Pharyngula

Ugh…I’m against it

In Wisconsin, a bill has been proposed to ban intelligent design from science courses.

Two Democratic lawmakers introduced a plan Tuesday that would ban public schools from teaching intelligent design as science, saying “pseudo-science” should have no place in the classroom.
The proposal is the first of its kind in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and comes as a debate over how to teach the origins of human life rages in local school districts.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, acknowledged the measure faced an uphill fight in a Legislature where Republicans control both houses.
The measure would force material included in science curriculums to describe only natural processes. The material also would need to follow the definitions of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

Noooooooo! This isn’t how to do it!

Legislators need to keep their hands off science and science teaching, no matter what side they are taking. Promoting good science is OK; suggesting to school boards that they follow guidelines set by the major scientific ideas is so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said; picking and choosing and saying which specific ideas ought to be taught and making them part of law is just plain wrong.

This is one case where I’d side with the Republicans. This is too much interference.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Darrell
    February 8, 2006

    You’re right. When I saw that story, I hightailed it to Scienceblogs to be sure you and Ed Brayton knew about it. He’s sorta on the wrong side.

    Wisconsin’s proposal could be a lot worse — as I understand it, it doesn’t specifically say “intelligent design” is banned. But — good heavens! — think about what would have happened had the legislatures gotten into writing what was good and holy about cosmology, say, in 1910, or 1920 . . . or 1960.

    The support of science is good. Write that into the standards. Demand high standards in the science curricula. But don’t say “here be dragons” when we really don’t know. That’s the same error the anti-evolution people make.

  2. #2 Kristine
    February 8, 2006

    I agree. And BTW, a certain amount of pseudoscience, labeled as such, and described carefully, belongs in the classroom–to provide historical context, to illustrate the difference between it and the scientific method, and to answer students’ (and parents’) questions about issues of the day (like ID). This law, while well-intentioned, could give the illusion that science needs propping up by special legislation, when what science needs is proper funding and support through coherent government policy.

  3. #3 Brad Hoge
    February 8, 2006

    You know, at first glance, as an evolutionary scientist, my response was, it’s about damn time, but after finishing your article I agree with you entirely. Science standards are created to guide science teaching and that should be enough. There shouldn’t be a law requiring a teacher to stick strictly to the standards any more than there should be one requiring english teachers to concentrate solely on Shakespeare. Too much conrol of curricula is what’s hurting science education right now. Science isn’t constrained by dogma, it is constrained by natural law, and that should be the only point made by our law makers.

  4. #4 Somite
    February 8, 2006

    “The material also would need to follow the definitions of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.”

    Wouldn’t this prevent rogue teachers and board of education members from trying to teach what they want? I think following the NAS would be a good standard and flexible enough to accomodate knowledge changes.

    Cheers.

  5. #5 Jeff Hebert
    February 8, 2006

    picking and choosing and saying which specific ideas ought to be taught and making them part of law is just plain wrong.

    I didn’t interpret it that way. I think what the legislation is saying is that anything taught as science has to meet the definition of science laid out by the NAS. I don’t think it lays out “Theory A can be taught, Theory B cannot”, but rather is doing what you’re wanting — leaving out specific issues, but simply saying that if you’re going to teach something (whatever it is) as science, it has to meet the definition of science as given by the NAS.

    But, I haven’t seen the actual legislation, just the press reports. Before anyone gets too worked up, let’s see what it actually says.

  6. #6 Anonymous
    February 8, 2006

    I’m not sure if you’ll even find this worth reading, but someone linked me and I figured I’d post it here.

    http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/02/08/67028

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    February 8, 2006

    I’ve posted the actual text of the bill. It’s not specific at all to ID, it only requires that you can’t teach it in science classes if it isn’t actual science according to the NAS definitions.

  8. #8 Skemono
    February 8, 2006

    The actual legislation has been posted at Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

    SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:
    118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following:

    (1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

    (2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

    I think this is far more reasonable than if they had specifically said “teaching intelligent design is illegal”.

  9. #9 BlueIndependent
    February 8, 2006

    I just read that MNDaily article. The guy just rehashes the same crap, and predictably, citing Behe to support his argument.

    That guy didn’t even try to hide where he’s coming from. Is it worth reading? Probably not since it’s the same crap over and over. But at least we know his name and can challenge him publicly.

  10. #10 Jeff Hebert
    February 8, 2006

    What I really like about this legislation is that it brings the real fight out in the open — the actual goal of the Dembski/Behe crowd is to change the very definition of science. If that’s their goal, let’s not let them hide behind secret Wedge documents and false smiles, let’s fight it out in the open for all to see.

  11. #11 CS
    February 8, 2006

    Ed Brayton posted the actual text of the bill:

    SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:

    118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following:

    (1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

    (2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

    I support this. It does not single out specific topics, but simply requires material taught as “science” to actually be so under the definition accepted by the scientific community.

    I also do not see this as preventing speaking about historical scientific ideas or pseudoscience (if one wished to address these things), unless teachers treat them as real science. Also, if the ID camp gets its act together and actually comes out with real research and real models with testable predictions, it could potentially be reallowed in the classroom.

  12. #12 Ginger Yellow
    February 8, 2006

    Going on the text that Ed posted, I don’t really see anything wrong with the law. If you’re going to have legally mandated educational standards, I don’t see how you could get them any better. Perhaps the testable clause is superfluous – I can’t remember the NAS definition, but does it not include that?

  13. #13 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    February 8, 2006

    Based on the actual text of the bill, and not the description in the ens article, I approve of the bill. Intelligent Design is not singled out by name, it jsut doesn’t meet the standards specified, which we all knew already.

  14. #14 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    PZ, do you see a difference between such a requirement being a part of a body of state educational standards, versus it being a part of state law?

    I’m a bit conflicted myself about the proposed legislation, in terms of it being a law instead of a model standard, but given how there have been creationists trying to get ID taught in biology classes in Wisconsin I can understand why some may think such legislation is necessary.

  15. #15 Joe G
    February 8, 2006

    Both the Courts and the politicians should stay out of science.

    What is the evidence that shows IDists are trying to change the definition of science? From what I have read all IDists want is to be able to follow the data/ evidence to where it leads- even if it leads to the metaphysical, or just implies it.

    So IF we keep what is taught to what is “testable”, wouldn’t that leave out most, if not all, of what is being debated?

    As Dr. Behe said- “How could one falsify the claim that a particular biochemical system was produced by a Darwinian process?”

    Or perhaps how can we test the claim that a population of single-celled organisms could “evolve” into anything but a population of single-celled organisms? Sure we can deduce it happened, but only under the assumption that it can/ did.

    What I say is to present the data to the students and allow for open and rigorous debate given the available options. We exist- what, exactly, are the options to that existence? I see three:

    1) Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
    2) Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
    3) A combination of 1 & 2

    It should be noted that bioth “intelligence” and “design” are natural processes. It should also be noted that the origin of nature could not have been via natural processes because natural processes only exist in nature. Meaning it is futile to try to “define” ID out of science because the anti-ID position cannot live up to the same standards.

    Here is a question:
    When Karl von Linne was trying to figure out the Created Kinds and developed binomial nomenclature, was he conducting scientific research?

  16. #16 Viking
    February 8, 2006

    From Wisconsin Public Radio: After six, Joy Cardin’s guest lawmaker says pseudosciences (SOO-doh-SCI-en-sez) like intelligent design are threatening science education in public schools. She’ll explain why she’s drafting a law she says will protect the integrity of science education. Guest: Terese Berceau, democratic state representative from Madison.
    Listen via RealPlayer:
    http://www.wpr.org/cardin/index.cfm?strDirection=Prev&dteShowDate=2006%2D02%2D08%2007%3A00%3A00

  17. #17 Jeff Hebert
    February 8, 2006

    Joe G wrote:

    What is the evidence that shows IDists are trying to change the definition of science?

    Read the Wedge Document from the Discovery Institute, the primary proponent of ID:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

    Or check out Behe’s testimony in the Dover trial, admitting that under his proposed definition of science even astrology would be science:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8178

    Their goal is to change the definition of science so that theistic, supernatural explanations have equal weight with those that are materialistic. In other words, “God did it” would be of equal value to “Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen”.

  18. #18 Troutnut
    February 8, 2006

    I approve, too. If this text of the bill is all there is, it sounds like a fine reinforcement of often-challenged common sense.

    I fervently agree, PZ, that legislators should not rule on which particular scientific findings constitute science. But I don’t see this bill doing that, nor do I see it as a “slippery slope” leading to that.

    Furthermore, it seems the bill applies to “material presented as science within the school curriculum.” That wording would allow the presentation of pseudoscience as pseudoscience for comparison.

  19. #19 Inoculated Mind
    February 8, 2006

    I find it incredible that Dembski is offering a cash award to the first teacher to break this law when it in place, suggesting (through a link to the Alliance Defence Fund) that it is an issue of freedom of speech. Apparently, he didn’t read the text of the bill either.

    I think that this bill would divert attention to the real issue, that ID is a set of untestable ideas founded in religion, and that they have to change the definition of science to get it in the curriculum. That’s the public discussion that I want to hear.

  20. #20 Ron Zeno
    February 8, 2006

    If that’s the entire bill, then it looks like good politics, good for education, and passable for science. It’s a excellent way to divide those that actually care about education and science from those that have other agendas.

    Does anyone (besides the creationists) have any arguments against it, now that the text is available?

  21. #21 Don Culberson
    February 8, 2006

    Quoting Viking:
    “As Dr. Behe said- “How could one falsify the claim that a particular biochemical system was produced by a Darwinian process?””

    /shrug… who says the process was “Darwinian”, whatever that is? By similar, if redundant, token, we might ask Professor Behe, “How could one falsify the claim that a particular biochemical system was produced (ultimately) by an “intelligent designer”?

    As we constantly beg, “Show us some science.”

    I am mulling over exactly what I think about the proposed legislation. I think I tend toward the camp that says don’t legislate… let the scientists teach the science. I would hope that serious institutions would police their own offerings as was done in Caroline Crocker’s case at George Mason U. However, being from Alabama, I have to admit it is refreshing to see a state political discourse that actually shows signs of hoping to do something positive for science education.
    Uncle Don

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    February 8, 2006

    After reading the text of the bill, my attitude towards it softens quite a bit — it’s not that bad. I still oppose it, though, just not as strongly and only on principle.

    I find the attempts to circumvent scientific review by legislating pseudoscience, as the creationists do, reprehensible. I find attempts to legislate good science, even with the best intentions, to be almost as bad. States should set standards for the educational system in cooperation with teachers and scientists, but setting laws to enforce those standards is too much — even if it is in response to creationist attempts to cheat.

  23. #23 Jeff Hebert
    February 8, 2006

    Don Colberson said:

    … I would hope that serious institutions would police their own offerings …

    Unfortunately that hope has been shown to die a-borning, with state after state introducing legislation specifically designed to contravent what the scientists base their science on. It’s time to fight the war that’s being waged rather than pining for a peaceful past that’s long since gone.

