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Greater Houston Skeptic Society Message Board › Texas Board of Education

Texas Board of Education

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Lyle S.
Houston, TX
Post #: 261
Very nice efforts here at not winning an argument but in a sincere effort and drive for clarity. much appreciated. I initially had my own issues revolving around this point about absolute knowledge and those who wish to claim it and laud it over others, but realized that science and agnosticism is not speaking in those terms but on the grounds of evidence that puts science in a place that is very different especially from a theology class, or the study of epistemology philosophy or perhaps an ethics class tho the latters are more akin to logical reasoning which would come up against such a topic of absolutism at times.

Just as atheism is not taught as a scientific artifact stemming from evidence so too should ID be understood to be a conclusion without a preponderance and adherence to evidence...and thus does not belong in a science classroom. Your words Mike on hypotheses above were I think quite helpful. I would understand a hypothesis existence itself is not a theory unless there are some measured consistency of evidence to support it. A lack of evidence or a missing link would not immediately allow the floodgates to open for unlimited possibilities would it? So ID promoters who claim gaps of knowledge in scientific theory as a basis point should not be allowed to get away with filling them up with unsubstantiated claims to be considered in equal proportions of validity as do the 'refinements' gathered while science travels along its path toward fuller knowledge limited as it may be in compiling as much data and testable measures of consistency for reliability and with the purposes for predicting and understanding natural phenomena. I do not believe any theology nor hypotheses of ID strives to do that.

Disclaimer: I am no professional scientist and so do not profess to say my definitions about everything I just mentioned above are crystal in clarity and most valid, nor articulate, but it is what I understand presently about the basis of why we should repress those who wish to repress our education systems with pre-set agendas to win control rather than elucidate. I know that sounds a bit ironic but not really.
A former member
Post #: 5
maybe I am archaic, but whenever a question does not have a conclusive answer, I like to hear all theories, whether the theories are testable or not. Does that mean the science classrooms if our public education system should teach every crazy idea? Of course not. But when my child is studying science, evolution, astronomy, quantum physics or what-have-you, and there is unexplainable event, recurring or historical, I want my child to be presented with as many reasonable theories as possible, especially when there is no means of scientific determination. I am even ok with a teacher mentioning the Giant Spaghetti Monster, even though such an idea is extremely unlikely - the idea itself at least presents the concept that we do not understand this universe we live in. Simply declaring "God" as an immeasurable solution and tossing it from ever even being mentioned is ignorant, arrogant, and unscientific, in my opinion. I want my kids to hear ALL popular theories to questions which cannot be scientifically answered - at least not by us, not now, with our current knowledge and resources. Please teach my kids about Hindu creation theories/beliefs, and ancient Greek, and even those of a small aboriginal tribe in Australia. Such teachings encourage our children that when an answer is not "known" that all possibilities should be considered, and new ideas encouraged. It also teaches the valuable lesson that, with all our "known" science there are still plenty of unknowns. We are not so wise as we sometimes like to believe.

So teach my kids these alternate theories - ancient, modern, practical, and absurd - and indicate whether a theory seems testable or not, but do not sensor unnecessarily, because once upon a time a man was put to death for publicly considering that the Earth might be round, and that it might in fact just not be the center if the Universe.
A former member
Post #: 6
I fully support the teaching of religion in public schools in a historical context, with a wide variety of beliefs included in the lesson plans. The problem with what you are presenting is that there is very limited time for teaching science in schools and it is not really even possible to teach well what we do know let alone to teach unproven hypotheses. And narrowing down the field of which unproven hypotheses to teach would be troublesome. Popularity is a poor indication of accuracy. Many very popular and firmly held beliefs are just plain wrong. So-called "old wives' tales", like you'll catch pneumonia if you go outside with wet hair or that touching toads will give you warts shouldn't be taught in public school health classes for example, and neither should any one religion's creation myth regardless of how many people believe it. The simple fact of the matter is that "declaring "God" as an immeasurable solution and tossing it from ever being mentioned" is scientific. Science can only study what is testable. God as a hypothesis is not a claim that can be falsified. Regardless of the outcome a proponent could simply call upon the ever-popular "mysterious ways" argument and deny the worth of any test or study.
A former member
Post #: 7
I missed the last part of your most recent response Jeremy. I have to say that you are correct that throughout history there have been occasions where new ideas have been shunned by the authority of the day, but those examples are unfair when used against scientific skepticism. It was the church that stood waged a bloody war against scientific progress not the scientific community. Today when a new idea comes around, a good example being the 1988 debacle involving Fleischmann and Pons and their experiments with cold fusion, reactions to claims that seem to violate established laws of nature are handled very differently and with only figurative stake burnings. They circumvented the peer-review process and went straight to the public. While the media went nuts over the story other scientists worked to replicate the experiment and found that it was not possible and that the design was flawed. The claim was rejected and life went on. Claims that if true would turn our understanding of the universe on its head are made all the time. What I'm getting at is that yes, there have been rare times when these claims turn out to be true but the overwhelming majority they are found to be invalid. Thus, the Galileo Gambit as it is called is a logical fallacy. It does not equate to proof.

