[Marxism] Kansas board of miseducation redefines science to include supernatural claims

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 19 07:09:27 MST 2005


This is the same Kansas Board of Education whose leaders claim to have
DISPROVED the theory of evolution in their HEARINGS on changing the
curriculum to include a supernatural explanation, "intelligent design,"
formerly "creation science."  You can get from that claim what are their
standards of scientific proof.

Note also misdefinitions of science to make it a "materialist" and
"atheist" philosophy.  Science is not a materialist theory of knowledge
and does not claim to know the inherently unknowable -- whether there is
a god or gods or other spooks existing outside and above the natural
order, who may have in some way ordered the universe to do as it do.

Since this is beyond anyone's knowledge and cannot  be proven and
therefore cannot be disproven, there is no way for science to make any
determination about it.  One either believes it or one sees no need to
posit the spooks.  I make no claim, for instance, that I can disprove
the existence of God.  

I just see no need at all to insert this speculative critter into the
explanation of anything, and I disagree with those who distort our
understanding of ourselves and the world by arbitrarily do so.  As far
as I am concerned, that is atheism.

This simply shows that many of the advocates of the religious belief
feel a deep social and personal stake in OBSTRUCTING the study of
natural phenomena as NATURAL phenomena with natural causes and effects
and a natural history, since this tends in effect over time to support
the tendency for religious ideologies to become less OBLIGATORY, as well
as less necessary, and therefore less likely.

They are the aggressors against science here, not defenders of religion
against an attack by science.  They are using state power, with the
backing of the president, to forcibly insert, from completely outside
the the process of science, God the oh-so-intelligent designer, into
science classes, requiring students to learn religion since their
hearings have disproved science.

By the way, was Galileo an atheist? Not my impression.  I think he came
into trouble because his explanations of the way things were challenged
the authority of the church hierarchy to determine the nature of reality
a priori.  He did not attack religion, whatever he may have thought
about it.  Religion attacked him. That is what is happening here too.
Fred Feldman





http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/15/science/sciencespecial2/15evol.html?th
=&emc=th&pagewanted=print
 
November 15, 2005
Philosophers Notwithstanding, Kansas School Board Redefines Science 
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Once it was the left who wanted to redefine science.

In the early 1990's, writers like the Czech playwright and former
president Vaclav Havel and the French philosopher Bruno Latour
proclaimed "the end of objectivity." The laws of science were
constructed rather than discovered, some academics said; science was
just another way of looking at the world, a servant of corporate and
military interests. Everybody had a claim on truth.

The right defended the traditional notion of science back then. Now it
is the right that is trying to change it.

On Tuesday, fueled by the popular opposition to the Darwinian theory of
evolution, the Kansas State Board of Education stepped into this fraught
philosophical territory. In the course of revising the state's science
standards to include criticism of evolution, the board promulgated a new
definition of science itself.

The changes in the official state definition are subtle and lawyerly,
and involve mainly the removal of two words: "natural explanations." But
they are a red flag to scientists, who say the changes obliterate the
distinction between the natural and the supernatural that goes back to
Galileo and the foundations of science.

The old definition reads in part, "Science is the human activity of
seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around
us." The new one calls science "a systematic method of continuing
investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement,
experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more
adequate explanations of natural phenomena." 

Adrian Melott, a physics professor at the University of Kansas who has
long been fighting Darwin's opponents, said, "The only reason to take
out 'natural explanations' is if you want to open the door to
supernatural explanations."

Gerald Holton, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said
removing those two words and the framework they set means "anything
goes."

The authors of these changes say that presuming the laws of science can
explain all natural phenomena promotes materialism, secular humanism,
atheism and leads to the idea that life is accidental. Indeed, they say
in material online at kansasscience2005.com, it may even be
unconstitutional to promulgate that attitude in a classroom because it
is not ideologically "neutral." 

But many scientists say that characterization is an overstatement of the
claims of science. The scientist's job description, said Steven
Weinberg, a physicist and Nobel laureate at the University of Texas, is
to search for natural explanations, just as a mechanic looks for
mechanical reasons why a car won't run.

"This doesn't mean that they commit themselves to the view that this is
all there is," Dr. Weinberg wrote in an e-mail message. "Many scientists
(including me) think that this is the case, but other scientists are
religious, and believe that what is observed in nature is at least in
part a result of God's will."

The opposition to evolution, of course, is as old as the theory itself.
"This is a very long story," said Dr. Holton, who attributed its recent
prominence to politics and the drive by many religious conservatives to
tar science with the brush of materialism. 

How long the Kansas changes will last is anyone's guess. The state board
tried to abolish the teaching of evolution and the Big Bang in schools
six years ago, only to reverse course in 2001. 

As it happened, the Kansas vote last week came on the same day that
voters in Dover, Pa., ousted the local school board that had been sued
for introducing the teaching of intelligent design. 

As Dr. Weinberg noted, scientists and philosophers have been trying to
define science, mostly unsuccessfully, for centuries.

When pressed for a definition of what they do, many scientists
eventually fall back on the notion of falsifiability propounded by the
philosopher Karl Popper. A scientific statement, he said, is one that
can be proved wrong, like "the sun always rises in the east" or "light
in a vacuum travels 186,000 miles a second." By Popper's rules, a law of
science can never be proved; it can only be used to make a prediction
that can be tested, with the possibility of being proved wrong. 

But the rules get fuzzy in practice. For example, what is the role of
intuition in analyzing a foggy set of data points? James Robert Brown, a
philosopher of science at the University of Toronto, said in an e-mail
message: "It's the widespread belief that so-called scientific method is
a clear, well-understood thing. Not so." It is learned by doing, he
added, and for that good examples and teachers are needed.

One thing scientists agree on, though, is that the requirement of
testability excludes supernatural explanations. The supernatural, by
definition, does not have to follow any rules or regularities, so it
cannot be tested. "The only claim regularly made by the pro-science side
is that supernatural explanations are empty," Dr. Brown said.

The redefinition by the Kansas board will have nothing to do with how
science is performed, in Kansas or anywhere else. But Dr. Holton said
that if more states changed their standards, it could complicate the
lives of science teachers and students around the nation.

He added that Galileo - who started it all, and paid the price - had "a
wonderful way" of separating the supernatural from the natural. There
are two equally worthy ways to understand the divine, Galileo said. "One
was reverent contemplation of the Bible, God's word," Dr. Holton said.
"The other was through scientific contemplation of the world, which is
his creation.

"That is the view that I hope the Kansas school board would have
adopted."







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