The Kentucky Department of Education has released its Statement of Consideration on the Kentucky's science standards. Once again, the defenders of the standards are obfuscating the issue.
I had argued in an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader that there was an inordinate emphasis on climate science in the standards. As objective documentation of this I cataloged the number of words devoted to different topics in the standards and found climate science to dwarf any other single issue, and that, in fact, it dwarfed numerous other scientific issues when these issues were combined.
I made no comment about whether global warming was real or man-made. What was the response? The response was to argue that global warming was real and man-made.
Yo. Any intelligent life out there?
In other words, the defenders of the standards either can't make a basic distinction between these two issues, or they are intentionally confusing the issue. In other words, either we have people who are incapable of thinking very well in charge of the state's education standards, or we have people who are putting politics in front of science in charge of them.
In either case, it is hard to have confidence in this process with a dialogue like this.
In fact, no one has yet responded to my argument, so busy are they responding to arguments I never made. I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that the reason is that they can't.
The response of Daniel Phelps, President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, in the Herald-Leader was plagued by a serious confusion about the difference between scientific issues and policy issues. But more to the present point, he employs the red herring defense too: he spends his time arguing about whether global warming is real rather than whether we need to be spending time on that one issue when there are so many others needed to education children in science.
Joseph Straley, the Provost's Distinguished Service Professor in physics and astronomy at the University of Kentucky, also responded to my article. He may be an example of distinction, but is unable, apparently to make one. He too tries to make this into a debate over global warming, when, in fact, it has nothing to do with whether the earth is warming or not.
It's as if someone said, "I think we're giving too much space to the topic of magnetism" and someone said, in response, "I disagree. I believe there are things that there are certain materials that attract or repel each other."
It's at this point you just have conclude that these people just don't have any fruit at the bottom of their scientific yogurt.
Then there is Richard Day, who responded by questioning my method of determining the emphasis in the standards, which employed the revolutionary technique of a) actually reading the document and b) counting the actual number of words having to do with certain issues. Day questioned this technique. I'm sure he had an alternative one consonant with the level of intellectual rigor that predominates in departments of education these days, possibly crystal healing or biofeedback or polarity therapy or perhaps some equally scientific fixture of the pop psychology that seems to predominate in his profession.
But he never offered an alternative method, so it's hard to tell.
He also repeated a false charge that I was looking at the wrong document and, as far as I can tell, never offered a correction.
This is the level of discourse we are having to contend with here--and all from people who champion rigorous thinking.
It's a shame.