Saturday, August 13, 2016

Twenty "sciencey" questions for Trump and Clinton

ScienceDebate.org is a group that wants a "science" debate between Presidential candidates in the upcoming American election. That's not going to happen so the next best thing is to demand that the candidates answer their 20 questions about Science, Engineering, Technology, Health, and the Environment. I would not answer these questions if I were a candidate. Many of them require extraordinarily complex answers. Some of them are based on false premises. Several are loaded. Some of the problems can't be dealt with in any realistic way by a President of the United States. Quite a few cannot be answered in any meaningful way without writing a book.

I'm not sure what this group expects. This seems to be a colossal waste of time. It also seems to be very low on the priority list given all the other problems with Trump and Clinton. The questions don't inspire confidence in ScienceDebate, in my opinion. Here are the questions from: 20 Questions.
  1. Science and engineering have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. But some reports question America’s continued leadership in these areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation?
  2. Many scientific advances require long-term investment to fund research over a period of longer than the two, four, or six year terms that govern political cycles. In the current climate of budgetary constraints, what are your science and engineering research priorities and how will you balance short-term versus long-term funding?
  3. The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?
  4. Biological diversity provides food, fiber, medicines, clean water and many other products and services on which we depend every day. Scientists are finding that the variety and variability of life is diminishing at an alarming rate as a result of human activity. What steps will you take to protect biological diversity?
  5. The Internet has become a foundation of economic, social, law enforcement, and military activity. What steps will you take to protect vulnerable infrastructure and institutions from cyber attack, and to provide for national security while protecting personal privacy on electronic devices and the internet?
  6. Mental illness is among the most painful and stigmatized diseases, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates it costs America more than $300 billion per year. What will you do to reduce the human and economic costs of mental illness?
  7. Strategic management of the US energy portfolio can have powerful economic, environmental, and foreign policy impacts. How do you see the energy landscape evolving over the next 4 to 8 years, and, as President, what will your energy strategy be?
  8. American students have fallen in many international rankings of science and math performance, and the public in general is being faced with an expanding array of major policy challenges that are heavily influenced by complex science. How would your administration work to ensure all students including women and minorities are prepared to address 21st century challenges and, further, that the public has an adequate level of STEM literacy in an age dominated by complex science and technology?
  9. Public health efforts like smoking cessation, drunk driving laws, vaccination, and water fluoridation have improved health and productivity and save millions of lives. How would you improve federal research and our public health system to better protect Americans from emerging diseases and other public health threats, such as antibiotic resistant superbugs?
  10. The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values. If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?
  11. Nuclear power can meet electricity demand without producing greenhouse gases, but it raises national security and environmental concerns. What is your plan for the use, expansion, or phasing out of nuclear power, and what steps will you take to monitor, manage and secure nuclear materials over their life cycle?
  12. Agriculture involves a complex balance of land and energy use, worker health and safety, water use and quality, and access to healthy and affordable food, all of which have inputs of objective knowledge from science. How would you manage the US agricultural enterprise to our highest benefit in the most sustainable way?
  13. We now live in a global economy with a large and growing human population. These factors create economic, public health, and environmental challenges that do not respect national borders. How would your administration balance national interests with global cooperation when tackling threats made clear by science, such as pandemic diseases and climate change, that cross national borders?
  14. Science is essential to many of the laws and policies that keep Americans safe and secure. How would science inform your administration's decisions to add, modify, or remove federal regulations, and how would you encourage a thriving business sector while protecting Americans vulnerable to public health and environmental threats?
  15. Public health officials warn that we need to take more steps to prevent international epidemics from viruses such as Ebola and Zika. Meanwhile, measles is resurgent due to decreasing vaccination rates. How will your administration support vaccine science?
  16. There is a political debate over America’s national approach to space exploration and use. What should America's national goals be for space exploration and earth observation from space, and what steps would your administration take to achieve them?
  17. There is a growing opioid problem in the United States, with tragic costs to lives, families and society. How would your administration enlist researchers, medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies in addressing this issue?
  18. There is growing concern over the decline of fisheries and the overall health of the ocean: scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are fished at or beyond sustainable limits, habitats like coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What efforts would your administration make to improve the health of our ocean and coastlines and increase the long-term sustainability of ocean fisheries?
  19. There is much current political discussion about immigration policy and border controls. Would you support any changes in immigration policy regarding scientists and engineers who receive their graduate degree at an American university? Conversely, what is your opinion of recent controversy over employment and the H1-B Visa program?
  20. Evidence from science is the surest basis for fair and just public policy, but that is predicated on the integrity of that evidence and of the scientific process used to produce it, which must be both transparent and free from political bias and pressure. How will you foster a culture of scientific transparency and accountability in government, while protecting scientists and federal agencies from political interference in their work?


56 comments :

  1. Why don't you answer those questions first Larry? While you are not running for anything, your unbiased opinion on the matter could possibly influence the election down south... so you'd give your comments more than one thought...



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  2. How smart is it to conduct foreign policy using private email accounts during a time of war?

