It Wasn’t All about Evolution

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The Texas State Board of Education did more than open the door to creationist attacks on evolution when passing new science curriculum standards today. It also watered down a section on global warming in the standards for the environmental systems high school course.

The environmental systems curriculum standards drafted by a writing team in December had included the following standard:

(9)(G) discuss the positive and negative influence of commonly held ethical beliefs on scientific practices such as methods used to increase food production or the existence of global warming

The measure was changed to read: “analyze how ethical beliefs can be used to influence scientific practices such as methods of increasing food production.” Then the board added the following standard: “Analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.” As with evolution, there is consensus in the mainstream science community on the existence of global warming. The debate revolves around the mechanisms causing it.

The Environmental Defense Fund sent out the following press release:

 Indicating doubt about the existence of global warming, today’s final vote on textbook language by the Texas State Board of Education flouts leading scientific consensus as well as the board’s own scientific advisors.

Surprising environmentalists, the board’s last-minute decision Wednesday changed the language in a school textbook chapter on Environmental Systems to include the phrase “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.”

Dr. Ramon Alvarez, senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund, said that to deny the existence of global warming is not only an affront to the board’s own advisors, but also to established science, citing agreement by the National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and even one of the state’s premier academic institutions, Texas A&M University. “In a last-minute assault on science and sensibility, the board appears to be supporting its own ideological views rather than those of proven science,” Alvarez said. “Experts around the country, including the tenured faculty of Texas A&M’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, agree that our climate is warming and that humans are responsible.”

The new textbook language also positions Texas children behind regions already addressing global warming.  “The tragedy of this ruling is that it places Texas children at a competitive disadvantage in science education, thus failing them as they prepare to compete in the global marketplace,” said Jim Marston, regional director of Environmental Defense Fund.

From an alert sent out by the Texas League of Conservation Voters:

While the rest of the country and the world are rolling up their sleeves to address the causes and demonstrable impacts of global warming, Texas has chosen to bury its head in the sand and place its children behind a veil of ignorance. We can and should demand better.

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25 Responses to “It Wasn’t All about Evolution”

  1. Coragyps Says:

    What a crock! Even the Bush administration sort of allowed anthropogenic global warming to sqeeze in under the door in their last few months! Is it time for me to move my grandkids to Vermont?

  2. Ben Says:

    Almost nobody denies global warming. A small minority denies anthropogenic (manmade) global warming. Many of these people are creationists. The reasoning goes like this: God gave us dominion over the earth. He wouldn’t let us destroy it. God is in control. He is more powerful than man.

    Big surprise, huh?

  3. squall25 Says:

    Don’t forget the wackos who don’t mind the heating of the earth, because along with the election of a Black president and Israel invading Gaza and taking over Jerusalem, we should be expecting the end of the world. Morons.

  4. ScienceMinded Says:

    I can’t believe it! Are you NB calling global warming a theory?? Can you actually discuss something other than evolution and religion??

    Yours TRULY

  5. David Ch. Says:

    To all 3 of the previous respondents:

    It’s very interesting to watch you all squirm like the invertebrates you believe you descended from when, instead of having your “Science – aka theories” ramrodded into the only free-thinking 5% remnant on earth, Texas teachers continue to have the FREEDOM to teach children that they should study the facts and THEN make their OWN educated/researched/independent decision as to whether a scientific “theory” is just that or fact !
    You should be shaking in you boots, and moving to Vermont if you want your kids to just accept theory as undisputed fact.
    And of course reverting to name calling and screaming “religion” and Jerusalem etc…Is just more evidence of your intellegent arguments for ANY given subject. Wow…thanks for opening the mouth and inserting prehensile appendages. ;0).

  6. Zach Says:

    David, your misunderstanding about Darwin’s theory of evolution seems to fall in the 99% category of all misunderstandings. The problem is that you’re using a different definition of the word ‘theory’. The definition of ‘theory’ that you are using is the commonly accepted everyday definition. That is, “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact”. Indeed, this is not the definition that science is using. The definition that science is using is “a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena”. The key part is the “explanation for a class of phenomena”. That evolution happened is an absolute truth. The -theory- part simply means that it is an explanation for *how* it happened. There could be other (as of yet undiscovered) theories that also explain how species evolve over time, and those would be alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    Intelligent Design is not an alternative to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution simply because it is not discussing the same “class of phenomena” (as described in the *actual* definition of ‘theory’).

