Posted tagged ‘21st century science’

Texas Law Bans the Mention of Evolution in Textbooks

September 18, 2013


It’s a typo, and a funny one at that! But wait, some are saying this might not be such a bad idea : “Imagine. What if all theories about changes in life forms over time advanced in textbooks had to go by content-based names like genetic drift, horizontal gene transfer, symbiosis, and natural selection? The explanations would have to make way more sense, thus be open to evidence-based objections in given cases.”

Now, I don’t know of anyone who disagrees descendents differ somewhat from their ancestors. Change happens, and if you want to call that “evolution”, fine (I prefer “adaptation”, or “change”) but why not be more specific, as the article linked above describes?

Why not just focus on the various mechanisms of inheritance, without reference to evolution? Think about it. The “banning evolution” story by WFAA news in Dallas was published last night, and broadcast over the evening news, and nobody caught the typo! They have since discovered the blunder, and the text was edited and video taken down this morning. But how does a major news station in a major United States city miss something so obvious?

Graduating ideologues, not scholars

The problem is that people are confused, really confused, about the whole creation/evolution battle. And this confusion is evidence of a complete breakdown in not just higher education, but all education. As this fantastic Wall Street Journal article states, at today’s academic institutions, “Whatever your stance regarding the “culture wars” and the politics of higher education, it is undeniable that a great many graduating students have little idea of what genuine intellectual exploration involves. Too often, learning to think is replaced by ideological scorekeeping, and the use of adjectives replaces the use of arguments.”  

Yesterday (Sep. 17, 2013), the Texas State Board of Education heard public testimony regarding new textbooks up for adoption. Review panels are selected by board members to supposedly check for factual errors and ensure that the books are meeting state standards. Because one or two reviewers suggested teaching “creation science”, the anti-creationists went ballistic. Armed with plenty of adjectives, the ideologically driven Texas Freedom Network staged a protest. Similar to the dinosaur history protest in front of a recent Texas homeschool convention, they even brought some of the same adjective-filled signs!

For several hours, the board heard from over 50 testifiers, the majority of which parroted the same thing: keep creationism out of textbooks. From concerned parents to Univ. of Texas professors to the ACLU, over and over the board heard ideological comments laced with adjectives. If you wanted proof of the claims made in the WSJ article mentioned earlier, this was the place to be. It was a sea of anti-intellectualism, complete with people running around in dinosaur costumes!

Standing up for Science

But a few of us did show up to encourage intellectual exploration and encourage the board to approve textbooks that give students the best 21st Century Science education they could get. In my public testimony, which you can download here, I encouraged board members to reject textbooks unless they revised them to include the subject of epigenetics. I gave them all a copy of the Mysterious Epigenome, signed by the author. I also gave them a course map for the next biology standards revision. My course map included 4 big ideas, and was based off a course map for the University of Texas’ introductory biology course. I added an idea on “mechanisms of inheritance”, that does not mention evolution, but instead focuses on testable, repeatable science surrounding the various mechanisms for inheriting biological information. 

In a 21st Century biology course, you might as well not even teach it if you aren’t going to include a discussion of epigenetics. But what is epigenetics? Well, just think of your DNA (which each cell has an identical copy of) as the “ship”. A ship stays in port unless it has a captain to direct it. The “captain” is the epigenome, a set of information that switches the DNA on and off at different times and locations. Think about this, how did you go from a single cell to a human body with over 200 different cell types, all with the same DNA? The answer? Epigenetics! Or how did scientists recently produce hundreds of different varieties of plants in just a few years, all with the same DNA? Epigenetics!

Biologists with an ideological torch to wave are “nervous” about epigenetics, because it causes changes without a change in DNA, the “sacred cow” of evolutionism. Real scientists however, find it absurd to be “nervous” about epigenetics, and are pushing us farther and farther into this amazing field. In my own courses, my students are learning about epigenetics, as well as other 21st Century biology topics. My products are primarily for home-educated students, but private and public schools are certainly welcome to use them. But what will happen to public school students who are given a textbook filled with 19th and 20th Century biology concepts, many of which are just untested speculation? How far behind will these students be when they get to college and career?

