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Education Government Science Politics

Kansas Challenges Definition of Science 2759

Posted by Zonk
from the in-this-corner dept.
nysus writes "Anti-evolutionists have made classrooms in Kansas a key battleground in America's culture war. Again. The New York Times reports they are proposing to change the definition of science in Kansas: 'instead of "seeking natural explanations for what we observe around us," the new standards would describe it as a "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."'" From the article: "In the first of three daylong hearings being referred to here as a direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, a parade of Ph.D.'s testified Thursday about the flaws they saw in mainstream science's explanation of the origins of life. It was one part biology lesson, one part political theater, and the biggest stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which posits that life's complexity cannot be explained without a supernatural creator."
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Kansas Challenges Definition of Science

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  • by mfh (56) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:35AM (#12451419) Homepage Journal
    It's nice to see they have taken "seeking" out of the definition, but it's too complicated. Science is easy. ...continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

    Science: The overcomplication of human perception.
    Effective Treatment: Unknown
    Suggested reading: Carlos Castaneda [wikipedia.org], because he's a total nut!
    • by MagicDude (727944) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:55AM (#12452908)
      What Science Really is... (Score:3, Interesting) by mfh (56)

      56??? Geez grandpa, instead of debating the meaning of science, why don't you just tell us whether Evolution or Creationism is the right answer, you must have been around back then.
  • You know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:36AM (#12451427)
    ...if there is a "supernatural" creator or force that has created the Universe (and the confluence of circumstances that led to its creation from essentially manifestly nothingness, and also life itself, could be considered on what I'd call a "supernatural" scale itself, but that's another topic), why must the scientific processes that describe any such events, and any potential forces that may transcend our understanding of the physical world, have to be mutually exclusive?

    Many years ago, a student in my 7th grade biology class asked specifically about creationism during our section on evolution. My biology teacher gave a very short, thoughtful, and diplomatic answer. His answer, after quite a long pause:

    "Well, some might say that the Bible tells what God did, and science explains how he did it."

    Now, looking back as an engineer and scientist by education, I have always found the simplicity of that statement compelling, and have never had any trouble reconciling whatever beliefs I have in notions that could be described as "supernatural" with scientific fact and sound scientific theory.

    I think the problem you have is with the people who literally believe that a white-bearded man in a robe literally created the Universe and Earth in 6 days around 6000 years ago, and then created the life to go on on it, and who discount valid science wholesale. Even though "creationists", and people who believe my last statement, may use "intelligent design" as a tool to further their agendas, that's not my interpretation of "intelligent design".

    Personally, I rather liked Picard's response in "Where Silence Has Lease":

    DATA:

    I have a question, sir. What is death?

    PICARD:

    You've picked probably the most difficult of all questions, Data.

    There is the beginning of a twinkle in Picard's eyes again. It is the sort of question that his mind loves.

    Some explain it by inventing gods wearing their own form... and argue that the purpose of the entire universe is to maintain themselves in their present form in an Earth-like garden which will give them pleasure through all eternity. And at the other extreme, assuming that is an "extreme," are those who prefer the idea of our blinking into nothingness with all our experiences, hopes and dreams only an illusion.

    DATA:

    Which do you believe?

    PICARD:

    Considering the marvelous complexity of our universe, its clockwork perfection, its balances of this against that... matter, energy, gravitation, time, dimension, pattern, I believe our existence must mean more than a meaningless illusion. I prefer to believe that my and your existence goes beyond Euclidian and other "practical" measuring systems... and that, in ways we cannot yet fathom, our existence is part of a reality beyond what we understand now as reality.


    Really: what's wrong with seeing the Universe and the wonderful complexity of everything from the scale of galaxies to the scale of atoms - or smaller - and our very lives as something more than the sum of its parts?
    • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:41AM (#12451490) Journal
      The problem is that the concept of a supernatural being begets far more questions than it answers.

      And given that there is no proof of such a being, apart from events and instances attributed to it, it is a matter of faith, and thus not of science.

      It is perfectly acceptable for people to believe God uses evolution as a tool. But it is not science.
      • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:48AM (#12451578) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that the concept of a supernatural being begets far more questions than it answers
        Damn right. The most important being "If anything complex requires a creator (the fundamental axiom pf Intelligent Design), it seems logical that such a creator would be need to be complex Himself (or Herself). So, who designed the creator?"
        • by liquidpele (663430) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:53AM (#12451666) Journal
          So, who designed the creator?

          I did. In Java, which is why he works so slowly.

          seriously though, I think a lot of these people just don't understand what evolution really is. They instantly think "men came from monkeys" and thus see it as a threat to their faith, put their fingers in their ears, and start singing their hymn of choice.
          • Re:You know... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:28AM (#12452388) Homepage
            seriously though, I think a lot of these people just don't understand what evolution really is. They instantly think "men came from monkeys" and thus see it as a threat to their faith, put their fingers in their ears, and start singing their hymn of choice.