    It’s perfectly fine if you don’t believe evolution happened, you have the right to feel that way, but unfortunately there is unanimous agreement in the *science* community that it did happen, and therefore it belongs in *science* books. Intelligent Design would be a terrific subject to discuss in a theology class, but just as one should not discuss the War of 1812 in a Biology class, one should also not discuss matters of other unrelated subjects such as Theology. Hence the correct approach would be to increase efforts to have Theology classes taught in schools.

  7. Climate Criminal Says:

    David Ch.
    You are clearly confused about what constitutes a fact and what a theory really is. A theory is a higher level than a fact and explains the interrelation of facts. Science is built on facts and theories. Science is not perfect and does change with time as new facts are discovered and theories are modified to integrate and incorporate these new discoveries which do not fit in with previous explanations. The immense strength of science is that it is highly competitive, predicts and constantly self-testing and critical.

    Science explains and predicts how all the wonders of the modern man-made world electronics and technology all work – (cellphones, computers), automobiles, pharmaceuticals & etc.

    Evolution is the explanation of all the available evidence – fossil record (huge variety and range of transitional forms), genetic, biomolecular & etc.

    This video is about The Dover v. Kitzmiller Trial, the collapse of so called ‘Intelligent Design’ is wrong and why Evolution is right.

    Your position is akin to sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting I’m right and you’re all wrong! How mature, how intelligent! This approach may have worked with your kid sisters & brothers, but it won’t work with intelligent objective people!

    You would seem to have made-up your mind about the world and any inconvenient science that undermines your particular world-view & religion is dismissed as irrelevant or just plain wrong.

    Teaching children antiscientific garbage is PLAIN DISHONEST! It is PROPAGANDA and INDOCTRINATION of minors!

    Your insulting comments reveal you for what you are. We feel sorry for you!

    You too are descended from lower organisms, whether you choose to believe it or not.

  8. Steve Says:

    Let the lawsuits begin. This should not be tolerated.

  9. Steve Says:

    Also, to David Ch.: Scientific theories demonstrate how established facts happen. In science, a different definition of the word “theory” is used, instead of the widely-used definition of an idea or a guess. A scientific theory doesn’t refer to an idea or a guess about science. It’s a collection of testable, demonstrable data which shows how something works.

    For example, imagine that you live in a society that exists on the inside of a mechanical clock. The people in that society can’t say, for sure, what’s on the outside, because they’ve never seen it. All around them, though, there are these gears and mechanisms, all working together to perform a specific function. Through observation, experimentation and falsification, they determine that the gears and mechanisms are working together to perform the act of keeping track of time. In science, the gears and mechanisms working together to perform the act of keeping track of time would be known as the scientific theory of the clock. One day, though, someone manages to see the outside of the clock. He sees the hands of the clock moving in accordance with the workings of the inside of the clock, proving that the clock exists and does exactly what the theory of the clock dictates: keeps track of time.

    This is how scientific theories work. They’re evidence-based models of how phenomena function, not ideas and guesses. A scientific theory is the ultimate achievement in the scientific method. Once something becomes a theory in science, it becomes the explanation of an established fact.

    What the creationists on the board did was looked at the mechanical clock only from the outside and made uninformed guesses about how it worked, based on their personal beliefs, without even bothering to look at the inside. After that, they decided that this was the way they wanted to teach the children of Texas how science works. They want children to guess at scientific processes, like evolution, and decide for themselves, instead of actually investigating and testing the reality of such things to determine how they actually work. This is why the pro-science side is less than happy about the outcome, not because, in your apparent opinion, the other side made them “squirm”.

  10. Coragyps Says:

    “…to teach children that they should study the facts and THEN make their OWN educated/researched/independent decision as to whether a scientific “theory” is just that or fact. ”

    David and SM: I know this isn’t a debate forum, but I’m calling you both out anyway. Can either of you point to a single “fact” that leads to an alternate age of the universe to the ~13.7 billion years that is the current scientific consensus? Our Texas teachers are going to need that sort of material to be able to teach it, are they not? Can either of you point to a single “fact” that contradicts the observations that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising as a result of us burning fossil fuels, and that increased carbon dioxide traps solar heat? Can either of you find me a “fact” that contradicts the observation that chimpanzees and humans have very similar genomes, with ERV’s in the same places, with dozens of identical pseudogenes, and with a human chromosome 2 that looks precisely like tho chimp chromosomes joined end-to-end?

