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New Mexico Bill To Protect Anti-Science Education 726

Posted by samzenpus
from the dare-to-be-stupid dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From the Wired article: 'If educators in New Mexico want to teach evolution or climate change as a "controversial scientific topic," a new bill seeks to protect them from punishment. House Bill 302, as it's called, states that public school teachers who want to teach "scientific weaknesses" about "controversial scientific topics" including evolution, climate change, human cloning and — ambiguously — "other scientific topics" may do so without fear of reprimand. The legislation was introduced to the New Mexico House of Representatives on Feb. 1 by Republican Rep. Thomas A. Anderson. Supporters of science education say this and other bills are designed to spook teachers who want to teach legitimate science and protect other teachers who may already be customizing their curricula with anti-science lesson plans.'"
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New Mexico Bill To Protect Anti-Science Education

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  • What scientists... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Barrinmw (1791848) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:51PM (#35120346)
    ...don't believe in the theory of evolution at least in principle? I know there are actual scientists who are skeptical of climate change but evolution?
    • by smallfries (601545) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:54PM (#35120364) Homepage

      Creationologists?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      educators aren't "scientists"

      • by Morty (32057) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:13PM (#35120574) Journal

        +1. Many public-school science teachers are not even educated as scientists. Actual scientists can command salaries higher than what teachers are paid, so very few people who graduate with a science degree are willing to work in a public high school. This means many teachers are liberal arts folks who got a certificate in education. Many, perhaps even most of these folks still try to do a good job. But some fraction of them bring the same ignorance to bear as in the general population.

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:02PM (#35120430) Journal

      As with climate change, the few real scientists who are skeptical seem to be from fields which have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand.

      Even so, I would like to point out Project Steve [ncse.com] to anyone who wants to claim there's a scientific controversy surrounding evolution.

      • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @08:16PM (#35122364) Journal
        It's exactly this type of BS that enables people to challenge well supported theories like evolution.

        The hypothesis of global warming is in a similar stage to the Theory of Evolution as it existed 150 years ago. When you equate them, you discard 150 years of investigation, learning, prediction, verification, experimentation, understanding and opportunities for falsification.

        Global warming should stand on it's own, without the need to bring unrelated science fact to justify itself.

        Right now, there is a consensus that while there are a few outliers, the evidence as a whole points to the warming of the planet by a fraction of a degree in recent history. This is good. What I would like to see now is the very serious separation of global warming from 'man made' global warming in public discussions.

        They are separable variables and should be very clearly treated as such. In every single discussion.
        Oh, let's also drop the new fad of calling the hypothesis "climate change". The climate ALWAYS changes. Global warming is the only of the two descriptions that actually describes the hypothesis.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by w_dragon (1802458)
          Global warming switched to climate change when they realized that the warming would stop the NW current, which would actually cause the climate to cool in places where the ocean currents normally provide temperate climates (like Britain). See, they discovered that the name as it was was actually deceptive, so they changed it.
        • by bunratty (545641)
          The theory of evolution set out to explain a phenomenon we already knew existed. AGW is impressive because it predicted a phenomenon we did not know was going to occur [wikipedia.org]. I don't see any reasonable alternative explanations for the warming we've observed, so the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the best explanation we have. We have over 100 years of investigation, learning, prediction, verification, experimentation, understanding and opportunities for falsification for AGW. It sounds about as we
    • by Jessta (666101)

      Skeptics are necessary for all scientific theories. The 'how' of evolution still has missing pieces.
      There are people that are skeptical of gravity, and that's a really good thing.

      • by JAlexoi (1085785)

        Skeptics are necessary for all scientific theories. The 'how' of evolution still has missing pieces. There are people that are skeptical of gravity, and that's a really good thing.

        Sceptics sure are, but most evolution sceptics are religious nutjobs. And calling someone religious a sceptic is results in an oxymoron.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:54PM (#35120366) Homepage

    Luckily for them The Bible isn't scientific so they won't have to teach the weaknesses in that.

    • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:16PM (#35120602)

      Quite the contrary! Creation and Intelligent Design would, in New Mexico, arguably fall under the umbrella of "other scientific topics," which means no teacher could be reprimanded for teaching the serious scientific weaknesses in those "theories." Sounds like they'll open the door for the real teachers to talk freely about how absurd arguments against evolution are.

      • Except then those teachers would be reprimanded/fired/sued for slighting the religious beliefs of others while acting as a representative of the state. And then we'd have to hear the "news" outlets (both sides) lose their minds over it for weeks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:54PM (#35120370)

    How is it anti-science to teach the weaknesses of a theory? Shouldn't we already be doing that? Seems to me that is exactly what we should do. Put all the facts on the table , describe the theories and teach the children to think through the problems that exist with all of theories instead of being mindless robots that simply regurgitate the flavor of the month.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:02PM (#35120424) Journal

      First of all, no one is saying that a theory's weaknesses can't be discussed, but these kinds of laws are not designed to do that, they are designed to give weight to Creationism and ID. It has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with giving a false sense of weakness in scientific theories. Evolutionary theory has issues, but then again so does gravity, or any other theory.

      A second point is that there are not enough hours in the day to give kids more than a brief survey of, say, evolution. You're notion that teachers are equipped to take children through a theory like evolution in that detail, or that children who are even less well equipped can hope to comprehend. What you want is absurd, but seems fairly standard for Creationists who try to make the unreasonable sound reasonable.

      Beyond all of that, of course, is that this law is on the face of it unconstitutional. This was all dealt with a few decades ago, and much of it was reiterated and expanded on by the Dover Trial.

    • by Palmsie (1550787) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#35120460)

      It isn't anti-science to expose limitations of a theory. In fact, theories are bolstered only due to their ability to rule out alternative hypotheses (rejecting the null hypothesis).

      However, it is anti-science to introduce an idea that is unfalsifiable and call it science. Unfalsifiability is one of the major tenants of science, the scientific process, and theory creation and development. In order for a proposition to become a theory it needs to be testable. Creationism is founded upon belief. I cannot tell a student to go find evidence for creationism. I can, however, tell someone to go find evidence either FOR or AGAINST evolution. However, evolution has so much evidence in favor of it, it is a generally accepted framework for the origin of species. It doesn't claim perfection, no scientific process does. Indeed, the rise of post-positivism as a major philosophical and scientific building block is a testament to this. Post-positivism claims that since humans are imperfect it is impossible to measure any phenomenon perfectly (measurement is asymptotic with Truth). Ultimately, the Bible provides merely circular reasoning for Creationism as a possible scientific explanation. There is no way to prove or disprove the existence of God or any mechanisms that he might provide (creationism). Therefore, it is unfalsifiable and cannot be taught as an alternative explanation to any scientific principle, theory, or proposition since creationism ultimately reduces to faith.

  • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pteraspidomorphi (1651293) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:54PM (#35120372)

    I'm going to be downmodded to death, but isn't science about keeping an open mind? Here in my country school curricula are rigid, limited and biased government mandated crap. As long as the teacher doesn't lie/make things up, teaching the kids to question everything and see both sides of an issue will only do them good. The intelligent ones will eventually make their own decision about who's right or wrong, and the stupid ones will believe what they'll believe anyway...

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:00PM (#35120416)

      "It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out."
      — Carl Sagan

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#35120450) Homepage Journal

      I'm going to be downmodded to death, but isn't science about keeping an open mind?

      Well there's "open mind" and then there's "absurd". You wouldn't sanction another instructor walking into the room and trying to offer the students "alternate options" like a flat earth or the moon made of cheese.

      "Open Mind" is for topics that have not been thoroughly figured out. It's good for things that we don't fully understand yet, to encourage different opinions and explore ways to get closer to the truth.

      Once all reasonable doubt has been settled, it's time to accept reality and stop placing any credibility in what's written in some 2000 yr old book.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#35120452)

      Things like Creationism aren't science, and therefore do not belong in a science class. They should, however, be discussed in Philosophy class. Oh, wait, that's right. Most US schools do not teach Philosophy anymore.

      • by Tom (822)

        So add a "Pseudoscience" class to the curriculum. We could really, really need it. In there, teach kids about all the bullshit they'll encounter in their lifes and how to identify the nonsense.