I think one thing that should be cleared up, and might help the discussion, is that I think you are misunderstanding what science is and at times incorrectly assuming that it involves metaphysical naturalism as opposed to methodological naturalism. Science makes no claims about the supernatural. Yes there are scientists and lay people that do claim to somehow know that there is nothing outside of the natural world. I do not agree with that stance. I do, however, agree with the stance that science is a process, a method, and can only do what it can do. It doesn't deny the existence of gods or unknown energy forces, or fairies, or anything along those lines because they are not falsifiable. I think that your call for including ID in the science classroom is like a cooking class trying to beat eggs with calculator. The two things just don't mix.
Mike O.
user 7892622
Tomball, TX
Post #: 11
I will say bluntly that it sounds as if you feel threatened and are starting to play the victim. But if you really look at what we are saying, we never advocate oppression of any ideas of any kind. If we did, we'd be simply calling people names and skirting the issues. The object of science class isn't to create scientists, but to expose students to the process. Both you and them can decide what you want to believe. No one is suggesting you shouldn't teach your kids about Hindu creation myths. But do you think it would be appropriate in, say, a trade school for plumbers?

How long before this creeps into other subjects? It's already a problem in England, where a significant number of teachers have refused to teach the Holocaust because it might offend their Muslim students. This is teaching, or at least reinforcing, a lie by omission. Everyone is free to go home and be told by their parents "that's not what we believe." It's their choice to live in the world as they see it, but it's just impractical and counter productive to try to accommodate every possible belief when teaching. You'd end up not teaching anything at all.
A former member
Post #: 6
Once upon a time in the United States there were Irish immigrants and their descendants who worked in underground mines. Just before a mine collapses percussive sounds are heard. Now, in actuality these sounds are the timbers used for structural support as they begin to crack and split. But the lay, superstitious mine wokers who have the familiar concept of Leprechauns in their motherland believed the sounds heard before a mine collapse were these evil little creatures banging on the supports in an effort to cause the collapse. The supernatural creatures were called "Tommy Knockers" and the more optimistic miners believed the sounds were actually the Tommy Knockers trying to warn the miners of the impending collapse.

What does this have to do with what we've been talking about? It only took a moment for me to mention this bit of information, and I'm certain I could have condensed it even more, had I desired. But there are other "sciences" involved here, like sociology, anthropology, history that make my relating such information in the classroom relevant, even within the context of a "scientific" discussion.

Mentioning The Giant Spaghetti Monster, Zionist Creationism, Hindu Creationism, Ancient Greek Creationism, and other "popular theories" can be covered in a matter of minutes, and in no way jeopardizes a "science" classroom. Seriously, how long does it take to say, "Some people believe that God created the Universe, some people claim there is a Giant Spaghetti Monster, and the anciant Greeks believed the Earth itself to be a living being and their Gods were born from the Earth and Sun, and not the other way around. There is currently no way to test or prove many of these theories as either true or false, which is why they are termed "beliefs.". In fact most modern, and practically every ancient, society has such a supernatural Creation Belief, because many people will turn to the supernatural when there is something they don't easily understand. If you are interested learning more about such Creation Beliefs, there are plenty of resources available to you elsewhere, and even entire classes of study, but in this class we will limit the scope to observable phenominon and testable theories."