  24. #24 Ungeround
    February 8, 2006

    I support this bill, its clear and doesnt single out any particular junk science for attention.

  25. #25 rrt
    February 8, 2006

    I dunno either. At first I agreed with the “vehemently opposed” camp until reading those excerpts from the bill. But I’m still uncomfortable with government legislating about what can be taught as science. Moreover, the law does specify the NAS as a standard…that might be risky. How do we qualify who we choose as a standard, and insulate it from politics?

  26. #26 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    I find attempts to legislate good science, even with the best intentions, to be almost as bad. States should set standards for the educational system in cooperation with teachers and scientists, but setting laws to enforce those standards is too much

    I have previously proposed introducing legislation requiring biology teachers to teach the consensus explanation of the world’s professional biologists for the diversity of life on earth and, to the extent that any disfavored explanations are discussed, the reasons that those explanations are bogus or ignored by professional scientists must also be presented. If creationism is discussed as an alternative, the history of the creationist movement and its exposure as a non-science in Federal Courts must be presented.

    Is this “good” legislation? I don’t really care.

    It’s awesome fucking politics is what it is.

    Put the knife in these fundie assholes and turn it.

  27. #27 Nate
    February 8, 2006

    I find attempts to legislate good science, even with the best intentions, to be almost as bad.

    I disagree. I support the legislation of excluding pseudoscience from science classrooms, the reason being that while “scientific review” obviously means nothing to a “science teacher” teaching ID, the law would still protect the children from their idiocy…much like “equality” meant nothing to Jim Crow states, but the Supreme Court decision banning segregation made them comply with the ideal anyway.

    I’m not a scientist, and I do fully understand why you as a community would want to maintain as much independence from legislation as possible. However, the bill does defer to the NAS. I find it perfectly appropriate that the government should legislate to force their own institutions (i.e. public schools) to follow a standard, and I believe the NAS is an appropriate standard for science classes to follow.

  28. #28 steve s
    February 8, 2006

    William Dembski on the Wisconsin bill:

    “I take this as a clear sign that we are winning.”

    and

    “Dover certainly wasn’t ID’s Waterloo. Wisconsin may well be evolution’s Waterloo.”

    LOL.

  29. #29 rabbit
    February 8, 2006

    I, too, agree that this law looks like a good law, and a very generalized restriction still allowing for the individual schools and educators to build their curriculum as they feel is best. This law seems only to say that anything presented as science must actually be science according to a respected national body, and I can’t imagine that being a bad thing. If this law said ‘x must be taught in y manner,’ then I would be opposed, as well, but in this case it seems like such a broad guideline as to be analogous to ‘do stuff with numbers in math’ or ‘read in your lit classes.’ It shouldn’t really be necessary to lay that stuff out, but if people were trying to teach calculus in literature classes I’d be all for a law laying out the definition of a literature class as well, rudimentary as that would be, because obviously some are still unclear on the concept.

  30. #30 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Dembski

    “Dover certainly wasn’t ID’s Waterloo. Wisconsin may well be evolution’s Waterloo.”

    Dover was the ID’s Waterloo and Wisconsin is just more celebratory fireworks.

    Did the Discovery Institute hire George Deutsch yet?

  31. #31 Steve Sutton
    February 8, 2006

    I think the law is meant to deter certain religious teachers and boards of education from trying to teach religious issues as science, as well as to ensure the accuracy of the science that is taught. I don’t see it as affecting science itself, just the teaching of it. It would be nice, if such measures weren’t needed, but, in this day and age, the teaching of accurate science needs all the help it can get.

  32. #32 Eric Wallace
    February 8, 2006

    Like PZ, I’m sorta reluctant to support this bill. I can’t disagree with its contents, but I think the larger context has to be considered. Passing a law like this can make it appear as if an idea–the definition of science–is just another partisan issue.

    It’s like that infamous law defining Pi. Of course I can’t support a law defining Pi to be 3, but neither would I support one defining Pi to be 3.14159… Because it isn’t a law that makes Pi what it is!

    Laws can be fought, and they can be changed. It’s easier to organize a fight if you can label your enemies as partisan legislators and “activist” judges than if you are fighting against reason. That’s probably why Dembski thinks this is good for him.

  33. #33 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    So what are they calling this bill?

    I propose: the “Honesty in Science Education” bill.

    Let the Discovery Institute fight it.

    Bring it on, please.

    And PZ — please think seriously about reconsidering and/or retracting your public rejection. There is nothing wrong with legislating education standards if the standards are properly written. Feel free to propose alternatives, as I did, but this sort of approach is EXACTLY what we’ve been needing to do for a long time: give the fundies a fat slap their faces (to coin a phrase).

  34. #34 Anonymous
    February 8, 2006

    Eric

    “Passing a law like this can make it appear as if an idea–the definition of science–is just another partisan issue.”

    Gee, Eric, you’re about ten years too late if you’re worrying about this perception.

  35. #35 Anonymous
    February 8, 2006

    Eric

    It’s easier to organize a fight if you can label your enemies as partisan legislators

    Are there any other kinds?

  36. #36 Glen Davidson
    February 8, 2006

    I think that if pseudosciences become too intrusive, then such a bill might be necessary. I hope it won’t come to that, and I prefer the idea that the grassroots should largely prevail in deciding local education.

    It was perverse, but IDists were saying that the courts shouldn’t decide science after Dover. At last they got something right, however hypocritically, and if we can prevent the government from dictating what science is we’ll be the better off for it. I suppose it sounds platitudinous (and I suppose it is), but there is something to be said for trying to support good science education at the local political level.

    An example I used on PT against this bill is that conceivably it might be used against teaching high school students a bit about String Theory, which is notoriously not testable at this time. And while I don’t think that such an untested theory should take up much time in high school physics classes, a short introduction would seem appropriate in some cases. Strictly interpreted, the bill might disallow this. It seems overly intrusive, then, and I hope that it never becomes necessary to use such methods to keep crystal healing or some other secular rot out of science instruction.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  37. #37 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Glen

    An example I used on PT against this bill is that conceivably it might be used against teaching high school students a bit about String Theory

    Uh … so what?

  38. #38 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Glen

    if we can prevent the government from dictating what science is we’ll be the better off for it.

    Look. Someone has to decide what science is so teachers employed by THE GOVERNMENT know what to teach. Now, who should do that? Individual school boards? Or a group of professional scientists and educators in the National Academy of Sciences?

    I suppose it sounds platitudinous (and I suppose it is), but there is something to be said for trying to support good science education at the local political level.

    I can’t think of better support for good science education at the local political level then a law such as the one I proposed (which is better than the law proposed in Wisconsin, but not much better).

  39. #39 Craig Ewert
    February 8, 2006

    Great White Wonder wrote: “Someone has to decide what science is so teachers employed by THE GOVERNMENT know what to teach.”

    Maybe it’s time to reexamine the idea of publicly PROVIDED (as opposed to FUNDED) education? Like the Post Office, and the National Library, perhaps city- and state-run schools can now be dispensed with?

    It could be like single payer health insurance: you go to the teacher you like, and the government picks up the tab.

  40. #40 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Craig

    Maybe it’s time to reexamine the idea of publicly PROVIDED (as opposed to FUNDED) education?

    What do you mean “maybe it’s time”? The idea of dismantling public schools and replacing them with a voucher-based program is debated all the time throughout the country and has been for quite a while.

    I’m not sure why the Wisconsin law suddenly makes this issue suddenly more pressing in your mind. Is the issue of teaching facts about biology and science so controversial that the only “solution” is to throw the baby out with the bathwater and let the free market decide?

    I think that’s sort of a pathetic cop-out but a lot of self-identifying libertarian-types are prone to such behavior.

  41. #41 PaulC
    February 8, 2006

    I agree with PZ.

    We want to establish that ID is a religious view, that the constitution prohibits the use of public funds to promote a particular religious view, and that therefore it is unconstitutional to teach ID in a public school science class.

    Passing a bill to prohibit the teaching of ID suggests that we think it could under some circumstances be permitted under the constitution. Such a bill is not only heavy-handed and stupid, it makes its supporters look weak because the larger issue is that such a bill is unnecessary; ID is already prohibited from being taught as science.

  42. #42 PaulC
    February 8, 2006

    And, sure, if somebody wanted to teach non-religiously based bad science (e.g. phlogiston theory) then that would be permitted under the constitution. I don’t recommend a bill for that either; we just have to require a certain level of competence from the people setting the approved school curriculum. If that requirement fails (which it often does) then it’s bad news, but a legislative prohibition is not the appropriate fix.

  43. #43 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    PaulC

    Passing a bill to prohibit the teaching of ID suggests that we think it could under some circumstances be permitted under the constitution.

    Gosh, well, I happen to think that teaching ID is permitted under the Constitution, just not in public schools under the guise of “science” or as a religious idea that is more valid than any other religious idea (e.g., the religious idea that black people and white people shouldn’t intermarry).

    So what is your problem with the bill?

    It sounds to me like those opposed to the bill are afraid of being “perceived” in a certain way.

    My advice: stop being chicken shits.

    We’ve seen what happens when the Discovery Institute and the fundies are allowed to frame the issues again and again and again. It’s not healthy for science education.

    So get with the program and stop the fucking whining.

    I don’t recommend a bill for that either; we just have to require a certain level of competence from the people setting the approved school curriculum.

    Whose “we” Paul? How are these levels determined? How are they articulated? How are they enforced?

    If that requirement fails (which it often does) then it’s bad news, but a legislative prohibition is not the appropriate fix.

    What is, Paul? If representative democracratic solutions are out of the equation, then what do you propose?

  44. #44 dkon
    February 8, 2006

    I find the attempts to circumvent scientific review by legislating pseudoscience, as the creationists do, reprehensible. I find attempts to legislate good science, even with the best intentions, to be almost as bad. States should set standards for the educational system in cooperation with teachers and scientists, but setting laws to enforce those standards is too much — even if it is in response to creationist attempts to cheat.

    Just to add my perspective here from Wisconsin: I find the distinction between setting standards and legislating their enforcement rather thin. And there are no enforcement provisions in the bill anyway – so it really reads as a guideline more than a statute.

    I think the bill is motivated by the problem that I heard expressed by Ron Numbers, a historian of science here at UW-M (who was involved in drafting this bill). He explained in a talk that the only legal recourse we have in fighting creationism/ID is tying it to religion, and arguing that it violates the church/state separation. However, teaching bad science is perfectly legal and constitutional, so when IDiots learn to cover their tracks better (they keep trying, but tentacles of god keep poking out) we’ll be out of legal remedies. I know ends don’t justify the means, but in this case I think the means are appropriate and the ends are critical for science education.
    Dmitry

  45. #45 Steve Sutton
    February 8, 2006

    “We want to establish that ID is a religious view, that the constitution prohibits the use of public funds to promote a particular religious view, and that therefore it is unconstitutional to teach ID in a public school science class.”

