is so important. I guess lying for his cause is justifiable.

  17. Joe Lapp Says:

    Would it be possible for creationists to use this amendment as a Trojan horse?

  18. Joe Lapp Says:

    There’s no way for it to pass without Berlanga present. What’s the point in the pro-science side offering amendments at all today? They’ll just be wasted.

  19. Steve Says:

    He actually brought up Piltdown man? I guess that tells you exactly how much research they’ve done.

  20. Ben Says:

    Hey TFN, can you spot PseudoScienceMinded in the crowd? Look for the guy with horns sprouting out of his forehead.

  21. Charles Says:

    McLeroy calls a 10-minute recess because he senses that his Satanic energy shields are being weakened by phaser bursts in the meeting.

  22. Jonathan Smith Says:

    What is wrong with our education system when a person like Don McLeroy, a creationist, dentist and lier, who believes that the earth is only 6000 years old,has been given the power over the education of American children?

  23. ScienceMinded Says:

    The problem with Mr. Craig’s amendment is there are aspects of theories, including evolution, that are weak. Yes, you are foolish if you don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is good to discuss aspects of theories that are not well understood, to encourage students to ask any question they want about any theory, but to also let students know that weaknesses abound in all theories, including evolution. And remember, a weakness is a deficiency to accurately describe natural/physical phenomena. Like Newton’s theories/laws fail to accurately describe the motion of objects approaching the speed of light. This weakness of Newton’s theory IS WELL UNDERSTOOD!!!! And for you pseudo-scientists at TFN, knowing the weaknesses of a theory is way better than not knowing them. All real scientists strive to understand the weaknesses of theories. And C. Beth, you are absolutely correct and re-enforce my previous blogs at TFN that just because everything is not known about a theory doesn’t necessarily mean it is not a valuable theory. However, it is not sufficient to just teach the “not well understood” aspects of a theory. You also need to teach the recognized strengths and weaknesses!! If you didn’t teach the recognized weaknesses of Newton’s theories, for example, then students would not know if/when to use Newton’s theories over Einstein’s theory. Do you see the point. And yes C. Beth, even if a theory has a weakness, that also doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable theory. SUPPORT TEACHING RECOGNIZED STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF ALL THEORIES PRESENTED IN PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is the right thing to do. Don’t settle for anything less!!

    Yours Truly, ScienceMinded

  24. Sharon Sparlin Says:

    Holy Cow!

  25. ndt Says:

    The problem with Mr. Craig’s amendment is there are aspects of theories, including evolution, that are weak.

    Like what?

  26. ScienceMinded Says:

    Dearest Ben, uh, I mean Satan, Are you wearing your horns today? Are you ready to support strengths and weaknesses.?? Come on Ben, it’s OK. I read you, at one point, were a creationist. What happened?? Yours Truly

  27. Joe Lapp Says:

    You’re right. Mr. Craig’s amendment was important, even if it had no chance of passing. It forced the creationists to put their cards on the table, for the record, should this ever land in court.

    On the audio, I heard someone say that she wanted “specific weaknesses” with evolution taught. Who was that?

  28. Mikey Says:

    My worry now is that we won’t be able to get rid of the ammendments to biology and ESS because the board is split 7-7. TFN can you clarify the situation?

  29. C. Beth Says:

    ScienceMinded–The known limitations of a theory don’t make it weak. When limitations of Newton’s Laws were discovered, these Laws didn’t become weak. Science leaped forward, being better understood!

    So let’s teach the limitations of theories, and let’s be honest about what we don’t understand. But let’s not call those things weaknesses.

  30. Richard Hendricks Says:

    Can we just stop calling evolution a “theory”? It’s not, really. It’s more like a law, or axiom. Given a population with differences between parents and offspring, and pressures that cause differential reproductive survival, evolution *has* to happen. The so-called “weaknesses” aren’t problems with evolution, per se, but the processes behind it such as mutation, and how genetic information is passed to offspring. Weaknesses there do not imply weaknesses in evolution.