Sitting Down for Science

The answer? Compared to my students and those in other countries that focus on science instead of ideology, American public school students will be way behind. And one of the main reasons they will be behind is anti-creationist ideologues who oppose anything a creationist mentions, even if it has to do with getting 21st Century Science into textbooks. Prior to TFN’s dinosaur costume party, I met up with Ron Wetherington, an anti-creationist activist and anthropology professor at SMU. Being a natural history researcher, I did not expect him to know much about epigenetics, but I asked him what he thought about getting it into textbooks. He didn’t think it was a good idea. When I tried to keep the discussion going, he was not able to give a reasonable answer and politely excused himself from the conversation.

Next, University of Texas molecular biologist Dr. Arturo De Lozanne spoke during the protest, proclaiming students deserve the best science education based on the latest research. Afterwards, I spoke with him about getting the latest research, which would include epigenetics, into textbooks. I told him I was a creationist, which immediately stoked the anti-intellectual fires in this otherwise intelligent man. Amazingly, Dr. Lozanne was not in favor of teaching something as fundamental as epigenetics to high school students! But minutes before he said he was for teaching the latest research. This irrational response could only be because, to agree with me would mean that he agreed with a creationist, which would be politically incorrect and an ideological blunder.

Dr. Lozanne was holding a sign that said “Kids deserve a future”, so I asked him if he thought ALL kids deserve a future, include unborn children. He said that wasn’t relevant to the discussion. To an ideologue, it’s irrelevant, but to a moral, scientifically minded person, it is 100% relevant. You see, science has confirmed life begins at conception, so if you are against protecting a human, just because they are developing inside rather than outside their mother, then you are anti-science. I was able to show Dr. Lozanne that his lack of desire to care for all kids was anti-science, at which point he was not able to give me a reasonable answer and made up a reason to excuse himself from the discussion.

I also talked to anti-creationist Zack Kopplin, who, like Dr. Lozanne, is a nice person. Zack is a history major from Rice University, which does seem appropriate considering the creation/evolution battle is primarily about interpreting history. Anyways, I tried to get his thoughts on teaching the fundamentals of epigenetics. I told him I was teaching it to my students, and that our company has higher standards for math and science than any state in the nation. Even so, he was not in favor of including epigenetics in the Texas textbooks. He was also unable to give me a reasonable answer and made up a reason to excuse himself.

Next up was Aron Ra, the self-proclaimed “YouTube Atheist”. Unfortunately, Aron is so intolerant of those who disagree with him that he would not even shake my hand. I tried to ask him  multiple times what he thought about including epigenetics in Texas biology texts, but he kept diverting the discussion to natural history, claiming that he could prove, without a time machine, common descent. When I kept pressing him to talk about scientific things instead of historic things, he was not able to give me a reasonable answer and conveniently excused himself.

During public testimony, I was able to talk to a couple of ideologues, including Josh Rosenau of the so-called National Center for Science Education. Josh was “tweeting” about every person who came up to testify, and I “tweeted” back appropriate responses on several occasions. Before he went up to testify, I spoke with him, joked about our “Twitter battle”, and then asked him what he thought about my testimony and including epigenetics. A friendly young man, Josh’s response was just more of the same, claiming that epigenetics was “too hard” for high school students to learn. This is an incredibly lame excuse, because, as I mentioned earlier, you can refer to the epigenome as the “captain” and the genome (DNA) as the “ship”. A 5-year old could understand that! Josh knows I’m a creationist, and I encouraged him that he doesn’t have to oppose everything creationists say.

Last up was Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network. I also encouraged her to think harder about all of this. Kathy is not a scientist, and stated that on matters of science, she consults with her experts, nodding at Josh Rosenau of NCSE (who is actually not a scientist or a science teacher). I told her that I am a scientist, and a science teacher, and I could probably help her if she wanted a different opinion. To her credit, she did accept my gift of a copy of Mysterious Epigenome, and I encouraged her to let her children read it. I also told her she didn’t have to agree with everything in the book, but I assured her there would be many things she would agree with.

