We have made good progress and are now up to learning outcomes part 5 of 6 in the Teachers Manual and DVDs sent to every UK High School and College by the creationist group Truth In Science in September 2006.
We are now seeing more and more logical fallacies in these "learning outcomes", if you are interested in the subject of logical reasoning and trying to think clearly in general then I have a couple of pages on the web which may interest you;
The Guide to Thinking Straight gives you an introduction to basic logical arguments and also covers the most common fallacies you are likely to encounter.
Think Critical gives you general rules for how to evaluate evidence critically.
If you don't want to dig into critical thinking skills then don't worry because I will lay everything out for you anyway.
This section of the learning outcomes is entitled "The Language of Life"
Truth In Science start with;
Know that when mainstream scientists rejected the idea that chance alone caused the formation of the first protein, it was suggested that the properties of amino acids might make the process inevitable.
This particular logical fallacy is known as "strawman". To do this you give a simplified, incomplete or false description of whatever you are arguing against. This enables you to make a perfectly consistent and logical sounding case that it is wrong by arguing against the strawman and not arguing against the genuine article.
In this case TiS tell a straight lie - that scientists thought that life started by complete random chance. They then follow it up by describing vague hand waving by scientists claiming to explain things with the phrase "its inevitable", which of course explains nothing. The clever(ish) bit here is that they have made the strawman so very weak indeed, that they don't even need to give the counter argument. They simply leave students thinking that the phrase "it's inevitable" doesn't really explain anything. More seeds of doubt and confusion sown!
Also, let me just point out yet again, that the subject of the origin of life from lifeless materials (abiogenesis) is not in the curriculum anyway - so this is wasting the students time on a subject which they will not get tested on.
Know that Dr Dean Kenyon is a scientist who suggested this in a book "Biochemical Predestination".
Know that after 5 years he began to doubt the theory.
Understand that Kenyon could not explain how proteins could replicate without DNA, not the origins of DNA.
Here we have a rich mix of logical fallacies including the following;
Argument from Authority - if Kenyon says this then it must be true - isn't evidence more important - who is Kenyon anyway?
Argument from Ignorance - if science can't explain something then it can never be explained by science, ever. Why on earth not?
Non-sequitur - "it doesn't follow" - Remember that the Theory of Evolution does not cover the origin of life. So taking one argument about the origin of life (which is riddled with fallacies anyway) can't lead you to a conclusion about a different subject - it just doesn't follow. Also the fact that one scientist (Kenyon) can't explain something doesn't mean that no one else ever will this doesn't follow either.
Abiogenesis isn't on the curriculum and has nothing to do with evolution but if you are interested in learning a little more about it there is a basic summary here.
Understand the basic structure of the DNA molecule.
Understand how proteins are produced from DNA by a process of transcription, translation and folding.
Wow - we are back in the GCSE Biology curriculum at last. But not for long I fear.
Understand how over the course of many years Kenyon realised that the only way to explain the origin of life and the cell is by involving design from an intelligent source.
All together now . . .
Argument from Authority - what evidence backs this claim up?
Argument from Ignorance - the fact that we don't know something doesn't prove anything
Non-sequitur - it has nothing to do with evolution anyway.
Finally Kenyon himself is committing the argument from personal incredulity fallacy. This is when you state that because you can't explain something it must therefore be unexplainable. I could show you a card trick you can't explain but that doesn't mean I have supernatural powers does it.
He follows this up with the conclusion it must be god (sorry - an intelligent designer - snigger).
Once again our kids are no nearer passing their exams, probably even further away from a pass than when they started thanks to the seeds of doubt and confusion we have seen sown and finally perhaps slightly closer to the clutches of a religious group who want them to believe that every single word in the Bible is literally true.
Feedback and corrections appreciated.