Sunday, January 15, 2012

 

Don't Show Me


PZ Mxyzptlk has already rained scorn on the nearly impenetrable legalese of the latest creationist legislation from Missouri. When I took a look at it, I was struck how obsessed the authors were about "written history." No fewer than 5 provisions of the bill (with duplications) deal with the subject:

2. (8) "Origin", the events and processes previous to written history that define the beginning, development, and record of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, earth geology, earth geography, fossils, species extinction, plant life, animal life, and the human race, and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs;

3. (4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection [* See below];

3. (5) If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process. Details of the analogous naturalistic process may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning a naturalistic process previous to written history as to the occurrence of the process, cause of the process, date of the process, length of time for the process to occur, process conditions, process mechanisms, process materials, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection;

8. (4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection subsection;

8. (5) If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process. Details of the analogous naturalistic process may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning a naturalistic process previous to written history as to the occurrence of the process, cause of the process, date of the process, length of time for the process to occur, process conditions, process mechanisms, process materials, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection subsection;
I can't imagine why there is that obsession about written history ...

But it nice to know that educators will be able to teach as a scientific fact that evolution by natural selection, genetic drift, etc. is presently occurring.

Naturally, the bill's definitions of "hypothesis" and "scientific theory" are doosies!:

"Hypothesis", a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular. One person may develop and propose a hypothesis.

"Scientific theory", an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. The inferred explanation may be described as a scientific theoretical model.
"Faith-based philosophy"? You mean like how the author of this bill always prays before crossing a street that a speeding bus won't suddenly appear on top of him? The naturalism that is the basis of science is the same sort as every human being exercises every day.

Helpfully, the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Rick Brattin, has made the real reason for this legislation clear:

I keep pointing to a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power," Brattin said. "And yet our schools only teach that we emerged from primordial ooze. I think students should get both sides of the issue and get to come to their own conclusions.
Uh, huh ... a "higher power" ... but ID has nothing to do with religion!

But there is a place where the "higher power's side" can be heard. It's called the churches and homes of Americans who should be free to choose just what "higher power" they do or do not want to discuss with their children, without government, tax-payer financed, interference.
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Comments:
The "written history" meme is probably a descendant and elaboration of Ken Ham's "Were you there?" mantra (see also here (video)), taught to children as a counter to evidence-based reconstructions of unwitnessed past events.
 
I was being a little tongue-in-cheek but you're doubtless correct. It is also linked to the common argument that there is some sort of difference between "observational science" (repeatable experiments) and "historical science" (everything else). According to AiG, for instance, they claim their science is based on the "fact" that "the Genesis account of origins gives us knowledge about the past, revealed by an infallible witness—God."
 
And the Bible is of course written history...
 
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