To cover that in the classroom, to say what I just said takes less than five minutes - far less - and it covered most popular beliefs, ancient and modern, and established the limit and scope of study of that particular classroom, while at the same time establishing that there are still limits to what current science can explain.

Those who have their fears of "Pro-ID" believers completely tossing aside science, I applaud your vigliance, but let's not banish the freedom to even mention that unprovable beliefs exist, even in a science classroom. To do so would be every bit as arrogant and close-minded as anyone who wants to simply toss Science in favor of Belief.
user 8531395
Houston, TX
Post #: 1
Good stuff. It's great to see an open forum with mature communication. Better still when groups of people can come together and present, perhaps dissimilar, points of view without being antagonizing or berating.

Common ground is comforting, but at the end of the day, everyone agreeing lock, stock, and barrel on everything is unproductive or, at the very least, boring. So many times I've found myself playing devil's advocate against even my own, most established ideas just to see if I might come up with some other angle; some line of thinking I might not have considered.

As for what kind of information makes it into our classrooms, I’ll start with an analogy.

The freedom of speech purist might argue for all speech of any kind, but practicality dictates that 'fire' isn't so good for crowded theaters. So a line is drawn. Who is to draw it and where?

Hopefully we agree it shouldn’t be anyone with agendas or aims to control information - and history would dictate religious zealots would have no qualms in such regards. Ultimately, the voters elect their politicians (governor?), who then in turn appoint the council members responsible for dictating curriculum (as I understand it). So the citizens themselves (albeit indirectly) are somewhat to blame. Which is why we as citizens take actions, the original impetus of this thread, like petitions and lawsuits to intelligently dissent.

As far as 'where' the line is drawn, the purist version - include everything for optimal exposure and let people choose for themselves - is nice on paper, but, like someone mentioned, would tend to spread thin. Just what is ‘everything’? In terms of 'origins of life' education alone it would mean educating the teachers (not to mention relying on them to be unbiased) on the plethora of Spaghetti monster ideas. I'd guess even just listing them, never mind elaboration, would be non-trivial. (Though I have a feeling our Pro-ID friends on the council would censor that down to a pretty short list :p) Is there going to be some application process whereby I, Richard, get my own personal origins idea put into the texts? Someone will have to edit/truncate the list…and we can see where that could go. Even a simple list of the 5 most universally accepted un-testable origins ideas will lead to somebody,somewhere being offended. Better safe than sorry and just leave the list out, no?

I would propose to modify Jeremy's 5min speech (presumably a preface to an evolution lesson in a high school biology class) as thus:

"As to the origins of life and the universe, there are many ideas. There is currently no way to test or prove many of these ideas as either true or false, which is why they are termed "beliefs." In fact most modern, and practically every ancient, society has such a supernatural creation belief, because many people will turn to the supernatural when there is something they don't easily understand. If you are interested learning more about such creation beliefs, there are plenty of resources available to you elsewhere, and even entire classes of study, but in this class we will limit the scope to observable phenomenon and testable theories."

I feel most would not be offended by this basic primer; it makes known the existence of un-testable origins of life ideas, without playing favorites and without letting their specific doctrines into the science curriculum itself.
A former member
Post #: 7
With regard to Mike's opinion on my feeling threatened:

I don't see how any argument, logic, or my prsentation therof should be taken in such regard. However, I will address the accusation directly: I feel no such thing. I simply caution against arrogance and ignorance, especially when dressed up as intellectual superiority.

With regard to someone else's misinterpretations of my text, I have never proposed that every single crazy-ass theory be listed or addressed. In fact, I stated directly something quite different. I won't restate it now.

With regard to the original intentions of this thread, I never got off topic. I caution only against the propogation of thinking like, "Some of these proposed members are Pro-IDers - let's get rid of them." I caution this because, in my opinion, not all people who believe in Intelligent Design, or Crationism, or whatever, are religios zealots with a personal mission of bankrupting our education system.

I hope my statements here do not come across as my feeling threatened - I can't see how. So I won't address such accusations again. For the others who have chosen to participate in intelligent discussion and who can see my assertions as merely cautionary encouragement, I appreciate your comments and feedback a great deal. I have honestly learned a lot here and I will enjoy further future discussions!

