A Victory for Science

That sound you hear is the collective heads of the anti-science lobby exploding. That other sound you hear is their two-year effort to undermine science education in Texas going down the drain.

As we told you late last month, the State Board of Education approved instructional materials in science that could be used in Texas public schools for the better part of the next decade. In all, the board approved materials from nine publishers. But in the case of one of those publishers, Holt McDougal, it did so on the condition that it make changes of so-called “errors” that were based on the objections of a well-known creationist who reviewed the materials.

Holt, of course, tried to hold the line in support of sound science and argued against tainting its product with creationist arguments attacking evolutionary science, and so did TFN, the National Center for Science Education and other mainstream scientists. As a compromise, the board agreed to let Holt work with Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott on any needed changes.

Well, those changes are now in (click here to download a PDF) and so are the reviews. TFN, NCSE and other scientists have reviewed the changes and have found them to be in line with established, fact-based science.

Here’s the head-exploding part for the creationists. Not only does the final version of Holt not include creationist arguments against evolution, but they also include language explicitly affirming Darwin’s theories.

With Holt’s materials finalized, we can now say with certainty that all of the materials approved from the nine publishers are in line with fact-based science and free of creationist attacks seeking to undermine science.

We wonder how the anti-science forces will try to spin this one.

Here’s what TFN President Kathy Miller had to say with respect to Holt’s final product:

The release of Holt McDougal’s finalized materials puts an end to a campaign to undermine science education in Texas that began with the board’s adoption of flawed science curriculum standards two years ago. There is now no doubt that this is an unequivocal victory for sound science. But more importantly, it is a victory for Texas school children who are now assured that their science instruction will be free of political agendas and will instead be solely focused on fact-based science that will prepare them for college and a 21st-century economy.

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71 Comments

  1. Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    InsightfulApe, sorry I missed your comment of the 19th.

    You said, “Yeah right. ‘Humility’ of course, does not include entertaining the possibility that a book written by middle easterns during the bronze age may be the product of their own imagination and have nothing to do with science in any shape, form or way.”

    Does not include? Wow. But that’s the real problem, isn’t it — dealing with people who think they already know it all? Did you know that there is a timeline in Genesis compatible with those of science? It took humility to find it. Preconceived notions like yours and Rick Perry’s would only get in the way.

    You also said, “And skepticism, which is demanding evidence before accepting a positive claim, is ‘biased.’
    Dude, your vocab sucks.”

    I appreciate your opinion. My wife thinks I have too big a vocabulary. But let’s get technical and actually look up the word, shall we? I don’t find your definition anywhere in the dictionary. A quick search in online dictionaries gives the following for “skepticism”:

    “incredulity: doubt about the truth of something”

    “an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object”

    “a doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety”

    Now, the last time I checked, “doubt” is a very definite bias. It remains negative against the verity of an idea. And all too often some scientists slide into the entirely subjective realm of skepticism — unsupported dismissiveness (such as your attitude about the Bible), and self-indulgent ridicule (such as the attitude of some North American anthropologists regarding the “Clovis first” dogma). A far better paradigm for science would be that of humility and restraint. These do quite well in not accepting a positive claim without first obtaining empirical evidence, and they do it without the drawback of the bias, doubt.

    So dude, maybe you should brush up on your own vocab. I’m constantly working on mine.

  2. Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Charles, your reply to Anonymous was brilliant.

    Your analysis of Genesis is certainly interesting, but could it also be that all “sides” have it wrong? (Including me!)

    What if the “forbidden fruit” was a conceptual matrix, like the Kabbalah’s representation of the Garden’s “Tree of Life?” What kind of conceptual matrix? Perhaps dichotomies, like good-evil, right-wrong, generous-selfish, wisdom-stupidity, compassion-indifference and others? What other way could an immortal, non-physical child of God fall from spiritual grace? The poison of that fruit might be none other than the heart of selfishness and root of all evil, ego (not the psychological term, but the Buddhist sense of self). Adam did not literally, physically die on that day, so he must’ve died spiritually. And could it be that the Garden was not a physical place, but merely another name for Heaven? Could Adam and Eve represent all of the Fallen Angels? Later, Adam represents all of humanity. Gen.5:2 says that “they” were called Adam, and that Adam was both male and female.

    What if the first 5 chapters of Genesis were thematic rather than sequential? And what if Genesis 1 was neither literal nor parable, but an incomplete, verbal description of the template or blueprint of creation all in zero time — the instantaneity of creation. What if God’s “day of rest” was the “perfecting” element in creation giving all that instantaneity its persistence (time)? Then we might well be living in God’s “day of rest” — all 13.7 billion years of it.

    There are many conflicting interpretations of the Bible. Very possibly none of them are entirely right. Like a good scientist who forgoes skepticism and merely uses humble restraint (no bias of doubt, there), the faithful might find new answers, there. There is plenty of hidden wisdom in the Bible. There might just be a timeline in Genesis compatible with all of those of science. And just as Adam was all of humanity, and Methuselah may have been eponymous tribe and its founder (who may have lived only 50 years), the years of the early patriarchs are too short to match reality. And there is a factor there which takes care of it.

