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  Topic: Cobb County, Georgia antievolution< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 30 2002,11:08   

On September 26th, 2002, the Cobb County school board voted unanimously for a provision that singles out evolutionary biology as controversial and requires teachers to engage in "discussion of disputed views of academic subjects".

Cobb County policy

There will be "implementing regulations" related to this policy.  I see a high potential for mischief at the administrative level.  The policy does not stipulate that the level of "dispute" must be scientific in nature, which opens the door to any sort of "dispute", no matter how lacking in scientific merit it might be.

Here's an article on how teachers are reacting to the change:

Cobb teachers ponder new evolution rule

Wesley

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 30 2002,16:12   

Henry Schaefer, UGa professor and Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, has an op-ed piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Standard evolutionary theory has shortcomings

It looks to me like the usual admixture of arrogance and ignorance on the part of a religiously-motivated antievolutionist.  But your mileage may vary...

Notice that while Henry feels free to hand out grades to natural selection, gravity, and quantum mechanics, he doesn't proceed to use the same evaluation framework for "intelligent design".  That's OK, the evaluation process is trivial, and I can apply it quite easily here.  Henry uses two criteria given by Stephen Hawking for good theories:

Quote
A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements. It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements. And it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations.


Does ID describe a large class of observations?  No.  Does ID have a model with only a few arbitrary elements? No.  In fact, there is no ID model.  ID is just "nature didn't do it" repeated ad nauseum.

Does ID provide a basis to make definite predictions about the results of future observations?  Definitely not.  William Dembski specifically excludes this in his essay on "Testability".  Dembski also excludes ID predictions on the basis that designers are "innovators" (see NFL).

So, going by the standards that Henry has validated, I see no way to award ID more than an "F" for goodness of theory.

Yet Henry does, I believe, wish to see ID taught in Cobb County science classrooms as one of those "disputed views" that the recent policy change now countenances.  It certainly isn't because of the scientific content, which leaves one wondering why...

Wesley

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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
anapsid



Posts: 2
Joined: Sep. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 30 2002,22:44   

Though it will probably never get printed, I felt compelled to rebut Schafer's op-ed piece, and sent this to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Yes, I know it's snotty!

Henry Schafer's Little Strawmen

In the 9-28-02 Guest Column, chemist Henry Schaefer becomes another in the line of Discovery Institute Fellows who first veil their affiliation and true agenda - intelligent design/neocreationism - and second, concoct arguments against evolution that are outdated, spurious, or totally irrelevant.

We start with Schaefer's definition of evolution:  "...the claim that random mutations and natural selection can fully account for the complexity of life, and particularly macroscopic living things."  Newsflash, Henry:  Evolution is not defined in this way by anyone except the Discovery Institute and other creationist organizations.  It is obvious that Schaefer has done no reading of the evolutionary literature, and is unaware of the other factors that are involved in the evolution of species.  For a layman's introduction, Carl Zimmer's At the Water's Edge would be a great place to start.

Next we hear about Piltdown Man and the fossil hoax (singular) from China.  But does Schafer tell you that the Piltdown hoax was debunked in the 1950's by evolutionists, or that most scientists were skeptical of it from the start, or that the Chinese hoax was also rapidly exposed by evolutionists, or that there exist extensive transitional fossil records for whales, horses, and humans, to name just a few?  Heck no.

Lastly, Schaefer spouts three "reservations concerning the standard evolutionary model" (the Discovery Institute's model, I presume), which do not rise above Arguments from Personal Incredulity.

He points to the Miller-Urey model as not being THE complete explanation for the origin of life,  not mentioning that this was a 1953 experiment and that there are now 50 years of additional data.  Is there a consensus about THE mechanism of the origin of life?  No.  It's pretty hard to run that clock backwards.  However, Schaefer does not mention ANY current research in complexity theory or work on self-replicating systems, concepts about which he is surely aware.  It is ignorant if not dishonest to dismiss origin-of-life research on the basis of one 50-year-old experiment.  However, that's what the Discovery Institute does.

Second, he doesn't like the amount of stasis in the fossil record, and what appears to him to be the relatively rapid formation of species (though we could still be talking millions of years here).  To grab and modify an old campaign slogan, "It's the environment, stupid."  Survival depends upon the ability of a species to adapt to a particular environment.  If the environment is static, there is no impetus for species to change significantly.  If the environment changes, new adaptations are likely and necessary.  Biology 101.

For Schaefer's third "area of reservation" (large scale changes) I can only add that Zimmer's book sheds a lot of light in this area.  Perhaps Schaefer should enlarge his reading material beyond that given to him by the Discovery Institute, and read some real evolutionary biology before he deigns to have expertise in the area.



:angry:

  
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 11 2002,15:18   

The creationism issue came up in a debate between candidates for Georgia state school superintendent.

State school chief hopefuls have free-wheeling debate (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 2002/10/10)

Quote
The issue that generated the most spirited debate was whether schools should teach creationism.

Christmas said she would stay out of such local issues, but added, "Schools are about teaching scientific theories, not religious principles." Cox said she would not shy away from debates like the one Cobb County officials had this month because they teach "students to live in a free society with free ideas and to talk about them civilly."


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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 20 2002,12:41   

Most schools steering clear of evolution (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2002/10/20)

Quote
The mercury rose a notch or two in Cobb County this year as the community debated how evolution should be taught.

The reality is that, in Georgia, evolution rarely is.

Teachers veer away from discussing the topic and the state requires little learning in that area, educators say.


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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 20 2002,12:53   

Selman v. Cobb County: court battle over creationism (JTA News, 2002/10/16)

Quote
Selman dismisses charges by Cobb backers of creationism that he is anti-religion and said 95 percent of the phone calls he has gotten have been positive.

“I’m not against anybody’s religion,” Selman said. “I want everybody to practice what they believe. I practice [Judaism] the way I want to.”


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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4932
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 28 2003,09:22   

Debate continues over creationism versus evolution in public schools

Quote
According to Georgia State Biology Professor Sarah Pallas, creationism relates to religious theories and is not scientific in nature.

"It would be a clear violation of the Constitution [First Amendment] to teach those views in public school science class," said Pallas.


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"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
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