Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Homeschooling Blog. Blech.

I found Homeschool Insider Blog today. I don't know what it is. At first glance it looks like one of those tip blogs for the newbies but from what I read in that vein it's not offering anything that the vastly superior old timers A to Z Home's Cool and Jon's Homeschool Resources don't do much, much better. A blog always struck me as a weird format for that kind of thing anyway. Why would I, as a newbie, wait patiently for blog posts to dribble in through my rss feed when I could just visit the wonderful sites mentioned above or start asking questions on an email list or message board?

Wait a minute. I have to admit something. This blog annoyed me and that's probably why I'm dishing out the snark now. See, there's a Christian Worldview section. Uh huh. That's where the blog authors like to post stuff like this:

Both claim to be based on “science”, yet neither one is observable, repeatable, nor testable. They are both presented as fact in spite of this. And even though evolution is still the theory of evolution last time I checked, when you see it presented in the media, the word theory is seldom used.


First off, there are a freakin' pile of Christians for whom this stuff is NOT part of their Christian worldview. Be specific. Label the section "Evangelical Literalist Christian Worldview," and leave me and the majority of Christians, who have no problem with evolution, out of your issues. Okay?

Second, don't go on about what's science and what isn't if you don't even understand what the word theory means in relation to science. For future reference:

In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition.


Honestly, that's basic science. Calling something a theory in relation to science has real weight. Think of Atomic Theory for instance. Is someone going to seriously argue that because the word theory is used we're not really splitting atoms or electrons don't exist?

Ugh. People.

21 comments:

Tara G. said...

Hello! I just wanted to say that I found your blog following a link on Homeschool Spot and I have been really enjoying it tonight. :-) We are just starting out on our homeschooling journey and your beliefs and ways of doing things sounds exactly how I hope to be! I will continue reading and learning....

Tara

Heather said...

Errg, I hate that ignorant crapola. I've found myself just wanting to scream at people. ALL science is techically theory. It always changes the more we learn. And scientists are *excited* when they find out they were wrong. Science is about discovery, not fact. Grr. Stupid people.

Lynn said...

I'll see your Blech and double it. The blog is even worse than, well, black licorice!!

//Be specific. Label the section "Evangelical Literalist Christian Worldview," and leave me and the majority of Christians, who have no problem with evolution, out of your issues. Okay?//

LOL. I'd even go a step further and ask them to re-label the entire blog. I wish some folks would realize that they don't own the word homeschooling; I wonder if they realize that there are people who actually steer clear of the word *homeschooling* so as to avoid being associated with them. Like the relative that nobody wants to invite to get-togethers because he's always drinking, telling off-color jokes, and trying to look down the blouses of... well, it's just like that.

Noodle said...

Note to self: stay away from HSInsider blog.

Lynn makes a point that is relevant to us. Where we live, "homeschooling" is believed to be for either fundamentalist Christians or hippies. We are neither, but we're generally seen as radical idiots because of it. I wish I could think of another term.

Dawn said...

Welcome Tara! I'm pleased that you like my blog and are a kindred spirit on the homeschooling front! :)

Dawn said...

Lynn: D'uh! I was going to say something about that. I'm sick and tired of homeschooling sites that seem secular at first glance or pretend to embrace the whole community but then launch into stuff that clearly marks their very narrow focus. Basically, If you're going to claim a territory, piss on the damn trees!

And ditto you and noodle although I notice it a lot more on the internet than in real life.

Brian said...

According to your definition of "theory", evolution doesn't even qualify as one. What is "logical" about a life form creating itself and then somehow undergoing billions and billions of random changes that just happen to work out right?

And it's certainly not a "mathematical" explanation, nor is it "testable".

Here's another definition for you from Wikipedia, which is where it appears that you got your definition. This one is on the Scientific Method portal:

..."there are features that distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of developing knowledge. Scientific researchers propose specific hypotheses as explanations of natural phenomena, and design experimental studies that test these predictions for accuracy. Any hypothesis that cannot be subjected to a test is not considered to be scientific".

Evolution "cannot be subjected to a test" because it is something that supposedly occurred in the past and is not occurring today. And before you jump all over that, natural selection (changes within a
species that are occurring at present) is not evolution, and there is no recorded instance of a new form or function being observed to have developed through natural means.

