Richard B. Hoppe posted Entry 1145 on June 13, 2005 04:47 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1143

The Discovery Institute has a habit of misrepresenting issues, thereby publicly shooting itself in the foot.  The most recent instance is a press release misleadingly titled Attack on OSU Graduate Student Endangers Academic Freedom.  In it, Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute, presents a version of events filled with fabrications and misrepresentations.

Let me first briefly recapitulate the actual sequence of events.

  • Sometime in the past, months or years ago, Bryan Leonard, a doctoral candidate in science education at The Ohio State University, put together a dissertation committee whose composition violated the clear requirements of the program in which he was seeking a degree.

  • On Thursday, June 2, 2005, an assistant professor of French & Italian assigned to Leonard’s defense withdrew from the committee and was immediately replaced by Dr. Joan Herbers, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences and an evolutionary biologist.  According to the graduate school, it was Paul Post, Leonard’s dissertation advisor, [corrected in edit] Peter Paul, head of the School of Teaching and Learning, who initially got the graduate school involved, resulting in the change in Leonard’s committee. 

  • In a letter dated and delivered on Friday, June 3, three full professors — Rissing, McKee, and McEnnis — transmitted concerns raised by Leonard’s public testimony in the recent Kansas BOE hearings to the graduate school of the Ohio State University.  That letter is a public document, available to the press on request  (using an official Ohio Request for Public Records procedure if necessary).  The formal letter communicating concerns to the OSU Grad School was requested by and sent to a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday 8 June.

  • Also on Friday, June 3, Leonard’s advisor, Paul Post, requested a postponement of Leonard’s defense.  In other words, contrary to Bruce Chapman’s claims (discussed below), Ohio State did not prevent Leonard from defending his dissertation; his advisor requested the postponement the day after a qualified faculty member was appointed to his committee and on the same day that questions were raised about the composition of the committee.

  • On Tuesday, June 7, 2005, I posted a description of what was then known about the Leonard affair, together with some reasonable inferences from that description.  Notice of my posting was transmitted over my signature to members of the press.

  • In statements since then, the Graduate School has said that it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the composition of Leonard’s committee and questions about the conduct of his research.

So we have a series of events, precipitated by Leonard’s advisor [corrected in edit] the School of Teaching and Learning and by Leonard himself in Kansas, that resulted in his advisor requesting the postponement of Leonard’s defense after a qualified faculty member — Dr.  Herbers — was appointed to his committee.

Now, what is the DI’s version? To be blunt, nothing that is recognizable in the reality-based community.  Some examples:

Bruce Chapman, DI President, blows it in the first paragraph:

An effort by three professors at Ohio State University (OSU) to publicly damage the academic future of a graduate student, Bryan Leonard, because of his support for teaching about the controversy over evolution is “an attack on academic freedom and a violation of professional ethics,” said Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman.

As described at length in my previous posting, the central issue is not academic freedom, it is academic responsibility.  Put as plainly as possible, the Intelligent Design Creationists packed Leonard’s committee contrary to the Ohio State University’s graduate school requirements.  They’ve been caught with their paws in the cookie jar up to their elbows and Chapman desperately wants to change the subject.

Chapman’s misdirection continues

“Bryan Leonard has not even had a chance to defend his dissertation through the university process and they have gone to the press to try to discredit him in public” said Chapman.

Chapman conveniently omits the fact that the “university process” was subverted by Leonard and his IDC mentors months ago, if not years ago, in the very composition of his committee.  That their subversion of the process was caught before Leonard’s defense attests to the fact that the University is following its own “university process” to ensure the integrity and quality of its graduate degrees.

That same process permits, indeed requires, any member of the graduate faculty to transmit concerns regarding irregularities in graduate education to the dean of the Graduate School.  To do otherwise would be to acquiesce in the subversion of the academic integrity of the graduate program.

Chapman goes on

“It seems to me that the graduate student’s real crime in this group’s eyes is that he represents the science teaching policy recently adopted by the Ohio State Board of Education” added Chapman.  “Having failed to win their way with the state board, they are taking it out on an unusually promising graduate student who was consulted by the board in its deliberations.”

The real crime at issue is the perversion of the academic integrity of the university’s degree-granting process by IDC professors.  Leonard was almost certainly a participant, but the academic “crime” was committed by his faculty mentors.  (And having read Leonard’s model lesson plan draft as it was originally submitted to the Ohio State BOE, “unusually promising” seems to me to be a pretty long stretch: Judge for yourself.)

