On a Senseless Situation

Daubert vTwo Rules
In Daubert v. Merrill Dow (1993), the US Supreme court established a standard on whether an expert’s testimony is based on valid science and methodology,

  • Whether the theory or technique in question can be or has been tested
  • Whether it has been subject to peer review and publication
  • It’s known or potential error rate
  • The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation
  • Whether it has attract widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

In Lemon v. Kuntzman (1971), the US Supreme Court established the following (known as the Lemon Test) about legislation regarding religion;

  • The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose
  • The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion
  • The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion

The Situation
Springboro, Ohio is about an hour north of downtown Cincinnati, thus actually a southern suburb of Dayton. The Springboro Board of Education recently decided to throw itself into the evolution-in-science-class debate.

The Complete Ignoral
The Springboro Board proclaims the findings of the Discovery Institute, a leading center of Intelligent Design (ID). In so doing, the Board either ignores or embraces what the Discovery Institute says of itself.

Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West. ….. Our Center for Science and Culture works to defend free inquiry. It also seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that the Discovery Institute (assumingly staffed by scientifically trained personnel) does not meet the criteria of science experts established in the Daubert Standard.

In so doing, the Springboro Board, as a governing organization, ignores the Lemon Test established by the high court.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the results of Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) where Dover (PA) Board of Education adopted a science curriculum placing Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in biology classes. In the court challenge, Judge Jones, a conservative Bush appointee and Christian, stated

Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. …. Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and merely secondary to the religious objective. … To briefly reiterate, we first note that since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion. …. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) where the US Supreme Court stated,

The law’s effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read. Plainly, the law is contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981) served as a challenge to the state’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act that mandated teaching creation science along evolution. In the ruling, District Judge Overton defined both science and creation science, as well as providing numerous reasons by is simply not science.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) were the US Supreme Court states that Creation Science embraces religious teaching. In addition, the purpose of the Louisiana law of requiring teaching both views (or none) was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores its potential high cost of legal fees, which exceeded over $1 million for the Dover Board.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the fact that science has boundaries confined to explain the natural world – and fudging data for conforming to a pre-conceived theology box is not science – but rather a component of religion.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that this religious stance is contrary to doctrine from Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant denominations, countless Christian scholars, and Jewish scholars – let alone against the belief system of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others within their community.

In so doing, the Springboro Board has received support from the Creation Museum run by Answers in Genesis – another organization that does not meet the Daubert standards, yet proclaims using science to state that humans and dinosaurs roamed together on our less-than-10,000-year-old Earth – let alone claiming a 5,000 years old T-Rex skeleton.

Suggestions
To the Springboro Board and its supporters, I say this: You can disagree with well-established case-law, but that does not make the law wrong. You can disagree with science, but that does not make science wrong.

To Springboro residents opposing the Board’s action, learn and become proactive – which includes following the Dover voter’s lead that voted the school board members out of office.

To the Springboro churches opposing the Board, good for you – but you are partially responsible for the Board’s action. After all, odds are you perpetuated the problem by ignoring the topic for many years.

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60 thoughts on “On a Senseless Situation

  1. These attitudes and opinions that we need to teach ID as a science alongside our true science courses, they will not go away. If anything, they are more deeply rooted in the minds of those who advocate it. To counter it, we need voices loud and clear to speak up for the other side of the issue. As you noted, the churches probably were silent too long. People need to take notice and speak up.

    This is an important issue to me. My career was teaching science in high schools in IL and IA. I was fortunate to be in some of the very best schools where this kind of ID nonsense was not allowed. Our communities were well educated and vocal about teaching our kids the true meaning of science. Not something under the guise, but truly religious perspectives instead.

    OK, I am down off the stump.

    • Jim,
      Great points. Interestingly, Springboro is an affluent community that on the surface fits your description. Then again, the wrong people on the Board can take a district down the twisted path.

      In terms of taking notice to speak up, unfortunately (in my opinion) knowledge about this topic is relatively low and filled with countless misconceptions.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      • I’m reminded Frank of something you probably remember too – about 25 years ago, the religious right strategized to get people elected to school boards believing those to be powerful and overlooked positions. and they were right. They’ve made much mischief since then.

