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Understanding ‘Alternatives’ to Evolution

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  1. Understanding ‘Alternatives’ to Evolution Joseph A. Heppert Professor of Chemistry, University of Kansas Center for Science Education

  2. Goal of This Presentation • Examine an important source of authentic information about the ongoing discussions on evolution: Transcripts from May 2005 State Board of Education hearings in Kansas • Seek to understand what these records and related documents tell us about: • The nature of proposed ‘alternatives’ to evolution • Participant’s view of science • Participant’s view of the nature of science • Determine where the scientific community can go next with this information

  3. Outline • Purpose of State Board hearings • Participants in State Board hearings • Format of the State Board hearings • Definitions of science used in hearings • Definitions of the nature of science used in hearings • Treatment of evolution and alternatives to evolution in hearings • Inconsistencies and disingenuities in arguments raised during the hearings • Conclusions • Acknowledgements

  4. Purpose of the State Board Hearings • “The purpose of the hearings that will be held over the next couple of days is to assist us as state board members in understanding the complex and often times confusing issues regarding science education.” Steve Abrams, Chair, State Board of Education, State Board Hearing Transcript, Day 1. http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestdexptest.html

  5. Purpose of the State Board Hearings • Where do these confusing issues originate? • June 2004: A 26 member writing committee composed of science educators from all educational levels, curriculum coordinators and physicians is appointed by the State Board of Education to draft updated science education standards for the State • December 2004: The committee presents Draft 2 of proposed standards to the State Board • December 2004: Eight of the 26 member writing committee members present a ‘minority report’ to the new State Board, raising questions about how the nature of science and evolution are described in Draft 2

  6. Purpose of the State Board Hearings • Where do these confusing issues originate? • January 2005: Composition of the State Board of Education changes due to a November 2004 election • February 2005: The State Board receives feedback from 13 scientists from Kansas institutions. The vast majority of this feedback is witheringly critical of the scientific validity of the ‘minority report’ • February 2005: The State Board votes to examine the issues raised by the ‘minority report in a special set of hearings scheduled for May 2005.

  7. Purpose of the State Board Hearings • WHEREAS, there seems to be significant disagreement within the Science Curriculum Writing Committee regarding revisions to the proposed science curriculum standards about issues that seem to be of legal and scientific substance, particularly with respect to the issue of the definition of science and the issue of origins and evolution; • WHEREAS, the controversy appears to mirror a controversy within the legal and scientific communities about these issues; • NOW THEREFORE, … • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a State Board Science Hearing Committee of the KSBE is hereby established to conduct hearings focused on the areas of disagreement outlined by the majority and minority positions of the Science Writing Committee, consisting of Steve Abrams, as Chair, Kathy Martin, as Vice-Chair, and Connie Morris, with such committee hereinafter referred to as the Science Hearing Committee… Excerpts from the “RESOLUTION REGARDING THE SCIENCE CURRICULUM STANDARDS” adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education, February 9, 2005

  8. Purpose of the State Board Hearings "Nothing's on trial, except maybe evolution," said Kathy Martin, one of the three board members -- all conservative -- who will hear the evidence. From “Monkey trial redux” Lawrence Journal World Alicia Henrikson, Joel Mathis, Wednesday, February 23, 2005 Calvert defended the expenses. "This is one of the most important issues facing education in the entire country," he said. From “Details set for debate on science standards” Lawrence Journal World Scott Rothschild Wednesday, April 20, 2005

  9. Purpose of the State Board Hearings John Calvert, director of the Intelligent Design Network and a lawyer, said the changes were meant to remove existing religious implications in the standards. He said the old definition said science can only be explained by material causes — a definition which favored atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism and other beliefs. But he said the new standards don’t favor any religion. “Yes, they are religiously motivated,” he said. “They’re motivated to get a religious problem out of the standards and replace that problem with scientific objectivity.” From “Series to focus on science standards” Lawrence Journal World, Sophia Maines Friday, March 17, 2006

  10. Purpose of the State Board Hearings “These hearings were not about my religious views. They were about what is good science.” John Calvert, excerpt from State Board Hearing summary, May 12, 2005. “These hearings have been an unjustified waste of taxpayer money intended first to justify the Board’s support for inserting Creationist claims into the science standards and to provide a showcase for the National Intelligent Design Movement.” Pedro Irigonegaray, excerpt from summary State Board Hearing, May 12, 2005.

