August 24, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

National Science Standards Squelch Freedom of Inquiry

If federal science standards are approved by the states, students will lose freedom to question controversial subjects like evolution and global warming.

Science thrives on open inquiry: the ability to ask questions.  But for certain subjects, notably evolution and global warming, the scientific “consensus” (loosely defined as the majority with power) wants to shut down inquiry and indoctrinate students to accept the consensus as the only acceptable position.  The latest attempt at indoctrination, revealed in an article by Daniel James Devine in World Magazine, (“Change in the Weather,” Aug. 25, p. 64) is to push for national science standards:

As kindergartners and high-school students return to public schools this fall, a team of 41 writers will be busy editing national curriculum standards that, as early as next year, could change how science teachers instruct their classes. The so-called “Next Generation Science Standards,” which all 50 states will have the option of adopting or not, are intended to provide a universal framework for science education. They explicitly emphasize Darwinism and climate change.

Environmentalism and Darwinism are heavily promoted in the standards that are being recommended by the National Academy of Science based on consensus (majority) views.

Controversies on global warming:  As for global warming, students in states that adopt the standards will be taught that man is at fault for the current warming and needs to fix it. If only one side is taught in schools, the USA may soon resemble Canada, where only 2% deny anthropogenic global warming, according to a new poll reported by PhysOrg.  The science behind it, though, continues to be ambiguous.  The controversy is not limited to skeptics.  Should students be prevented from hearing about the following three examples found in the mainstream journals?

(1) A striking paper in Nature this week (Simpson et al., “Long-term decline of global atmospheric ethane concentrations and implications for methane,” Nature 488, 23 August 2012, pp. 490–494, doi:10.1038/nature11342) finds good and bad in human climatic activity: methane is a greenhouse gas emitted substantially by flaring of natural gas vents, but so is ethane – a precursor of atmospheric ozone.  The decrease in ethane due to reductions in flaring is reducing ozone that protects humans from UV light, while the methane from flaring adds to warming.  Which is worse?

(2) In the journal Science this week, Luke Skinner urged “A Long View on Climate Change” (Science, 24 August 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6097 pp. 917-919, DOI: 10.1126/science.1224011).  He cautioned about the political ramifications of short-term graphs (those looking back a century or less).  He noted several major climate swings over long periods before humans appeared in the standard geological timeline.  He further questioned scientists’ ability to understand all the forcing and feedback mechanisms and the uncertainties in proxy estimates; for instance, what factors are nonlinear?  How resilient is the earth to particular forcing factors?  “If the goal of climate science is not just to predict the next 50 to 100 years of climate change, but also ‘to tackle the more general question of climate maintenance and sensitivity’, then arguably we must do so within a conceptual framework that augments the notion of climate sensitivity as a straightforward linear calibration of climate gain, with the possibility of nonlinear feedbacks and irreversible transitions in the climate system,” he explained.  “An exclusive consideration of the highest (e.g., decadal) register of climate variability might be adequate for most political time frames and may suit the urgency of immediate mitigation and adaptation challenges,” he ended. “However, it falls short of the wider scientific challenge that faces humanity, as well as a moral horizon that extends much farther into the future.”

(3) In a published comment to Nature this week (Turnhout et al., “Listen to the Voices of Experience,” Nature 488, 23 August 2012, pp. 454–455, doi:10.1038/488454a), five scientists had nothing good to say about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the forger of the climate consensus.  They criticized the IPCC’s top-down authority, its narrow focus on one parameter (global temperature), and its obsession with peer review with no regard for the stakeholders in policies derived from its pronouncements.  The five even questioned the IPCC’s epistemology: “This IPCC-like focus might be attractive to ‘elite actors’, from natural scientists to national governments, but it omits many other important stakeholders and knowledge-holders, including indigenous people, businesses, farmers, community partnerships and fishers,” they said.  “What counts as legitimate knowledge, and how it is generated, influences its practical effectiveness.”

Controversies over evolution:  Problems with Darwinism are routinely discussed in the pages of Creation-Evolution Headines (recent example, 8/20/2012), usually expressed by evolutionists themselves in leading journals.  But if the proposed “Next Generation Science Standards” become universal, students will not hear about them.  “High-school students will be taught that fossil and DNA discoveries support common ancestry, and that one species can evolve into two” (readers are welcome to search on those keywords for controversies about each of them).  Adoption of the standards will leave teachers in a hopeless bind.  “A 2008 poll found that only a quarter of public high-school biology teachers claim to be strong advocates of Darwinism,” Devine said, ” and in an online poll last year, half of science teachers said they faced skepticism about climate change teaching from parents.”