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    1. That's not exactly a science question. However, given the incompetence of US Government agencies in protecting their computer networks, which have been hacked repeatedly, depending of the situation with Ms. Clinton's system, it might well have been less vulnerable then the State Department's, which is known to have been hacked.

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    2. Zing! Yeah, Colin Powell used an AOL account. Real secure.

      Clinton should store her sensitive information only on platforms that we know the Russians have no interest in hacking, like the Republican Party's servers.

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  3. The other problem is that the candidates are not expected to answer the questions in real time but to submit responses in writing. In fact, what would happen is that whatever experts they have enlisted would be providing the answers which they would submit.

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    1. On the other hand, that would be exactly what would happen in an actual presidency. Elected politicians rely on their experts to make nearly every decision; the question is what sort of "expert" they would choose.

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    2. As it should be... to expect any politician to be well-versed (or versed at all) in all matters, scientific or otherwise, would be unrealistic.

      Take Trump for example: I hear Sarah Palin is ready and willing to lend her expertise to the energy and foreign affairs portfolios. Probably Mike Huckabee or Michele Bachmann would be shoo-ins for the Dept of Education.

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  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

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  5. I think the only, but essential, question for a leader is to demand and lead and fight for the overthrow of state censorship in government institutions.
    On science subjects like origin issues or climate change fables there is censorship right now.
    This should, could, be the political/legal adventure for someone wanting to be a leader in America, or Canada but more hopeless, .
    A second issue could be to stop interference with americans gaining science positions from foreigners(including Canadians who I know a few off the record), affirmative action, quotas, diversity propaganda.
    Lastly some effort to include creationism.
    So is Clinton or tRump better. YUCK. Tweedle dee and tweedle dumb and intellectually both dull, dull, dull.

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  6. Robert said: On science subjects like origin issues or climate change fables there is censorship right now.

    Really? But you do of course have evidence of censorship. One example is sufficient. It figures that you are in denial about AGW. But the facts shows the planet is warming. I am certain you see the signs in Canada and Alaska. Isn't the YEC and creationism debate sufficient in addition to yor advanced studies in biology and genetics, geology, volcanism et cetera?

    Over here, they are all too visible and obvious.

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    1. The censorship is in the public institutions as famously the prohibition of creationism etc.
      The planet is not warming as i see it. Certainly not in Canada as I'm still thawing out from last winter.
      However i'm not very interested in global warming/burning claims.

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    2. It is not censorship to prohibit the teaching of religious beliefs as if they were alternative scientific theories. Creationism is not taught as an alternative scientific theory because it is a religious belief with no empirical evidence to support it. To teach it as an alternative scientific theory would be lying to children. It is also not censorship to prohibit flat Earth theory as a viable scientific alternative.

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    3. It is not censorship to prohibit the teaching of religious beliefs as if they were alternative scientific theories.

      Whether it's censorship or not, it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

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    4. In dealing with conclusions if one side is censored then censorship is going on.
      Saying its religion is saying nothing about the truth of something.
      In fact you would be admitting to not teaching the truth on some fact just because its was RELIGIOUS.
      It is aggressive censorship and therefore is a state opinion on truth since the subject is about what is true.
      How can anyone beat this logic?!

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    5. Judmare. it is censorship. Truth never violoates any laws made by the founders of america or people today.
      Its a crazy line of reasoning to censor creationism on the establishment clause.
      In fact the censorship is itself breaking this clause.
      since the state is censoring a conclusion in a subject about WHAT IS TRUE IN NATURE. then the censored idea THE STATE is saying is wrong. Otherwise the state would be saying an absurdity that in subjects of truth it can't allow the truth OR it must admit its saying the censored idea is officially not true and so the state breaks its own law by opining on religion.
      There is a excellent, adventurous, position for some poltical party to defend the natural and legal demand for no state censorship.

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    6. Sorry, Robert, wanting it to be different doesn't make it so.

      You *believe* it's the truth, but it hasn't been shown to be so by the criteria of scientific proof (at least, as nearly as we currently know it by those criteria). Thus teaching it as truth in science class violates the Constitutional provision that bars the state (which runs the schools) from "establishing," i.e., promoting as favored by the government, a religion, which creationism, coming from the Bible, plainly is.

      Teaching about all the things in the Bible that fall short of being scientifically proved in science class would be just fine under the US Constitution, but you wouldn't like that. And unfortunately, some of your co-religionists (actually, quite a lot of them) dislike it so much they have made death threats against teachers who tried to do this, so if you want to talk about censorship, perhaps we could start there.

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    7. "Its a crazy line of reasoning to censor creationism on the establishment clause."

      No it's not. Creationism is a religious belief.

      But let's pretend for a moment that creationism had no religious entanglements (I know that's silly, but just bear with me for a moment). Creationism still would not be presented as a valid scientific alternative to established science, because there is no scientific evidence to support it. It might be brought up in science class as an example of pseudo-science, in the way that astrology might be brought up in an elementary school science class, or geocentrism might be brought up in an astronomy class. But certainly not as a viable alternative scientific theory. That would be like claiming that not presenting Sasquatch in an anthropology class and giving it its rightful place in the Primates is censorship.

