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Subject: [IP] more on Attempts at overthrowing the teaching of evolution gathering steam

  • From: David Farber <dave@farber.net>
  • To: Ip <ip@v2.listbox.com>
  • Date: Mon, 08 Nov 2004 18:44:03 -0500



Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <Bob2-0406@bobf.frankston.com>
Date: November 8, 2004 5:27:36 PM EST
To: dave@farber.net, 'Ip' <ip@v2.listbox.com>
Cc: 'Robert Berger' <rberger@ibd.com>
Subject: RE: [IP] Attempts at overthrowing the teaching of evolution gathering steam


First, check out and support http://www.ncseweb.org -- National Center for Science in education.

&nbsp;

This is a topic I need to write about in far more depth. When my son studied biology in High School in Newton Ma I was appalled to find that the teacher taught evolution but didn't understand the process.

&nbsp;

This is an endemic problem because we teach evolution in biology classes. Biology is too complex to teach hard sciences. So evolution comes across just as another stupid and wrong rhyme like "ontology recapitulates phylogeny".

&nbsp;

Evolution is really an emergent property of any complex system that can regenerate success and quench failure. It's easiest to think of these as digital systems though it's tautological. Scale and perturbation are part of the mix.

&nbsp;

How can you understand the Internet and make rational policy decisions if you can't understand the concept of stable systems arising from and even requiring disorder at the level below (in order to provide opportunity and solutions already available). More troubling to mean is that it separates meaning from the underlying layers.

&nbsp;

It's only a small step to observe that DNA just another digital system.

&nbsp;

What upset people about Darwin was not the idea that things charge or evolve, just that there is no designer controlling it. That's the real disagreement. The lack of specialness is part of this -- Copernicus already displaced them from the center.

 &nbsp;

This is very troubling for those, as Lakoff points out, whose world is hierarchical with a super-father in charge.

&nbsp;

The problem is not only whether or not evolution is taught -- it's also that we are still teaching evolution using 19th century models. Even if we get past the notion of directed evolution (progress) we are still stuck with the idea of complexity.

&nbsp;

I argue that evolution doesn't create complex systems. Each step is simple -- we just don't recognize the simplicity. For those of us who architect systems we know how important the right decomposition is and there isn't just a single one.

&nbsp;

Seymour Papert has pointed out the importance of the "powerful idea" which doesn't necessarily follow from reasoning. Instead it's an opportunity we take advantage of. If the brain is capable of a given operation then we make use of it.

&nbsp;

Without the notions of opportunity, decompositions and emergent properties we are stuck with arbitrary and seeming inexplicable (thus magical) complexity. Biology, as science, is a messy landscape in which those seeking to confirm there theories found plenty of ambiguity. This makes it difficult to isolate evolutionary processes and provides shelter to those who are seek confirmation of their beliefs rather new understanding.

&nbsp;

We can't afford to make the "theory" of evolution subservient to the vagaries of biology.

&nbsp;

The other liability is that this is all being judged by lawyers who are often self-selected for "people-people" rather than technologists. I remember when I did take a joint seminar with Harvard Law and the problem of getting techies interested. In dealing with legal issues now I find it a profession bound by medieval baggage of its own.

&nbsp;

At least with the tax code one can argue with the IRS but the legal system is much more perverse and hierarchical.

&nbsp;

Well, that's a quick and short set of comments -- I really do need to explore this in full.

&nbsp;

I would also like to figure out how I can help. If we have to identify a single issue which separates those who understand complex issues and those who simply have the trappings of modernity it's understanding how systems survive -- that's really all evolution is about.

&nbsp;

I'm curious -- is evolution "play" in Moslem countries

&nbsp;

PS: While trying to write this I had to reboot and thought I might've lost this letter. Luckily Word has evolved mechanisms to checkpoint files -- that's the result of repeated trauma requiring such resilience for survival. But ultimately the problems are due to being at the mercy of a very hierarchical model of computing. Hierarchies resist evolutionary processes.

&nbsp;

And, no, Linux is not magically better -- it is a close cousin and lacks the tools I depend upon.