    I thought not….

  11. dave souza Says:

    David, I’ll certainly agree to the extent that this opens up the opportunity for children to learn and discuss the unassailable logic of Flying Spaghetti Monster theory…..

  12. Ben Says:

    Great posts above, but I have the feeling that David Ch already knows all these things. He’s just another troll.

  13. Ben Says:

    If Genesis is science, so is the Bakuba creation myth (only one of thousands of “legitimate” creation myths)…..

    “In the Bakuba account of demiurge, the Earth was originally nothing but water and darkness, ruled by the white giant Mbombo. This giant, after feeling an intense pain in his stomach one day, vomited up the sun, moon, and stars. The heat and light from the sun evaporated the water covering Earth, creating clouds, and after time, the dry hills emerged from the water. Mbombo vomited once more. Many things were contained in this second vomiting — people (the first man and the first woman), animals (the leopard, the eagle, and the monkey Fumu), trees, the falling star, the anvil, the firmament, the razor, medicine, and lighting. The woman of the waters, Nchienge, lived in the East, and her son, Woto, became the first king of the Bakuba.”

  14. ScienceMinded Says:

    To Coragyps, Steve, Climate Criminal, and Zach:

    It is a fact that Carbon Dioxide in the mesosphere is actually the gas responsible for global cooling, i.e., radiating heat back into space. It is also a fact that the coldest part of the atmosphere surrounding our planet is within the mesosphere. BTW, by fact, do you mean known to be absolutely true, without question? If so, then facts are much more powerful than a theory that is not known to be true! And, incorrect theories based on facts, as true as the facts might be, are still bogus.

    Using your definition of a theory, you might explain the point at which a body of knowledge used to explain a natural/physical process becomes a theory. I would be interested in hearing your views there.

    Yours TRULY

  15. Coragyps Says:

    SM, I think that what I asked for was facts. Not assertions. They ain’t the same thing.

  16. ScienceMinded Says:

    Answer my question Coragyps. Or, are you afraid to discuss science. It appears so!!! So tell me more about your assertions.

    Yours TRULY

  17. Coragyps Says:

    Nothing at all is “known to be absolutely true, without question,” SM.

    And I asked first.

  18. Ben Says:

    What a hypocrite. SM never answers questions. He’s too much of a coward.

  19. Ben Says:

    Here’s a church that’s willing to admit that they are willfully ignorant. SM, do you go to this church?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/we_arent_going_to_kiss_and_mak.php#comments

  20. ScienceMinded Says:

    I do answer your questions Ben. You just don’t like my answers!

    Here’s my position on global warming. I believe partial global warming exists. I believe man did have an impact on increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. I believe that H2O has more of an impact on partial global warming than CO2, although I admit, I’m not totally sure on that. Also, I’m not sure human-caused events are the main reason for what we are witnessing today. I think it would be interesting if we could figure out how to move CO2 from the troposphere up to the mesosphere, and vice versa, so we could have human control of the global climate.

    BTW, you guys need to get over to your buddy Steve S’s blog. I think he is feeling bad that you don’t post there. Actually, he has some interesting information posted. Some is even science related!!

    Yours TRULY

  21. Ken Says:

    So David Ch., you’re suggesting that we should only “teach” our children to question science and tell them they are empowered to determine what science is and is not? My first question is, are they similarly empowered to question religion as well? Given the apparent current educational policy in the State of Texas, why aren’t teachers required to tell children to question religion? Why aren’t we explicitly having schoolchildren, formally question religion as part of the school curriculum? That is not what is happening when science is (or rather, was) taught. Secondly, you (and for that matter the BOE) seem to be suggesting that we tell schoolchildren they are equal to our scientific leaders, and that they are empowered to redefine science and the scientific consensus. Clearly this is absurd. Certainly they are free to conduct their own inquiries and BELIEVE what they want to. But, what school children believe is not science. They may develop their abilities through scientific training and eventually perhaps participate in the scientific process, and maybe even be responsible for important scientific hypotheses or theories. But I’m sorry. As school kids, at best they’re scientists-in-training. As school kids they should learn what science is, not be encouraged to believe they are ready-made scientists capable of establishing science on their own while in school. But school children (and the BOE, and religion, and many of the folks involved in this debate) are not scientists, cannot redefine what science is and cannot overturn scientific consensus. Perhaps we should leave the instruction in scientific criticism for graduate students in science.