        Teach them about astrology and horoscopes, about people who speak to the dead, miracles cures and all the other things where others will try to take advantage of them.

        It is sorely needed. You don't even have to get controversial, there's more than enough utter and total bullshit to fill a class.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kronotross (1671418) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:05PM (#35120470)
      Seeing both sides of an issue is a easier to do when there are two sides to an issue. We are as confident in the presence of evolution as we are in the presence of gravity, but we don't have our science teachers expressing weaknesses with that particular phenomenon despite the fact that birds are regularly seen flying. I'm confident that one could come up with any number of theories as to why we are pulled towards the ground (the Earth sucks, Jesus has his hand on all of our shoulders, et cetera) but there is one scientifically valid explanation for gravity, and that is the explanation we give in science class. Likewise, I'm sure there are other explanations for the variety of life on the planet other than evolution: scientifically invalid ones. By all means, teach them that Christianity disagrees with scientific thought... in a social studies or religion class, where it's appropriate.
    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by binarstu (720435) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:06PM (#35120480)
      I agree with you that skepticism is important in science (and critical thinking in general). However, I think the big problem with this bill is that it explicitly calls evolution a "controversial scientific topic". Evolution is not controversial. Biologists may argue about the details of how evolution happens, but they don't dispute that evolution does happen. Just as bad, this bill lists "human cloning" along with evolution and climate change, which is very misleading. Human cloning is a technology, not a line of scientific inquiry like evolution and climate change are. And it is controversial for ethical and moral reasons, entirely unlike evolution and climate change. So yes, skepticism is good, but the language and assumptions used in this bill seem to me to be rather bad.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        This would be the main reason that creationism has no place in a science classroom.

        Biology is about what biologists believe or have concluded. It's not an open forum for every crackpot that wants to impose their own variant of Sharia law on the rest of us.

        In biology, Evolution is not controversial and hasn't been for a very long time.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:06PM (#35120484)
      Because teaching that evolution is wrong is lying and "making things up", no matter how much you want to believe otherwise. Teaching kids to see both sides of an issue is all fine and good, but teaching them that anti-intellectual dogma deserves to be placed on the same plane as established scientific fact is not, and the reason this is so important is because children don't have the innate ability to tell the difference- that's why we have education in the first place.
    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:09PM (#35120526)

      Because this has nothing to do with keeping an open mind, and is in fact intended to do the exact opposite - to keep minds closed. Now, the chances of this bill becoming law are pretty small, but it is pernicious and will have a chilling effect. Representative Anderson should be ashamed of himself, but I suspect that he is nothing more than a conman without that ability.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Elbereth (58257) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:10PM (#35120540) Journal

      Both sides of the issue? What issue? There are no issues to teach! The only possible "controversy" comes from people who are not scientists and have something to lose by believing the prevailing theory. Nobody wants to teach the "controversy" that surrounds gravity; it's only when you contradict what people already believe that you end up with this kind of irrational resistance. What are these "open-minded" teachers supposed to do? Read from a Bible, so that kids are exposed to the fundamentalist Christian doctrine of creationism? That's for religion or philosophy class, not science class. Have the CEO of a multinational corporation come in and deny man-made climate change? That's for a politics class, not a science class. Have some crank who doesn't believe in the moon landings preach his conspiracy theory, as an equal opportunity to teaching physics?

      This is bullshit, and the supporters know it. They just want to indoctrinate the kids with their message, rather than allowing only what they see as their opponents being able to indoctrinate the kids. If this were politics, philosophy, or religion class, I'd say, "Yes, that's a very good idea. All viewpoints should be heard." But it's not. It's science class, and science class doesn't lend itself to this kind of "all viewpoints are equally valid" philosophy. Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean that you should be able to teach it along side an actual theory.

