The Atlanta Science Tavern Message Board The Atlanta Science Tavern Discussion Forum › Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Scien

Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Science Curriculum

This message board is read-only.

Gary S.
user 55189802
Lawrenceville, GA
Post #: 1
Something created the first atoms trillions of years ago. Some people call that something "God", and some other people call it "Science". Whatever people call it, it does not change what actually happened.

Thank God we have Science!


Update:
Scientific knowledge is gained by systematic study. The amount of Scientific knowledge that humans know is less than 0.00000001% of all Scientific knowledge. Humans will never know everything and we will always have to take some things on “belief”.

People study God, in part, to learn about the creation of the universe.

Since humans know nothing (except theories) about the creation of the universe, we also have to thank the people's thirst for scientific knowledge for the universe's creation of a "God" at the time that religions were being formed and there was only 0.00000001% of the scientific knowledge that we possess today.
Well.
I don't know of anyone who claims Science created the universe.
The real crux is that science forms theories from observations, and changes the theories as new data comes in. Those theories are tested repeatedly by different testers and the theories are either continued, amended, or discarded as experimental results or new observations affect them.
The "creation" (I use the word guardedly) of the known universe has had over many years, many theoretical explanations that have changed as new information became available.
Religion "has the answer, it is in the book" and that is it. No new evidence is needed or wanted.
I say this as it is the fundamental difference that needs to be taught.
If you want to believe in a god that made everything, so be it, but understand that goes against our observations of the available evidence. Just like evolution. Note that it is still a theory (the "Book" has a different answer) but the vast majority of observations and evidence indicates that the theory of evolution is sound and by far the best explanation for our evidence and observations.
-gary
Marc M.
MarcMerlin
Group Organizer
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 67
Since his comments were quoted in Alan Vaughan’s post above, I was reminded that I owe Midtown Scientist (MS) a response to his critique of my position.

As was noted, I made the following claim in my original post.

"Be that as it may, science stands apart in many respects from those other fields of study, at least at the level of the K-12 curriculum, and that is that there are not two sides to teach about subjects like the theory of evolution by natural selection. The science was long-ago decided and the consensus is not only strong, but the body of supporting evidence and detailed theory grows stronger with each passing day."

MS upbraids me by saying that I am “totally off the mark,” and points out quite emphatically that, “OF COURSE there are two sides!”

To that I can only respond that there are indeed many sides in opposition to the theory of evolution by natural selection. In fact, there are, at a minimum, as many as there are creation myths out there in the world. I don’t deny the existence of such points of view, but I insist that they are not worthy of being included in the science curriculum in our schools.

So why does MS think that alternate explanations for the origin and diversity of life should be taught? It appears that he finds the theory of evolution by natural selection lacking. He is convinced that “the mechanism of random mutations has not been proven to be able to produce the incredible variety of living systems.”

Fair enough. Midtown Scientist, God bless him, is unpersuaded by the evidence that has been marshalled in support of the theory of evolution. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he is in no way entitled to be the arbiter of what is or is not included in our K-12 science curriculum.

Although Midtown Scientist remains unpersuaded, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists and an even more overwhelming majority of biologists - people much more knowledgeable about the question at hand than either he or I - are persuaded that the theory of evolution by natural selection is the only scientific theory that merits teaching in our schools.

Could this scientific consensus be wrong? Of course it could. That is the very nature of any scientific claim. Could MS be correct in his skepticism that random mutations are inadequate to account for the bounty of biological diversity we observe in the world? It is certainly is in the realm of possibility.

That said, then MS and those allied with him have a remedy available to them. Propose a testable alternate theory. Demonstrate experimentally that it conforms with the observed data. Publish their results in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals and persuade their science colleagues of the error of their ways. This is the stuff of which scientific revolutions are made. Bad theories do not go gently into that dark night, but we have over the centuries dispatched them with some regularity. A Darwin trophy on the wall would certainly confer some bragging rights!

Until MS et al. can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the world science community that the theory of evolution by natural selection is defective and offer something (falsifiable) in its stead, I’ll stick with the consensus and advocate that it alone be taught to our children as our best current understanding of how the biological world works.
Stephen
user 4297520
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 26
Very well said, sir. Very well said.
Gary S.
user 55189802
Lawrenceville, GA
Post #: 2
Very well said, indeed!

MS upbraids me by saying that I am “totally off the mark,” and points out quite emphatically that, “OF COURSE there are two sides!”
Well, in simplistic terms, there are two sides. Religious/superstitious belief and scientific inquiry.