So what did I learn from these exchanges? Well, there are a lot of nice people out there who reject science and reason to support their ideology. And that is a huge part of the problem, if not THE problem with the whole creation/evolution battle in America. Some people, mostly liberals, have become so blinded by their “ideaological scorekeeping”, that they think it is impossible to agree with “them” about ANYTHING. Instead of a desire to engage in “genuine intellectual exploration”, we have otherwise intelligent people engaged in rampant anti-intellectualism, denying the very science they claim to be standing up for.

Solving the problem of rampant anti-intellectualism

What can we do to release the irrational and anti-intellectual stranglehold on America? First, pray, because it is God who changes hearts, and it is God who is Author of all knowledge and reason. Second, engage others. Be salt and light. Expose their foolishness while showing genuine care for them and for others. MAKE THEM THINK. For unbelievers, it is important to realize that by rejecting God, they reject reason (Psalm 14:1), so you can’t expect to have a rational conversation with them. Don’t let that frustrate you, and don’t push too hard to “prove God” or “win” the argument. God doesn’t need us to prove that He exists, everybody knows it already (Romans 1:20). And third? Well, if you have children, homeschool them!

Will Texas textbooks include fundamental topics that give students a 21st Century Science education, or will homeschoolers continue leading the way in American science and math education? Time will tell. Final textbook approval is in November.

wfaa mistake, bans evolution

Is the NCSE good for the world?

November 11, 2011

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No.

A name like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) gives  the impression of an organization with a vision for improving science education. If NCSE were good for the world, it would be a clearinghouse of information for helping science educators stay updated on the latest advances in science, which they could pass on to students. It would cover all the sciences, and give helpful tips on science fundamentals such as the scientific method and the limitations of this inductive approach to studying our world. And of course it would focus heavily on mathematics, the language of science, with helpful resources to improve mathematics teaching. It would also have a special mission for helping the worst-performing schools, providing hope and encouragement to educators and students to study and apply science in ways that will help them be more productive for the glory of God and the service of others.

Unfortunately, the NCSE is none of these things. In fact, their mission is simply this: defending the teaching of evolution in public schools. Instead of being our national cheerleaders for advancing real science education, the NCSE instead is only about defending a single, faith-based natural history topic known as evolutionism. They confuse natural history with science, which in turn confuses others into thinking that science can answer all questions about the past. The reality is that natural history is a mixed question, and it requires inputs from other areas, such as historical documents like Scripture. Unlike normal scientific research, whose conclusions can be verified, conclusions made from natural history research cannot be verified. Treating origins topics as history instead of science causes people to realize that we all have the same evidence, the differences come in the interpretations, and some interpretations are definitely better than others. It also helps people realize that the creationism vs. evolutionism battle is not primarily a religion vs. science battle, but a battle of one religious belief vs. another. Many individuals, including those at NCSE, confuse the boundary between real science and natural history research.

So, the NCSE is not about promoting science, but evolutionism. Evolutionism is the faith-based idea that somehow, through a very long series of genetic copying errors, bacteria turned into people. And thanks in part to the NCSE’s dogmatic approach to education, this idea is the only major premise used in most biology curricula on the market today. Fortunately, not everyone believes the unverifiable claims of evolutionists.

The more we learn about cells, the more improbable evolutionism sounds. But the NCSE marches on, blind to the advances in 21st Century science, because real science naturally opposes their mission. And if you still don’t believe that the NCSE would choose evolutionism over testable, repeatable science, please, read on.

From June 13-17, 2011, I was able to participate on a Texas review panel for adopting new high school biology curricula in public schools. This process is designed to allow public participation in the review process, and State Board of Education members are allowed to appoint members of the public to a week-long review process. I was nominated by my State Board Representative, Mrs. Barbara Cargill. Texas adopted new high school biology teaching standards in 2009, and the review panels analyzed and evaluated the  new supplemental science curricula to determine if the standards were being met. We also checked for factual errors, but that’s another story.