I don't believe I could possibly add anything further to this current topic, however, as it already begins to feel of flogging a dead horse, and I'm certain most non-participating readers of this thread checked out long ago. :)
Mike O.
user 7892622
Tomball, TX
Post #: 12
Okay, yes, it's getting old...but I feel that I should explain my comment about being threatened, lest I be branded a troll. No antagonism intended, really--but admittedly a little prodding.

It's simply this: you seem to have a bee in your bonnet about the idea that what is essentially philosophy should be taught in a science class rather than a philosophy class or a religious venue. Why would that be? The obvious conclusion would be that something in that class threatens your ideas, and you feel the need to counter them. Why else are we not having this discussion about history, or social science? Classes in which these ideas would be more appropriate?

You continually talk about being "open minded" when no one here has ever advocated suppressing any ideas of any kind, or said that they should not be taught or discussed. You want to re-define science so that you can get these ideas into a science class, and if they can't be in science class, then that is somehow looked at as oppression or suppression. This is also why you seem to be playing the victim. By setting up an argument in which you seem to be the oppressed, even though it is by your own devising and at odds with the true situation.

These ideas can and should be discussed and taught at home, in church, in religion classes, in philosophy classes, and Sunday school. Even though you say you are not specifically an ID proponent, this harkens back to my comment that they aren't interested in an actual discussion of the topic, but only in making sure that whatever occurs, occurs in a science classroom. I understand that not everyone is interested in science, or understands what science is, or even thinks that it is worthwhile. But that should not intrude upon those who do. You can ignore it, and those who wish to learn it should be able to do so without fear of the whole idea of science being bent and distorted to the whims of those who aren't really interested in the first place.

Personally I find the study of religious and philosophical ideas fascinating and advocate their study in every way, but in the appropriate venue. I would not be against mentioning that such ideas exist. Richard's disclaimer idea above is a great idea. It points out that there are things that can be discussed that relate to the subject matter, but aren't an actual part of matter itself. There will always be crossover between subjects. But the subjects themselves must remain separate in order to keep them from being muddied. How can you adequately discuss something when the basic facts of it have already been corrupted by a particular bias?

Philosophy can only come into a serious intellectual discussion when certain basic concepts have been understood. Then you can argue til you're blue in the face. That's why philosophy classes are relegated to the college level--you have to get through the basics of all the high school subject matter - history, social science, math, and science - before you even have a context to discuss philosophy and its implications.

It just comes down to this: belief is not a part of science. If your agenda is to introduce the idea of belief into science classes, then you are trying to re-define science, rather than actually promote the idea of belief itself. This is what makes me question your motives. Could you find it within yourself to do the same?
A former member
Post #: 8
< insert my shame at allowing myself to get reeled back in >

To answer your final question, Mike: Sure, I can question your motives as well.

However, I do see the large mistake I have made. Apparently "Skeptics" means something entirely other than what I understand the word to mean, at least in the context of this group. I am absolutely in favor of keeping public schools from teaching that good science is wrong and thereby replacing it with philosophy or religion (private schools can teach whatever they want). I don't believe I ever argued against that. That being said, I believe Mike's lecture on the difference between "science" and "philosophy" was probably very helpful to anyone who does not understand the differences in the two fields. And I also want to thank Mike for giving credit to Richard for something I had said. It seems my presentation of the same logic had somehow gotten corrupted by my self-victimization.

I suppose I will either fade away or I will continue to assert myself and my own sense of skepticism in the future: If I don't know for certain that something is either "true" or "false" I will remain skeptical about anyone who claims to be "certain" about any one solution/explanation - which also means that I cannot discount their solution/explanation either. i.e., I remain "skeptical".

I suppose I just did not understand that this whole thing is about the Texas board deciding that Texas public schools will now teach that Evolution is invalid, that dinosaurs never existed, and that the Earth is only six-thousand years old. If that's what is really going on at the State level, it concerns me a great deal and I applaud anyone who thwarts such a movement.

Over and out.

< insert my lack of feeling threatened and lack of self-victimization >

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