Posted tagged ‘National Center for Science Education’

Eugenie Scott, Villain of Science Education?

September 26, 2013
Rather than promote good science in Texas textbooks, the so-called Texas Freedom Network throws dinosaur costume parties instead. While they party on, an entire generation of Texas students will be left in the dark regarding 21st Century Science.

Rather than promote good science in Texas textbooks, the so-called Texas Freedom Network throws dinosaur costume parties instead. While they party on, an entire generation of Texas students will be left in the dark regarding 21st Century Science.

The Anti-Science League of America

Pretending to be the new superheroes of science, the National Center for Science misEducation (NCSE) and their “Science League of America” are really the superheros of anti-science, and Eugenie Scott is their leader. Working together with the so-called Texas Freedom Network, they disguise themselves in dinosaur costumes while doing virtually nothing to promote science or its language, mathematics. In an amazing display of anti-science heroism, Dr. Scott recently blogged that the scientific concept called epigenetics “isn’t a topic for beginning biology learners.” But that’s not true!

Epigenetics is easy for children to learn!

A 5 year-old can understand that a ship needs a captain, and that is a great way to understand the interplay between genetics (the ship) and epigenetics (the captain). The genome is your DNA, which each cell has an identical copy of. The epigenome is the set of biological information that directs the DNA, causing it to turn on and off at different times and locations. Even Volume VII of Jonathan Park, a creation adventure audio series for children, talks about epigenetics! Only villains of science education would make the ridiculous claims Dr. Scott makes.

Right now, Texas is deciding on content for new biology textbooks. This content will influence the next generation of students not just in Texas, but all over America. During public testimony last week (Sep. 17), I encouraged the board to make sure the subject of epigenetics is properly presented in the new textbooks.  Unfortunately, the science education villains were out in force. NCSE’s Josh Rosenau was in attendance, and echoed the same false claims of Eugenie Scott, that epigenetics was “too hard.”

Epigenetics most certainly is part of the TEKS

Another false claim of Eugenie Scott’s is that epigenetics is not part of Texas standards for biology, called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Actually, any place genetics is discussed, epigenetics really needs discussion as well. Not only that, several TEKS specifically mention “gene expression”. What does Dr. Scott think causes genes to be expressed? Well, it’s the information in the epigenome!

Epigenetics is the reason why humans can start as one fertilized egg cell that develops into over 200 different cell types! And all these cell types have identical DNA, yet radically different epigenomes. It is the reason why recent speculations that most of our DNA is “junk” were so entirely wrong, as the ENCODE project has revealed. Epigenetics is also another mechanism of inheritance, and is the reason why the health of parents can effect their offspring, even if no genetic mutations occur.  It can also cause big heritable differences in physical traits, with no change to the DNA. As I outlined in my testimony, TEKS 4-7, and specifically 6D, 7F and 7G, are all basically saying epigenetics is mandatory content for a 21st Century high school biology textbook.

In superhero stories, the villains always lose

These days, it is actually quite easy to spot science education villains, because, like Eugenie Scott, they make their anti-science agenda so obvious. As dogmatic Darwinists, they, like Darwin, insist on a simple cell filled with one-dimensional (linear) DNA that randomly mutates to somehow generate new information. But 21st Century science reveals that the cell is anything but simple, and DNA actually works in 3-dimensions (4 if you include time), not one!

Unlike Charles Darwin, the science villains express no doubts about their version of history, dogmatically asserting Darwinism, even at the expense of giving an entire generation of students an intellectual handicap.

Is there any good news in this? Of course! For creationists like myself, real science and “creation science” are the same thing. By God’s grace, and in spite of the science villains, we will teach students about 21st Century Science, including epigenetics. And if you’ve seen any recent superhero movies, like The Avengers, Man of Steel, or Iron Man 3, you know the evolutionists are always portrayed as the villains. And what always happens to the villains? Eventually, they lose. But since we know they will lose, it’s all the more reason to apply some salt now and expose their foolish thinking, while at the same time being prepared to extend grace and mercy (Colossians 4:5-6).

Is the NCSE good for the world?

November 11, 2011

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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!

Texas Freedom Network promotes creationism hysteria and bigotry

May 9, 2011

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The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) is a curious group. On the one hand, they print articles claiming that some groups and individuals are promoting anti-Muslim “Sharia hysteria“. TFN considers such people “bigots”, people who are utterly intolerant of beliefs and opinions that are different from theirs. On the other hand, TFN is a big promoter of “creationism hysteria”, and they are quite intolerant, or bigoted, towards creationists, who might also happen to be Muslims! TFN frequently paints creationists as “anti-science“. In a recent press release, TFN, along with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), “warned” Texans about some creationist materials that could possibly be used in Texas’ public schools. Here is a quote from the press release:

Science in Texas public schools would take a shocking leap backward if the State Board of Education approves newly proposed instructional materials that promote creationism and reject established, mainstream science on evolution, spokespeople for the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) said today. In addition, public schools using those creationism-based materials could face expensive legal challenges even as they struggle with massive budget cuts at state and local levels.

