Tennessee makes it safe to teach "alternative" science.

LarryC wrote:

Naturally. However, if you made it clear that this is not acceptable for anybody (and made sure that absolutely no discussion of religion in any form is made in science class), then you have much, much stronger ground to stand on when you rebuff their efforts.

The people "rebuffing their efforts" already have very strong ground to stand on, in my opinion, and it is unnecessarily cumbersome to expect them to phrase every sentence in a discussion of evolution with "Evolutionary scientists collect evidence for the conclusion that..." just to obtain "stronger ground."

Especially since the most vocal opponents of the teaching of evolution really won't care if you do or not. There is a significant portion of the population here who don't want their children to know about the existence of the theory of evolution at all, at any time in their lives. There is, in fact, an entire homeschooling industry built up around this sort of thing.

Demyx:

While that is just a fact, I guarantee you that there would still be offense to what you just said.

Furthermore, even if you phrased the evolutionary content of a science class in the least confrontational way possible, there are groups that would still want their religious beliefs taught in science class.

Naturally. However, if you made it clear that this is not acceptable for anybody (and made sure that absolutely no discussion of religion in any form is made in science class), then you have much, much stronger ground to stand on when you rebuff their efforts.

CheezePavilion:

Plate tectonics: considering the religious belief known as Young Earth Creationism, you cannot make reference to any geological event occurring more than roughly 6,000 years ago without having to comment on Young Earth Creationism's scientific claims as opposed to faith based ones.

You can say that plate tectonics tells us that IF the Earth were older than 6, 000 years old, these would be reasonable...

It is not a fact that the Earth is more than 6, 000 years old anyway, because no one has ever lived that long to observe this directly. We have suggestive results based on processes based on modern understandings and assumptions, but it is not a scientific fact, so there is no need to clash with Young Earthists on this score whatsoever. They can continue to believe whatever the hell they want.

Why is this okay?

Because you are teaching science, not religion.

Demyx:

I'm getting a strong impression that much of that is because they feel that the way science is taught in class rebuffs their faith items. That's really the core issue there. There is no reason why any scientific theory should offend anyone, because none of those are true, and none of those are belief items. They are theories - beyond faith, or beside faith, if you prefer.

LarryC wrote:

If you can provide a critical elementary school science subject or topic that I cannot mutually exclude as a pure matter of science, I will concede the point.

LarryC wrote:

You can say that plate tectonics tells us that IF the Earth were older than 6, 000 years old, these would be reasonable...

It is not a fact that the Earth is more than 6, 000 years old anyway, because no one has ever lived that long to observe this directly. We have suggestive results based on processes based on modern understandings and assumptions, but it is not a scientific fact, so there is no need to clash with Young Earthists on this score whatsoever. They can continue to believe whatever the hell they want.

I am insulted you thought you could move the goalposts on me with such a simple semantic switcheroo like this one, LarryC--c'mon man! You know me better than that!

LarryC wrote:

It is not a fact that the Earth is more than 6, 000 years old anyway, because no one has ever lived that long to observe this directly. We have suggestive results based on processes based on modern understandings and assumptions, but it is not a scientific fact, so there is no need to clash with Young Earthists on this score whatsoever. They can continue to believe whatever the hell they want.

This is not so. Deductive reasoning works to fix fact as well as inductive reasoning. We can make valid statements about the big bang by observing the collisions of sub atomic particles and we can infer the dates of objects by quantifying the decay of carbon.

We know about carbon decay, so we can effectively date items that predate writing and predate humanity. The results of properly executed carbon dating experiments are scientific fact. Young Earth Theorists are demonstrably wrong on these points of fact. If they want to practice science, then they are going to have to challenge the methodology of carbon dating, something that they have spectacularly failed to do.

LarryC wrote:

Demyx:

I'm getting a strong impression that much of that is because they feel that the way science is taught in class rebuffs their faith items. That's really the core issue there. There is no reason why any scientific theory should offend anyone, because none of those are true, and none of those are belief items. They are theories - beyond faith, or beside faith, if you prefer.

