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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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  • More like Kansas (Score:2, Informative)

    by mwkaufman (859791) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:39AM (#12451461)
    Kansas: state who seeks to overcomplicate the definition of science. The current definition is fine, and a much better explanation then that boiler-plate, chopped up scientific method.
  • Their real goal (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rufosx (693184) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:44AM (#12451529)
    Private schools are parochial (religious) schools are super hot in Kansas. Booming enrollment.

    I figure that if the state can figure out a way to force as many people as possible to go to private schools to get their kids a real education, instead of the mess that the state serves up, they get to continue collecting the taxes, but will have fewer kids to educate. Free money!

    Thats probably not their goal, but they sure seem to be heading that way.

    Seriously, I wonder about Kansas sometimes. The people I know don't seem backwards and closed minded, yet the legislation that keeps getting passed is like a trip back to the dark ages.
  • Re:Tell me this... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:46AM (#12451550)
    You're missing the point. The creator is not part of the created by definition.
  • by delcielo (217760) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:49AM (#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 davide101 (847486) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:50AM (#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 Fox_1 (128616) on Friday May 06, 2005 @11:58AM (#12451784)
    Alice Walker? Who is that? Alice Walker, best known perhaps as the author of The Color Purple, was the eighth child of Georgia sharecroppers.
    Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 18, 1939. She published her first book of poetry in 1961 while attending the University of Toronto. She later received degrees from both Radcliffe College and Harvard University, and pursued a career in teaching at the university level.
    Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale in West Berlin and Alabama in the mid-1980s. The novel, published in 1986, quickly became a best-seller. The Handmaid's Tale falls squarely within the twentieth-century tradition of anti-utopian, or "dystopian" novels, exemplified by classics like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984.
    Yes I agree that the US seems to be trying to develop a theocracy in recent years. Of course the nice thing about democracy is that the madness comes in waves. At some point the pendulum should oscillate back and the US will calm down.
  • by EngrBohn (5364) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:00PM (#12451849)
    I concur. While I may disagree with their presumed motivations, I like that the proposed definition describes the *process* of science -- which I agree is what science is all about, the process of creating knowledge.

    Of course (TANGENT ALERT!), the remaining reference to "natural phenomena" still precludes even the question "is computer science a science?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:06PM (#12451958)

    ...it's about invalidating evolution.

    Creationists often argue that evolution is just as unscientific as creationism, because you can't test related hypotheses*. By explicitly mentioning this in the official definition of science, it demotes the theory of evolution to pseudoscience, paving the way for them to declare creationism to be at the same level of scientific truth as evolution. Therefore, they can argue with a straight face that if "pseudo-scientific" evolution is taught in science classes, "pseudo-scientific" creationism should be too.

    * Not arguing one way or the other here.

  • by Tony (765) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:10PM (#12452029) Journal
    A little nitpick-- Alice Walker doesn't write books like A Handmaid's Tale. She writes books like The Color Purple.

    Margerat Atwood writes books like A Handmaid's Tale.

    And I write books like A Handmaid's Tail.
  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:10PM (#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.
  • The two definitions of science both seem reasonably sound.

    The second definition replaces the "natural explanations" with "more adequate explanations". They're using technobabble to confuse the unprepared reader. By not having "natural explanation" in the sentence, they can truly claim that creationism _IS_ science.
  • by photon317 (208409) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:28PM (#12452384)

    Guns don't belong on that list. Wake up and get out to your local gun range and start shooting, and you'll eventually figure out why once you get into it and start hanging out with more gun owners. To elucidate here would just raise ignorant arguments against them.
  • by adrenaline_junky (243428) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:37PM (#12452561)
    *ALL* science is theories. Why should evolution be singled out as the one theory that gets a sticker pointing out that ITS A THEORY??

    How about we attach another sticker to your "evolution is a theory" sticker that says "A theory that has withstood over 100 years of peer review can essentially regarded as fact until proven wrong"?

    The word "theory" as it is used on these stickers is intended to convey some sense of "uncertainty". This is a complete misuse of the word. We only have theories to explain how electricity passing through tungsten results in light, but that doesn't mean that we are not pretty damn certain the theories are correct.