Moving right along, the DI press release says

The professors apparently have not even read the dissertation they are denouncing.  According to an article in the June 9, Columbus Dispatch, OSU professors Steve Rissing, Brian McEnnis, and Jeffrey McKee are seeking to discredit the dissertation research of Mr.  Leonard, an OSU graduate student (and current high school biology teacher).

While it has been mentioned in comments to my earlier posting, it bears repeating that Leonard’s dissertation is not a public document (yet), and the three professors did not have access to it.  Leonard himself called attention to it in his testimony to the Kansas BOE hearings, attempting to influence public policy on the basis of undefended and unpublished research.  The three did not attempt to “discredit” the dissertation; their concerns are with the integrity of the academic programs of the University. 

Furthermore, Leonard’s testimony in Kansas also raised the ethics question.  Knowing of that testimony and of the illegitimate composition of Leonard’s committee, had the three professors not acted then they themselves would have been guilty of an ethical violation for failing to call the graduate school’s attention to the issue.  The content of Leonard’s dissertation is irrelevant to the core issue, which is the subversion of the university’s degree-granting process by Mr.  Leonard and his IDC mentors.

Note also that the DI press release doesn’t bother to give the URL of the Dispatch story, making it difficult to check the DI’s version of the story.  The Dispatch story is here (requires registration; if necessary, search on “Leonard dissertation”), though that will become a pay-for-access story within a few days.  (The DI’s failure to provide a link is itself worth comment: The DI tends to provide links only to (mis)information it can control.  Can anyone think of a precedent for that practice?)

Later the DI press release says

“The complaining professors are simply defining as ‘unethical’ any research that disagrees with their dogmatic view of how to teach evolution” said Chapman.

In fact, the question here is whether Leonard’s research as performed was vetted by the Institutional Review Board.  Once again, the question arises from Leonard’s testimony in Kansas.  IRB review and approval is not a minor bit of red tape.  Violating IRB requirements can cost a university dearly.  Failure to properly submit to, and receive approval from the local IRB of any research protocol involving human subjects (if this is what happened in Leonard’s case) is not only a matter of administrative red tape, it is in itself a violation of ethical guidelines, and could result in major penalties for the Institution and involved investigators, including the partial or complete loss of federal funding. 

The only public description to date of Leonard’s research comes from his Kansas hearings testimony.  Lack of normal explanation and descriptions of experimental results that are available for outside examination is why such “publication by news conference” is avoided in academia.  The student’s dissertation committee should have advised against such public statements based upon a confidential document; the committee was certainly aware of the student’s testimony:  one of its members — DiSilvestro — also testified in the Kansas hearings.

Normally, other members of any graduate faculty would assume that a student and his/her dissertation committee would assure compliance with IRB regulations.  Given the composition of that committee in this case, the OSU professors exercised their only ethical option and reported their concerns regarding the process resulting in the formation of the committee and possible concerns about human subjects to the OSU Graduate School.

We can expect the Discovery Institute’s “academic freedom” and “viewpoint discrimination” spin to continue.  The concept of academic responsibility appears to be wholly outside the DI’s ken.

RBH

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Comment #35113

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 14, 2005 2:39 AM (e)

I just read some of that lesson plan that Leonard is proposing and I have to really question if this guy knows anything about science or evolution. I find the comparison of spontaneous generation to abiogenesis (in the same region as, global warming vs. no global warming for example) utterly devoid of any merit at all (I bet his lesson wouldn’t even touch experiments on early prebiotic world scenarios).

I feel sorry for Americas future scientists if this is the sort of idiocy that they are potentially going to get taught.

Comment #35115

Posted by darwinfinch on June 14, 2005 4:01 AM (e)

This is THE defining technique of those self-described as “new conservatives”: claim martyrdom and change the subject.

I somehow believe that it was a technique not original but finally perfected by the anti-evolution crowd in re-animating their dead cause, and now transmitted by these false, as defined by the dictionary, “conservatives” with whom (and I do not wish to exaggerate this but simply define my gut feeling concerning their methods and aims), like all “end justifies the means” fanatics, they represent a faction that, as for the leadership, is irreconcilable with an open and democratic society.
I will listen, but never trust anyone cloaked in the colors of this unprincipled, bullying, fascistic movement. I will in any and every way that proves necessary oppose them.

Comment #35121

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 14, 2005 6:53 AM (e)

This is THE defining technique of those self-described as “new conservatives”: claim martyrdom and change the subject.

