PZ Myers posted Entry 555 on October 10, 2004 08:58 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/554

Jay Manifold of A Voyage to Arcturus has a series of posts summarizing The Panda's Thumb's own Jack Krebs' recent talk on the Kansas science standards. It's thorough; consider it a kind of independent review.

Here's the list of articles on the talk:

(Good news: I think Jack passed the review.)

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #8629

Posted by FL on October 11, 2004 10:28 AM (e)

Quickie notes on a few of Manifold’s comments:

There is no correlation between the performance of a state’s public education system and that of its economy (proof), and therefore no reason to expect that Kansas will gain or lose biotech industry, irrespective of the content of its science education standards.

Hm. Quite interesting point there. Worth keeping in mind.

In particular, as Hume Feldman stated during the introduction, biotechnology is completely founded on evolution and would not exist without it. No evolution, no antibiotics. No evolution, no vaccines. No evolution, no gene therapies. No high-yield crops saving the Third World from starvation. No defense against AIDS or bird flu. No, thanks.

Micro-evolution is a wonderful thing, I’ve always maintained. But why not just plain call it “micro-evolution” when laying out the laundry list of accomplishments?

IDers, at least the ones I’ve observed, are also angry, bitter, alienated people (in striking contrast to the behavioral standard of their belief system),

Then somebody has not observed all ID advocates, quite obviously. Behe, Wells, Bradley—there’s three off the bat, of whom I’ve seen nothing but reasonably cool and courteous attitudes, even under questioning.

(I’d like to think of myself as a nice non-alienated person too, but that don’t matter–‘tis a poor frog that won’t praise his own pond. But the three examples cited above should suffice.)

Still, it’s a point worth considering by non-evolutionists of all stripes.

It takes only one “rude questioner” in a public debate forum like that one to create or bolster bad stereotypes or poor PR.

FL

Comment #8650

Posted by Jack Krebs on October 11, 2004 6:20 PM (e)

Thanks very much for doing this, Jay. You thoroughly covered all parts of the talk - Feldman, Hemenway, the speech, and the Q&A. I especially like how you linked to everything, and I also enjoyed looking at the whole thing through someone else’s eyes.

I understand your point about the importance of standards - they are a bureaucratic invention that get a lot of attention because they are tied to assessments and because they have become an anti-evolution battleground, but it’s really the teachers in the classroom that make the difference. I’m glad you got the quote from the lady who said she would teach evolution no matter what the standards say, but I’m afraid there are also those who won’t teach evoltuion no matter what the standards say.

So ultimately the bigger arena is the whole cultural acceptance of science, and of evolution, and changes in the attitudes which cause people to reject them (science and evolution) for various reasons (mostly religious but not exclusively.)

Thanks again,

Jack

Comment #8651

Posted by Jay Manifold on October 11, 2004 6:33 PM (e)

I do regard many arguments ostensibly aimed at strengthening public education as based on nothing but intuition and motivated by some of the less savory aspects of public-choice theory, that is to say, bureaucrats working on commission, as it were. As a rhetorical device, claiming that (your state here) will lose jobs and generally fail to keep up with the Joneses may resonate with some voters, but that doesn’t mean it’s borne out by actual experience. I’m an equal-opportunity offender.

The reflexive incantation of “that’s just microevolution” is, of course, exactly what I meant in point #7 about “moving the goalposts.” IDers can hardly deny the accomplishments of applied science, so they will adopt any fallback position needed to avoid directly contradicting the basis for those accomplishments.

Of course I haven’t observed all IDers, which is why I qualified my comment, and if I had it to do over again, would have qualified it more strongly (I could of course edit the post any time, but I think I’ll just add an update pointing to this thread instead). The contrast between the relative calm of most of the pro-science people who spoke in Lawrence on 9/28 and the noisy petulance of the IDers present, however, was quite striking, and ironic in light of the near certainty that the IDers were highly publicly professed Christians.

