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Jan 28 2012

In Indiana, it’s not just the lawmakers who are idiots — it’s the media, too!

The miseducation committee of the Indiana legislature recently approved a bill to allow the teaching of creationism in the schools, and now the Indianapolis newspaper approves, with the usual tepid and illegitimate arguments.

Much would depend on how teachers handle the origins of life in a biology or science class.

No, it doesn’t. A bill that inserts garbage into the curriculum is a bill that inserts garbage; it doesn’t matter if you think it could be used to make a lovely collage, or as an exercise in recycling, it’s still garbage. And if you trust teachers to do their job, let them do it without boneheaded cretins in the legislature telling them how.

And there is no provision in the bill that states creationism must be taught as a science subject.

Let me guess: it would be OK to teach it as “philosophy”. How much disrespect are you willing to give to that field? It’s bad philosophy, too. What disciplines is Indiana willing to poison with nonsense? Be specific. English? History? I know — how about relegating creationism to the football team.

Courts have ruled that using the Bible as an educational tool is permissible. We see nothing that would change that here, and note the bill stresses “theories” on the origins of life.

Uh-oh. I know what’s coming next. I cringe in anticipation.

The march down the slippery slope occurs when theories are presented as facts.

YEEEAAARGH. HULK SMASH!

Scientific theories are explanatory frameworks for integrating a body of facts. Evolutionary theory, cell theory, germ theory, quantum theory, electromagnetic theory, transition state theory, the theory of relativity — these are all theories, and they also represent accurate and useful descriptions of how the universe works. They should be and are taught as facts, provisional explanations that have been tested and evaluated and found successful. “Theory” means something very specific and powerful to a scientist — there is no creation theory to be taught or used, and especially, no creation story that has survived any scientific test.

This bill could act as a safeguard against an educator mentioning creationism, and then possibly getting sued for promoting religion in the classroom. The American Civil Liberties Union has jumped into the fray and says this bill is unconstitutional, and that courts have overturned similar bills from other states.

This makes no sense. Yes, if a teacher peddles creationism in the classroom, they are using a state-supported, public facility to promote a purely religious idea. If a legislator peddles creationism in a bill, they are using the resources of goverment to promote a sectarian religious idea. This is wrong whether it’s a teacher or a state rep doing it, it is unconstitutional, and most importantly, it is bad science being used to corrupt education.

Certainly, there is much empirical scientific evidence to support evolution, and some pretty good philosophical arguments to support creationism. It’s unfortunate, though, that the latter has to be tagged as a science.

“Pretty good philosophical arguments for creationism”? Name one. Most philosophers are cleverer than that.

We think a thorough education exposes students to different theories, and if schools have done a good job of developing a student’s critical thinking skills, there is no harm done.

Oh, great. This is going to be fun. So if they’ve learned how to fall safely in gym class, I can punch little kids in the nose, and no harm done. If they’ve learned basic logic in grade school, we can do a crappy job teaching them trigonometry and calculus — they’ll be able to derive them for themselves, and no harm will be done. If they’ve learned playground safety rules, we can turn them loose with random chemicals in the chemistry lab, and no harm done.

This moron is basically saying that if most of the kids’ education is decently done, then they can afford to throw a few state-mandated lies at them. Once upon a time, I thought the goal was to excel and provide the best education possible; in Indiana, the dream is a school system that is less than half shitty.

(Also on Sb)

57 comments

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  1. 1
    Aquaria

    If we ever require intelligence tests to get into office, America is screwed.

  2. 2
    Aquaria

    And by that I mean that there wouldn’t be enough people in office to get anything done.

  3. 3
    Glen Davidson

    And there is no provision in the bill that states creationism must be taught as a science subject.

    Why would it mention “theories,” then lie by claiming that creationism is a “theory”? Maybe it doesn’t have to be taught as a science subject, but the cretins insist on labeling it with a science term.

    We see nothing that would change that here, and note the bill stresses “theories” on the origins of life.

    Which creationism/ID isn’t. If legislators had properly learned anything, they’d know their own bill is a incoherent mess.