I think it’s also part of that massive martyr complex that all fundies seem to have. They WANT to be “oppressed”; they ENJOY their martyrdom. It allows them to show everyone how holy they are.

Comment #35125

Posted by Jim Ryan on June 14, 2005 7:10 AM (e)

Just as the early Christians had to worry about becoming Lion Chow at the Coliseum, today’s Christian Americans face the not dissimilar ordeal of….
…having their cheeseball tactics exposed when attempting to pack doctoral committees in Ohio.

Comment #35129

Posted by darwinfinch on June 14, 2005 7:35 AM (e)

“They WANT to be “oppressed”; they ENJOY their martyrdom. It allows them to show everyone how holy they are.”

But in THIS age of vanity and cowardice, their “suffering” is nothing but FX in front of cameras or before fan-club events. Not only the leadership is like this, but every not-insane (medically speaking) one of them. They will risk nothing but a few (generally publically donated, if possible tax-deductible) dollars.

Comment #35139

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on June 14, 2005 9:16 AM (e)

Considering the Discovery Institute’s recent entanglement with the Smithsonian Institute, I wonder if many of these events are being staged with the primary intent of generating sympathetic PR. These are along the lines of “Help, help we’re being oppressed! Come see the violence inherent in the system!”

By seeking public events(no matter how inappropriate) in which they know they’ll be squashed, are they trying to build sympathy for being repressed? Is this also part of the wedge strategy?

Comment #35142

Posted by Flint on June 14, 2005 10:02 AM (e)

Is this also part of the wedge strategy?

I think it’s a side-effect. The overall strategy is to be as pushy as possible, trying to horn in on every aspect of public life – schools, government, courts, textbooks, the media, anywhere publicity can be leveraged. If they succeed, it shows they’re right. If they fail, it shows the forces of evil are repressing them. It’s a very old yet still successful strategy: grab everything you can, and accuse anyone who defends themselves of oppression.

Most people, trying to minimize trouble, will follow a policy of appeasement: let’s give them what they want, it’s not that much, and maybe they’ll be satisfied. But zealotry is like gravity: the more it can grab, the more grabby it gets. And it never sleeps.

Comment #35143

Posted by Steve Reuland on June 14, 2005 10:03 AM (e)

What cracks me up is that these guys are pushing ID as the cure to America’s supposed moral decline. Yet their own moral standards are downright abysmal. Telling the truth can be dispensed with completely if it advances the cause, according to whatever book they get their morals from. What book is that any way?

Comment #35144

Posted by Really unsympathetic reader on June 14, 2005 10:04 AM (e)

From Bryan Leonard’s lesson plan:
Global warming vs. non global warming (Several pieces of data could be used. One example is the observed increasing size of the ozone hole.)

Personally, I wouldn’t use ozone hole data for that. The major cause for the depletion the ozone layer is generally considered to be human-generated compounds like chlorofluorocarbons and not by global warming per se.

Endosymbiotic theory:

Brief supporting sample answer:
Many years ago, smaller bacteria were engulfed by larger bacterial cells. They co-existed in a symbiotic relationship. As a result, the smaller bacteria eventually changed into chloroplasts and mitochondria. It was by this process that these two organelles evolved.

Well, that’s not a “supporting answer”, it’s a description of the theory. Further, it’s not even the right description: It does not appear that mitochondira & chloroplasts were taken in by “larger bacterial cells”, but by *eukaryotes* instead. A supporting answer might mention the close genetic & biochemical relationships between these organelles and particular groups of bacterial. Or one might mention algae that not only have chloroplasts but ones that are surrounded by additional membranes which also cover an additional genome closely linked to other eukaryotes (secondary endosymbiosis). Or one might mention that horizontal transfer appears to be ongoing which is still moving genes from these organelles into the nucleus.

Brief challenging answer:
Laboratory tests have not demonstrated that small bacteria prokayrotes can change into eukaryotic cellular organelles within larger bacterial cells. Although, some smaller bacterial cells can live in eukaryotes, but these is no evidence that cells change into organelles.

“Bacterial prokaryotes” is redundant: Bacterium = prokaryote. The theory for organelles does not propose that the endosymbiosis first arose in “large bacterial cells”. There is evidence of ongoing HGT in these organelles into eukaryotic genomes just as it is known that genetic exchange between bacteria and their eukaryotic hosts occurs today. For the divisions of bacteria thought to have given rise to these organelle many are known to establish non-obligatory endosymbiotic relationships with some eukaryotes today.