“Two years ago State Board of Education members thumbed their noses at the science community and approved new curriculum standards that opened the door to creationism and junk science,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “Now they are getting exactly what they wanted — the chance to make Texas the poster child for the creationist movement. The state board would be aiding and abetting wholesale academic fraud and dumbing down the education of millions of Texas kids if it doesn’t reject these materials.”

If you are on TFN’s bandwagon of promoting “creationist hysteria”, I want you to please STOP for a minute and THINK about this. The concerns TFN and NCSE have are about this proposed curriculum’s treatment of origins. And origins research is not real science, but is speculation about natural history. The American philosopher Mortimer Adler made this distinction a long time ago, but some choose to ignore it. The only thing that will “dumb down” science education in Texas is if groups like TFN and NCSE continue to overemphasize questions about origins while neglecting the importance of teaching real science and math. The NCSE exists for the sole purpose of defending the teaching of evolutionism, not science. Their purpose is not to defend the teaching of science, or its language, mathematics. And by the way, Texas is one of many states that suffers from a longstanding shortage of math and science teachers. According to University of Texas researchers:

“The number of non-certified teachers covering math and science can rise to as much as 50 percent for some classes of students,” said Dr. Michael P. Marder, a physics professor who co-directs the UTeach initiative in Natural Sciences. “And in computer sciences, nearly 75 percent of the teachers are not appropriately certified.”  

A biblical, Christian worldview does not promote the dumbing down of science, it promotes the advancement of it. There is no conflict between a person’s faith in God’s word and their ability to understand the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, supercritical fluids, proteomes, etc. A proper reading and application of Scripture actually promotes science. Groups like NCSE and TFN promote bigotry and creationist hysteria when they say people with creationist beliefs are “anti-science,” and that a curriculum that dares to make the connection that things that look like they were designed might indeed have a Designer could “dumb down” Texas science education. The idea of intelligent causes is taught in the curriculum created by International Databases, LLC. As this International Business Times article describes, the curriculum uses a “null hypothesis” that intelligence was behind the origin of life. In other words, the null hypothesis is that things that look designed were in fact, designed. The alternative hypothesis is that things that look designed were in fact, not designed! Now honestly, how reasonable is that? Well, it is not reasonable at all, and the null-hypothesis is about as close as you can get to a self-evident truth.

Something else to consider about the supplementary curriculum proposed by International Databases is that when they talk about “intelligence,” they are not necessarily talking about the God of the Bible, but as author Stephen Sample says in the International Business Times article, the intelligence could be aliens. And some biology textbooks have already included chapters about aliens.

Later on in the press release, TFN and NCSE state:

Mainstream scientists have repeatedly shown that those arguments [about intelligent design] lack scientific merit. Moreover, in 2005 a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover that teaching intelligent design in public schools unconstitutionally promotes creationism.

Actually, what mainstream scientists have shown us is that there are limits to genetic change. An honest evolutionist will tell you that evolution theory cannot predict future results, which makes it the most un-scientific theory currently in existence. I cannot think of any other theories that claim to be scientific but have zero ability to predict future trends.

Regarding the TFN press release statement on Kitzmiller v. Dover, this is correct. The trial concluded that teaching creationism is unconstitutional. The trial did not show that evolution was scientific and creation/intelligent design was not. The PBS program NOVA made a documentary of the trial titled Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Although the documentary was biased towards evolutionism, they did a fairly good job of showing both sides, acting out the trial using direct quotes from individuals involved. Watch the documentary, and at about 1:17 to 1:22, you can see how the scientific case for evolution did not win out over intelligent design, so the plaintiffs switched to the “religious argument”.

So, the Dover v. Kitzmiller case declares creationism is unconstitutional, and a violation of the First Amendment, where the American government is to “make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” But what is creationism? Ultimately, it is an idea used to explain origins. But wait, that’s what evolution is as well! Evolution is an idea used by some to explain how God brought about life. People who believe this are called theistic evolutionists. Others who simply “believe” evolution explains life’s origins are also being religious, because there is no way to prove evolution, so to believe it and promote it at the exclusion of other ideas about origins is a faith-based, but bigoted, way to think.

So, while TFN and NCSE promote creationism hysteria and warn about impending lawsuits, what might well happen is that they will be on the losing end of any legal battles they initiate. Dover v. Kitzmiller could be overturned. Proclaiming that people who believe God created are “anti-science” is unreasonable. Saying evolutionary explanations about origins are “scientific” is also unreasonable, because answering questions about origins is outside the limits of science. The Texas Freedom Network and NCSE are not about the advancement of science and math education, but they are about promoting creationism hysteria. Whether you are a creationist or not, please think carefully about the fact that what these two groups promote will actually damage science education instead of advance it. When groups like TFN and NCSE tell someone they are being “anti-science” because they believe that a thing that looks designed might in fact, have a designer, they are discouraging students from diving deeper into math and science. I wonder what would happen to Texas’ math and science teacher shortage if groups like TFN and NCSE actually encouraged people who believe in a Designer instead of discouraging them by labeling them “anti-science”? Since polls consistently reveal that most people believe in an Intelligent Designer, I would say TFN’s and NCSE’s current mantra discourages a lot of rational people from pursuing math and science careers.