  31. ScienceMinded Says:

    OK You TFNer’s. Lets just imagine, that the theory of evolution had no recognized weaknesses. Then, would you advocate teaching both the recognized strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories presented in public-school classrooms?? And NDT, I believe gaps are huge weaknesses. If there were no gaps in a theory, any theory, the theory would be much stronger. Think of a recipe for some yummy dish with gaps in the recipe. Wouldn’t you rather have the full recipe? Another example I read somewhere at TFN, think about a mathematical proof with gaps. Gaps in a proof present huge weaknesses for the proof. There probably isn’t a mathematician alive that would accept a proof with gaps!! Because, GAPS ARE WEAKNESSES!!!!!! Get that through your rock skull JDG!

  32. Mikey Says:

    You’re arguing semantics SM. We understand that no scientific theory is perfect. We also recognize that “strengths and weaknesses” are part of a wedge strategy to introduce creationism and ID into the classroom.

  33. Joe Lapp Says:

    Richard, here’s an explanation of scientific theories and laws, put together by a few PhD Biologists:

    http://teachthemscience.org/scientifictheory

    Evolution definitely isn’t an axiom. In mathematics, an axiom is an assumption that cannot be derived from more basic assumptions. They have no truth value. Different mathematical systems can use contradictory axioms.

  34. ScienceMinded Says:

    Dear C. Beth: A limitation is a weakness! We need to quit playing games on word definitions. Here is a list of synonyms of the word “limitation” that I snagged from an online dictionary (without changing order or anything at all in the list): weakness, failing, qualification, reservation, defect, disadvantage, flaw, drawback, shortcoming, snag, imperfection. It’s interesting that they put weakness first in the list!!

    Yours Truly, ScienceMinded

  35. Richard Hendricks Says:

    SM,
    So, you want Geometry students learning about the weaknesses of Euclid’s theorems and axoims? Come on, weaknesses have their place, and it’s not in the basic courses kids learn in at K-12. If you detailed so-called “weaknesses” in every theory, you would spend more time on them then on the theory! At that age, they need to understand the basics, such as there is only one line through a point that is parallel to another line, not the “weakness” that this only applies to flat 2-D space. Adding this information would only confuse the hell out of kids, and make them wonder why they are learning this “useless” stuff when it “doesn’t apply in so many situations”.
    For example, a student is shown Newton’s law of gravity, and told it isn’t true. Their natural response is to devalue it! “Why am I learning this if it is wrong, etc” But it can provide so much information on our intuitive grasp of how things work. Einstein extends it, sure, and explains why it doesn’t work at high speeds, but for HS graduates that’s not significant.

    I before E except after C is a great theory for spelling. We teach it to our kids, and only when they’re older do we elaborate on how limited it is, and how many words don’t follow that rule, and why they don’t follow that rule, and where our english language comes from, etc. Weaknesses do a have a place, and that’s at a University level course where a specialist in the field can elaborate on the generalizations provided at the HS level, and why they are there, and why they are now limiting.

  36. C. Beth Says:

    ScienceMinded–

    Synonyms aren’t perfect. “Limitation” is not always synonymous with “weakness.” My car has a limitation that it can’t fly, but that doesn’t make it a weak car. Cars aren’t supposed to fly. Theories aren’t supposed to be complete and perfect. (Proofs are.) In this case, “limitation” is a more accurate term.

    This is fun–but I can’t debate all day. Feel free to respond, of course, but I have to get on to some far more boring responsibilities. Sigh….

  37. Joe Lapp Says:

    ScienceMinded:

    Suppose we have fossils for species A and species C. That means we have a gap between A and C.

    Now suppose we find a fossil B that appears intermediate between A and C. Now we have TWO gaps, one between A and B and another between B and C. The more transitional fossils we find, the more gaps we have.

    If gaps are “weaknesses,” then the more transitional fossils we find, the weaker evolution becomes. Contradiction. Therefore, gaps are not “weaknesses.”

  38. ScienceMinded Says:

    Oh C. Beth, Maybe we should drop the word weakness and opt, instead, for a word like failing or imperfection. A limitation is a weakness. Remember please, a weakness is a failure to accurately describe a natural/physical process. The weakness can be exaggerated under specific conditions, as with Newton’s laws/theories. Isn’t it interesting that Newton’s theories are referred to as laws. A law is generally considered to be even more powerful than a theory. In the case of Newton’s laws, we see that even those have weaknesses or limitations or failings or imperfections!!!