Natural selection of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Brief challenging sample answer:
Antibiotic resistant Staphylococus aureus have increased in frequency, due to selection against non-resistant strains (resistant S. aureus has always been among the population of non resistant S. aureus). Antiobiotics do not create resistant microbes, but rather it only amplifies the number of resistant microbes that were already present. Although new strains of prokaryotic S. aureus have evolved, none have evolved into eukaryotic species.

1) WTF has evolution into eukaryotic species got to do with acquisition of drug resistance?
2) Logical disconnect: The answer suggests that resistant strains have always been around. If so, why would one also mention that new strains have evolved w.r.t. resistance?
3) The answer flies in the face of experimental proof that de novo mutations can create drug resistance.

Q: Are these “brief challenging answers” intend to be B.S.?

PS - Most of the basic mistakes in Bryan’s English are not the result of my typing.

Comment #35145

Posted by Susan Fisher on June 14, 2005 10:15 AM (e)

The question of Bryan Leonard’s academic freedom has been debated by the ID folks. However, as a long standing member of AAUP and the Secretary of the University Senate at OSU, I have to tell you that there is no recognition of academic freedom for students. They have first amendment rights to be sure. However, academic freedom is a commodity reserved for members of the academy who, after being properly credentialed, acquire academic freedom so that they can teach controversial issues with out fear. Mr. Leonard has a ways to go before he earns this privilege.

Susan Fisher

Comment #35152

Posted by Greg Peterson on June 14, 2005 10:37 AM (e)

I read the lesson plan, and I’m not a scientist, but I was immediately struck by how wrong-headed his approach to embryology as it relates to evolution was. I’m reading “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” right now (and I understand this is a very basic, dumbed-down primer on evo-devo), and there was not a hint in the lesson plan that such newer discoveries shine a bright light on evolution. And what’s with a weasel word like “all” in the sentence about embryos recapitulating evolutionary history? There’s no reason to think they would, I can’t imagine, but when the embryo of an anteater goes through a stage when it has teeth, and then those teeth are absorbed back into the embryo and dissapear, and the adult form does not have teeth–what else can possibly be inferred from that other than that anteaters developed from an ancestral form that had teeth? Or again, the hoatzin bird that has claws on its wings as a juvenile–what does that logically imply? I would have zero confidence that the lesson plan as outlined would give even the rudiments of current evolutionary reasoning in crucial areas. If his approach to embryology is any indication, he has no business being taken seriously. And other writers have pointed out serious problems in other areas. DI does itself a grave disservice by defending such things–to which I can only say, “Rock on.”

Comment #35166

Posted by mark on June 14, 2005 11:26 AM (e)

(I was just reading yet another article about scientifically-deduced early Earth atmosphere composition and the origin of life in 13 May Science…)
Yet another example of how this holier-than-thou group lies and misleads in a most hypocritical manner. This is the sort of information the media and school boards need to be given, repeatedly. The public at large needs to know they’re being fed crap.

Comment #35167

Posted by Matt Brauer on June 14, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

Hi Susan,

Thanks for joining the discussion. I suspect that the DI knows that students have no academic freedom as such, but that they are counting on the public not grasping this subtle point. This is akin to what they do when they talk about a high-school biology teacher’s “first amendment right” to teach religion in science class. No such right exists, but the ID folks are waging a PR campaign to convince the public that they are fighting “viewpoint discrimination” and advocating “academic freedom.” They frame the issue in terms of “fairness.”

(They’re really just like the ACLU, don’t you know.)

Comment #35176

Posted by Frank Schmidt on June 14, 2005 12:05 PM (e)

I appreciate Susan’s point that academic freedom is earned and not an entitlement.

Whether or not students have academic freedom (they might be construed to do so, in a limited sense, as part of their training), there is a telling aspect of Leonard’s attempt, as it has been described. He simply tried to pack the committee, and got caught out. All those arcane “procedure rules” do serve a useful function.

Note the parallel here with other IDC tactics. They feel entitled, due to the depth of their commitment, to be taken seriously as a scientific enterprise. But they haven’t earned it by doing the hard work.

Comment #35187

Posted by Steve Reuland on June 14, 2005 1:03 PM (e)

I would say that the very existence of a dissertation committee, which has to sign off on your research proposal (or send you packing if they think it stinks), pretty much proves that graduate students do not have “academic freedom” as such.

