Dave Thomas posted Entry 2203 on April 11, 2006 03:29 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2198

Last night (April 10th), the Rio Rancho School Board held a hearing on it’s controversial “Science Policy 401.”
rrboardroom.jpg

After hearing from about 30 of the more than 100 people packed into the board room, the board deleted the phrase from the original policy

When appropriate and consistent with the New Mexico Science Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards, discussions about issues that are of interest to both science and individual religious and philosophical beliefs will acknowledge that reasonable people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data.

and replaced it with this one, taken directly from the New Mexico Science Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards

“Students shall understand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of the earth).”

This is a real improvement over the original language of Policy 401, of which the New Mexico Academy of Science wrote

If scientists simply agreed to disagree about “the meaning and interpretation of data,” scientific progress would cease. Science is about testing ideas and claims, not pretending that all “interpretations” are equally valid.

The new wording, which also appears in existing state standards, was originally intended to help teachers having trouble with irate creationist parents. Such wording has been used successfully in the past to defuse classroom strife.

Elaine Briseño of the Albuquerque Journal reported on April 11th that

“The Rio Rancho school board voted Monday to amend a controversial science policy, which opponents said was a ruse to insert intelligent design into the science classroom. The board removed a sentence from the policy that deviated from state standards, and replaced it with language taken verbatim from the standards. The sentence that was removed was seen by many opponents as a way to slip religion into the classroom whenever teachers were discussing evolution. The two board members who introduced the policy, Don Schlichte and Marty Scharfglass, also apologized to the science teachers at the high school for not consulting them before proposing and then adopting the policy last summer. “When we brought the policy forward, we should have talked to the science staff,” Scharfglass said. “It was a mistake not to do that.” An opponent of the original policy, Rio Rancho High School SciMatics Academy head Dan Barbour, lauded the board’s action after the meeting. ‘It’s a decision that brings the community together,’ he said. ‘It’s a victory for both sides. It retains the emphasis on critical thinking and removes the language with religious undertones.’

barbour.jpg
Science teacher Dan Barbour addresses the board. Attendees spilled over into two adjacent rooms.

While this victory is a significant battle, the war is far from over. Look for Intelligent Design pundits to continue spreading The Lie that New Mexico’s standards are “Intelligent-design friendly.”

Sadly, this misconception is furthered by Briseño’s interview with board member Scharfglass:

Scharfglass said after the meeting that although the amended policy just restates exactly what state standards say, it is necessary to make sure the standards are being enforced in class. That standard is that students be allowed to discuss alternative ideas to evolutionary theory.

I’m not sure if Scharfglass was misinformed, or if reporter Briseño just doesn’t know what’s in NM standards. Nowhere do New Mexico’s standards call for presentation of alternative ideas to evolutionary theory.

If you are curious what New Mexico’s science standards really say, please read “Do NM’s Science Standards Embrace Intelligent Design?” at NMSR, and “New Mexico Science Standards Do Not Support ID’s Concept of Teach the ‘Controversy’” on the Thumb for all the lurid details.

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Comment #96048

Posted by RBH on April 11, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Cobb County, Dover, Ohio, Rio Rancho. Nice!

RBH

Comment #96049

Posted by David B. Benson on April 11, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

“understand that reasonable people may disagree” — Then I fear that students in New Mexico are not going to understand a usual meaning of “reason” and “reasonable”. If the word had been “polite” or “thoughtful” instead of “reasonable” I suppose I would not care quite so much.

Well, I suppose this wording change in the school district document is a small step in the direction of “reason”, even if if does bend the language, engendering confusion.

Comment #96051

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 11, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Congratulations, free beer for New Mexico, at least those in favor of the policy change.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #96053

Posted by secondclass on April 11, 2006 5:29 PM (e)

Certainly reasonable people can disagree on basic scientific facts, but I wonder if that’s true of people who are both reasonable and informed? For instance, most of us consider flat-earthers to be unreasonable or grossly uninformed.

Comment #96054

Posted by Steviepinhead on April 11, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

…Or all three: unreasonable, gross, and uninformed.

Comment #96055

Posted by harold on April 11, 2006 5:38 PM (e)

Reasonable people can indeed disagree about the origin of life on earth, the “cause” of the “big bang”, and the “future of the earth”.

Indeed, you’d have to be quite unreasonable to have a dogmatic opinion on any of these, regardless of your religion or lack of religion.

Comment #96057

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on April 11, 2006 5:40 PM (e)

That’s no doubt “reasonable” in a legal sense (roughly analogous to “sane”), not “reasoning” in a scientific sense.

Comment #96060

Posted by David B. Benson on April 11, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

Well, sane people might have conjectures about these subjects, but it does seem to me that every reasonable person ought to say “I don’t know, and as far as I know, no one else does either.”