I think you are getting an entirely incorrect impression of how the opponents of evolution teaching think and act. A large portion of them seriously do not want the existence of the theory taught, or acknowledged, anywhere at all. They are not okay with the fact that other people believe in evolution.

Have you been around the Bible Belt parts of America at all?

Here's another example: An atheist group put up a billboard that said, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." It's nothing more than a simple statement of fact: Atheists exist. And yet, vocal groups demanded that this billboard be torn down.

I am sufficiently convinced that there is no way to breach this issue on either side of the divide. Carry on.

Ohh, I see. Old Earth is a theory now.

LarryC wrote:

I'm getting a strong impression that much of that is because they feel that the way science is taught in class rebuffs their faith items. That's really the core issue there. There is no reason why any scientific theory should offend anyone, because none of those are true, and none of those are belief items. They are theories - beyond faith, or beside faith, if you prefer.

I actually don't doubt that either, but it is not necessarily true that the the way science is taught SHOULD make them feel their faith items are being rebuffed. At a certain point, one is no longer responsible for another person taking irrational offense.

Now maybe there are sound TACTICAL reasons for conforming to an irrational person's expectations, but that's a different issue.

LarryC wrote:

I am sufficiently convinced that there is no way to breach this issue on either side of the divide. Carry on.

I agree, Larry, and I'm sick of all these people telling me the Earth isn't flat. I look forward to future science teachers telling me that some scientists believe we live on a globe, and others disagree.

LarryC wrote:

It is not a fact that the Earth is more than 6, 000 years old anyway, because no one has ever lived that long to observe this directly. We have suggestive results based on processes based on modern understandings and assumptions, but it is not a scientific fact, so there is no need to clash with Young Earthists on this score whatsoever. They can continue to believe whatever the hell they want.

Why is this okay?

Because you are teaching science, not religion.

LarryC wrote:

The overwhelming sense I get from their movements is that it is a pushback against what they perceive to be threats to their religious beliefs. If you don't threaten their beliefs, they won't feel the need to attack to defend it.

Do you see the contradiction, Larry?

Wow. All it takes is one believer to turn this into the well-trod science vs religion debate. Ah well, it's usually an entertaining (one-sided) argument.

I'm more curious about the original post. One question: How is this legal?

If my kid came home from school spouting off creation myths as science I would sue the school. Is this constitutional?

Your Tenesee teachers are now free to teach bad science to the next generation of Americans. That is more worthy of discussion than me. Carry on. Please.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

I'm more curious about the original post. One question: How is this legal?

It's not. There will be a lawsuit and it will go the same way the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in Pennsylvania went a few years ago: teaching creationism/intelligent design/etc. in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Ohh, I see. Old Earth is a theory now.

In Tennessee, earthquakes are caused by an angry God.

Which is possibly why the discussion turned into the old religion vs. science debate so quickly. This has happened and been struck down before, time and time again.

I'm actually more concerned about some of the more recent changes to history curriculum, which are a lot harder to challenge effectively. You can easily say "Creationism shouldn't be in a science classroom because it's not science." It's harder to come up with a simple way to point out the problems with, say, deemphasizing Thomas Jefferson in a history class because you don't agree with his beliefs -- they're still teaching history, after all.

Demyx wrote:

Which is possibly why the discussion turned into the old religion vs. science debate so quickly. This has happened and been struck down before, time and time again.

I'm actually more concerned about some of the more recent changes to history curriculum, which are a lot harder to challenge effectively. You can easily say "Creationism shouldn't be in a science classroom because it's not science." It's harder to come up with a simple way to point out the problems with, say, deemphasizing Thomas Jefferson in a history class because you don't agree with his beliefs -- they're still teaching history, after all.

Start a thread!

NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

Fair enough, don't mean to derail.

LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

That was really confusing because I thought you were referencing Thomas Jefferson there.

LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

You can't use those until the thread is started.

LarryC wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

You can't use those until the thread is started.

Sounds like just a theory to me.

NathanialG wrote:
LarryC wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

You can't use those until the thread is started.

Sounds like just a theory to me.

NathanialG wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

That was really confusing because I thought you were referencing Thomas Jefferson there.