I only wish my committee was stacked with people from other departments who would automatically accept a predetermined outcome for my research. (Actually, I don’t wish that, but it sure would make life easier.)

Comment #35202

Posted by harold on June 14, 2005 2:22 PM (e)

When I first read of Bryan Leonard’s scheme (via an earlier PT “article”), I was literally too angry to post.

Let’s look at this from the angle of Christian morality - is Bryan Leonard behaving like a “Christian”?

I’ve seen creationists play fast and loose with degrees in the past, but nothing nearly as fraudulent as this approach.

Buying a worthless but legal “degree” from a degree mill, touting an irrelevant degree in the hopes that someone will take it as a marker of “pan-expertise”, or even touting a relevant and honestly earned degree to disguise the fact that all your scientific peers disagree with you (a la Behe), may be somewhat dishonest, but in all these cases, the degree granting institution has not been victimized, strictly speaking. Behe may victimize those who mistake his degree for an endorsement of his subsequent views, but he earned it at the time, and no institution can reasonably control for all future actions of its graduates.

Leonard, on the other hand, planned to use deception and a rigged thesis committee to trick OSU into granting him an unearned degree. Not only that, but he planned to use this dishonestly obtained degree to imply, falsely that OSU as an institution endorsed an outlandish position. This incredibly dishonest action is a violation of any possible rational interpretation of the teachings of Jesus or the Ten Commandments or anything else he claims to be motivated by. The fact that his work is of unbelievably inferior quality and shows a total lack of comprehension of the basic subject matter of the thesis (if the quotes above are accurate) is actually almost irrelevant, although it serves to highlight the sleaziness of his actions.

Every honest student at OSU working hard for any type of degree the honest way, every alumnus of OSU who benefits from the school’s excellent reputation, every faculty member who takes the time to honestly and critically evaluate students’ work, and every Ohio taxpayer who supports the university would have been victimized, had this scheme succeeded.

To endorse this kind of cheating as “academic freedom”, or to attempt to trick others into seeing it as an example of “academic freedom”, is to tacitly endorse a nihilistic, conscienceless version of morality. Does anyone really believe we save children’s souls by cheating on our exams, so that we can become “qualified” to teach them lies about science? The “Christianity” that these people claim to follow is a hateful victory cult that has no relationship to the teachings of Jesus.

I personally consider this a clear case of fraud. A PhD from Ohio State has significant commercial value, and Leonard and his would-be thesis committee attempted to cheat OSU, and by extension the taxpayers of Ohio, into granting them one. If you don’t agree, consider how students working long hard hours on their legitimate PhD dissertations might feel about this.

Creationists, in the unlikely event that you try to respond here, don’t just harp on the fact that I am expressing hostility - explain how cheating and Christian morality can possibly go together.

Comment #35238

Posted by harold on June 14, 2005 5:01 PM (e)

Sound of crickets chirping>

Comment #35253

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 14, 2005 6:09 PM (e)

Sound of crickets chirping>

Hey!!!! Why has everyone suddenly taken to stealing my catch phrases?

Next thing ya know, someone will be talking about their pizza delivery guy….

;>

Comment #35261

Posted by caerbannog on June 14, 2005 6:34 PM (e)

An article complaining about Bryan Leonard’s aborted dissertation defense has finally showed up at the DI Media-Complaints Division web-site ( http://www.evolutionnews.org/index.php?cat=14 ).

It desperately needs a PandasThumb trackback…. (hint, hint)

Comment #35270

Posted by harold on June 14, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

Imitation is a relatively sincere form of flattery.

I was honestly hoping a creationist might answer that last question.

Comment #35273

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 14, 2005 7:17 PM (e)

I was honestly hoping a creationist might answer that last question.

You mean you still hope creationists/IDers will answer direct questions?

(putting my hand on your forehead)

Are you feeling OK … ?

;>

Comment #35296

Posted by RBH on June 14, 2005 9:42 PM (e)

caerbannog wrote

It desperately needs a PandasThumb trackback …. (hint, hint)

I tossed ‘em one. Don’t see it there yet.

RBH

ETA: Funny, though, clicking the link to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education doesn’t get me to anything about the OSU situation. What am I missing?