  22. Ben Says:

    Well, yeah, I generally don’t like answers that are deceptive, evasive, misleading, or flat-out lies.

    Here’s a question. Should the following scientific theory be discussed in school?:

    1. There is no god or gods; the theory of evolution is accurate.

    2. The earth (and everything else) was formed as a result of the Big Bang, billions of years ago.

    3. We don’t know how life originated, and we may never know.

    4. The only supernatural entity in existence is Satan. He didn’t create mankind, but he does have some limited powers than can be quite annoying. For instance, he has affected our thinking to make humans believe in thousands of different “gods” throughout history. He gives them funny names like Mordak, Zeus, and Yahweh, just because he thinks it’s humorous.

    5. Satan wrote the Bible as a means to torment mankind. He wants us to think there is a wonderful afterlife, but there isn’t. He got a real kick out of filling the Bible with stonings, genocide, slavery, incest, etc. He also wrote the Koran and some other religious texts just to stir up trouble.

    6. Satan planted the idea of intelligent design into some humans’ brains as a means to create havoc on earth. It appears to be working. Just look at the Discovery Institute. They are in the grip of Satan and don’t even realize it.

    7. Satan occasionally uses his limited powers to create “evidence” of intelligent design. For instance, he might make some organisms appear irreducibly complex. In other words, all of the “evidence’ for creationism or intelligent can just as well be considered evidence for this theory.

    8. There were a lot more fossils around that would have satisfied everybody, including creationists, as far as transitions, but Satan destroyed them.

  23. Zach Says:

    ScienceMinded,

    There’s a fine line between what’s a fact and what’s a widely accepted belief and it’s not easy to quantify. I think the arguments would lead to a discussion very philosophical in nature. What does it even mean to “know” something? Advances in recent quantum physics suggest there may be as many as 10 dimensions to the universe, maybe even more. It’s impossible to even imagine this, and in fact it’s probably beyond the computational power of a human brain to be able to reason in depth about certain aspects of this.

    Even what we think are obvious “facts” are only that way either because we “perceive” them to be that way, or because we’ve constructed arbitrary definitions from which they follow logically. For example, 2+2=4. Most people would agree that it’s a fact. But it’s only factual within the scope of the definitions from which that was derived: the peano axioms, the axiom of choice, etc. I don’t know that human brains have the ability to comprehend *actual* universal laws, instead we can only reason about what we perceive, based on how our brains interpret the information.

    That being said, the fundamental principle of “evolution”, whether it be Darwin’s theory of evolution, or other as of yet undiscovered theories of evolution, is simply that when two cells combine and form a new organism, the new organism has properties that neither of the original organism has. It’s really easy to accept this, and I would be surprised if there were many evolution skeptics that did not accept this. You can just look under a microscope and examine the parent DNAs and child DNAs and _see_ it happen. (Note that I’m not necessarily talking about parent/child in the sense of humans, but in the more general sense of arbitrary cell reproduction).

    It’s very difficult to dispute this because anyone not opposed to truth can observe it given the right equipment. You can extend this to fruit flies since they have an extremely short reproductive cycle and watch them change rapidly after many generations. We _know_ evolution happens, because the changes in DNA have been observed over both a short and long period of time.

    As Stephen Jay Gould said, “Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered”. He’s not the best person to quote when trying to make a skeptic understand what evolution is all about, but at the same time there’s not a better way to summarize the argument, and I’d hate to present a quote without a citation.

  24. Tiffany Says:

    Ben, you made my (very long) day.

    On a different note:
    It’s OBVIOUS global warming is a complete crock. I mean, Al Gore pretended to invent the internets, and he obviously ‘invented’ global warming, too. Gosh, when I woke up this morning, it was 39 degrees, in Texas! I think that’s God’s way of punishing those stupid, non-believing scientists for their lack of faith and stupid ideas about global warming. When it’s this cold in March, the globe is obviously not getting warmer. Normally by this time I would be outside by the pool without sunscreen working on my base tan.

  25. Ben Says:

    Thanks, Tiffany. Maybe Al Gore is possessed by Satan. Or perhaps Satan is possessed by Al Gore.

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