            What really gets my goat is when creationists go after the Big Bang theory... The big bang theory was proposed by a Belgian Priest, George Lemaitre. He was an early expert on General Relativity who saw in the equations a way to find the moment of creation as described in Genesis.

            Before the Big Bang theory, most astrophysicists thought the universe had no beginning... it just always was. But Lemaitre was able to prove there was a beginning to all of existence. Which was a profound result that should have been embraced by the so-called creationists.

            AND, if you sit down and read Genesis it pretty closely matches the big bang theory... the universe starts out as pure light. What doesn't match Genesis is the current ideas on how planets form... Genesis says that the Earth formed first, and then the Sun, moon, and stars formed. ...So why don't the creationists go after all of the textbooks that say the opposite?? This is a much stronger contradiction with scripture than Evolution.
      • In it's ill-considered fight against science.

        Which is a shame.

        There are things that science will never be able to teach us, that desperately need to be taught. Things religion could, if it chose to stop wasting time arguing over whether speciation will occur given no outside (read: supernatural) influences.

        Science will never present us with a peer-reviewed study proving once and for all that you should be good to your fellow man, and treat him like a brother. Particle accelerator runs will never hint that we all have it within us to put an end to petty bickering, violence, and even earth-shattering wars.

        Will the next economic theory show once and for all, that there is so much more to be gained if every child went to bed without hunger? That great things could happen if we ignored greed and lived lives unblinded by mindless pursuit of wealth?

        Every time a biblethumper gets pissy about "larnin' evomoluzhun in ar skools" they've missed their mark so completely, I don't know whether to chuckle or cry.
        • by RichardX (457979) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:15AM (#12452131) Homepage
          Science will never present us with a peer-reviewed study proving once and for all that you should be good to your fellow man

          Actually, I really don't see any reason why not.
          It's a simple enough experiment. Get three sufficiently large groups of people all equal in as many regards as possible.
          Group 1 are all shitty to each other for a year.
          Group 2 just behave like they do normally.
          Group 3 are all nice to each other.

          At the end of the year, see which group has been most productive, has the highest standards of living, has the happiest people, or whatever other yardstick you choose to measure by.

          I realise your point wasn't this specifically, and more that there are things that science can't answer for, but if you think carefully you might be surprised at how little actually cannot be answered by science (mostly philosophical issues, IMO)
        • by MilenCent (219397) * <johnwhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:25AM (#12452318) Homepage
          I think we need to stop and notice that, in fact, it's not "religion" that has something against science, or even "Christianity," but "certain small, yet extremely vocal, Christian groups that happen to have a lot of money, bluster, and persecution complexes behind them, and who have beefs with approx. 70% of everything important that happens in the world."

          The Cathloic Church alone is a hell of a lot bigger than these people could ever hope to be.
      • Re:You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by GoofyBoy (44399) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:59AM (#12451795) Journal
        >And given that there is no proof of such a being, apart from events and instances attributed to it, it is a matter of faith, and thus not of science.

        In the most absolute sense, nothing is proveable and everything relies on faith. How do I know that birds can fly? Because I see them flying? How can I believe what I am seeing is real? (Brains-in-the-jar, optical illusions, effects of various recreational drugs)

        I talked to an ex-science teacher and his whole argument came down to "Occam's Razor". But how is this different from having your whole argument coming down to believing that "A God exists"? They both something that you are guiding your life on, either of which you really can't prove is correct/true/THE TRUTH.
        • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by node 3 (115640) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:07PM (#12453123)
          In the most absolute sense, nothing is proveable and everything relies on faith.

          That's metaphysics, and is thus unprovable. You can't prove your axioms (by definition), but you can test them to see if they are reliably useful.

          How do I know that birds can fly? Because I see them flying?

          Yes, and the fact that every well-reasoned test you can come up with shows that birds do, in fact, fly. That's science.

          I talked to an ex-science teacher and his whole argument came down to "Occam's Razor". But how is this different from having your whole argument coming down to believing that "A God exists"? They both something that you are guiding your life on, either of which you really can't prove is correct/true/THE TRUTH.

          One of them (science) reliably describes and predicts the real world. The other (faith) does not. *That's* the difference, and it's a very crucial one. If you're sick, do you want a hospital, or a priest? If you are hungry, do you pray for manna, or do you seek food? If you want to fly to the Moon, do you start the Apollo program, or do you give up because scriptures say you can't get there?

          It all comes down to your axioms. Which axiom is more reliable for describing the universe: a holy book, voices in your head, mere speculation, or science?
      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:10AM (#12452033) Homepage
        This brings up a number of points.

        These include the fact that those who argue for the existence of a deity mix science and faith together (often unintentionally). And it partly comes down to the definition of "believe" (and of "God"; see later)

        I believe (ha!) that this word has at least three distinct meanings; that of faith, that of believing something based on observable fact (*), and that of opinion.

        Belief in the third sense often surreptitiously invokes the first sense to add weight to something that, when it comes down to it, is never more than a matter of opinion or personal morality.

        However, the first and second senses, although they use the same words, are oil and water. If you want to take something on faith, fine. But (except for (*) below), you cannot use this as the basis for scientific argument. Ever.

