Saturday, March 05, 2005

Dr. Case responds to the questions

I won't reproduce all of Dr. Steve Case's response to Board Subcommittee. He points them to recommendations by national organizations which answer most of their questions. He points out that question three gives the subcommittee's answer to question 1, demonstrating in combination with other issues of question choice and wording, that the subcommittee has already made up its mind, and that this proceeding is rigged.

In the second part, he makes his case against the proceedings in their totality:
As mentioned above, I do not find any changes that address my primary concern - the credibility of these hearings. There have not been any changes that alter the real or perceived perception that this is a rigged hearing. The potential damage for the State of Kansas that can result from hearings is significant. The issue that I am struggling with is that I do not have a good suggestion for you as to how you can make these hearings credible. The following questions remain for me,

Who are the arbitrators/judges of this information and a related question what will their judgment result in?

A very common comment I have heard is “Why does the State Board Science Subcommittee think they are qualified to take this on, aren't they an education policy board”? The focus of the hearings should be the education standards and what is appropriate for inclusion in the standards, not on the science. The science community has a high bar of credibility for scientific information. This kind of forum has nothing in common with the way the science community advances scientific understanding. As we have heard, over and over again in the public hearings, the science community feels the Intelligent Design creationists/ antievolutionist are trying to do an end run around the bar of scientific credibility and insert religious propaganda into the science classroom. This agenda is creating a high level of distrust by the science community about the body sitting in judgment of such a forum.

When the government policy makers have questions of the science community and need expert opinion to inform policy, they turn to the National Academies. This was in fact the reason that the National Academies was established. In Kansas, the State Board turns to its expert panels, people who are specifically chosen for their expert background, so that they can make judgments of technical issues and advise the Board on the policy implications.

What is the credibility of the witnesses?

This procedure does not address my concern about the qualifications of contributors to this process. I see a potential mismatch between experts and the subjects they are addressing. For example, scientists should not speak to education policy and imply that we should give them greater credibly in education because of their science credentials. The procedural suggestions seem to suggest that anyone who agrees with me is qualified to answer your questions. This is not how we advance understanding and would just reinforce/support existing ideas.

Does a Nobel Laureate in the field of interest who has spent a lifetime in study of these issues of science have the same credibility as someone who did an internet search? Dr. Harris is quite right; I do have concerns about the credibility of people he might suggest and how they might match up to the scientists. For example, Dr. Jonathan Wells is a frequent source for comments at the public hearings and his views are clearly reflected in the minority report. Dr. Wells has no academic credibility, has done no work in biology beyond a rather weak doctoral program, has very questionable motivation for pursing his education in biology, and, because of a felony conviction, would not be qualified to be a science teacher in Kansas. My question still remains, what is the standard for credible contributors to this process.

What is the time commitment you are asking for?

As I see it the time commitment you are asking for is enormous. Given that reviewers have already contributed work specific to the minority report and there is a large body of existing literature that address the questions, these communities have indicated to me that they see no benefit for further time investment. The more qualified the person, the busier and more engaged in their work they are. Based on their comments I find it highly unlikely that you would find anyone from the science or science education community that would agree to participate. I am relatively certain that the reviewers would be unwilling to continue to generate more information until Dr. Harris or someone listed on the minority report responds to their pervious work. Both Dr. Harris and Mr. Calvert indicated they had responses at the Board Subcommittee meeting on February 23, 2005 but no response has been [sic]. An additional concern from several individuals is that they feel that these hearings want to use their credibility and credentials to bring apparent credibility to these hearings. This makes them very uncomfortable.

On a personal note, I thought I had been excused from this exercise in deference to my role as committee chair? The committee is continuing our work and we will have Draft Two of our recommendations to you later this month. At the last writing committee meeting, it was indicated that the issues of the minority report would be decided at a higher level. My concerns about the Board's hearing being divisive to the committee are coming true. If the effort here is to include me as the commentator, then I must respectfully decline. I do not have the time to take on another task. I have at least six research papers (work done but not written up) in the queue. As I am a researcher and this is my work which I cannot neglect to take on this additional work.

I also have to admit I also feel a bit used. As Ms. Morris pointed out, I am a smart guy. I learned a long time ago that it is not wise to jump through other people's hoops just because they hold them out for me. I have worked for many years to build my credibility and I am unwilling to spend it to prop up these hearings. I feel that I need to stay clearly focused on the Standards process, in which I agreed to participate, and produce our best recommendations for the Board, through the established process.
(My emphasis, all text from original.)

This is a stinging indictment of the kangaroo court established by the Board. This procedure is rigged, and should be seen as such by everyone. I still don't endorse the hearings, though I thought they could have offered a good opportunity.

This will be a circus, but we should all remember a few things.
  • Creationists will respond to the questions. If we leave the questions unanswered, we lose the battle of public perception.
  • The public would like answers to the questions.
  • The Board can't be convinced.
  • The public can be convinced.
What does this mean? Answer the questions (with an eye toward the opposition's arguments), but not necessarily in the rigged hearings.

There should be an event of some sort where scientists discuss these questions with the public. I think the Board has educated itself on this issue, so talking to them isn't going to change anything.

If you look at public responses to the debate, you'll see that a number of the Board's questions are arise here and there.

Brad DeLong explains Benefits of Taking Freshman Biology:

“Hey!” says the Fourteen-Year-Old.

“Yes?”

“You know those books I read a couple of years ago? The Double Helix [James Watson's account of the Crick-Franklin-Watson figuring out of the structure of DNA] and The Science of Jurassic Park?”

“Yes.”

“I fully understand them now.”
If Kansans can get that experience, we win. If we let the creationists confuse them, they lose. We need to answer even the obvious questions.

Changes” by Phil Ochs from the album Phil Ochs In Concert (1967, 4:40).