Science, Just Science

26 June 2007

News: UK Government Acts On ID!

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:10 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS (modified by James Rocks) ***

From “The Register”:

UK Gov boots Intelligent Design Back Into ‘Religious’ Margins

The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.

It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.

Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. “

… 

The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.

From the UK Government’s E-Petition website:

The Original Petition

“The Prime Minister has recently spoken about the importance of science education in the UK. Creationism & Intelligent design are greatly featured in the media and are being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not. Moreover groups such as Truth in Science are targeting our nation’s children and their science education with material that is not only non-scientific but have been rejected by the scientific community. These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the use of creationist and other pseudo-scientific propaganda in Government-funded schools.”

Submitted by James Rocks of ‘Science, Just Science’ Campaign

From The UK Government (10 Downing Street):

The Government’s response.

The Government remains committed ensuring that young people have an understanding of the importance of science and the world around them.

Science is a core subject of the National Curriculum throughout every Key Stage. The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of background and ability, an entitlement to a range of areas of learning. Its aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil’s self-fulfilment and development as an active and responsible citizen. It makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils. All materials that support the teaching, learning and assessment of primary and secondary education, can be found on the National Curriculum website (new window).

The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils’ questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.

We will be publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching. It will be possible to ensure that the weight of scientific opinion is properly presented. The guidance will be available on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website in due course. 

Whichever way you look at it this e-petition was a success for SJS and for UK science.

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4 June 2007

News: How E. Coli Evolves To Adapt To Changing Acidity

Filed under: News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:06 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

From Medical News Today:

E. coli may spend hundreds or thousands of generations in the relatively neutral-acidity colon, with brief exposure to the extreme acidity of the stomach and modest alkalinity in the small intestine during colonization of a new host. With modern sewage handling (or mishandling), the bacteria may also experience exposure to the ocean, with a pH near 8.0, before infecting a new host.

To assess how E. coli might adapt to different environmental conditions, the researchers observed four groups of bacteria. One group was exposed to constant acidity (pH of 5.3) and another to constant alkalinity (pH of 7.8). A third group was exposed to randomly fluctuating pH levels, and the fourth was exposed to pH levels that cycled daily between acidic and basic conditions.

After at least 1,000 generations, the researchers exposed the groups to either an acidic or basic environment. The groups exposed to acid or base for the entire period had developed into specialists – that is, they displayed significant fitness gains when transitioning into their preferred environment.

In contrast, the groups that evolved in variable pH environments exhibited generalist fitness patterns, with neither group having any significant fitness loss in any of the environments. Interestingly, the researchers also found that there was no significant cost to being a generalist at any tested pH level: “Overall, these comparisons suggest that the jack-of-all-trades may be a master of at least some as well,” the researchers write.

“What is interesting here is that the complex patterns of adaptation in the various pH regimes were so different among the groups and revealed the first empirical characterization of the intricacies of evolution in response to variable pH,” explain the authors. “Plans for future studies include the extension of this experimental evolution system applied to . . . ways in which E. coli may be evolving fitness to survive within the coastal ecosystem or the human host.”

[Full Article Here]

2 June 2007

Misconceptions About Intelligent Design

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:57 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

A common reply to critiques of Intelligent Design is that the author of the critique does not understand ID and is in fact attacking the strawman. The problem of course is that the definition of Intelligent Design changes from one proponent to another, so if you refute one set of views another person will simply say you are attacking a strawman. Nevertheless there are a few core points where an ID proponent will always claim that you are unfairly representing ID, new creationism has a list.

1. It’s Creationism in Sheep’s Clothing

While some intelligent design proponents are not young earth creationists, there is plenty of evidence that shows the ID movement arose as a response to court rulings in the 1980’s that banned the teaching of creationism and ‘creation science’ in US public schools. All ID arguments are refined versions of, and often identical to older creationist arguments, and the majority of ID proponents appear to believe in a young earth. Futhermore a series of statements from leading ID proponents, including the Wedge Strategy of the Discovery Institute, show that the mission of the ID movement is primarily religious.

2. An Expectation of Optimal Design

Often critics of Intelligent Design fall prey to the Optimal Design straw man which basically says that the establishment of less than optimal (or perfect) design invalidates Intelligent Design Theory. While Optimal Design implies Intelligent Design, the reverse is not true. There are many designs that are not perfect but fulfill the role and desires of the designer.

The key here is that even poor designs usually show the signature of intelligent causation. There is indeed a chasm between what we can expect chance to do versus what even basic intelligence can produce.

While non-optimal design is not a refutation of ID in it’s most basic form (and it isn’t at all clear what optimal means in this case), the point is that biological structures are not ‘optimal’ to the point that they appear not to have evolved. Evolution is also expected to produce structures of varying levels of efficiency, so it is hard to tell why intelligent design is the more likely explanation.

3. Intelligent Design is guilty of the God of the Gaps

Intelligent Design is: X couldn’t have evolved, X is analogous to some kind of machine, therefore X was designed. ID fundementally relies on the assumption that it is impossible or highly improbable for a system to evolve, that’s why the vast majority if ID’s efforts are spent attacking evolution. Therefore it’s hard to see why ID isn’t guilty of God of the gaps.

4. The Strong Dichotomy with Evolutionary Theory

Often Intelligent Design is squared off against Evolutionary Theory, but Intelligent Design can be synthesized with some variants of Evolutionary Theory. In fact, theistic (or directed) evolution is arguably a form or expression of Intelligent Design.

Theistic evolutionists do not believe that design in nature has been scientifically detected, they also agree with evolutionary theory. So as far as science is concerned they are completely different from ID proponents.

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