    Yours Truly, ScienceMinded

  39. abb3w Says:

    “Craig’s motion fails 6-8″; who voted which way?

    ScienceMinded: usually the “gaps” referred to are not in the Theory itself, but limits of what data is available. Discussion of “holes” and “missing transitional forms” is misleading, since science is inherently a process for making inference from a bounded set of data to the characteristics of data we yet lack. Determining what is most probably in a hole in Evidence is fundamentally what Science is for; as such, the existence of a “hole” in the data is not a weakness per se.

    So… what “weaknesses” in the THEORY do you have in mind?

  40. ndt Says:

    ScienceMinded Says:

    March 26, 2009 at 11:37 am
    And NDT, I believe gaps are huge weaknesses.

    What gaps?

  41. Madhu Says:

    Re: “11;15 – This is huge victory for sound science education in Texas. Moreover, the creationists’ opposition to Mr. Craig’s motion exposed their hypocrisy about wanting to ensure that students can ask questions about science.”

    How is a 7-7 vote a “huge victory”? Seems to me that “sound science education” is still barely hanging on, no? How long before they are back for another round of this? I understand and share your relief that this particular attempt to change science teaching failed, but the culture war is far from over, so we should brace ourselves for renewed assaults. Narrow votes in board meetings (and court rulings) help us contain the tide, but can hardly turn it around.

  42. ScienceMinded Says:

    But Joe, A few axioms can provide the framework for a theory, for example, Probability Theory. Even these mathematically based theories, however, have limitations/weaknesses. And remember TFNers, weaknesses can exist in both the theory itself as well as in the application of the theory to real-world problems. For example, in probability theory, an optimal inference based on observed data or measurements of random variables generally requires complete knowledge of the joint probability density functions of those random variables. In this case, there is no weakness in the theory, but there is a huge weakness in regards to the application of the theory because it is exceedingly difficult to obtain accurate estimates of the joint probability density functions in the first place. I myself prefer a theory based on axioms. They are generally much much stronger than those based solely on empirical evidence, such as evolution. Empirical evidence can and often does bite you in the butt!!

  43. Geek Goddess Says:

    No info about creationist Barbara Cargill, who is my rep in The Woodlands. I wrote a letter to her two weeks ago, but of course received no response.

  44. Joe Lapp Says:

    ScienceMinded —

    Axioms are the basis for mathematical constructions. Because scientific models map between mathematical constructions and reality, scientific models do depend indirectly on axioms. However, they don’t depend on the “truth” of the axioms.

    For example, the set-theoretic Axiom of Choice contradicts the Axiom of Determinacy. You can create mathematical systems and constructs from either. You can create scientific models from any of these constructs, and all of these models could accurately reflect reality.

    Axioms are the building blocks of abstract constructions, nothing more. It’s fascinating stuff. You might pick up a book on mathematical logic.

  45. abb3w Says:

    ScienceMinded: the axioms for the methodology of Science are Wolfram’s Axiom (sufficient for producing Boolean Algebra), the definition of relation for Existential and Universal operators, the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms, and that Reality and Evidence are related with complexity corresponding to some ordinal level of hypercomputation (probably the ordinal number 0, and thus Recursively Enumberable complexity), and the Kolmogorov axioms of probability. From this, Minimum Description Length Induction becomes a proven criterion identifying the most probable hypothesis. See “Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism and Kolmogorov Complexity”, by Paul M. B. Vitanyi and Ming Li (doi:10.1109/18.825807); Vitanyi has a postscript copy up at his cwi.nl web page which you can download if you care.

    Science uses MDLI as a “greedy search” algorithm to chose between candidate explanations without needing complete knowledge.

    Since you seem mathematically inclined, you might also want to look up “Natural selection for least action”, By Ville R. I. Kaila and Arto Annila (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178), which explains how Evolution is a direct result of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which in turn results from the statistical mechanics).

    And I repeat: what “weaknesses” in the THEORY do you have in mind?