    The march down the slippery slope occurs when theories are presented as facts.

    Accepted theories more meaningful and better-substantiated than mere facts. Teaching shit like creationism as if it were factual would be a colossal disservice to anyone who cares about truth, but evolution should be understood as having been verified by cross-correlating facts, thus more trustworthy than a mere datum, or what-not.

    pretty good philosophical arguments to support creationism.

    Utter tripe. Since science split off from philosophy the latter hasn’t dealt with “what exists” except either obliquely (telling us how to pin down “what exists” to a satisfactory degree), or in dealing with fundamental assumptions. Philosophy cannot produce “good arguments” for good scientific existential claims, let alone for stupid old lies like creationism.

    OK, so the media and the legislators there are prone to moronic claims about science.

  4. 4
    duphrane

    I think that, while snarky, the old saw about also teaching about phrenology in psych classes, astrology during astronomy, and “the humours” in health class is a useful illustration when someone argues something like:

    “The march down the slippery slope occurs when theories are presented as facts.”

  5. 5
    mattandrews

    Re: comment #5:

    I think the dungeon is about to get a new resident.

  6. 6
    Glen Davidson

    We think a thorough education exposes students to different theories, and if schools have done a good job of developing a student’s critical thinking skills

    Yet the primary goal of creationism is to get to kids before they have developed good critical thinking skills, and to twist their “worldview” to accept BS rather than science. Or why do they keep trying to shovel the shit into young, typically-gullible minds?

    Why don’t they act like real science, and try to convince adults of the soundness of creationism? Obviously because that doesn’t work with anyone who does have critical thinking skills–and uses them.

    Glen Davidson

  7. 7
    raven

    When creationists talk about “teaching the controvery” or “teaching all theories” it is another of their lies.

    What they mean is teach creationism.
    “teach all theories” = teach creationism.

    Creationist teachers will babble on about goddidit is the answer to all questions. Their two minutes on the scientific theory is “scientists are all atheists who are going to hell and there is no evidence for evolution.”

    Creationism is a lie and all creationists are liars.

  8. 8
    feralboy12

    Re: comment #5:

    I think the dungeon is about to get a new resident.

    For those of you who just tuned in, the comment formerly known as #5 was removed, quickly, as it should have been. Wow, nothing like informing a guy you’re going to pirate his work with a comment, link and presumably, IP address. Brilliant.

    As for Indiana media–that must be some journalism program they have there. Not only do you learn reporting skills, you can qualify for the bar exam AND learn enough science to debunk specialists with PhD’s.
    What an edumacation that must be.
    Killed By Fish

  9. 9
    Owlmirror

    “Pretty good philosophical arguments for creationism”? Name one. Most philosophers are cleverer than that.

    I bet a cookie that the journalist is counting theololgians — and better yet, sophistimacated theololgians — as philosophers.

  10. 10
    chigau (違う)

    mattandrews #5
    Don’t you hate it when that happens?

  11. 11
    J Bowen

    More people should test the theory of gravity.

  12. 12
    chigau (違う)

    The “journalist” may be using the term “philosophy” with same degree of accuracy that xe is using the term “theory”.

  13. 13
    crowepps

    if schools have done a good job of developing a student’s critical thinking skills

    It has not been my experience that schools do a good job of developing a student’s critical thinking skills because unfortunately doing that isn’t actually part of the curriculum and being exposed to those principles depends on being lucky enough to get one of the really good teachers who’s willing to go off topic to do so.

  14. 14
    bcskeptic

    IMHO, the only possible place for teaching creationism in high school is in a course on “World religious and creationist mythologies”.

    All world religions and creationist mythologies would be taught on an equal footing, from an un-biased point of view. And then, going thru each one, and tracing where it came from/how it emerged, what the historical/sociological background is for the emergence of the religion/myth, the impact on human conflict throughout the ages etc, the complete lack of evidence to support the truth value of each one, and the scientific evidence that contradicts each one’s claims.

