On a Chasm

Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is not only a media personality – he is also an advocate of good science education. Interestingly, Bill Nye will be coming to the Cincinnati area for an event at the Creation Museum. The president of the organization that runs the museum (Answers in Genesis) invited Bill to debate him about evolution. No – I don’t plan to attend the event.

Because the interchange between science and religion continues to stimulate my neurological pathways, I’ve been thinking about the opposite ends of the spectrum – the places where one end has nothing to do with the other. Consider these quotes.

From Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis

Certainly, we should celebrate when a person understands the gospel and is saved. But we should also pray for those fellow believers who have not only left biblical authority behind when it comes to origins, but who also have influence and are using it to spread evolution and millions of years in the church. I believe such people are leading many away from the Christian faith, including this current generation of young people—something they will have to answer to God for one day. Yes, God will judge—and He will have the last word!

From Sam Harris, cofounder and CEO of Project Reason

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

Although neither Ken Ham nor Sam Harris speaks for the majority of humanity, these two individuals are important spokespersons for many. Interestingly, both are so set in their opposition to others who believe differently.

Let’s move on to Dr. Francis Collins, a highly respected scientist who happens to be the Director of National Institute of Health, and the former director of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins stated the following:

I would not want to look forward to a culture where science lost and religious faith became the dominating force for truth. I would not want to live in a culture where faith lost and science, with all of its reductionism and its materialism became the sole source of truth. I think we need both kinds of truth. I think we need both kinds of worldviews to the extent that scientists can help with that realization of a dual ways of finding answers to the appropriate kinds of questions that each worldview can ask, then I think that would be a good thing.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) stated, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does this apply to any to Ken Ham, Sam Harris, or Francis Collins?

Flashbacks: On the Science-Religion Interchange

I became interested in the interchange between science and religion during my time as A Frank Angle. Here are a few of my favorite posts on the topic. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

Flashbacks: On Education

I spent many years as a teacher, and I pride myself on being reformed minded and a contrarian . Enjoy these perspectives from my Flashbacks … and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

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.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 137

On Politics
Finally, Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee. Finally, Mitt Romney will move toward the center and seemingly forget past comments. Let the Etch-a-Sketch begin.

Did anyone notice that Mr. Romney hasn’t been using “conservative” in recent speeches?

Mr. Romney is correct at making the economy the central theme of his campaign.

“They (the American people) have lost faith in sporting institutions in this country because of many different scandals. They’ve lost faith in the government. They’ve lost faith in both political parties… They’ve lost faith in corporate institutions. They’ve lost faith in the media.” Well said Mathew Dowd, political analyst.

On Headlines from The Onion
Nation’s Employment Outlook Drastically Improves after Fifth Beer
Vatican Tightening Nocturnal Emissions Standards
Red Meat Takes Years off Cow’s Life
Anthropologist Reports Human Feet Originally Used for Walking
First-Time Flasher is going to Make Sure He’s Erect Next Time
New TV Show: Ice Road Hookers
Nation’s Toddler Reports new iPad Taste about the Same

Interesting Reads
Big Companies Getting to Keep Employee’s Tax Withholdings
Tale of Two Recoveries
Teaching Science in Tennessee
Cells Phone Seeing through Walls
Grappling with the Garbage Glut
Brain Gigbytes
The Buffet Rule is Worth Debating

On Potpourri
I have often said that with their view of creation, religious conservatives give God too little credit. Here’s an interesting perspective.

Google’s recent zipper interface was awesome! Here’s an explanation of how a zipper works.

On the Thursday morning news I heard “social Darwinism” – interestingly, I posted about it earlier this week.

Blog spam amuses me. I just had one telling how pre-natal message therapy is linked to my post about Popeye the Sailor!

I have a classic cartoon post planned for tomorrow.

Because the week started with Cincinnati’s dancing morning traffic reporter, we might as well as end the week in similar fashion. Here’s a recent Dance Party Friday dedicated to an upcoming Barry Manilow performance.

Have a good weekend everyone. In the words of Garrison Keillor; Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Generalizations

Generalizations are important because they are broad statements about a topic, many times involving related events. In education, making a generalization is a critical-thinking skill because the student must synthesize seemingly independent events into a generalized statement.