Comment #96062

Posted by Carsten S on April 11, 2006 5:52 PM (e)

Is there any scientific theory that states that the big bang was caused by something? This would seem quite nonsensical to me. So “the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of the earth” lumps together an event that has happened between the beginning of time and now (actually quite near to now) with something before the beginning of time and something after now. Quite a big qualitative difference, in my opinion.

Comment #96067

Posted by Steviepinhead on April 11, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

Re “the future of the earth”:

I’d go so far as to say that no reasonable person could plausibly claim to know for sure what’s going to happen very far into the future…

Comment #96069

Posted by David B. Benson on April 11, 2006 6:16 PM (e)

On arXiv one can certainly find papers by physicists conjecturing, based on certain “physical” principles, that the cosmos has existed forever, and that the Big Bang was the freezing (and re-expansion) of a formerly existing highly compressed “hot” state.

While an interesting conjecture, such ideas are not in of themselves a testable hypothesis. These ideas hang around the 20+ year attempts to correctly formulate quantum gravity. AFIAK, none of this work has led to a testable hypothesis, but those guys keep saying any day, week, month, year, decade now…

Comment #96070

Posted by David B. Benson on April 11, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

Ah, I missed “the future of the earth”. Far enough in the future, the outcome is essentially certain: the sun goes into its off-main-sequence red giant phase and swallows the earth. But that’s about 2 billion years from now…

Comment #96073

Posted by Steviepinhead on April 11, 2006 6:37 PM (e)

Assuming anything remotely like our current species–or a continuation/augmentation/enhancement thereof–is around for two billion years (ha! when the last billion has seen animal life evolve from single-celled eukaryote to the proliferation of body plans with which every niche now swarms!), it’s not beyond the realm of possibilty that “we” (our furthest offspring) might well be capable of engineering on the grandest scale. So, assuming it even made sense to care at that point what was going to happen to this particular star or this particular planet, it might be possible to intervene in stellar evolution, open a wormhole along the earth’s orbit and spirit it elsewhere, whatever…

I assume–without knowing for sure–that the phrase was intended to allow a fudge-factor for fundy-conservative concerns about extinction of species, global warming, the ever-expected anyday-now Rapture or Apocalypse, that minor sort of quibble. And not “really” intended to look as far forward into the fate of the solar system as the phrase itself seems to suggest.

But that’s no reason to let their feeble imaginations or petty concerns trump our unconstrained conceptualizing.

Comment #96078

Posted by buddha on April 11, 2006 6:51 PM (e)

I’d go so far as to say that no reasonable person could plausibly claim to know for sure what’s going to happen very far into the future…

Google Is Your Friend.

Comment #96082

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 11, 2006 7:02 PM (e)

I’ve heard that Dembski is now endorsing some American Spectator piece blithering about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

So much for that whole “ID isn’t creationism” thingie, huh. But then, I guess once you’ve already lost the court case, there’s no longer any need for the pretense, is there.

Comment #96085

Posted by David B. Benson on April 11, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

Well, one way to counter nonsense regarding the second law is to point out that the earth is an example of non-equilibrium thermodynamics (NET), about which more can be read in the highly accessible, and to me informative and exciting book, “Into the Cool”.

(I wish more biologists more read it and offer some informed opinions…)

Comment #96086

Posted by Jeff McKee on April 11, 2006 7:28 PM (e)

Anybody else smell the next law suit coming? Better there than here in Ohio.

Better nowhere, actually … Rio Rancho needs a wake-up call.

Cheers,
Jeff

Comment #96092

Posted by Tim Tesar on April 11, 2006 10:41 PM (e)

The Rev Lenny Flank wrote:

I’ve heard that Dembski is now endorsing some American Spectator piece blithering about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The article is: Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure by the great evolutionary biologist mathematician Granville Sewell from that widely respected peer-reviewed biology journal conservative political rag The American Spectator. Does anyone care to take a shot at deconstructing it? Sorry, it’s way beyond my competence.

Comment #96093

Posted by Glen Davidson on April 11, 2006 10:51 PM (e)

The article is: Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure by the great evolutionary biologist mathematician Granville Sewell from that widely respected peer-reviewed biology journal conservative political rag The American Spectator. Does anyone care to take a shot at deconstructing it? Sorry, it’s way beyond my competence.

I did write a response a good while back, here:

http://tinyurl.com/k39az

It is not a perfect response, however I believe that I identified a large number of errors by the dolt. Anyway, I’m not going to write another one(the man is too damn ignorant, and didn’t deserve the response I wrote), so this is the best that I will do.

One has to click on “Read more” to get to the bulk of my comments.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #96094

Posted by RBH on April 11, 2006 11:00 PM (e)

Jason Rosenhouse has addressed the latest Sewell … um … thing.

Comment #96096

Posted by RBH on April 11, 2006 11:22 PM (e)

I should add that Mark Perakh has also eviscerated Sewell.

Comment #96125

Posted by Tim Tesar on April 12, 2006 9:43 AM (e)

Many thanks to Glen D and RBH for the links to the analyses of the Sewell article. I will read them with pleasure, and next time I’ll do a little Googling before concluding that such work had not yet been done.