To that I can only respond that there are indeed many sides in opposition to the theory of evolution by natural selection. In fact, there are, at a minimum, as many as there are creation myths out there in the world. I don’t deny the existence of such points of view, but I insist that they are not worthy of being included in the science curriculum in our schools.
Of course, because they are not science. Certainly the existence of such beliefs should be conceded. But such beliefs should used to serve as examples of the antithesis of critical thinking.

So why does MS think that alternate explanations for the origin and diversity of life should be taught? It appears that he finds the theory of evolution by natural selection lacking. He is convinced that “the mechanism of random mutations has not been proven to be able to produce the incredible variety of living systems.”
Every day disease microbes evolve to become resistant to medications. It only takes one microbe that can withstand the exposure to a drug to start a whole strain of resistant microbes. We can observe this because the reproductive time for a microbe is measured in hours, not in tens of years. Some have, with disdain, called this "micro evolution". This is true, it is micro-evolution. So what happens when billions of years of micro-evolutions occur? Does "Midtown Scientist" even have a concept of how long a billion years is?

Fair enough. Midtown Scientist, God bless him, is unpersuaded by the evidence that has been marshalled in support of the theory of evolution. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he is in no way entitled to be the arbiter of what is or is not included in our K-12 science curriculum.
Apparently he has chosen his screen name poorly. No "scientist" would cling to a belief that is contrary to observation and evidence. I hope he is not a cop!

Although Midtown Scientist remains unpersuaded, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of scientists and an even more overwhelming majority of biologists - people much more knowledgeable about the question at hand than either he or I - are persuaded that the theory of evolution by natural selection is the only scientific theory that merits teaching in our schools.
Again, because these are science classes, not religion classes.

Could this scientific consensus be wrong? Of course it could. That is the very nature of any scientific claim. Could MS be correct in his skepticism that random mutations are inadequate to account for the bounty of biological diversity we observe in the world? It is certainly is in the realm of possibility.
Yes...it is. However, the theory of evolution is, so far, the only theory that fits the existing evidence and observations.
I challenge Midtown Scientist to offer another workable theory that fits the facts that we have up to now. No, quotes from the Bible don't count, because they represent only a belief and they don't stand up to the scrutiny of scientific testing.

That said, then MS and those allied with him have a remedy available to them. Propose a testable alternate theory. Demonstrate experimentally that it conforms with the observed data. Publish their results in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals and persuade their science colleagues of the error of their ways. This is the stuff of which scientific revolutions are made. Bad theories do not go gently into that dark night, but we have over the centuries dispatched them with some regularity. A Darwin trophy on the wall would certainly confer some bragging rights!
Indeed. As I noted above. And by the way, any theory that suggests that the evidence we can observe was placed by some supernatural being in order to mislead us is just silly even on the face of it. I challenge anyone to support such a theory with some evidence!

Until MS et al. can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the world science community that the theory of evolution by natural selection is defective and offer something (falsifiable) in its stead, I’ll stick with the consensus and advocate that it alone be taught to our children as our best current understanding of how the biological world works.
Indeed. If one wants to be educated in alternative beliefs, they can go the the religious institution of their choice. My tax dollars pay for public schools (and now some private schools) and I don't want my tax dollars spent teaching unsupportable superstitious beliefs. Further, the First Amendment separates the State from religion and religion from the State. Using tax dollars to teach religion and religious beliefs are a form of support for that religion and that is unConstitutional, unless those tax dollars are spent to teach all religions equally as a comparative exercise.
If there was a correct religion, there would only be one religion.
-gary
Howard D.
hmdeutsch
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 3
I want to thank everyone for an enthusiastic debate of some of the points I have raised. Rather than respond in a global way, I am going to post in three separate replies. First to Reginald V. Finley (Posted May 14, 2012 9:55 PM) then to Marc Merlin (Posted Oct 9, 2012 8:29 PM) and then a general one.

Quoting Reginald V. Finley: “Midtown, you appear to be out of the loop with regard to a plethora of new scientific and genetic evidence for speciation. Please review the site: http://www.talkorigin...­. to get up to date.”