  11. Participants in the State Board Hearings • 23 witnesses supporting the ‘minority report’ • John Calvert, retired lawyer, co-founder Intelligent Design Network • Pedro Irigonegaray, lawyer, private practice

  12. Participants in the State Board Hearings • Primary areas of training for 23 witnesses supporting the ‘minority report’

  13. Participants in the State Board Hearings • Highest degree attained by 23 witnesses supporting the ‘minority report’

  14. Participants in the State Board Hearings • Professional discipline of the 23 witnesses supporting the ‘minority report’

  15. Format of the State Board Hearings • Testimony from 23 witnesses supporting the ‘minority report’ on May 5 – 7 • On May 12, the Board Sub-committee heard summary statements from legal counsel defending Draft 2 of the science standards and legal counsel defending the ‘minority report’

  16. Format of the State Board Hearings • Procedure for testimony outlined by Chairman Steve Abrams prior to testimony on May 5: • Witnesses were called in a pre-determined order to present testimony • Opposing counsel has one-half of the time taken by the witness to ask questions • Board members have time equal to the opposing counsel to ask questions

  17. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Age of the earth as described by witnesses defending supporting the ‘minority report’

  18. Treatment of Science during the Hearings “Pedro Irigonegaray: Q. First, what is your opinion as to what the age of the world is? Bryan Leonard: A. I really don't have an opinion. Q. You have no opinion as to what the age of the world is? A. Four to four point five billion years is what I teach my students. Q. I'm asking what is your opinion as to what the age of the world is? A. 'Um, I was asked to come out here to talk about my experiences as a high school biology teacher. Q. I'm asking you, sir -- A. I was not under the impression that I was asked to come out here -- Q. I'm asking you – A. -- talking about -- Q. -- sir, what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?” Exchange during cross examination State Board Science Hearing, May 6, 2005.

  19. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Percentage of participants subscribing to the concept of common descent of humans

  20. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Evolution is highly controversial “ Why are some scientists tenaciously holding onto the evolutionary tennants that are unproven, as we have heard, and are often disproven?” Kathy Martin, excerpt from State Board Hearings summary statement, May 12, 2005 “I am convinced that the factor that makes it extremely difficult to discredit Darwinism today is the very factor that ensures the theory’s demise in the not very distant future… If Darwinism were to disappear tomorrow, experimental science would be unaffected, except insofar as the prestige of the ruling biologists might suffer so much that their funding would drop.” Philip E. Johnston “Taking the Cake” from Touchstone Magazine “Darwin’s last stand?” (Jul-August 2004) 17(6)

  21. Treatment of Science during the Hearings Claim: Evolution is highly controversial Problem! • Evolution remains a theory with broad ranging explanatory and predictive power • All major scientific organizations have issued statements supporting evolution and the nature of science • “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, Theodosius Dobzhansky.

  22. Nature of Science • Most obvious reason that evolution is not about to crumble as a scientific theory: Human Nature • Modern science is one of the most highly competitive, hierarchical human endeavors • Current NIH funding levels: 33 percent for all competitive proposals • Typical NSF funding levels: 24 percent including renewals (substantially less in basic science)

  23. Nature of Science • Scientists not only covet recognition for their achievements, the rewards system in science is built upon this type of visible acknowledgement of success • Were there any indication it would be possible to prove evolution false: • This would be a certain path to Nobel recognition • Multiple additional Nobel awards would follow as scientists worked out the implications of this • Ambitious young scientists would be all over this avenue of research (like ants on an ice cream sundae)

  24. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Claim: ‘Historical science’ is somehow different than other scientific disciplines “Steve Abrams: One of the things that I have promoted is the idea of imperical science and I define that as what is observable, measurable, testable with people, unfalsifiable, have those criteria, because I believe that that is the best way to avoid bias, the best way to achieve neutrality, is that something that many scientists ascribe to or few scientists or how would you say that? William Harris: I think the vast majority of scientists ascribe to that in the day-to-day work because the vast majority of scientists work in the-- what we call operational science today. They study the world as it works today from what I understand.” Excerpt from State Board Hearings, May 5

  25. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Claim: ‘Historical science’ is somehow different than other scientific disciplines “William Harris (cont.) It's when we get into questions of origins, historical sciences that falsifiable, for example, is impossible. You cannot strictly falsify something that may have happened 30 years ago or a thousand. historical science is a different character. I think they're a valuable type of science, but we have to be more careful with the way we treat their conclusions.” Excerpt from State Board Hearings, May 5

  26. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Claim: ‘Historical science’ is somehow different than other scientific disciplines “…what is so fascinating is that the Minority Report is not interested in all of science. It's interested and it's focused only on the issue of origin science. An origin science, I'm sorry, is a very peculiar science. It's peculiar in two respects. It is a science that unavoidably impacts religion, and much of what we heard today was prostilization for theistic evolution because that happens to be a religious concept that's consistent with evolution.” John Calvert, excerpt from State Board Hearings summary statement May 12, 2005