    Oh, wait, I’m dreaming 200 years into the future, when future educators (I hope!) will be teaching this stuff the way it should be taught, as a curious historical defect, that has since been eradicated from the human psyche, since a ground swell of non-belief swept the globe when people eventually realized how *fucking ridiculous it all is*, and *let’s stop killing each other over it*!

    Either that or we will have spiraled into the dark ages, and be hacking each other to bits with what’s left of civilization’s weapons after the religious crazies took power and pressed “the button”. Scary, but possible if certain groups in the U.S. get their way. Gulp.

  15. 15
    Gregory Greenwood

    Star Press Reporter Mr McGhee; “The march down the slippery slope occurs when theories are presented as facts.”

    PZ; “Mr McGhee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”

    *Que theme music*

    Professor Paul Zachery Myers – evolutionary biologist, scientist, searching for a way to tap into the hidden rationality that all humans (well, maybe not Republicans) have… Then an accidental overdose of snark interacts with his unique writing style… And now when Professor Myers grows angry or outraged (or sometimes when he is mildly amused) a startling metamorphasis occurs… The Gnu atheist web-creature PZ is fuelled by reason and pursued by fundy trolls… A deliberate cracker ‘desecration’ destroyed a holy snack food and supposedly wounded teh baby jeebus as well… The fundies think that this should be a crime… A ‘crime’ which Professor Myers cannot convince the fundies (and several accommodationists) is ridiculous and victimless, so he must continue to channel his raging godlessness and untamed humanism through his blog, Pharyngula…

  16. 16
    mattandrews

    @#8 feralboy:

    Thanks for the explanation! Didn’t think the would-be pirate’s comment would get vaporized that quickly, with the additional fun of making it look like I was begging for a banning.

  17. 17
    davidct

    The cartoon is wrong. We are talking bronze age not iron age. No point in being reactionary if you cannot go whole hog.

  18. 18
    magistramarla

    Sadly, these idiots have already had a huge effect upon science teaching in this country. When I was teaching in Texas, I had a friend who taught Biology. He taught about evolution unabashedly, and he taught it well. Students complained about him, then parents did. The administration started picking on him for everything that they could think of. It got to the point that an administrator was sitting in his classroom, monitoring him, nearly every day. Finally, he wasn’t offered a contract for the next year. I think that a similar thing happened to his wife, also a science teacher, at the middle school level.
    They packed up and moved back to a northern state.
    I can’t blame them – I’m glad to be out of there, too.

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts

    davidct,

    Wrong. None of the Bible was written before the start of the Iron Age in the near East, generally if somewhat arbitrarily set at 1000 BCE. Parts of it draw on earlier mythology, but the whole thing was put together after the return from the Babylonian captivity in 537/8 BCE, to enforce a monotheistic orthodoxy.

  20. 20
    Rey Fox

    How exactly does one march down a slippery slope?

  21. 21
    Nick Gotts

    Rey Fox,

    Crampons.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    kylehurtley

    The Star Press is a Muncie paper, not the Indianapolis paper. They are owned by the same company, though. http://www.indystar.com

  24. 24
    bubba707

    Since the Education Committee members are govt agents perhaps it would be fun to sue them individually for violating the Constitution. They might stop if the judgements come out of their personal money instead of hanging the taxpayers with it.

  25. 25
    esch

    I really hate living in Indiana …

  26. 26
    desoto

    More nonsense from the state that brings you “In god we trust” license plates.

  27. 27
    gesres

    Perhaps giving these people what they want might be the best medicine? Let science teachers introduce creationist ideas into class and then systematically destroy them over the course of a week or two. I suspect you’d quickly have creationists screaming bloody murder about teachers attacking their *religious* beliefs.

  28. 28
    imthegenieicandoanything

    This editorial is the work of the “reasonable American conservative” and exposes why such people are simply impossible to deal with in anything but the most coldly polite fashion (if one has an iron will). It is either openly idshonest about, well, everything: from the reasons it is offered to the reasons behind its goals to its distain, even pleasure, at its ill effects.

    Such people have just enough intelligence to use their stupidity as a cloak for their pettiness and dishonesty. Not that such a cloak hides these things from others, but from themselves and one another.
    They cannot ever be wrong, and when it turns out they are, however unintentionally or profitably, they must lash out and blame others, the more superficially unlike themselves the better.