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    8. judmare
      Censoring a idea from the state is the state saying the idea is wrong. so the state is saying a "religious" idea is wrong is the state breaking its own law. The state is teaching religion is not true.
      In subjects dedicated to truth the state must step aside and not interfere.
      The state can't be neutral in this matter. Its opining on conclusions about nature and opining on what is not true.

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    9. The censorship is not on what is science. Its based on censoring "religious" conclusions. In these matters boundaries are crossed.
      In censoring creationism the state is either saying THAT creationism is not true(which means a opinion on religious truth as they invoke this concept for the censorship) or THEY are saying that in subjects that are about discovering the truth in nature they must stop a option for truth and so makes an absurdity of the subject.
      Censorship from the state is a interfering agenda with truth.
      Sure it is.
      Actually there is no constitutional problem with truth in schools.
      its a post wwii fiction.

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    10. Robert,

      Not presenting a religious view is not the same as declaring it not true. How have you gotten so confused? The state should not be presenting any religious views as truthful. That is how the state remains neutral. Every religion thinks it knows the 'truth'. Yours is not different. That doesn't mean it should be presented as a valid scientific alternative. How absurd.

      What you say is 'truth' is just your belief in it based on no empirical evidence (- faith). Not everyone wants their child exposed to such nonsense. Do you want all children exposed to the 'truths' of Islam, or Hinduism, or Judaism, or Satanism, or the Greek or Roman or Babylonian or Aztec pantheon of gods? Their believers are/were all just as convinced as you are of the 'truth'. You have no special claim to truth. Once you understand that real truth, you will understand why your religious beliefs are not to be presented in a science class as a valid alternative to empirical evidence.

      You can believe whatever you want is true, but don't expect everyone else to listen to you, much less present your baseless religious beliefs as an alternative in a science class.

      Seriously, Robert, what in the world gave you the idea that you were making a viable argument here?

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    11. @Chris B

      Let's make one thing clear. When you say "the state," what you mean is the United States of America. Other countries, including Canada, do not prohibit the teaching of religion in public schools.

      Now let's think about the distinction between teaching "truth" and teaching religion. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that American schools are dedicated to teaching only things that are true. Who decides what is true and what is not true?

      In America, that decision is left to the people ... usually at the local level. If the overwhelming majority of citizens think that their religion is true then preventing schools from teaching it means that schools don't always teach what is true.

      Imagine we have overwhelming scientific evidence that gods exist and they have played a role in the development of life on Earth. (Don't quibble, this is a thought experiment.) Since that's the truth, should it be taught in schools or should the truth be censored because it's religious?

      In most civilized countries, creationism isn't taught becaues it's not true. In America it's not taught just because it's religious and that really does smell like censorship. It's also bad strategy since banning creationism is left up to lawyers and not scientists.

      America now has a situation where millions of Americans firmly believe their religious beliefs are true but the "evil government" is preventing teachers from telling the truth in schools. That's a dangerous situation.

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    12. Dr. Moran,

      I agree with what you say. Yes I was referring to the USA when I said 'the state'. Separation of church and state is the law of the land here, and I think for very good reason.

      I don't have a problem with teaching religion per se. I just don't think religious beliefs should be presented as scientific alternatives to the formation of the Universe in a science class. To me this makes the issue of US Constitutional separation of church and state irrelevant here. In science we have standards of empirical evidence that make judging the 'truth' of something more objective. On this basis, IMO, I agree with all those other civilized countries: we should not teach creationism because it is not true.

      In your thought experiment, if we had overwhelming evidence for the existence of gods, it would simply be a fact of our world. It then could and should be taught in a science class, not only because we would know it to be true, but also because this knowledge would not depend on any religious belief, tradition, or dogma.

      I also agree with you that the way we have gone about preventing religious beliefs from contaminating the science classroom has led to a perpetuation and escalation of the conflict. Religious proponents and those trying to preserve scientific integrity of school science classes have both routinely resorted to the courts to settle things. Therefore inevitable it comes down the 'separation of church and state' as an argument, rather than the strength of evidence for a particular religious belief.

      Religious beliefs should be left out of the science class because they have no scientific evidence to support them, i.e., they are not objectively true. That is why scientists should be deciding what is taught in science classes, not lawyers and religious pundits.

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    13. America now has a situation where millions of Americans firmly believe their religious beliefs are true but the "evil government" is preventing teachers from telling the truth in schools. That's a dangerous situation.

      Let's extend your thought experiment.

      Millions of Americans believe the Bible is historical fact. Is it a "dangerous situation" that the Bible is not taught as truth in history class? What about the age of the Earth in science class? The Noahic flood?

      Would teachers and students be able to question these "truths," or would that be too "dangerous"?

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    14. The state is teaching religion is not true.

      Remember the story of the loaves and fish? (Actually there are two in the Bible, that differ in some details.) In one of the versions, there are five loaves and two fish.