On the other hand and by the very nature, generalizations in themselves lack specific details, thus in life, people have the tendency to generalize generalizations, which actually takes them further and further from the truth.

Local weather reporters commonly use this generalization: Hot air rises. On its own, this statement implies that hot air moves upward on its own. Many people also commonly use this statement by focusing on the result, not the cause. For the record, hot air does not levitate. As air temperature rises, its density decreases, thus is displaced upward by denser, colder air that now occupies the space that the warmer air once occupied. Ah come on – don’t you remember the Archimedes story of being in the bathtub, and then running naked through the street yelling I found it!

Life is loaded with misconceptions based on generalizing generalizations that leads us to inaccurate and even incorrect information. Candy does not cause tooth decay, bacteria do; but sugar promotes bacteria activity. Human blood in the veins is not blue, it’s very dark red – yet the blue we see in our arms comes from the interaction of light with body tissues. Plants do release oxygen into the atmosphere as waste in one process, but plants also require oxygen for the same reason as animals.

These are just common examples of misconceptions that are rooted in generalizations. Imagine how many generalizations people misuse and misinterpret in topics as politics and religion. Politicians are masters of use broad, sweeping statements – some of which are accurate and some are not. Some are in the correct context, and some are not. Yet, whether we cheer or jeer the statement largely depends on our view of the one delivering the message, not our knowledge about the topic.

Not long ago, I listened to a pastor’s message to his congregation about creation and evolution. I know this topic is deep, yet I heard a person jumping from one generalization to another. I can only assume the pastor did this to get the message they wanted to deliver. On the other hand, the flock looks to the pastor for guidance and takes the pastor at their word, yet are unknowingly left with inaccurate information as their informational foundation.

The bottom line is simple: No matter the topic, there is a lot to learn about the world. Although new knowledge grows so fast, specialists find it difficult to keep up in their own field. It is difficult to sort through all the factoids in today’s world, thus the responsibility for learning continues to fall on the learner.

On Chasing the Mis- and Uninformed

I haven’t written about the intersection of science and religion in a few weeks, but as the Categories on the right sidebar indicates, I have more than just a passing interest in the topic.  Interestingly enough, the current candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are providing some fodder to ponder.

Michelle Bachmann recently mentioned that God used the east coast’s earthquake and hurricane to get Washington’s attention about Washington spending. Although she is known to proclaim her theological beliefs and interpretations, she is now passing the comment off as humor. If her intent was humor, she exercised a poor choice of words. If she intended to proclaim a theological belief, she not only does not speak for all Christians, her theology does not represent the majority of Christians. After all, God did not cause of drought in Texas to warn the nation against Governor Rick Perry!

Shortly after announcing his candidacy not all that long ago, Governor Perry made an interesting statement about evolution – so I took some time to read the Texas science standards for high school. Although I can make the argument that Governor Perry’s statements about what educators teach in Texas is false, I acknowledge that cracks exist in the standards that could allow religious points of view into the science classroom – a notion that the US Supreme Court ruled against in Edwards vs. Aguillard (1987).

I know that Governor Perry does not stand for the same theology and science that I do, but reading the comments from readers after the articles about his statement was more disturbing to me than what he said. Although I disagree with some of the comments, but too many comments contained numerous misconceptions and misinformation about science, evolution, religion, and the interchange between them that reinforce my notion that too many people are either misinformed or not informed about the topic. I write about this topic because of the misinformed and the not informed.

Although I have not officially crunched the numerous myself (at least not yet), membership in Christian denominations supporting science and evolution easily outnumbers membership to the contrary. It would not surprise me if the split is at least 60/40, and maybe more – thus a larger gap than polling suggests. Then again, I also believe those numbers would support my notion that many churches are not teaching their flock about this issue – thus contributing to the misinformed.

Meanwhile, Governor Perry and Michelle Bachmann continue to rely on engaging the emotions of a misinformed public through their bamboozling rhetoric and their personal theological view. I tagged this video a few months ago waiting for the right time as the comments in this video also support the divide and the notion of the malinformed – yet giving promise & hope of the informed.