Thursday, November 20, 2008

Texas Survey Draws Fire From Discovery Institute

The Discovery Institute has released a post in response to a survey that was done by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. The press release on the survey can be found here. It says in part:

The TFN Education Fund conducted the survey in conjunction with Dr. Raymond Eve, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Arlington in early 2008. The survey went to the 1,019 biologists and biological anthropologists on the faculty of all 35 public and the 15 largest private colleges and universities in Texas. An astonishing 45 percent of science faculty from 49 of those institutions responded to the survey, said Prof. Eve.

“Many of these science faculty members almost certainly help determine who gets into our state’s colleges and universities,” Eve said. “Their responses should send parents a clear message that those who want to play politics with science education are putting our kids at risk.”

The survey, which can be found here, revealed the following:

1. Texas scientists (97.7 percent) overwhelmingly reject “intelligent design” as valid science.

2. Texas science faculty (95 percent) want only evolution taught in science classrooms.

3. Scientists reject teaching the so-called “weaknesses” of evolution, with 94 percent saying that those arguments are not valid scientific objections to evolution.

4. Science faculty believe that emphasizing “weaknesses” of evolution would substantially harm students’ college readiness (79.6 percent) and ability to compete for 21st-century jobs (72 percent).

5. Scientists (91 percent) strongly believe that support for evolution is compatible with religious faith.

The results from the respondents was reasonably clear: they don't want to teach ID because they don't think that it is science. Rob Crowther of The Discovery Institute, which lives and dies with Intelligent Design, took issue with this and released a rather blustery response:

The liberal Darwin lobby group Texas Freedom Network has just published a push-poll of scientists titled, "Survey of Texas Faculty: Overwhelming Opposition to Watering Down Evolution in School Science Curriculum." You might think this is good news, that there are a majority of scientists and professors who support the current TEKS which require students to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories.

Firstly, as Josh Rosenau of Thoughts From Kansas runs down, it is not a push-poll. Those are very different kinds of things that often take place over the telephone. Instead, this was a very methodically constructed poll involving faculty. Secondly, as far as learning about the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, a bit of honesty is required here. The Discovery Institute could care less about the strengths and weaknesses of quantum gravitational theory, newtonian gravitational theory, continental drift theory or germ theory. They care about evolutionary theory, period. That is all they are focused on. Mr. Crowther continues:

Instead, TFN means exactly the opposite. Let me point out that THEY are the ones who want gut the state's science standards and water down the teaching of evolution. They want to remove the strengths and weaknesses language, language that has been in the TEKS for over a decade.

What is stunning is the TFN's jackbooted thuggery of threatening parents! Parents reading this should be enraged that liberal anti-science censors are now making veiled threats against any student that doesn't toe the Darwin party line.

What is unclear is how not including ID in the teaching of evolution waters down the teaching of evolution. The "jackbooted thuggery" is badly explained (if at all) but may be a veiled reference to this ruling in California a few months ago, in which a judge ruled that universities and colleges could reject the applications of students who did not receive adequate instruction in modern science. How would Mr. Crowther feel if students were being instructed that the earth was flat or in the center of the universe? He continues:

1. Texas scientists (97.7 percent) overwhelmingly reject "intelligent design" as valid science.
Misleading: Intelligent design has nothing to do with the current discussion of proposed science standards.
2. Texas science faculty (95 percent) want only evolution taught in science classrooms
Misrepresentative: Actually, they only want half of evolution taught. They are seeking to limit the free flow of information and censor science.

Point 1: How does ID not have anything to do with the standards? The strengths and weaknesses language was implemented with the expressed purpose of opening the door to ID and creationism. That is a smokescreen. Point 2: what is the other half of evolution? ID supporters specifically suggest that evolution does not explain certain aspects of descent.

Call me old-fashioned but it seems to me that the burden of proof is on the ID supporters to demonstrate the ID is science. Until they can do that, Texas educators have every right to state that they don't want to teach it. I wouldn't either. Hat Tip to Josh Rosenau.

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