  2. Particularly good post tonight Framk. Loved the video and the letter to the NYTimes!

    One thing you left out of your description of Daubert — an expert witness must have the requisit credentials for what they are testifying to — hence an endochronologist won’t be permitted to opine on orthopedics, for example.

    • Elyse,
      Thanks for your clarification on Daubert … especially of your work in the industry!

      I must say that the NY Times letter went in a direction I didn’t expect, which is one of the reasons I liked it!

  3. Another great post Frank! I liked, and learned from one the other day, which taught me that it requires actual mental work to un-learn something incorrect. Far too many people are too lazy to care, or try, and this ID crap continues to fester. :(

    • Archon,
      First of all, I was hoping you would see this post. :)

      Unlearning something is a lot of work. This includes unlearning something that is correct, but going to be done differently …. as is unlearning something incorrect and replacing it with something correct.

      Although both are issues, the latter is a steep mountain. I buy into the learning theory that says only the learner can replace misinformation. In other words, telling the learner isn’t enough. If someone believes human blood is blue, they will continue to believe so until they determine that it isn’t.

      In terms of being too lazy to learn, yep – it’s easier being told what to think – especially if what is being told fits one’s predetermined mindset (and regardless if it is correct or not).

  4. Very interesting read, Frank – religion is some hot topic. I don’t have problems with any of the different believes and there is place of all of them. Nothing should be forced upon us or taken away. Do you know that Sweden has the biggest quote of immigrants acceptance agreement with UN ??? – of all countries and I don’t have a problem with that neither. We have plenty of space. But sometimes I think we are so careful not to upset other religions that we lose our own traditions.
    I have lived abroad most of my adult life – and I have always accepted traditions in the countries I lived in .. and taken them on. But here in Sweden we change ours to suit everyone that is coming to our country, so we lose our own identity and that I don’t agree on.
    I want to be able to say “Happy Christmas” and I want to sing our National Anthem, without being upset that some words maybe isn’t totally correct today.

    • Rose,
      I shake my head at this situation. Meanwhile, I admit that this is the first time encountering the “stupid design” phrase … which my sick sense of humor initially enjoys!

  5. Interesting and well written post Frank, and good morning. I could not agree more with Dr Tyson, the science classroom is for the teaching of science. Religion, and religious beliefs, has absolutely no place in a science classroom. Muddying the waters through invented controversies only serves the purposes of those who wish things to remain muddy.

    • Alex,
      Good Morning …. and whew … a deep post for your early morning coffee. ;)

      Dr. Tyson’s clip was a last-minute addition to this post … and it’s a good one!

      Yep – the boundary between the two disciplines are quite clear … and a boundary that is primarily not taught or taught poorly.

    • TBM,
      Well, you know that the topic has festered in the US for many years … and every now and then, a community seems to thrust itself into the fray .. and this time it is not far from me.

  6. Today is International Lefthanders’ Day, according to your post Monday. Here is an interesting article about lefties.

    http://edge.org/response-detail/10070

    “The scientists noted that lefties have advantages in sports like baseball and fencing where the competition is interactive (but not in sports, like gymnastics or swimming, with no direct interaction). In the elite ranks of cricket, boxing, wrestling, tennis, baseball and more, lefties are massively over-represented. The reason is obvious. Since ninety percent of the world is right-handed, righties usually compete against each other. When they confront lefties, who do everything backwards, their brains reel, and the result can be (…lopsided). In contrast, lefties are most used to facing righties; when two lefties face off, any confusion cancels out.”

  7. A few minutes ago I HIGHLIGHTED the following, hit COPY, hit SAVE AS, typed “UNLEARNING,” hit PRINT, put the HARDCOPY, on my REFRIGERATOR:

    Unlearning something is a lot of work. This includes unlearning something that is correct, but going to be done differently …. as is unlearning something incorrect and replacing it with something correct.

    MANY THANKS!

  8. This makes me want to gnash my teeth and weep. Weep for our future and our future generations. Is it any wonder we continue to fall further and further behind in STEM?

    We are lost if this ignorance continues.

    I love Dr. Tyson!

