Earth and Space Science Amendments

Bob Craig is proposing amendments to Earth and Space Science. These largely track recommendations from a panel of the ESS writers, in response to amendments offered by the Board last January.

The first strikes "differing theories" and replaces it with "information about," in:

4) Earth in Space and Time. The student knows how Earth-based and space-based astronomical observations reveal information about the structure, scale, composition, origin, and history of the universe.

Dunbar asks who proposed it, and Craig points out that Kyle Lewallen presented it to the Board yesterday, and that he was Cargill's appointee to the committee.

Cargill is whinging about Schafersman's analysis of the amendment, which isn't quite germane. She supports the old language (her amendment), saying it has humility. Will anyone ask what these supposed "differing theories" are?

Mavis asks what she means by "a little more humility." Cargill: "There are more theories out there." She likes an article on the origin of life in the universe, from Science, which isn't germane to a standard on the origins of the universe, is it?

Motion fails, on a 6-8 vote

Next amendment: Changing "understands" to "know" in:

5) The student knows the solar nebular accretionary disk model.

He thinks it makes it clearer.

Cargill thinks it bumps it up a notch, using a higher level of Bloom's taxonomy. But is that necessary?

Knight asks for Hardy and Allen's views. Hardy thinks it's a consistency matter, Allen agrees, both support the amendment. Fails 7-7.


(5)(B) investigate thermal energy sources of heat, including kinetic heat of impact accretion, gravitational compression, and radioactive decay, which are thought to allow and their role in protoplanet differentiation into layers and atmosphere and hydrosphere formation.

Underscores are additions, strikethroughs are removals. He can't really explain his change, resting on the committee's recommendation.

Cargill likes the first change, but wants to retain "which are thought to allow." Cargill cites peer reviewed papers on asteroid formation.

Fails, 7-7.

Leo offers an amendment with only the "thermal" changes. No objection.

Craig amendment, grammatical (striking "the"), Cargill seconds, no objection.

Finally, 8(A):

Evaluate a variety of fossil types, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and rate and diversity of evolution and assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence;

Cargill objects because the Biology TEKS now question common descent, too. Which was a bad choice anyway. She cites Don Patton's claim that no transitional fossils exist. Wants students to learn "universal common design."

Motion fails 6-8.

Cargill offers another amendment. 4(A) replacing "evaluate the evidence concerning the Big Bang model, such as red shift and cosmic background radiation, and the concept of an expanding universe that originated about 14 billion years ago" with "evaluate the evidence concerning the Big Bang model, such as red shift and cosmic microwave background radiation, and current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe."

Miller wonders if this allows young earth creationism. Cargill says that the source of the amendment is the astronomy TEKS, which clarify that these must be scientific theories, but the ESS TEKS don't.

Leo, supporting the amendment, replaces "cosmology" with "cosmetology." McLeroy gets snippy as Cargill and Leo joke about that.

Mavis asks about consistency across disciplines, wondering if this amendment misses important differences between Astronomy and ESS, and why they aren't consulting the experts.

Carries 11-3! Ugh.

Cargill turns to 6(A) inserts "that could have occurred" into "analyze the changes of Earth's atmosphere that could have occurred through time from the original hydrogen-helium atmosphere, the carbon dioxide-water vapor-methane atmosphere, and the current nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere."

Defends the amendment with the claim that "Science does not have all of the answers."

No discussion. Folks are tired, I think. Passes 10-4.

Cargill goes after 7(B), changing "apply radiometric dating methods that can be used to calculate the ages of igneous rocks from Earth and the Moon and meteorites;" to "calculate the ages of igneous rocks from Earth and the Moon and meteorites using radiometric dating methods."

Debate about whether it's necessary to specify the need to calculate this. Passes 8-6.

On to 13(F) adding "given the complexity of living systems" to the end of "discuss scientific hypotheses for the origin of life by abiotic chemical processes in an aqueous environment through complex geochemical cycles."

Cargill thinks this is analogous to bogus amendment added to biology. Passes 9-5.

Thanks for covering this Josh. I'm wondering if you need science teachers in Kansas. I think I might need to move before these standards are implemented.

Sure, Mikey, come on up!

Josh, quite frankly, that these amendments are passing sounds nightmarish. The alterations aren't scientific in any way, shape or form. What is going on - weren't the pro-science board members enlightened about the true nature of these beasts? Was it a time issue? Or as you observe, are they just tired?

