Friday, October 06, 2006

Oct. 3rd post revisited

October 3rd, I posted this entry, and in it I stated, “The changes made to the Kansas science standards can be viewed at this link. I urge you to try to find anything that will in any way “undermine” the teaching of evolution in the classroom.”

Jeremy, who frequents my comments section, gave me a few things to think about. I’ve decided that his comment deserves an entire blog entry, so I have highlighted his comments in quote blocks below and have given my thoughts immediately following each block.

Forthekids wrote:
"The changes made to the Kansas science standards can be viewed at this link. I urge you to try to find anything that will in any way “undermine” the teaching of evolution in the classroom."

Okay, here are just a couple examples:

"Biological evolution postulates an unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal."

This statement undermines student acceptance of evolution by implicitly portraying it as a godless process.
Hmmm... could be, but what the standards offer is an accurate statement.

Although evolution does not claim to answer questions about the ~first cause~ of the evolutionary process, it ~postulates~ that the first living organism initially evolved randomly along with the mechanisms of evolution into all that encompasses our universe today.

We are told by the ~scientific community~ that design ~cannot~ be detected through nature, and that science can explain how our world initially evolved through random events which led to seemingly guided events by means of evolving evolutionary mechanisms.

Since pro-evolutionists insist that design cannot be detected in nature, we have no choice than to assume that the initial evolutionary events were random occurences.

"However, in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution."

This statement undermines evolution by misrepresenting what modern evolutionary theory predicts. In reality, evolutionary theory encompasses both gradual and non-gradual change. We know that fossilization is a rare event and that populations often go through long periods of stasis followed by rapid evolutionary change. Therefore, we do not necessarily expect to find “gradual, unbroken sequences” in the fossil record.
Although Darwin expected to find many examples of these gradual, unbroken sequences of transitional fossils, they haven’t been found. So, instead of acknowledging that this is indeed a very real problem for the ToE, advocates of the theory came up with additional theories like Punctuated Equilibrium. Basically, that is because they have a prior commitment to evolution and have to pose additional theories in order to keep it intact.

Here are a few articles regarding punctuated equilibrium and fossil gaps from those who critically analyze the topics.

To be fair, here is a pro-evolution site giving information on punk eke.

It’s interesting that evolutionists present whale fossil “intermediates” as evidence of gradual change, yet they also use punk eke when they can’t answer questions about the enormous amount of intermediate fossils we should be seeing in museums by now if Darwinian evolution is valid. With the theory of punk eke, they can rest assured that they can have their cake and eat it too.

It’s also a fact that all high school science textbooks have information about punk eke, so our students are certainly informed that some scientists support the notion of “long periods of stasis followed by rapid evolutionary change”.

In addition, to "postulate" means to assume without evidence. Evolutionary theory does not need to assume the existence of gradual, unbroken fossil sequences because they are already known to exist. The above statement undermines evolution by concealing this fact from them. For instance, in the fossils that illustrate human ancestry, the differences between species are so gradual that it is not always clear where to draw the lines between them.
Your statement above is the subject of a very heated debate, and students should be made aware that what you concur as fact, is not factual information, but fossil evidence that requires interpretation, and there are certainly conflicting interpretations. Here is just one of hundreds of articles written questioning ape to man fossil evidence. Here is one regarding whale fossils.

Forthekids wrote:
Kansas has NEVER discouraged the teaching of evolution! NEVER. Evolution has never been taken out of the standards or the curriculum, and it has been in every biology textbook since the dawn of Darwin’s theory."

Macroevolution (evolutionary common descent) WAS overtly taken out of the standards in 1999. According to the Board members themselves, the decision to teach it was left up to local districts.

In the 1999 standards, this benchmark:

"That evolution by natural selection is a broad, unifying theoretical framework in biology.

Examples: Evolution provides the context in which to ask research questions and yields valuable applied answers, especially in agriculture and medicine. The more closely related species are, the greater their anatomical and molecular similarities; DNA sequences and other molecular evidence substantiate anatomical evidence for evolution and provide additional detail about the various lines of descent."

Was changed to this:

"The effect of selection on genetic variation is a well-substantiated theoretical framework in biology.

Example: Selection (natural and artificial) provides the context in which to ask research questions and yields valuable applied answers, especially in agriculture and medicine."

Notice that the word "evolution" was deleted from the benchmark that was originally written by the writing committee. The reference to the relatedness of species was also deleted and the emphasis was placed on selection only.

In my opinion, that amounts to taking evolution out of the standards. That may not have been openly discouraging the teaching of evolution, but it certainly represented a lack of concern for whether it is properly presented in Kansas science classrooms.
“In your opinion” is certainly the key phrase here.

First of all, evolution was not taken out of the standards because in order for it to have been taken ~out of the standards~, the information you address would had to have been in the standards before ‘99. It wasn’t. Two sets of standards were recommended in ‘99 and the board chose the set that reflected the more accurate scientific evidence we have for these issues. A few of the debatable issues were left to the districts.

Something I should mention ~again~ is that evolution (or adaptation) within a species is certainly a valid fact, and no one is refuting it. The assumption that all that we observe in the universe arose from that first living organism is a whole different ball of wax. Darwinists would like the public to believe that those who disagree with Darwinism are anti-evolutionists. In fact, we all recognize evolution as a theory supported by empirical evidence except when it is extrapolated to cover macro-evolutionary changes. At that point it is open for debate.

