Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Now That's Too Much Evolution

I originally started this as a post with three links in one, but after my Intertubez messed up this morning and I had to head out for work, I decided that I would break them up into three different posts. So here go. The first one is from the annals of "evolution verses creationism," because this is a big thing in the United States.

This one comes to me via the Panda's Thumb.

"If evolution is true and all you atheists are so smart than how come you couldn't stop 9/11?"
- Ryan Parks, FTSDT board

There's a place in Tennessee (okay, shaddup with your snickering in the back 40. At least it's not Texas) called Hart County. Hart County schools are subject to the Tennessee Board of Ed, which can be both a good and bad thing. Apparently this time around, it's a good thing, because the Hart County Superintendent is busy complaining because there's too much evolution in the curriculum. Superintendent Line wrote a letter to the BoE, and this is what he shat out:

I have a deep concern about the increased emphasis on the evolution content required in the new End-of-Course Blueprint (Blueprint). After carefully reviewing the Blueprint, I find the increase is substantial and alarming .…
I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point in education that we are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, [sic] as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us. I do not believe in macroevolution, and I do believe in creation by our God. …
The Blueprint requires both the teaching and student mastery of the form of evolution called macroevolution, defined as evolution occurring on a large scale, e.g [sic] at or above the level of species, over geologic time, resulting in the formation of new taxonomic groups.… Teaching the Blueprint requires students to believe that humans … evolved from primates such as apes and, subsequently, were not created by God .…
The proposed standards and accompanying End-of-Course exam would require many science teachers to sacrifice their values merely so that students can pass the test and course .…
I take no issue with the teaching of microevolution, the documented proof that a species changes over time, just as humans are taller on the average than they were 50 years ago. I also take no issue with macroevolution being taught as a theory.
Frankly, I'm concerned about the increasing emphasis on evolution content. I don't think it's enough if tweeter here still tell the fucking difference between "theory" and "hypothesis." This is a seen it a million times canard and yet Creationists will still think they have something special with it - I use theory in the sense that it means a wild ass guess, therefore, it's a technical term. This is what happens when you lack self-awareness - everyone uses words like your stupid ass uses them.

We are teaching evolution, not the theory of evolution, as a factual occurrence, rather than lying and quoting from AIG like it's fact. And in the process, we totally omit the story of a God who's bigger than all of us. If you're voting for Rick Perry, I assume that Columbia is flattered. For the rest of us, you can make your god as big as you want - it doesn't make it exist anymore. I want it known my imaginary friend can beat up yours any day of the week, so there. Nyah.

You didn't just descend from an ape, Superintendent Line, you are a damn dirty ape, just like the rest of us smelly humans. Get over it. You're a special snowflake, it's true. Like everyone else. At this point, there's more proof for evolution than there is for gravity. Now let that sink in, son. Second though, don't bother, because the type of rock your skull is made of isn't very porous.

Here's a fun game that the they always play. Microevolution verses Macroevolution! Can you spot the difference? This isn't even a half-assed attempt to meet it halfway. This is a goddamn voodoo shark; where creationism didn't make any sense at all, at least it had some 1,000 year old book to back it up. This here is when Jaws became magical. "Macro" means big, "Micro" means small. In the strictest sense, macroevolution is evolution in the big world. Microevolution is evolution in the little world (cells, one assumes). Your DNA changes over time, because genetics says so. As your DNA changes - the building blocks that make up your entire body and everything about you - you change. Microevolution is supposedly small changes to the genetic code over thousands of years, to allow for genetic variations. Now, "macro" evolution is evolution on the big scale. This is what he's saying doesn't exist. Species don't change, no matter how much their DNA and genetics change.

Because your body is independent of your cells. Don't ask how this works. You have to believe God is big in order to understand it.