In the U.S., 26 states have representatives on the “Next Generation Science Standards” writing team, Devine reported.  “These states and others are likely to replace their own science standards with the national ones—leaving teachers and parents with little room to be skeptical.”  This is ironic, considering that the Skeptics Society and prominent “debunkers” like magician The Amazing Randi constantly urge a skeptical attitude about everything (but science), and urge critical thinking about claims presented as fact (by everyone except scientists).  How can students learn critical thinking, if “science” is immune from it?

Philosophy, Too:  In the same issue of World Magazine, Janie B. Cheaney expressed concern that the American Philosophical Society (APA) – a body whose highest virtue is to question things – is enforcing consensus opinions on tolerance, refusing to publish ads in its journal from any institution that fails to adhere to its politically-correct views on homosexuality.  Obviously this targets Christian colleges.  The logical contradiction between the APA’s anti-discrimination policy and its own intolerance of traditional views has not been lost on luminaries such as Alvin Plantinga, Robert George, and Roger Scruton, but since the majority accepted the new policy, the illogic has been locked in.  “…open inquiry about ultimate questions is what philosophy is all about,” Cheaney concluded.  “If open inquiry is throttled in its own house, Socratic discussion will have no place to go.

Bitter fruit of consensus enforcement:  Two more articles in the same issue of World Magazine illustrate the fallout when consensus trumps freedom of inquiry.  In “Good Deeds Punished,” (World, Aug 25, 2012, p. 12) Warren Cole Smith retold the tribulations of renegade sociologist Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas who dared publish the politically-incorrect finding, based on the largest sample ever conducted, that children don’t fare as well under homosexual pairs (see 6/10/2012 and 7/26/2012 entries).  Regnerus survived the backlash because he had tenure, but Bob Woodberry, in the same UT sociology department, did not.  Despite his impeccable credentials and experience, he was denied tenure, and thereafter effectively blacklisted from American universities because of politically incorrect views, Marvin Olasky wrote (World, August 25, 2012, page 76).  With American doors closed to him, Woodberry had to seek employment where he could find it, in a country more tolerant of dissent.  “To get a job, Bob Woodberry last month moved nearly 10,000 miles,” Olasky concluded after his parody of the tenure board at UT.  “The National University of Singapore is giving him a 50 percent increase in salary, free housing for up to nine years, the first semester off, and $85,000 for his research.”

Centralization of education at the national level is disastrous; education belongs at the local level.  The proposed national standards reflect another volley by leftist elitists to squelch independent thinking and force the unwashed masses into uncritical acceptance of the dictates of the oligarchy.  States that refuse to adopt the standards will likely be subjected to threats from universities not to accept their students.  Totalitarianism, anyone?

World Magazine (“Today’s News, Christian Views”) is a great resource, highly recommended!  Subscribers to the bi-weekly paper magazine also get online access, email newsletters in advance of print, and video summaries of upcoming issues (watch the current one).  World covers many subjects: politics, education, science, culture, music, movies, books and much more.  Readers will find many in depth reporting on many subjects the secular press ignores, such as persecution of Christians around the world and controversies over scientific ethics.  When it comes to evolution, the magazine is favorable to Darwin skeptics in an informed way.  This is one magazine you will read cover to cover.  The reporting is well-written and informative, and the editorials are timely and thought-provoking.  Get it today– right now, while they are running a free, no-obligation three-month trial subscription at; use “video” as the promo code.

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  • rockyway says:

    1. ‘How can students learn critical thinking, if “science” is immune from it?
    – They’ll have to do it the way I did; on their own. (I recommend a course in logic for all students.)

    2. “If open inquiry is throttled in its own house, Socratic discussion will have no place to go.”
    – On our university campuses intellectual freedom is being replaced by sexual license. Political correctness (a phrase invented in Stalin’s Russia I believe) is all the rage, and few are interested in critical thinking.

    3. “High-school students will be taught that fossil and DNA discoveries support common ancestry, and that one species can evolve into two”
    – so called ‘discoveries’ (the data) don’t support common ancestry; it’s humanly crafted arguments that ‘support’ evolution or creation. Data is always mute. (Too bad they can’t teach that.)

    That one species can ‘evolve’ into two isn’t the question. The question is whether the life forms on earth emerged autonomously from inert matter, and whether information has a ‘natural’ (materialist) source. The real question is where do ‘kinds’ come from; i.e. the basic body plans.

    4. ‘They criticized the IPCC’s top-down authority, its narrow focus on one parameter (global temperature)
    – I thought it was long considered obsolete thinking to look at one parameter and to ignore the system as a whole; that this was the age of systems thinking. This partial view perspective is a typical political strategy as it allows you score the points you want by ignoring the larger picture or data you don’t like.

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