  46. ScienceMinded Says:

    To C. Beth: I like you car analogy. But I think in the sense of theories, limitations are and can be viewed as weaknesses. Lets say I had a new contraption that could both move around like a car but could also fly like a plane. Then both a car and a plane would be weak compared with the new contraption if the salient point under consideration is mobility. I think most scientists and engineers would agree. I agree, if you didn’t want a vehicle that could fly, a car is probably good enough. But then, a car can hardly be considered a theory, and there can be dangers in making such analogies, although I also do that a lot. But, I have also been bitten for doing so.

    abb3w: I believe gaps, holes, …, in empirical evidence, especially in theories based on empirical evidence, represent huge weaknesses to the theory. I believe the theory becomes stronger as the gaps/holes are filled in.

  47. Robangel Says:

    Has anything been said about common decent, the amendment that ding-dong McLeroy proposed in Jan? Or is that still to come?

  48. Kurt Says:

    SM, you still haven’t said what you consider to be the “weaknesses” in the theory of evolution. We’re waiting! Also, a theory DOES NOT become “law” as it is better understood.

  49. Ben Says:

    PseudoScienceMinded (a.k.a. Jeff) wrote:

    “Come on Ben, it’s OK. I read you, at one point, were a creationist. What happened??”

    As long as we’re indulging your delusions, choose any of the following answers:

    A. I came to my senses.

    B. I got tired of consorting with liars and charlatans such as yourself.

    C. I realized the entire creationist movement was a sham when I spotted Terri Leo dancing in a strip club.

    D. I realized I had just as much evidence for my Satan-wrote-the-bible theory, and it actually makes more sense than creationism.

  50. ndt Says:

    What gaps?

  51. Simon Says:

    To ScienceMinded, you are just wrong about Laws being considered more powerful than a theory.

    In short, it works like that:
    -You make an observation (the apple is falling toward the ground): it’s a fact.
    -You realize a pattern in this facts (all objects are falling toward the ground): it’s a law.
    -You offer an explanation to this pattern (all objects are attracted by the planet with a force proportional to the inverse of the square of their distance): it’s a theory.

    Laws are not more powerful than theories, they are about the same and either can be disproved by a single contradicting observation (an apple falling out away from the ground).
    If anything, theories are better because they have an explicative power in addition to the predictive one.

    We are talking about the Theory of Evolution but, really, there also are facts of Evolution (each time we observe Evolution in action) and there is a Law of Evolution, in Darwin’s time, it was known than species evolved through the fossil record, but, at first, no explanation was known to explain this. Then the Theory of Evolution came by and we had something better than a mere Law.

    Now, the question is, what would constitute a weakness for a theory?
    It’s tricky because finding even a single fact contradicting either a theory or a law would disprove it totally, not just weaken it.
    Similarly, a phenomenon not explained by a theory does not necessarily weaken this theory. Every theory has limitation in its use. Newtonian physics do not apply at relativistic speed. It does not explain how to make a good cranberry pie either. These are not weaknesses of the theory.

    Lack of evidences where one would expect them would certainly be one. But there are no such lacks of transitional fossils. We have thousands of them. And the evidences obtained by observing these fossils have only been confirmed and strengthened by millions of genetic sequences…

  52. abb3w Says:

    ScienceMinded: Formally speaking, your claim “gaps in empirical evidence represent huge weaknesses to the theory” is incorrect. As I noted, “science is inherently a process for making inference from a bounded set of data to the characteristics of data we yet lack”.

    Areas where we don’t have data do represent a potential for new evidence being found, which might allow an alternative hypothesis to become the “theory” by providing a better net description (formally: reduction in Description Length Induction)… but that’s not “weakness”. The “Theory” refers to the “most likely” hypothesis; ergo, until the new evidence is found, the “most likely” expectation is that most “holes” will have what the theory expects. It’s expected that some surprises will be found. However, the “expected surprise” level will most probably be small, such as you might have when opening your freezer to find peppermint stick ice cream instead of mint chocolate chip. An extreme level of “expected surprise”, such as finding a dozen penguins instead of your ice cream, is possible but highly improbable.