    Same with evolution. It is "just" a theory, but we are pretty damn certain it is correct. If you want to put a sticker on a textbook about evolution, you might as well put one on there for the theories of electromagnetism as well.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:37PM (#12452566) Journal
    Come on over to talk.origins and post the above crap. Biblical literalism only makes Christianity look like some backwards nonsense. The universe is 13.5 billion years, Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, life has been around at least 3.5 billion years, and populations evolve because they are imperfect replicators. All the Creationist mumbo-jumbo you claim above has been debunked countless times, but, unlike what I would consider true Christians, you guys just keep telling the same lies over and over again.
  • by abigor (540274) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:40PM (#12452624)
    The big assumption is that Jesus even existed at all. There is next to no evidence for it, as you noted.

    http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm [nobeliefs.com]

  • As a Kansan... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Reverend_Train (320344) on Friday May 06, 2005 @12:48PM (#12452779) Homepage
    I was really hoping that the media wasn't going to pick up on this too much. It pains me to see this performance.

    Please be vigilant in your local politics. This could happen to you too. The ultra-conservatives were put in the minority after the last escapade surrounding evolution. Attention diminished and they have once again hi-jacked the school board. Undoubtedly most will be removed from office again but that won't get reported.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:02PM (#12453033) Journal
    Those are the facts. Your claims against various radioactive dating were long ago debunked. Repeating lies makes me question your morality. If you have any doubts at all, by all means visit http://talkorigins.org/ [talkorigins.org] and read articles by actual researchers, as opposed to Biblical literalist apologists.
  • by CharlesEGrant (465919) on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:14PM (#12453256)
    Show me on scientific study that proved a beneficial mutation of a species?

    Sure: the mutation that causes sickle cell disease [ygyh.org]. This is a single base change to a hemeglobin gene. If you get two copies of it you get sickle cell disease. If you get one copy of it you'll be resistant to malaria. There will always be more people who have once copy rather then two copies, so the net effect is beneficial. How about a mutation that increases longevity [technologyreview.com] in mice and worms? These are just a couple of the more spectacular examples from off the top of my head. Consult any text on genetics for more examples.
  • Re:Really? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:18PM (#12453336)
    Google is your friend.

    Here's one [myfortress.org] from the first page of results for "accounts of jesus outside the bible". I'm sure you could configure other terms if you want to look elsewhere besides just the page you hold as absolute truth.

  • by Brigadier (12956) on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:19PM (#12453344)

    Three engineers sit outside having lunch. One a mechanical engineer, the other an electrical engineer, and finally the last a civil engineer. They begin pondering the concept of God. The electrical engineer goes God has to be an electrical engineer just look at the complexities of the human nervous system. He is quickly cut off by the mechanical engineer who disagrees and says God must be a mechanical engineer given the simple complexity of the human vascular system. The civil engineer laughs then says your both wrong. Only a civil engineer would put a septic line through a recreational area .....
  • Re:You know... (Score:4, Informative)

    by GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) <curt@johnson.gmail@com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:24PM (#12453427) Homepage
    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.

    Welcome to Justificationalism. That's the classic argument, that we can never prove one or the other, so we just make an arbitrary decision and choose to *believe* science or *believe* religion. It's a false view of what happens. You make a rational decision between two models based on your moral goals.

    Science is a tool, a provably efficient method for explaining the mechanics of the Universe in which we live, regardless of the nature of it's creation or it's owner. If your moral goals are such that you believe it would be good to understand the mechanics of a physical event, then science will be the most efficient means for achieving those goals. If your moral goals are such that you value the question Why did something happen, then Faith is a much better tool. Science will never tell us *WHY* the Big Bang happened, only *HOW*. Science does not say whether the Big Bang was a good idea or a bad one, it just tells us how likely it is that something happened in a certain way.

