Friday, 7 October 2011

It's just a theory

I'm no biologist. Other than a double award GCSE in Biology and Physics I have only an 'interest' in the sciences. I claim no authority whatsoever in this field. But I do know the difference between a 'theory' and a 'Theory'.

And no, the capital "T" is not it. I shall explain...

John Freshwater is one of those Creationist Biology teachers who claims that he teaches alternative views to Evolution to bring balance to the subject.

He lost a case against his dismissal from Mount Vernon Middle School this week where it was claimed that he not only taught Creationism and refused to remove religious material from his classrooms but also burned a cross into students arms with a Tesla Coil. This is a picture used in the case against him:


A report here said:

"Although it is reported that school officials have not completely absolved Freshwater of the Tesla coil incident, a hearing officer had previously found that it was not a factor in the firing, "because Freshwater stopped using it after he was told to do so."

I have been completely cleared of that but they continue to bring that up. That should have never been brought to the case,” Freshwater said. “The media reports keep bringing it up. I guess it sells papers.
[emphasis is always mine]

So he is a liar as well as a child abuser then because burning symbol into a child's skin IS child abuse. He should have been sacked on the spot for that alone. The school caught him doing it and told him to stop using the device to inflict his warped sense of morality onto other human beings.

I would have strapped to a chair, put the Tesla coil in his mouth and then retire for lunch... hopefully upon my return he would have a different opinion on whether the Tesla coil is a suitable teaching implement? Maybe he would like it too much and this would defeat the object? I digress...

If that wasn't bad enough his lawyers adds insult to injury:

“He never had a negative performance evaluation in 20-plus years. He is a good teacher,” Rutherfor Institute President John W. Whitehead told CP. “The real issue here is that he has obligedly challenged a sacred object in public education, which is the theory of evolution.

People forget it is a theory. So, our argument is that he should have the academic freedom to do that. If schools just want an official version they should just show a video or get a robot to do it. It would be easier,” Whitehead said."

Creationists LOVE saying that Evolution is "just a theory"... they think it offers a way for them to intellectually discredit Evolution and offer alternatives on a rational basis. 

Now, if they truly think that Evolution is just a theory based on their understanding of the word "theory", then it is entirely rational for them to believe that an alternative is viable. I always look at how people use rationality and reason to come to their conclusions. And I do think that they are operating on some rational level based on their assumptions.

But in this case it is intellectually dishonest for a teacher to believe that a 'scientific theory' and the word 'theory' mean the same thing. Therefore the assumption is wrong. Horribly wrong.

Scientific Theory: "In scientific usage, the term "theory" is reserved for explanations of phenomena which meet basic requirements about the kinds of empirical observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of the class to which it pertains."


By saying that Evolution is "just a theory" it's clear that Creationists are referring to the 2nd description in this explanation. They think that Evolution is an idea... a flight of fancy without verification.

This book rounds on those who think that evolution is "just a theory" and I recommend it highly (I don't get money for links, advertising or purchases). 

Above all, it is intellectually disgraceful for a science teacher to be misrepresenting, via his lawyers, evolutionary theory. And this shows that he has been either sucked into a propaganda machine intent on "Teaching the Controversy" or is simply a fruitcake of the highest order who needs to go back to school. 

The message is; always watch out for the Creationists who deliberately misrepresent the word "theory" whether by intent or lack of education.

I wish the Liars for Jesus brigade would debate honestly. By moving the goalpost to deliberately misrepresent the science they are committing fraud and trying to fuck up public education. And it's all part of an agenda by organisations determined to promote Intelligent Design based on the Christian principle of a creator. We don't see Hindu creationists penetrating public discourse for example in the same way as the Christian fundamentalists but then the resources of these organisations is vast and influence wide.

Answers in Genesis is one popular creationist resource... check paragraph 6 of their mission statement:

This is the intellectual level at which this organisation and their ilk operate on. Nothing can contradict the bible. If it does, even if the evidence is overwhelming then it must be wrong. Simply because it will have been subjected to "interpretation by fallible people".

Anyone else think that this is a contradictory and hypocritical statement to make considering that:

a) the bible was written by fallible people

b) that the bible is subject to interpretation by fallible people

Nothing will convince the fundamentalists that they are wrong. It's their mission statement. I prefer to subscribe to rigorous scientific enquiry. I don't mind being wrong about things. In fact I consider being wrong to be a part of the learning process. Creationists, and particularly the fundamentalists of all faiths, do not want to learn. And that's backwards thinking...

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