Texas used to be full of ’em

November 20, 2008

Best of Texas features a tribute to Doug Tinker, “Lookout, Ann Richards, Another Texas Giant is Headed Your Way.”

I hadn’t heard the news (did you even bother to tell us, Dallas Morning News?).  If you’re not steeped in Tejaniana — or Texana, if you prefer — you may not have known about Doug Tinker.

He was the sort of guy who was the best of Texas.  Just telling the truth about him sounds like you’re telling a whopper – but it’s so satisfying to be able to tell such stories and know they’re the truth, too.

Best of Texas had a better vantage point than I had from here in the Bathtub — so read the story there (artfully dotted with links so you can check it out if you don’t think a human being could live that large).  And think:  Where would we be without good friends like Best of Texas, to tell the history worth the listening — and more, where would we be without good people like Doug Tinker, to make the history worth the telling?

Sometimes, people tell history so somebody will repeat it.  Then they tip their champagne bottle with the straw in it to the clouds and say, “Take that! George Santayana!”

The Ghost of Santayana laughs, too.


Think about this: It’s World Philosophy Day

November 20, 2008

David Bain has the five baddest philosophy questions, with a couple of attempted answers, at the BBC’s site.  Bain is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Glasgow.

How hard does one have to think to get a full professorship at Glasgow?  Ponder that.

Why do creationists duck the debate?

November 20, 2008

More testimony from the Texas State Board of Education hearing in Austin yesterday, this time from a geologist, another member of Texas Citizens for Science:

My name is Paul Murray. I am a state-licensed geoscientist, I have BS and MS degrees in the geosciences, and I am a research scientist associate at the University of Texas at Austin. I am here today only as a private citizen and concerned scientist. I would like to speak to you about the often-misunderstood process of science.

Science begins with an idea. If you can write a coherent paragraph or two, you can submit it as an abstract to a conference. You then have the chance to present your work to other scientists. There, you will get feedback and questions from those scientists. You can use that feedback to expand your original work and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal. The peer review process is brutal and impersonal; logical fallacies, bad arguments and unsupported conclusions will be threshed out; only the seed of good science will remain. When your work is published, others will analyze it again and again. Either it will grow as others build upon it, or some better idea will grow in its place.

Eventually, those ideas that become part of the accepted body of knowledge are used as the foundation upon which to build a well-rounded education. What this process does not include is an express lane for those who instead want to publish books, blogs and newspaper articles to go directly to our children’s classroom and foolishly ask them to sort out the good ideas from bad for themselves. This is like asking pilots in the second week of ground school to land a plane with an engine fire.

I am concerned by some of the “expert” feedback sought in revising the science standards. Stephen Meyer has an extensive publication record of books, reviews and newspaper articles, but has not once published a legitimate work in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. Given his well-documented anti-scientific rhetoric and lack of direct participation in the process of science, I see no experience that qualifies him to comment on either science or science education.

Doctors Garner and Seelke both have publication records that at least expose them to the process; however, neither has ever published a peer-reviewed work that is even remotely critical of Darwinian evolution, which is ironic because their criticism is their main source of notoriety.

Any legitimate scientific debate to be had over evolution would be welcomed by all scientists. Science is a strong, viable process because scientists reserve the highest honors for those who can tear down our best ideas and replace them with something better. As a famous resident of Crawford, Texas once said, “Bring it on!”

But please bring it on in the proper forum for scientific debate. I ask the State Board to adopt language that recognizes the process of educating future citizens and leaders of Texas is separate and distinct from the process of legitimate scientific debate.

That the creationist experts have not published seemed to be a surprise and a concern to the creationists on the SBOE who (we must assume) worked to have the out-of-staters appointed to the review panel contradicting 40 years of “keep it in Texas” tradition.  According to some, Murray was “grilled” on his testimony; when applause broke out in support of Murray, Board Chairman Don McLeroy flew into action.  Here’s how Steve Schafersman described it at Evosphere, where he live-blogged the event to its very late end:

Gail Lowe thanked Paul for mentioning that Charles Garner of Baylor did not have any peer-reviewed “anti-Darwinian” publications, and she did not choose him because of such literature. Paul said it was true that Garner had no anti-evolution peer-reviewed publications, but his Creationism was well-know among colleagues and students at Baylor. I think Lowe knew this and picked Garner for precisely this reason. As I reported before, Garner was the only Baylor science faculty member who did not criticize William Dembski when he arrived at Baylor under a special arrangement created by its new president.

Cynthia Dunbar said she didn’t think Galileo would have been peer-reviewed well by his fellow scientists, because he was persecuted by them. Paul corrected her, saying that Galileo was esteemed by his scientific peers and was persecuted by the religious authorities of the day. With this remark, an audience member applauded and was promptly ejected by Chairman Don McLeroy, who said in a very loud voice, “Sir, you may leave!” The fellow said “Thank you” and promptly left. I felt like joining him but I need to suffer a few more hours.

Dunbar next said she only advocates academic freedom, saying that this and having students learn about any problems of explanations faced by scientists is all that she and her colleagues want.

9:20 p.m.

News reports this morning not with that air of ennui that the SBOE is again contesting evolution and other science; some of the news reports could have been recycled from four years ago.


%d bloggers like this: