Lawmaker Launches Assault on Science Ed

by

UPDATE: Don’t just stew in frustration. Do something about it.

As we have battled anti-evolution extremists on the Texas State Board of Education over the past year, we knew that a legislative assault on science was inevitable. On Friday, the last day for filing legislation at the Texas Capitol, a far-right lawmaker from East Texas filed the bill we’ve been expecting.

House Bill 4224 by state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, is a full frontal assault on science education in Texas. The bill would open the door to teaching public school students almost any cockamamie concept that any crackpot wants to portray as “science,” regardless of what mainstream scientists and school administrators have to say about it.

The bill inserts directly into the Texas Education Code a requirement that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. It also forbids any governmental entity from stopping a teacher who offers just about any argument he or she wants against a scientific theory so long as the teacher portrays it as based on “scientific evidence and information.”

The bill doesn’t mention evolution specifically, but that hardly matters — creationists have been trying for years to use such a requirement to force public schools to teach pseudoscientific “weaknesses” of evolution. The anti-evolution Discovery Institute specializes in promoting such arguments, even though mainstream scientists long ago debunked them.

But this bill’s potential consequences go far beyond what students could learn about evolution. What if, for example, a teacher decides to teach students that there is scientific evidence that Earth really doesn’t revolve around the sun after all? The teacher could point to a Web site — www.fixedearth.com — that makes that very argument. He or she could also point to state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who in 2007 endorsed and circulated a memo to fellow Texas lawmakers that promoted the fixedearth.com Web site. Rep. Christian’s bill, if it passes, would prevent school district administrators from doing anything about the teacher and the nonsense he or she would be teaching.

The current draft of new science curriculum standards, currently under consideration by the State Board of Education, leaves out the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement. The state board’s final vote on those standards — and another attempt by creationists to put “strengths and weaknesses” back in — is expected at the end of this month. But Rep. Christian’s bill, if passed, is a legislative end run around the standards. It would make the entire process for adopting science standards a sham.

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex offers his take on the bill here.

49 Responses to “Lawmaker Launches Assault on Science Ed”

  1. PaulJ Says:

    I watch in horror from across the pond, fearful that this kind of non-science/non-sense is spreading to the UK (and it is), and commend you for your exposure of it.

    (To avoid boosting the page-rank of sites you need to reference (such as the Discovery Institute) might I suggest you use the ‘nofollow’ html tag as explained by Tim Farley at Skeptical Software Tools?)

  2. Sean Ellis Says:

    Perhaps a campaign of civil obedience is the ting to do if it does pass. Every science teacher should, for every subject, find a piece of obvious nonsense and peddle it as a “weakness” of current theory. Geographers should teach Neil Adams’s amazing expanding earth theory alongside plate tectonics. Physicists should make up any old rubbish to combat that peskily difficult-to-pin-down “gravity” stuff. Chemists should teach the alternative periodic table, you know, the one with 4 elements instead of 100+.

    However, I think that most responsible science teachers would never countenance this sort of action. It would be fun to do it for one semester, though…

  3. Rob Jase Says:

    Its things like this that make me feel sorry for Texans who aren’t part of the dark-ages majority in the bible belt.

  4. TFN Says:

    The ‘nofollow’ suggestion is great. Thanks for passing it on.

  5. Rocket Mike Says:

    Those who propose teaching “weaknesses” should be made to list those “weaknesses” and give a proper citation from the recognised and peer-reviewed scientific journals. No, Behe and Dembski cannot peer-review for Luskin!

    Errata sheets of approved “weaknesses” can be prepared by a committee made up of evolutionary biologists (or the appropriate scientists) from a number of Texas universities. I suggest UT, A&M, Tech, SMU, and Baylor at a minimum. The errata sheets can be sent to high schools only after the majority of the committee has determined the claims pass the scientific “smell test”.

    Those who expect to be treated as academic equals have to earn it.

  6. MelM Says:

    Open questions or controversies within a field that are to be presented to students should be part of the science standard and not smuggled in by instructors. I made the point about open questions in science to a grad student guide at a Darwin Day exhibit–he was also involved taking biology exhibits to local schools. Teaching about open questions in any field stops students from getting the wrong idea that a field is finished and in the books–in the can, so to speak–and that there are no research opportunities. (The guide knew of the problem.) What better way to excite the brighter students than to point to areas where they might make discoveries? So, open questions and controversies are a good thing (those that are understandable to the students). But, leaving all this to creationist science (others as well) teachers is nothing but “crackpot freedom”; put it in the standard.

  7. James F Says:

    Rocket Mike,

    That would make it so much easier to declare the bill unconstitutional from the outset – the “weaknesses” are the same bits of dogmatic fundamentalist nonsense that the creationists have been peddling for decades, while genetics, paleontology, biochemistry, and the rest continue to surge ahead. If these folks weren’t in positions of political power, they’d be hilarious. I mean, you’d think the fact that the biology, chemistry, and geology departments at Baylor have posted pro-evolution statements would show them that the game is up.

  8. Mike Williamson Says:

    As someone from Kansas, I deplore the efforts of the creationists to undermine education. Their current strategy is to undermine the entire idea of “naturalism”, or the concept that we can learn from nature around us. They have decided that learning from the world around us is not as reliable as their book, the Bible. I vote for nature.

  9. wench Says:

    Didn’t Texas want to secede once? Can’t we encourage that idea again? Some days I’d dearly love to get rid of them as a part of the country. Our collective IQ and the general respect we get overseas would go up 3 sizes straight away.

  10. adam Says:

    Uh, the text of that bill says nothing about teachers teaching scientific falsities to children. It provides protection against students being “penalized” if they happen to believe something different and want to learn about it, and it allows their teachers to explain alternative scientific theories as long as those theories have legitimate scientific backing. I’m not a creationist by any means, but it sure seems like allowing students and teachers to remain open-minded about what they’re being taught or being told to teach is a good thing. Taking “critical” stances on science is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing. I’m not sure why we need these attacks against people who believe slightly differently from yourselves after years and years of scientists modifying, changing and revamping their theories over and over again.

    Nothing in that bill is attacking evolution. All I hear are excuses for attacking people who think differently.

  11. Ben Says:

    Adam (interesting name), a lot of people “happen to believe” some really nutty stuff. That’s why.

    Here’s a good example:

    http://www.fixedearth.com/

    Want “fixed earth theory” taught in school?

    Also, these people who “happen to believe” nutty stuff are willing to be dishonest and deceptive in order to attack real science that threatens their views. I sense that you know this already.

  12. InkRose Says:

    If the bill prevents a geography teacher from failing a student who gives the answers in an exam because she believes the Genesis version of how things began, or that the earth is flat and square, for example, I’d think it a very bad thing indeed. Or, as mentioned above, a chemistry teacher found the old Greek model of the elements more plausible than the modern periodic table. There’s science available to support both. The science may be old, but it’s there, and aren’t the old theories always the best and most reliable?

    “All I hear are excuses for attacking people who think differently.” Isn’t this exactly what they’re doing with this bill, albeit in a veiled and more duplicitous manner? If I’ve understood things at all, the bill is about letting anyone teach anything they want so long as they can claim it has “scientific validity”, and prevents anyone doing anything to change it.

    Personally, I don’t think science classes are the proper place to do Bible studies, nor religious education classes the place for biochemistry, etc.

  13. James Says:

    @adam: Teachers already *can* explain alternative theories that have legitimate scientific backing. The only thing that this bill does is allows psuedoscience to be taught without having to pass the scrutiny of academic standards.

    Fake Edit: Looking again at the last sentence of your first paragraph … I get that impression that you believe that a stance that doesn’t change in spite of contradictory evidence is more “correct” than one that is revised to accommodate new evidence. Is that correct, or am I reading you wrong?

  14. James F Says:

    …it allows their teachers to explain alternative scientific theories as long as those theories have legitimate scientific backing.

    And these “alternative scientific theories” are…? That’s where this proposed legislation reveals its true colors. I’m all for explaining to students why intelligent design is not science, thus giving them a better understanding of how real science works, but it’s obvious that this is not Rep. Christian’s intent.

  15. W Lloyd Jerome Says:

    @ adam; I think you may be:

    either: a little naive: it’s clear to most people that this bill paves the way for the proponents of ID and the like to have their made-up notions taken as seriously as those with the weight of scientific research behind them.

    or: playing that very game yourself, allowing unscientific notions to be promulgated as science with a veneer of “open-mindedness” to suggest that science is not, by its very nature open-minded.

    I’d have no criticism of the bill if it requires that everything that is to be taught in science classes has been subject to the rigour of scientific testing, but please let’s keep the horrors of “teaching the controversy” away from impressionable enquiring minds.

  16. Pac Says:

    @wench

    Speaking as a skeptic, scientist, and native Texan I am more than a little insulted.

    I did not vote for any of these lunatics, and I have written to my state and national representatives to express my views on this outrageous legislation.

    Yes Texas is occasionally a little backwards but ya know, sometimes even on east coast things get a little backwards. Romney and some of the stunts he tried, and has!, pulled come to mind.

  17. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Vince Leibowitz said on The Capitol Annex,
    To give you some idea of what could be taught under Christian’s bill, we give you these gems:

    Hurricanes aren’t caused by global warming, or anything to do with ocean and atmosphereic temperature because all of that is based upon fuzzy math and incorrect science; instead, they are caused by God’s wrath and sent to rein down upon cities he views as immoral because it is a more logical viewpoint.

    HIV/AIDS isn’t an autoimmune disease, but rather God’s punishment upon homosexuals because it is more logical to believe that than what scientists have come up with.

    Condom’s never work because the theories and evidence supporting their use are flawed, so abstaining from sex is the only form of birth control acceptable under any circumstance.
    — from http://capitolannex.com/2009/03/14/bill-would-make-strengths-and-weaknesses-teaching-of-evolution-state-law/

    Those “gems” are just unrealistic straw-man examples.

    Vince Leibowitz also said,
    Clearly, conservatives are upset that they lost their most recent round at the State Board of Education, so instead of licking their wounds and going home, they are simply changing the venue for the debate.

    Maybe the fundies will stop running to the legislatures when you Darwinists stop running to the courts.

    The following provision of HB 4224 is self-contradictory:
    (c) Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because he or she subscribes to a particular position on scientific theories or hypotheses.

    If, say, a student is negatively “evaluated” for saying on a test that “goddidit,” then that would violate the second part of the above statement by penalizing the student for subscribing to a particular position on a scientific theory or hypothesis. This contradiction can be corrected by changing the wording to “shall not otherwise be penalized . . . . .”

    Rocket Mike Says (March 15, 2009 at 11:45 am) —
    –Those who propose teaching “weaknesses” should be made to list those “weaknesses” and give a proper citation from the recognised and peer-reviewed scientific journals.–

    Peer review is less important than it once was. On the Internet, comments from anyone can be immediately attached to articles, and IMO that is better than peer review except for the fact that peer review can produce corrections before publication. BTW, there is a dirty little secret that most law journals are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are only student-reviewed — something for judges to think about when they condemn a scientific idea for not being peer-reviewed.

    — Errata sheets of approved “weaknesses” can be prepared by a committee made up of evolutionary biologists (or the appropriate scientists) from a number of Texas universities. —

    “Approved” weaknesses? I thought that you Darwinists said that there are no weaknesses. Also, having evolutionary biologists “approve” the weaknesses would be like having the proverbial fox guard the chicken coop. And I for one am very resentful of “experts” who demand deference to their opinions on questions that do not require expertise to answer.

    MelM Says (March 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm) —
    — Open questions or controversies within a field that are to be presented to students should be part of the science standard and not smuggled in by instructors. —

    Those who write the science standards cannot foresee every possible open question or controversy — the standards should be written broadly.

    James F Says (March 15, 2009 at 9:59 pm) —
    — I’m all for explaining to students why intelligent design is not science, thus giving them a better understanding of how real science works, but it’s obvious that this is not Rep. Christian’s intent. —

    Intent and effect are two different things — the bill does not guarantee that ID will be taught as good science if it is taught.

    PaulJ Says (March 15, 2009 at 5:21 am ) —
    –To avoid boosting the page-rank of sites you need to reference (such as the Discovery Institute) might I suggest you use the ‘nofollow’ html tag as explained by Tim Farley at Skeptical Software Tools? —

    Do you think that DI really needs the extra publicity? You Darwinists blame the DI for everything, so there is enough publicity right there.

  18. Ben Says:

    Larry said, “You Darwinists blame the DI for everything”

    That’s not true at all. I, for one, sometimes blame Satan. One of the tenets of my well-developed theory of the world contends that Satan controls Larry’s thinking. Larry has not been able to prove this untrue.

    Come to think of it, Satan might also control the minds of our friends at the Discovery Institute.

    Some people refer to this as “Satandidit.” Catchy, no?

  19. Joel Says:

    @Larry

    I agree wit some of your points, but I strongly disagree with your comments on the need and importance of peer review. Comments from anyone (and everyone) on the internet cannot replace the peer review model. Although you seem to denigrate experts and imply they require deference and are only interested in protecting their status and pet theories, as a research scientist (astrophysics), I can tell you of peer review from experience. Doing a peer review of a paper or serving on a panel is a completely voluntary, unpaid public service, and a majority of the scientists called upon to perform those reviews take the job very seriously. Yes, as humans we are all subject to various degrees of inevitable biases and blind spots that can taint an expert’s review in specific cases, but on average and over the long term, there is net progress. Peer review is an extremely technical undertaking, and by definition, requires one to be an expert in the field to be able to follow an argument and understand it’s details and subtleties. To some folks, this sounds “elitist,” and that is because it is! I wouldn’t necessarily trust a brain surgeon to tune my car without some proof that they know how and have experience, and I would bet most people being wheeled into an operation room would take the “elitist” attitude of not wanting a car mechanic to perform their surgery.

    Why should the approach to science be any different? Sure, there are many aspects of science that are understandable and accessible to the public, but that doesn’t make them knowledgeable enough to judge the validity of technical details. Many people correctly understand that the Earth goes around the Sun, but most of them could not write down and explain Kepler’s law of motion, or move on to derive it from first principles of Newton’s laws, or even more, understand the refinements provided by General Relativity and be able to compare and understand the supporting measurements. And yet, were I to publish a paper on that subject on the internet and open it for public review, I will bet you dollars to donuts that the majority of comments would be from non-experts who don’t understand the background, the math, nor have knowledge of the literature of what has been done and tried. So tell me, why should I give any weight in that process to someone whose understanding of the subject boils down to: the Earth is flat and doesn’t move or the Sun goes around the Earth because goddidit?

    Of course, this is different for cases, as you say, of “questions that do not require expertise to answer.” So what questions in evolution that are being addressed do not require expertise (e.g., in biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, etc.)? Those details are the necessary foundations that underlie the general understanding of the public, but if you are going to disagree with those high-level descriptions, then you need to understand and argue at the level of the technical details. Or, since I am not an expert in those fields, can you give me examples in the fields of astronomy that are assailed by creationists an other pseudo-scientists that do not require expertise at the fundamental level? In my experience, their beliefs (e.g., young earth, moon landing hoax, source of the microwave background, distance of quasars, source and make-up of comets, the death star Nibiru, astrology, etc.) are based on a lack of understanding of fundamental physics. It is not of any value to get input from non-experts at that superficial level.

  20. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Joel,

    The problem is that Darwinists have made a fetish out of peer review — they refuse to even consider any idea that has not been published in a traditional printed peer-reviewed journal (and they often insist on publication in the most selective peer-reviewed journals, e.g., Nature and Science). This insistence on publication in peer-reviewed journals is an unscholarly cop-out and science-stopper. I have run into particular problems in getting consideration of my ideas about coevolution.

    –Peer review is an extremely technical undertaking, and by definition, requires one to be an expert in the field to be able to follow an argument and understand it’s details and subtleties. —

    Not necessarily. For example, my discussions about coevolution are non-technical. Also, laypeople have often become experts in narrow technical specialties and are better qualified to discuss those specialties than the majority of professionals in the field. There is often a transfer of knowledge between different fields — for example, mechanical engineers and physicists are especially well qualified to discuss the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a criticism of evolution theory. And often some of the commenters on an Internet article are the same people who would qualify to do a peer review of the article for publication in a traditional printed journal.

    Also, it was the height of hypocrisy of Judge Jones to condemn the alleged lack of peer review of intelligent design, considering that most law journals are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are just student-reviewed! This is especially ironical because law journal articles tend to benefit more from peer review than articles in other scholarly fields — everything in the law is out in the open and can be easily verified whereas in science it is often difficult or impossible, for example, for a peer-reviewer to repeat an experiment to verify the results.

    And why should average people even bother to learn about evolution if their opinions about it are not going to be respected?

  21. TFN Says:

    Larry writes: “And why should average people even bother to learn about evolution if their opinions about it are not going to be respected?”

    It’s one thing to respect everyone’s opinion. That should be a given in a civil society. It’s quite another to suggest that an uninformed opinion is really helpful in developing good education policy.

  22. James F Says:

    Larry,

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific process. You say:

    The problem is that Darwinists have made a fetish out of peer review — they refuse to even consider any idea that has not been published in a traditional printed peer-reviewed journal (and they often insist on publication in the most selective peer-reviewed journals, e.g., Nature and Science)

    Not true; many ideas in all scientific disciplines are considered prior to peer review, the first step through which ideas become part of the scientific literature. I have personally presented several of my ideas for public critique and discussion at conferences prior to passing the peer review process. Furthermore, research papers continue to be discussed, cited, followed up, and re-tested after publication. Before passing peer review, you have many options to get your ideas considered:

    1) Write a manuscript and submit it to a scientific journal until you find one that accepts it. This is standard operating procedure.
    2) Present a talk at a scientific or interdisciplinary conference. The bar is far lower than for a manuscript. I just got back from a conference that was open to both scientists and non-scientists, in fact.
    3) Publish your ideas independently in a book. This will not necessarily influence scientific research (for example, Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box), but it certainly has the potential to do so (Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, and the archetypal example, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species)

    Intelligent design has failed with option 1, has generally avoided option 2, and has failed to inspire any scientific research with option 3. It is a waste of time to consider ideas that have consistently failed to provide a testable mechanism or data of any sort; ID had the same chance as any new idea and it went nowhere – not every idea survives scientific scrutiny!

  23. jdg Says:

    Wow, now they want us to accept “God did it” as an answer!!! Well, not in my class and I challenge any student to write it down just to test me. With respect to Larry F., he does not understand on how science works in general with respect to anything, period. One word Larry, publish. You think publishing is not important shows your ignorance on how science works.

  24. Ben Says:

    Go easy on Larry. It’s entirely possible that he’s in the grip of Satan.

  25. Larry Fafarman Says:

    TFN Says (March 16, 2009 at 3:54 pm) —
    — It’s one thing to respect everyone’s opinion. That should be a given in a civil society. It’s quite another to suggest that an uninformed opinion is really helpful in developing good education policy. —

    I was not talking about uninformed opinions — I was obviously talking about informed opinions. One of the reasons for learning about evolution is to have an informed opinion about it.

    Also, Darwinist biologists have demanded deference to their opinions on the question of whether or not both the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories should be taught, and that is a question that does not require any scientific expertise to answer.

    James F Says (March 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm) —
    –Not true; many ideas in all scientific disciplines are considered prior to peer review, the first step through which ideas become part of the scientific literature. —

    WRONG. Darwinists have told me that they will not even consider my ideas about coevolution because those ideas have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    jdg Says (March 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm) —
    –With respect to Larry F., he does not understand on how science works in general with respect to anything, period. One word Larry, publish.–

    I have published — my blog has several articles about coevolution and I have discussed coevolution extensively on other websites.

  26. RickK Says:

    In response to Larry, who is sounding so reasonable – just as reasonable as the people who hold up picture after picture and slide after slide and earnestly tell us that nobody landed on the Moon in 1969. When you check your intellectual honesty at the door, then everything is open to debate, every opinion carries equal weight (as Larry indicates when he says scientists and random blog commenters carry equal credibility).

    Larry – if random blog comments carry so much weight, why is it that none of the creationist bloggers allow comments on their posts?

    There is one simple acid test for the intellectually dishonest “teach the controversy” and “let the students decide” junk:

    If pure, literal Christian Biblical creationism had always been taught alongside evolutionary theory in every public school science classroom, would “Creation Science” or “Intelligent Design” have been invented or promoted? You can say “yes”, but you’d be lying.

