Monday, April 17, 2006

Orwellian Newspeak in Oklahoma: You Be the Judge

Here is what Alan Leshner, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said about the proposed Academic Freedom Act in Oklahoma:
The sponsor of the measure says it would encourage critical thinking by exposing students to all sides of the scientific debate about evolution. That sounds reasonable, at first. But this is the sort of code language that supporters of intelligent design doctrine have tried to inject into science education standards in other communities and states nationwide -- not to promote science, but to promote a narrow religious agenda.

So I raise this question: Is "encourag[ing] critical thinking by exposing students to all sides of the scientific debate about evolution" really just "code language" for "promot[ing] a narrow religious agenda"? It seems to me that looking at the alleged "code language" that is being "injected" into Oklahoma law is the best way to decide.

So here is the operative language of the Act, which has only six sentences (for the full text see this post):
A. Every public school teacher in the State of Oklahoma, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.

B. No public school teacher in the State of Oklahoma shall be terminated, disciplined, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.

C. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student, in any public school shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific views.

D. The rights and privileges contained in the Academic Freedom Act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins of life. Nothing in this act shall be construed as requiring or encouraging any change in the state curriculum standards for public schools.

E. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

Can anyone point me to the "narrow religious agenda"? Who is the one using "code language" here? Doesn't Leshner think people are going to read the actual text of the law and see that it does quite the opposite of what he is alleging? When will scientists realize that this kind of propaganda only reduces the credibility of scientists, and, as a result, hurts science in America?

Leshner suggests that "critical thinking" really means "promoting a narrow religious agenda." For similar logic, read here.

If you wonder if such legislation is necessary, read here.


At April 19, 2006 4:12 AM, Blogger stewie said...

Res ipsa loquitur. Discussing a debate presupposes that there is a legitimate debate ensuing.

There have been "scientific" books written within the last three years that the Earth does not move, too. Doesn't make them fodder for disucssion in a high school classroom, unless they are covered as, "Well, there is the idea that the Sun goes 'round the Earth, but that's silly, and we shall never speak of it again." ID should be given the same treatment.

Legally, though, neither should be brought up. Don't take my word for it - ask Judge Jones.

Anyone catch the BBC Horizon episode about ID entitled "The War on Science"? ...Good stuff.

At April 19, 2006 11:53 AM, Blogger Mr. Justice said...

"ID should be given the same treatment"

Why? Because you have assumed a priori that there is no designer, and no seeker of scientific knowledge should be allowed to discuss the possibility?

Please. Inferring design has NOTHING to do with religion. Saying that things like DNA must have been designed is no more "religious" than saying Deep Blue or Mount Rushmore must have been designed.

At April 19, 2006 3:40 PM, Blogger crevo said...

I did an editorial on the number of distortions in Leshner's article. See here:

At April 19, 2006 4:07 PM, Blogger Daniel McCarthy said...

Ok Stewie,

There have also been scientific books published on Multiple Universes, which are inherently untestable, supernatural and unprovable. Also, books are published on the Oscillating Universe theory even though it is statistically impossible. Oh yeah, there are books written on abiogenesis even though abiogensis is statistically impossible.


At April 19, 2006 8:11 PM, Blogger stewie said...

I think you're confusing an irrelevant discussion about multiple universes with a completely useful disucssion about multiple dimensions. Nine or ten dimensions are mathematically necessary and useful in explaining the behavior of photons and other minute phenomena at the quantum level, stating something much clearer than Dembski's assertion that the way our universe turned out was improbable.

Statistical possibility is useful only to a point, and that point is when discussing things that are, in the first place, very improbable, because we're dealing with those things which occur >0%<0.5% of the time. But that does not discount the fact that they do occur, so don't apply that line of reasoning here. The fact that you led the life that you have to this point, that you have made each and every decision as you have, placed your foot on the ground in every precise position that you have is also statistically improbable, but it still has happened. That does not mean that God puts one of your feet in front of the other as you're walking, it only states the obvious, that you had to walk somewhere, and somehow you had to get there.

So, statistics has its place, just don't apply it to one-of-a-kind occurrences, because they'll always seem impossible. Only an idiot (or someone with an agenda for design) would say that all such occurrences are designed.

At December 30, 2006 7:20 AM, Blogger Lady Jane said...

I think they should stop teaching children to read the Iliad in High School then. It is about religious mythology and to these evolution-only fanatics all religion is mythology so most definitely there should be a push to eliminate ALL mythology from the classroom.


I'm a muslim you know and we allow both things in the classroom. All things from the Creator you know and that would include any and all evidences which suggest or as the case may be with the Cambrian, refute evolution.

When are they going to start talking ONLY about the Cambrian the way they promote pictures of half bent ape men societies?

I'd say Allah is winning.


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