NMSR Statement on Proposed New Science Standards
by Dave Thomas : nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ )
LETTER TO THE NM STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
August 18, 2003
To: Members of the New Mexico State Board of Education
Dear Board Members,
I'm a native New Mexican, a parent of two children who attended New Mexico schools through high school, and a scientist (in physics/math) with dozens of scientific and technical publications, including a cover article in Scientific American (December 1980).
I'm writing to encourage you to adopt the final draft of the proposed New Mexico Content Standards and Benchmarks for Science, as is, at the regular Board meeting (August 27-29). I have reviewed the standards, and they are something New Mexico can (and should) be proud of. I am pleased to add my endorsement to that of other individuals and groups supporting the new standards, including the Fordham Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the New Mexico Conference of Churches, and many more.
The critics of the new standards, especially the Intelligent Design Network of New Mexico (IDnet-NM), have said much about needing to change the standards to achieve "fairness" and "integrity." The standards are already fair and honest, and do not need further revisions. It's not "fair" when you've been patiently waiting your turn in a long line, and someone takes "cuts" in front of you right before you get to the teller or checker to do your business. What IDNet wants to do - dictate science curriculum for supposed "new science" that has not been published, debated, fought over, and finally accepted in the scientific community - is the same as taking "cuts." In this situation, it's the students of New Mexico who will be cheated. And, I find it ironic that the same people clamoring for "integrity" are the ones who routinely misrepresent scientific ideas and facts in an effort to promote their anti-evolution-at-all-costs ideology.
If you are tempted to support "compromises" offered by IDNet-NM, please be advised that there is no compromise for these people. For example, when the Ohio Board of Education felt compelled to specifically insert the phrase "The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design" in Ohio state standards in December of last year, Jody Sjogren of IDNet-Ohio turned this around by declaring "We're the first state to have the words intelligent design included."
Please don't let IDNet-NM muddy the academic waters for years to come. Please send a clear message to teachers and students - that, even if they might not agree with evolution, they're going to have to learn about it in order to be scientifically literate.
With best regards,
David E. Thomas
All Eyes on New Mexico's Board of Education August 27th-29th...
The New Mexico State Board of Education will decide on August 27-29 on whether to adopt new science standards developed over the last year. Here is a list of groups supporting the new standards, and those opposing:
PROPOSED SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS
PROPOSED SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS
Academy of Sciences
Many more, not yet listed....
The publicly available final draft of the revised standards
IDnet proposed changes to the standards:
National Science Teachers Association Letter to NM State Board of
Letter of support from the New Mexico Council of Churches:
Evaluation of IDnet Poll :
RESPONSES TO SOME TYPICAL "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" ARGUMENTS
By Ken Miller, Brown: "The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse
of 'Irreducible Complexity' "
"...the claim that one irreducibly-complex system might contain another is self-contradictory. To understand this, we need to remember that the entire point of the design argument, as exemplified by the flagellum, is that only the entire biochemical machine, with all of its parts, is functional. For the intelligent design argument to stand, this must be the case, since it provides the basis for their claim that only the complete flagellum can be favored by natural selection, not any its component parts. However, if the flagellum contains within it a smaller functional set of components like the TTSS [Type III Secretory System], then the flagellum itself cannot be irreducibly complex by definition. Since we now know that this is indeed the case, it is obviously true that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex. ... As an icon of anti-evolution, the flagellum has fallen."
THE SANTORUM AMENDMENT
Also by Ken Miller, Brown: The Truth about the "Santorum
Amendment" Language on Evolution
"The "No Child Left Behind" Education Act does not call for the teaching of "Intelligent Design." The Santorum Language does not Appear in the Final Version of the Education Bill After Santorum's language was deleted from the bill, he was able to insert a watered-down version of his language in the explanatory report of the conference committee. Here is where the language about evolution is located, right on page 703. However, a committee report, even when it is accepted by the Congress, is not a bill. It was not sent to the President's desk for signature, and it is not part of Public Law 107-110. Case closed. Committee reports simply do not have the force of law. The new Education Act simply does not require the teaching of "Intelligent Design."
115 STAT. 1425 PUBLIC LAW 107110JAN. 8, 2002
http://www.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA02/107-110.pdf (warning - HUGE!)
The NCLB law itself contains strict prohibitions against the federal government mandating academic achievement standards. New Mexico and all states are empowered to establish their own academic standards without federal government intrusion. From the law itself, Title I, Part I, page 55, it states: "Part I contains several provisions intended to ensure state and local flexibility in certain areas. It prohibits the federal government from mandating specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction...."