And his example makes even less sense. Your height has a lot to do with your genetics, it's true, but it also has to do with nutrition and general health. The healthier and better fed you are, the taller you are. That's only evolution when our All-Mighty Tallest start to spread their genes over the rest of us shrimps, thus resulting in a population of humans that are very tall. And tell me - isn't that macroevolution? I don't know anymore, and I don't think he ever knew to begin with.

Bwak. Polly want a cracker.

He doesn't have a problem with it being taught as a theory. Because you can talk till you're blue in the face and dumbass still won't know the difference.

If you've defined your values by totally misreading Genesis, then yes, you deserve to have them sacrificed. And if you care about the students, you'll do it anyway. I don't like NCLB. That doesn't mean I won't still teach around it and incorporate it if I get the chance. I'm willing to meet it half-way or all the way to make sure that the students learn. If you're not willing to do that, get out of the profession right now.

Unsurprisingly (or perhaps, surprisingly enough given where this is at), Line gets owned by the BoE. The Commissioner responded to his "concerns" with the following statement:
In science, a theory is a statement of general ideas that explains many observations by natural means. To a scientist, the word “theory” is a very precise term to identify a concept that has great utility in explaining phenomena in the natural world. Ideas only rise to the level of a theory in science if they have withstood much scrutiny and are exceptionally useful in explaining a wide variety of independent observations. Any theory can be altered or replaced if new observations or new scientific evidence cannot be adequately explained by it. In science, facts never become theories. Rather, theories explain facts. No theory is immune to revision or replacement should new evidence surface. There is a substantial difference between the “everyday” meaning of the word “theory” and the scientific meaning of the word. An idea is often labeled a theory for the purpose of painting it as little more than a guess. This use of “theory” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the scientific meaning of the term. Referring to biological evolution as a theory for the purpose of contesting it would be counterproductive, since scientists only grant the status of theory to well-tested ideas.
TL;DR: a scientific theory is not a wild-ass guess, you dipshit.

Of course, it went in one ear and out the other:
Mr. Line is unrepentant; according to an article that will appear in tomorrow’s Lexington Herald-Leader,
My argument is, do we want our children to be taught these things as facts? Personally, I don’t. I don’t think life on earth began as a one-celled organism. I don’t think that all of us came from a common ancestor … [ellipsis in original] I don’t think the Big Bang theory describes the explanation of the origin of the universe.
And, finally, a quote without comment:
[I]t’s interesting that the great majority of scientists felt Pluto was a planet until a short time ago, and now they have totally changed that. There are scientists who don’t believe that evolution happened.
And there we go, confusing cosmology for biology. Do they even talk about the big bang in science class? I didn't even realize that antiquated phrase was still used, because there's a lot more that we've learned since that original theory. It's also used by right wingers to get into this silly game of absurd reduction, until you finally admit "I don't know" and they scream "GODDIDIT!", like they won a prize or something.

It's funny scientists felt Pluto was a planet until a short time ago, but they've changed that. It's funny how science works, isn't it? You'd almost think that up until the last few years, we'd never even known that there were particles that could travel faster than the speed of light. Why, you'd think that up until the 1920s, Newton was king. It's so convenient how scientists pull this shell game, isn't it? Just when you think you understand the world, something comes along and shakes everything up. Why, it's almost like science is capable of giving the scientists to learn new things, and prove old things wrong. It's a good thing you Creationists never learn things, isn't it? Boy, I wish I could live in that world of cocksure certainty that they live in.

This is more than just apples to oranges. Pluto being demoted is less science and more nomenclature. At the end of the day, it's a body made of rock that orbits around the sun. We call it a "Dwarf Planet" because it's not even as large as our moon is. And there are larger bodies than Pluto in the solar system that still aren't as large as the moon is. It has a purpose, but like biological taxonomy, astronomical taxonomy is a shifting target. That would make it totally different from the theory of evolution, which is completely sealed in stone by this point. And no amount of whining, temper tantrum throwing, praying to Satan, or whatever it is you kids are mistaking for God these days, is going to change it.

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