Friday, April 3, 2009

Letter to the TSBOE Chair

Dear Dr. McLeroy,

I am a researcher formerly living in Plano, and read a AAAS article suggesting (in alarmed tones) that revisions to our state's biology texts are intended to provide an opening for the teaching of creationism or ID.

In some of your discussions and letters, there seems to be disagreement that evolution is the term for describing how our categorizations of individuals change over time when there is replication, variation, and selection. Contrary to the claims ascribed to you in "The Glencoe Motion", anyone can observe evolution with some time, a pen, selection criteria, and a photocopier, and there are many software packages which do this as well. The fact that our lifespan is insufficient to directly observe large-scale changes in biology, astronomy, geology, cosmology, etc. is hardly the fault of the species, life, space-time, or the processes involved. For example, our current inability in physics to explain "time", hardly seems appropriate for a class on combustion, even though the combustion process is completely time-based.

Similarly, we should not confuse biogenesis processes when discussing evolution. While teaching combustion, this would be akin to discussing the many unknowns of ignition, some might even claim the inability of the combustion theory to explain ignition is a weakness casting additional doubt on whether combustion really occurs.

If teaching critical thinking is truly a goal of the Texas State Board of Education, I would welcome any efforts to on the Boards behalf to ensure students learn logic and to recognize logical fallacies. I would like them to learn that science exhibits the virtue of humility – it does not claim end "truths", only the most reliable and productive known method to acquire descriptive knowledge. I would like every child to learn that we all naturally make profound mistakes –our best, most reliable knowledge is always based on evidence, our ideas must be subject to revision.

I would be delighted if children were taught how to critically assess claims such as the Easter Bunny hypothesis, how to deduce whether the Muslim "Black Stone" is more probably a meteorite or a gift from an Arabic sky deity, and how to assess leprechauns, fairies, UFO's, and the aquatic life in Loch Ness. If all children learn that our species greatest tragedies and horrific atrocities have always been based on unjustified confidence rather than doubting uncertainty, we may survive long enough to be regarded in the future as a significant ancestral species.

Sincere Thanks for Your Time & Consideration,

John C. "Buck" Field

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