Forthekids wrote:
"Topeka has the same biology textbooks as everyone else in the country and evolution is taught in Topeka schools just like it is everywhere else."

As I'm sure you are aware, just because evolution is in the textbook, that doesn't mean it will be given the appropriate amount of emphasis that it deserves.

The following statements come from Donnie Palmer, a science teacher at Topeka West High School (link to interview):
Okay, let’s take Donnie’s statements one by one and see what we have:

"The lack of evidence of seeing one species evolve into another species such as the lack of a fossil record at this time."

True, and I addressed that earlier in this post.

"Really all we want is, we want good science to come out, and you know if evolution is good science, then it will come to be the better science."
True, the ToE should have absolutely nothing to fear from critical analysis. If it’s as rock solid as we are led to believe, then it will be stand up against anything that is thrown at it.

I think if you look at the last 150 years, the great discoveries in science, like in microbiology and the medical fields, um, don’t really have a lot to do with evolutionary theory...Meaning the advances we’ve made, we don’t just apply those to the theory of evolution, we look at other aspects of science besides evolution."
Again, quite true. I have a couple friends in the medical field, and they’d probably attest to that. Something else I think you have twisted is that I believe you are implying that microevolution and macroevolution are one in the same. They’re not.

Obviously, it is helpful to compare our chemical makeup with that of the animal kingdom in order to make some advances in science, but it's not necessary to assume that we evolved from the same common ancestor.

"Most teachers present evolution as a fact and, um, there’s no, um, question as to its validity, which I think is the wrong way to present it."
True. That is certainly how the textbooks portray it. The ToE postulates that our ~entire universe~ arose from a single living organism. That is certainly questionable and up for debate. Microevolutionary changes which have been tested and are supported by empirical evidence are not in question.

"When you’re dealing with a theory that tries to explain the origins of life on earth, then of course your going to infringe upon people’s religious beliefs and their personal beliefs. And, you know, for a theory like this to do that, I mean, the topic of religion has to come up."
Duh. I’m assuming you don’t question that one.

"It’s a theory, it’s not a fact yet. Hopefully this will encourage more scientists to get involved and present more credible evidence in support of evolution and we can, you know, address that as it comes down the pipe. Hopefully this will just encourage more science to be done."
True, it's not a fact. In fact, parts of the "theory" shouldn't even be classified as a theory. I'm quite aware that a scientific "theory" does not imply an unsubstantiated guess or hunch, as it often does in other contexts.

"A theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a related set of natural or social phenomena. It originates from and/or is supported by experimental evidence.

...A theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations that is predictive, logical and testable. In principle, scientific theories are always tentative, and subject to corrections or inclusion in a yet wider theory.

...It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theory which explains why the apple behaves so is the current theory of gravitation."

Honestly, I have no idea how one should classify the evolutionary paradigm. Parts of it are obviously based on fact, and parts of it are based on interpretation and inferences. It may be that the answer to this entire dilemma is to consider redefining the theory by breaking down into parts.

Jeremy writes:
These quotes convey a stunning ignorance concerning the fundamentals of science and the central role of evolutionary thinking in modern Biology. From the perspective of the mainstream scientific community, this is equivalent to a Chemistry teacher who rejects atomic theory or a Physics teacher who rejects gravitational theory.
“Stunning ignorance“, huh?

Jeremy, I think you should read through those quotes again because, honestly, I think you’ve kinda gone overboard on this one.

Actually, you might be interested to know that I’ve met Donnie. He’s a friend of my brothers. I even attended a class in a series he was giving on Intelligent Design. He certainly didn’t appear to me to be “stunningly ignorant”. In fact, chances are that this blog entry will get around to him, and I doubt he’d take back any of his statements. They’re actually quite accurate.

The vast majority of professional biologists consider evolutionary theory to be the central organizing principle of modern Biology. Mr. Palmer, a Biology teacher, openly rejects the central organizing principle of the subject he teaches. Of course I don't know what actually goes on in Mr. Palmer's Biology classroom, but if the above interview is any indication, his students are not getting an accurate picture of the current status of evolutionary theory.
It didn’t sound to me like he “openly rejects” evolution. It appears to me that he questions certain aspects of it.

Perhaps “professional biologists” consider evolutionary theory to be the “central organizing principle of modern Biology”, but honestly, Darwinian evolution (macro / first living organism-to-man) is of little use in the real world. It’s certainly alive and well in the lab as scientists tinker with flies, etc. trying to find their connection with man. But, the rest of the world goes right along without any need of it except for the concepts of microevolutionary changes within species. There has never been any question that we share many similiarities with the animal kingdom, but that doesn't prove cell-to-man any more than it proves Intelligent Design.

Evolutionists are always quick to mention bacterial resistance to antibiotics. But, that has nothing to do with Darwinism (macro changes). BTW, here is an enlightening link on that subject.

The core issue is not WHETHER evolution is being taught, it is HOW evolution is being taught. Apparently, in at least one Topeka classroom, evolution is not being taught "just like it is everywhere else."
Honestly, from that interview, I can’t say that Donnie teaches evolution any differently than anyone else.

I have no doubt that this entry is going to produce a flurry of comments. I do moderate them, and I don’t spend my entire life on this computer, so you’ll have to be patient. I'll post them when I get a chance.