    We already have. 😉

  46. #46 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    However, teaching bad science is perfectly legal and constitutional, so when IDiots learn to cover their tracks better (they keep trying, but tentacles of god keep poking out) we’ll be out of legal remedies. I know ends don’t justify the means, but in this case I think the means are appropriate and the ends are critical for science education.

    I second this with the reservation that my own proposed legislation is superior.

    And I repeat myself: if such legislation allegedly precludes high schoolers from being taught string theory, so what?

    And if such legislation leads to Discovery Institute losers attempting to argue that contemporary evolutionary biology is pseudoscience, so what? They already do that anyway. And they lose. With this legislation, the road will be that much rockier for the ID peddlers.

    Plus, it serves merely to drive into the ground the stake set by Kitzmiller.

    POLITICS PEOPLE. The fundy theocrats are on the ground. Now it’s time to kick them in the head with the iron-toed boot. Don’t run home to mommy until the referee blows the whistle, okay?

  47. #47 Anonymous
    February 8, 2006

    “We want to establish that ID is a religious view, that the constitution prohibits the use of public funds to promote a particular religious view, and that therefore it is unconstitutional to teach ID in a public school science class.”

    We already have. 😉

    You know it, I know it, PZ knows it.

    Now let’s teach a bunch more of the rubes in Wisconsin what happened in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

    Remember those rubes? This legislation is for them.

  48. #48 Colin Danby
    February 8, 2006

    I would really prefer to do this by persuading people about what’s good about scientific knowledge — even if that means occasionally losing a battle — than by legislating like this. This kind of legislative management is a bad precedent, and puts local teachers under even more pressure. Look, for example, at the “standards” for science teaching that were I think discussed here some months back, many of which are vacuous, but which nonetheless force individual teachers to do all kinds of silly things to show compliance. You can’t manage the classroom from the legislature.

  49. #49 haliaeetus
    February 8, 2006

    I’m so … mixed.

    The idea that it’s come to the point laws have to be created for everything – including the bloody obvious – bugs the hell out of me.

    But I also think in the long-run this could save school boards and hence the taxpayers millions of dollars, as it seems there’s a new ID school bill introduced everyday.

    But … something I wondered about during Dover … aren’t there already national standards schools must meet? How can they teach (to test) anything related to ID and meet those standards?

  50. #50 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    After a bit of consideration, I don’t like the idea of making the teaching of what’s deemed to be pseudoscience illegal, because it sets a precedent that says the state can and should punish what it deems to be improper thought. You can be sure that the next thing we’d see introduced is a bill that defined what valid artistic expression should be, based on guidelines set by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or by Jesse Helms, if he has anything to do with it.

  51. #51 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    David

    You can be sure that the next thing we’d see introduced is a bill that defined what valid artistic expression should be, based on guidelines set by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    The fundies already propose such bills ALL THE TIME.

    This bill would do NOTHING to affect that behavior of fundies.

    But it would show that Wisconsin gives a shit about science education. That’s why the bill is called “Honesty in Science Education.” Right? What is this bill being called by its promoters?

  52. #52 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Maybe those of us who aren’t involved in science education should just admit that science teachers are politically clueless and give up.

    Would that make everyone happy?

  53. #53 Keith Douglas
    February 8, 2006

    Personally, I would want legislation to contain a sort of pointer to some consultation process where appropriate experts are consulted. This unfortunately has the problem of expertise in general – how do you recognize an expert when you are ignorant yourself? Anyway, it does beat “hard coding” the current state of science (or any other subject) into the law as well as avoids avoid ossifying any particular means or approach to teaching it, which would be just as bad.

  54. #54 PaulC
    February 8, 2006

    me:

    Passing a bill to prohibit the teaching of ID suggests that we think it could under some circumstances be permitted under the constitution.

    GWW:
    Gosh, well, I happen to think that teaching ID is permitted under the Constitution

    I won’t try to excuse my sloppy phrasing, so I’ll just rewrite it:

    Passing a bill to prohibit the teaching of ID as science in a publicly funded science class suggests that we think teaching ID as science in a publicly funded science class could under some circumstances be permitted under the constitution.

    Hope this clears things up.

  55. #55 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Passing a bill to prohibit the teaching of ID as science in a publicly funded science class suggests that we think teaching ID as science in a publicly funded science class could under some circumstances be permitted under the constitution.

    Hope this clears things up.

    Not really. States have a lot of laws that are redundant with the US Constitution. They even have their own Constitutions which are redundant with the US Constitution.

    The existence of such documents suggests very little about what the Constitution says. I wonder why you would think otherwise, Paul? Seriously: do you have any evidence showing that vast numbers of people other than yourself are prone to this misconception and are unable to be educated as to the facts about how state laws and our Constitution interface?

  56. #56 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    The fact that some fundamentalists may do the wrong thing with respect to legislating guidelines for the arts doesn’t mean those supporting the sciences have to imitate them by trying to pass such laws themselves.

  57. #57 Sastra
    February 8, 2006

    It’s not unconstitutional to teach pseudoscience, but it’s certainly not a good idea. My first thought on reading this bill wasn’t its application to Intelligent Design, but its application to such things as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, bioenergy, homeopathy, Feng Shui, mind reading, spoon bending, vitalism, ghosts, pet psychics, etc.

    If you look at the statistics, belief in these forms of pseudoscience is almost as high as belief in Creationism — and it’s a lot harder to connect them directly to religion. Plus, level of education doesn’t seem to correlate with skepticism here: even intelligent people put a lot of weight on sincere testimonials and tend to think there is good, solid science supporting this stuff. The common assumption is that there’s a controversy. Close-minded materialist scientists are ignoring the evidence. Sounds familiar.

    So what happens if a public high school decides to teach homeopathy as an “alternative” view of chemistry, or “chi” as one way of doing physics? My guess is that this isn’t unlikely. Legitimate nursing schools have already been invaded by odd forms of alt med and the media gets huge ratings when they promote psychic powers as true fact.

    I don’t know. Perhaps the public schools need some kind of legal rein on unscientific nonsense taught as science in general. No need to single out creationism.

  58. #58 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    But it would show that Wisconsin gives a shit about science education. That’s why the bill is called “Honesty in Science Education.” Right? What is this bill being called by its promoters?

    I think there are better ways of caring about science education in Wisconsin than the passing of this proposed bill, however well-intentioned it may be.

  59. #59 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    The fact that some fundamentalists may do the wrong thing with respect to legislating guidelines for the arts doesn’t mean those supporting the sciences have to imitate them by trying to pass such laws themselves.

    Proposing legislation to regulate public funding of arts is not “wrong.” It’s stupid — in my opinion and yours.

    If you think that proposing legislation to underscore solid science teaching in public schools is “stupid” then explain why. Thus far, I haven’t heard any compelling arguments to support the idea that this legislation is stupid. All I’ve heard is chickens clucking.

    I mean, what the fuck is the matter? Between Nathan Newman’s “no courts” and this crowd’s “no legislation” I’m a bit confused about what our strategy is.

    Perhaps the strategy is just to sit back and keep reacting to whatever the fundies come up.

    That sounds like typical Democratic Party behavior. Remind me — has that been successful lately?

  60. #60 Timothy Chase
    February 8, 2006

    Steve S. wrote:

    William Dembski on the Wisconsin bill:

    “I take this as a clear sign that we are winning.”

    Dembski takes it as a clear sign they are winning whenever someone gives him the raspberry…

  61. #61 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    I think there are better ways of caring about science education in Wisconsin than the passing of this proposed bill, however well-intentioned it may be.

    Sure. No one claimed it was the best idea in the world.

    The issue is whether this bill is bad for science or bad politics. And I don’t see a compelling argument for either view.

  62. #62 Steve LaBonne
    February 8, 2006

    Normally I am anything but a fan of politicians meddling in the substance of education. But after pondering the text of that bill for a while I see no reason to oppose it. It does not dictate content, it’s simply a truth-in-advertising bill. I wish it weren’t necessary, and in an ideal world it obviously wouldn’t be- but that’s not the world we’re living in.

  63. #63 Flex
    February 8, 2006

    To haliaeetus,

    There is already national and state level legislation in place which require certain standards to be met. You should be able to find them easily enough through your state’s department of education website.
    Michigan has a fairly nice site which provides a chart listing both the state school aid acts as well as the federal acts which require adherance.
    The stick which makes the local school district adhere to those standards is having funding withheld. The decision to withhold funding comes from the state department of education or in some cases the state treasurer. (Part of MCL 388.1617a)
    I’m certainly not an expert in school financing, but I doubt that the stick is used very often. There are a number of forms available on the Michigan website for corrective action plans, which implies to me that the department of education will prefer to work with the district to improve the education rather than beat them with the loss of funds to comply.
    The point is, the stick for maintaining state standards is already at the state level legislative level, is part of state law. Many of the standards are also at state level, and some of the do include some very specific guidlines on what should be taught to meet the state standards. For example, the Ensuring Early Childhood Literacy policy, or Revision of the Mi Curriculum Framework.
    Most of these policies are from the Michigan department of Education. However, these policies can be overwritten by legislation by the Michigan legislature. Or added to, for example according to the MCL, all teachers are required to take an oath to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Michigan. This is a legislative act (MCL 388.401-388.402) passed in 1935 and has never been repealed.
    Whether you think it is appropriate for a legislature to set educational standard or not, they have done so in the past and they will in the future.
    We know that the creationist have already realized it, and have continually attempted to create legislation which would trump even rational state department of education standards. I see no problem with fighting back, and the text of the proposed legislation seems loose enough to allow even the discussion of theories.
    After all, while the law would be on the books for enforcement of the guidelines when necessary, it will not be used until a complaint is filed. I don’t think any complaints would be filed about a discussion of string theory, but it may well be against a teacher who claimed that creationism is science.

    I’d take that risk.

    My $0.02.

    -Flex

  64. #64 Will McKenna
    February 8, 2006

    Having read the text of the bill it sounds pretty good to me. All it does is set down the accepted definition of science to be used for schools. What is wrong with that?

    I think this is actually a much better way to attach the ID proponents. Instead of being cornered by discussions about the gaps in evolution we are able to go on the offensive by arguing about what the definition of science should be. The will argue for a definition that includes supernatural power that is untestable. We can point out that all kinds of idiocy will fall under this definition (power crystals, astrology, tarot cards, magic, etc…).

    One of the major difficulties for scientists in arguing against ID has been that they are constantly arguing about what evolution means and its failings. Moving away from that argument would be an improvement.

  65. #65 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    The fact that some fundamentalists may do the wrong thing with respect to legislating guidelines for the arts doesn’t mean those supporting the sciences have to imitate them by trying to pass such laws themselves.

    Proposing legislation to regulate public funding of arts is not “wrong.” It’s stupid — in my opinion and yours.

    I disagree. I think it’s wrong for the state to start legislating just which scientific ideas are or are not allowed to be discussed in the classroom. It’s wrong when fundamentalists do it regarding the arts, and I think it serves no useful purpose for the sciences either, as there have been and will continue to be times when something deemed scientifically invalid (Wegner’s theory of continental drift for instance) turns out to have merit. That doesn’t mean we allow pseudoscience to be taught in the classroom, it means we don’t make state legislators the arbitors of what constitutes science. Sure, they may defer to the NAS right now, but any law can be changed, and keep in mind that Wisconsin’s governor has a line item veto power which allows for individual words and even letters to be struck out, so it pays to be very careful about what you wish for.

  66. #66 Ron Zeno
    February 8, 2006

    In the The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s report, The State of State Science Standards 2005, Wisconsin recieved an F (29%) with a 0/3 on evolution. They need this bill, and much much more. (http://tinyurl.com/9qjhx)

  67. #67 hemlok
    February 8, 2006

    Gotta disagree with you on this one, PZ. To pass legislation that a public school science program limit it’s curriculum to what is actually considered “Science” by mainstream “Scientists” seems to me to offer no risk of harm or limit, and yet prevents idiots from teaching whatever they choose to believe AS science. Also prevents the greatest risk to real science education, the old “hey, the MAJORITY believes it, we need to teach what the majority believes” line of non-reasoning…

    mikey

  68. #68 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Wilford

    I disagree. I think it’s wrong for the state to start legislating just which scientific ideas are or are not allowed to be discussed in the classroom.

    As a blanket matter? Why?

    I think it serves no useful purpose for the sciences either, as there have been and will continue to be times when something deemed scientifically invalid (Wegner’s theory of continental drift for instance) turns out to have merit.

    Before the consensus of professional scientists thought Wegner’s idea had merit, would it be “wrong” to keep the idea out of public school science classrooms? If so, why would it be wrong?

    we don’t make state legislators the arbitors of what constitutes science.

    Not even if the state legislators are merely saying that what constitutes science is what the overwhelming consensus of professional scientists say is science?

    Why the fuck not?

    Sure, they may defer to the NAS right now, but any law can be changed

    That doesn’t help your argument, David.

  69. #69 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Mikey

    To pass legislation that a public school science program limit it’s curriculum to what is actually considered “Science” by mainstream “Scientists” seems to me to offer no risk of harm or limit, and yet prevents idiots from teaching whatever they choose to believe AS science. Also prevents the greatest risk to real science education, the old “hey, the MAJORITY believes it, we need to teach what the majority believes” line of non-reasoning…

    Worth repeating. Can anyone rebut the logic of Mikey’s comment? I’m still waiting.

    Before answering, please consider that *if* the consensus of US scientists decides that science includes supernatural crap, all of our “Constitutional” arguments are pure shit and it doesn’t really matter what the Wisconsin statute says, does it?

    I urge the Chicken Littles running around here (including PZ) to wrap their heads around this fact.

    We need more legislators like the brave legislators in Wisconsin and less diaper-crapping by alleged science supporters who run in fear whenever rightwing nutcases like Dembski shout “You’ll be sorrryyyy!!!”

  70. #70 PaulC
    February 8, 2006

    GWW:

    The existence of such documents suggests very little about what the Constitution says. I wonder why you would think otherwise, Paul? Seriously: do you have any evidence showing that vast numbers of people other than yourself are prone to this misconception and are unable to be educated as to the facts about how state laws and our Constitution interface?

    Having a law would simply finesse future court battles that are winnable and in our political interest to win. Ideally, every time a schoolboard tries to teach ID, it’s another Dover case until the precedent is so well established that nobody even tries.

    I agree that lots of laws are redundant and this poses no particular problem in general. But in this particular case it’s a foregone conclusion that IDers will treat the existence of such a law as a lack of confidence in the unconstitutionality of teaching ID in public school science classrooms.

    As a short-term measure, such a law keeps ID out of public school science classrooms. However, it does absolutely nothing to promote the general perception that teaching ID in public school science class violates the establishment clause. Whether it reduces the perception is open I guess.

    Maybe you’re right that I’m crazy in thinking that anyone could possibly imagine that the law had been written to add additional restrictions rather than simply reiterate a well-understood constitutional prohibition that existed already. But if the goal is to have most Americans understand that ID is religion and violates the establishment clause, then this law is at best neutral to such a goal.

  71. #71 Radi
    February 8, 2006

    How do we qualify who we choose as a standard, and insulate it from politics?

    Posted by: rrt | February 8, 2006 11:47 AM

    RRT has summed up EXACTLY why this bill is a bad idea!

  72. #72 Ed Darrell
    February 8, 2006

    After thinking about it, I’m still unhappy with the bill.

    Does the Wisconsin bill offer any advantage in the definition of science over the common law definition of science that has emerged out of the Arkansas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania trials, and tort law? I don’t think so.

    Our friends in Wisconsin have the best of intentions. But this is not the way to go: Conceding that science is what the state legislature is not a good concession to make.

  73. #73 Ed Darrell
    February 8, 2006

    “what the state legislature says it is”

    Regret for the error.

  74. #74 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    But in this particular case it’s a foregone conclusion that IDers will treat the existence of such a law as a lack of confidence in the unconstitutionality of teaching ID in public school science classrooms.

    So what? ID peddlers treat a lot of facts in strange ways.

    Should we not publish scientific data that will be “treated” by ID peddlers in a way that you don’t approve of, Paul?

    I don’t get it. What are you whining about?

    it does absolutely nothing to promote the general perception that teaching ID in public school science class violates the establishment clause.

    Gosh, Paul, it seems to me that someone like yourself could use this bill as an excuse to educate the public about Kitzmiller v. Dover. After all, Judge Jones isn’t simply going to reissue his opinion because discussion in the public has died down.

    Or are people like you afraid to speak up, Paul, unless you are put on the defensive by creationist nutjobs who have framed the debate for you?

    That’s a sincere question. It’s okay to be afraid. But admit it, at least.

    if the goal is to have most Americans understand that ID is religion and violates the establishment clause, then this law is at best neutral to such a goal.

    Really? Why? Because you say so?

    What will happen on the floor in the Capital when this law is discussed? Do you think Kitzmiller v. Dover will be discussed? Will that opinion and that discussion not enter into the legislative history of this law?

    Here Wisconsin scientists and science educators have a golden opportunity to present their views about “intelligent design” and FRAME THE DISCUSSION for the rubes in Wisconsin so that those rubes can begin to understand why ID is unconstitutional and why the Discovery Institute charlatans are peddlers of the lowest order.

    But no! The chicken littles are afraid that the bad old conservative Republicans are going to snatch the moment away and turn this all into a debacle for science supporters, just like Bill Dembski said!!!!

    Could Bill Dembksi be right? Sure. But that would mean that supporters of science simply fucked up a golden opportunity. It doesn’t mean that the opportunity itself was mythical or doomed.

    That sort of thinking is why Judge Alito is a Supreme Court justice right now. In New York City, we call that “being a pussy.”

  75. #75 Anonymous
    February 8, 2006

    Radi

    How do we qualify who we choose as a standard, and insulate it from politics?
    Posted by: rrt | February 8, 2006 11:47 AM

    RRT has summed up EXACTLY why this bill is a bad idea!

    Why is that? Because someone can’t answer a question without pooping his diaper?

    I’m not convinced.

  76. #76 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    Ed Darrell

    Conceding that science is what the state legislature is not a good concession to make.

    Oh — is that what’s happening, Ed?

    Is that how the legislators in Wisconsin are promoting the bill or is that how you propose to frame the issue for supporters of science education?

    Either way, that’s a stupid way to look at a law which is clearly intended to provide the children of Wisconsin with an honest science education.

    Funny that you choose to look at the law through the lens of the Discovery Institute. What else do you see through that lens? Are the promoters of the law granola eating liberals who believe that more government is the answer to all our problems?

  77. #77 Ron Zeno
    February 8, 2006

    I’m with Great White Wonder on this. I see little or no merit to any of the arguments against the bill so far.

    I am changing my perspective slightly though. How this bill relates to science is irrelevant. The only issues are the political ramifications of the bill (I think it’s genius politically, hurting anyone with a hidden religious agenda), and how this bill will change science education in Wisconsin (A state whose science standards are some of the nation’s very worst).

  78. #78 David Wilford
    February 8, 2006

    I disagree. I think it’s wrong for the state to start legislating just which scientific ideas are or are not allowed to be discussed in the classroom.

    As a blanket matter? Why?

    Because politicians have by necessity have plenty of other asperations besides defining what constitutes valid science. What is envisioned as a fine idea may not emerge so fine when the sausage comes out the other end of the legislature. Perhaps it would help if you think of it in terms of the state defining what constitutes valid religion instead, and consider the wisdom of that!

    To be simply practical about it now, the Republican Party is currently in control of both the state House and Senate in Wisconsin, and the proposed bill as it is written is not likely going anywhere after it is introduced and sent off to a sub-committee. Unless, of course, it is rewritten to appeal more to Republicans. And there lies the rub…

  79. #79 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 8, 2006

    “What I say is to present the data to the students and allow for open and rigorous debate given the available options. We exist- what, exactly, are the options to that existence? I see three:

    1) Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
    2) Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
    3) A combination of 1 & 2”

    We are not really discussing existence or origins, but evolution. Those categories aren’t correct.

    We know that random variation exists; that would go into category 1. We know that natural selection exists; that is a directed, but not goal oriented or intelligent process. The direction comes from the culling of those with the worst features. There is no obvious “goal”.

    Your categories 2 and 3 are not observed to exist, we have no verified data or theory to discuss them from, and the established processes of evolution are already enough to explain data.

    “It should be noted that bioth “intelligence” and “design” are natural processes.”

    “Intelligence” is an observed property of some living systems, yes. “Design” as process or products aren’t found in nature, that’s what humans do.

    “the origin of nature could not have been via natural processes because natural processes only exist in nature.”

    Again, we are not really discussing origins, it’s beside the question of evolution as observed in already living systems.

    But if we were:
    Origin of life; ie abiogenesis. Evolution is a couple of processes, some of which applies to prebiotic systems. Nothing prohibits them from creating life.

    Origin of universe, ie cosmology; there are plenty of examples of proposed cosmologies without first cause. They are eternal in one of several different senses, but all incorporates the observed big bang.

    “Here is a question:
    When Karl von Linne was trying to figure out the Created Kinds and developed binomial nomenclature, was he conducting scientific research?”

    Carl Linnaeus, also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné, was establishing the idea of a hierarchical structure of classification which is based upon observable characteristics. It was the first stages of scientific research, with classification from observations, and repetition from more observations.

  80. #80 Ron Zeno
    February 8, 2006

    NSCE has more info on the bill (http://tinyurl.com/aywee). Seems the intelligent design creationists have been busy in Wisconsin…

  81. #81 Great White Wonder
    February 8, 2006

    David

    Perhaps it would help if you think of it in terms of the state defining what constitutes valid religion instead, and consider the wisdom of that!

    That’s a really dumb analogy.

    Unless, of course, it is rewritten to appeal more to Republicans. And there lies the rub…

    Spare me. Okay, David, so you’ve got nothing except “mommy!mommy!the creationists are going to win!”