One of the new standards approved in 2009 is called TEK 7G (TEKS = Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which required students to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations regarding the complexity of the cell.” I thought publishers would jump on this opportunity to teach high school students about 21st Century research involving cell complexity, but I was sadly disappointed. I was also disappointed with the poor quality of some of the curricula, but a curriculum we reviewed by Holt-McDougal was better than most. Unfortunately, the presentation of TEK 7G was extremely weak, and consisted of an evolutionary explanation called endosymbiosis. Endosymbiosis, the turning of a prokaryote into a eukaryote (cell with a nucleus), has never been tested. It is an idea about cells eating other cells, and instead of becoming dinner, the consumed cells turn into highly specialized and purposeful cell organelles. Kind of like if you ate a hamburger, and, instead of being digested, it turned into a dolphin. Or something like that.

The review panels consisted of teams of 3-4 people, and I actually had to go against my other team members and reject Holt’s weak effort to address TEK 7G. One excuse a team member gave for approving it as-is was that what I had proposed would be “too hard” for students to learn! But a mark of a good educator is finding simple ways to explain complex concepts.

Fortunately, the only way for Holt’s weak attempt at addressing TEK 7G to gain approval was if our review panel voted unanimously in favor of it. So I rejected it, and you can read my reasons and suggestions here. I was pleasantly surprised when Holt accepted many of my suggestions. They could have disputed all of my suggestions, as they did with several factual errors our team presented, but they didn’t.

So now, besides endosymbiosis, students who use the Holt curriculum can also learn about 21st century science concepts like genomes, proteomes, and interactomes. Holt added a beautiful section titled 21st Century Cell Complexity, and presented it simply and clearly. And as I had hoped, they also directed teachers to the National Center for Dynamic Interactome Research, where, if you look, you can find an easy-to-understand laboratory activity that uses cell phones to explain interactomes.

While public school biology curricula have a long way to go, the ones from Texas are definitely better than ever at presenting students with alternatives to evolutionism. After Holt made some, but not all of the changes I had hoped for (I wanted them to include a “tree of life” that had multiple “trunks”), the changes still needed to be approved by the State Board of Education. Thankfully, they were adopted on July 20-21, 2011. Not surprisingly, the NCSE sent someone to promote censorship of the self-evident truth that living organisms were designed. Programs and Policy Director Josh Rosenau testified, and I later had the opportunity to meet him. In our brief but friendly conversation, I asked him what he would do if he had to choose between teaching endosymbiosis or teaching 21st century science on cell complexity. Without hesitation, Josh said he would have to go with the non-scientific idea of endosymbiosis! Oh well, at least Texas public school students will have a choice now on what to believe. Are cells specially created, multi-dimensional super machines and is there evidence to support this, or are they cannibalistic bags of salt? I’ll choose the former, what about you?

And that is just one of many reasons NCSE is not good for the world. Now they have a new documentary out that is the closest thing I have seen to white elitism in a long time. Like, since Hitler. Or Sanger. You have to watch the trailer, and see if you notice a seemingly white elitist message  proclaiming that portly, toothless, dark-skinned people with thick accents are the only ones who would consider teaching about alternatives to evolutionism. Immediately following the non-white man, a white woman explains how people who don’t believe in evolutionism are like people with severe handicaps. It could just be bad filmmaking, but the disrespectful, white-elitist message seems pretty clear to me. But then again I’m not sure if I would expect much different from people who have so much faith in Darwin, who based his ideas on Thomas Malthus’ 1800’s human population myths. And it was Malthus who proposed moving poor people to disease infested swamps so that they would be more likely to die, and this would keep their population in check!

Hopefully, this little blog post will open a few eyes to the censorship, misrepresentation of science, and possible white elitism that are NCSE’s agenda. Pray for their leaders to have a change of heart, and to no longer be deceived by hollow, deceptive and unscientific philosophies about origins that are based on the traditions of men, rather than on Christ(Colossians 2:8). Perhaps someday, instead of their current non-scientific mission, NCSE’s leaders will instead pay more attention to the words of Francis Bacon, founder of the scientific method, who wrote in his book, New Atlantis, of a place

sometimes called Solomon’s House, and sometimes the College of the Six Days’ Works, whereby I am satisfied that our excellent King had learned from the Hebrews that God had created the world and all that therein is within six days: and therefore he instituted that house, for the finding out of the true nature of all things, whereby God might have the more glory in the workmanship of them, and men the more fruit in their use of them, did give it also that second name.

Wow, a National Center for Science Education like that really would be good for the world!