To make my point less abstract, and indeed to reinforce FL’s point, Linda Holloway, the chairman of the ‘99 board that altered the standards the first time, “spent most of her career teaching students with severe physical and mental impairments, celebrating their successes and suffering through their disappointments.” (http://www.kcstar.com/item/pages/home.pat,local/30daf7f1.508,.html) This is not a two-dimensional ranting fundamentalist. And I linked to Galatians 5:22-23 because I believe it myself and aspire to that standard.

Comment #8652

Posted by Jay Manifold on October 11, 2004 6:39 PM (e)

Like two ships passing in the night … Jack posted his comment while I was still writing mine. Jack, you are entirely welcome. Thank you for all your hard work.

Comment #8759

Posted by FL on October 13, 2004 7:03 PM (e)

Interesting comments. I’m just singling out one set of ‘em:

The reflexive incantation of “that’s just microevolution” is, of course, exactly what I meant in point #7 about “moving the goalposts.” IDers can hardly deny the accomplishments of applied science, so they will adopt any fallback position needed to avoid directly contradicting the basis for those accomplishments.

In contrast, I don’t see the reference to micro-evolution as either “goalpost moving” or even an “reflexive incantation.”

The fact is that every item listed in the above laundry list of “evolutionary accomplishments” can be checked, for example, against Freeman-Herron’s definitions of microevolution and macroevolution, and they’ll just line right up with micro.
No ID necessary at all. It’s just the way things are.

For me, even such a relatively small quick step as teaching science kids the difference between micro and macro, and how it applies to such things as laundry lists of “evolution accomplishments” could be a valuable part of “teaching the controversy.”

Teaching science students to use the proper label when discussing this or that evo-claim or evo-accomplishment is as “pro-science” as anything else being taught currently.

To fail to do so, could lead to teaching students misleading statements, indoctrination instead of science education.
And no, (for those concerned with time constraints), it wouldn’t take long. Five minutes or less within a single class session, imo.

FL

Comment #8760

Posted by Great White Wonder on October 13, 2004 7:31 PM (e)

For me, even such a relatively small quick step as teaching science kids the difference between micro and macro, and how it applies to such things as laundry lists of “evolution accomplishments” could be a valuable part of “teaching the controversy.”

What controversy? You mean the controversial way that the Discovery Institute is funding efforts to have religion taught in schools? I agree that should be taught in public schools –especially in history classes, in the context of the importance of the establishment clause and in the context of the well-documented roadblocks religion has placed on the ability of humans to understand the natural world.

I’m not aware of any other scientific controversy relating to macroevolution that merits mentioning in science classes. Could you point me to some evidence for the existence of the controversy you are referring to, FL, other than the meritless and scientifically vapid apologetics engaged in by evangelical Christians?

Comment #8762

Posted by Steve on October 13, 2004 8:16 PM (e)

Creationist 1900 “There is no truth to evolution. “
Creationist 2004 “Microevolution is fine. There is no truth to macroevolution.”
Creationist 2100 “Micro and mini evolution are fine. There is no truth to macroevolution.”
Creationist 2200 “Micro, mini, macro evolution are fine. There is no truth to Megaevolution.”

Comment #8777

Posted by Jeremy Mohn on October 14, 2004 11:35 AM (e)

FL wrote:

For me, even such a relatively small quick step as teaching science kids the difference between micro and macro, and how it applies to such things as laundry lists of “evolution accomplishments” could be a valuable part of “teaching the controversy.”

What exactly is the widely acknowledged distinction between microevolution and macroevolution? Since you describe teaching this as a “relatively small quick step” it should be rather simple to draw the line between the two, right?

Here’s the best distinction that I can come up with:

Microevolution = that which has been confirmed to happen with such a high level of certainty that denying it makes one look foolish and/or insane

Macroevolution = everything else

Could it be that clearly separating these terms is like trying to draw a line in quicksand? The distinction quickly becomes muddled once you take a look at the actual data.

