Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Blessed Sense from Ohio Don't miss this fine editorial from The Marion Star. It is authored by mathematician Brian McEnnis and addresses the recent controversy about a proposed science lesson plan in Ohio. The plan would introduce criticisms of evolution drawn from ID sources. As ID proponents tell it, this is evidence that evolutionists are censoring for fear that it will damage their favorite theory.

In reality, of course, the only thing being censored is a lot of false information. All of the objections raised by ID advocates are based on distortions, misunderstandings, and blatant falsehoods. This is obvious to knowledgable scientists in the relevant fields, but not obvious to non-scientists.

Here's an excerpt:


On March 11, The Star published a column by Lowell Hedges under the headline "Let's teach honest science." I agree with the headline, but not with Mr. Hedges' interpretation of honest science. He advocates the inclusion of non-scientific material in a science curriculum, teaching students to abandon scientific method by explaining natural phenomena with supernatural forces. The lesson is dishonest in that it masquerades as science while including misrepresentations and factual errors. It has been rejected by (amongst others) The Ohio Academy of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and major research universities in the state.

It is disturbing that the Ohio Board of Education would ignore overwhelming scientific opinion in developing a science lesson plan, harming the students whom they should be serving. Students hoping to gain admission to elite universities, or hoping to avoid remedial biology courses in college, should ask why the Board of Education is acting against their best interests. And science-based companies, which rely on well-educated employees, will think twice before locating in a state whose Board of Education is in open conflict with the scientific community.

What is it about the disputed lesson plan that has scientists concerned? Despite Mr. Hedges' claims, there is nothing that we're hiding. We just have this conviction that science courses should teach science! If competing theories are to be taught in a science classroom, they should at least be valid scientific theories. We are implored to "teach both sides of the issue," as if valid science and fraudulent science had equal merit. If that were the case, there are many sides, not two. We would need to teach creation myths of various cultures, flat-earth theories, and any other crackpot theories that claimed classroom time. This might make for a fun course, but it wouldn't be science!


As this excerpt makes clear, McEnnis is replying to an earlier editorial published in the newspaper. To see the sort of brazen dishonesty used by ID advocates in making their case, consider the following excerpt:


Mr. Hedges refers to the support of Sen. Edward Kennedy, echoing a claim made by Sen. Santorum in the Washington Times of March 14, 2002. Kennedy responded in a letter to the editor, published in the same newspaper on March 21, 2002:

"The March 14 Commentary piece, 'Illiberal education in Ohio schools,' written by my colleague Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, erroneously suggested that I support the teaching of 'Intelligent Design' as an alternative to biological evolution. That simply is not true. Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories. Unlike biological evolution, 'Intelligent Design' is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes."

So much for the claim of Kennedy's support! This type of misrepresentation and shading of the truth is typical of the way that Intelligent Design proponents present their case. The lesson plan that they wrote is similarly riddled with deceit and error.

If it is honest science you want, this lesson plan is not it. It is scientific fraud, and has no place in the classroom.


The argument here revolves around something called “The Santorum Amendment”, introduced by Senator Snatorum as an addition to Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. The amendment talked about critically analyzing scientific theories, and as such seemed unobjectionable. Of course, the amendment was really nothing more than a front for introducing creationism into the classroom. Once that was pointed out to Kennedy, he withdrew his support from the amendment.

Yet the lie that Kennedy supported this amendment is repeated over and over agin in creationist circles. Go figure.

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