  9. Wow, Frank, this is the kind of news I miss living outside the US and away from the Kentucky-Ohio hinterland. Goodness, this is a great post. And as someone who was forced to attend a Baptist high school, where Creationism was taught, I thank you.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

  10. Great well-thought post… it’s surprising to me to hear that kind of case up as far as Ohio… usually the far-right only makes its hey-day down here in the South, or over in the Plains!

    It’s a touchy subject to be sure, though… there is still a substantial chunk of the population that doesn’t buy into the entirety of what schools teach them. I’m all up for a calm, common-sense, well-informed debate on what and how to teach our children, but unfortunately it seems I might as well wish for the world’s circles to become squares.

    When I was in school, they had about a paragraph for the Creation Theory, followed by a paragraph for the Aliens Populated The Earth Theory. The tongue-in-cheek humor kind of missed me at the time.

    • Twixt,
      Keep in mind that southern Ohio has many similarities with the south … and yes, Cincinnati would be considered as part of the Bible belt. On the other hand, the last big case was in Dover, PA.

      To me, there are several factors that make the subject touchy: the two most important are the lack of education on the topic at church, and the lack of good teaching about evolution because they lead to a general lack of knowledge about the topic … therefore, well-informed discussions are (at best) limited.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  11. I just finished reading all the very thoughtful responses to your excellent and informative post, Frank. It’s a wonderful discussion. When there is an absence of following case law I just don’t know what to say! I work in research–I know how data can be manipulated and I also am quite familiar with people who are designated “experts” without the credentials. This is a disappointing development as I think about the education of children. I have a great many friends who would disagree with me. *Sigh*

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  14. I’m probably not going to be very popular with my comment, but, as a mother and as a former teacher, I don’t want anyone’s religious views tainting science, evolution, or whatever–taught in public schools. Separation between church and state– public schools are governed by state boards of education. You believe what the stories you want, I’ll go with science and fact. Private schools allow for other opinions.

  15. Good to take another look at this. Thanks for this: “To the Springboro Board and its supporters, I say this: You can disagree with well-established case-law, but that does not make the law wrong. You can disagree with science, but that does not make science wrong.” Amen!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

  16. Hello, Frank,

    I’m going through your posts titled “religion and science” – so far, just this one.

    Where to begin?

    I still stand with my original statement that I don’t think science and religion exclude each other, and I think most Americans would agree with me. I am Christian (probably not the greatest example many times), but I do not think we can ignore science. No way. If men and women dedicate their lives to science, who are we to argue? If one believes in “God” and the true form of Creationism according to the Bible, then isn’t that same “God” giving those same men and women the information, smarts, and avenues to discover new scientific discoveries each year that may or may not literally correlate to the Bible?

    Our human past (or a past without humans, depending on who you talk to), is impossible to ignore. We must keep an open mind.

    I’ve never understood why creationism and science (and/or factual scientific data) were not presented together. Let people make up their own minds. I don’t think you have to “choose” to support one over the other. I think that’s a little narrow-minded, especially considering that “God” is supposed to be the one who provides the means necessary to let us be born, live, and have a free will.

    I think we *could* present the Bible as a textbook, so to speak, and then see what happens. Debate the different languages and translations of the Bible over the years (the literalists v. the ones who make room for human error in translation v. those who think it’s bunk).

    There are vast differences in translations done by humans of the Bible when you start talking about Greek v. Aramaic v. Hebrew (as an example of three of the languages). For example, the controversy surrounding the “Reed Sea” v. the “Red Sea” is quite interesting: http://www.ucg.org/science/bible-and-archaeology-red-sea-or-reed-sea/ [NOTE: I am NOT supporting this website, it's just a good explanation of the "Reed Sea" v. "Red Sea" controversy.]

    I think we *could* make it clear that using the Bible as a “textbook” is not “religion” per se. [I realize, in the US, because we do have such a large Christian population, this is virtually impossible.] Please feel free to disagree with me.

    As in the case of the law and experts? I worked with legal experts for over 15+ years in litigation for various law firms and corporations – most notably, a small little firm named Jenkens & Gilchrist, and a nice little international company named Yum! Restaurants International. Oh! And then, there’s Reuters.