Specifically: on 1619 (195 of 670 pages total) of PART IGENERAL PROVISIONS
SEC. 1905. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL. 20 USC 6575.
"Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or schools specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction."
On Page 1897-8 (473-4 of 670 pages total) of PART CGENERAL PROVISIONS
SEC. 6301. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL. 20 USC 7371.
"Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or schools specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act."
OBSERVATION, EXPERIMENT, AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
IDnet-NM insists that new science standards for New Mexico would
"lead students to believe that reliable conclusions can be reached
on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone without evidence
derived from observation and experiment. ... to teach students
that they can draw reliable scientific conclusions based on
circumstantial evidence ... compromises the integrity of science and
makes a mockery of critical thinking. ..."
From the National Academy of Sciences, "Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science, Chapter 3: Evolution and the Nature of Science," here's a definition of science:
"Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from confirmable datathe results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.
And what's so bad about circumstantial evidence, anyway?
From http://www.oasis.gov.ie/justice/evidence/circumstantial_evidence.html, "Circumstantial evidence" :
Circumstantial evidence is evidence of facts from which inferences or can be drawn. ... In the case of a murder, examples of circumstantial evidence include:
- The fact that the accused had an intense dislike of the victim
- The fact that the accused behaved in a bizarre and suspicious way after the offence
- The fact that he or she lied about his or her alibi
- The fact that he or she was in the area at the time that the offence was committed
- The fact that the defendant's blood or DNA corresponds to blood or DNA found on the victim's body.
The general rule is that circumstantial evidence is admissible. However, the courts are careful when the only evidence in a case is circumstantial evidence.
Circumstantial evidence must be closely examined and it must be looked at cumulatively. In other words, a court would be very slow to convict a defendant on the basis of one piece of circumstantial evidence alone, for example, the fact that his or her fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime.
However, if there are a number of different strands of circumstantial evidence, taken together, they have more weight. For example, in a theft case, if the defendant was seen in the area at the time of the theft, his or her fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime and if he or she was later found with a large sum of money that he or she could not explain, then the court would be more likely to convict the accused.
And from the American Samoa Bar:
1. Criminal Law-Circumstantial Evidence--Proper ConvictionConviction upon circumstantial evidence is proper if court is convinced that defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
2. Criminal Law-Circumstantial Evidence-No Actual WitnessConviction may stand even though no person actually witnessed crime.
NUMBER OF INSTANCES OF
DIRECT OBSERVATIONS/MEASUREMENTS OF EVOLUTION:
"Every new fossil found, every newly discovered plant or animal, every anatomical or molecular comparison of various life forms, is a 'repeat observation' of evolution."
David E. Thomas, "Bad Science Sneaks Into Schools," Albuquerque Journal, August 31, 1996.
NUMBER OF INSTANCES OF
OF "INTELLIGENT DESIGN":
In an article by Richard John Neuhaus from First Things 121, March 2002, Neuhaus writes "With respect to the origin and complex development of life forms, clear thinking begins with recognizing what we do not know. Dembski puts it nicely: 'An argument from ignorance is still better than a pipe dream in which youre deluding yourself. Im at least admitting to ignorance as opposed to pretending that youve solved the problem when you havent.'
Is Evolution "Just a Theory" ?
Here are definitions of Fact, Law, Hypothesis and Theory from the National Academy of Sciences:
Glossary of Terms Used in Teaching About the Nature of Science
And from http://search.nap.edu/readingroom/books/evolution98/evol3.html:
Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists can never be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence.
The theory of evolution is one of these explanations. An enormous amount of scientific investigation has converted what was initially a hypothesis into a theory that is no longer questioned in science. At the same time, evolution remains an extremely active field of research, with an abundance of new discoveries that are continually increasing our understanding of exactly how the evolution of living organisms actually occurred.
Can IDers Compromise? Sorry, NO!
From Ohio.com, Wed, Dec. 11, 2002
School board approves science guidelines that include evolution
COLUMBUS, Ohio - After months of debate and a last-minute change, Ohio has new science standards that take a stronger stance on evolution and allow students to fully critique its legitimacy.
Because of concerns about what topics would be covered in such an analysis, the board added a last-minute disclaimer before voting Tuesday that the standards do not require the teaching or testing of the alternate concept of "intelligent design."