        Now; assuming we are arguing for an actual deity, as opposed to 'intelligent design' (a vague concept; even if it were true, the argument is often subtley used to imply that intelligence --> God), here is my problem:-

        Who, or what, is God?

        People ask "Do you believe in God?" or "a god?" or something similar, but neglect to define what this would be.

        Do they mean aliens with a higher level of intelligence than us? Are we arguing about intelligent aliens (science) or 'God' (faith)? Because, for me, this non-concrete "definition" of God, rooted in faith, is used in a scientific context, and yet I fail to see how we can do reputable science when we don't even know what we're discussing.

        The problem seems to be that, as soon as you pin God down, he is no longer God, he is an intelligent alien. Or something else altogether.

        (No; this isn't a reference to the HHGG "puff of logic" passage referenced in the title. It's my genuine opinion that, in making people pin down the meaning God like that, He/She/It would cease to be the God that they were originally discussing)

        (*) Of course, there are some things that we must ultimately accept without proof; such as our perception of reality- if reality even exists, and is not an illusion. You can reject this, of course; but in rejecting it, you must reject *everything* around you as unproven, including your own thoughts.
      • Re:You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:25AM (#12452324) Homepage Journal
        It is perfectly acceptable for people to believe God uses evolution as a tool. But it is not science.

        I agree. I hate it when people read texts as being what it probably what it wasn't indended to be. Religious texts were probably never intended to be the final word on science, and science texts should not be used as a final word on religion.

        It bothers me when people try to reconcile them, or assume that both are contradictory. I see them as very likely being orthogonal. I don't believe that the creation accounts should be taken as literal fact.

        In fact, the Hebrew/Christian story of Genesis has TWO (or more?) accounts of creation, if you took both literally, then they contradict, so I figure at least one must be non-literal. I don't see how either of them necessarily has to be literal accounts of physical reality. There are many other places where statements can't be taken literally, only meant to show parallels in aiding understanding the spiritual world.
    • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Durandal64 (658649) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:54AM (#12451680)
      Really: what's wrong with seeing the Universe and the wonderful complexity of everything from the scale of galaxies to the scale of atoms - or smaller - and our very lives as something more than the sum of its parts?
      Nothing, but forcing this "intelligent design" garbage into school curriculums is an affront to the scientific method. By definition, intelligent design appeals to ignorance and supernatural mechanisms. We have a perfectly robust theory already; intelligent design adds extra terms on to that theory (the so-called "intelligent designer") which do not add to its predictive capacity at all. Why don't these people petition that we should teach that gravity is "too complex and marvelous" to be explained be the general theory of relativity, so we should add a term into the theory saying that God's Magic Hand comes out of the Earth and pulls objects down?

      Beyond that, several elements of the human design simply don't support the hypothesis that a conscious entity engineered us. Evolutionary theory explains several useless features left over from our human ancestors (like the appendix and tailbone) and several glaring weaknesses in our anatomy. Tell me, what intelligent designer would design us so that we used the same tube for both respiration and eating, thus creating a potential choking hazard? That's pure idiocy, not intelligence. Humans like to think we're the cock of the walk and that our bodies are oh-so-perfect, but from an engineering perspective, that viewpoint doesn't hold water. Yes, Kristen Kreuk is a marvelous specimen of beauty, but she can still choke to death because of traits inherited from her evolutionary ancestors.

      That's the flaw of intelligent design. It seeks to combine poetic (and frankly egotistical) views of the human body with a scientific view of the universe. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way. Science is based on observed facts and natural mechanisms to explain those facts. To introduce supernatural or undefined mechanisms into an explanation is blatantly unscientific.
      • by protolith (619345) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:24AM (#12452313)
        what intelligent designer would design us so that we used the same tube for both respiration and eating?

        Yea, and who put a sewer line in a recreational area!?
    • Re:You know... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bucko (15043) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:07AM (#12451979)
      "Well, some might say that the Bible tells what God did, and science explains how he did it."

      Can't agree with you more! I've got two degrees in astronomy, I'm a 'relapsed' Catholic, and I wish I had a buck for every time I've been asked "How can you believe when you know science says there is no god?"

      Yeah, yeah yeah. I know where the questions are supposed to lead, quetions from both sides of this issue. But why is it that they never really contradict each other?

      Newton told us that a ball dropped in a (fictional and impossible, BTW) frictionless environment falls in a constant gravitational field in such a way that it follows an inverse square law. Great. We can measure where it will be after we throw it. Works for the moon and for cannon balls too. Then Einstein came along and said "but that doesn't explain why light bends around a star. Think of it as space warping." I just don't see how either is a 'final' answer about anything, since they attempt to answer a very limited question about where something with mass or without mass will be at any given time. Nothing about God there at all. That question isn't addressed.

      But look at the beauty of a distant spiral galaxy. Who ordered that? Who ordered the galaxy, and the beauty, for that matter? Scientists shouldn't even presume that they are capable of understanding that question if they are going to approach it quantitatively, the way they do physics.

