The first response, by Daniel Phelps, a geologist with the Kentucky Paleontological Society, "Study of climate change is search for evidence," calls my op-ed "odd and irrelevant." He then proceeds to refute arguments I never made and mis-portray the issues involved in the science standards.
Cothran, a political lobbyist for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, lacks a background in science. Furthermore his organization is an extremely conservative religious one and does not have science advisors.As to the Family Foundation not having science advisors, how does he know this? We have had plenty of occasion to employ scientists in our policy work--particularly on issues such as abortion and human cloning. But, as it happens, we didn't need them in this case because we were not dealing with scientific questions.
This is why my science background is completely irrelevant. Why would that matter unless the questions at issue on the state's science standards were uniquely scientific questions? In fact, the questions at issue in the state's science standards are policy questions, not scientific questions and the fact that Phelps can't tell the difference is at least one indication that scientific expertise is inadequate in dealing with the questions he says I'm inadequate to address.
If Phelps thinks that the issue I addressed in my article--whether there is an inordinate emphasis on climate topics in the standards--is a scientific question, maybe he would care to tell us to which branch of science this belongs. Is the balance of a particular topic in standards a biological question? Is it a matter of chemistry? Perhaps the relative emphasis of scientific subjects is a matter of particle physics.
If Phelps believes that the questions I addressed in my op-ed were scientific questions and they required specialized scientific knowledge to adequately assess, then why isn't Phelps concerned about the State School Board, one of the bodies chiefly responsible for assessing and approving the standards? The Board is not made up of scientific experts, nor are the legislative panels whose role it is to affirm the Board's decisions.
But the central problem with Phelp's editorial is that it completely skirts my point. He clearly thinks the issue is whether evolution is a valid theory of biological development and whether global warming is a debatable issue in the scientific community.
Evolution and climate change are included in the standards because there is overwhelming consensus within the scientific community in support of these ideas.But as a response to my op-ed, this is oddly irrelevant. It has absolutely nothing to do with the balance of emphasis on individual scientific topics, which was my thesis. These assertions could be completely true and my point would be unaffected.
In fact, Phelps spends most of his article talking about the truth of the evolution and global warming theory.
But these are not the issues I addressed. In fact, I nowhere even said what my opinion was on these issues. The only mention I made of evolution--and I only made it in passing--was that there had been a controversy over the emphasis in the standards. And on climate change, I stated very clearly, "Whatever your views on global warming, it is hard to understand how such an inordinate emphasis on a single fashionable topic could be justified." [emphasis added]
Phelps may have a scientific background, but he seems to be lacking a background in basic logic.