    Now, since the *TRUTH* can be defined as the most efficient means for reaching one's moral goals, science can in fact provide the *TRUTH* for some questions. Various theological systems are equally capable of providing the *TRUTH* for other questions. One *TRUTH* does not preclude the other as they each have their own context of moral goals. One can externally evaluate if a moral goal is more efficiently achieved via one method or another. If you adequately describe your moral goals to me and then propose a method for achieving those goals, I can rationally criticize the probability that your are correct, even if I do not share your moral goals. So, while knowledge may be relative and the truth dependent upon the relative context, this does not remove it's ability to be measured and reported upon. If you look at the actual criticism of "relativism" from the religious right, that is the main attack, that it removes standards and measurements, which I've shown here is a false assertion.

    What amazes me is how much Protestant Theology had in determining the answer to things like Justificationalism and the definition of science. Those who argue for the arbitrariness of science's hold on truth and that truth as such cannot be measured from a Christian perspective, have a very weak grasp on their own theology. The history of Western Law and Protestant Theology argues contrary to their position. I highly recommend reading WW Bartley's "The Retreat to Commitment" to better understand Justificationalism and the epistemology of science.
  • by n-baxley (103975) <nate@@@baxleys...org> on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:25PM (#12453451) Homepage Journal
    Well, not to burst you're bubble, but Christians treat the Bible as the word of God because they (we) believe that it is the word of God. It was written by humans, true enough, but we believe that devine inspiration guided the hand of the bilical authors. You may not believe this, but don't critisize others when they follow their own beliefs. If you can understand where someone is coming from, maybe we can get past the hate and learn to agree to disagree.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 06, 2005 @01:52PM (#12453936)
  • Re:You know... (Score:3, Informative)

    by BandwidthHog (257320) <inactive.slashdo ... icallyenough.com> on Friday May 06, 2005 @02:20PM (#12454371) Homepage Journal
    Please explain to me how the recent Nipplegate scandal is fundamentally (heh) different from the whole Burka thing.

    The details differ (though not by any great amount), but the basic idea is the same: theocracy.
  • by nous (62496) on Friday May 06, 2005 @02:34PM (#12454582)

    obref: what amounts to a definitive dismantling of pseudo-scientific ID arguments may be found in young & edis why intelligent design fails [amazon.com]. this is a surprisingly readable collection of essays that should be accessible to anyone with an operating brain and an undergrad-level science understanding. very highly recommended to slash-dotters.

    nous

  • Re:bullshit (Score:3, Informative)

    by slipstick (579587) on Friday May 06, 2005 @02:49PM (#12454790)
    "What's even more ridiculous is the claim that the Theory of Evolution is the foundation of all science."

    Where have you ever seen this claim made? Physics is the foundation of all other sciences.
  • by AndersOSU (873247) on Friday May 06, 2005 @02:56PM (#12454891)
    ...new knowledge has led to the recognition in the theory of evolution of more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.
    The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, insofar as it inquiries into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter
    -John Paul II (someone in the catholic churh)

    While not an endorsement, its good enough for me
  • Humans and apes (Score:3, Informative)

    by MichaelPenne (605299) on Friday May 06, 2005 @03:37PM (#12455558) Homepage
    humans didn't evolve from apes, humans and apes came from the same ancestor.

    Present day humans and present day apes split from this ancestor, we evolved to exploit different niches in the environment.

    There is a wealth of hard, scientific, evidence for this, see Hominid Species [talkorigins.org] for more.

    many of the world's greatest scientists believe in a god of some sort.

    However, none of them (at least the ones with backgrounds in biology) believe in intelligent design. Part of the reason being that we aren't designed particularly intelligently.

    PS, a great computer scientist, for instance, probably knows less biology than your average nurse, so one has to make sure the opinions of the great scientists are actually based on their knowledge of the particular branch of science in question.
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Friday May 06, 2005 @08:02PM (#12458633)
    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.

    Check out Stuart Kauffman's The Origins of Order [amazon.com]. This is the best book I've seen. Kauffman is a "protein-first" guy. I think that is still somewhat the minority view, but he makes a good case.

    For the clay theory from the horse's mouth, check out
    Cairns-Smith [amazon.com]. I think most biologists regard theory this as sort of a long-shot.

    The most popular (at least that is my impression) theory is that a self-reproducing RNA-like molecule was the earliest form of life, but I don't know of a good book...

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