Sunday, 1 April 2007

Toying with the Truth in Science - part 4

Continuing from my last post here is part two of the teachers manual section entitled learning outcomes;

"What Darwin Didn't Know" is a bit of an odd title, don't you think? I can find no reference to any such thing in my sons Revision Guide or the National Curriculum.

Of course we have already spotted the Truth In Science agenda here, they set things up in part 1 to give a watered down and incomplete version of Darwin's Theory and now it looks like they are going to put more doubts in our kids minds about that.

The first learning outcome is;

Understand that in Darwin's lifetime scientists did not appreciate the complexity of living cells.

Well this is of course true, but also completely irrelevant to the KS4 science curriculum, or passing the exams.

Know that since the 1950s our knowledge of cells has exploded, and that they contain a huge variety of miniature machine.

Perhaps they think this is a "history of science" exam? Again this is off topic, interesting but irrelevant, and at best it could possibly distract kids from passing their exam.

Recognise that the bacterial flagellum is driven by a highly efficient miniature motor, with a complex structure.

We seem to be wandering further and further away from any kind of question which may possibly appear in a GCSE science exam. "Flagellum" is not even mentioned in my son's revision guide. Why introduce such an esoteric topic?

Understand that Darwin's theory relies on accumulating complexity by slight, successive, advantageous variations.

At last a summary of part of evolution. This should be the main topic of study. We finally get a quick mention. Not exactly laid out bit by bit with examples to help the students though. No explanation of how this happens step by step. "accumulating complexity" is not language which is really aimed at kids of 15 I think, almost as if they were trying to make it sound more complicated than it really is.

Know that Dr Michael Behe is an example of a scientist who questions whether Darwin's theory can account for the complexity of the cell.

Understand the process which Behe went through as a scientist in changing his ideas.

So this is the reason for the careful build up and the introduction of a topic which does not even appear in the state curriculum or the exams the kids will take.

Dr Behe published a book on "irreducible complexity" in 1996 called "Darwin's Black Box".

A very good resource regarding Behe can be found here.

Alternatively here is the introduction of his page on Wikipedia;

Michael Behe
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Michael J. Behe (born January 18, 1952, in Altoona, Pennsylvania) is an American biochemist and intelligent design advocate. Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He is married and has nine children. He advocates the idea that some structures are too complex at the biochemical level to be adequately explained as a result of evolutionary mechanisms. He has termed this concept "irreducible complexity".
Behe's claims about the irreducible complexity of key cellular structures are strongly contested by the scientific community, including his own department, the Department of Biological Sciences, at Lehigh University. Likewise, his claims about intelligent design have been characterized as pseudoscience.
Behe's testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is extensively cited by the judge in his ruling that intelligent design is not science but essentially religious in nature.

The argument he presents is actually a rehash of William Paley's argument from design which Darwin himself showed to be fallacious over 100 years ago.

An explanation of irreducible complexity and the arguments for and against it will be summarised in my next post which will cover part 3 of the learning outcomes which is called; "Molecules and Mousetraps".

Unfortunately this will contain precisely nothing which would help a chid pass their GCSE exam, but then TiS don't appear to be motivated by this anyway.

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This small blog has been moving steadily up the Google pages in recent weeks. My objective is to be listed as the second entry behind TiS themselves when you Google "truth in science". The idea is to give people the other side of the argument bearing in mind the amount of money they have behind them and the very slick web site TiS are able to fund.

If you feel you could take a page from their web site or one of their download-able resources and analyse it, pointing out the faults and errors please let me know.

I am just one chap trying to do his bit and any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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