&nbsp;

-----Original Message-----

From: owner-ip@v2.listbox.com [mailto:owner-ip@v2.listbox.com] On Behalf Of David Farber

Sent: Monday, November 08, 2004 16:02

To: Ip

Subject: [IP] Attempts at overthrowing the teaching of evolution gathering steam

&nbsp;

&nbsp;

&nbsp;

Begin forwarded message:

&nbsp;

From: "Robert J. Berger" <rberger@ibd.com>

Date: November 8, 2004 2:32:35 PM EST

To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>, Dave Farber

 <dave@farber.net>

Subject: Attempts at overthrowing the teaching of evolution gathering

 steam

&nbsp;

The Christian Fundamentalists are hard at work at making the US on par

 with

Islamic fundamentalist states. First step, have their religion taught in

schools. Cases in Georgia and Wisconsin are the first points of legal

attack. All they need is get Bush to appoint some more fundamentalist

 judges

and there will may be no stopping them.

&nbsp;

-----------

&nbsp;

Evolution case opens in Georgia court

&nbsp;

By Kristen Wyatt

http://www.salon.com/mwt/wire/2004/11/08/evolution/print.html

&nbsp;

Nov. 8, 2004 &nbsp;|&nbsp; ATLANTA (AP) -- A warning sticker in suburban

Atlanta science textbooks that says evolution is "a theory, not

a fact" was challenged in court Monday as an unlawful promotion

of religion.

&nbsp;

The disclaimer was adopted by Cobb County school officials in

2002 after hundreds of parents signed a petition criticizing the

textbooks for treating evolution as fact without discussing

alternate theories, including creationism.

&nbsp;

"The religious views of some that contradict science cannot

dictate curriculum," American Civil Liberties Union attorney

Maggie Garrett argued Monday before U.S. District Judge Clarence

Cooper. The trial is expected to last several days.

&nbsp;

But a lawyer for Cobb County schools, Linwood Gunn, held up a

copy of a textbook's table of contents Monday that showed dozens

of pages about evolution.

&nbsp;

"The sticker doesn't exist independently of the 101 pages about

evolution," Gunn said. "This case is not about a sticker which

has 33 words on it. ... It's about textbooks that say a lot more

than that."

&nbsp;

The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on

evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the

origin of living things. This material should be approached with

an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

&nbsp;

One of the parents who filed the lawsuit, Jeffrey Selman, said

the stickers discredit the science of evolution.

&nbsp;

"It's like saying everything that follows this sticker isn't

true," he said.

&nbsp;

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism was a

religious belief that could not be taught in public schools

along with evolution.

&nbsp;

Gunn said he expects the warning will hold up in court, saying

it "provides a unique opportunity for critical thinking."

&nbsp;

"It doesn't say anything about faith," Gunn said. "It doesn't

say anything about religion."

&nbsp;

&nbsp;

And:

&nbsp;

Wisconsin district to teach more than evolution

&nbsp;

http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/11/06/evolution.schools.ap/

&nbsp;

&nbsp;

GRANTSBURG, Wisconsin (AP) -- School officials have revised the

science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism,

prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that

the decision be reversed.

&nbsp;

Members of Grantsburg's school board believed that a state law

governing the teaching of evolution was too restrictive. The

science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive of just one

scientific theory," said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the

district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.

&nbsp;

Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum,

language was added calling for "various models/theories" of

origin to be incorporated.

&nbsp;

The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious

studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the

Grantsburg board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter sent

previously by 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities.

&nbsp;

"Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in

biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses

some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public

funds," said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of

Wisconsin-Madison.

&nbsp;

Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught, but school

districts are free to create their own curricular standards,

said Joe Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Public

Instruction.

&nbsp;

There have been scattered efforts around the nation for other

school boards to adopt similar measures. Last month the Dover

Area School Board in Pennsylvania voted to require the teaching

of alternative theories to evolution, including "intelligent

design" -- the idea that life is too complex to have developed

without a creator.

&nbsp;

The state education board in Kansas was heavily criticized in

1999 when it deleted most references to evolution. The decision

was reversed in 2001.

&nbsp;

In March, the Ohio Board of Education narrowly approved a lesson

plan that some critics contended opens the door to teaching

creationism.

&nbsp;

--

Robert J. Berger - Internet Bandwidth Development, LLC.

Voice: 408-882-4755 eFax: +1-408-490-2868

http://www.ibd.com

&nbsp;

&nbsp;

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