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Once more into the breach ride Republican state legislators of Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and Montana in their war against science.  In all four states, Republican legislators  are in the process of proposing bills that will require the teaching of "intelligent design" (otherwise known as the theory that "God Created the World and Evolution is the Devil's Spawn") in their schools.  

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.

A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of “academic freedom”. It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to centre on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.

Oh, these bills won't mention the world "God" but only a fool would believe that teaching creationism and calling the theory of evolution and natural selection into question is is not the real purpose behind these so-called bills.  For example, from the mouth of Clinton Fiscus, a realtor and, Montana's sponsor of a intelligent design law:
Rep. Clayton Fiscus, R-Billings, said evolution isn’t settled science and called it a “monumental leap” to believe it is true. His bill would allow teachers – if they want – to address perceived weaknesses in evolution studies in the classroom.

“This is just a bill to instruct what we have presently in the science on the origins of life,” Fiscus said. “We should teach what we do know. We should also teach what we don’t know.”

Of course, this is pure malarkey when you research the issue.  The website of the publisher of the highly renowned journal, Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), addresses the question of whether evolution is settled science and the so-called theory of intelligent design:
Is there "evidence against" contemporary evolutionary theory?

No. There are still many puzzles in biology about the particular pathways of the evolutionary process and how various species are related to one another. However, these puzzles neither invalidate nor challenge Darwin's basic theory of "descent with modification" nor the theory's present form that incorporates and is supported by the genetic sciences. Contemporary evolutionary theory provides the conceptual framework in which these puzzles can be addressed and points toward ways to solve them.

Is there a growing body of scientists who doubt that evolution happened?

No. The consensus among scientists in many fields, and especially those who study the subject, is that contemporary evolutionary theory provides a robust, well-tested explanation for the history of life on earth and for the similarity within the diversity of existing organisms. Very few scientists doubt that evolution happened, although there is lively ongoing inquiry about the details of how it happened. Of the few scientists who criticize contemporary evolutionary theory, most do no research in the field, and so their opinions have little significance for scientists who do.

What is intelligent design?

"Intelligent design" consists of two hypothetical claims about the history of the universe and of life: first, that some structures or processes in nature are "irreducibly complex" and could not have originated through small changes over long periods of time; and second, that some structures or processes in nature are expressions of "complex specified information" that can only be the product of an intelligent agent.

Is intelligent design a scientific alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory?

No. Intelligent design proponents may use the language of science, but they do not use its methodology. They have yet to propose meaningful tests for their claims, there are no reports of current research on these hypotheses at relevant scientific society meetings, and there is no body of research on these hypotheses published in relevant scientific journals. So, intelligent design has not been demonstrated to be a scientific theory. While living things are remarkably complex, scientists have shown that careful, systematic study of them can yield tremendous insights about their functions and origins (as it has in the past).

Intelligent design necessarily presupposes that there is an "intelligent designer" outside of nature who, from the beginning or from time to time, inserts design into the world around us. But whether there is an intelligent designer is a matter of religious faith rather than a scientifically testable question.

In 2006, the IAP, a "global network of science academies," issued a statement supporting evolution and and denouncing the teaching of intelligent design that was endorsed by national scientific organizations from 67 countries, including the Royal Society in the UK.  In 2005, in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, held that a Pennsylvania School Board's decision to require the teaching of intelligent design was a violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment.  After a lengthy six week trial, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III determined that the theory of intelligent design, which the school board required students to be taught, was:

“[A]n interesting theological argument” but is not science for many reasons: it invokes a supernatural cause; it relies on the same flawed arguments as creationism; its attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community; it has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community; it has not generated any peer-reviewed publications; and it has not been the subject of testing or research.

But the decisions of Republican appointed judges be damned.  The new, more radical republican party, isn't about to give up the fight to impose their religious beliefs on students in the public school system (even if they lacked the guts to appeal the Judge Jone's decision in the Dover case).  It's ironic, when you consider  that the first person to discover that genes determine how biological traits are manifested by living organisms was Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian  monk who taught "natural science" to school children. His studies with pea plants determined that the inheritance of biological traits were not a blend of the traits of the parent organisms, but were instead the result specific genes.  He abandoned is scientific inquiries after he was appointed the abbot of his monastery.