    Science is, by definition, the study of natural causes for natural events. Once you attribute an event to a supernatural cause, the science ends because there’s nothing left to study.

    Evolutionary theory offers mechanisms, is testable (but passes the tests), is falsifiable (but hasn’t yet been falsified), is observable and makes predictions that come true. It is science.

    Creationism, and its clone Intelligent Design, offer no mechanisms, are not testable, are not falsifiable, have not been observed and make no predictions. Therefore, they are not science.

    I believe an earlier poster has the right idea. Science teachers objecting to these faith-based anti-evolution “teach the controversy” bills should study up on geocentrism and start teaching it to all young astronomy students. Among educated people, there is EXACTLY as much controversy about the relative position of the Sun and the Earth as there is about whether or not life evolves.

  27. Ben Says:

    If I were Larry and I was in the grip of Satan, I’d probably attempt to refute everything RickK just said.

  28. Joel Says:

    Larry,

    Certainly it is a Catch-22 if you are told something like: You have to be peer-reviewed before your ideas can be considered for peer-review. I know a bias like this exists in some folks, and is a weakness of the system. However, on the flip side, I also consider this natural resistance in the system also to be a strength. I prefer a system of formal science that errs on the side of requiring high levels of evidence and formalism and may (almost certainly does) end up missing out on some new valid ideas, as opposed to a more accepting and less critical system that errs on the side of including a lot of incorrect data and concepts. I admit that is my bias (and that one could argue I am acting selfishly as a Gatekeeper now that I am on the Inside), but I honestly feel that in the big picture, it is for everyone’s advantage, and that progress and improvements in our knowledge and understanding of the universe are made in the long-term, even if there is some back-sliding and mistakes on the short-term.

    I agree that evolution and other sciences can be discussed and argued at a non-technical level. I love being challenged to explain complex concepts to non-experts; I strongly believe (and slightly modify) the quote: If you can’t explain your theory to a bartender in 5 minutes, you don’t understand it well enough yourself. That said, sometimes the big concepts (perhaps in evolution for example) seem so counter-intuitive that some aspects really do require more technical understanding of physics, math, and statistics. This goes in spades for aspects of quantum mechanics and relativity: I can explain time dilation that leads to the Twin Paradox, particle wave duality, and other bizarre things that seem absolutely nutso science fiction, and yet, are regularly actually measured effects that are the basis for a lot of today’s technology and that can only be definitively explained by somewhat advanced math and physics. But even as an “almost expert”, though I understand the general concepts of the spooky action-at-a-distance of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox or string theory and multi-universe Brane cosmology, there is no way I would ever claim that I really _understand_ the details at a level where I could peer-review or even make a substantive comments on the theories.

    I often get e-mails from people with a new theory on something related to astronomy. I usually will at least give a quick read, but to be blunt, though it may sound very unfair, I just don’t have time to read, critique, and get into a conversation with everyone who sends me those e-mails (particularly if they are very long and rambling, which many are). Being mortal and prone to human behavior, I just don’t have the time and energy to devote to it. There is a filter in my brain that will look over a message and categorize it: maybe it is something I haven’t heard before, but usually it is similar to ones I have seen in the past: a new theory on gravity or tired light, more evidence that a rogue star will destroy the Earth in 2012, another reason why the moon landings must have been faked, etc. In those cases, because I have seen so many very similar ones before and have seen the authors ignore any counter-argument or contrary evidence I could muster at the time, I simply file it away as Just Another One. Is this unfair, and could I be overlooking the one person out of a thousand that actually does have a “right” answer? Of course. But my experience tells me that is unlikely.

    My guess is that the biologists, anthropologists, geneticists, etc. deal with the same thing regarding evolution and the arguments coming from creationists, intelligent design advocates, or religious literalists. And though I am not a evolution scientist, I can understand the caution and strong negative reaction toward people who try to re-define “science” to better fit a religious or other belief system.

    I don’t see a strong parallel in your argument that because law journals are not peer-reviewed (taking your word for that), then science journals shouldn’t have a higher standard. I do think science should have a higher standard. My view of law is that it is a human social construct (and yes, I know some will argue science is the same) reflecting a culture’s morality, beliefs, and to codify ways for large numbers of people to live in close quarters without killing each other. I think in that environment, opinion appropriately holds larger sway. However, isn’t it the case that in law, precedent (so, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of historical writing and of past cases) is essential for consistency and stability of the law?

    As a last point/concession, I do think that at some level, scientific pursuits must deal with (and sometimes yield to) a culture’s moral system, financial limitations, and direction of development. Just because we _can_ do something, should we be _allowed_ to do it or _have_ to do it? This is certainly a basis to disagreements on stem cell research, cloning, development of nuclear weapons, going to other planets, etc. I can not “argue” with someone’s belief system, and there can be many valid opinions and judgement calls. However, if they hop the fence and claim something is Science, then they have to play by the rules and definitions of Science, and can’t re-define Science to fit their argument. You can call it something else, but not Science. Again, I admit that sounds elitist, but I don’t think being elitist in that sense is a bad thing.

  29. Rocket Mike Says:

    Larry,
    Law is not decided in the law journals, it is decided in court. Thus, you cannot compare it to the scientific process pursued through research and then publication in the journals to inform the scientific community so they can build a consensus.