    And they are very, very unhappy inside, and often outside as well. Because lies never lead to happiness, and ignorance is limited as a pain-killer to reality.

  29. 29
    shouldbeworking

    That might work. Take all the ‘science’ statements the bible and have the students test them. I would build a Foucault pendulum to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation.

  30. 30
    saguhh00

    CREATIONISM PROMOTES INCEST!!

    If you think that Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all mankind, then you also think that the first generation of humans were all brothers and sisters, children of adam and eve, who had to have sex with each other to produce the rest of humanity.

  31. 31
    peterh

    There’s some industrial-grade stupid in that state.

    @# 4: Good reminder – thanks, I’ll be using that on certain dunderheads.

  32. 32
    Multifarious

    Teheee.. In the USA they end up with schools that actually make you more stupid. Insane really..

  33. 33
    humanape

    I think #18 by magistramarla is the most interesting comment. An excellent biology teacher is harassed by the students, parents, and the school administration because he had the nerve to teach the foundation of biology in his biology classroom. I was not surprised this was in Texas.

  34. 34
    chigau (違う)

    HA

  35. 35
    Chris Booth

    The cartoon is wrong. The word is not “adding”. The word is “replacing”. They want to present their superstition as science and deprecate the value of science. In science class.

    If they succeed, it will no longer be science class.

    And the cartoon should be fixed. The creationists will lie and say they want to “teach the controversy”, but that is a lie. They don’t want the science taught, but they want to teach their sanctum santorum in science class to give it the weight and veracity–the authority and credence–of science. They will at the same time try to question the science in science class, to dissolve the credence and authority that science has. It is not about adding creationism to the science curriculum, it is about replacing science in the “science” curriculum. We need to be straight on this; if we extend them the courtesy of assuming good faith on their part, we will be grossly mistaken, and it might take a generation–or generations–to recover. They do not want even a whiff of science in the science class. They don’t like evolution, they don’t like cosmology, they don’t like geology. They don’t like physics and astronomy; biology is problematic at best, and they don’t like that reproduction stuff, and they hate evolution…better just jettison science period; it is only a matter of time until they start to find things they don’t like in chemistry class; they don’t like rational thought–logical process is a necessity in math, too, so don’t think that they will stop when the science classes are cut (football, never) from school curricula. They do not want science, any science taught.

    Santorum wants ALL of education excised from the nation. With both parents working, home schooling won’t be an option for most, and they can muddy the waters in home schooling, they have a head start there. All the rhetoric from a decade ago “bomb them back to the stone age”–they still mean it, but what they really mean is “dumb us back to the stone age”.

    Even making the mistake, in a political cartoon taking a postition against them, of assuming good faith on their part is falling into their hands. We need to see straight and speak straight: The Creationists don’t want science in the schools, period, and until they can get it out of the schools, they want Creationism in lieu of science.

    But there is one good note in this; they seem to be retreating from the more subtle “Intelligent Design” ploy; as much as ID is dumbed down pabulum, maintaining the bifurcated thought processes to claim, “uh, yeah, Intelligent Design, that’s what me mean, not God” is too much for them. ID was to be their foot in the door, but they are impatient, and those feet in the door are going straight for their mouths again.

  36. 36
    Cuttlefish

    I lived in Indiana briefly, when I was young. It was there that I heard from a classmate that the proof that Genesis was true could be found in the *fact* than men had one fewer rib than women did.

  37. 37
    jacksnow

    Living in Indiana becomes more embarrassing with the passing of each day. I hope that those of you from more enlightened areas believe me when I say that all Hoosiers aren’t bible thumping dullards. Every citizen of the United States needs to take heed of what is happening here in Indiana. Our vile little wretch of a Governor is being groomed for a run at the Presidency in four years. Defunding Planned Parenthood and creationism in the classroom are a paltry preview of what will happen if Mitch Daniels ever gets to move into the White House.

  38. 38
    gr4tuitou5

    What’s next? Alchemy in place of chemistry and flat earth theory in geography?
    It’s hard to believe the foobar is so strong in a “modern” society.