    I spoke with these experts personally, I negotiated their salaries, I booked the depositions, and I read their final transcribed testimonies. Sadly, I’m a little jaded as to these legal experts…because most (NOT ALL) tended to “Lean In” (get it?) the direction of their paychecks… So, to me, anything “legal” can be tainted and slightly suspect. Such is human nature. And, the law. And, Life.

    That being said, I have a VERY high respect for the law, so I want to make that clear. Some of our best fighters regarding this issue (for lack of a better term) are lawyers and/or in politics. Objectivity? I think it’s very different from organization to organization. Throw in a few lobbyists, and there you have it. And then, there’s the People. We must make our voice heard.

    There is one more issue at hand I’m sure you’ve heard of – where science and religion actually do meet up in some way…maybe. Parthenogenesis reproduction. Apparently, rabbits and turkeys do this more often than other species’ of animals. To my understanding, this is an asexual reproduction by a virgin female where the odds of having a male child are 1 in 5 million births. There have been studies and a couple of books on the topic specifically noting the scientific differences in Darwinism v. Creationism, and oddly, noting that they may not be that far apart.

    The one book is called “Graphic Christianity” by Raymond M. Rosebrough, who has a Masters in Divinity plus is a Veterinarian.

    Here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/GRAPHIC-CHRISTIANITY-Condensed-Charismatic-Theology-ebook/dp/B0057P5P9O

    He is a personal friend of mine, so I have the book, but you might find it “light” reading and interesting. It would be worth it to me to know what you think. I think you are both about the same age.

    Whew! I think I hurt a few brain cells today, Frank! That’s it for today.

    Have a great week.

    I hope to talk again soon between airports and moving! :)

    Cheers, Deb

    • Deb,
      There’s a lot here to digest, but I will start with what I see as your premise. Religion and Science cannot be together in a science classroom … but they may be together in the humanities (although it could be a can of worms in public school), but not in the science classroom because science of the way science works … and that’s what this school district is trying to do.http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/on-a-science-football-analogy/

      An important aspect to the problem is the way that churches ignore the issue. Oh no … not the congregations that believe in the Creation Museum’s message because they educate their flock in their way … but all the churches that don’t educate their people about how the science and religion don’t conflict, but how they work together.

      • Hi Frank,

        Yes, I see your point about the science classroom.

        You are correct. So, we bump them to a humanities class and have a grande ol’ debate about things.

        Do the youngsters today even know what we’re talking about? Or, do I sound like an old fart?

        I agree about the churches, and I’ve never understood why that was a problem.

        I’m probably being silly, but to me, and my intellect, it is something I can handle. Do the churches really think the rest of humanity is that, ah, stupid?

        What do you think?

        I don’t see it as a threat. But I know it’s a perceived threat. Or, it wouldn’t be the way it is today. That’s too bad.

        We are in violent agreement (i.e., we agree exactly 100%).

        Cheers, D

        • Education is all age on this topic is paramount because I firmly believe the masses now so little, this way too many listen to the extremes … that is getting the impression that it’s either Sam Harris or Ken Ham! This past post uses a coin as an analogy. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/on-a-coin-analogy/

          The masses have so much misinformation and misconceptions about the topic. Then people with a microphone as Michelle Bachmann, your governor, numerous religious personalities, the way the media covers Ken Ham-Bill Nye debate, and so on … thus why churches need to be more proactive. Surprise … I’ve written about that, too. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/on-evolution-and-education/ …. and there are plenty of comments to support my point – like these …. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/on-the-blind-side/

          Regarding why some churches avoid the issue can be traced to numerous reasons including (but not limited to) pastors feeling unequipped or not qualified on the science side, fear of controversy, and other priorities.

        • Yes, I agree Frank, especially like the comment about the churches. I think there can be a way to educate pastors, but I’m afraid that as the test of time has noted, the biggest fear (regardless of a pastor’s personal beliefs) is the controversy. And, the congregation would see it as very controversial! At least in today’s world. Plus, the media, as you said. Both extreme sides love to get their day in the media. Which, I think, is sometimes their intent – not to educate the masses. We are aligned on all of that. I will continue reading…:)

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