I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Report on the oral hearings on the Texas science standards

There was practically no advance publicity of the Texas board of education's Nov. 19 oral hearing on the proposed Texas science standards -- I would have been unaware of the hearing had I not seen it announced on the Evo.Sphere blog. I am on the email list of the science department of the Texas Education Agency and I do not recall receiving an email notice from them. Nonetheless, the hearing was well attended, with 92 public commenters signed up according to the Evo.Sphere blog. The public comments started at about 3 or 4 PM CST in the afternoon and continued until about 11 PM. I listened to a lot of the hearing in a live audio broadcast. The archived audio files are now here -- unfortunately, with my slow dial-up connection, I am not able to listen to them continuously (I was able to listen to the live broadcast continuously). The archived audio files are in four parts, A, B, C, and D -- the hearing on the science standards presumably starts somewhere in the B or C files. The commenters had 3 minutes each to make their presentations and the meeting was prolonged by extensive questioning of the commenters by the board members. Some commenters had to leave early to catch a plane or something like that -- I don't know why they could not have been moved up in the commenting order in a case like that (maybe they had to leave before the commenting even started). The comments of at least one commenter who had to leave early were read in absentia.

Detailed but biased coverages of the hearing are on the Evo.Sphere blog and the Texas Freedom Network blog. "Stupid Steven" Schafersman's Evo.Sphere article is especially one-sided -- he does not discuss or present any of the comments of the "anti-science" commenters. Nice pictures, though.

Many organizations involved in the controversies were represented by commenters: Texas Freedom Network, Freemarket Foundation, ACLU, etc.. One of the commenters was, of course, "Stupid Steven" Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science.

By way of review:

The "strengths and weaknesses" phrase has been in the Texas science-education regulations for about 20 years. In the first draft of the proposed new standards, this language was retained only in the chemistry and astronomy sections. In the second draft, the "strengths and weaknesses" phrase was dropped entirely but the phrase "strengths and limitations" was added to the biology (ironically), chemistry, and physics standards. For details, see this post. Darwinist commenters at the hearings spoke out against the word "limitations" as well as the word "weaknesses." Of course, a limitation on a strength is not the same thing as a weakness. I have proposed using the word "criticisms" instead of "weaknesses" or "limitations" -- "criticisms" covers both "weaknesses" and "limitations" and does not imply anything about whether the criticism has any validity. The term "weakness" is inappropriate for pseudoscientific or otherwise invalid criticisms because such criticisms are not real weaknesses.

Spoonfeeding students only the strengths of scientific theories is not a good idea. The analysis of criticisms of scientific theories -- including pseudoscientific criticisms -- actually offers students more opportunity to use critical thinking than the analysis of the strengths does; how can students get practice in finding flaws by only analyzing strengths that have no flaws? For example, my analysis of the problems of co-evolution has taught me a hell of lot about biology -- I learned about the different kinds of co-dependencies between different organisms (obligate mutualism, non-obligate mutualism, parasitism, commensalism, and amensalism), buzz pollination, orchids' mimicry of female wasp sex pheromones, the difference between mutualism and symbiosis (in symbiosis, the two organisms live constantly in physical contact or close proximity), extremely complex parasitisms (including multi-host parasitisms), etc.. I learned that there is a lot more to co-evolution than just "mutual evolutionary pressure." Details are in the "Non-ID criticisms of evolution" post-label group listed in the sidebar of the homepage. And as I said, many of the scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution are so technically sophisticated that they should be taught only by qualified science teachers. Suppressing criticisms of evolution is anti-science and anti-intellectual.

Many of the commenters at the hearing spoke only about religion -- that of course is just a straw-man issue.



Blogger Voice in the Urbanness said...

Larry on YouTube


Saturday, November 22, 2008 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

I can't watch most videos -- my dial-up connection is too slow. Sometimes -- but not always -- I can re-run a video continuously.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 2:21:00 PM  

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