  39. 39
    jolly

    I can picture a class where they watch past shows of The Atheist Experience. I wish these moronic law makers would.

  40. 40
    DLC

    These people think everything’s an opinion.
    Except, gravity doesn’t bloody care if you agree with it or not.

  41. 41
    sadunlap

    @ Gesres and shouldbeworking

    The law as it stands does nothing to stop a science teacher from demonstrating why intelligent design fails verification. I don’t think there is anything legal stopping a science teacher from showing the Nova documentary Intelligent Design on Trial either. Generally the sort of harassment magistramarla described above has the chilling effect on science teaching in these school districts.

    The big problem as PZ and others point out comes from the rampant dishonesty of CDesign Proponentsists (see the Nova documentary for an explanation of that term).

    The bill in question is actually only one sentence:
    The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

    They legislate the really odious lie that teachers should teach “creation science” as if it has passed objective tests of verification when it has clearly failed them all. Now if a good science teacher instructed by the school board to teach “creation science” spent time explaining how it fails verification I wonder how the CDesign proponentsists on the school board would react? If they’re really stupid they’d fire the teacher. We may see another “Dover trail” if this law passes. Yuck.

  42. 42
    sadunlap

    I just read the comments on the Indiana Star Press editorial. It looks like their regular readers are piling on with very intelligent, scientifically literate and scathing comments about that story. A creationist who chimed in received a very effective rebuttal. I realize this is all anecdotal, but I feel a bit more optimistic. Hopefully there are more sane and rational people in Indiana – enough to generate outrage sufficient to kill this bill.

  43. 43
    sebloom

    @25 I hear you, and feel your pain. The sponsor of the bill in question in the state legislature is (*covers his head in self defense) my representative. I apologize on behalf of the stupidity of my neighbors for electing this ignorant person. In my own defense, I vote against him whenever I have the chance.

  44. 44
    Gregory Greenwood

    sadunlap @ 41;

    They legislate the really odious lie that teachers should teach “creation science” as if it has passed objective tests of verification when it has clearly failed them all.

    QFT. The most objectionable part of the whole ‘teach the controversy’ business is that is asserts that there is a controversy to teach – it acts as if creationism exists on an equal evidentiary and scientific footing with evolutionary theory such that it is a credible alternative explanation that is being ‘supressed’ by an evil conspiracy among a supposed ‘scientific elite’ when the truth is that creationism isn’t even internally consistent, let alone a rational model capable of accounting for the evidence.

    Even without any attempt to stifle the actual teaching of science in the classroom, requiring that religious mumbo-jumbo be included in a science class alongside the actual science as if it is a legitimate competing theory plays into the creationist claims that evolutionary theory is supposedly a pseudo-religious orthodoxy used to silence ‘alternative thinkers’ – I find it very ironic that they are casting themselves as modern, inverted equivalents of Galileo, with what they claim is an oppressive ‘church of science’ seeking to silence their ‘truths’ such that legislation must be employed to protect the politically empowered majority and bring those awful, ebil scientists to heel…

  45. 45
    amoeba

    Slightly off-topic
    The Indiana legislature have a long track-record of mind-numbing stupidity.
    They declared that the value of Pi was 3, but that was some time ago in 1897.

    Back to teaching creationism, this is clearly yet another attempt to teach religion in schools.

    Let’s hope it fails.

  46. 46
    ladyatheist

    The Muncie Star Press also approves:
    http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20120127/OPINION01/201270308/OUR-VIEW-What-s-bad-about-creationism-public-schools-

    Muncie is a university town on the North Side and a hick town on the South side. Guess which side wrote the editorial?

  47. 47
    ladyatheist

    whoops! I didn’t realize Muncie was the culprit when I posted the previous. I have been following the comments on this op-ed seemingly forever but apparently just one day! Muncie is my adopted hometown, I’m ashamed to say.

    Note, someone has written a letter to the editor since then:
    http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20120129/OPINION03/201290322/Creationism-not-science

  48. 48
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Raven @7:

    When creationists talk about “teaching the controvery” or “teaching all theories” it is another of their lies.