    If you want to play with the big boys, you have to play by the big boy rules. You are not allowed to pick on 16 year old biology students with your phony weaknesses/criticisms/or whatever. No, I wouldn’t expect any “weaknesses” to come through the science filter – I was just baiting you.

    If there are readers who think that the scientific side is reacting too strongly to those kindly, honest, and reasonable folks that just want to see scientific “strengths and weaknesses” of theories taught, then you need to go read Judge Jones opinion from the Kitzmiller v Dover trial. I know it is 139 pages long, but you will see the depths of depravity those kindly, honest, and reasonable board members went to in subverting science education.

  30. Charles Says:

    Thank you Joel. I know it took time to write all of that, and it is laid out very nicely. However, I think you may have broken your own rule:

    I often get e-mails from people with a new theory on something related to astronomy. I usually will at least give a quick read, but to be blunt, though it may sound very unfair, I just don’t have time to read, critique, and get into a conversation with everyone who sends me those e-mails (particularly if they are very long and rambling, which many are). Being mortal and prone to human behavior, I just don’t have the time and energy to devote to it. There is a filter in my brain that will look over a message and categorize it: maybe it is something I haven’t heard before, but usually it is similar to ones I have seen in the past: a new theory on gravity or tired light, more evidence that a rogue star will destroy the Earth in 2012, another reason why the moon landings must have been faked, etc. In those cases, because I have seen so many very similar ones before and have seen the authors ignore any counter-argument or contrary evidence I could muster at the time, I simply file it away as Just Another One. Is this unfair, and could I be overlooking the one person out of a thousand that actually does have a “right” answer? Of course. But my experience tells me that is unlikely.”

    Stick around a while, and you will see.

  31. Darth Robo Says:

    Ah, Larry Larry Larry. Still waging your “Jihad” against “Darwinism” I see? (giggle)

  32. Larry Fafarman Says:

    RickK Says (March 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm) —
    –Larry – if random blog comments carry so much weight, why is it that none of the creationist bloggers allow comments on their posts? —

    Some “creationist” blogs allow comments, some Darwinist blogs arbitrarily censor comments — there is no general rule.

    –Science is, by definition, the study of natural causes for natural events. —

    Evolution theory has not satisfied the most stringent scientific scrutiny and has been getting a free ride because it is the only theory of origins that at least gives a superficial appearance of being naturalistic or materialistic.

    — Once you attribute an event to a supernatural cause, the science ends because there’s nothing left to study. —

    Not true — for example, I found that in my studies of coevolution, evolution theory was the science-stopper. I learned a lot about coevolution and interspecies relationships only after I assumed that Darwinian coevolution is not necessarily always possible.

    –Among educated people, there is EXACTLY as much controversy about the relative position of the Sun and the Earth as there is about whether or not life evolves. —

    If you cannot see that a controversy about evolution exists, then you are like those aborigines who were unable to see European explorers’ ships because the aborigines did not believe that such large ships could possibly exist.

    Joel Says (March 16, 2009 at 5:15 pm ) —
    –Certainly it is a Catch-22 if you are told something like: You have to be peer-reviewed before your ideas can be considered for peer-review. I know a bias like this exists in some folks, and is a weakness of the system.–

    Not just “some folks” — lots of folks.

    –I also consider this natural resistance in the system also to be a strength. —

    A science-stopper is a strength? That’s absurd.

    –And though I am not a evolution scientist, I can understand the caution and strong negative reaction toward people who try to re-define “science” to better fit a religious or other belief system. —

    Many critics of evolution theory use strictly scientific arguments — these critics are not trying to “re-define” science to better fit a religious or other belief system. The criticisms may have religious implications, but that doesn’t mean that the criticisms themselves are religious. Evolution theory has religious implications — that’s why there are “theistic evolutionists.”

    –I don’t see a strong parallel in your argument that because law journals are not peer-reviewed (taking your word for that), then science journals shouldn’t have a higher standard. —

    You don’t have to take my word for it — here is proof —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/05/judge-jones-hypocritical-about-peer.html

    I never said that science journals shouldn’t have a higher standard — I meant that law journals shouldn’t have a lower standard. And until law journals come up to the standards of science journals, it is grossly hypocritical of the courts to point fingers at scientific ideas that are not peer-reviewed. Do you know what the terms “hypocrisy” and “double standard” mean? Why does everything have to be spelled out for you Darwinists in nauseating detail?

    — However, isn’t it the case that in law, precedent (so, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of historical writing and of past cases) is essential for consistency and stability of the law?–

    Law journals have been very influential — the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times by federal court opinions alone in the period 1970-79 alone — see
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2007/04/hahvahd-law-school-snobbery.html

    Erroneous scientific ideas are quickly eliminated, but because of the principles of stare decisis, res judicata, and collateral estoppel, the effects of bad ideas in the law are permanent or long-lasting.

    Rocket Mike Says (March 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm) —
    –Law is not decided in the law journals, it is decided in court. —

    As I said above, law journals have been very influential — the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times by federal court opinions alone in the period 1970-79 alone.

    –If you want to play with the big boys, you have to play by the big boy rules. —

    I do play by the “big boy” rules — my discussions about coevolution are completely scientific.