A theory is most certainly NOT the same as a fact. A LAW is the same as a fact, but a THEORY is not. That's why they're called The Laws of Thermodynamics, not the Theories of Thermodynamics. The terms are not interchangeable.

One thing I've observed in my own experience is that many people who hold the evolutionary viewpoint seem to be openly hostile to the creationist viewpoint. They would be better served by rationally presenting the scientific merits of their position to help these poor misguided souls see the error of their ways. If evolution were true, that is...

In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm the author of Homeschool Insider blog. Yes, we are relatively new, and yes, we certainly do not do everything perfectly, far from it. We're still learning, and hope to never cease learning.

However, I think it's rather tactless to single out a blog with a viewpoint that is in opposition to your own, especially a new one, and begin a very negative attack simply because you don't agree with its viewpoint.

As a home schooling Dad myself, I like to think that we are all in this together regardless of what our viewpoints may be on controversial issues. I don't think we do anyone a service by sniping at each other.

You're certainly entitled to your own opinions on evolution (even though I truly think it's a bunch of baloney) and I'll defend your right to hold that opinion any day of the week.

As for me, I don't plan on searching out homeschool sites that hold the evolutionary viewpoint and singling them out, but I certainly will argue against evolution in general.

In fact, if you'd like to debate this issue in a civil, scientific manner, I welcome the opportunity. (brian@homeschoolinsider.com)

I think it's only fair that evolutionists start offering some real scientific evidence to support their theory if they are so convinced they're correct.

If evolution is an entirely natural process, as is
claimed, then there should be abundant amounts of observable, testable evidence that can be verified by experimentation.

A final thought: Why is it that the vast majority of universities, which are supposed to be schools of free thought, won't even allow DEBATE on the scientific merits of evolution? If the evidence is so overwhelmingly in their favor, they should welcome such a discussion.

Dawn said...

//Evolution "cannot be subjected to a test" because it is something that supposedly occurred in the past and is not occurring today. And before you jump all over that, natural selection (changes within a
species that are occurring at present) is not evolution, and there is no recorded instance of a new form or function being observed to have developed through natural means.//

"Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations."

From http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html

Natural Selection is the theory that decribes the process by which evolution occurs. That's it. You can't make up different definitions to suit your argument. Science has a specific language you need to use if you're going to claim to engage and debate it. Otherwise it's like trying to debate the subleties of english grammar while speaking Thai.

I've posted a response Brian, and thank you for your comment.

Brian said...

Let me offer an example. We have a population of grasshoppers, and a farmer sprays a pesticide on them. 99.8% of them are killed, and the
.2% that survived did so because they had a recessive trait that allowed them to be resistant to that pesticide.

They then reproduce, and eventually the whole population of grasshoppers is resistant to the pesticide. Did this occur because they "evolved" a new gene? No, it was already present in the population as a recessive gene, but when conditions changed (the pesticide kill-off) it became the dominant trait.

This is Natural Selection. No new function that was not already seen among the insect population was created--it was already present in the gene pool of grasshoppers.

No new form was created, either. We started out with a grasshopper, and we ended up with a grasshopper. This would be considered micro-evolution, the kind of changes we see in the present.

Macro-evolution, on the other hand, is what evolutionists talk about when they claim a natural process is responsible for all the different species we see today.

Evolutionists claim this process happened in the past, supposedly resulting in entirely new forms or functions. In other words, they claim that NEW genetic information was created.

However, we do NOT see this occurring in the present. If macro-evolution were an entirely natural process, there is no valid reason why it would not be occurring at the present time.

No macro-evolution has ever been observed to have occurred, even under controlled laboratory conditions. Yet evolutionists claim it has happened billions of times in an UNCONTROLLED environment.

So understandably, I believe you're confusing the two types of evolution, like many people do nowadays. I used to make this same mistake myself until I did some independent study on my own.

The main issue here is not what one definition or another says, because we have to dig a little deeper to find out exactly in what context the definition is used.

Evolution does indeed result in "heritable (able to be inherited) changes in a population spread over many generations", as we saw in my example above.

However, this is not "evolution" in the sense of new genetic information being created. It was merely the re=shuffling of existing genetic information that resulted in a formerly recessive trait becoming the dominant trait in the population when conditions changed.

I totally agree that this type of "evolution" (micro-evolution) is indeed occurring today and can be scientifically validated.