    Just admit that and pipe down. The rest of us will do the work while you sit on the sidelines and tremble.

  82. #82 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    As I mentioned earlier, legislatures currently do, and will in the future, direct public education guidelines.

    It doesn’t really matter if you agree morally to the practice or not, legislating standards does and will continue to occur.

    If that is the prime reason to object to this proposed bill, be aware that other groups of people do not have any moral repugnance to enact legislation dictating what is to be taught, not just standards.

    Further, let’s say this bill passes and a teacher inadvertantly or deliberately violates the act? How does anyone know? A student, teacher or parent in that school system would have to report it to someone. This would be the administrators, local board, or possibly the state department of education.

    I see nothing in the bill suggesting additional penalties for violating the act. So the administration, local board, or state would have to review the teaching materials and determine if the act was violated, and if the violation puts their state funding in jeapardy. If after review they feel that their funding might be cut due to a teacher’s lesson plan, they will ask the teacher to change the lesson plan. A teacher who refuses to change their lesson plan will likely be stoped teaching science.

    Notice that this legislation will not require teachers to be fired, it only requires them to teach science as it is generally understood by scientists. The legislature is deferring to the experts, not claiming expertise themselves. Isn’t that one of things the experts have been upset about?

    Notice that the legislation does not require a lesson plan review, or any oversight at all. The only application of this law is if a complaint is made. Like most laws, it doesn’t change the physical properties of the world. A speed limit law does not prevent people from speeding, it allows the state to legally fine people who are caught speeding. This proposed peice of legislation wouldn’t even be as powerful as a law against speeding. Being caught teaching non-science in a science class will initiate an investigation, not a fine.

    The thing this bill does best is to give teachers, school boards, and school administrators something to point to if a parent demands equal time for creationism in a science course. The teachers, school boards, and administrators can say, “I’m sorry Mr. Dembski, state law prohibits us from teaching ID in our science class. We could loose our state funding. Maybe you should consider a private school.”

    The more I think about it, the better I think the idea is.

    -Flex

  83. #83 Joe G
    February 9, 2006

    Why are origins important? Because if life did not arise from non-living matter via unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes there would be no reason to infer its subsequent diversification arose solely due via those type of processes.

    And guess what? There isn’t any data/ evidence that demonstrates life can arise from non-living matter via unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes.

    It should also be noted that “evolution” isn’t being debated by IDists. It is the mechanism that is being debated.

    If design is what humans do then design is natural. Also there are other animals that design. Ever hear of beavers?

    To see why ID is scientific please visit:

    http://intelligentreasoning.blogspot.com

  84. #84 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    JoeG,

    There isn’t any data to demonstrate that life arose from a process guided by a sapient being either.

    Many ID arguments arise from increduality. This is, in my opinion, an unintended result of the success of the scientific method. It has become inconceivable to many people that so much complexity could arise without being guided by something sapient. This has to be a fairly recent development. Early in the Enlightenment people experianced phenomena which didn’t have the complete causal chain worked out. Some people probably accepted that complex things are unexplained, if they thought about it at all. Others maintained that a deity must be causing the phenomena. Some people decided that the complexity of the phenomena is not an indication of a guiding intelligence, but of discoverable processes without a guiding intellience.

    Do the people who insist on intelligent design think that a deity is causing the stoichiometric reactions in chemistry? Getting a flammable gas from dripping an acid on sea shells must have appeared miraculous. Chemistry is so complex that it must have been designed by a sapient being.

    But investigators discovered, through empirical enquiry, a compilation of compounds which react with other compounds was developed. Then this list was examined and ordered. Finally the periodic table emerged. An intelligence was no longer required to guide and explain the complexity of chemical reactions.

    The processes which provide us with the ability to live, breath, reproduce and even think are much more complex than simple inorganic chemistry. But the lesson is the same, complexity does not require a guiding intelligence to explain it.

    Finally, as has been repeatedly pointed out on this site, ID is not science if for no other reason than it does not allow testing of it. Modern science has developed far beyond the early idea that repeated observations can explain something. You can observe complexity all you want, and you can make the claim that this complexity required intelligence to create this complexity. That does not make it science. You can even develop models that attempt to explain this complexity through the application of an intelligent designer. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is such a model. So are the models developed by most religions (I can’t think of an exception, but one may exist). But those models are not science. They may be good models to live your life by, but they are not science.

    Obviously your milage will vary.

    -Flex

  85. #85 rrt
    February 9, 2006

    “Why is that? Because someone can’t answer a question without pooping his diaper?

    I’m not convinced.”

    Anonymous: I’m not sure I understand this comment. I’m not sure I WANT to understand it, either.

    My original comment was a stab at what some other posters have since stated more eloquenty than I: I don’t think I want state legislatures defining science. Neither do I like the fact that this will feed the creationist persecution complex…i.e., “They can’t defeat us in the laboratory, so they’re passing laws instead!” I am aware that this law does not specifically call out ID, but I certainly don’t expect that to stop the creationists, and neither do I expect the general public, their target audience, to make that distinction.

  86. #86 David Wilford
    February 9, 2006

    Perhaps it would help if you think of it in terms of the state defining what constitutes valid religion instead, and consider the wisdom of that!

    That’s a really dumb analogy.

    Not at all. The IRS has trouble enough as it is dealing with the tax status of various churches, and it is undoubtedly a good thing that states can’t set guidelines for what constitute valid religious beliefs.

    Unless, of course, it is rewritten to appeal more to Republicans. And there lies the rub…

    Spare me. Okay, David, so you’ve got nothing except “mommy!mommy!the creationists are going to win!”

    As if there haven’t been plenty of examples lately of Republican legislative mendacity when it comes to other matters, such as Medicare prescription drug coverage. Let’s keep their meddling with science down to the level of PR twits who try to be minders for real scientists.

  87. #87 PaulC
    February 9, 2006

    GWW:

    I don’t get it. What are you whining about?

    I’m not whining about anything. Note that I’ve responded to your comments without casting them in any pejorative way. I’m frankly a little puzzled about why you feel the need to personalize this disagreement.

  88. #88 PaulC
    February 9, 2006

    GWW:

    But no! The chicken littles are afraid that the bad old conservative Republicans are going to snatch the moment away and turn this all into a debacle for science supporters, just like Bill Dembski said!!!!

    I’m not “afraid” of anything. I just think that this particular law is counterproductive. I’m quite confident that a series of court battles will soon make it clear that ID is not permitted in public school science class without the need for additional laws. In the unlikely event that something else happens, we still can add such laws as a fallback.

    Actually, such a law would serve the purpose of preventing public schools from teaching non-religious pseudoscience such as phlogiston theory or cold fusion. That’s fine in theory, but in practice, the only people who seem to want to inject bad science in the schools are motivated by religion, so once again I do not see the compelling purpose of such a law.

    In short, I would support such a law if I thought it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that ID is going to be banned from public schools anyway. I think this is very curioius kind of “afraid.”

  89. #89 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    Wow.

    I didn’t realize that the distrust of government has gotten so deep. In this thread, there are two types of objections I see against this proposed legislation.

    First, it is morally objectionable for government to establish what types of things should be taught. What’s the alternative? Every teacher for themself? Each school board deciding on the curriculum? The parents decide?

    Second, the government cannot be trusted to correctly apply standards to teaching. If not the government, who? Parents? School boards? Teachers? Students?

    If this legislation passes, it will move the fight against intelligent design and creationism from every independant school district to the Wisconsin legislature. It gives school districts a tool to fight creationists.

    But people are against it because the Wisconsin state government cannot be trusted. As examples of your distrust you use Federal level Republican perfidy. I don’t completely trust government, and we have seen some examples in the past few years (both Republican and Democrat examples) which tells us that we shouldn’t fully trust government.

    However, the tools we have to create a better educated population are limited. Government is one of those tools. It is a tool we, as a collection of citizens, have some control over. Rather than dissmissing the tool because of a personal bias, use that tool.

    Distrust of government reads pretty strange on a progressive weblog.

    -Flex

  90. #90 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    PaulC

    I’m frankly a little puzzled about why you feel the need to personalize this disagreement.

    Uh, because I’m disagreeing with YOU. Are you a person?

    You act like one.

  91. #91 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Flex

    Distrust of government reads pretty strange on a progressive weblog.

    I agree, Flex. But I’ve seen this behavior before. There is a contingent of folks who believe that the worst thing you can do is make a rightwinger angry. They’re superhuman, you know? And liberals will always blow it. Liberals should just sit back and react to the rightwingers. Otherwise we might make them “mad.”

    That’s the script. The problem is that the script was written by the wingnuts.

  92. #92 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    PaulC

    I’m not “afraid” of anything. I just think that this particular law is counterproductive.

    So I’ve heard. But you haven’t made a compelling argument to support your belief.

    How is this bill going to negatively impact an honest science education for public school kids, PaulC?

    Let’s hear it, bro.

  93. #93 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    rrt

    Neither do I like the fact that this will feed the creationist persecution complex…i.e., “They can’t defeat us in the laboratory, so they’re passing laws instead!”

    Oh no!!!!! We’re feeding their complex!!!! Stand back everyone!!!!! The fundies are going to ERUPT!!!!!!

    WAAaaaaahhhh!!!! Mommy!!!!!!!

  94. #94 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    rrt

    I am aware that this law does not specifically call out ID, but I certainly don’t expect that to stop the creationists

    What do you mean “stop the creationists”? There is only one way to stop them and, trust me, you ain’t up to the task.

  95. #95 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 9, 2006

    “Why are origins important? Because if life did not arise from non-living matter via unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes there would be no reason to infer its subsequent diversification arose solely due via those type of processes.”

    This is a bungled attempt to argue from incredulity. Parsing:
    1. Remove negatives and superfluous: ‘Because if life did arise from non-living matter via blind processes there would be reason to infer its diversification arose solely via those processes.’

    2. Substitute with processes we observe: ‘Because if life did arise from non-living matter via evolutionary processes there would be reason to infer its diversification arose solely via those processes.’

    Evolutionary processes are simplified random variation (blind) and natural selection (directed to remove worst randoms, not towards global goal). You didn’t correct your categories to what’s observed, so that is what we just did.

    3. Invert to make logical sense in science based on those observations of nature (last part observed and verified): ‘Because if life diversification arose via evolutionary processes there would be reason to infer it did arise from non-living matter solely via those processes.’

    4. Again insert what we observe: ‘Because life diversification arises via evolutionary processes there is reason to infer it did arise from non-living matter solely via those processes.’

    See! That wasn’t too difficult, just insert observational evidence instead of misdirected philosophy.

    Since we observe evolution regardless of origins, and that is what’s discussed, origins is unneccessary to explain. The correct logic from observations again shows this.

    Now read Flex comment on incredulity et cetera.

    “If design is what humans do then design is natural.”
    No, since we are discussing intentional creative cultural (“intelligent”) design.

    “Also there are other animals that design.”
    These are not designs but constructions from evolved behaviours, except if you mean artifacts by apes and human ancestors, which is of the above cultural kind.

