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View Diary: Texas State Board of Education: 2010 or 1950? (212 comments)

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  •  Where to begin? (0+ / 0-)

    First, it's not true that Einstein never supported the Big Bang theory. He did reject the theory when it was first proposed, but came to support it a few years later after Edwin Hubble's observations gave added credibility to the theory. Second, while it is true that Georges Lemaitre was a priest, he was also a physics professor who received a number of awards for his scientific work.  Even if he saw his theory as a validation of his religious beliefs, it doesn't change the fact that his work on the theory was subjected to rigorous peer review.  And the opposition to Big Bang theory isn't anywhere near as significant now as it was when the theory was first proposed--it's widely accepted by most credible scientists.  Yes, there are unsolved problems with the theory, much as there are with pretty much every scientific theory, but that doesn't change the fact that there's a substantial amount of support for it.  And there have been credible explanations offered for the accelerating expansion rate.

    You're right that it's far more accurate to call creationism a "viewpoint" than a theory or even a hypothesis. And that's precisely why it has absolutely no business being mentioned in the context of a science curriculum.  The fact that a lot of people believe it means nothing from a scientific standpoint, because it's still not science.  Mentioning it in a philosophy or comparative religion class might make sense, but certainly not in a science class.

    •  Are you saying that only the concensus view (0+ / 0-)

      is valid in regards to Big Bang theory?

      Einstein called Big Bang a "perversion of the cosmological constant" that he introduced. After seeing how it was used to invent the Big Bang concept he said the constant was, "the biggest mistake" of his life. He asserted that the Big Bang theory contradicts his "conservation of energy" theory. He believed that there could be no center to an infinite universe, no starting point, no outer limits or perimeter. He never withdrew his theory and in fact he proved that it was possible.  

      I think it's important that students, whether they're learning about evolution, cosmology, plate tectonics, or any other scientific fields should be aware of contradictory viewpoints even if the consensus view is strongly opposed to them. If not for the fact that too often consensus views turn out to be wrong later on, then to keep the time of their introduction in historical context.

      Darwin had to deal with a lot of negativity during the 20 years that it took him to publish his work and long after, not the least of which came from his own family. The prevailing view of the time was creationism and although that belief has been thoroughly debunked with concrete evolutionary science, it was still a historical factor in gaining a consensus on his theory, and the struggle continues due to the kind of willful ignorance we're seeing in the Texas school board of late.

      The textbooks continue to discuss debunked beliefs like "blood letting", "Earth centric universe", "flat Earth concept", etc and "creationism" rightly belongs in the dialogue whenever Darwin's struggle against the consensus of his time is discussed. And since Darwin and his life is discussed in biology books, so should the "fact" that he withstood very stiff criticism from his piers at the time. Nearly all of that criticism had to do with the way his theories contradicted creationism. And that's why it's relevant.

      As for the "physics professor" priest, let's not forget that award winning PhD professor Michael Behe" wrote "Darwin's black box", so I don't hold too much respect for someone just because they got a PhD and won some awards, that doesn't mean they can't be biased for their faith. Behe is certainly wrong and the physicist priest could be wrong as well. Don't forget that he formulated the Big Bang theory long before there was even the slightest evidence to support it. For a while the red shift evidence seemed to support his theory of expansion and later when the data showed that the red shift was accelerating, which directly contradicted the standard model, any number of ad hoc explanations have been presented none of which jives with any mathematical formula that we know of. It's problems like these that make it clear that we need to keep all options on the table.

      In the case of Creationism, it's not really an option for any rational minded person, but because so many people continue to use the mythical concept of creation as an argument against evolution, it's worth a mention if for no other reason than to educate the student as to why it isn't taken seriously by scientists these days any more than an Earth centric universe is.

      Question: Do you believe that India broke away from Antarctica so that it could dock into Asia and create the Himalayas? Do you believe in Pangaea? Because many textbooks these days don't offer any alternative to that theory. The closest they get is with the "land bridges" theory, but they manage to talk about it without saying that it contradicts Pangaea in any way. Plate tectonics is a very real and valid science, but to extrapolate a very small amount of data and say that India floated past Africa thousands of miles while retaining it's relative shape is so absurd that it boggles my mind that the textbooks don't point out the obvious problems with that theory which started to take shape 450 years ago.  

      "The government has got into the hands of the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy." -- Woodrow Wilson

      by DickMacgurn on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 10:46:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What I'm saying (0+ / 0-)

        regarding the Big Bang theory is that there is a widespread consensus in support of the theory, and that there's a reason for that widespread consensus--namely, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in favor of the theory.  And again, whatever Einstein may have initially said after the theory was introduced, he later came to support it as added evidence contributed to its credibility.  For some reason, you seem to think that the debate over this theory that occurred within the few years after its introduction is the only part of the dialogue that matters.

        When students are learning in the context of a science classroom, "viewpoints" shouldn't be part of the equation. Students are there to learn about valid, falsifiable scientific concepts.  And while some science textbooks occasionally reference debunked ideas like geocentrism and belief in a flat earth, they do so within the context of a discussion about the history of scientific development--they certainly don't present them as valid viewpoints.  Yes, students should be exposed to scientific theories that aren't necessarily mainstream.  And yes, Darwinian evolution evolution was once considered outside the mainstream of scientific thought, and yes, Darwin did have to deal with a lot of negativity related to his theories.  But--and this is the important part--they were scientific theories, that could be (and were) subjected to the rigors of scientific research.  Creationism is NOT SCIENCE.  It is philosophy.  Science teachers have no more business discussing creationism in their classrooms than they do discussing Hegelian dialectic.

        And comparing Georges Lemaitre to Michael Behe is absolutely absurd.  You can put "physics professor" in scare quotes if you want, but it doesn't take away from the fact that he was in fact a respected scientist who subjected his work to rigorous peer review and who was recognized for his work.  There's no evidence that his work on the Big Bang theory was compromised by religious bias.  Michael Behe, on the other hand, is a Discovery Institute hack who has bypassed the peer review process altogether, and has even been repudiated by the biology department at his own university.

        Your statements about Big Bang theory and plate tectonics show that you have much to learn about both.  You ask if I "believe in Pangaea", refer to the land bridges "theory", and apparently believe that the two contradict each other somehow.  But these aren't separate theories, they're both components of plate tectonics theory.  India didn't "float" past Africa, and nothing I've seen has asserted that the continental drift that caused India to collide with Asia took anything less than tens of millions of years, or that it retained its relative shape while doing so.  In fact, most accounts I've seen specifically mention the fact that the Himalaya Mountains were created by the collision of India with Asia.

        Your understanding of the scientific process, and of the widely accepted theories that you suggest should be offset with superstition and unfalsifiable assertions, is limited, and that has a lot to do with why you think we should be presenting creationism and similar claptrap in our science classes.

        •  Theory vs. Viewpoint (0+ / 0-)

          Big Tex makes a number of sound points, demonstrating a thorough grounding in scientific education. I would like to reiterate that the viewpoints expressed by those who support creationism have nothing to do with science and are therefore not appropriate for the science classroom. Religious studies or even philosophical studies may address such beliefs.

          Candidate for Texas State Board of Education District 5

          by RebeccaBellMetereau on Sat Apr 10, 2010 at 09:52:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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