Comment #8779

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on October 14, 2004 11:58 AM (e)

Jeremy Mohn wrote:

Here’s the best distinction that I can come up with:

Microevolution = that which has been confirmed to happen with such a high level of certainty that denying it makes one look foolish and/or insane

Macroevolution = everything else

Ick. That is a horrible distinction, but one creationists seem to make.

Biologists tend to distinguish between microevolutionary studies and macroevolutionary studies as “within species” and “among species” respectively. At one point in the history of biology, (six or so decades ago), some biologists argued that there were specific “macromutations” that caused speciation. However, genetics eventually demonstrated that the types of genetic differences that distinguish species are also found between individuals of the same species.

There was no class of mutations which caused speciation. The differences between individuals of separate species are the same as the differences between individuals of the same species, only more numerous. This is not to say that there aren’t rare mutations of large effect that eventually distinguish species, as evo-devo people are discovering.

However, creationists seemed to have missed the last six+ decades of genetics and still argue that there are fundamental genetic barriers in nature.

Comment #8780

Posted by Jeremy Mohn on October 14, 2004 2:22 PM (e)

Reed A. Cartwright wrote:

Ick. That is a horrible distinction, but one creationists seem to make.

I agree, this distinction is terrible, but that’s how it seems to be *secretly* defined by Creationists. Of course that’s just because Creationists choose to accept only that which can be directly observed.

Comment #8781

Posted by steve on October 14, 2004 2:37 PM (e)

Of course that’s just because Creationists choose to accept only that which can be directly observed.

My Ironymeter just blew its safety fuse.

Comment #8782

Posted by Jeremy Mohn on October 14, 2004 4:34 PM (e)

Steve-

I’m not sure why my comments have destroyed your Ironymeter. Perhaps I’ve been misunderstood. I was trying to say that Creationists have intentionally created the fuzzy distinction between these terms because this serves as a convenient ploy.

The intentional fuzziness allows Creationists to accept what we have directly observed (“microevolution”) and deny anything else (“macroevolution”). Every time new evidence is presented, they simply call it microevolution and “move the goalposts” a little farther back.

Basically, I was agreeing with what you said in Comment #8762.

I hope this clears up any confusion. It feels weird to be someone who sets off Ironymeters.

Jeremy

Comment #8783

Posted by Flint on October 14, 2004 4:59 PM (e)

My ironymeter also pegged. I seriously doubt that even creationists go around directly observing the act of creation, or even the act of design. So the “generic creationist position” is to reject any theory for which the evidence falls short of absolute certainty, in favor of of a theory where there is no evidence at all.

When we think about it, this makes sense. Evidence tends to do regular insult to theory, so best to avoid it altogether.

Comment #8784

Posted by Steve on October 14, 2004 5:09 PM (e)

Jeremy, I didn’t mean you were wrong, you aren’t. It’s just ironic that creationists’ fundamental problem is that they accept some religious ideas far too gullibly, then require an impossibly high standard of evidence to accept science. The irony there makes the display on my Radio Shack Ironymeter go to OL. Your comment pointed that out.

Comment #8785

Posted by Jeremy Mohn on October 14, 2004 5:20 PM (e)

OK, now I understand. I can see why my original statement pegged your Ironymeters. What I should have said was:

“Creationists only *grudgingly* accept those aspects of evolutionary theory which have been confirmed to such a degree that they’d be giving up any hope of public credibility if they were to deny it.”

Thanks for the clarification.

Jeremy

Comment #8787

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on October 14, 2004 6:21 PM (e)

Levinton 2001 explains distinct advantages to using the term macroevolution for character evolution, or character state changes, without reference to taxonomic rank at all. Reading Prum_&_Brush_2002 I had the distinct impression that they used the term this way and thought along the lines discussed by Levinton (to advantage). I find this usage desirable and wonder why it is not more widely known.