      When children learn that 5+2=7, and not enough to feed 5000 as stated in the Bible, is the state saying the Bible is wrong? Should all children in the US, whether Christian or not, learn that 5+2 only sometimes =7, but if God is involved it can be a whole lot more? If children are required to learn the Biblical version in state-run schools, how is this not "establishing a religion"?

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    15. Imagine we have overwhelming scientific evidence that gods exist and they have played a role in the development of life on Earth. (Don't quibble, this is a thought experiment.) Since that's the truth, should it be taught in schools or should the truth be censored because it's religious?

      This question (as it arises not in your hypothetical but in actual form) has long since been resolved in US courts. The teaching of truth as best we know it does not show an intent to establish a religion. For example, the existence of a Herod the Great who was a Roman king of Judea is a historical truth as best we know it, thus teaching that he existed does not show intent to establish Christianity, though the Christian Bible speaks of Herod.

      Of course this then presents the question of how truth is established. The courts have chosen to look to people who by education and experience have qualified under the rules of evidence as experts in various fields to provide evidence on what is "known" or "true," rather than put it to a public vote (which would be redundant, since they're passing judgment on what the public through their representatives have chosen to do). They have also looked to the conduct of state actors as it bears on intent. Unsurprisingly, the conduct of these actors usually makes it quite clear the intent is to use the state schools to impart religious ideas.

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    16. judmarc asks,

      Millions of Americans believe the Bible is historical fact. Is it a "dangerous situation" that the Bible is not taught as truth in history class? What about the age of the Earth in science class? The Noahic flood?

      Yes, that's a dangerous situation. As long as those millions of Americans continue to believe that the Bible is historical fact then when the courts prevent those "facts" from being taught in schools it creates mistrust in the courts, the schools, and government.

      One solution is to concentrate on showing that those millions of American are wrong—the Bible is not historical fact. This means facing the problem head-on and dealing with the real issues. It probably means discussing Biblical stories in class and showing why they are wrong, but the courts will probably forbid that as well.

      Another solution is to elect Christian fundamentalists, stack the courts with Bible-believers, and create a theocracy. This will also solve the problem.

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    17. Contra Larry, the situation is pretty clear. You can't teach creationism in U.S. public schools because the motivation for doing so is entirely to promote a particular religious view. If creationist doctrine just happened to agree with the conclusions of science, there would be no problem with teaching it.

      I don't think Larry is actually proposing the teaching of creationism in science classes. He weasels around the idea, suggesting a critical examination (which wouldn't happen) or a move to theocracy (which might, but he must be facetious on that). Thus he ironically avoids a real discussion of the issue.

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    18. One solution is to concentrate on showing that those millions of American are wrong—the Bible is not historical fact. This means facing the problem head-on and dealing with the real issues. It probably means discussing Biblical stories in class and showing why they are wrong, but the courts will probably forbid that as well.

      Schools currently teach that the Earth's age is far greater than 6000 years, and teach evolution rather than separate, special creation. You don't think anyone misses the fact that these things contradict the Bible, do you? And the courts haven't forbidden it at all. In fact they've protected the right to keep teaching those things against actions from legislatures, school boards, and members of the public at large.

      Speaking of members of the public at large, as I've noted before, teachers, parents and students who object to the teaching of religion in schools as truth have experienced death threats. For that matter, so have those who objected to prayers at school football games or to prayers opening the day at public schools. (Thus Christians demonstrate that God Is Love.) This is quite literally and immediately a dangerous situation. What would you advise the folks who think prayer to Jesus at public school functions violates the Constitution as well as their right to be free from religion? Don't rock the boat? Pray along?

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    19. I used to teach about evolution in a university night class. When students brought it up (as they nearly always did) I'd talk about issues like how we know if passages in the Bible are history or not. If history, it should match other historical records and archeological finds. If they don't match, the Biblical account was probably not history.) Some parts of the Bible are history (e.g. much of Chronicles), interpreted history and we can't confirm the interpretations, but basically history. Other parts? No.

      Knowing the mostly religously conservative students I taught, I also pointed out that the non-historical stories could have messages, morals for us without being history. (My goal was to open them to the truth of evolution and a long ages of the earth, not to change their minds about religion.) I also pointed out that they weren't high school students any more, and were capable of thinking for themselves. (I'm sure many thought I was seriously wrong.)

      Other profs I talked to about this said they wouldn't touch the Biblical part of this with a ten foot pole. I don't know if I would have in the main biology classes, either. (I hope I would, at least if students asked.) But for my night class the university didn't care what I did, as long as students kept signing up.

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    20. John Harshman says,

      Contra Larry, the situation is pretty clear. You can't teach creationism in U.S. public schools because the motivation for doing so is entirely to promote a particular religious view.

      That's correct. It's what makes the USA different from most other nations.

      If creationist doctrine just happened to agree with the conclusions of science, there would be no problem with teaching it.

      I don't think this is correct. If the Hindu doctrine of creationism just happened to agree with the conclusions of science I don't think public schools could get away with teaching Hinduism and not Christianity.

