Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kansas rejoins the modern era

In the back-and-forth battle for science education that roils in Kansas, science has once again gained the upper hand.

The newly-elected Kansas Board of Education dismantled the previous Board's work on behalf of "intelligent design" creationism. So "2+2=5" science will no longer be taught side-by-side with "2+2=4" science--or what scientists refer to as "science."

Read all about it in this Reuters article. Or enjoy the subtle, muted musings of The Bad Astronomer (c'mon Phil, tell us how you really feel). Or learn more about the ongoing, national nature of this battle at The National Center for Science Education website. Or click the graphic above to get it straight from the Kansas State Department of Education.

This is a debate that never seems to end. It didn't end with the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. It didn't end when the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's Balanced Treatment Act in 1987. It didn't end with the thumping of "intelligent design" in Dover, PA in 2005 (a thumping delivered by a Bush-appointed judge). And it won't end with the Kansas Board of Education in 2007.

While this is more of an issue for our biology-teaching colleagues, the anti-science flotsam and jetsam does gurgle up into physics classrooms. The most common form is declaration that the Second Law of Thermodymanics prohibits the evolution of simpler forms of life to more complex ones. Some of the non-scientists who float this nonsense grant that simpler forms could evolve to more complex ones, but only if there were a huge source of energy available to earth-bound organisms. It's just embarrassing to be the one to point out the presence of the sun to them.

Anyway, today's action of the Kansas Board of Education was a victory for science in Kansas. And in this battle, a victory anywhere is a victory everywhere.


kblack77 said...

Its quiet frightening actually. I saw a statistic the other day that only about 50% of Americans believe in evolution. Its by far the lowest in any non third-world country. Unfortunately the religious right seems to be more clever when stating their case. The newest trick is the "teach the controversy" technique which basically appeals to the innate sense that we should present both sides of an issue.
Now, i agree, that in general its a good idea to give a fair and balanced discussion. Its just that there is no legitimate scientific other side of the debate. The thing is - science doesn't work this way! Not all ideas are as good as others. For example a large percentage of Americans could not answer the question "is it true that the earth revolves around the sun". Does that mean that we "teach the controversy" and present both the earth and solar centric view of the solar system.
Of course this is laughable. Its really not any different with this intelligent design nonsense. Plain and simple it is just not pass the first and simplest step to becoming a scientific theory. That is - the theory has to be falsifiable. It has to predict something that is measurable.

In the scientific community evolution is considered one of the most if not *the most* well founded biological theories. There have been 150 years of attempts to debunk it and none have given it a scratch. Of course there are always those who come up with some thing or the other that evolution doesn't explain. But thats not enough - thats like saying because evolution doesn't explain my preference for vanilla ice cream its not a valid theory.

Its clear that all of this is just another attempt by the religious right to teach creationism in science class. I have no problem with creationism being taught in Sunday school at church - but it is not science.

Its a pity about the argument people use from the second law of thermodynamics. I am not sure if this is just complete ignorance or intentional on their part...

Stevie Ray said...

Dorothy says:

"Toto - Maybe it's time to go back to Kansas?"