Though his research was largely ignored during his lifetime, Mendel is now considered the father of modern genetics.  The discovery of DNA and how it operates in our cells by Watson and Crick was made possible by Mendel's initial research.  Mendel believed in God, but he also believed in the scientific method.  It's safe to say that Darwin's original theory of evolution through the process of natural selection would not have acquired the level of acceptance among scientists in many fields if Mendel and those who followed in his footsteps had not discovered the mechanism, our genes encoded in our cells' DNA, by which

The second big problem [for Darwin and his theory] was the nature of heredity. If natural selection or any other mechanism was to work and have lasting effects, then the gains had to be conserved and passed on from one generation to the next.  Regrettably, not only did Darwin have no good ideas on this subject, but he got hold of the wrong end of the stick. When two organisms mate, then there are basically two possible outcomes. Their differences can as it were blend in the next generation. Human skin color is a good example. Our president is about half way between his dad and his mom. Or they can stay separate. Our president is a male like his dad and not female like his mom. Darwin of course knew about the two possibilities but he assumed that the blending option is the norm and the separate option needs special explanation. Unfortunately, as critics pointed out, blending means that however good a new feature may be, in a generation or two it will be blended to virtual nonbeing. Without massive amounts of new variation, something no one really believed in, evolution is really going to go nowhere.

As we all know today, unknown to Darwin, in his monastery garden the Moravian monk Gregor Mendel was working away developing just the mechanism of heredity that was needed by the theory of the Origin. Mendel experimenting on pea plants was showing that the basic mechanism of heredity is nonblending, and that in fact a process like natural selection that picks out good new variations can be fully effective as a means of evolutionary change. Mendel provided the famous ratios (of variations passed on from one generation to the next) that are the basis for what today we know as “Mendel’s laws.”  The trouble is that, as we also all know today, Darwin never read Mendel and so his problem went unsolved. Indeed, it was not until the next century (around 1900), when new researchers worked with Mendel’s discoveries, that natural selection and heredity could be brought harmoniously together and the route was then opened for the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution that is the dominant paradigm in biology today.

We stand in the early part of the 21st century, awash in new scientific discoveries each day that enhance our understanding of genetics and reinforce the factual basis for evolution critical to saving human lives.

Jan. 31, 2013 — A new study, which involves the participation of CNIO researcher Oscar Fernandez-Capetillo, demonstrates the existence of new fragile genomic sites responsible for chromosomal alterations in tumors. [...]

This study moves us a step closer to understanding the mechanisms that explain the chromosomal alterations in tumour cells most common in tumours. "This new mechanism can even explain up to 50% of the abnormalities associated with some types of leukaemia," says Fernández‐Capetillo.

Furthermore, this work defines a new class of genomic fragile sites that might contribute to our understanding of the changes that took place in the genome throughout evolution.

Yet, in America, once the bastion of leading scientific research, religious zealots and the Republican politicians who depend on their support, wish to dumb down our children's education by teaching a theological understanding of the universe that reached its zenith during the Dark Ages in Europe.  At a time when our nation's children rank 17th in their knowledge of science when compared to all other countries, this is the Republican path to our future - the enforced teaching of ignorance and religious theology rather than an aggressive approach to improving our kids knowledge of science and the scientific method.

For that is the Republican platform in a nutshell: starve funding for teachers and public education, force parents to send their kids to privatized charter schools where the teaching of science is not a priority - indeed where education takes a back seat to profits - and where religion is introduced through the back door so that our children are indoctrinated in fundamentalist Christian theology five days a week, regardless of their own beliefs or their parents desires.

My children, fortunately graduated from public schools in New York that taught science, not religion.  Because of this, my daughter was able to learn more than sufficient knowledge in the areas of higher math, biology, and chemistry to prepare her for the next step in her educational journey - her pursuit of a degree in biochemical engineering.  I have no doubt she will accomplish that goal.  I do wonder, however, whether her younger cousins (who happen to live in Colorado, where education funding has been cut to the bone) will receive the same high quality education in science and have the same opportunity t o pursue careers in engineering, biology, physics, mathematics and other advanced fields critical to our nation's economy and their future earning potential if Republican policies regarding education continue to be implemented state by state.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:27:53 AM PST

  •  I'll give them props for their persistence, only (4+ / 0-)

    It helps when they have evil rich people behind them.

  •  I'm guessing--- with political conservatives--- (4+ / 0-)

    the whole idea is to promote a mentality that is so regressive--so backward---that their legislative policies--actually seem an improvement---a step forward---something positive-- to the non-thinking voter.

    “One look, and your life was absolutely changed,” said Michael McGowan, one of the first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, as a gunman, in the space of minutes, killed 20 first graders and 6 adults.

    by lyvwyr101 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:38:05 AM PST

  •  Apes look like hairy humans, do the nutters (6+ / 0-)

    not see that simple fact??!!

    Chimps share 98% of our DNA
    god was either lazy or....

  •  A real problem is that these legislators, either (5+ / 0-)

    ignorant as a bag of slugs or disingenuous for political reasons, muddy the waters of the very definition of "scientist" and even science. As I noted elsewhere:

    We also have to be very conscious of just how we define "scientist" as well. One of the great hopes of the Creationists movement was a "scientist," a geologist no less and head of one of their institutes. He was an oil geologist that had been quite successful correlating fossil pollen and organisms with oil strata—strata he "believed" were laid down in Noah's flood.

    So, there were also people in the tobacco argument "doing science" with educations and positions as "scientists" being anything but scientists. They, as the recent Mother Jones article notes for sugar in "Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies were not performing as scientists at all. They were doing "science things" with a prejudicial outcome in mind, i.e., not find the truth but defend an industry. They may be qualified as "scientists" doing scientific like things but in no way letting the experimental evidence go where it leads to reveal truth.

    A lot of these "scientists," most often people versed in the jargon and rejecting the methodology, being used to muddy the waters have a very odd quirk of completely ignoring any evidence contrary to their views.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:04:33 AM PST

  •  It's primarily the fudagelical (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pelagicray, Andrew F Cockburn

    corners of religion (in this country, primarily Christianity) that insist on rejecting science in favor of magical godly poof-dom as an explanation for life. The Vatican and mainline Protestant denominations accept evolution without a problem, there's now even a religion of evolution.

    Given natural variation in populations, no one should be too surprised that among humans there are some/many who just aren't very bright, and whose understandings of the world never progress beyond childish magical thinking. Having federal standards in public education would help, but that will never happen. I consider Intelligent Design to be less pernicious than full-on young-earth Creationism, but that's just me. No public school student in this country is getting the whole story no matter how good the school or teacher may be. Smart kids are smart. If they want to learn more, they will.

    Fact is that a majority of high school graduates in this country can't read a map or name the three branches of government, and you won't find a public school American History/Government textbook published since 1990 that includes the Preamble and Constitution in the appendices. Now we're supposed to be horrified that some teenager might believe evolution is a teleological process? Meh.

    At least 90% of humans on earth live their entire lives ignorant of detailed knowledge many of us take for granted. They manage to get by - nobody can claim humans aren't the most 'successful' critter evolution ever produced despite our ignorance and thirst for blood. 'Successful' at least until we succeed in committing species suicide with those clever WMDs science has gifted politicians with. At which point nobody's going to care whether or not somebody's god or godling intended for it to end that way.

    I think we've bigger fish to fry at this juncture of history.

    •  Sadly, very true. I am also often amazed by people (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tinfoil Hat, Joieau

      here on a site dedicated to politics and therefore government with almost no clue of the very basics. Worse, though we can all blunder, fail to do a five minute search to check their assumptions about basic facts.

      I contend a real part of the idiocy of our political situation now is the failure to require civics from grade school through college degree. Back in olden times I had increasing civics and "American History" till in 5th grade it was right up there with math, science and English. High school required one unit (full year) of civics/government and one of U.S. history for every diploma. Fail and you did not graduate. Every degree, from Art to Physics at my school required units on civics, government and U.S. history for graduation.

      Even those that were not particularly interested had a clue as to how elections worked, how a bill went from an idea to implemented law (yep, right through signing into the implementing regulations) and so on.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:30:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Humans are unique in nature (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew F Cockburn

        because we are smart enough to have developed ways to pass accumulated knowledge on to future generations - we don't have to start over every generation. That makes the social (environmental) aspects of our evolution even more significant than biological developments that may or may not get passed along or diluted out of the gene pool over deep time. And really, what beyond some emotional wiring renovations in our too-big-to-justify brains would be ever be necessary? We're tool-builders/users. If "smarts" were all that then all we'd need to learn in school is how to use computers and think critically.

        When I was a kid and wanted to learn more, I had to pour through encyclopedias at home or school or sneak time to spend in library basements. Nowadays the textbooks come with URL addresses that curious students can use to get a whole lot more info and depth, and those come with highlighted keywords that'll take 'em to university collections and even current journals. A really bright kid can learn basically everything that is known in their subject of interest on their own time, at their own speed, then dazzle us all at the age of 14 with the most spectacular science faire project the world has ever seen (and get a lifetime job in said industry on the spot). I know tenured old-timers dealing with pubescent teens they know for a fact are so smart that they're almost like a whole other species! There is more to the meaning of education than mere regurgitation of factoids. Unfortunately, that is what education in this country is currently reduced to.

        Of course our educational systems are poor reflections of what is really needed in the 21st century. Institutions don't change as fast as people (and knowledge) do. We know evolution's not just RM-NS these days. Now we've got epigenetics and histone codes and chromatin dynamics and cytoskeletal protein state-switchers and... no doubt something new was discovered just this week that "challenges theory" in a fundamental way. Things are in overdrive. No one is ever going to know it all, and schools are never going to teach it all.

        We do the best we can. We know - and accept - that not everybody's a genius, and that our educational system doesn't do well by geniuses any more than it does well by the developmentally disabled. Things are too specialized today. So we try to teach a little of this and a little of that so kids get an overview of what's out there, before they need to choose where best to spend their lives. So long as there is a useful place for all in our society, we should trust the kids to go with their own curiosity and talents where they can do the most.

        The stubbornness of belief that life functions in a teleological manner is no big deal. Hell, it's self-evidently true. Thus to also believe forms follow telic paths isn't so awful. Impart those basic facts, let the kids take it from there or promptly forget it when the test is done, as meaningless to their life and future. S'alright. Science, technology, history, politics - none of these human endeavors are static or absolute.

  •  Stupid people scare easier (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, Andrew F Cockburn, Joieau

    That's the Republican't bottom line.  If we don't teach critical thinking skills (Texas Republican Party Platform) people will lack the smarts to make good decisions.  If the people are stupid, they can be scared easier, and they will obey those who speak to those fears (Republicans).   Unfortunately, Democrats allow the Republicans to push that agenda, rather than call it out for what it actually is:  Fearmongering.  
    Democrats should immediately challenge any Republican that says anything that speaks to fear.  Roosevelt was right 70 years ago.  And still is today.   Republicans are today's merchants of fear.    

  •  Accepting evolution requires monumental leap (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, Joieau

    From ape to human.

    Sadly, some in power have not even reached the intellectual level of our ape cousins.

  •  Should & would education react by designing... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn admission exams 2 be very heavy in science & math questions. Then play up admission test results by state wide comparisons.
     This should not deprive the gifted student who will engage
    appropriate science & math on his or her own but likely ,IMO, serve as a hurdle to the average Joe Blow High School student who expects to get into college.
    When enough of them do not make it, then parents should
    reasonably become indignant at state legislators who corrupt certain state educational curriculums.

  •  And It Isn't Just Science (0+ / 0-)

    Most Republicans reject empirically derived evidence, whether it's on the origin of life, climate change, possible threats from other nations, the failures of our health care system, how to address the continuing carnage of death by gunfire, or how to prevent an economic downturn from becoming a depression.

    For most Republicans, Republican mythology—no more true than Greek and Roman mythology—is not to be challenged by facts. Facts are mere annoyances to be ignored or swatted away with a filibuster or hold.

    In short Republicans live in denial of the real world and until they abandon that denial or lose all their power in Congress and state legislatures, the nation and its citizens will suffer.  

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