Posted tagged ‘New Atlantis’

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 The reality is that natural history is a mixed question, and it requires inputs from other areas, such as historical documents like Scripture.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!

Will the real Francis Bacon please stand up?

January 23, 2011

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is considered by many as the founder of the scientific method, which is basically an organized way for us humans to attempt to answer questions about the Created order. A lawyer and a statesman, his greatest passion was in finding ways to improve and extend human knowledge, and this is seen in his written works like The Advancement of Learning.

Francis Bacon wrote many things. He was also accused of many things, and a brief read of Wikipedia’s Francis Bacon Page will leave any reader confused about who Bacon really was, or wasn’t.

Something that naturalists commonly credit Bacon with and creationists accuse Bacon of is encouraging the rejection of the Bible as a tool for informing scientific pursuits. This idea stems mainly from one paragraph he wrote in Novum Organum (1620), which is Latin for “New Instrument”. When describing “idols” that cause problems for proper study of natural philosophy, Bacon lists “superstition and religion” together as two culprits.  Bacon claims that, during his time:

“some moderns….have endeavored to build a system of natural Philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Job, and other parts of Scripture; seeking thus the dead amongst the living. And this folly is the more to be prevented and restrained, because not only fantastical Philosophy but heretical Religion spring from the absurd mixing of matters-Divine and Human. It is therefore most wise soberly to render unto faith the things that are faith’s.”

Even though Bacon’s works are in English, I must admit that I feel extremely inadequate when attempting to interpret them.  And if you are anything like me, you may need to read the above passage over several times, and even then, it may still not make any sense. What I think is pretty obvious though is that Bacon is concerned with letting science (philosophy of men) interpret Scripture.  Bacon says it is wise to “render unto faith the things that are faith’s”, and warns against the “absurd mixing of matters Divine and Human.” Notice, he doesn’t say we should never mix Divine (God’s Word) and Human (scientific observations), but rather we should avoid absurd mixtures. This is basically the same thing he said 15 years earlier in Advancement of Learning, Book I:

“A man cannot be too well studied in the book of God’s word or in the book of God’s works, divinity or philosophy…..and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.” [emphasis mine]

Again, Bacon did not say never mix things divine and human, just don’t unwisely mix them. That is a BIG difference, one statement leading down a shifty, sandy, secular fundamentalist road and the other leading down a solid, Biblically grounded path for interpreting past, present and future events.

So what was Bacon talking about when he mentioned “fantastical philosophy” and “heretic religion” (in Bacon’s day, “religion” meant Christianity) resulting from “absurd mixtures” of God’s word versus man’s word? It is difficult to say, but possibly one event he was referring to was Galileo’s recent problems with Catholic church leaders. In the early 1600’s, Galileo had reported, based on observations, that the Sun was at the center of our solar system. Church leaders said the Earth was at the center. Now, Joshua 10:12-13, Ecclesiastes 1:5, and Isaiah 38:8, all say the Sun “moves”, but make no mention of whether the Earth does or doesn’t. So why did Church leaders support a “geocentric” idea? Interestingly, geocentrism was proposed by Aristotle, and, even though he never made any actual observations of planetary motion like Galileo had, Church leaders accepted his unscientific claims over Galileo’s real observations.

Christian leaders made a big mistake in trying to apply Aristotle’s deductive conclusions to interpret Scriptures. The Scriptures do mention relative motion between Sun and Earth, and Church leaders should have encouraged the study of this relative motion. This would have avoided false conclusions, as well as providing an excuse for us sinful humans to reject God’s word. Church leaders could have simply said “we don’t know, we haven’t measured it, nor have we been to Space to verify either Galileo’s or Aristotle’s claims.”

In my book, The Exchange of Truth, I talk about Francis Bacon and his impact on science. Before I wrote the book, I did quite a bit of research on him. Here is a .pdf file of a 2005 presentation I gave on Bacon:

The Forgotten Message of Francis Bacon

From what I have learned, it is obvious Bacon had some flaws, just like any of us, but I came away with a different conclusion than some as to what Bacon’s agenda was. What I saw was a man who thought it was perfectly reasonable to mix science and religion. One of his foundational verses was Matthew 22:29, where Jesus informed the Sadducees “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Bacon thought men should know Scripture (God’s Word) and His power (God’s Works).  This idea permeates all of Bacon’s works.

Because I have written favorably of Bacon in Exchange of Truth, while other creationists have not, I thought I should conduct some more study into the man. To do this, I used a creation research search engine developed at Bryan College called CELD.   I typed in “Francis Bacon” and was greeted by several results. I was pleased to find some recent research published by Dr. Stephen A. McKnight from the University of Florida. In the abstract to a 2007 paper, he drew a similar conclusion to mine:

“Bacon’s program for rehabilitating humanity and its relation to nature is not a secular scientific advance through which humanity gains dominion over nature and mastery of its own destiny but rather one guided by divine Providence and achieved through pious human effort.”

McKnight has also published a book, The Religious Foundations of Francis Bacon’s Thoughts, and is a contributor to The New Atlantis, a journal of technology and society titled after one of Bacon’s most famous works.

So what do you think? Should Francis Bacon be labeled the hero of secular fundamentalists and villain of Christian creationists? I say no, but you should read Bacon and decide for yourself. My suggestion is to read Francis Bacon: The Major Works. Unless you are VERY fluent in 1600’s era English, Latin and Greek, you will find yourself flipping to the notes in the back about every other sentence. I think you may conclude, as myself and others have, that Francis Bacon saw the important connection between science and Christianity, a connection that is badly severed in the 21st century, but not impossible to repair. The Bible can inform science, and thinking of it any other way results in an “absurd mixing”.