    • by mellon (7048)

      In order to advance the progress of science, it is useful to have an open mind. However, science isn't *about* keeping an open mind. Science is about taking the current theories of how things work and testing them to see if they are correct. We abandon them (or really, in most cases, incrementally adjust them) when the tests demonstrate that they are incorrect. You could describe this as "keeping an open mind," but it's a very specific *kind* of open mind: a mind that is open to giving up an idea wh

  • by mdphdscddlitt (1990796) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:07PM (#35120510)
    From TFA:
    Rosenau said House Bill 302 will probably never see the light of day...

    However, the fact that it's even being considered is worrying. It's another signpost on a road that seems to be heading for a generation of credulous morons. I don't see any significant barricades.
  • Bright side (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Autonomous Crowhard (205058) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:10PM (#35120536)

    At least this means that teachers can't be threatened for completely slamming Intelligent Design.

  • by steve buttgereit (644315) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:10PM (#35120538) Homepage

    This is just the outcome of public provided services and a government increasingly directed by the whims of the majority. I thought that was what everybody here was clamoring for? Freeing the people... ...if the people just happen to be dumb-shits or irrational? Well that's the bed you've made for yourself, why are you disappointed or put out?

    • by sconeu (64226) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:43PM (#35120858) Homepage Journal

      It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

      Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

      Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

      Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

  • Excellent... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MarkusH (198450) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:46PM (#35120890)

    This means a teacher can discuss examples of creationism from other religions (like from Islam) without fear of reprimand. With, of course, supporting text from the Koran.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:51PM (#35120934) Homepage

    Fuck! When did Neo go into politics?

  • by tirefire (724526) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:51PM (#35120936)

    Does anyone still actually believe that science coursework below graduate-level material has anything beyond peripheral involvement with the proper growth of scientists? I mean, sure, nearly every scientist goes through it (read on for one notable exception), but let's be honest - high school science classes fail students in the same way that every other high school class fails students:

    - There is no experimentation whatsoever. Any "lab" work is done in a rigged environment where students go through the motions laid out by an instructor instead of designing and performing their own experiment from scratch.
    - There is a one-size-must-fit-all emphasis on abstraction, bookwork, and lecture. This is not how everyone learns best, or even at all.
    - There is no free association. You see your science teacher (who acts as though he knows everything, when really he just knows everything in the curriculum) and your (clueless) classmates, and that's it. You never interact with people who have conducted / are conducting real research.

    We wouldn't be worrying about ideas like Intelligent Design being discussed in school if we had actual science classes. Since science is more of a process than a product, proper science instruction would allow each student to determine for himself that Intelligent Design, healing crystals, etc. are pseudoscience. When you're just telling people that Evolution=FACT; Anthropogenic-Global-Warming=FACT; Creationism=LIE, there's no real intellectual development taking place. A science curriculum whose core is "these are the facts that our expert scientists agree on" is a great way to politicize science by training young minds to rely on entrenched "experts" to tell them the meaning of things.

    Fun fact: Francis Collins (THE Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project) is a born-again evangelical christian. He thinks religion is the most important thing in his life. He rejects intelligent design. He was homeschooled by middle-of-the-road christian parents.

    Maybe when we talk about science, religion, Intelligent Design, etc. on Slashdot, we could frame our discussion around inspiring people like Collins who manage to find a good balance all on their own. To do otherwise is to basically admit that our schools are brainwashing centers (which they are, but that's another discussion) and that most young minds are powerless to separate fact from fiction on their own (I hope to God they aren't, and if they are, we shouldn't waste money on "science classes" in the first place).

    • you are missing some fital points

      1) Highschool science is not intended to teach science as much as teach the building blocks for performing science. How to follow the scientific method, how to measure properly, use tools, take results and compare them to a hypothesis. Those are valuable skills. Should they be taught earlier?? Maybe. But you can say that about a lot of skills in US schools. Logic being the big one in my mind. But in the end you have to give the students the skills

      2) Allowing students to make

    • by Tom (822)

      Does anyone still actually believe that science coursework below graduate-level material has anything beyond peripheral involvement with the proper growth of scientists?

      Absolutely, yes. Has it ever occured to you that there is something called "learning"? Your first steps in something new will almost always have not so much in common with what the real thing looks like. Your first steps in driving or flying are a few minutes or hours of theory, far away from a car.