  53. Flo Says:

    It is a strange world we live in, where descendants of apes must compete vigorously for the right to teach younger descendants of apes that they did, in fact, descend from apes. What are the ape-descent denialists so afraid of? We all eat, sleep, breathe, mate, and poop just like every other primate. Check your eyes, your teeth, your thumbs, your body hair. You’ll see the truth there.

  54. ScienceMinded Says:

    Well you TFNers, In your definition, any theory is valid and can have no weaknesses. So creationism IS a valid theory to teach in the science classroom. IT has no weaknesses, just as you say it can’t. Really, get a grip. I see why life scientists get paid what they do!! It’s related to value to society. And in your case, that’s not much! Just like what biologists get paid!!!

  55. abb3w Says:

    ScienceMinded: No, the formal usage of the word “Theory” in science refers ONLY to the best (MDLI) hypothesis. Creationism is a hypothesis, but requires a much higher description length induction in the formal sense that Science uses the word; as such, it is not a “theory” in the formal sense that science attaches to the term. Some excerpts from the Florida State science standards might help:

    Benchmark SC.3.N.3.1: Recognize that words in science can have different or more specific meanings than their use in everyday language; for example, energy, cell, heat/cold, and evidence.
    Benchmark SC.6.N.3.1: Recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.
    Benchmark SC.912.N.3.1: Explain that a scientific theory is the culmination of many scientific investigations drawing together all the current evidence concerning a substantial range of phenomena; thus, a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.

  56. ScienceMinded Says:

    abb3w, I don’t agree with your points about theories representing the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer. That would suggest Newton’s theories would no longer be accepted, Ohm’s Law would not be accepted, and so forth. Theories can and do start out with the phrase “I have a theory.” Just ask Ben or Charles! They have a lot of theories. They grow stronger, i.e., less weak, with more supporting evidence, by withstanding challenges, and so forth.

  57. Ben Says:

    Do I hear the clack of cloven hooves?

    Ah yes, it’s ScienceMinded again, spewing his Satan-inspired nonsense.

  58. Richard Hendricks Says:

    Creationism isn’t a theory because it has no predictive power and cannot be falsified. Evolution has predictive power and can easily be falsified.

    Examples:

    Evolution, at its heart, says that we are similar, but not identical, to our ancestors. We see fish in the fossil record, then we see four-legged animals. The prediction is that somewhere in between is a transitional animal. We can, through geology, predict where we expect to find such an animal. Through perseverance, a search found such an animal, Tiktalik. We see that humans and chimpanzees have a different number of chromosomes. Evolution predicts that we are both descended from the same ancestor. A search through the human genome finds evidence that at one time, a human chromosome was two separate chromosomes that then joined together. (Evidence of endcaps in the middle of the chromosome, along with a deactivated centromere on one of the halves) The two chromosome halves correspond to two separate chimpanzee chromosomes. That is predictive power. That shows falsifiability, because if instead of Tiktalik, we had found a rabbit skeleton, the theory of evolution would be wrong. Etc.

    Creationism, at its heart, says an unknown entity creates or directs life. How do you prove an unknown entity can create life? The only experiment I can see Creationist scientists doing is creating a giant box and waiting for a panda to pop into existence.

    Instead they bemoan that it is “too hard” to create life, or that microevolution is true, but not macroevolution. We’re close to creating artificial life in the lab, and experiments to emulate the early conditions are showing more and more just how easy it is to create life in a pseudo-ancient environment without outside direction.

    The micro vs macro “weakness” is a farce, IMO, because there are so many examples of macroevolution occuring right now in front of our eyes. For example, evolution states that as a species starts to split, you’ll see a range of reproductive success between the two parts. Do we see examples of this? YES! Different species are at different points along this scale:
    Human races – Essentially identical and 100% success
    Dogs and wolves – Small differences and 100% success
    Lions and tigers – Large differences and 100% success , but offspring have some difficulty reproducing ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liger )
    Horses and donkeys – Small differences and 100% success, but offspring are usually infertile ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mule )

    So the evidence just keeps piling up higher and deeper for evolution, while the “evidence” for creationism is just “I don’t think this can happen!”