      I don't think Larry is actually proposing the teaching of creationism in science classes. He weasels around the idea, suggesting a critical examination (which wouldn't happen) ...

      Yes, a critical examination of creationist ideas is what's necessary in order to change the culture. I'm not weaseling. I've stated my views in plain and simple language. We need to bring up standard creationist views in class and show why they are wrong. It's part of teaching critical thinking.

      We do it in university and we even do it to some extent in Canadian public schools. It's probably not common in Europe because creationism isn't a very serious problem.

      I feel the same way about astrology, homeopathy and climate change. We need to discuss the arguments advanced by astrologers, homeopaths, and climate change deniers to show why they are wrong and teach students how to think critically.

      There's no logical reason to protect religion from the same kind of scrutiny. But it ain't going to happen, as John says, because of an illogical reason; namely, the way the US Supreme Court interprets the US Constitution.

      ... or a move to theocracy (which might, but he must be facetious on that). Thus he ironically avoids a real discussion of the issue.

      How am I avoiding a "real discussion" of the issue? As you well know, a different Supreme Court could easily rule that teaching the "truth" of creationism from a Christian perspective could be constitutional. The current US Senate has made it abundantly clear that they want a true Christian on the Supreme Court and they are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to achieve their goal. You may be just one election away from having Christian creationism taught in the schools.

      The "real issue" is how to teach Americans to think critically and respect facts and evidence. In the case of creationism (all versions), the current method of legally banning all mention in the schools isn't working very well. Isn't it time to have a real discussion of other possibilities?

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    21. If the Hindu doctrine of creationism just happened to agree with the conclusions of science I don't think public schools could get away with teaching Hinduism and not Christianity.

      Not what I meant. I mean that public schools would teach the science that just happened to match Hindu doctrine.

      There's no logical reason to protect religion from the same kind of scrutiny. But it ain't going to happen, as John says, because of an illogical reason; namely, the way the US Supreme Court interprets the US Constitution.

      No, that isn't why. It isn't going to happen because the public wouldn't accept having their religion directly attacked. As it is, teachers in many places are pressured not to teach evolution. If it were legal to teach creationism in public schools, that's exactly what would happen. Not an examination of creationism, but teaching it as true. The first amendment is what keeps that from happening, to the extent that it does. That's the real discussion you're avoiding. The current method isn't working very well, but your alternative isn't workable at all.

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    22. judmarc asks,

      You don't think anyone misses the fact that these things contradict the Bible, do you?

      I have two different answers to this question.

      First. Yes, many students do miss the fact that these things contradict the Bible because there's a complete disconnect between the things they need to memorize in order to graduate and the "truth" they learn in church on Sundays.

      Second. Just teaching facts, such as a four billion year old Earth, is not effective when students hold on to misconceptions that conflict with those facts. We have tons of evidence that the truth, by itself, will not change students' minds. You have to actively confront the misconceptions and show why the scientific facts are superior to myths. That's why you have to bring up and discuss creationist ideas in class if you really want to teach critical thinking.

      The pedagogical evidence shows us that this is just about the only effective way of dealing with widespread misconceptions among students. Students are remarkably good at compartmentalizing and holding conflicting view in their heads. Teachers need to force them to confront those conflicting views and resolve them. The main skill required for resolution is critical thinking but it can't begin until students recognize the problem.

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    23. John Harshman says,

      If it were legal to teach creationism in public schools, that's exactly what would happen. Not an examination of creationism, but teaching it as true. The first amendment is what keeps that from happening, to the extent that it does.

      I understand that part of your argument. You are relying on lawyers and the US Constitution to protect students from being taught that creationism is true.

      That's very sad but it's probably true in many school districts.

      That's the real discussion you're avoiding. The current method isn't working very well, but your alternative isn't workable at all.

      Let's imagine a situation where the first amendment of the US Constitution was interpreted differently, allowing religious views to be taught in public schools.

      The result would be a battle between science and religion and between critical thinking and mythology. The outcome would depend to a large extent on the school and the teacher and there's no doubt in my mind that some schools would get away with indoctrinating students with Christian creationism.

      However, in the long run, I believe that truth (science) will trump mythology. I'm not afraid of throwing students into a controversy over science vs. faith. That's why I think my proposal is theoretically workable. (It's not workable in practice because the vast majority of Americans, including evolution supporters, don't want to abolish or re-interpret the first amendment. It's the same problem you have dealing with the second amendment.)

      But you can't win the war between science and faith if you avoid the conflict altogether. Don't be so afraid of losing some battles on the way to final victory!

      You (Americans) have to do something to change the culture. The status quo isn't working and now the results of that inaction threaten to spill over into other countries depending on who wins in November.

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    24. I think you're basically right, Dr. Moran. I'd like to see the issue brought up directly in more biology and geology classes. We do tend to steer away from controversy, and we loose by it in the long run.

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    25. I'm not afraid of throwing students into a controversy over science vs. faith.