    –you need to go read Judge Jones opinion from the Kitzmiller v Dover trial. I know it is 139 pages long, but you will see the depths of depravity–

    Judge Jones is the one who is depraved — for example, he said that his Dover decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions.

    Darth Robo Says:
    –Ah, Larry Larry Larry. Still waging your “Jihad” against “Darwinism” I see? (giggle) —

    Ah, Darth, Darth, Darth. Still waging your “Jihad” against common sense, I see? (giggle) A scientific theory that depends on censorship to sustain it might as well be thrown out the window.

  33. Ben Says:

    What to do about Larry? Rebut him? Or let his babblings about evolution go unchallenged?

    Larry’s own brother says:

    “[Larry] obviously is not stupid. He writes well (which is probably how he gets the amount of traction that he does). He is very knowledgeable in many areas (knows quite a bit of history and geography, for example). He has a legitimate master’s degree in mechanical engineering. But there’s clearly some disconnect in integrating his knowledge, and what appears to be an ulterior agenda. It does not seem to be possible to engage in normal discussion with him. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps he is addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets from conflict, as the issues he gets passionate about are often those that will maximize dissension.”

    The full story is here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/05/fafarman_take_3.php#c096404

    The owner of that blog has some advice:

    “Here’s the rule when you deal with cranks and trolls – if you engage them, it proves that their ideas have to be taken seriously; if you ignore them, it shows that you’re afraid of their ideas. Heads they win, tails you lose. That’s why there’s really only one way to deal with them: mock the hell out of them. No, it won’t actually deflate them any, but it at least turns the annoyance into a bit of amusement.”

  34. ScienceMinded Says:

    I don’t think many of you have read or written peer-reviewed journal publications. Many of you seem to think that if a paper passes a peer review, then it must be accurate. I would estimate that 90% of the peer-reviewed publications are garbage and terribly written. Many are accepted because a professor with some clout has their name listed as an author, when in actuality the paper was written entirely by a graduate student studying under the professor. Just because a well-known professor has his/her name on a paper doesn’t mean anything about the scientific content or the accuracy of the content. The bottom line, don’t believe everything you read — in journal papers, conference papers, technical reports, on the Internet, and especially on TFN!!!

  35. James F Says:

    I would estimate that 90% of the peer-reviewed publications are garbage and terribly written.

    And your evidence for this is…? No one is claiming that scientific papers, like anything written by humans, are always 100% correct and not subject to future revision, but speaking as someone who reads, reviews, and writes peer-reviewed scientific research papers, this is a very rigorous and robust system. One statistic that is very clear, however, is 0% – that’s the percentage of peer-reviewed scientific research papers that refute evolution or provide data in support of ID. That’s really the point we’re arguing here.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    ScienceMinded said, “don’t believe everything you read”

    Boy, is that the truth. Especially in regards to comments from ScienceMinded.

  37. Ben Says:

    Hey ScienceMinded, just curious—do you accept the theory of evolution?

  38. Charles Says:

    Wrong—95 percent.

    I have seen peer reviewers for journals be not just tough—but extremely tough—mercilessly tough. From reading the review comments, you would almost believe that the reviewer hates the reviewee with a perfect hatred. In particular, in the company where I worked going on four years ago, the young woman in the office across the hall from mine showed me the review comments on an article that she and a male colleague had submitted to a national journal. She was a very smart professional scientist (geochemistry) with about 10 years of experience and her colleagure (my best guess given his age) had about 30 years of experience. The paper was done on a subject in which both are recognized experts. The reviewers ripped it to shreds!!!!! It looked as if it had gone through 15 rounds with Cassius Clay in the early 1960s. They refused to publish the paper and told them that they needed to go back to the old drawing board and start over. The tone was cold as ice and totally heartless.

    Some professors do co-publish with their graduate students. Usually the professor is shown as the lead author on the paper, and the student did write most of the paper. However, and I have been around in my field to one degree or another since 1974, I have never seen or heard of an instance where a review jury for a journal gave someone a “free-pass” on quality just because they were “…old professor Bill’s student.” In fact, old Professor Bill will have most likely reviewed his student’s paper with a fine-toothed comb before submitting it. Why? Because if it is a piece of crap, Professor Bill knows that the guillotine of criticism is going to fall on his neck as lead author more so than on the neck of his student.

    I just said you were 95 percent wrong. I will give you that 5 percent. A lot of scientific papers are poorly written. I know this because I have worked as a technical editor. Many scientists that I know could have used more credit hours in English back in their college days. In particular, I have seen and continue to see a poor ability to express scientific ideas in words—as if the authors cannot find the correct combination of words to fully express what they are thinking in a clear way.

    About one year ago, I set aside some weekend time to read a chapter in a new book in my field. It was written by a nationally famous scientist. It was so poorly written that I nearly pulled my hair out trying to take in what the author was saying. After about 4 hours of trying to pick my way through it, having to reread sentences five times, I just through it down and walked away in disgust. When I had collected my cool, I went back to it in a couple of days with a strictly editorial mindset and soon realized that the paper was not well written. The subject matter was not hard at all—but the writing was not getting the ideas across fully or clearly. Rather than just letting it go as I might have 30 years ago, I wrote to the author and just plain said that this book chapter was poorly written—and that in the future it would be good to pass it off to an editor to attain full clarity prior to publication. I did not win any new friends and probably did not infuence this person to do any better—-but I at least got my point across.