      (Before someone sputters "but the Bible says 6000 years! 6000 years!" my answer to that is, whose calendar are you using? God's or Man's?)

      The fight between science and religion seems to me to be an ego driven argument between very fallable and limited human beings.

      And one more thing - for those who just labeled me a radical on one side of this issue, you may want to note that I carefully chose my phrasing to antagonize both. For the sake of arguement, try assuming I'm agreeing with *you* and see if it doesn't fit.

      Dave, great post.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:36AM (#12451433) Homepage Journal
    Scientific Method:
    1. Observe shit happening.
    2. Form hypothesis of how shit happens.
    3. Use the hypothesis to predict the existence of other shit happening or predict measureably new happenings of shit.
    4. Perform experiments to test predictions by independent experimenters under similarly controlled conditions.

    New Kansas Method:

    1. Observe shit happening.
    2. Find example of similar shit happening is religious texts.
    3. Use the passages in religious texts to predict other shit happening or how much shit will happen next time under similar circumstances.
    4. Don't do it again!
    • by old_and_gray (837002) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:39AM (#12451460)
      This must be taught in our schools: "Before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion. From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu's navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu's servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord's command. Vishnu spoke to his servant: 'It is time to begin.' Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: 'Create the world.' A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished. Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean. Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies. The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds to fly in the air and many fish to swim in the sea. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move. The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma's creation."
      • Wait. You mean, the universe was outsourced?

        You know, this explains a lot of things...

  • *Sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bonker (243350) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:37AM (#12451447)
    This makes me so angry, and more than a little sad.

    "We're all afraid to change, and willing to fight against it. We don't want to have to admit that there are things we don't or can't understand. We need to be able to say 'This is absolutely true' if we're going to sleep at night."
  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:38AM (#12451453) Homepage Journal
    The two definitions of science both seem reasonably sound. If anything, the second is closer to science as practised by actual scientists. And "Creation Science" doesn't fit either definition: not the first because it uses supernatural (rather than natural) explanations and not the second, because it simply does not allow for invalidation by evidence (implicit in the concept of hypothesis testing).
    a parade of Ph.D.'s testified Thursday
    I wonder how many of them were atheists... or biologists for that matter.
  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AT-SkyWalker (610033) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:38AM (#12451457)
    " the new standards would describe it as a "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

    I'm a little confused. I don't see anything wrong with the definition above ! I beleive its more complete and doesn't seem to be pushing any creationism around !

    • Agree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:44AM (#12451533)
      Who cares what the intent is of the group proposing the change. If the reality is a wording that is clearer and more complete, is that not better?

      I have yet to see arguments against the new wording as compared to the old. It seems that if you mention religion some people just fly off the handle and rational thought goes out the window, from otherwise logical folk.

      Judge the wording on the merits and don't dismiss it out of hand.
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

      by richieb (3277) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {beihcir}> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:50AM (#12451615) Homepage Journal
      more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

      This is instead of natural explanation. How do you define "adequate"? Evolution by natural selection will be deemed "inadequate" and ID will take it's place.

  • The thing that I have never really understood about the anti-evolution Christian types is why it matters to them if their kids understand what the rest of the world is thinking? Its like the goal is absolute ignorance of everything not in the Bible. Nothing that I read in the Bible supports that viewpoint. Can anyone explain this?
    • Good point. But it's only the certain christian groups in the United States and certain muslim groups in Turkey that form the bulk of the creationist movement.

      The movement is strongest only in these two countries. Check out Harun Yahya's website [harunyahya.com] and for a more balanced view, check him out in wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. His real name is Adnan Oktar, and the man writes a lot of books trashing evolution and other religions as well. He claims to have written all his books, but I doubt it.

      One the stupidest arguments I've heard against creationism is that "Hitler used natural selection and darwinism to justify the holocaust, therefore anyone who believes in Evolution is a Nazi" or something stupid to that effect. Evolution is not a moral doctrine and doesn't profess to be so. Anyone who tries to make it so, is boneheaded. People have done some awful things in the name of Christianity. So is it ok to go ahead and label all Christians as Bad People?

      Also, creationists always talk about these wonderful books that they have that disprove evolution. Right. That's because Creationists write books for creationists. None of these books will ever pass a scientific peer review, because they're all trash.

      I consider myself a somewhat religious person, and I do believe in God. But I also believe that religion has NO PLACE in the school system. We need to come down on morons who try to force religion and that too THEIR religion down the throats of others, and who also have the gall to proclaim it as science.
    • Its like the goal is absolute ignorance of everything not in the Bible. Nothing that I read in the Bible supports that viewpoint. Can anyone explain this?

      One word: Fanatism.

      Fanatics brainwash their followers, but telling them lies isn't enough. They have to change their whole MINDSET. "Believe or be damned". This, with its implications: "Teach what I told you or be damned". In the end, they're just sputtering the lies that their human leaders have invented.

      What does that have to do with the Bible? NOTHING! They're just using the bible as an excuse to justify their twisted beliefs. They've forgotten that the Bible was written by MEN (inspired or not, that's beyond our scope), and must remember that. And more important, non-scientist men.