      Sure. But that isn't what would happen. No controversy, just teaching creationism by indoctrination, over much of the country. Respect for critical thinking has to precede, not follow, relaxation of 1st amendment interpretations. That we have a current problem is no argument in favor of any random proposed solution. Secularization is modestly increasing in the U.S., and there, if anywhere, lies your rational hope.

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    26. I'm not afraid of throwing students into a controversy over science vs. faith.

      Harshman responds:


      Sure. But that isn't what would happen. No controversy, just teaching creationism by indoctrination, over much of the country. Respect for critical thinking has to precede, not follow, relaxation of 1st amendment interpretations. That we have a current problem is no argument in favor of any random proposed solution. Secularization is modestly increasing in the U.S., and there, if anywhere, lies your rational hope.

      Unfortunately you are bluffing Harshman... If you ever come up with evidence for your claims, we would welcome it. But you play soft ball so why would I take you seriously?

      Just because your beliefs have been bullied upon by others, it does't mean they will stick. If you want to challenge that you'd better have experimental evidence... or I will make sure that you go down...

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    27. However, in the long run, I believe that truth (science) will trump mythology. I'm not afraid of throwing students into a controversy over science vs. faith.

      Perhaps the above sums your point and its a valid one in a perfect or near-perfect world.

      Aside from all the already mentioned problems of teachers lacking sufficient knowledge of both religion and science to effectively mediate examinations of facts, and the propensity for teachers to "defend their faith" in the classroom, how do you envision curriculum design occuring?

      In an open system where debate between religious and scientific conclusions are encouraged and expected, religious leaders would rightly demand significant imput into curriculum content and I imagine you would end up with a whole lot of gish galloping that would be very difficult to deal with for any teacher in any school system where science is but only one of the subjects that must be taught in a limited amount of time.

      I support a rigorous application of the establishment clause (in the US, and in spirit something similar in Canada)because it eliminates a powerful avenue for early and continuing indoctrination of a population that is legally required to attend school. I imagine it's not for nothing that home-schooling is popular in the U.S. amongst certain demographics.

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    28. Chris b
      I am making a winning argument for new cases to overthrow the present state censorship in America since WWii in these obscure issues relative to the population.

      Its a beautiful and great idea that a peoples government not be allowed to pick sides in religious truth.
      Thats the great idea made centuries ago in America.
      Then since wwii a twist was made using the fine print and not the big print.
      They said any conclusion held in religious circles is illegal for the state to agree with. Then they said the State is the schools(because they pay for them) and poof creationism was censored as a option for origins.
      Good guys can beat this line of reasoning.

      The schools are not the state. There was no federal money fror the schools when the constitution was made.
      This very protestant civilization nEVER would of allowed any thing to interfere with teaching God/genesis as the truth or at least an option. Its an absurdity they meant this while meaning a beautiful separation.
      The truth in origins would be presumed to be the objective in any subjects on these matters in school.
      They never would censor the truth in subjects dedicated to the truth.
      Their wigs would rotate thrice at that suggestion.

      NOW. A return line of reasoning.
      if the state is censoring the 'religious' conclusion in subjects dedicated to the truth then EITHER they are saying the truth is not the priority goal in teaching in these subjects OR the "religious" conclusions are officialy false.
      IF THE STATE is saying religious opinions are false its breaking the beautiful idea of the separation concept. THE STATE has its obnoxious nose once more in religious truth and aimed at the children etc.
      Censoring information by the state in a subject existing for truth is state opinion same information IS NOT TRUE.
      So breaking its own law it invokes for the censorship.

      if you can't say religious ideas are true then you can't say they are not true. OBVIOUSLY!
      Your picking sides!
      Censoring creationism is saying they ain't true. sure it is!
      This is illegal!
      The answer is the state is not the schools. its not everything it pays for. It pays for the military but there are paid chaplins etc and white crosses at Arlington.

      Not including both ,common and famous conclusions, in origin subjects in schools is immoral, unintellectual, illegal.
      YES the truth is obviously the priority and only objective of education of human knowledge.
      How can anyone beat this reasoning??? ?? ?....

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    29. Robert,
      Present evidence your religious beliefs have any scientific validity whatsoever and it will be considered.

      Until then, they have no place in a science class except to make the academic point that scientific ideas are supported by empirical data, and pseudo-scientific nonsense fails to be recognized as scientific truth, wishful thinking not withstanding.

      Pretending your baseless religious fantasies have any objective scientific evidence to support them and trying to lie and indoctrinate children in our schools with these ideas is immoral, anti-intellectual, and un-American.

      Let me make this absolutely clear:

      Creationism fails as a scientific alternative to "origins" because it has no evidence whatsoever to support it. Not because it is a religious belief per se. Separation of church and state here is irrelevant. Creationism has no scientific evidence to support it and is not true. Just because you choose to believe it, no matter how fervently, does not lend it any scientific credibility.

      "YES the truth is obviously the priority and only objective of education of human knowledge."

      If you really believed that, Robert, you would not be trying to foist your chosen religion in the public schools on all children as if it were scientific fact. Your efforts to do so are unethical, immoral, and thankfully in the USA, illegal.