I have looked at Talkorigin and can say that I generally agree with the points they are discussing. Most of these center on evidence that macroevolution is a reasonable hypothesis and that descent from common ancestors has undeniably occurred. No one can deny the DNA evidence. Yes, of course there is great truth in these arguments! However, what most interests me, is not covered at all. Here is a quote from the web site:
“Therefore, the evidence for common descent discussed here is independent of specific gradualistic explanatory mechanisms. None of the dozens of predictions directly address how macroevolution has occurred, how fins were able to develop into limbs, how the leopard got its spots, or how the vertebrate eye evolved.”

No one can seriously question that evolution has occurred; my interest is in HOW IT OCCURRED. In chemistry we call this the “mechanism of the reaction”. Chemists are grateful when reactions work like they hoped, but the ultimate question is always how did it happen!

Here is another section from Talkorigin addressing questions such as: "The theory of evolution says that life originated, and evolution proceeds, by random chance."

“There is probably no other statement which is a better indication that the arguer doesn't understand evolution. Chance certainly plays a large part in evolution, but this argument completely ignores the fundamental role of natural selection, and selection is the very opposite of chance. Chance, in the form of mutations, provides genetic variation, which is the raw material that natural selection has to work with. From there, natural selection sorts out certain variations. Those variations which give greater reproductive success to their possessors (and chance ensures that such beneficial mutations will be inevitable) are retained, and less successful variations are weeded out. When the environment changes, or when organisms move to a different environment, different variations are selected, leading eventually to different species. Harmful mutations usually die out quickly, so they don't interfere with the process of beneficial mutations accumulating."


I do not think that selection is the very opposite of chance. These are somewhat unrelated concepts that are complimentary. I must point out that it is only an assumption that “Chance, in the form of mutations, provides genetic variation ...” It simply has not been proven that in the amount of time available, that chance can provide enough useful genetic variation for natural selection to have guided the diversity of life that we see on earth. Almost all mutations are harmful, but again it has not been shown that there are enough good mutations for evolution to proceed at a reasonable rate. The statement “and chance ensures that such beneficial mutations will be inevitable” is patently wrong. Beneficial mutations are not assured unless an infinite amount of time is a given. Unless the rate of beneficial mutations is known, this statement has essentially no meaning given finite time. Billions of years is a long time, but is it enough? Again, look around, there is no doubt that evolution happens. There are assumptions on how it happens, but no real proof.

The next section of the answer continues:

“Nor is abiogenesis (the origin of the first life) due purely to chance. Atoms and molecules arrange themselves not purely randomly, but according to their chemical properties. In the case of carbon atoms especially, this means complex molecules are sure to form spontaneously, and these complex molecules can influence each other to create even more complex molecules. Once a molecule forms that is approximately self-replicating, natural selection will guide the formation of ever more efficient replicators. The first self-replicating object didn't need to be as complex as a modern cell or even a strand of DNA. Some self-replicating molecules are not really all that complex (as organic molecules go).”

This section demonstrates that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” An organic chemist would not write something like this. Of course “Atoms and molecules arrange themselves not purely randomly, but according to their chemical properties.” But to then say that “this means complex molecules are sure to form spontaneously” is nicely, an unfounded assumption, and more realistically, absurd. To back off a little, this of course depends on what you mean by complex. Some would say that amino acids, which could plausibly form under prebiotic conditions, are complex. Even the simplest amino acid has 10 atoms. Ok, if that is what you mean by complex I am being too harsh. The nature of the first “approximately self-replicating” molecule is entirely unknown, but my educated chemical guess is that it probably had a thousand or more atoms. There is not even a conjecture (wild guess) on how this could have happened by any means, much less spontaneously.

There is much more that I could say, but I think this is enough to demonstrate my point

Reginald V. Finley continues: I'm at a loss for why you don't think that allelic frequency change is not enough to explain the diversity you see given an old Earth scenario. The evidence is overwhelming. There are many more expects of evolution that you haven't mentioned that promote evolution. There are at least 30 different mechanisms. This is how I know that you have not been keeping up with the literature.
I do agree that if there are gaps in our knowledge, we should share those, but the alleged difficulties you have mentioned, simply do not exist.
Lastly, as far as non-scientific explanations for man's origins, there is nothing wrong with that being discussed in a comparative cultures, social studies or history class. However, it's not science and is thus, not a competing theory to be mentioned in a science classroom.


My final statement is that I am not suggesting that a “non-scientific explanations for man's origins”, be discussed in the classroom; rather that we have enough faith in our scientific convictions to discuss what we do not know. Is that really asking too much?


Powered by mvnForum

Our Sponsors

  • Abrupt Media

    Abrupt Media helps businesses increase visibility on the internet

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy