Friday, February 06, 2004

Krugman's Got Game A characteristically excellent column from Paul Krugman today. He discusses the attempts by the Bush administration to rewrite the history of the Iraq war inlight of recent embarrassments regarding the lack of WMD's. Here's a sample:

Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.

Georgia Wrap-Up Well, the forces of light and reason have triumphed, at least temporarily, in Georgia. Less than a week after announcing plans to remove the word "evolution" from state science guidelines, the State Superintendant has abandoned that plan. As usual, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the full story here.

Actually, it's not all good news. Deleting the word "evolution was not the only change made to the science standards. Other portions, relating to a detailed description of natural selection and the origin of life were deleted as well, and there is no word yet about whether they will also be restored.

On a related topic, here's an amusing cartoon on this subject from Mike Luckovich.

Evolution 101 Have a look at this fine new site from the national Center for Science Education and the University of California Museum of Paleontology. It provides a nice primer on the basic of evolutionary thoery.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Voice of Reason In an act of atonement for the miserable, anti-evolution editorial they printed yesterday, the AJC has published a far more sensible op-ed in today's edition. Have a look.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Georgia on my Mind The AJC ran this op-ed today supporting the decision of Georgia's Superintendant of schools to remove the word "evolution" from state science standards. It was not written by a scientist, of course, but by someone named Larry Taylor, representing the group "Parents for Truth in Education." That name alone is enough to tell you that this guy cares more about propaganda than he does about science (is the implication that parents who do not belong to this group don't care about truth in education?) In the editorial, Taylor lists several pieces of anti-evolution "evidence" that students need to hear about. It is worth considering each in turn:

Far from settled science, there is a growing debate within the science community about the ability of evolution to fully explain the diversity of life on Earth. More than 300 scientists from major universities nationwide, including dozens from Georgia, have signed a document expressing doubts about the claims of evolution.

That's as compared to about 30,000 scientists who feel differently. I've seen the list Taylor is referring to. Most of the people listed are not engaged in actual biological research, meaning no one expects them to go in to a lab and come out with the solution to a problem. Also, many of the signatories of the list do not object to evolution, they only object to the idea that natural selection is the primary source of complexity in living things.

More to the point, the issue is not whether you can find a handful of people with PhD's to support a particular viewpoint. After all, there's a tenured professor at Harvard who believes in alien abductions. The fact is that tens of thousands of papers are published on evolution every year in hundreds of journals. There is no rival theory that has earned any legitimacy at all in scientific circles, least of all intelligent-design.

Modern science instruction includes an undisclosed bias that artificially eliminates any possibilities other than evolution to explain life. It prevents the students from expanding their scientific knowledge and learning skills by forbidding the opportunity to investigate alternative theories scientifically.

Here Taylor means that science restricts itself to naturalistic theories, and does not invoke the supernatural. Scientists make this restriction because theories based on the supernatural have never once been useful in solving actual problems. The only bias in science is towards useful theories and away from useless ones.

Much of the "evidence" cited in science textbooks in support of evolution is dubious at best, and in many cases outright fraudulent.

Biologist Jonathan Wells, in the "Icons of Evolution," discloses countless examples of textbook evolutionary "evidence" that has been summarily dismissed by mainstream science, yet is still in use today.

This makes it clear that Taylor has no interest in actually learning anything about the relevant branches of science. All of the charges Wells makes in his book have been thoroughly refuted countless times. The only fraud exposed in this book is Wells himself. For a particularly thorough refutation of Wells' arguments, see the essay by Alan Gishlick here.

Scientific evidence that might cast doubt about the claims of Darwinian evolution has been censored from Georgia classrooms, as are the views of scientists who dissent from the established evolutionary doctrine.

The only things being censored are bad arguments. There simply is no such evidence contradicting evolution. There are only a lot of fallacious claims promoted almost exclusively by people with a religious agenda.

In an attempt to cloud the issue, the Darwinists will always try to interject "creationism" and "separation of church and state" into the debate. Knowing that they cannot win the debate on the merits of the evidence, they will always resort to this tactic.

Taylor can refer to this as a tactic if he wishes, but I would say it's just a simple statement of the truth.

Mostly, people like Taylor make me sad. He's the perfect example of how a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Monday, February 02, 2004

More on Georgia and Evolution From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution comes this article about the reaction to the decision of Georgia's Superintendant of Schools to eliminate the word "evolution" from state science guidelines. The reaction was predictable. Scientists are rightly outraged, while many parents support the decision.

In a better world it would matter that the scientists are the ones who know what they are talking about, while most of the parents only know that they were told once that evolution conflicts with this or that religious notion. In this world, there is a decent chance the ignoramuses will have their way.

The AJC wrote a terrific editorial criticizing the decision. The headline says it all: "State stance on evolution a devolution into stupidity ". They also printed numerous letters on the subject, of varying degrees of intelligence. Find them here.

Here's a good letter to the editor of the NY Times. Also check out their article on the subject.

Incidentally, the AJC reports that Georgia's governor, Sonny Perdue, has now weighed in. Unsurprisingly, he punted. He says he opposes the idea of removing the word "evolution" from the standards, but also favors teaching "alternate viewpoints" without saying precisely which viewpoints he has in mind.