Thursday, January 12, 2006

This man is an IDiot . . . so we can't show you his face on television

As Panda's Thumb reports, the US state of Ohio will soon very likely play host to its own "Dover Trial":

Late this afternoon (Jan 10) the Ohio State Board of Education, by a 8-9 vote, defeated a motion to delete the offending “Critical Analysis” lesson plan from the model curriculum. Two members were absent.

A little background: on December 10th, 2002 the Ohio BOE voted 18-0 in favour of adopting a new definition of "science":
First, a new "definition" of science was added: "Recognize that science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." This replaces the following statement in Scientific Ways of Knowing, Grade 10, Indicator 3: "Recognize that scientific knowledge is limited to natural explanations for natural phenomena based on evidence from our senses or technological extensions."

Hmm . . . sound familiar? There's more:
Second, a new statement was added as Life Sciences, Grade 10, Indicator 23: "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)" This same statement was also added to Benchmark H in Life Sciences, Grade 10, with the substitution of the word "benchmark" for "indicator."

The main issue, however, doesn't concern the benchmarks--however much they open the door, as in Kansas, for the Wicked Witch of the East to be cited as a "more adequate explanation of natural phenomena." The chief cause of concern for science educators has been the mooted adoption of lesson plans which, while they purport to offer a "critical analysis of evolutionary theory" (why only evolutionary theory?), emerge directly out of the ID/creationist playbook. Ohio Citizens for Science give a more comprehensive account of the problem here.

The sheer arrogance of the ID/creationist crowd never ceases to amaze (or give pause for concern, given Brendan Nelson's vision of what an Australian science education should look like). Take, for example, the fellow in the picture below (from the Columbus Dispatch's coverage of the Ohio BOE meeting, mentioned at the head of this post, which narrowly defeated a proposition to expunge the creationist lesson plans).

(In case the original article is archived and the image disappears, here's the text that accompanies it: "Richard E. Baker, a member of the State Board of Education, displays his apparent lack of interest in arguments for changing the state’s science standards being put forth by fellow board member Martha W. Wise. Baker, who later voted to maintain the current standards, did not speak during yesterday’s afternoon session, choosing instead to read the newspaper throughout.")

The picture speaks for itself, but more telling is the "challenge" laid down by board member and lawyer Michael Cochran:
I’m bothered deeply by all this legal advice from nonlawyers: "The Dover case means this; the Dover case means that." If they think we are wrong — take us to court.

I really hope, if and when a Dover-style challenge is mounted against the Ohio BOE, that these fools get to eat their words (as the Dover board members did). Richard Dawkins spoke truly when he labelled such folk "Know-nothings." Unfortunately, these generally turn out to be heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situations for the ID/creationist crowd: if not victory, then martyrdom.

UPDATE: I was wrong. The latest "Dover-style" encounter between ID and the Estabishment Clause is actually happening right now in California.