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    30. Cue Cruglers...

      Actually Robert, you'll kill the whole school system with your idea. Because you'll have to teach the Edah, Roman and Greek Pantheon, Inca gods, Aboriginal gods, Asian gods, Muslim god and countless other religious concepts of 'origins'. Unless you can provide evidence only your gods 'origins' is the true one. And last time I checked, there are over 30.000 christian denominations and many of these denominations won't blink an eye lid to murder each others followers in name of their god.
      Anyway, kids won't have time to learn such mundane stuff as writing, 1+1 and basic language skills. So yeah, it's back to the stone age...

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    31. I'm not afraid of throwing students into a controversy over science vs. faith.

      As someone who grew up Jewish in the US public school system in a region of the country not especially noted for its religiosity, I have tremendous fear of what would happen with these students.

      The year I had a grade school teacher who had an obvious problem with my religion, two things occurred I still remember:

      - The teacher told my parents at a parent-teacher conference that I was reading far above my grade level, and this was a bad thing. She wanted to see me reading only grade-level-appropriate books.

      - We took standardized "aptitude" tests every year from 1st-6th grade. My scores were consistent every year except that one. That year, my scores were 15-25 percentile points below my scores from all other years.

      To think we wouldn't see repetition of similar situations in classrooms where students don't take kindly to being taught what they know (and in some cases their parents tell them) is nonsense is naïve. So your willingness to sacrifice millions of students on the altar of confrontation scares me.

      I agree with John Harshman that the burden must be on the society of adults to change rather than sacrificing children, though I grant the slow pace of this process is terribly frustrating.

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    32. How can anyone beat this reasoning?

      If it were actually "reasoning" then there might be something involved in "beating" it. But what it actually is, is a whole bunch of stuff you've read, heard, or come up with on your own that begins with untrue "facts" (the schools aren't the "state," an unrecognizable white-is-black interpretation of the Establishment Clause peculiar to Evangelical Christians) and comes to the inevitable tortured, illogical conclusion that the prohibition against establishing a religion can only be fulfilled by (drum roll) establishing a religion!

      Hey Robert, how about you fulfill the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" by stealing? What, doesn't make any sense? Neither does what you wrote.

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    33. judmare. your not reading here at your consistent level but that special year. Just kidding.
      The state is not everuything the state pays for. the state is understood to be the government , in the days of the founders, and nothing to do with school systems. IN FACT they didn't pay , at a federal level or any maybe, for schools. it was never a intention for state censorship on schools regarding religion. INDEED NEVER would they of allowed any opinion except one for god/Genesis.
      its a total post wwii legal fable to see in the constitution a censorship demand in education.

      The priority of truth, indeed old concepts like academic freedom, in education is a natural and legal right. Sure it is.
      if the truth on a subject bumps into a religious conclusion then thats okay.
      If God created the universe then its a priority to teach this truth or this option. If there is no evidence of a God or a god then the origin of the universe should should be taught rejecting that. if in contention then both sides.

      Not teaching a idea because its religious is really teaching its not true. Sure it is.
      Politicians, I guess the republicans being more identified with the Yankee/Southern peoples, have a great opportunity to fight and defend freedom to seek the truth and in america/Canada to overthrow state censorship once and for all.
      A great issue, a historic issue, important truth issue, and be in company with those who did great things in america and not secondary politicians.
      They miss being great politicians because they are not great ones.

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    34. "If God created the universe then its a priority to teach this truth or this option. If there is no evidence of a God or a god then the origin of the universe should should be taught rejecting that."

      There is no scientific evidence for god, Robert. I thought I made that clear. Therefore it does not belong in a science class, except as a warning against superstitions. Therefore, not teaching your religious fantasies as if they were objective truth is not censorship. Why do you keep talking as if these points haven't already been made?

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    35. Robert:
      "If God created the universe"

      Which god are we talking about? And what proof do you have Robert, that only your god is the one who did all of this?

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  7. Small point but let us rescue a small corner of the the language. You cannot debate a person. You can debate with or against a person. You can however debate an issue or a topic or a question.

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  8. "Elected politicians rely on their experts to make nearly every decision; the question is what sort of "expert" they would choose."

    True. The questions given are good ones, but it would be nice if there were one or two dealing with the choice of, and access given to, a science advisor.

    But, unless there is a change in how these "debates" are done, they will have as much in common with real debates as creationism/ID has with real science - that is to say, nothing.

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  9. Here are some things I would like to see:

    1. America's leadership in science and engineering is due to capitalism which rewards innovation with monetary gain. Education quality is not an issue because students from all over the world come to study at U.S. colleges (and Canada's too) to learn the best engineering techniques and the latest scientific advances. Our education system is excellent. Maintaining an environment friendly to entrepreneurs where they can open a business based upon their innovation and thrive without undue interference by government is critical. In order to continue our innovations, pro-capitalist, minimalist socialist policies need to be the agenda. In general, this means electing more Republicans who tend to be focused on business and economy, and elect less Democrats who tend to focus on nonsense such as redefining marriage to include perverted relationships, or who whine like Chicken Little "The sky is falling cuz Climate Change --whaaaa".