Comment #96133

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 12, 2006 11:09 AM (e)

J. Mahoney wrote

So maybe the solution for NMAS‘s objection is just to delete the word “reasonable“ so that the old statement would read,

“…….discussions about issues that are of interest to both science and individual religious and philosophical beliefs will acknowledge that people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data.“

I think that this revised statement would satisfy both sides. It should satisfy one side because there is no statement that people who use religious or philosophical interpretations of scientific data are “reasonable,“ and it should satisfy the other side because it indicates that there are religious and philosophical interpretations of scientific data as well as religious sources (e.g., the bible).

I don’t think that would have been a good revision. Remember, we’re talking about science classes here. Your proposal still suffers from this problem:

If scientists simply agreed to disagree about “the meaning and interpretation of data,” scientific progress would cease. Science is about testing ideas and claims, not pretending that all “interpretations” are equally valid.

Dave

Comment #96145

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on April 12, 2006 11:45 AM (e)

Whacko-Troll!

Dave, J. Mahoney is the banned Larry Fafarman, continuing the practice that got him banned, posting under a fake name (the ban was enforced after he posted as a PT regular, and he has since threatened to post as other regulars, such as myself, in order to get some of out posts banned). You can tell it’s him because of the contents of his Selman v. Cobb argument. Please deal with his posting as you see appropriate (deleting, moving to the Bathroom Wall, disemvowelling, etc.)

(NB - although he will claim otherwise, he was not banned due to the contents of his posts or his views)

Comment #96156

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 12, 2006 12:17 PM (e)

Larry:

Two-Face says:

“Why won’t you just die!!??”

Comment #96160

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 12, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

I attempted to e-mail “J. Mahoney”, who commenters suspect is troller Larry Faferman:

IP Address: 204.13.175.135
Name: J. Mahoney
Email Address: [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Here’s what I got:

—– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
[Enable javascript to see this email address.]>
(reason: 550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable)

Accordingly, I have unpublished Mahoney’s comment. Even if he’s not Faferman, I will not permit abuse of Panda’s Thumb commenting privileges by those who play sock puppet games. When you enter your e-mail address, that information is seen only by the post author, and PT administrators. If I suspect sock-puppet behavior, I will e-mail that address to confirm the reality of the commenter. Using invalid e-mail addresses will be sufficient cause to block such comments.

Goodbye, Larry.

Dave

Comment #96209

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 12, 2006 5:58 PM (e)

The Albuquerque Journal’s Trever has a great cartoon about the Rio Rancho decision.

Dave

Comment #96279

Posted by Anton Mates on April 13, 2006 6:51 AM (e)

Chuck Mack wrote:

I think that J. Mahoney made a very good point

Of course you do, Larry.

Comment #96284

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 13, 2006 7:14 AM (e)

And if students do not take a philosophy course or some other non-science course where it is appropriate to discuss these alternative ideas, then where can they discuss these ideas other than in a science course ?

I thought discussing religion is what we have CHURCHES for … ?

Comment #96285

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 13, 2006 7:15 AM (e)

Of course you do, Larry.

Yeah, someone needs to spray some Larry-B-Gone.

Comment #96319

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 13, 2006 11:20 AM (e)

Chuck Mack wrote

And if students do not take a philosophy course or some other non-science course where it is appropriate to discuss these alternative ideas, then where can they discuss these ideas other than in a science course ?

I should have been more clear: Nowhere do New Mexico’s SCIENCE standards call for presentation of alternative ideas to evolutionary theory.

If there are legitimate scientific alternatives, they could be discussed. But, “Intelligent Design” sure isn’t one of them.

Don’t take my word for it: here’s what the Public Education Department of New Mexico’s science consultant, Dr. Richard Reif, wrote in a letter to former State Board of Education member Dr. Marshall Berman regarding attempts of local “Intelligent Design” advocates to persuade teachers that the new standards allow teaching of “alternate theories of origin.”

In no way do the science standards support the teaching of notions of intelligent design or creation science or any of its variations…. There is no place in science instruction for the teaching of notions that are not or have not been investigated through rigorous scientific means or that are not considered by the mainstream scientific community to be consistent with sound scientific inquiry.

Discuss “Design” in a philosophy or comparative religions course. No problem.

Discuss “Design” in a Science class? Sorry, No.

Dave

P.S. “Chuck Mack” supplied a valid e-mail address, so I’m assuming he may not be “Larry” for the moment.

Comment #96390

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 13, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

Author’s Note

It seems “Chuck Mack,” while possessing a valid e-mail address, has refused to reply to my query as to his reality.

Therefore, “Chuck” is consigned to the dustbin of unpublished comments, along with Larry and J. Mahoney.

“Chuck,” if you think this is unfair, then respond to my e-mail of yesterday* and explain why.

Cheers, Dave

* And if you can’t respond to my e-mail, why should I allow you to mis-use someone else’s valid e-mail address?