      Presenting children with "real science" would very likely not teach them much. Real science is, first of all, fantastically boring to anyone who isn't already fascinated by the subject matter. Days, weeks, months

  • by tm2b (42473) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @04:54PM (#35120956) Journal
    It will not happen overnight (hell, I have been watching it for 30+ years), but economic prosperity was the US' to lose, and the Religious Right is destroying it, bit by bit.

    Once upon a time, I thought that open communication would help empiricism win out over magical thought, but after watching a couple of decades of religious right mumbo jumbo flowing out over the Internet, unperterbed by anything resembling empirical scepticism, I think nothing will penetrate their confirmation bias.

    By pandering to our population's basest fears, they are systematically destroying the ability of one generation to teach the next how to think critically, and disrupting our ability to maintain science and math competence. We're toast, and it is time to acknowledge that, as the primitives dance around celebrating the 100th birthday of their harbinger, Ronald Reagan.

    I am so glad my SOs do not want children.
    • You're looking at it the wrong way. Those who chose a medieval future chose it for themselves, not for everyone. What's more, they are volunteering their many future helpless spawn to be economic prisoners of the minority who chose a reality-based reality.

      So ladies and gentlemen, stop trying to create useful technology. Write home-astrology software. Start an Ayn Rand website. Hell, start a religion.

      The ignoramuses are going to pay for being willfully stupid, right? Why shouldn't they pay you? Have you ever

  • by knarf (34928) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @05:19PM (#35121196) Homepage

    Modern Islam is not exactly a hotbed for scientific exploration and discovery, the reverse is true. This has not always been the case however as you'll probably know. While Europe was ravaged by norsemen and later held by the leash by restrictive and vindictive Christian churches in the early middle ages, the Islamic world was a place where scientific curiosity was not only allowed but even encouraged [wikipedia.org]. Standing on the shoulders of earlier scientists from eg. Greece, India and China, scholars in the Islamic world produced many works which are still held in high regard. This was the Islamic golden age [wikipedia.org].

    And then, something happened. Religious intolerance [meforum.org] was probably one of the factors in the decline of scientific discovery in the Islamic world, led by theologists like Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1059-1111) who used the tools of the philosophers to undermine philosophical and scientific inquiry.

    Of course these developments happened in a span of centuries, not decades. It would not surprise me though if the decline of scientific learning in the Islamic world started just like it seems to happen in the United States of America, by religious zealots trying to undermine and discredit science and scientists and subverting science teaching to their own purposes.

  • by CDPS (1106089) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @07:15PM (#35122056)
    Politicians who wonder why the US is losing its competitiveness in science and technology need look no further than these sorts of moves.
  • by Red_Chaos1 (95148) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @09:43PM (#35122818)

    ...of personal agendas getting shoehorned into every aspect of life. Quite frankly if I wanted my kids taught creationism in school, I'd enroll them in a parochial school. That's what they're there for. If you want to teach creationism, get a job at a parochial school. Otherwise, keep your petty agenda to yourself.

  • by multiplexo (27356) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @10:42PM (#35123096) Journal
    I'm sick and tired of these people and their fucking stupid and insane religious beliefs, can anyone think of a way we can get them to be like those idiot comet cultists in Los Angeles back in the 90s? You know the ones I'm talking about, the group where the men cut their own balls off and then everyone ate a bunch of Jello pudding that had been laced with tranquilizers and they all died. Can we get the Evangelical Christoids to start doing this? Tell them that their penises and testicles are evil and that they need to cut them off so that they won't sin, and then get them to believe that Jesus wants them to overdose on tranquilizers and that they'll go to Heaven and bring about the Rapture if they do?
  • by jandersen (462034) on Monday February 07, 2011 @04:24AM (#35124312)

    As an educator you have a special duty to teach established knowledge and valuable skills; I find it highly dubious that a teacher's personal opinions, political or religious, fall in to that category.

    And, while it is arguably true that you should teach the children a healthy scepticism and critical thinking, I suspect this principle is only applied to the so-called "controversial" sciences, not to the Biblical myths or the right-wing agenda of that sort of teacher. If this was really about critical thinking, then they should teach the children why the Christian mythologies are implausible.

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