19 January 2008

Texas science standards, Part 1

The old saying goes, "Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice." I fall back on that a lot, because it prevents me from spiraling into the world of conspiracy theories and paranoia. But sometimes the degree of ignorance is depressing.

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an article about the upcoming review of the Texas K-12 science standards. I've been looking at this a lot, because of all the blogging I've been doing about Chris Comer's forced resignation.
Board member Gail Lowe of Lampasas said she doesn't believe in interjecting religion into a science class. However, she agrees that there are weaknesses to evolution that should be pointed out in the textbooks.

"They present evolution in the same terms as gravity," she said. "We can be honest that there are some weaknesses and that Darwinian evolution is still controversial in the science community." (Emphasis added.)
Reading something like that makes me want to scream. It is so profoundly wrong. It is so untrue. But I wish I could see malice, because the level of not understanding is so deep.

Within the science community, there isn't controversy about evolution by natural selection. And it frankly angers me that such people make statements like that, but never, ever back them up with examples.

In some ways, from a scientific standpoint, gravity is arguably more controversial than evolution, because gravity doesn't work well with quantum physics. So physicists imagine a hypothetical partical called a graviton that nobody has any evidence for whatsoever, except that if true, it would explain certain other kinds of data. But it's by no means the only possible explanation.

So gravity gets a free pass as non-controversial (even when there are genuine questions about the science of the thing) because we deal with gravity on a regular basis in real time. Evolution -- which is scientifically just as well-founded as gravity -- gets attacked because it occurs over long time scales that are difficult for humans to get an intuitive sense of.

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