The vote was 18-0, with one member absent.
Supporters of intelligent design also claimed victory because the standards still permit teachers to examine intelligent design. They also say that the inclusion of the words "intelligent design" in the disclaimer simply helps legitimize it in mainstream society.
"We're the first state to have the words intelligent design included," said Jody Sjogren, co-founder of the national Intelligent Design Network and director of its Ohio office.
WHAT ABOUT THE HUNDREDS OF SCIENTISTS "OPPOSING DARWINISM" ?
IDers, and IDnet-NM in particular, deliberately and repeatedly confuses the concept of "evolution" - the descent of many varied species from common ancestors - with the concept of "Darwinism' which is the gradual unfolding of variations by natural selection espoused by Charles Darwin in 1859. IDnet-NM purposely equates any and all criticisms of Darwin's original work with criticisms of the idea of "evolution" itself.
From IDnet-NM's http://www.nmidnet.org/new_mexico_speaks.htm :
In the preface and first chapter of his book, Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution, [Robert] Carroll makes some extraordinary statements about pervasive problems in the history of life constructed from examination of the fossil record compared to the history predicted by Darwin. He even criticizes textbooks for perpetuating this false history. Here is Carroll.
"Instead of showing gradual and consistent change through time, the major lineages appear suddenly in the fossil record, already exhibiting many of the features by which their modern representatives are organized."
"..few fossils are yet known of plausible intermediates between the invertebrate phyla, and there is no evidence for the gradual evolution of the major features by which the individual phyla or classes are characterized"
"Progressive increase in knowledge of the fossil record over the past hundred years emphasizes how wrong Darwin was in extrapolating the pattern of long-term evolution from that observed within populations and species."
Carroll indeed makes such statements. But, he was talking about the state of evolution as it was known in Darwin's time -1859. In the fourteen decades since, we've made many new discoveries. Carroll points out that continental drift has had a huge impact on the course of evolution over time scales of hundreds of millions of years, yet it was not even accepted until about 1960. Yes, there are indeed gaps in the fossil record, but these can be caused by several mechanisms, including migration and mutations in regulatory genes. If a species evolves in one region, and then migrates to a new region, the fossil record would show a "sudden appearance" of the species in the second region. For example, future New Mexican scientists might uncover evidence of a "sudden appearance" of Africanized Killer Bees in New Mexico, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The bees evolved, all right, but in Africa, not in America. Their "sudden appearance" in New Mexico is no more mysterious than the "sudden appearance" of distant relatives during holiday seasons.
Carroll also discusses how mutations in regulatory genes - genes that control other genes, like the homeobox (Hox) genes - can produce massive changes in body plans, using conventional hereditary mechanisms. Carroll indeed takes issue with Darwin's predictions, because these were primarily derived from observations of living creatures alone, and did not take into account what we've learned from hundreds of millions of years worth of fossil data. Carroll writes in his preface "Although Mendelian and population genetics are important for understanding the mechanics of evolutionary change, behavior and external factors of the physical and biological environment are more significant in determining the rate, direction, and nature of change over long periods of time."
While Robert Carroll finds much to criticize in Darwin's 1859 formulation, what does he think of the concept of evolution itself? In his first chapter, he writes "Most important, all organisms are linked to one another by a common genetic heritage. All the millions of living species are the product of continuous evolutionary change since their origin from a common ancestry more than 3.5 billion years ago. Soon after the publication of The Origin of Species, nearly all biologists acknowledged the basic facts of the evolutionary history of life, but the significance of natural selection and other evolutionary processes are still subject to serious scientific debate." He goes on to say that the controversy is over the mechanisms of evolution - how it proceeds, not if it proceeds.
IDers typically publish lists of scientists dissenting from "DARWINISM." (See, for example, http://www.nmidnet.org/endorsers1b.doc). In response, the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncseweb.org) has obtained a still-growing list of scientists supporting the following statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate scientific debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism of evolution. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of the public schools.
The Catch: every single one of the over 200 scientists endorsing this statement is named "Steve" or a variant thereof. Details are here:
Aug. 2003: New Science Standards Adopted!
IDNet-NM/Zogby ID "Poll" of Labs is BOGUS!
OK, IDNet-NM - WHERE'S THE BEEF?
"Intelligent Design" IS Religious Creationism!
ID: Is It Science?
NMFC Sends ID Book to NM Schools
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