Comment #35309

Posted by RBH on June 14, 2005 11:41 PM (e)

I finally found the referenced piece on the “FIRE” site. It mentions my previous PT post, but depends mostly on the Inside Higher Ed story. Unfortunately – or perhaps expectedly since the DI’s Media Complaints Division cites it as an “insightful take” – the FIRE piece screws the story up. It focuses on the content of Leonard’s dissertation, which is irrelevant, and barely mentions (“at first glance”) the core issue, the subversion of OSU academic degrees. And there’s a bonus: a quote mine! The FIRE piece says

But according to Inside Higher Ed, there is another reason people at OSU are upset: “that Ohio State appeared to be on the verge of awarding a Ph.D. for work questioning evolution.”

Note the period at the end of that quotation. End of sentence, right? Wrong. Mitchell, the “insightful” FIRE writer, clipped a clause. The full sentence is

Faculty critics have objected both to the idea that Ohio State appeared to be on the verge of awarding a Ph.D. for work questioning evolution and to the way Leonard’s dissertation committee violated Ohio State rules.

But then, what can one expect? Note also that the first clause, that quoted by Mitchell in the FIRE piece, is inaccurate. Then, would one expect that they’d actually quote the last sentence in that same paragraph?

Despite all the criticism, Ohio State officials stress that the decision to call off the dissertation defense was made by Leonard’s disssertation advisor, not by university administrators responding to the controversy.

Not a chance.

RBH

Comment #35310

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 15, 2005 12:15 AM (e)

resistant S. aureus has always been among the population of non resistant S. aureus

Incidently, this isn’t actually true and I can demonstrate why very simply. If you take the S. aureus that is found on the skin of Hedgehogs, you would expect them to be antibiotic resistant if this was true.

Guess what, they aren’t and never appear to develop resistance in pure culture. However, we know that these bacteria are normally very resistant in their natural environment (the hedgehog). The simple answer is there is another Staphylococcal bacterium on the skin of the hedgehog, that produces the kind of extracellular (Important bit!) enzymes involved in resistance to antibiotics like methicillin (Beta-lactamases). It’s actually the effect of the microbial community around the S. aureus on the animal that makes them both resistant because the bacteria end up protecting each other. The S. aureus in this case isn’t resistant by itself at all, it just enjoys resistance from another antibiotic resistant organism that grows in the same environment.

Those S. aureus we have to treat in clinics and the like have from a long time ago, picked up by a process called horizontal gene transfer, genes involved in drug resistance called the mecA element. It wasn’t always there however, and this is simply intellectual fraud by Leonard to imply otherwise.

Then again, why would ID advocates bother being scientifically accurate anyway?

Comment #35333

Posted by Mike on June 15, 2005 9:32 AM (e)

Re: Comment #35310

Careful here. I think he’d claim that he was presenting a possible theory that the student would criticize. Of course, he probably also neglects to point out that its wrong. But hey, one “theory” is as good as another (even when its not a theory), and all have to be presented, right? This is what creationists want the public’s understanding of “critical analysis” to be, essentially “equal time” without reference to peer review, or concensus within the scientific community.

Comment #35344

Posted by Frank Schmidt on June 15, 2005 10:41 AM (e)

So could someone who is an educationist write up a “Critical Evaluation” lesson plan that compared IDC and evolution and let the students decide which one fits the category of pseudoscience and which one is science?

One could do an equally useful job of contrasting Astrology with Psychology to predict human behavior, spoon-bending with Physics, and so on, but this one would be particularly relevant.

Wanna bet that it would be adopted by the School Boards in Dover, Kansas, Cobb County, and elsewhere? I wouldn’t.

Comment #35349

Posted by Mike on June 15, 2005 11:07 AM (e)

Re: Comment #35344

One better was done in Ohio. A real critical analysis of evolution lesson plan was written by excellent scientists and educators. It wasn’t even considered. Not even read. You could even say that the scientists involved were treated rudely. The Ohio Department of Education was too busy pushing through the DI’s and Leonard’s lesson plan.

Comment #35397

Posted by RBH on June 15, 2005 3:56 PM (e)

Mike wrote

One better was done in Ohio. A real critical analysis of evolution lesson plan was written by excellent scientists and educators. It wasn’t even considered. Not even read. You could even say that the scientists involved were treated rudely. The Ohio Department of Education was too busy pushing through the DI’s and Leonard’s lesson plan.

The situation was even worse than that. The alternate “critical analysis” lesson plan, that was not even considered by the State BOE, was written at the request of several members of the State BOE. The alternate plan is here.

