Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Acing the Test - Part II

Animation of Chipmunk
In the negative time, I am going over a syllabus/test.

In March, 2011, an Illinois school board put a stop to a science teacher blatantly teaching creationism and discrediting evolution in the science classroom.

I answered the first smattering of questions, but now I'm going through and plucking out the more contentious items.

5. Darwin says that over time populations of organisms will change in response to their _______.


I find it curious that this specifies Darwin. It's equally curious that creationists are obsessed with this man. It'd be like going to an aeronautical engineering school and a group of people in attendance keep bringing up the Wright brothers as an authority to all that is airplane.

Scientifically established theory says that. Do I need to cite the Wright brothers every time I talk about fluid dynamics around air foils?

6. Individual organisms can evolve.

The person who was taking notes on the paper said true. That's not actually true. Evolution is the difference from generation to generation. An individual turtle isn't going to spontaneously sprout wings and fly away.

Shame on person who took notes!

7. T or F. Man and apes have a common ancestor according to macroevolution.

I love this. This is the teacher attempting to technically fulfill his requirements to teach evolution, while presenting it in such a way that misinforms and discredits on illegitimate bases.

According to evolution, they have a common ancestor. I don't grant this discrimination between microevolution and macroevolution.

8. The bones of dinosaurs and birds both have air pockets in them. This would be an example of _________.

The note-taker wrote "homologous structures." That doesn't seem right - sort of? The idea of homologous structures is that they are evolved from a common ancestor structure - like bat wings and human arms (descended from whatever mammalian common ancestor bats and humans have).

The fact that bird bones and dinosaur bones both tend to have air pockets is more a retention of a trait than a diversification - I suppose it depends on how one looks at it.

9. According to creationists, mutations should result in _______, while evolutionists believe mutation creates ___________.

Note-taker wrote "microevolution" and "macroevolution", respectively.

Keep in mind that "microevolution" only exists as a concept because, on that scale, evolution was incontrovertible.  "Evolutionists" (like me - I'm also a "gravitationalist" and a "thermodynamicalist") believe that mutation results in the whole range, from minor changes to the whole tree of life - just to be pedantic.

16. T or F. Macroevolution is simply microevolution happening on a large scale over millions of years.

Yes! Although, I'm willing to bet if I circled "T", I'd get it wrong.

There's no justification for the idea that evolution stops at the short-term. It'd be like saying that we've demonstrated that this bowling ball can roll 1 foot, BUT NO ONE'S PROVED IT CAN ROLL 100 FEET!

It's the same mechanism, just longer.

17. Name two major scientific flaws with macroevolution.

Note-taker wrote "not observable, no proof".

Again, this stems from the "science teacher's" staggering ineptitude towards science. As I mentioned last time, observation doesn't necessarily mean direct event-to-eyeball.

Not only does the fossil record count as an observation, but even if it didn't, that's not a "scientific flaw". 

To say there's "no proof" - well, for one, science doesn't deal in proofs. It deals in evidence - and for that, there's plenty; the geologic column, radiometric dating, genetics, phylogeny, the fossil record, etc. Evolution is supported by the preponderance of evidence.

Apparently this teacher isn't teaching the students... anything, other than propaganda.

I think this is another trick question. I can't think of any actual scientific flaws. I suppose it depends. The fact we don't have an exact fossil of the common ancestor between octopedes and squirrels might be considered a problem. It's the difference between a sentence being unknown, and a sentence being grammatically incorrect. The fact we don't have all the gaps filled isn't a scientific flaw - there's nothing wrong with the application of science here.

If that were the case. 100% of science would be debunked similarly to how this teacher is trying to debunk evolution.

18. If we can observe microevolution, why do we still say that macroevolution is still a guess?

What? Man, what's with these trick questions?

"Macroevolution" isn't a guess. It's supported by the preponderance of evidence to a high degree of detail.

It's no wonder why America is trailing the rest of the world in science education, with teachers like this.

The note-taker wrote "because it's not observable." Bleh - lost another student to misinformation.

19. How can DNA evidence support creationism?

The student wrote, "God wants it to be that way."

I guess that's as good of an explanation as I could give. Just stop for a moment and let this sink in.

This is what's being discussed... in science class.

I have no idea - unless, like I said last time, "creationism" has been redefined to mean "evolution."

21. Name a vestigial structure. What does this illustrate?

The student wrote (copied verbatim), "The Archaeopteryx shoes characterists of bird + reptile". 

Uh, no, little Billy. You weren't listening, which, in the case of this class, was probably an improvement.

The human appendix is an example. It illustrates that evolution can produce new features that can then become unneeded, and the structure will stay, but atrophe, over time, especially if it's a mostly benign feature.

22. What would creationists say about #21?

I'm dying to know. I'd love to know why God would decide to put a useless organ that has the potential to be a time bomb into our bodies. Why would he scatter otherwise pointless structures throughout life on the planet? He doesn't sound like a very good designer.

My guess is that the creationist explanation of #21 would be something along the lines of "derp."

The rest of the questions seem standard. This is truly astonishing to me that he was able to get away with this. I wonder how many childrens' minds he permanently damaged in the process. Part of the problem is that the kids don't know any better. They aren't aware of the social/political controversy surrounding evolution and secularism. I certainly was oblivious to these issues when I was in high school.

If I had a few hundred million dollars, I'd start a nation-wide TV ad campaign to educate the kids, and maybe we could finally start flushing them out.

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