      We've reached an era where superstition and fanatism have surpassed science and reason. To put it simply, fanatics can't accept science because that would mean their entire belief system is WRONG (cognitive dissonance anyone?).

      Ironically, a passage of Bible speaks about people shutting their eyes and covering their ears so they wouldn't listen to God's Truth. Yes, pretty ironic.
    • by paiute (550198) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:58AM (#12451774)
      Here is the bottom line: Parents want to spend eternity in Heaven sobbing on the shoulder of Jesus. They want their children to be there, too. If the children are taught evolution, then their minds may be tainted and exposed to sin. Their souls are at risk. They might end up in the fires of Hell. When it comes right down to it, any loving Christian parent should be willing to silence this threat to their loved ones' salvation. No price is too dear to pay in this temporary existence to gain eternal bliss.

      You think I'm kidding?

    • by enjo13 (444114) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:04AM (#12451921) Homepage
      I can answer with an andecote.

      During my undergraduate years I was in an honors program at a certain college in the middle of Arkansas. This honors program, by its very design, was intended to challenge the fundamental belief system of its students. It exposed students to a variety of new religious philosophies, explored the abortion debate, and took on a variety of other issues that most of the students had never been exposed to before.

      The results where.. shocking. About 80% of the incoming freshman in my class had some attachment to religion (more often than not 'fundamentalist' in nature). I remember my first week there we tore into the evolution debate. I had spent the first 18 years of my life assuming that everyone had simply moved past creationism, and to my shock a large group of honors students where arguing for the 'science' of creationism. I came to realize just how blind I had been to the problem.

      Over the next two years the fundamentalists went in one two directions. Some simply refused to accept what they heard, and went into a sort of isolationist denial. For the most part these kids didn't finish the program.

      For the rest (most?) the classes challenged their belief system. They began to realize that the reality of the world they live in was far different from the one their preacher had laid out for them. While very few turned on their religion completely, they did begin to abandon the literal bible ideas that they had began with. Most became some sort of 'liberal' christians.

      The most interesting part was the backlash from the parents of these newly enlightened students. As the change really took effect the parents literally paraded in and yelled and screamed at the programs director. For these people, simply exposing new ideas to their kids (and thus challenging their belief systems) was more or less the same as turning their kids into satanists.

      I finally came to realize that these parents FEARED knowledge. Religion, to them, is a form of security. Having a convienent belief system that takes all of the complexity out of the world is so comforting and so comfortable that operating outside of that scares the living hell out of them. When you have something like that, you become almost irrational in defending it. That means that secular ideas must be avoided at all costs.. because it is those IDEAS that break down their religous beliefs. That's why there are so many Christian book stores, music stores, craft stores, restuarants, and everything else. These people NEED to be immersed in a mono-culture because without it they may find out that life isn't as convienently explained as they NEED to beleive it is.

      Ignorance is truly bliss.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 @ g m ail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:40AM (#12451472) Homepage
    "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

    Maybe I need to check my eyes, but what about that definition even suggests a "supreme being"?


      • "continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

        Maybe I need to check my eyes, but what about that definition even suggests a "supreme being"?

      The problem is that they have injected many words certainly with ulterior motives. I'm a lawyer and "trust me", the longer you make a sentence, the more things you can make it mean. It provides no help in defining what "lead to more adequate explanations of natural phonomena" means. And in the context, it is pretty clear that this phrase at least will be used to posit explanations that fit with certain individuals' religious views. I'm sure "logical argument" means questioning scientists along the lines of "prove to me god doesn't exist, and if you can't, he must" type questions. The previous article on creationists' 10 questions for biologists is a good example. "Theory building" will certainly be used in the non-scientific meaning of the word, i.e., theory=definitely false.

      The problem with the definition is that it's wiggley -- it can easily be molded to fit any number of views. Beware the lawmaker's use of language.
  • Tell me this... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:41AM (#12451488) Homepage
    If everything of any significant complexity was deliberately created, who created the creator?
    • Re:Tell me this... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eutychus_awakes (607787) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:57AM (#12451758)
      It is that argument precisely that has lead to the philosophical concept of an "un-caused cause." Causality can be reasoned back to infinity, which is a paradox of the same flavor as Zeno's Bridge and others. The solution to this and other paradoxes is to reason that an infinite sequence of events can in fact take place in a finite amount of time. For Christians (and other monotheists), this is the notion that God has always existed, that he is "un-caused" and outside of our understanding of space and time. For nonthesists (atheists and others), they use this paradox solution as evidence against God - that there was nothing for him to do in creation, it just happened as a natural consequence of fundamental physical laws to be yet discovered and understood. However, the philosophical weight actually goes against the naturalist in this argument, as we need to know what caused the events which caused the events which caused the universe to come into being. In short, God can be un-caused, but nature can't be.

