Re: [asa] The fight in Texas over evolution training in schools

From: William Hamilton <>
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 20:15:30 EDT

An interesting article appeared in the Austin American Statesman
yesterday. Here's a link:

It's by the chairman of the state board of education and in the
beginning reads like a conservative diatribe. But then he makes some
interesting points. Comments anyone?

On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 5:48 AM, Randy Isaac <> wrote:
> I stand by my comments, Glenn. The pre-clovis habitation case is a great
> example, in fact. There is a very important distinction between consensus
> around a set of theories that have widespread, independently corroborated
> data and those generally accepted assumptions which have no evidence
> supporting them. This is particularly true in cases where assumptions are
> based on lack of evidence. Anthropologists assumed there was no pre-clovis
> habitation but largely because they had no data otherwise. This was a widely
> held assumption and not a scientific conclusion or data-based consensus. It
> is right that it is hard to get new data published. The scientific process
> must set the bar high enough to minimize being jerked around by
> unsubstantiated or uncorroborated thinking. Is it too high sometimes? sure.
> Is it too low sometimes? sure. No one here has argued for perfection in the
> process. This is not censorship but effective evaluation of new ideas by
> those best able to judge. Your examples are in fact excellent ones that show
> the process does work. Too slowly for those who had a hard time publishing
> it but that's part of the value of the system. Any system with too high gain
> in the feedback is unstable.
> Randy
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Glenn Morton
> To: Randy Isaac ;
> Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:58 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] The fight in Texas over evolution training in schools
> Bull roar, Randy.  You wrote:
>>>Well said, Rich. You said "Until they get published in a peer-reviewed
>>> journal in the area of question they have not earned the right to be
>>> listened to and definitely not the right to be included in a science class
>>> at the high school level."<<<
>   This is elitism at its best.  Do you have any idea how hard it was for
> anthropologists who believed in a pre-clovis habitation of North America to
> be published?  Yet they turned out to be correct.  Science didn't used to be
> done via peer review. People earn the right to be heard by being human not
> by passing some conformance test set up by funding groups who won't allow
> anyone with a differing view to be published.  Below is a set of peer review
> stupidities and places where the scientific consensus of the day was wrong.
> it is long, but you can read what ever of it you want to read.  Scientists
> arrogantly think they have the right to censor other people's thoughts and
> ideas.
> Thi
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Randy Isaac
> To:
> Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 7:20 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] The fight in Texas over evolution training in schools
> I agree that getting published in a peer-reviewed journal is a necessary but
> not sufficient condition. Peer review only means that less than a handful of
> peers thought the paper contained some data or concepts that the broader
> community working in that field should consider. It doesn't mean they agreed
> with it or thought it was right--just worthy of note or of a response. To
> warrant inclusion in a high school class room means independent
> corroboration and acceptance by more than just a few other experts. On the
> other hand, I would also suggest that there are areas of frontiers in
> science where there is no consensus established and much of the data are not
> understood. These are valuable lessons in how scientific research is done
> and these could be included in some way in a high school classroom. What
> must be clear is what fields are in the frontier stage, which ones in a
> controversial stage, and which ones have consensus. In the right
> context, innovative ideas have a vital role in science education. Even here,
> those innovative ideas are the ones being contested in the literature.
> Randy

William E (Bill) Hamilton Jr., Ph.D.
Member American Scientific Affiliation
Austin, TX
248 821 8156
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Received on Thu Mar 26 20:16:03 2009

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