Sunday, February 26, 2006


Critical analysis in Ohio and Kansas

Yesterday I wrote a bit about why I think the "teach the controversy" or "teach evidence for and against evolution" or "teach critical analysis of evolution" approach that's being advocated is disingenuous. It's an attempt to put ID in schools, plain and simple.

This is the case in both Kansas and Ohio, the two states that have tried to use one of these approaches. The Discovery Institute says that people who claim that the standards teach ID are contributing to a false fear syndrome. I think they're wrong. It is true that neither of the standards come right out and says "students should be taught ID", in fact both have a disclaimer that states ID should not be taught.

From the Kansas standards:

We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include Intelligent Design, the scientific disagreement with the claim of many evolutionary biologists that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included many advocates of Intelligent Design, these standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement.

From the Ohio standards (note: link goes to a PDF file)

Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)

Superficially neither Kansas nor Ohio mandates teaching ID. Those statements though are only a distraction, and that's really obvious if you read through the part of the standards that deal with critical analysis of evolution.

From the Kansas standards:

f. The view that living things in all the major kingdoms are modified descendants of a common ancestor (described in the pattern of a branching tree) has been challenged in recent years by:

i. Discrepancies in the molecular evidence (e.g., differences in relatedness inferred from sequence studies of different proteins) previously thought to support that view.
ii. A fossil record that shows sudden bursts of increased complexity (the Cambrian Explosion), long periods of stasis and the absence of abundant transitional forms rather than steady gradual increases in complexity, and
iii. Studies that show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development.


7. Some of the scientific criticisms include:
a A lack of empirical evidence for a “primordial soup” or a chemically hospitable pre-biotic atmosphere;

b. The lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code, the sequences of genetic information necessary to specify life, the biochemical machinery needed to translate genetic information into functional biosystems, and the formation of proto-cells; and

c. The sudden rather than gradual emergence of organisms near the time that the Earth first became habitable.

From the Ohio standards:

6. Allow the groups to pick (or assign) one of the five aspects
of evolutionary theory. Assign two groups to research each
aspect. The aspects are:
Aspect 1: Homology (anatomical and molecular)
Aspect 2: Fossil Record
Aspect 3: Anti-Biotic Resistance
Aspect 4: Peppered Moths
Aspect 5: Endosymbiosis

In addition Attachment A of the standards gives example supporting and challenging answers.

All of those arguments are from the ID literature, and most of them are from Jonathan Wells Icons of Evolution. In fact, an earlier version of the Ohio standards referenced. In other words, those arguments ARE ID. I'm not going to argue about whether those arguments are correct or not (obviously I think they're flawed) because that's not important to the point I want to make. I think it's just silly to claim that the standards don't teach ID because they don't mention ID by name. If the standards use the arguments that comprise ID, then they're teaching ID.

Obviously then, I think the Ohio Board of Education did the right thing when they removed the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, and I hope Kansas does the same.

Other links
Do the Kansas standards say "Teach ID?" I say "yes"
A Guide to the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" Lesson Plan Controversy

Gee, you wouldn't be biased in this whole debate now would you? And to think I thought I was debating someone who had an open mind to science.

From the look, and sound of your website and comments, you've got it all figured out, and are just itching for everyone to get on the bandwagon with you.
Hello Mike.

When were we debating? To the best of my knowledge the only time I've dealt with you was when I posted a link to an article you wrote on the Jurassic Beaver in a comment I wrote in response to an article on Pharyngula.

I'm sorry you're disappointed by your visit here, but your comment doesn't really have much for me to respond to. If you want to accuse me of bias, etc., and you want me to respond, you really ought to consider providing examples. If you just wanted to vent though, that's OK. Thanks for dropping by.
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