    What they mean is teach creationism.
    “teach all theories” = teach creationism.

    -They must want all schools to only teach creationism all day, every day. I mean, since they didn’t specify which creation story they’re talking about, obviously they want to include the creation myths of *all* religions.

    Creationist teachers will babble on about goddidit is the answer to all questions. Their two minutes on the scientific theory is “scientists are all atheists who are going to hell and there is no evidence for evolution.”

    Creationism is a lie and all creationists are liars.

    -definitely. I still wonder how one is supposed to teach creationism. Goddidit is their explanation. No explanatory power there. No lab classes to take for that. No late night cramming to study for the test next day. As long as ‘god’ is your answer for all the questions, you’ll ace the test!

  49. 49
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    IMHO, the only possible place for teaching creationism in high school is in a course on “World religious and creationist mythologies”.

    And the big problem I see with that idea is, who would teach it? I gaurantee that, in any public school, the most radical, right-wing, Christianist dominionists would be lining up to volunteer to teach the course. They wouuld see it as a chance to gain more minds for Jeebus. And the entire class would, no matter how good the textbook, devolve into comparing the quaint myths and heresies of the ‘others’ with the Truth!

    ======

    This is idiotic. I think I will boycot all things Indianiaish.

    Well, after this Sunday.

    I is a ‘Mercun, and I gotta have my Superbowl!

  50. 50
    monzni

    Indiana has been in the news a bit lately, and again, not in a good way: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/welfare-drug-testing-bill_n_1237333.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

  51. 51
    peterh

    It’s still turtles all the way down.

  52. 52
    Hurin

    We think a thorough education exposes students to different theories, and if schools have done a good job of developing a student’s critical thinking skills, there is no harm done.

    I do think it would be possible to teach creationism in a way that promotes critical thinking. The major ideas of creationism could be taught in roughly half a class period (after the students had already seen evolution) and then critically analyzed for adherence to the scientific method and consistancy with the available evidence over 1 1/2 to 2 class periods. Given the tenacity of creationism, it might be instructive to show it eviscerated more often.

    Somehow I don’t think the “teach the controversy” shits would be pleased with this approach.

  53. 53
    desoto

    Somehow I don’t think the “teach the controversy” shits would be pleased with this approach.

    For the life of me, i can’t see how people can dismiss science as being faith-based or conspiratorial given the wealth of things that affect their lives every day as a direct result of science. Science done with no help from the bible.

  54. 54
    jstackpo

    Quoting # 49:

    “Well, after this Sunday.
    I is a ‘Mercun, and I gotta have my Superbowl! ”

    Oh… Kay…

    Let us know who wins soonest and we can all make a few bucks on Feb. 5.

  55. 55
    truthspeaker

    desoto says:
    29 January 2012 at 11:42 am

    For the life of me, i can’t see how people can dismiss science as being faith-based or conspiratorial given the wealth of things that affect their lives every day as a direct result of science. Science done with no help from the bible.

    They take it all for granted. Their failure of imagination extends to failing to think about what life was like in the past (even though they yearn for a romanticized version of it). They’re like the anti-vax nut who look around and don’t see polio, rubella, and pertussis so they conclude we don’t need vaccines.

  56. 56
    Glen Davidson

    Interesting development. The Senate is poised to possibly do what has often been suggested, mostly because it’s absurd in practice and antithetical to the aims of almost all creationists, which is to teach the various myths:

    The change proposed by Democratic Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington says any course offered by public schools teaching creationism must include origin theories from multiple religions, among them Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Scientology.

    The goal is the usual one, to cause creationism not to be taught at all:

    “It does make it clear that a school board can’t just say we’re only going to teach Christian creation theory but we also have to cover other multiple religions,” Simpson said.

    The broadened bill still faces a vote by the full Senate before advancing to the House.

    Not much of a problem if they decide to dilute it into oblivion. God bless them, so to speak.

    Glen Davidson

  57. 57
    Glen Davidson

    Oh yeah, here’s my source.

    Glen Davidson

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