    The point of all this is: no one person “knows it all!” Even though some act as if they do.

    For the rowdy believer, simply ask, “Is your interpretation equivalent to that of God?” Naturally, their ego will suffer a few moments of cognitive dissonance. They may even have the presence of mind to answer, “No.” To which you can reply, “Then why do you act as if your interpretation is equal to God’s?”

  3. Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Missy Ruth, excellent! Not only is it mythology, but there might just be one lecture’s worth of material for the subject, then off to Zeus, Osiris and others.

    What might make an even more intriguing class would be “The Art of Interpretation.” In the class, students learn humility and restraint in the quest for knowledge. This would apply not only to biblical interpretation, but scientific and artistic.

    After all, no one’s interpretation is equal or superior to that of the Almighty. And some people think they have it all figured out. Like some school board members and one Texas governor.

  4. Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Insightful Ape, don’t get too carried away. True, there are nearly a trillion stars in our galaxy at last estimate (rivaling M31), but more than the grains of sand on Earth? Doh!

    If there are 500 grains of sand per cubic centimeter, one meter deep and twenty meters wide, then one kilometer of beach will hold ten trillion grains of sand. Of course, grains/cc will depend on which beach you sample. The only estimates I’ve ever heard for count of galaxies in the universe numbered only in the billions.

    And, yes, it would be shocking if the rest of the universe is devoid of life.

  5. Posted August 23, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Creationism should be taught in a separate classroom under the title: Mythology 101

  6. Insightful Ape
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy. The planets did not “line up perfectly”. In fact Venus and Mars are both rocky planets and could potentially harbor life but they don’t. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone, and there are more galaxies in the visible universe that there are grains of sand on earth. Is it so shocking that one speck of dust in the endless universe could harbor life, while 99.99999% percent of the universe is uninhabitable?

  7. Charles
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous,

    1) First of all, I resent your apparent premise that the scientific community contains no Christians or people of other religious faiths. It has quite a large number actually, and a great many of us have no problem with evolution or the so-called Big Bang.

    2) You are wasting your time if you want to start an argument with the atheist/agnostic block here. You realize, I hope, that it would be two fence posts arguing with each other—and when the argument is over—both sides would still believe exactly the same thing and still be very nice fence posts. They have heard all of the arguments from your side already, and none have been convincing to them. I know. I know. I know. You are thinking that the Holy Spirit will move especially in you this afternoon, and because of it, you will be the first one to put a crack in their egg shell, and an epiphany will begin, “I see now. There really was a special tree with fruit that contained chemicals that would cause a human brain to suddenly know the difference between good and evil for the first time. I repent of evolution. How could I have been so wrong????!!!! (Music) Praise the Lord, I saw the light!!!”

    3) Your forget something. A large number of atheists/agnostics attended Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches with their parents for the first 18 years of their lives. They know the message from churches like yours. You have nothing to tell them about your view of Jesus or the gospel that they do not already know. The message was there every Wednesday night and every Sunday—but their was no love with it—just guilt and rules and fear. The preacher beat them bloody with all three of those things day and night for 18 years. When a chance to escape finally came, they took it and never looked back. I remain convinced that Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches are the chief creators of atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists in the United States. All you have to offer these people is another bloody beating around the head with the jaw bone of an ass.

    4) No one here—including the Christians—is interested in how old you think the Earth is or how inerrant you think your Bible is. You BELIEVE Genesis 1 is accurate human history and science. We KNOW that it is not accurate human history or science. I do not expect you to understand that because you are just another fence post on the American landscape—one who is all too willing to accept uncritically whatever drops from your backwoods preacher’s mouth and unwilling to learn any of the real science that proves him to be wrong.

    5) Genesis I is a parable. I know you do not spend much time in the New Testament because it tends to undermine a lot of your most cherished religious prejudices. However, if you will notice, Jesus spends an awful lot of time teaching people with parables. He loves parables. He is the No. 1 parable man in all of human history. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1). God is like Jesus!!! God the father likes to tell parables too because He is “just like Jesus.” God loves parables!!! The reason Genesis 1 does not match up with the science is because God is telling you a parable to get across numerous bits of nonhistorical and nonscientific information about human nature that He would like for you to consider. Trouble is—you do not want to consider it. You just want to lamely scratch the surface in the most simplistic way possible and move on as quickly as possible to your next round of cherished ignorance.

    6) Yes, I knew that I was wasting my time with you because you are just another committed fence post. I shall waste my time no more, and you can continue to leave your brain at the “OFF” setting.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    to the science community, i believe in God and the Bible but I also believe and support science.the one question I have for the science community is how did the universe come about what evidence do you have to support the origin of the universe? I have no problem with the age of the universe or earth.If the big bang theory is true, then how did allt he planets line upin such a perfect way as to support life?