    As for your last comment about TFN, I actually find TFN to be interesting, informative, and truthful. If they ever say something that I know is not true, you can rest assured that I will let everyone here know it ASAP. And you know what else, I bet they will look into it and “fess up” if it is wrong. However, did you know that some creation science folks have been caught in factual errors in one communications venue, had the error pointed out to them, fessed up to it as an error, but then continued to repeat the falsehood in their subsequent lectures and traveling medicine shows that they take from church to church across the country? What did your old Sunday school teacher tell you about this kind of behavior? I will give you a clue. It starts with the letter “L.” And, as the Bible so clearly says, Satan is the father of it.

  39. Charles Says:

    Sorry. I meant “threw it down.” I am on a strange old dinosaur of a computer in the so-called “Business Center” of a hotel, and the monitor is nearly a yard from my eyes.

  40. ScienceMinded Says:

    Good comments Charles. I agree that many reviewers of peer-reviewed journals are questionable in regards to their competence. Because they are asked to review, many think they must be really smart. All too often, they step out of their area of expertise and tread on grounds they have very little competence in. My evidence of my statements is based on the journal papers I personally read. My estimate of 10% good papers is, in reality, giving writers the benefit of the doubt. I am continually amazed at the amount of trash that makes it through the peer-review process. I do believe a good-old boy network exists in many journals. I’ve noticed, from my own experience, that after several papers have been accepted to a particular journal, the odds of subsequent papers being accepted are much greater.

  41. Ben Says:

    It appears ScienceMinded has grossly (and perhaps intentionally) misinterpreted Charles’s remarks. Charles, please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Maybe the third time will be a charm, so I’ll ask again: ScienceMinded, do you accept the theory of evolution?

    Am I implying that you are perhaps a creationist? Yeah, pretty much. If you’re not, please let us all know. I’ve noticed that creationist visitors to this blog are often embarrassed to own up to their beliefs. Can’t blame them for that, really.

  42. Charles Says:

    No Ben. You are not wrong. Science-Minded seems to have a problem with reading comprehension or (as you say) ulterior motives for misinterpreting what I said.

  43. ScienceMinded Says:

    Do you two feel better now? I do accept parts of the theory Ben. I believe evolutionary theory strongly supports micro evolution. I don’t believe it confirms or supports macro evolution, however. What are your views on macro evolution? Do you accept it on faith, or do you have confirmation? I don’t think the evidence is too strong in that category yet.

  44. Charles Says:

    Alert!!!! Possible Discovery Institute hook and worm in the water. Remember that it is impossible to convince a hard-boiled creationist of your position on evolution—no matter how many facts you have to offer. It is like talking to a tree. He knows that and hopes that you do not. All he needs to do is stick to his position no matter what you say and drain you dry in the process. Rather than respond, please use that energy of yours to post something of your own to reach reasonable nonChristians and Christians who are truly questioning and seeking an honest understanding of what the Texas SBOE is trying to do. In my opinion, trolling by the opposition is a sure sign that this website and its posts are taking a devastating toll on the opposition across Texas. Keep up the pressure. Always tell the truth to the best of your ability.

  45. ScienceMinded Says:

    Charles, Come to the surface and take a deep breath. Your losing it buddy! Think science dude. I’m not out to shred your personal beliefs. And FYI, I’m not from the Discovery Institute either. You guys are way too paranoid. Think self confidence. What are you so afraid of anyway? Your reactions are making you look bad. If someone has a different perspective than yours, you’re all too eager to take up arms. You seem like a smart enough guy. Take control of your emotions before they rule you. You should seriously consider taking a class on social etiquette. Maybe a few psych. classes would be useful as well. And don’t worry, I’m not trying to convince you of anything. It is obvious any attempt would be in vain. Tighten those nuts down and focus more on science. I think it will help.

  46. Ben Says:

    Charles, you are exactly right. Another troll. Funny how they say things like, “What are you so afraid of” and “focus more on science.” Ah, the irony.

    His continued posts here show that you are also right about this site’s toll. Obviously, they are scared. I don’t mean to be cruel, but the creationists’ desperation is sort of entertaining.

    Charles, what do you think—ScienceMinded is Jeff from a few weeks ago?

  47. LRA Says:

    DID YOU HEAR? Representative Leo Berman (R-Tyler) wants to allow for religious schools to grant degrees in Master of SCIENCE for creation science by allowing them to get around the accrediting laws.

  48. Charles Says:

    Could be Ben. The folks at TFN might be able to determine that using registration data and some computer programmer knowledge. How about that TFN? If it does turn out to be the same person, he/she has run afoul of their own request for etiquette. It is my understanding that blog posting under assorted names (in the role of a troll) is conisdered to be the height of bad manners on the Internet.

  49. Charles Says:

    Thank you LRA. Yes, the folks at TFN informed us about that recently. I wonder whether any serious, college-level educational accreditation body would ever accredit anything as nutty as this. However, if they were to ever do so, I think it would open up the door for Masters Degrees in:

    Astrology
    Atlantis Studies
    Lost Mu Studies
    Gods from Outer Space
    Fortune Telling
    The Matrix
    Lost Tribes of Israel
    Assorted Conspiracy Theories

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