RBH

Comment #35416

Posted by Fross on June 15, 2005 6:58 PM (e)

they totally flopped in Kansas, so now they’re in martyr mode.
Look at this latest headline:
Evolution Debate in Kan. Prompts Attacks !!!
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050615/ap_on_sc/evolution_debate;_ylt=AhsNzLxCh2if6MdpluiKA4as0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2aWxpajE2BHNlYwNzYw–

Comment #35418

Posted by Steven Laskoske on June 15, 2005 8:09 PM (e)

RBH wrote:

The situation was even worse than that. The alternate “critical analysis” lesson plan, that was not even considered by the State BOE, was written at the request of several members of the State BOE. The alternate plan is here.

Wow! This is a great lesson plan.

The fact of the matter is that there is controversy in evolution but that the controversy is on points within the theory than on whether the theory as a whole is accurate.

Punctuated equilibrium vs. a constant gradualism is an example. How much is one side or the other responsible for the variety of speciation? (After all, there seems to be little doubt that both seem to happen within populations, but there is a question of which concept is more prevalent?)

Not being a biologist (just a simple computer geek), I’m sure others can give a lot more and better examples of true controversies which SHOULD be taught (and generally aren’t, mainly because of the limited time given to education on evolution but also because of pressure by anti-evolutionist factions).

These REAL controversies are not the sign of a poor theory, but of an active scientific inquiry within a theory. At the very least, it should give the impression that evolutionary theory has advanced quite a bit from the middle of the nineteenth century.

Comment #35419

Posted by Steven Laskoske on June 15, 2005 8:18 PM (e)

RBH wrote:

The situation was even worse than that. The alternate “critical analysis” lesson plan, that was not even considered by the State BOE, was written at the request of several members of the State BOE. The alternate plan is here.

Wow! This is a great lesson plan.

The fact of the matter is that there is controversy in evolution but that the controversy is on points within the theory than on whether the theory as a whole is accurate.

Punctuated equilibrium vs. a constant gradualism is an example. How much is one side or the other responsible for the variety of speciation? (After all, there seems to be little doubt that both seem to happen within populations, but there is a question of which concept is more prevalent?)

Not being a biologist (just a simple computer geek), I’m sure others can give a lot more and better examples of true controversies which SHOULD be taught (and generally aren’t, mainly because of the limited time given to education on evolution but also because of pressure by anti-evolutionist factions).

These REAL controversies are not the sign of a poor theory, but of an active scientific inquiry within a theory. At the very least, it should give the impression that evolutionary theory has advanced quite a bit from the middle of the nineteenth century.

Comment #35431

Posted by Henry J on June 15, 2005 11:03 PM (e)

Re “a lot more and better examples of true controversies”

I can think of a few questions that at least have been (and maybe some still are) a subject of debate:

The one you mentioned: relative importance of evolution in sporadic rapid spurts vs. continual gradual evolution.
What’s the relative importance of natural selection vs. genetic drift?
Dinosaur: endothermic (cold blooded) or exothermic (warm blooded)? (Related: Is T-Rex hunter or scavenger?)
Horizontal transfer of genes: how prevalent was it in the origin of the major domains?
Species selection - is it a distinct effect separate from selection within a species?
Definition of the word “species”.

And of course there’s always questions of which species are more closely related than others - when birds diverged from reptiles was at one time a major question (I think that one’s fairly settled now though).

Henry

Comment #35482

Posted by Steven Laskoske on June 16, 2005 11:12 PM (e)

First off, let me thank you for the very good examples that you have given. This type of information is exactly the sort of thing that I was hoping for.

Henry J wrote:

And of course there’s always questions of which species are more closely related than others - when birds diverged from reptiles was at one time a major question (I think that one’s fairly settled now though).

Even if the issue is fairly settled, it does bring up a good point in an educational forum. The historical aspects of scientific endevours is a good thing to go over. Not only do they demonstrate a line of thinking (and the search for evidence to see if that line of thinking might be falsified), they also present of much more personal view which can be engaging.

Comment #35513

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on June 17, 2005 12:52 PM (e)

Holy crap! I just noticed that Bryan Leonard holds an M.S. in Microbiology. That means the mistakes identified in his comments about endosymbiosis and acquisition of drug resistance in bacteria are the work of someone who should have known better.

Pathetic.

Comment #35519

Posted by Mike on June 17, 2005 1:37 PM (e)

Unsympathetic reader wrote:
>Holy crap! I just noticed that Bryan Leonard holds an M.S. in Microbiology.

