Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Texas Science - Here Come the Stealth Creationists!

Now that they've finished rewriting how we read, the State Board of Education aims its duplicitous rhetoric at the science standards, with the agenda of sneaking creationism into biology classes. But don't expect them to be honest about it. Board Vice Chairman David Bradley demonstrates:

“I hate to take the air out of their balloon. They're going to be very disappointed if they come for a fight. The only thing that this board is going to do is ask for accuracy. It's all going to be in the Texas anti-Freedom Network's mind. They are working themselves into a frenzy,”

Ah yes, a "frenzy", exactly the kind of scare word you apply to an opponent you wish to smear, not a tangential group completely off track worrying about a nonexistent problem. AS for accuracy, sure, and Pravda was really all about truth. It's all about accuracy, as long as you take "accuracy" to be something that only applies to biology, and accepts long-debunked ignorant nonsense. This is the new face of creationism folks. Ken Mercer demonstrates:

"We want our children to be able to think and understand the strengths and weaknesses of any theory. Some ultra-radical groups have not evolved to the point where they realize that the ‘theory of Evolution' is just that — a theory. Any real scientist understands there are major weaknesses in evolution...If we truly believe in intellectual debate, let's discuss those weaknesses."

There you have it, pure creationist canard first word to last. Allow me to translate the Creationese:

1) "understand the strengths and weaknesses" means "hearing debunked creationist arguments appearing nowhere in the scientific literature, and flawed either logically or factually as if they were legitimate scientific concerns". Take note that those promoting this position never ever elucidate the strengths of evolution, or the weaknesses of any other scientific theory. For people supposedly concerned only with accuracy, their focus seems a tad narrow.

2) "Some ultra-radical groups" means "people who defend and practice the scientific method." They are in a "frenzy" too. Again these are just smear words, intended not to enlighten, but to win points with a political audience.

3) "the ‘theory of Evolution' is just that — a theory" is simply a way to appeal to the ignorant. There is no kind way to put this one, because anyone who has taken a basic science course knows that "theory" in science does not mean "a wild-assed drunken guess", but rather "a hypothesis with broad explanatory power and evidenciary backing". It is equivocation, plain and simple, the same as if someone had asked "If Jesus is the lamb of God, then where is his wool?". Yet Mercer has a degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin. Mistake or lie? You do the math.

4) "Any real scientist" means "a scientist, or at least someone who sounds like one to ignorant ears (ie Kent Hovind), who gives debunked creationist arguments credence". Creationists love the argument from authority, for it fits right in with the authoritarian religious viewpoint they are always denying. They parade around any PhD they can find who agrees with them, even if they don't really have expertise in the relevant field. Yet we are supposed to give their views credence because of the credentials. Yet when I raise the point that 99.9% of scientists in the relevant fields think their hand-picked PhDs' views are a steaming pile, suddenly it is evidence, and not credentials, that are supposed to interest me.

5) "there are major weaknesses in evolution" means "there has not been a complete, detailed, step-by-step evolutionary explanation demonstrated for each and every biological circumstance", and that is when they are being honest and not holding evolution responsible for explaining gravity and time as well, things far outside it's purview. Again, letting their absolutist religious viewpoints show, creationists have a very hard time dealing with the uncertainty and step-by-step process of science. To them, any lack of knowledge implies total lack of knowledge. It's akin to dismissing any doctor as incompetent who cannot cure every condition.

6) "If we truly believe in intellectual debate, let's discuss those weaknesses" is another equivocation. The intellectual debate scientists promote is done in the scientific journals, not school-room debate teams, and for good reason. It takes far more knowledge to form a good case worth debating than it does to learn basic material. Good pedagogy has debate at the top of the knowledge food chain, instruction at the bottom. Tae Kwon Do students do not debate the master, they learn from him. Creationists want to turn this system on its head because they know they stand a far greater chance with an audience of ignorant and disinterested school kids than they do with people who will see through their nonsense.

One sees these arguments over and over again from creationists and their supporters. It is a rhetorical fingerprint. As they used to say about a certain dissembling president, ignore what he says, watch what he does. Thusly deal with politicians on the subject of biology when you hear them say something like this:

“There are issues in the evolutionary process that have been proven wrong...”

Since neither Bradley nor anyone else claiming to have disproven an aspect of evolutionary theory has won the Nobel Prize lately, as such an accomplishment would warrant, it is safe to assume the statement is just more hogwash. And if all that fails to persuade, consider Bradley's Freudian significance in this choice of words:

“Students need to be able to jump to their own conclusions.”

Yes, that is exactly what these guys want. They want students to jump to conclusions on the subject of evolution, because those conclusions are liable to be wrong, as most such conclusions are. A studious, patient, evidenciary approach is the last thing these guys want. Why in world have we put people so antagonistic to good science in charge of science education, I will never understand. But that's no reason we should allow them to get by with all this deceptive language. Make no mistake, the agenda is to get creationism into science classes, one tiny step at a time. Don't let them get away with it.

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