  27. Treatment of Science during the Hearings • Claim: ‘Historical science’ (‘origin science’ in this case) is somehow different than other scientific disciplines Problem! • Science doesn’t recognize this distinction • Scientific methods vary based on the complexity of the problem, the nature of the data available, and the maturity of the field • Scientific inferences based on data are judged to either be correct or incorrect • Scientific models stand at varying levels of completion and complexity • Scientific models and hypotheses that do not have explanatory power are discarded • These standards apply regardless of whether scientific investigations employ ‘contemporary’ or ‘historical’ data, and • Regardless of whether the model or hypothesis is constructed from direct observation or through inference based on related data

  28. Treatment of Science during the Hearings: Non-‘empirical’ Science • Particulate nature of matter • John Dalton: Atomic theory, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, October 23, 1803 • Proust & Dalton: Laws of definite & multiple proportions • Ernst Rutherford: Scattering of  &  radiation by nuclei E. Rutherford, “The scattering of  and  particles by matter and the structure of the atom,” Philosophical Magazine21, May 1911.

  29. Treatment of Science during the Hearings: Non-‘empirical’ Science • Particulate nature of matter • Determination of the charge of the electron Millikan R. A. "On the elementary electrical charge and the Avogadro constant" Physical Review, Series II1913,2, 109–143. • Bragg’s law: regular arrangement of atoms in crystals n = 2d sin() W.H. Bragg and W.L. Bragg ‘The reflection of X-rays by crystals 1’ Proc. Roy. Soc. A1913, 88, 428–438.

  30. Treatment of Science during the Hearings: Non-‘empirical’ Science • Particulate nature of matter • Imaging of individual platinum atoms using a scanning transmission electron microscope Crewe, Science1970, 168, 1338.

  31. Treatment of Science during the Hearings: Non-‘empirical’ Science • Particulate nature of matter: L. Boltzmann “It has been suggested that this acrimonious rejection of his statistical mechanics by Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Ostwald and the other ‘empiricists’ who objected to the invocation of atoms and molecules contributed to his suicide.” B. Schwarzschild, “A German professor’s trip to El Dorado,” Physics Today1992, 44-50.

  32. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science is dogmatic “The dogmatic approach is what is being advocated by the Majority Draft of the Kansas Science Standards. The point of the science hearings is to show that … there is a great controversy about biological evolution being taught as dogma.” Steve Abrams, letter published in Wichita Eagle

  33. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science is dogmatic “Evolution cannot be criticized. And you heard Mr. Irigonegaray say that, because, of course, if we allow evolution to be criticized then guess what happens, people begin to-- can then look at the evidence of design which we have otherwise expressed.” John Calvert, State Board Hearing summaries May 12, 2005

  34. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science is dogmatic Problem! • Science is constantly self-critical and self-correcting • Science rejects baseless opinion and personal conjecture in favor of explanations well supported by evidence • Science submits its findings for critical review based on the rules of the discipline, and the findings then rise or fall based on the results of those reviews • Evolution is constantly being criticized, evaluated and refined, and has been for the past 150 years!!

  35. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science makes statements that establish it as a secular religion “In other words, scientists must proceed as if philosophical naturalism is true…They can only see the evidence that would tend to support secular religion such as secular humanism or ideologies such as naturalism. They can never see any evidence that might possibly even indirectly support a theistic religion. “ Angus Menuge, Testimony, State Board Hearing, May 7, 2005.

  36. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science makes statements that establish it as a secular religion Problems! • In order to consider allowing non-natural forces (design) into scientific theories, scientists would have to see scientifically valid evidence that these forces exist • The goal of developing natural explanations for natural phenomena is not antagonistic to religion • In order to consider science as antagonistic, one must presuppose that evidence for design is present in nature and that evidence of design can only be supported by non-natural evidence • Any appearance of a lack of design in nature does not theologically negate the possibility of design

  37. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science makes statements that establish it as a secular religion Problems! Atrocious misuse of vocabulary! • “Origin science”: Science speaks to the origin of species, not to motivations or the lack of motivations behind creation. • “Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism”: Evolutionary theory is not an ‘ism’; anyone who treats it that way is guilty of misapplying science. • “Naturalism”: Science is based on a naturalistic approach to the observation and modeling of the universe. One can confine one’s self to applying naturalistic techniques to study nature without stating or inferring that the whole of human experience is bounded by these principles. Naturalistic methods are NOT the same as ‘naturalism’.

  38. Treatment of the Nature of Science during the Hearings • Claim: Science makes statements that establish it as a secular religion Problem! Atrocious misuse of vocabulary! “Secular humanism”: This is really annoying! Not only does this term not appear in Draft 2 of the Science Standards, none of the previous terms did, until the Board introduced them into their own version of the Standards! • “Just a theory”: Scientific theories are not uninformed guesses or speculation.