  96. #96 PaulC
    February 9, 2006

    GWW:

    How is this bill going to negatively impact an honest science education for public school kids, PaulC?

    I didn’t say it was. You’re presenting a false dichotomy. I believe it’s an unnecessary law and fail to see the point of it.

    Suppose hypothetically, that a law was proposed that the lids of mayonaise jars must open by turning counterclockwise. How would that “negatively impact an honest science education for public school kids”? Not at all. Heck, it wouldn’t even impact the packaging of mayonaise. It would still be an unnecessary law and I would still be against passing it unless some sort of need was demonstrated for it. There’s a cost to plastering new laws on the books at whim. Laws are generally reserved for cases in which they are believed to have some salutary effect.

    But you haven’t made a compelling argument to support your belief.

    I’m not the one who needs to make an argument. You seem to think that this new law would serve a compelling need. You have yet to demonstrate this. The successful outcome of Dover suggests to me that the law is not necessary. I cannot make a more “compelling argument” than that, but once again, I do not have the burden of demonstrating that every crazy new law proposed is unnecessary.

    Beyond the fact that the law is redundant to the establishment clause as it relates to the teaching of ID in public school, I have a hunch that it actually hurts politically by suggesting that the authors don’t believe the constitution is already sufficient to keep ID out of the schools, but that is just a hunch, and I concede it is not a compelling argument. I could be persuaded otherwise, though I don’t find your method of repeated assertion to be very persuasive.

  97. #97 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    GWW,

    There is a contingent of folks who believe that the worst thing you can do is make a rightwinger angry.

    I believe that this is where we part company. I don’t see any evidence in this thread that justifies this statement. People are not saying we shouldn’t make rightwingers angry, they are saying that government shouldn’t be involved in setting standards for teaching science. The reasons given appear fairly nebulous to me, but condensing them down it reads, at least to me, like a distrust of government. Not rightwinger government or liberal government, but government in general.

    This message of distrusting government has been drilled into us for as long as I can remember. We see it in the same movies and television which tell us to distrust science. The drum of smaller and less intrusive government has been beating for years. But this misses the point of government. Government in a democratic society is the servant of it’s citizens. We, the citizens, can control government.

    As our servant, government provides services far more effectively and to a broader base of citizens than private industry will ever do. And having society, through their government, provide these services improves the profits of private business.

    Remember, it is the government which ensures clean water, sewage treatment, electricity, roads, universal education, the park system, etc. These are services which we all benefit from. At times, certainly, the government has violated the trust we have put into it. There are also improvements that could be made in all the areas I listed.

    There are government requirements that many people don’t like too. Zoning regulations, taxes, easements, are all part of the same contract that we have made with the rest of American society that allows us, the citizens, to have the freedoms we have granted ourselves.

    I don’t fully trust the government, and there are government actions which I think are idiotic. There are public servants who seem to think they are the masters. But to think that the tool of government shouldn’t be used because of the various mistakes the government has made, simply allows those people who are making those mistakes to continue to use the tool.

    -Flex

  98. #98 rrt
    February 9, 2006

    GWW:

    I ask you nicely to stop. You acted as though you didn’t understand Paul C’s objection, but I think you and I both know what he’s talking about:

    “Oh no!!!!! We’re feeding their complex!!!! Stand back everyone!!!!! The fundies are going to ERUPT!!!!!!

    WAAaaaaahhhh!!!! Mommy!!!!!!!”

    I never spoke to you directly at all, and yet still you come at me with that attitude? Nice.

    I would like to point out that your idea that this is an accomodation to conservatives/creationists/fundies is, at least in my case, wrong. The heart of my objection to this bill is, as stated, the concept of government defining science vs. the scientific community. I have no interest whatsoever in refraining from punching our opponents in the mouth when necessary, and I’ll thank you for not claiming otherwise. I’m not a Tom-Tomorrow-satirized liberal.

    I object to the possibility of this law making us look bad because I consider that a genuine risk with the general public. I don’t care one bit how mad the wingnuts get, however much they gibber, I care about Joe Sixpack sitting on the sidelines watching the fight. Historically, we’ve been able to make the argument that scientific fact cannot be established by legislation or majority opinion, and have happily pointed out that it’s our opponents who have consistently tried those tactics. Yet now I’m supposed to consider using them?

    I recognize there are differing opinions on these things, and I’m certainly happy to consider and discuss them civilly. I’d appreciate the same courtesy.

  99. #99 PaulC
    February 9, 2006

    Flex suggests the argument has been raised that:

    it is morally objectionable for government to establish what types of things should be taught. What’s the alternative? Every teacher for themself? Each school board deciding on the curriculum? The parents decide?

    My only objection is to try to define the concept of pseudoscience in a particular law. There are plenty of alternatives that you have not stated. For instance, there can be a statewide advisory committee empowered to issue binding decisions about topics that may and may not be taught as science in high school science class. I’m not sure what currently does go on, though I thought there were such statewide guidelines already. The law could require that members of such a committee were competent in science and then leave them the authority to decide on particulars, since they will probably do a better job that the state legislature.

    I’m pretty far from kneejerk anti-government, but I just think it’s a little much to expect legislators to come up with a single definition of pseudoscience that will go into the books and be interpreted by future courts. It seems a lot more flexible to me to have guidelines set and revised by experts on an ongoing basis. And if I’m not mistaken, states already publish such guidelines, and these guidelines are already binding, though they could probably do better a job.

    Beyond that, while the goal of keeping any pseudoscience out of high school science is clearly a worthy one, I would be very interested in hearing of a case in which a school board insisted on the teaching of some pseudoscience other than creationism/ID. It just strikes me that the part of the bill that is not already redundant with the establishment clause does not apply to a significant number of cases in practice. An individual loose cannon teacher who decided to teach phlogiston as fact, for instance, could probably be disciplined already on general grounds of incompetence.

  100. #100 PaulC
    February 9, 2006

    There is a contingent of folks who believe that the worst thing you can do is make a rightwinger angry.

    Maybe so, but don’t count me among them. The Dover decision made plenty of rightwingers angrier (you cannot make them angry; they start out that way) and I’m all for it. Even better, it made some of them despondent and baffled about what to do next. That was the beautiful part. A string of Dover-like victories will eventually cause them to give up on pretending that ID is more than thinly disguised creationism. They’ll be on to their next scam of course, but they’ll have wasted a lot of time and resources.

    I suppose that the proposed bill will also make rightwingers angrier, but I think they’ll have a more constructive response to it. At least, if I were a creationist, I would spin such a law as a concession that ID is not covered by the establishment clause. People would buy into it–even though admittedly it’s common for the law to contain redundancies. So my objection isn’t that it “makes rightwingers angry” but that it would make rightwingers smug and prone to view their opposition as weaker than it really is.

  101. #101 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    PaulC

    So my objection isn’t that it “makes rightwingers angry” but that it would make rightwingers smug and prone to view their opposition as weaker than it really is.

    Once again: you’re too late, PaulC. Many many many years too late. It’s like objecting to Snug D’s new rap album because it will make whitey think blacks are lazy and stupid.

    And, yeah, that sort of objection *is* stupid.

  102. #102 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    rrt

    Historically, we’ve been able to make the argument that scientific fact cannot be established by legislation or majority opinion

    We’ve been able to make the argument that what consitutes A PARTICULAR SCIENTIFIC FACT can’t be established by legislation or majority opinion.

    But our successes in court hinge entirely on providing a definition of “science” that is (surprise!) agreed to by the vast majority of professional scientists.

    Now some people on this thread seem to be want to be able to change the definition and are afraid of reciting that definition in a law.

    Doesn’t THAT behavior feed right into the creationist mindset? Answer: of course it does because everything that scientists do simply reinforces one of the idiotic memes about scientists that creationists push.

    Once again: I am talking to the politically clueless chicken littles here who quake in their boots at the mere thought of challenging fundie morons outside of a courtroom.

    Truly pathetic. But keep on quaking and squawking and shooting yourselves in the foot while doing so. The rest of us will pick up the slack.

  103. #103 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Paul C

    So my objection isn’t that it “makes rightwingers angry” but that it would make rightwingers smug and prone to view their opposition as weaker than it really is.

    Why would you object to this? That sounds like a good strategy for us. They think we are weaker than we really are so they will be that much more surprised when the hammer comes down.

    Seriously, Paul, you make no sense. Try to kick up a notch.

  104. #104 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Flex

    “There is a contingent of folks who believe that the worst thing you can do is make a rightwinger angry.”

    I believe that this is where we part company. I don’t see any evidence in this thread that justifies this statement.

    Are you serious?

    When people talk about the bill “making its supporters look weak” or “making it appear as if an idea–the definition of science–is just another partisan issue” or “conceding to the IDers,” then they are reciting ARGUMENTS that the creationist-sympathizing politicians (i.e., rightwing religious nutjobs) are going to be making.

    And the implication is also clear that these arguments are so devastating, so lethal to the scientific community, that we should never ever ever do anything to allow such arguments to be voiced.

    That’s bullshit, my friends. It’s chickenshit weak-kneed spineless politics.

    Stop reciting the creationists’ scripts!

    Stop believing that the people of Wisconsin can only be persuaded by Republican and/or creationist talking points!

    Once you get your head out of this mindset, you’ll see what this bill represents: an opportunity for the SCIENCE-SUPPORTERS in Wisconsin to GET THEIR MESSAGE OUT about the activities of creationism and anti-science peddlers and what measures need to be taken to put them in their place (i.e., a dark dank cave).

    Will the proponents of the Wisconsin bill fuck it up and find themselves unable to stay on message? Gee, maybe. But the chicken littles around here sure the hell aren’t helping matters.

  105. #105 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Fyi, the previous post should begin like this:

    “There is a contingent of folks who believe that the worst thing you can do is make a rightwinger angry.”

    I believe that this is where we part company. I don’t see any evidence in this thread that justifies this statement.

  106. #106 David Wilford
    February 9, 2006

    When Republican legislators propose to write science standards into law, the results certainly speak for themselves:

    PUBLIC EDUCATION – INSTRUCTION AND POLICY RELATING TO THE ORIGINS OF LIFE

    Let’s not set even a well-meaning precedent that serves to better enable this sort of nonsense.

  107. #107 David Wilford
    February 9, 2006
  108. #108 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    Thanks PaulC for clarifying your position,

    I understand your concern that there is potential for creationists to declare that the law proves that ID is not covered by the establishment clause. However, as the creationists already have declared that ID is not in violation of the establishment clause, I think this point you are worrying about is a bit subtle for the uninformed public to understand clearly.

    Let me see if I can be more clear….

    Creationist: “ID is science because it’s not recognized by the NAS, so we are persecuted just like Galileo.”

    Or,
    Creationist: “This law means that ID is not religion because it specifically prohibits the teaching of ID in science class. Well, it doesn’t specifically mention ID, but that’s what it’s aimed at. Our science is being persecuted, just like Galileo.”

