Science fairs usually have a few pleasant surprises, a lot of ho-hum projects done by rote with little thought (sometimes clearly done the night before), and a few stinkers that reveal nothing but the student’s ignorance. The science teachers are supposed to screen the project proposals to prevent that from happening, though, so the really bad projects usually don’t get through. There’s also a hierarchy: local to county or regional to state, and only the best are supposed to progress. State science fairs usually have some very impressive work and some that might be naive, but at least the student has enthusiasm. This description of a state level science fair project is disturbing, not just because the student’s work was substandard, but because it somehow made it through what should have been multiple levels of screening.
Then I saw it. “Creator or Not? YOU DECIDE”
The title claimed we could decide, but the project left no room for vacillation. It started with a hypothesis that “The universe was created by an intelligent designer.” It went on to make the standard big number argument, and closed with the conclusion, “The universe was created by an intelligent designer.”
The big number argument: there are twenty amino acids. The average human protein has around 460 amino acids in it. Thus the number of possible combinations is a huge number. The age of the universe in seconds likewise is a huge number, but less huge than the number of possible amino acid combinations. Thus you would have to have been randomly generating these protien chains at the rate of bunches every second from the Big Bang to now before you got human protein chains. Clearly that didn’t happen; therefore, an intelligent designer did it. Quod erat demonstratum.
That’s extremely distressing. It’s sad that some kid has such a poor knowledge of logic and evidence, but it is even more troubling that the educational system has rotted out so much that shoddy work like that can actually advance that far. We should worry about individuals, of course, but this is a sign that the educational infrastructure that leads to good scientists isn’t working—there was a complete failure from parents to science teacher to fair judges, and all of those people ought to be ashamed of themselves. This is not how we get kids into the Siemens Westinghouse competition.
(via The Scientific Activist)