  39. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: Controversy is Raging over Evolution and the Nature of Science “What would be the effect if Darwinism disappeared tomorrow? Has the philosophy produced any practical scientific results? Has it impeded scientific progress? To put it another way, is it dangerous only as a veiled form of religious advocacy or also as a scientific mistake? Johnson: The importance of intelligent design in science is made murky by the fact that biologists even now freely employ the concept of design, saving themselves from charges of heresy by arbitrarily attributing the design to natural selection. Dembski: Natural selection acting on randomly varying replicators is fruitful and certainly a factor in biology. It needs to be properly acknowledged. On the other hand, the claim that this Darwinian mechanism can produce all of biological complexity and diversity represents a huge leap unwarranted by any evidence.” From: Touchstone Magazine “Darwin’s last stand?” (Jul-August 2004) 17(6) “The measure of design”

  40. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Reality: • Evolution is widely accepted and regarded among scientists today as a key principle of modern biology. • The claim that there is a controversy around evolution among members of the scientific community is utterly manufactured. • We should recognize that the perception of a crisis around the evolution is very real for a particular subset of citizens holding a particular religious world view.

  41. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Reality: “What is the current scientific status of evolutionary theory? Biology is far from understanding exactly how a single cell develops into a baby, but research suggests that human development can ultimately be explained in terms of biochemistry and molecular biology. Most scientists would make a similar statement about evolution. We cannot yet explain everything about our natural history, but we know enough to be sure that Darwin's mechanism was at the heart of it. How did we get here? We were produced by what Darwin called "descent with modification," a process of change that links us with the grand story of life on earth. In other words, like everything else on this warm and wonderful planet, we evolved.” Kenneth R. Miller, November 14, 1995, NOVA, Odyssey of Life, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/odyssey/debate/deb01mil1114.html

  42. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: Intelligent design is a scientific alternative for evolution Q: It is true, is it not, that there is no ID theory? A. I just said, no, I don't believe that. Q. You believe that there is a definable theory of Intelligent Design? • Yes, I do. It's certainly in progress. I would not advocate putting it in the curriculum for reasons other people have given here. It's a young theory. It hasn't proved itself, it doesn't deserve a place in the curriculum as a requirement. It's an exciting theory and I think a robust one. And not all of that is from Paul Nelson. Cross examination of Jonathan Wells, State Board Hearings, May 6, 2005.

  43. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: Intelligent design is a scientific alternative for evolution Q. You've mentioned ID theory. Would you please tell us precisely what ID theory is? • Intelligent Design theory is a scientific theory which argues that life on earth can be explained as a result of natural laws, chance, and intelligence. So it's a theory which argues that intelligence can be detected in nature and, yes, it is being detected. From the cross examination of Mustafa Akyol, May 6, 2005.

  44. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Reality: Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. As it is used in many contexts, it is not even a scientific hypothesis. “Where is the ID movement going in the next ten years? What new issues will it be exploring, and what new challenges will it be offering Darwinism? Nelson: Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a real problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity”—but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.” From: Touchstone Magazine “Darwin’s last stand?” (Jul-August 2004) 17(6) “The measure of design”

  45. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Reality: Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. As it is used in many contexts, it is not even a scientific hypothesis. “In short, with regard to Intelligent design, there is no theory of intelligent design or anything approaching it. Intelligent design is not used in scientific research, even by its proponents. All intelligent design is a series of failed and rejected criticisms of evolutionary theory.” Ken Miller, Biology Professor, Brown University, Letter to the Kansas Board of Education

  46. Inconsistency/Disingenuity Figures used in the Evolution Trial, Dover, Pennsylvania, 2005

  47. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: Addressing the controversy in science classes is just a matter of fairness “If the textbook was honest and candid, it would explain exactly that, that this book excludes evidence that is indeed relevant to the origins controversy, and we're not showing it to you. A few texts have a direct statement that science seeks natural causes for natural phenomena, but I would doubt that an eighth grader or even a senior in high school would understand the significance of that. Again, the issue is: Are we fully disclosing the assumptions that we're using and talking about the evidentiary basis for them?” John Calvert, excerpt from testimony at State Board Hearings, May 7, 2006

  48. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Reality: • Get real!!! Adolescents can’t understand the phrase “seeking natural causes for natural phenomena”? • Are we supposed to ask students to examine concepts like ‘naturalism’, ‘theistic naturalism’, ‘Darwinism’, ‘Neo-darwinism’, ‘secular humanism’, and ‘origin science’ when they don’t have anything to do with the practice of science anyway?

  49. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: “Historical science” is fundamentally different than “empirical science” • See previous arguments • Behavior: Vocabulary intended (at least in part) to confuse and mislead • See previous arguments

  50. Inconsistency/Disingenuity • Claim: Evolution has an a priori impact on religion “Sisson: Darwinism, by undermining the necessity to believe that any supernatural creative force must exist in our world, tends to diminish faith in any god, and thus to diminish commitment to the moral rules pronounced by those whose claim to authority derives from a god.” From: Touchstone Magazine “Darwin’s last stand?” (Jul-August 2004) 17(6) “The measure of design”