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DAVID ROSMAN: Let's not allow science to be sandbagged by religion

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Let’s talk about science.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon talked about science in the State of the State address last week, wanting to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics education so Missouri’s children can be ready for tomorrow’s work force.

Science is pretty simple if you get down to basics. Ask a question and conduct background research concerning the problem. Develop a hypothesis, test that hypothesis through experimentation. Develop a theory concerning future events of a similar nature. Repeat.

Each test is not to prove the theory correct but to search for why it may be false. That is an extremely simplified explanation of the scientific method.

One question that has been tested, retested and evaluated for error is Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Yes, it is “just a theory,” but what a theory it has turned out to be, one that proves correct regardless of the tests thrown at it. From microbiology to paleontology to astrophysics, the theory has not been deemed false, with one exception.

That exception is the relationship of Darwin’s theory of evolution to the biblical creation stories. Individuals who believe and promote intelligent design or creationism or any other biblical-based theories of the origins of our universe, none of which can stand the test of the scientific method, are fighting what is now an uphill battle. Yet the battle against good science continues in our fair state.

Reps. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, and Andrew Koenig, R-St. Louis County, are young, well-educated men. They are professionals who should understand what it means to have a well-educated populace.

Yet, these men have decided to introduce a bill in the Missouri House of Representatives that would allow parents to remove their children from classes about evolution. HB 1472 goes further.

It would require a school district or charter school to notify a parent or guardian that evolution will be taught and how it will be taught, adding a notification that the parent can remove the child from such education. The basis for this proposed law appears to be the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

But HB 1472 is a slippery slope that the Christian conservative movement has submitted to thwart the scientific inquiry of youth. If good science is ignored for mythology, what else will be ignored by those who believe their religion is being threatened?

Will we start to teach that we live in an Earth-centered universe that is only 6,100 years old completely ignoring the physics and geology that prove otherwise? That man and dinosaur lived together although we know through scientific research and study that this could not be the case? Are we to return to the Dark Ages in Missouri and allow our surrounding states to surpass us in the education of the future?

For starters, HB 1472 would not pass the Lemon test. In Lemon v Kurtzman, 403 US 602 (1971), the Supreme Court said a law concerning religion needs to meet the following tests:

  1. The action must have a secular purpose.
  2. The action must neither advance nor inhibit religion.
  3. The action must not result in "excessive government entanglement of religion."

As of this writing, this bill seems to be going nowhere, and I urge the Speaker of the House to keep it on the back shelf.

If Darwin’s theory were removed, even by proxy, from the curriculum, what's next? Copernicus’ heliocentric model?  After all, since 1543, it's only been a “model.”

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.


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Comments

Ellis Smith January 29, 2014 | 7:26 a.m.

For those who are truly simple, everything is simple.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 29, 2014 | 12:12 p.m.

You were doing great with your explanation of the scientific method....right up to the point you wrote this:

"Yes, it is “just a theory,” but what a theory it has turned out to be, one that proves correct regardless of the tests thrown at it."

Uh, no. No theory is proved correct. Ever. Theories, and hypotheses, are SUPPORTED by data. You can do experiments until the cows come home, but you'll never "prove" a theory or hypothesis. Theories predict. Data from new experiments can be consistent (i.e., support) with the predictions of a theory and strengthen it.

However, one single good experiment...or one single bit of good data...CAN utterly disprove a theory or hypothesis.

And, at that point, you have to redo your hypothesis and/or theory.

For many, this distinction is subtle. To a scientist, it makes all the difference in the world.

The words "prove" and "theory" seldom belong in the same sentence....except for how I just wrote this sentence.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 29, 2014 | 12:33 p.m.

Let me start out by reminding any reader that I am an ardent evolutionist (i.e., I believe the theory) AND a Christian.

At its heart, Dave's missive is founded upon the premise that the State has such a sufficiently large interest in the education of its youth, that this interest supersedes the wishes of parents and guardians. I don't know if he dislikes home schooling, but it does seem probable. After all, parental refusal to participate in public education utterly denies such State educational interest.

I happen to believe that creationism based upon a literal interpretation of Genesis has no place in public school science classes. Creationism denies the laws of chemistry and physics, and I don't believe God changes those laws willy-nilly for the intent of fooling or "testing" us. Nor do I believe He (or She...whatever...but let's keep things peaceful) wishes us to deny our lyin' eyes and brains, things He (or She) gave us to figure stuff out.

But, I respect a parent's right to control the education of his/her children. If a parent happens to think differential equations, Einstein, Thurber, or culinary classes are the works of the devil, who am I to say otherwise? In my opinion, if parents or a community wish to graduate a bunch of damnphools, it's their business. I even extend this sentiment to the various States.

But, NOT the feds. Keep the feds out. Let the States and various communities compete for educated students.

It's the constitutional way.

Change the Constitution if you don't like it.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 29, 2014 | 12:42 p.m.

Speaking of the Affordable Care Act (sorry, but there's no other place to tag this, but you need to know about it):

I've been hearing that prices for many generics have skyrocketed. There are reports of patients refusing their medications because of the higher prices.

I just refilled a generic prescription at a local pharmacy. In November, 2013, it cost me less than 10 bucks for 30 days. The next month (Dec) it was over 10 bucks. Today, January 29, 2014, it was over 14 bucks. The pharmacist and I had a discussion over this; manufacturers raised their prices and insurance companies lowered the amounts allowed. Why?

The ACA.

So now we'll have investigations into price gouging, a hue and cry to help those who cannot pay for their medications, co-pays, deductibles, and total out-of-pockets.

Wow, if the ACA did nothing else, it sure created a continuing and ever changing chaos.

I can pay the additional costs. Can you?

The ACA: The gift that keeps on giving.....

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 29, 2014 | 3:40 p.m.

Regarding public education:

"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." - Theodore Roosevelt

Unfortunately we have more than a few menaces to society in our midst.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 29, 2014 | 7:58 p.m.

"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."
________________

Ellis: Hard to tell if Theodore had as much trouble with definitions for "morals" versus "ethics" as Rosman does.

I guess Theodore's statement does make sense....so long as he was assuming the ethics were already in place.

(Report Comment)

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