Only if he's an off-the-tracks train that keeps repeating the same crash over and over.

LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

Start a thread!

Or don't. I have more Thomas stuff saved up.

That was really confusing because I thought you were referencing Thomas Jefferson there.

Only if he's an off-the-tracks train that keeps repeating the same crash over and over.

Whoah, 140 new comments in 5 hours. Took awhile to catch up.

TheConformist: I want to first reinforce that I don't particularly care what your religious beliefs are. Believe in something, don't believe in something, that's fine. As long as it's not in science class, we're cool, and I can see you're good with that, so all's well in that area.

But I did want to address this bit, because I'm not sure this was adequately covered upthread:

A bold statement. Especially since the "Theory of Evolution" is just that, a Theory.

A scientific Theory is a big deal. It's not like a layman's theory. A layman's theory is more like a scientific hypothesis, which is a tentative, possible explanation for observed facts.

A scientific Theory has to explain all the available facts, and it can't be contradicted by any available evidence. If there's a single repeatable phenomenon that contradicts a Theory, then that theory has to either be modified or discarded. That word really means something in science. The Theory of Evolution is a big deal, because it's supported by a gigantic body of observed facts, probably more facts than any other theory in all of science. And none of them contradicts creatures changing over time.

Overall, I like to put it this way: species change over time. Hard fact. Why they change over time, though, is what the Theory of Evolution tries to explain.

We see creatures changing ourselves, and we see evidence of it happening all around us in multiple fields of inquiry, most strongly genetics and paleontology. If you believe that a scientist can examine your DNA and determine who your father is, if you believe in paternity testing, then you also need to believe those same scientists when they talk about the records of millions of generations in those same genes.

As an explanation of this process, the Theory of Evolution seems a bit loose and squirrely, because how do you define fitness? Well, overall, it's simply defined by survival and reproduction; if you survive and reproduce, you were fit. If you didn't, you weren't. So you can (and do) very nearly have unique survival strategies per species, and scientists will constantly be finding new 'fitness' strategies. But it's ultimately always about reproduction.

Creatures do change over time. Old species die out, and new species come into being, and they do this through random mutations in their genetic sequences. This has such overwhelming evidence that it can be treated as a fact, one as solid as the chair you're sitting in, or the computing device you're reading this on. You can argue about why this happens, and we probably will still be arguing about fitness until the end of scientific inquiry, but you simply can't reasonably argue that it doesn't happen.

But it's possible that someone could eventually make that argument. If someone came up with new evidence, say that we're running in a computer simulation, and that that simulation was started 6,000 years ago, then the Theory of Evolution would be instantly rendered null and void. It would have to be extremely good evidence, because of the mountain of evidence that the Earth is older than that, but if it was irrefutable, the entire edifice would be instantly blown to beach. That's how science works.

Contrast that with Creationism, especially Young Earth Creationism. No evidence can make its proponents abandon the explanation that God created everything 6,000 years ago. Scientists would admit, and would modify theories to reflect the fact that the Earth was only 6,000 years old, if sufficiently strong evidence was presented. But there is no possible way to convince a Young Earther that the planet is older than 6,000 years.

And that's why Creationism doesn't belong in a science class.

edit: hmm, maybe Sixteen's right, deleting this post.

Nothing to see here.

The Conformist wrote:

* Also, I would just like to state that I do believe in the current Science of man. Without it we wouldn't have such Scientific breakthroughs in medicine. I just believe differently of it's origins.

So the current state of the world is fairly indistinguishable - evolution works, scientific progress is observable - you just believe that, where some theories attribute everything to an unexplainable big bang, you attribute it to an unexplainable intelligent being.

Fair enough, actually. I can't prove or disprove the idea, so I'm okay with them being presented. But it doesn't need to be 'taught' any more than fifteen seconds.

"There are a lot of things we're not even close to understanding with science. Some people believe we'll eventually find a scientific explanation for things like the beginning of the universe, while others believe in a guiding intelligence that created the universe in a specific way. Each person's beliefs on the matter are a personal decision. Now then, I'd like to move on and spend the rest of this semester talking about the things we can understand, observe, and explain."