Which, again, came from OSU. Do not trust OSU. The administration has every incentive to keep things quiet, seek a face saving compromise that the Discovery Institute, et al. can take as a victory, and sweep things under the rug. Everyone with any influence should be pressing hard right now, and keeping the public informed on where things are headed. The only way of insuring that things are done honestly is if its out in the daylight.

Comment #35520

Posted by RBH on June 17, 2005 3:29 PM (e)

It might be worth noting that Leonard’s was a non-thesis M.S. I’m not sure what that means: a non-thesis Master’s didn’t exist in my day.

RBH

Comment #35527

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on June 17, 2005 4:45 PM (e)

A non-thesis degree is often associated with coursework only. But that’s not the case here. Sometimes it’s an “I couldn’t complete a Ph.D.” degree: A consolation prize on the way out. A typical Ph.D. program is 1 year of graduate courses + lab rotations, followed by a lighter course load (finished by the second year) and lab research (3-5 years). Currently, the web page for the Graduate program in Microbiology says: “The OSU Microbiology Graduate Program focuses on Ph.D. candidates; applicants to the M.S. program are rarely admitted.”

http://www.osumicrobiology.org/gradadmissions.htm

His CV and Bio don’t mention the advisors for the labs in which he worked. That is an odd omission for documents that aim to establish academic credentials. From what one can gleam from his CV and publication records, Bryan worked in Cynthia Baldwin’s lab for two years (she moved to U.Mass Amherst by the mid 1990’s). That’s typically enough time to get a Masters degree, but it’s a bit unusual that no research thesis resulted, especially if there are papers published.

http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sceptcvleonard.pdf
http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sceptbioleonard.pdf

This just keeps getting weirder.

Comment #35538

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 17, 2005 5:49 PM (e)

I can think of a few questions that at least have been (and maybe some still are) a subject of debate:

The one you mentioned: relative importance of evolution in sporadic rapid spurts vs. continual gradual evolution.
What’s the relative importance of natural selection vs. genetic drift?
Dinosaur: endothermic (cold blooded) or exothermic (warm blooded)? (Related: Is T-Rex hunter or scavenger?)
Horizontal transfer of genes: how prevalent was it in the origin of the major domains?
Species selection - is it a distinct effect separate from selection within a species?
Definition of the word “species”.

And of course there’s always questions of which species are more closely related than others - when birds diverged from reptiles was at one time a major question (I think that one’s fairly settled now though).

As an aside, I think it was precisely THIS sort of “controversy” that the Ohio standards were referring to when they stated that students should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”. The DI-ites are the ones who came along later and argued that this included “teaching the controversy”, which is rather surprising since the board had already specifically excluded intelligent design ‘theory’, by name, from the standards: “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design.”

The IDers like to present Ohio as if it were some sort of victory for them. In reality, they got their clock cleaned, majorly, and they know it. Indeed, their crushing loss in Ohio is what forced them once and for all to drop the whole “ID is an alternative scientific theory” bullshit, and try to focus on “teach the controversy about evolution” instead, by latching on to language in the standards that don’t even say what the IDers want them to say.

Comment #35710

Posted by A. Ottolenghi on June 19, 2005 12:53 PM (e)

Rev Dr. Lenny Flank wrote “As an aside, I think it was precisely THIS sort of “controversy” that the Ohio standards were referring to when they stated that students should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”. The DI-ites are the ones who came along later and argued that this included “teaching the controversy”, which is rather surprising since the board had already specifically excluded intelligent design ‘theory’, by name, from the standards: “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design.”

Unfortunately it was not so. From the very beginning the IDers wanted to include ID into the standards. It took a lot of fight to prevent the teaching or testing of ID making it into the standards. Some Board members from the very start were absolutely intent on including ID into the curriculum. There even was legislative intervention in the matter. The fact that the indicator does not mandate, is because many of the Board members knew that not mandating is permissive and ID instruction would be occur just as in Leonard’s case. What is operating here is that teachers have (whether they want to or not)to respond to student and parent demands that the issue be discussed in science.

The discussion of ID as a “valid” alternative to evolution brings into question not only evolution itself but the very nature of scientific inquiry, based on evidence obtained experimentally the interpretation of such evidence and the retesting of such interpretations.

ID relies on the inability of the viewer to understand the natural world in a mechanistic way. One could say, that in ages past, those who threw virgins to “apease the gods” into volcanos when they erupted in realitiy were IDers.