      Either way, I don't see a problem with the definition of science as presented in the article. It sounds a lot like what I was taught in public school in New Mexico - a state not known for its conservative education policies.
  • by vivin (671928) <vivin@paliath.gmail@com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:42AM (#12451495) Homepage Journal
    Hey, I have no problem with people having faith in their religion, or believing things according to faith. But that's all it is - faith.

    If you want to teach creationism, do it in religious studies class, not science. Creationism or whatever euphemism you want to use (Intelligent Design) has no scientific basis at all. So by all means, if you want to teach it go ahead, but please don't do it in a science class. If you are willing to consider it as science, then I propose we should teach creation myths of every single culture in science class. I mean seriously... in this day and age it surprises me that people try to push creationism as a science.

    Anyway, here is a good site that includes rebuttals to a lot of creationist arguments:

    http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/cefac.htm [lhup.edu]
  • by cplusplus (782679) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:43AM (#12451506) Journal
    Ever been to Kansas (you know, the state where this trial is taking place)? It's SO FLAT there that there is nothing to obstruct your view (like hills and mountains). Basically, everyone there is crazy because the can see to infinity, which would drive anyone mad. "We're so crazy, we ignore observation and reproducible scientific evidence!"
    In Kansas, you can watch your dog run away for ten days.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:44AM (#12451515)
    Saying 'I'm part of a continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena' will be a pussy magnet line when she asks what you do for a living.
  • I like it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:45AM (#12451543)
    I am very anti-creationist, but I actually like their definition more. It recognizies that there isn't always a "natural" answer to the problems that science faces given the current information. In fact, looking for natural answers can be very unscientific.

    For example, the astronomers of yore tried to explain the planet movements with natural answers that were not based on good scientific methods. Same with the people who wrote the Bible. The new definition actually outlines the methods that are essential to science, such as experimentation and theories.
    • Re:I like it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geoffspear (692508) * on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:04AM (#12451927) Homepage
      What we should be asking is why they're trying to define science in the first place.

      Are they teaching science, or are they teaching philosophy? Quite frankly, I'd love to see philosophy of science taught in every high school in the country, but it's never going to happen. We're talking about a country where "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" is considered a bad title because no one wants to hear about philosophers.

      Yes, we should teach kids how science works and how to critically evaluate scientific theories. But not without background, as a way to say that evolution is "just" a theory, and that therefore any other theory has equal status. If you suggested that the theory of phlogiston had equal standing with the theory that oxygen is involved in combustion, no one would take you seriously.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:46AM (#12451556) Homepage
    The real problem here is the effective government monopoly on education. The problem is that if you let a democratic government control some aspect of your life, then you get that aspect of your life controlled in a way that reflects the biases of the local tribe. If the natives in your area believe that the earth is flat, they'll vote for flat-earth candidates.

    The big issue in U.S. science education is not evolution anyway, it's the lack of competent science teachers. K-12 teaching is simply not an attractive career to most people who have good math and science training, partly because of the low pay.

  • by Malicious (567158) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:49AM (#12451600)
    Typical... When the masses won't let you change the bible anymore, you might as well try to change Science.
  • by delcielo (217760) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:49AM (#12451609) Journal
    Many of us are horribly embarrassed by this fiasco. Please don't hold this against all Kansans.

    One of the irritating things about this is that while I believe in evolution, I also believe that it's God's method for our developement. So, in a since, I believe in an intelligent design type of concept; but I can't say that now without being associated with those who say they are for intelligent design but are in fact proponents of creationism.

    Anyhow, the hearings are being conducted and "judged" by the proponents of ID. The scientists and evolutionists have boycotted the operation as being a farce. I have to agree with them. The witnesses will all be from the ID side, and the 3 school board members who are running the hearings are all ID proponents also.

    It's an embarrassing joke.
  • by John Sokol (109591) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:50AM (#12451624) Homepage Journal
    Has anyone ever stopped to think about how well evolution works? And that it's all encompassing.

    It's an inescapable law of nature. Everything from our software and computer designs (meme's) to music, language and DNA based life is affected by evolution.

    Not only that, it's impossible to create something not effected by it.
    Even our views of God and our religions evolve. (what blasphemy)

    After studying evolution for some time, I became a believer in GOD! Because only god could have created something as powerful as evolution.

    My argument goes like this. If we are made in Gods image, and we make machines and tools to build more complex things. Then shouldn't God also? If God were to what would that tool look like. EVOLUTION....

    So all this arguing over GOD vs. Evolution is totally stupid. No Evil.

    I see science as the study of God's creation. It's sort of our responsibility to understand is and in doing this we can come to know God better
  • by davide101 (847486) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:50AM (#12451625) Homepage
    Here's an article overviewing this bullsh!t [swarthmore.edu] (pdf) from Scientific American. Clearly there are limits to the scientific method... but that doesn't make non-science science.
  • by Transcendent (204992) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:51AM (#12451628)
    ... the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which posits that life's complexity cannot be explained without a supernatural creator

    Yet for some reason we fall back to this "theory" because we don't understand what's going on? Ridiculous...

    Just because we don't fully understand an aspect of nature yet doesn't mean that a natural process is so complex and impossible that a higher power had to make it... it only means that we are flawed and must wait until we fully grasp what is going on.

    I'm sick of people filling in the blanks with "god did it!" without thinking "well... maybe we just need to study it more." Before you call me atheist, realize that I am a roman catholic, yet I can easily conceive how our life came to be after the big bang (let's not debate that right now) without any nudge from a higher power.

    You are quick to argue that life could not have been created in nature, but forget the fact that God created nature itself.
  • A Word to the Wise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HerbieTMac (17830) <5excelroa001@sneakemail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:52AM (#12451657)
    Remember kids, if you can't currently explain a discrepancy, you need to stop looking and ascribe the phenomenon to supernatural powers. Definitely don't question the supernatural because it's super. See? It's right there in the name. You can't hope to understand it so worship it instead.

    Undoubtedly someone will notice that this comment might equally well apply to those who "worship" Darwinism. That would be true. The key difference is, of course, that Darwinism can be understood and is continually being updated to reflect what we observe. Therein lies the key difference: we can update Darwinism to make it more correct. It's awful hard to update received wisdom.

    Thankfully, Kansas and Ohio are leading the charge against the atheistic forces of E-Ville that seek to make critical thinkers out of our population. I'm sure that they will also "balance" their curricula to include classes that critically analyze received wisdom.

  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supernova87a (532540) <kepler1@h o t m ail.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:54AM (#12451681)
    It's a little frustrating to realize, but I guess the cost of maintaining an intelligent, civilized society is a constant battle against ignorance. It is important that ordinary people speak out against attempts to change the science curriculum through political processes that are not subject to oversight (ie. inserting their own agendas into science curriculums without checks or balances).

    I heard an excellent talk about the strategies of anti-evolutionists from the director of the center for science education recently. Two of her major points were that: (1)creationists seek to circumvent the usual curriculum review process and insert themselves directly into school board decisions politically, because they have come to realize that on careful examination, their ideas are untenable; and (2) the fundamental misunderstanding about the words behind the debate.

    More specifically, in order for an idea to become incorporated in to a scientific education curriculum, it first must be proposed, examined by scientists, published, reviewed, tested for flaws and counterexamples, and then it becomes accepted as a theory (which by the way, means an idea that ties together consistently all aspects of the evidence, NOT just a "theory", or guess). Creationists, or intelligent design advocates, simply come up with an idea, and go right to the school board. Where are the checks and balances? The testing? The oversight?

    And secondly, about the language. Normal people commonly feel that at the top of the hierarchy of importance are Facts. To them, facts are facts, immutable. You can't debate fact, as in "evolution is not a fact, so it doesn't occur." Observations are next, things that you see with your own eyes. And Theories? Theories are at the bottom of the scale, almost comparable to hopeful guesses. This is in part the fault of the language, that "theory" has come to mean "I, crackpot, have a theory about that."

    But in fact, in science, Theory is at the top of the scale -- an idea that has consistently shown to uphold all the observations, and has been tested. At the bottom is just the opposite from what is commonly believed -- facts. Facts are things that you see every day, and carry no unifying meaning in themselves.

    If we are to succeed in educating the population about the process of science, and *especially* why it is valuable to us a country, we need to get involved in the debate about the language and politics. Other countries, who don't have the luxury to squander valuable resources, are beginning to capture and exploit the wonders of science much more than we are -- and it is showing.
  • by stubear (130454) on Friday May 06, 2005 @10:58AM (#12451768)
    ...but after reading Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" I'm convinced the Catholic church and its ilk are attempting to subvert science by consuming it like they did pagan religions centuries ago. By using intelligent design as their trojan horse, they can introduce religion into science and public schools without referring to any particular religion.
  • by Council (514577) <rmunroe@ g m a i l.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:01AM (#12451856) Homepage
    Last night, I read the essay A Philosopher's Day in Court, by Michael Ruse, a philosophy professor and expert in evolution called by the ACLU's legal team to the 1981 challenge of the Arkansas law mandating equal time for creation science and evolution in classrooms. It's an absolutely thrilling read and apparently it was a wonderful debate; they called in all the experts and prepared a beautiful case, putting together all the stuff that's often not available in casual debate. They had experts on radiocarbon dating, biology, the philosophy of science . . . by the time the defendents got to Stephen Jay Gould, the final witness, they didn't even have the energy for half an hour of cross-examination. Gould was terribly disappointed.

    It's wonderful to read, a great story of rationality and science triumphing over ignorance and propaganda. The text doesn't seem to be available online, but you should be able to track down the essay. I found it in the collection Science and Creationism, edited by Ashley Montagu, which has a number of other essays -- including a particularly scathing denunciation and call to arms [stephenjaygould.org] by Isaac Asimov. Great stuff.

    (Note: when googling for specific text, I just learned, sometimes the "omitted results" are precisely what you want; the Asimov article only showed up there.)
  • by digidave (259925) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:04AM (#12451920)
    The way we're going, we may soon see a knowledge divide that makes the digital divide irrelevant. Evolution and other "controversial" science is just the beginning.

    Adults from different regions will be separated by a giant chasm between their intellect as most are taught by a progressive, science-friendly system (or as much as the education system can be) while the remainder are led to believe in nonscience "theories" that do much more to please religious leaders and believers than to satisfy an iota of truth.

    The knowledge divide will be noticable in geographic quantities as large swarms of the populace have been completely left behind. People from Kansas will have no hope of competing in any meaningful way with people from California, for instance. There will be a third vs. first world mentality and it will be what tears us apart.
  • by Log from Blammo (777614) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:08AM (#12452000)

    The Intelligent Design proponents had better be careful, or they might end up proving God out of existence.

    "I refuse to prove that I exist" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing."

    "Oh," says man, "but the Babel Fish is a dead give-away, isn't it? It proves You exist, and so therefore You don't. Q.E.D."

    "Oh, I hadn't thought of that," says God, who promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

  • by adrenaline_junky (243428) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:11AM (#12452045)
    An amazing book on this subject is "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins. I read it because Douglas Adams recommended it in some of his writings.

    The subtitle of the book is "Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design". It explains in great detail and clarity how in the long run natural selection allows only the mutations that are beneficial to continue to exist, leading to lifeforms that might *APPEAR* to have been designed, even though they were not.

    One of the cases he looks at is the eye, with all of its complexity. Someone naively looking at it might easily assume that it is a clear example of something that must have been designed by a creator in advance. Dawkins shows how, over millions of years, tiny incremental advances could allow the eye to develop without any creator.

    The only things required are 1) that whatever mutation that started as the eye, as simple as it may have been (perhaps a cell with the ability to detect light, for which brain cells have been shown to have the potential), gave at least a slight competitive advantage to the lifeform and 2) each additional mutation that took place over millions of years gave some slight advantage to the lifeform. Over a long time, in an environment with light, development of the eye becomes almost assured.

    Complex biological systems work not because someone designed them to work, but because any deviation that does not work DIES. This naturally and inevitably leads to greater and greater complexity.
    • by Tom (822) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:12PM (#12453232) Homepage Journal
      Over a long time, in an environment with light, development of the eye becomes almost assured.

      So much, in fact, that the idea was hit upon several times during evolution - we don't have one type of eyes on this planet, but well over a dozen. That's a crazy designer if you ask me ("now the insects, I think I'll give them completely different eyes, just for fun").

    • by John Carmack (101025) on Friday May 06, 2005 @03:57PM (#12456790)
      I just read that book recently, and while I enjoyed most of it, I found the chapter on the theories about the emergence of DNA extremely "hand wavey". The clay mineral culture idea was only presented as one possibility, but it didn't sound very convincing. If anyone has pointers to more compelling theories, I would be interested in reading them.

      I always hated biology / life science in school because most of it was name memorization, but at the molecular biology level, it all starts looking digital...

      John Carmack
  • David Attenborough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thrakkerzog (7580) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:37AM (#12452569)

    I am a fan of Sir David Attenborough, whose documentaries for the BBC are simply fantastic. In my community, you can borrow most of them from the local library.

    The following is a section from wikipedia [wikipedia.org], showing his rather sharp response to questions about creationism. It is quite possibly the best answer I have seen regarding the relationship between evolution & creationism.

    From Wikipedia:

    ... Attenborough's documentaries exposed millions to the diversity of life on Earth, including, of course, viewers who subscribe to the belief that all life was directly created by God, known as creationism. In his series, Attenborough rarely explicitly speaks about the mechanisms of evolution. Instead, he describes the advantages of each adaptation in high detail -- why flowers are shaped in a certain way, why birds and animals migrate, how mechanisms of mimicry can serve as protection or to attract insects and animals, and so forth.

    As such, his work has been cited by some creationists as exemplary in that it does not "shove evolution down the viewer's throat". Others have written Attenborough letters and asked him to explicitly refer to God as the creator of life. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he has responded publicly:

    "My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy'." [2] (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/03/24/1048354 544138.html?from=storyrhs [smh.com.au])

    He has explained that he feels the evidence all over the planet clearly shows evolution to be the best way to explain the diversity of life, and that "as far as I'm concerned, if there is a supreme being then He chose organic evolution as a way of bringing into existence the natural world."

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Friday May 06, 2005 @04:35PM (#12457282)
    Evolution, or natural selection, is not a 'theory' but an obvious phenomena that we observe around us every day of our lives, on everything from dog appearance to human hereditary conditions to software products. It is equally obvious (to me anyway, your opinion may differ) that the universe, our world, and all life was created by God. If people want to believe, however, that life arose from electric arcs in a primordial soup, that's their choice (given to them by God) and there's no reason to condemn them, punish them, threaten them, or torture them until they 'change' their minds. Faith cannot be instilled with fear, pain, legislation, or peer pressure, although that will never stop unbelievers from forcing other unbelievers to see things 'their' way.

    Anyone who is afraid of *anything* that science may discover has no faith, to start with. Science and technology are, themselves, gifts from God that should be used to their fullest.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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