If this is the way education standards are determined, I'm glad I don't have kids. If I ever do, it won't be in Texas and I'll have to sit in on these meetings in my state.

Scary how some thinly veiled religious views can be paraded around as scientific.

I posted a question on Genie's Facebook page, but I know you both must be busy. I am wondering why Agosto voted several times with McLeroy? Were there any discussions after the votes on why he abstained at one critical point and voted for another amendment at another point? You guys both have my support and gratitude.

Just found this, Josh. Thanks. Going to read your first post from the hearings* now.

*proposed name for these hearings
Scopes Monkey Trial part Deux: Giving Comfort to Bananas

Agosto is a bit of a mystery to me. His heart seems generally to be in the right place, but I'm under the impression that there are complicated machinations under way behind the scenes. When he offered explanations for his votes, the explanations didn't hang together that well, IMHO.

Aren't the State Board of Ed members elected officials? There's really only one area of Texas where a wholly rational member can safely win reelection - Austin. Others, even sane members, must be very very careful how they vote. Any decision they make that is perceived as being anti-religious will cost them the next election... since voter awareness of the issues in "minor" positions is reduced, irritating one pastor can garner hundreds or thousands of votes against you.

The really nutty thing about this to me is: Kids should be taught the facts as revealed by science and some history of the state of knowledge within science. (E.g.: It's OK to talk about creationism, if you show how science replaced it with EBNS.)

They should be taught the scientific method. They don't need to be taught the "weaknesses" of scientific theories or models. These will be self evident in the discussion and the history of the subject area.

They should be taught the weaknesses of creationism: It's religion, it violates all natural laws, it does not conform to the data, and most importantly: it's magic and magic explains nothing.

Concerning the Big Bang and expansion, it is an issue that we cannot detect with the naked eye or even with a telescope, no matter how much we look. Revolving and rotary movements of the bodies we can see â at least in the near space â but we cannot see expansion.

Instead, some have thought that the best piece of evidence supporting the Big Bang is red shift, which can be observed in distant stars. It has been thought that when the spectrums of light in distant galaxies and stars move towards the red end of the spectrum, this indicates expansion. Red shift values of these celestial bodies should indicate their escape velocity and distance, so that all bodies are drawing away from us at a velocity proportional to their distance.

However, using the red shift as evidence for expansion is questionable. It arises, for example, from the following factors:

The light of all stars is not red shifted. The first problem with the red shift is that the light of all stars is not red shifted. For example, the Andromeda Galaxy and certain other galaxies show blue shifted light, which means that they should be approaching us. (It has been estimated that the Andromeda Galaxy is approaching us at 300 kilometres a second! On the other hand, the escape velocity of the Virgin Constellation should be 1,200 km/s and that of Quasar PKS 2000 as much as 274,000 km/s. Where do these more than a hundredfold differences come from, if everything began at the same point?) These kinds of exceptions indicate that there may be some other explanation to the red shift values than drawing away from us. Maybe the values have nothing to do with their movements.

The values of adjacent galaxies. Another problem with the red shift is that some adjacent galaxies may have completely different red shift values, even though they are in connection with each other and quite close to each other. If the red shift value could be really used to tell the distance, there is no way these galaxies could be close to each other: instead, they should be far away from each other. This indicates that the red shift must be caused by some other facts, such as internal reactions and radiation of stars, which can also be detected from the Earth.

Because of the same matter some researchers deny the importance of the red shift. They say or doubt it having anything to do with expansion. In fact, the whole Big Bang theory is then without its most important evidence:

I do not want to imply that everyone is of the same opinion regarding the interpretation of the red shift. We do not actually observe the galaxies rushing away from us; the only issue that is sure is that their spectrums have moved towards red. Famous astronomers doubt whether the red shift has anything to do with the Doppler shifts or with the expansion of space. Halton Arp of the Hale Observatory has emphasized that groups of galaxies can be found in space where some galaxies have quite different red shifts; if these groups are really composed of galaxies that are close to each other, they could hardly move at very different velocities. Furthermore, Maarten Schmidt noticed in 1963 that certain kinds of objects resembling stars had enormously high red shifts, up to more than 300 per cent! If these "quasars" are at the distances that can be deducted from their red shifts, they must radiate an extremely large amount of energy in order to continue being so bright. It is also very difficult to measure the correlation between velocity and distance when the objects are really far away. (Steven Weinberg, Kolme ensimmäistä minuuttia / The Three First Minutes, p. 40)