Sunday, March 15, 2009


Break Out the Floppy Shoes

Apparently the creationists in Texas aren't confident that their representatives on the State Board of Education can carry the day. As reported by the NCSE, the appropriately named Wayne Christian (guess which party!) of the Texas House of Representatives has introduced H.B. No. 4224 which reads, in relevant part:

SECTION 1. Subchapter A, Chapter 28, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 28.0027 to read as follows:

Sec. 28.0027. STUDY OF SCIENCE. (a) As part of the essential knowledge and skills of the science curriculum under Section 28.002(a)(1)(C), the State Board of Education by rule shall establish elements relating to instruction on the scientific hypotheses and theories for grades 6-12.

(b) Instructional elements for scientific processes: the student uses critical thinking and scientific problem solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information;

(c) Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because he or she subscribes to a particular position on scientific theories or hypotheses;

(d) No governmental entity shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students to understand, analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.

Besides mandating the "strengths and weaknesses" ploy, the law repeats the protection given by the late, unlamented, "academic freedom" bill from Florida to the use by teachers of "scientific information" to critique evolution. It was that provision of the Florida bill that Casey Luskin so memorably tied himself into such tight knots over, trying to answer the seemingly easy question of whether ID arguments count as "scientific information," that the rest of the Discovery-bereft Institute couldn't free him from the tangle.

I suppose the one upside to this bill is that it may result in Luskin giving another performance of his unintended comedy routine for our amusement.

Two things.

Sometimes I think we just say, “OK”. The first class will be the strength and weakness of creation science, and the second class will be the strength and weakness of Intelligent Design. My lesson plan would include Neil Degrasse Tyson No one can trash ID like Mr. Tyson. (Present company excluded)

Second, I wonder if all this focus leads to more lessons in evolution. It use to be that teachers could just gloss over the topic and avoid the conflict. But now, they are forced to teach on the topic. I wonder how much of it backfires in ID's face?
I agree that any teacher dedicated to fairly portraying science could, with minimal preparation, trash the "weaknesses" of evolution, right along with ID. The problem is that somewhere between 15-20% of people teaching science in public schools are themselves creationists and some larger percentage would be at least sympathetic to ID. The Discovery Institute knows this and has been playing to that group for some time. Even before Kitzmiller they were arguing that teachers who wanted to to teach ID should be allow to, instead of mandating it. I think they know that they playing an ultimately losing hand as far as science is concerned. They just want to slow down the acceptance of evolution, particularly among less well educated people (hence the concentration on grade and high school science courses) in the redder states, where fundamentalist Christianity is more prevelant, as much as they can.

While all the brouhaha raises the public profile of evolution, it also tends to cast it as a political issue, allowing the faithful to go on self-deluding themselves that science hasn't shown their beliefs to be false.

There may be no perfect tactic for the science-friendly side to take.
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