  9. Posted August 20, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  10. justin
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    @Jack…….I read all of the posts and do not see one person saying they don’t believe in God. On the other hand, spag. monsters,
    un-dead carpenters, and dude with a pitchfork just aren’t as believable as an all encompassing god that does not know right or wrong, that is infinite, can bee seen everywhere and nowhere and has an infinitely changing definition………

  11. Anonymous
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Perry’s campaign is a clear nonstarter. He and his advisors have ruined any chance he had by their comments over just the past few days He’s a goner already.

  12. Stan
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Here’s a link to video of Perry lying to the boy who asked about evolution at the urging of his mother: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RprOiBOGgMs&w=480&h=300

  13. Stan
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    In response to bluescat48 – Rick Perry has already responded in his own predictably ignorant way. According to a news post yesterday, Perry described evolution as “a theory that is out there,” And he told a young boy who questioned him that “it’s got some gaps in it….in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure…because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” Perry is obviously not smart enough to figure out which one is right. But he is smart enough to know that the Texas School Board has rejected this nonsense and so has the Supreme Court (at least so far), so he is revealed as simply a cynical liar. And he lied to a young person who was simply asking an adult for clarification of something he didn’t understand – absolutely unconscionable. What a disreputable asshole. Of course, he’s a Dominionist so i wouldn’t expect him to behave in a rational way at all. Why would anyone with a smidgen of a brain seriously consider voting for him for President?

  14. Insightful Ape
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Yeah right. “Humility” of course, does not include entertaining the possibility that a book written by middle easterns during the bronze age may be the product of their own imagination and have nothing to do with science in any shape, form or way. And skepticism, which is demanding evidence before accepting a positive claim, is “biased”.
    Dude, your vocab sucks.

  15. Posted August 19, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I wonder what Rick Perry will say to this?

  16. Ben
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Regarding civility, I’ve never seen a young-earth creationist give facts and evidence the slightest consideration. Worse than that, most of them aren’t just willfully ignorant, they are liars. Committed, skilled, liars. We see it here regularly, not only in the comments left by creationists, but in the subject matter of TFN’s posts.

    Feel free to be civil to liars if you want, but I don’t see the point. I think it makes more sense to call them liars and point out their lies, every single time. Let anyone who is on the fence see and understand the lies told by young-earth creationists on a daily basis.

    Lots of people have recommended being more civil to these liars—it’s a regular subject of conversation on Pharyngula—but I can’t recall even a single case where civility changed one of these liars’ minds.

  17. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Wen, you bring up a good point. Pejoratives only stiffen egos, and that’s not a pretty sight in scientists and/or believers.

    We must also resist the incursions of skeptics into the area of spirituality. Ben quoted Einstein, “No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this,” speaking of the Bible’s “childishness.” Perhaps Einstein let his own ego get in the way of science when he couldn’t get on board with quantum mechanics. Pretending to know it all (as in every possible biblical interpretation) is a bit over the top, especially for a scientist.

    In my own research, I have discovered a timeline in Genesis compatible with those of science. No more do the Fundamentalists require a young universe to “protect” the Bible. All they do is protect their own interpretation and their egos while ignoring reality (the purview of science). So, perhaps I can make a prediction: Though the age of Homo sapiens keeps getting longer through new discoveries (from ~50ka to ~200ka in my lifetime) anthropologists will not find Homo sapiens bones older than 11Ma, if this new biblical timeline is accurate. Big “if?” Perhaps. (http://www.GenesisCode.Net)

    The big point is that humility is one big key to discovery (not the biased tool called “skepticism”). Perhaps the Fundamentalists do not possess enough humility, even though the founder of Christianity highly recommended it. But I think our best approach is not in divisiveness, but a humble neutrality. By this “neutrality” I don’t mean “do nothing.” One can mete out punishment to a child without anger or blood lust, or even raising a hand. Sometimes a “look” with intention plus quiet, but strong words, can make a child self-aware of their error.

    Perhaps the next mother-with-child who confronts Perry on the campaign trail should ask, “Is your interpretation of the Bible equivalent to that of God?” If he answers, “No,” then one might ask, “Then why are you acting like it is?” Some egos are impenetrable, but this might find his humble side, if it exists.

  18. Wen
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help but believe that using pejoratives to describe the religious right is not helping the position espoused by many of us who have responded in this forum. Such terms will only cause more resistance in these people to what we think of as the truth. We should perhaps start with the premise that one cannot know most things as sure, immutable truths. Science changes with new discoveries and long held theories get modified. What once was thought to be the extent of the Universe was greatly extended with construction of telescopes and later with the space telescope. So we have to admit that science is an unfinished topic; constantly a work in progress. By the same token, however, we who claim to be scientists, must resist the incursions of mythology that will influence the minds of non-scientists to believe that what science has discovered is in some way totally incorrect.

  19. Stan
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” [Carl Sagan]

  20. John Baker
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Much as this bit of news cheers me up labeling it a “Final Victory” is premature. If there is one thing we can depend on it’s human idiocy. I have never encountered a fundamentalist that changed his mind because a sound argument exposed faulty his beliefs. Some people are determined to never learn! The creationists will be back, perhaps with a new name, spewing the same old drivel. You can bank on it.

  21. Ben
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    More Einstein, since Jack is trying to “own” him: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

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