    More likely the general creationist shout is going to be that leaving the establishment of the educational curriculum to the experts is elitist.

    Creationist: “The effete liberal bible-hating elites on the coasts have forced their atheism on us by refusing to allow us to teach our children ID in science class, even though our bible-inspired, god-approved, science is just as good as theirs. Maybe our science is nascent, but so was Galileo’s and look what the establishment did to him!”

    (Which is strange when you consider that creationism is by it’s very nature elitist. But I’ve learned not to expect consistancy from religious conservatives.)

    I am in support of the proposed legislation simply because it provides a clear tool for teachers, school boards, and administrators to avoid the pressure to include creationism and other pseudoscience in science course.

    The bill, as proposed, does not require evolutionary theory to be taught. It is not setting a course requirements, or graduation quotas. It does not eliminate any of the scientific advisory boards that Wisconsin already has to determine course content. It simply says that science courses have to teach science, and that any question about what constitutes science can be referred to the NAS. Any worries about religious conservatives changing the law are valid about advisory boards too, and it’s a lot easier to monitor the bills introducted into a legislature than to monitor the minutes of an advisory board.

    Finally, you argue that the creationists are already losing the battle, so why is this legislation necessary?

    For two reasons, first, court battles are expensive. While battles are being won in the courtroom, school districts may have to bear the expenses. This bill would avoid sending any school districts into bankruptcy in Wisconsin.

    Second, while the battles against ID are being won, what about future anti-science wars? You are right to bring up other pseudoscience. I don’t know of any examples of science teachers teaching, or being asked to teach, other pseudoscience, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t occurred.

    But I have to say that this has been an interesting converstation.

    Thanks,

    -Flex

  109. #109 Anonymous
    February 9, 2006

    David

    Let’s not set even a well-meaning precedent that serves to better enable this sort of nonsense.

    What a bunch of baloney. The bill doesn’t “better enable” anything David. Either you know this and you are simply bullshitting us, or you are clueless. Which is it? I don’t really care but I think everyone should understand the “wide range” of possible explanations for “arguments” like the one David presented.

    Using David’s logic, we should all just sit back and wait for Republicans and creationists to get tired of controlling the public discourse.

  110. #110 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    GWW,

    I agree with your statements that this bill should be supported by all scientists. I’d like to know if some people reading this thread have changed their mind. I’d particularly like to hear that Dr. Myer and Ed Brayton are reconsidering their opinions about the bill.

    I’d also like to think that the dialog between PaulC and I has led people to think about how this bill will be applied and used by the teachers and school districts in Wisconsin. (If it passes, of course.) I’d be flattered if it has happened, but I’m not so egotistical as to be upset if my eloquence has fallen on deaf ears.

    I would also be interested to know if anyone was persuaded to change their mind because they were called “chicken.” I’d probably be surprised too. Being called chicken has the initial reaction of strengthening a persons resolve to remain in the stance they have taken.

    But believe me, I understand where you are coming from. It’s a little like playing ‘good-cop – bad cop.’ I’ll be heading home for a beer shortly.

    Cheers to all,

    -Flex

  111. #111 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Flex

    I would also be interested to know if anyone was persuaded to change their mind because they were called “chicken.” I’d probably be surprised too. Being called chicken has the initial reaction of strengthening a persons resolve to remain in the stance they have taken.

    Really? I must have missed that issue of “Psychology Today”.

    You should tell the Republicans, too. They’ve succeeded in making the Democrats engage in a pathetic dance for years and years simply by labelling them cowards.

    And from personal experience I can tell you that I’ve persuaded quite a few people to change their behavior by calling their bravery into question.

    Yes, certain liberals believe that the only discourse that matters is where at least one hand of every party in the debate is stimulating the genitals of another. So comforting!

    Fuck that.

  112. #112 David Wilford
    February 9, 2006

    When politicans and science mix, the results aren’t pretty:

    Evolution bill survives by a voteCritic asks why lawmakers are telling teachers how to teach

    A very good question.

  113. #113 Ed Darrell
    February 9, 2006

    GWW, or anyone else: What is superior about the definition of science offered by the Wisconsin bill over the common law definitions? Please explain how this supports keeping the politicos’ paws off of science standards.

  114. #114 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    Ed,

    I can’t answer for GWW, but as I see it, it allows a teacher, administrator, school board, or other parents to point to the law and say “No, we will not teach your unscientific idea in science class.”

    The Dover decision does not apply in Wisconsin. A school board in Wisconsin cannot point to it and say, “A Pennsylvania court has found that ID is a religious principle and thus it can’t be taught in Wisconsin under the Federal Constitution’s First Amendment’s anti-establishment clause.”

    The common law definions will not apply until a case reaches a courtroom. This step by the Wisconsin legislature circumvents this process, and also drastically reduces the opportunity for a bill to be introduced into the legislature which mandates the teaching of intelligent design.

    That is the answer to your second question. The politicos’ paws are already all over the educational standards of public schools. This bill, as proposed, can only help prevent additional meddling.

    Maybe politicians shouldn’t be involved with setting school standards. But they are, and will always be. Your local school board is elected and political. The recent picture of the school board officals in Ohio reading newspapers during parent’s complaints about the inclusion of creationism in their classroom is, IMHO, criminal.

    Wisconsin has an opportunity, right now, to help prevent the financial disaster of Dover, the ignorance of Kansas, and the arrogance of the Ohio school board in their state.

    I, for one, think this is a very progressive bill that doesn’t restrict the teaching of science in any way, but allows teachers, administrators, school boards, parents, and students a lever, outside of the court system, to keep science instruction focused on science.

    -Flex

  115. #115 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    David W.

    Critic asks why lawmakers are telling teachers how to teach

    If I were a “critic” of an honest science education for our kids, I’d ask the same thing.

    If I were a “critic” of creationism peddlers and their strategy for injecting creationism into schools, I’d ask a different question.

    Figure it out, David. Good luck.

  116. #116 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Ed

    GWW, or anyone else: What is superior about the definition of science offered by the Wisconsin bill over the common law definitions?

    Nothing. It seems essentially the same as the definition relied on by Judge Kitzmiller in Dover. Are you going to try to raise the argument that proposing state statutes which are redundant with Federal law is immoral?

    Please explain how this supports keeping the politicos’ paws off of science standards.

    Oh, is the the goal, Ed? I thought the goal was to keep religious fanatics from getting their religious mythology taught as science in public school science classrooms.

    You seem to have trouble keeping your eye on the ball, Ed.

    Work on that.

  117. #117 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    Flex

    Wisconsin has an opportunity, right now, to help prevent the financial disaster of Dover, the ignorance of Kansas, and the arrogance of the Ohio school board in their state.

    Not to mention the opportunity to educate the state about what happened in Dover and how the Discovery Institute and its hired liars operate. This is true regardless of whether the bill passes or not.

    But some people here seem to think that the people in Wisconsin are incapable of being educated by supporters of science about ANYTHING unless the education comes from … where?

    Based on the behavior of some folks around here, the answer would appear to be nowhere because any offensive (as opposed to defensive) attempt to promote honest science education and deride creationist crap is virtually guaranteed to blow up in our faces and should not be attempted.

  118. #118 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    I can’t answer for GWW, but as I see it, it allows a teacher, administrator, school board, or other parents to point to the law and say “No, we will not teach your unscientific idea in science class.”

    And it’s a bit more clear than the Constitution, ain’t it? And a bit less wordy than Judge Jones decision.

    Even a newspaper reporter could understand it.

  119. #119 PZ Myers
    February 9, 2006

    I’m still against it, on principle. I don’t have any objections to the gist of the requirements of the law, but I still think it is a poor law that violates the general idea of how we should teach science.

    Imagine a law that says, “2 + 2 is hereby declared to equal 4, and teachers may not teach anything else.” I’d agree with it; 2+2 does equal 4. If there were packs of idiots roaming the state insisting that schools teach 2+2=5, I’d even sympathize with the role of the law to counter stupidity. I still would oppose it, though: I don’t want my students learning the ‘correct’ answer because the law says it is so.

    Remember, science is about the process, not the conclusion. This law gets the conclusion right, but arrives at it via the wrong process.

  120. #120 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    David

    Evolution bill survives by a vote – Critic asks why lawmakers are telling teachers how to teach

    A very good question.

    Fyi, the bill in Utah bears so little resemblance to the bill in Wisconsin it’s shameful for David to pretend otherwise.

    The Utah bill tells teachers to teach creationist garbage as science. The Wisconsin bill tells science teachers to teach science and not creationist bullshit.

    What is so difficult to understand about that?

    Again, our friend David is reciting the argument we expect to hear from the creationists in Wisconsin. And I’ve rebutted the argument. Does David care? Nope. He’s still clinging to mommy’s apron. Save us! Save us! The Wisconsin lawmakers are sabatoging the movement!

    Get a grip, David. And stop reciting creationist scripts, okay?

  121. #121 RavenT
    February 9, 2006

    I am not sure that it is the law dictating what science is, as much as it’s like the state requiring health-care practitioners who interact with the public to meet a minimum standard of practice as defined by the profession’s own organizations (in this case, the NAS). Practitioners who fail to meet that basic minimum definition are not permitted to treat the public until they can pass the standard. Perhaps this is just the professionalization of science teaching, rather than a free speech issue per se.

  122. #122 Great White Wonder
    February 9, 2006

    PZ

    If there were packs of idiots roaming the state insisting that schools teach 2+2=5, I’d even sympathize with the role of the law to counter stupidity. I still would oppose it, though: I don’t want my students learning the ‘correct’ answer because the law says it is so.

    But the law would not be WHY they would be learning that 2+2=4, PZ.

    It’s WHY they would NOT be learning that 2+2=5, in spite of those idiots you mentioned.

    Look, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have the law. I agree. In a utopia, we wouldn’t have ANY laws and people would behave just right.

    When we come close to reaching that ideal, I recommend removing the law from books in Wisconsin (assuming it passes). Until then, I don’t see what harm comes from it.

    This is the BLOWBACK that the fundies deserve and it really is dismaying to see people quaking and spouting off like moralistic defenders of True Education.

    You really think the best way to deal with the creationist idiots is to sit back and wait for their next move? Until the end of time? It seems to me that the rock is being eroded by the surf. I suggest turning the heat up so the shoreline recedes a few hundred yards.

  123. #123 David Wilford
    February 9, 2006

    Remember, science is about the process, not the conclusion. This law gets the conclusion right, but arrives at it via the wrong process.

    That is my conclusion as well, PZ. And as the current situation in Utah shows, that same legislative process can be used to get it very wrong as well.

  124. #124 Flex
    February 9, 2006

    Dr. Myers,

    I still would oppose it, though: I don’t want my students learning the ‘correct’ answer because the law says it is so.

    Boy, do I sympathize with this sentiment.

    However, this law is better than most in that it defers to the scientists themselves for answers.