    3. The Earth's climate has always been changing, certainly before the industrial revolution when humans could not have possibly affected the climate, and after the industrial revolution where it is probable humans still are not affecting it. Science has not proven that humans are the cause of Global Warming...I mean Global Cooling...uh, I mean Climate Change --a term chosen that could blame humans regardless the weather. "Humans Causing Climate Change" is not a scientific matter but a political one. If science could prove that humans are the cause there would be no debate, but because it cannot prove any such thing, those with a political agenda masking the issue with a veneer of science are bringing it before politicians, and soon probably, judges, to demand it become "truth" regardless of the evidence.

    There are many people who stand to haul in millions of dollars by getting carbon taxes passed and research grants awarded to further study how all these bad people are supposedly changing the climate.

    I urge you to read Senator Inhofe's excellent treatment on the matter: http://www.epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759

    It is interesting to note that atheists and liberals overwhelmingly believe and that Christians and conservatives overwhelmingly disbelieve "Humans Are Causing the Climate to Change". Liberals try touse science to prove their case but they have not and I am certain cannot. Until it is demonstrated that "x-amount of carbon introduced into the atmosphere over y-amount of time produces z-amount of Climate Change" then all the Chicken Littles have is hysteria and bluster, not facts. Data modeling is not evidence, no more than building a model of an alien using unidentified stones and bones is evidence for aliens.

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    Replies
    1. LOL

      That's an excellent parody of stupid American Republicans. However, it's so close to their actual beliefs that you should have inserted a smiley to make sure everyone realizes you were just joking.

      Without the smiley, people might think you are an idiot.

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    2. SRM says,

      I support a rigorous application of the establishment clause (in the US, and in spirit something similar in Canada) because it eliminates a powerful avenue for early and continuing indoctrination of a population that is legally required to attend school.

      So, how's that working out? After 50 years of relying on lawyers to protect children from indoctrination are there a lot fewer children who believe in gods and creationism today than there were in the 1960s?

      I take John Harshman's point that it may be impossible to change the system but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

      BTW, in Ontario (Canada) where I live, there's a separate Roman Catholic School system funded by the government. In other provinces there are several other types of religious schools funded by taxes. There's no such thing as an "establishment clause" and no consensus view on whether religion should be kept out of government-funded schools.

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    3. So, how's that working out? After 50 years of relying on lawyers to protect children from indoctrination are there a lot fewer children who believe in gods and creationism today than there were in the 1960s?

      I don't know the answer to that. It would be interesting to see statistics. (Since religion is so tied to politics in America - yes I know that's quite an apparent paradox for a country with an Establishment Clause - it would be interesting to see whether a Trump candidacy has diminished or reinforced Christian religious fervor among the population as a whole.)

      The question for me is what is cause and what is effect here? In other words, is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment causing Americans to be more religious, or has the greater religiosity of Americans caused efforts to enforce the Establishment Clause to be a long, uphill slog?

      As you I'm sure would expect, I think it's the latter, just as I think a history of racism hampers efforts to enforce the Constitutional amendments providing for equal rights, rather than that the amendments promote racism.

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    4. I take John Harshman's point that it may be impossible to change the system but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

      It does if the method you use to try would end up making it worse, not better. I don't care if it's the best butter, it won't fix your watch.

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    5. BTW, in Ontario (Canada) where I live, there's a separate Roman Catholic School system funded by the government. In other provinces there are several other types of religious schools funded by taxes. There's no such thing as an "establishment clause" and no consensus view on whether religion should be kept out of government-funded schools.

      Yes I know all this, I am originally from Ontario as well and the fact that there is a Roman Catholic school system funded by taxpayer money is ridiculous.

      There is no establishment clause as in U.S. but we do have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which has been used successfully to argue against school-led prayers. I bet you remember doing two things every morning in school - singing O' Canada and saying the Lord's Prayer. I bet you don't find that happening anymore in the public school system.

      But you didn't address the part about designing curriculum content and its difficulties. If you were hired to design the curriculum I would support your efforts, but this isn't going to happen.

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    6. I know three regular readers of this blog who help with designing the Ontario provincial curriculum. Teachers throughout the province are obliged to follow it. The biology/evolution part of the curriculum looks pretty good to me.

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    7. Yes, and I am certain without even looking at it that the Ontario curriculum will not make any mention of alternative religious ideas let alone recommend a "contrast and compare" approach. Philosophically I agree with your idea but I don't see how it could be enacted in this god-soaked world.

      I'm not sure what effect the structure of public education systems has on religiosity as it seems so many people are susceptible to the base conditions for religiosity - ie, the vague spiritual belief in a grand universal first cause and cosmic string-puller. But I suspect by preventing the use of the public school system as another tool of indoctrination, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people displaying the most intellectually infantile forms of religious belief (eg belief in sudden creation, mass genocide by flood, adam and eve, jonah's whale tale, etc).

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  10. You would think that a debate over the scientific issues would be mandatory.

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