Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dear ZZ Top. Please Go Fix Texas.

First of all, I should note that I'm always looking for something that will make me actually post once in a while. I should have known, considering that I'm using Google's Blogger service (rather, I'm POWERING Blogger or something to that effect according to a button that appears to no longer exist here in the magical, mystical world of Murphspot), that Google would force me into actually commenting on the news by making something that makes it really easy to clip bits of articles and save them in a notebook. So, good on them.

Now, onto it.

I like Texas. Really I do. I tend to be on the opposite side of a lot of political discussions than most of its residents outside of Austin, but that's cool. I have relatives in Houston. I can occasionally put my hatred for the Cowboys out of my mind for, shucks, almost a minute on good days. Texas is good times. But then, occasionally, it does things that are really, really boneheaded. Like now.

Chris Comer was evidently the director of the science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency. I say was because she was put on 30 days administrative leave and later forced to resign. Because she forwarded an e-mail (to some people and "online communities". Not to me.) concerning an upcoming presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of this book which suggests that creationist politics are behind the Intelligent Design movement (they are).

So she was fired for talking to people not in the agency about Intelligent Design. Ok. That's absurd in itself, given that the whole Intelligent Design nonsense was sort of knocked about by the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and that she wasn't doing anything, so far as I can tell, that fell within her job description. I guess you could argue some sort of conflict of interest, but it'd be tenuous.

The absurd part is this bit.

"Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."

Ok. I'll buy that Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of Forrest and her talk. I'll even buy that it implies that the TEA endorses the speaker. The part I'm having a hard time figuring out is the "subject on which the agency must remain neutral" bit.

No. It does not have to remain neutral. Not on "evolution vs. Intelligent Design in the science classroom."

As I've pointed out before on this blog, Intelligent Design is just not science. It's the opposite of science. You hunt for an anomaly, decide that it was too complex to have arisen all at once and then, instead of looking for other ways the anomaly could have functioned if it was lacking a piece and how it may have come together to function in its current capacity, you throw your hands up in the air, scream "ALIEUMS!" if you're being coy about who the intelligent designer is or "God did it" if you're not and stop looking for answers. You have to. Because if you find something that explains how a given "unexplainable" bit functions, it is no longer irreducibly complex and your whole system breaks down. If you discover, say that the bacterial flagellum may have been a pump before it was an outboard motor or that there is some advantage in having an eye that kinda works, you're forced to admit that those things were not irreducibly complex, that you gave up early because you were lazy or motivated by something other than the desire to figure out what the truth is. Then they take whatever you've found, move the goalposts and claim that "Surely, that must have been intelligently designed." It's not testable, not falsifiable (in the same way that you can't prove that everything wasn't created five minutes ago and we've all been implanted with false memories).

If it's not testable and not falsifiable, it is not science. If it's not science, it shouldn't be taught in science classrooms.

It should go without saying that evolution does not conflict with the concept of God, but I'll say it just because I'm in a mode where I'm typing kind of a lot.

Anyway, the Texas Education Agency does not need to remain neutral on the issue. The question is "Should we teach science or the polar opposite in science classrooms?" Their position should be "We will teach science in our science classrooms." It's a firing that happened because the officials are personally threatened by a viewpoint that the former Director held which happens to have all (and I do mean all) of the current evidence behind it. That seems, to me, to be the opposite of the way you want to run an education agency.

1 comment:

Kriss said...

Their position should be "We will teach science in our science classrooms."

Which makes me laugh, because in 11th grade physics, I learned how to make pillows and colored skeletons.

And I'm not even from Texas.