Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thank the FSM* for Small Favors

While it may well seesaw back the other way at some point, I do, for the moment, have a small glimmer of hope for the future of humanity: the Kansas School Board repealed its guidelines that questioned the validity of evolution. Huzzah, Kansas!

There's some hilarity in the article about this development, nonetheless. Check this out:

John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said under the new standards, “students will be fed an answer which may be right or wrong” about questions like the origin of life.

“Who does that model put first?” he said. “The student, or those supplying the preordained ‘natural explanation’?”

Uh-huh. These ID people just keep pushing this canard about how teaching evolution means teaching God didn't create life, when, as I'm sure my readers are aware, evolution is a theory concerning how new species evolve from existing species, not about how life began in the first place. There's a whole separate field of study, abiogenesis, that deals with the origins of life.

Let me put this as simply and as clearly as possible:

The basic premise of the theory of evolution assumes life already exists. In other words, it says, "Given that life exists and that species exist, how did species come to be?" It is irrelevant to the theory of evolution exactly how said life came to be, just as it is irrelevant to optical theory exactly how light came to be.

To say that teaching kids about evolution means teaching them that God didn't create life on Earth is equivalent to saying that teaching kids about optics means teaching them that God didn't create light.

I doubt even the most enthusiastic ID zealot would be willing to take a hardline stand against teaching kids ROY G BIV, but the "origins of life" objection to teaching the theory of evolution is just as absurd.

That's why Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species," not "On the Origin of Life." The word "species" describes a feature of life, not life itself.

In addition, conflating separate but related topics like evolution and abiogenesis is like conflating football with baseball. Claiming that evolution talks about how life originally formed is like claiming that quarterbacks try to score runs. It just doesn't make any sense.

“There’s this, I think, political agenda to just ensure that evolution is the driving, underlying notion that has to be accepted in Kansas science standards in order for Kansas to keep its head up in the world, which is just bizarre,” said board member Ken Willard, a Republican who supported the 2005 standards.

Uh... yeah...

There's this, I think, political agenda to just ensure that not being cannibals is the driving, underlying notion that has to be accepted in Kansas in order for Kansas to keep its head up in the world, which is just bizarre.

Or, how about:

There's this, I think, political agenda to just ensure that the germ theory of disease is the driving, underlying notion that has to be accepted in Kansas science standards in order for Kansas to keep its head up in the world, which is just bizarre.

Well, gosh! You mean people will think you're crazy if you say crazy things? Who'da thunk? That's bizarre!

I guess Mr. Willard would say that there's no shame in teaching that Andy Rooney is the reincarnation of Napoleon in science class?

So, I guess that even though Republicans like Mr. Willard, the champions of "personal responsibility," think that one has no right to access to shelter or health care -- they must be earned -- they apparently think that respect need not be earned and should not be lost simply for acting like a four-year old holding his fingers in his ears going, "La la la la la la la!"


I assume, therefore, that he has the utmost respect for those who claim to have been abducted by aliens, homeless people who wear tinfoil on their heads to stop "the signals," Flat Earthers, conspiracy theorists, holocaust deniers, and people who think they are vampires, and will brook no disagreement.

I also like how Mr. Willard frames the conflict between truth and utter bullshit as just someone pushing a "political agenda." As if we all had to arbitrarily choose to support truth or bullshit because neither one is more valid than the other. Yeah. It's only because I have a "political agenda" that I have the temerity to expect science to be taught in science class. Right.

The article also notes:

The debate has branched off into history, with the current board planning to delete a passage about abuses of science.The wording mentioned the Nazis, forced sterilization and the decades-long Tuskegee syphilis study, in which public health officials falsely told poor, black men with the disease that they were being treated for it.

Critics claim the board is trying to sanitize the sometimes ugly history of science, while scientists argue the passage was inserted by supporters of intelligent design during the last revision and unfairly targets abuses perceived as linked to evolution.

Hmm. I suppose that the standards also mentioned how computers, antibiotics, airplanes, neurosurgery, vaccination, longer lifespans, and the internet are products of science. No? Well, at least the standards mentioned that the excesses of religion are legion, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, the blood libel, and the burning of witches? No? Hmm. You'd almost think those who wrote these standards, including Mr. Willard himself, were the ones with a "political agenda," by omitting truths in order to bolster a false claim of legitimacy for their particular favored fairy-tale. Mr. Willard, methinks thou doth protest too much. Remove the mote from your own eye before worrying about the splinter you think you see in your enemy's. How about actually reading your myths and following them a little? Wanna give it a try?

*The Flying Spaghetti Monster


Post a Comment

<< Home