  59. Simon Says:

    Indeed Science minded, Creationist is an valid unfalsified theory.
    The problem is that it is an unfalsifiable theory. Hence, it can not be analyzed through the scientific method and is not scientific. It is philosophical, metaphysical or religious, depending on how you look at it. But no, it is not Scientific.

    As far as my value in society is concerned, yeah, probably not so much yet.
    As far as the value of of biological science in general, no worth much, I think the billions of people that would not be alive today without antibiotics, vaccines, surgery and modern agriculture to feed them may take exception with your judgement…

    And abb3w’s definition is indeed the correct definition of a theory in the realm of science.
    Yours would correspond more to that of a hypothesis.
    A theory can be considered, I guess, like a super-hypothesis, that has been refined for months and compared to all available evidences before being proposed (Darwin worked on his Theory of Evolution for 25 years). And, of course, only the smaller portion of these theories that still held out to scrutiny and the accumulation of even more evidences are being taught in today’s classroom.
    Science being continually corrective, falsified theories are relentlessly slaughtered and abandoned, such as the theory of geocentricism or Ether theory.

  60. ScienceMinded Says:

    No Ben,

    You just hear your best buddy ScienceMinded laughing at your childish remarks. Nice picture though! Was that one taken at your family reunion?!?!

    Yours Truly, ScienceMinded

  61. abb3w Says:

    ScienceMinded: They’re not “my” points. They’re the points of the state of Florida. And you continue to confuse the formal use of the scientific term “theory” with the colloquial.

    And, yes, technically some parts of Newton’s Theories are no longer accepted as “correct”, due to the work of Einstein and others; it’s considered an approximation, but is still referred to as a “theory” due to the historical status it had. (This is also true, by the way, of much of Darwin’s work.)

  62. abb3w Says:

    Hendrics: actually Popperian Falsification isn’t the only demarcation requirement. Popper also referred to the use of the concept of “Simplicity”. MDLI gives a formal reason and rigorous expression for that, as well as the pragmatic ones Popper suggested.

    No, “God diddit” does not qualify for “simplicity”, because the measure not only over the size of conjecture used to describe the data, but also with the amount of information required to allow inference reconstructing all properties of the observed data.

  63. Simon Says:

    Rather than ‘simplicity’ I prefer to use the term ‘parsimony’ for just that reason.
    Or, as Ockham said it: ‘Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem’.

  64. Greg Says:

    I had to stop listening yesterday… What comments people applauded for and what they didn’t… had me worried.

  65. Ben Says:

    ScienceBlinded, if you have evidence that you aren’t possessed by Satan, please share it. Your posts are pretty strong evidence that you are, in fact, controlled by Mephisto. I mean, come on–if you were, you wouldn’t know it, right? It makes perfect sense, really. You continue to babble all sorts of meaningless tripe–and you even seem proud about it. That’s Beelzebub talking, for sure.

  66. Kevin Says:

    This is a big issue for me, as I am planning on moving back to Austin in a couple of years and I have children who will be attending schools (I do not currently live in Texas). The education of my children is a very important concern of mine; of course I teach them a great deal at home, but school is as important. If the Texas Board of Education is to be so irresponsible as to change science standards to cater to mythology, any mythology, I would certainly reconsider my plans because I refuse to have the education of my children sacrificed. Not only does the creationist’s wish to change science standards stem from their own misunderstanding of, in this case, evolution, it shows very poor understanding of science and very poor educational standards in general.

    What is next? Fixing science books to claim that “cell theory” is only a theory and might not be true? Saying that the theory of gravity is only a theory and might not be true? Even proposing that the planet might be flat in order to cater to the Flat-Earthers?

  67. Tiffany Says:

    Gaps are only weaknesses in an ‘intelligent design’ framework. The “gaps” that exist in evolutionary theory, science minded, are what fuels scientific inquiry and discovery. If we promote creation, these gaps suddenly become “oh, because god made it that way.”
    That’s just like a parent saying, “because I said so.” Insufficient and uninspiring.

  68. Desertphile Says:

    This is great news. Now the Texas Board of Education can work on more important things, like passing a motion to teach the strengths and weaknesses of snow.

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