    To continue your mathematical metaphor, the bill does not say that 2+2 does not equal 5, or that 2+2=4, but that we shouldn’t give 2+2=5 equal time in the classroom. And if Princess Ida from Gilbert and Sulivan’s play of the same name suggests that:

    “In Mathematics, Woman leads the way;
    The narrow-minded pedant still believes
    That two and two make four! Why, we can prove,
    We women – household drudges as we are-
    That two and two make five – or three – or seven;
    Or five and twenty, if the case demands!”
    Gilbert and Sullivan, Princess Ida Act II.

    rather than the legislature getting involved, the question is refered to the mathemeticians.

    Finally, and I envy you for it, you are in an academic enviroment. Understanding why 2+2=4 is part of your profession. I would love to deal with people who question why 2+2=4 on a regular basis, and are able to explain to other people why 2+2 really does equal 4.

    For a lot of people though, unfortunately, this questioning trait is not a part of their lives. If you wonder why religion is so prevalent in a modern society, this is the root reason. Most people accept what they are taught as true and never question it. This is also generally true of political party affiliation.

    Why do people continually question the morality of atheists? Because they are told that their own morality comes from their religion. They don’t question it, but they can’t understand moral atheists.

    This is not to say that I think the average person is an idiot. On the contrary, I think the average person can fully understand pretty much any ideas they want to. Getting them to want to is a bit of a trick.

    The creationist crowd will use the tool of popular government to attempt to legislate knowledge. I am myself very reluctant to let any legislative body dictate testable knowledge. However, if this means we are going to stop ourselves from using the powerful tool of government legislation to prevent the creationist crowd from creating laws requiring the teaching of creationist ideas, we are in for a long, expensive battle that we may not win.

    And now that I’ve had a few beers, let me end with another lovely line from Princess Ida:

    “For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey crav’d,
    Was a radiant Being,
    With brain far-seeing-
    While Darwinian Man, though well-behav’d,
    At best is only a monkey shav’d!”

    Cheers,

    -Flex

  125. #125 Yali Friedman
    February 9, 2006

    Banning ID only turns it into a martyr and avoids the necessary discussion. I think it would be far more useful to explain that ID fails because it makes no testable predictions; it’s a pretty poor explanation for the how life formed.

    My tack on the evolution debate is to not get caught on the defense. Stephen Jay Gould wrote about the spiralling quest for ever smaller bones and transitional fossils. This just isn’t a good way to demonstrate evolution. A better tack is to asking for a plausible alternative. Many people incorrectly assume that the only alternative to evolution is creation. It isn’t. Divine creation only means that one explain life by conjuring a non-testable creator.

    Embracing intelligent design as a poor alternative explanation helps advance the debate by at least focusing on explaining how complex biological structures formed, rather than simply touting evolution as the only scientific explanation.

  126. #126 Great White Wonder
    February 10, 2006

    Yali

    Embracing intelligent design as a poor alternative explanation helps advance the debate by at least focusing on explaining how complex biological structures formed

    If this is the level of coherency science supporters are striving for, let’s just all blow our brains out now.

  127. #127 Tom Powell
    February 10, 2006

    I happened across this blog and am enjoying all of the comments regarding our Wisconsin bill related to pseudo-science. As Research Assistant for Rep. Berceau (D-Madison), the author of the bill, I think I may be able to answer any questions people may have.

    It was drafted with the input of eight UW-Madison senior scientists, and the precise language was long debated. I can understand people’s hesitation about government getting involved in science, but the dirty little secret is that it always has been.

    There is an old saying, “Get involved with politics, or politics will surely get involved with you.” With 30 states this year introducing bills to weaken the teaching of evolution and open the door to ID, it was decided that it was time to do something proactive legislatively.

  128. #128 Tom Powell
    February 10, 2006

    The bill, and supporting information can be found here:
    http://www.legis.state.wi.us/assembly/asm76/news/my%20legislation.html#LRB-2463

  129. #129 David Wilford
    February 10, 2006

    There is an old saying, “Get involved with politics, or politics will surely get involved with you.” With 30 states this year introducing bills to weaken the teaching of evolution and open the door to ID, it was decided that it was time to do something proactive legislatively.

    As a Wisconsin resident myself, and one who lives in a district that tossed out a fine and dececnt Democrat (Joe Plouff) for a Republican who pandered to prejudice to win, I think your timing is awful given Republican control of the Wisconsin legislature. The time to be proactive isn’t when you’re outnumbered. Given the overwhelming defeat inflicted in the Dover case, not to mention the recent creationist fiasco in Grantsburg, there is no need to bother with this measure now anyway, and by doing so you will set a precedent that I think will lead to future mischief.

  130. #130 Tom Powell
    February 10, 2006

    David, I appreciate your comments but disagree.
    Firstly, the only way to recapture a Dem majority is to actually stand up and make noise, and point out the folly of your opposition. That is how you win elections. When you are outnumbered is exactly the time to fight your hardest. A head-in-the-sand approach will get you nowhere. If you think that by being quiet they will ignore you, you’re mistaken.

    Besides, the hard-right Republicans in the Assembly are already painting themselves as creationists. A bill likes this flushes them out. Debi Towns, the Republcan chair of the Education Committee has already said that she will not give the bill a hearing. How do you think her constituents might feel about that? Do you think that might appear on her opponent’s literature next time?

    Secondly, the war against ID was not won in Dover. We won the battle, but have a long way to go. Legal precedents are not laws. Unlike laws, judicial rulings can be ignored or overturned by the next judge down the line. Besides, the school board spent about a million dollars on legal fees. That’s a million bucks out of the school district budget, and the kid’s education. To rely solely on the court system to solve this problem would be prohibitvely costly and inefficient.

  131. #131 David Wilford
    February 10, 2006

    Tom, I first want to thank you for being as agreeable as you are despite our disagreement over this matter.

    I am all for standing up and making a good noise, but I can’t help but think that a law defining what constitutes true science to counter creationism (which by definition promotes the theory of evolution) opens the door for the legislature to meddle in such things. Is there really a movement among Wisconsin Republicans to promote creationism? Or is it just a few barmy local school board members acting out? The recent matter in Grantsburg was an embarassment to the creationist side, but you would make them out to be a threat worthy of fighting with state law. As no one is teaching intelligent design in any public school biology classroom in Wisconsin, why use a legal sledgehammer when the state educational standards already suffice? I think a more worthy battle would be to back stem cell research in Wisconsin, which has the potential to be a real benefit for not just the state but for us all.

    As for Kitzmiller vs. Dover, I think ID was dealt a mortal blow by Judge Jones, and that if the matter comes before other courts it will meet a similar fate. The law as it stands (the First Amendment, no small thing!) and legal precedent aren’t law, but they aren’t tissue paper either. I think you’re proposing a solution that only makes future meddling by those who have “sound science” axes to grind more likely.

  132. #132 David Wilford
    February 10, 2006

    Oops, I should have said “and legal precedent aren’t state law” above.

  133. #133 Great White Wonder
    February 10, 2006

    Tom

    Thanks for writing!

    Like David, I grew up in Wisconsin and attended a fine public school in a community dominated by working class Catholics. I discovered the existence of creationist garbage when I found myself in the chemistry teachers’ lounge of my school and found back issues of the Skeptical Inquirer on the shelf. The rest is history.

    David Wilford’s “arguments” (which amount to little more than the sound of a child wetting his bed) have been addressed numerous times in the thread above. I wish we lived in the imaginary world of David Wilford where “mortal blows” to religious fundamentalism are delivered by Federal Courts. Sadly, we do not live in that imaginary world.

    Instead, we live in a world populated by humans with imaginations who can not resist playing games with words. Take David Wilford, for example. He refers to a bill which defines what “true science” is — a bill that exists only in David Wilford’s mind. The Wisconsin bill does not purport do define what “true science” is or isn’t; it merely excludes from public school science classes the teaching of subjects which the overwhelming majority of scientists agree are either not science or are debunked baloney.

    Is David Wilford really afraid that this bill will result in some sort of “silencing” of “legitimate” science education in Wisconsin’s public school? I am still waiting to hear from David Wilford what appropriate scientific subject is going to be “prohibited” from teaching in public school science classes.

    As for PZ Myers’ objections, he first shot from the hip, then muttered a quickly and easily refuted second tier argument which he hasn’t returned to resuscitate (good luck with that, PZ).

    I wish Wisconsin the best of luck in getting this bill — or a modified bill which fulfills the purpose of this bill — passed. Wisconsin is home to a great many scientists, as well as a great many religious people who are sick and tired of seeing their faith dragged into science class as if it’s merely a newly discovered subatomic particle with a halo bolted on.

  134. #134 Anonymous
    February 10, 2006

    David Wilford

    by doing so you will set a precedent that I think will lead to future mischief

    Here we go with the bogeyman again! Ooooo, I’m so scared Davey Wavey. Maybe the creationists in Wisconsin will pass a law saying that the First Amendment to US Constitution doesn’t apply to Wisconsin! That would be terrible!!!! Oh my! Lion and tiger and deer!

    You heard it here first, folks.

  135. #135 Great White Wonder
    February 10, 2006

    David Wilford

    The recent matter in Grantsburg was an embarassment to the creationist side, but you would make them out to be a threat worthy of fighting with state law.

    Really? Is that what the bill does?

    In whose mind, David?

  136. #136 roger
    February 17, 2006

    If wish all 50 states passed this wisconsin bill. That would put the ID nutcases out of business.

  137. #137 roger
    February 17, 2006

    “I wish”, not “If wish”

  138. #138 Mike
    February 19, 2006

    This bill really is simple, and it is important. If something is presented in the curriculum as science, then it must be science. ID is not science. The bill does not ban discussing it in other contexts.

    Science works as it is. The way it works does not and cannot include the supernatural. Supernatural ideas include creationism, ID, and flying spaghetti monsters. You cannot test a supernatural idea, and you cannot predict anything from it. If you train students in any other way, Wisconsin will stop producing scientists. The huge part of our economy that is driven by science and technology will migrate to other states – or other nations.

    The need for the bill is also simple. Science teachers in K-12 classes across the state are coming under pressure from some school boards and some parents to teach nonsense as science. If students are misled about what science is, our young people will not take up science careers or will have difficulty with college science programs.

    ID is not science. Some folks seem unimpressed by the scientific organizations and the National Academy of Science statements that ID is not science. Some are not even impressed by the total absence of ID papers in the scientific literature (a literature that generates over a million papers a year, a large fraction of them directly relevant to and supporting evolution). However, everyone should be impressed by this. In its 200+ year history, intelligent design has yet to produce a single innovation. No contributions to medicine, no contributions to agriculture, no contributions to anyone’s economy. The technology-based companies surrounding most serious research universities (including UW-Madison) should serve as a useful counterpoint. If you want your children to retire in a third world nation, then ignore the current assault on science and allow science education to be undermined. Each school district that succumbs to the creationists will help ensure that Europe and Asia will be the powers of the future. Hopefully, others will have more sense.

  139. #139 Steve_C
    September 28, 2006

    Something is getting through your spam filter. Or you’re getting some sort of attack to bog down comments.

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