So no, I'm not trying to engage in a semantical debate about definitions. We have to look at what is actually occurring when we use the words "evolution", "natural selection" "theory", and so on.

I agree that we do need definitions, but we have to understand exactly what the fine print is. Most definitions are too general or have sub-definitions that we have to consider before we can arrive at an application for the subject at hand.

Moses said...

Atheist dad. Atheist mom. Atheist children. We go to church (okay, we're Unitarians) because there is value in the fellowship and they don't do the preachy bronze-age morality crap from their obviously cobbled up fairy tale. (Hint, if you study history and archeology and give everything a fair reading, including the ENTIRE bible, (not just the easy parts) you get pretty done with Christianity pretty fast.)

As for Brian, he's just talking about stuff he doesn't understand with typical creationist talking points ripped from Answers in Genesis. Rather than directly rebut any of his lies, I'll point the people of this blog to The Talk Origins Archive, where all of Brian's talking points (many of them decades out of date) are rebutted: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

Moses said...

BTW Brian, it's the THEORY of Gravity. The THEORY of Relativity. The THEORY of Evolution.

Theory is the TOP of the hierarchy, not "idiotic wild guess" as you seem to argue. Nothing, in science, is "higher" than theory which explains many facts and laws in a comprehensive and cohesive whole.

Brian said...

Moses: It's the LAW of gravity: http://physics.about.com/od/classicalmechanics/a/gravity.htm

Law is the top of the hierarchy, not theory or hypothesis. You're correct about the other two, relativity and evolution, in that they are (unproven) theories.

I could very easily prove the Law of Gravity by jumping off a cliff. I'm guessing you'd like to tell me to try it :-)

Dawn said...

You are completely wrong in your understanding of law and theory Brian. Check out my newest post for a further explanation but be warned that if you read it and continue to stick by your current definition then you're exercising your choice to be willfully ignorant. You can't claim to engage in a scientific debate while refusing to use scientific definitions.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Brian claims that no new genetic information is ever formed. This is absolutely wrong. Changes in genes occur fairly regularly, and although cells do have some DNA repair mechanisms, they are not very efficient. Those recessive genes he talks about? They generally occur due to mutation. What is a mutation? A change in a gene. Natural selection operates on changes in genes.
And also, evolution is occuring in populations with the changes in gene frequencies. It is happening all of the time.

And all of this is probably pearls before swine.

Brian said...

Elisheva:
Every gene that is present in a population of organisms is not necessarily expressed, as it may be recessive. When conditions change that make it favorable for the recessive trait, the formerly recessive trait eventually becomes the dominant trait.

But no new information was created. It was only a re-shuffling of the existing genetic information. This is what we commonly refer to as Natural Selection.

Mutations can produce new genetic information, but the vast majority of mutations are harmful or neutral, and mutated offspring are often sterile.

80 years worth of studies with fruit flies, for example, which mutate frequently, have failed to produce any new species or even a new enzyme.” http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/10mut10.htm

Dawn said...

http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/10mut10.htm leads to a creationist site which references nothing of scientific value.

You're now taking up three comment sections on my blog with exactly the sort of worthless stuff I was wary of in the beginning. Please take this to your blog and address it there if it concerns you (quote my posts if you like as long as you link back to me) and refrain from commenting here.

If you truly want debate on this matter then Internet Infidels at http://iidb.infidels.org/vbb/index.php has an excellent forum on evolution where they'd be more than happy to examine your views.

Dawn said...

Elisheva - I think you have it exactly right. As long as a creationist site has some page that says in bright red italics, something like,"evolution contradicts the second law of thermodynamics," no progress can be made on this. Honestly, how can science trump bright red italics?

Lynn said...

Brian:
Here's another good (offsite) place to start related to the micro / macro evolution issue (that isn't).

From that same (offsite) page, do a search for "transitional fossils" which is probably the next argument on your list.

Brian said...

Lynn:
Why would I want to search a topic from a search engine with an obvious evolutionary bias? Why not just do a Google search which would be far more likely to yield results from both sides?

Dawn: If you don't trust the web page itself I referenced, it lists the source (a book): "It is a striking, but not much mentioned fact that, though geneticists have been breeding fruit flies for sixty years or more in labs all round the world—flies which produce a new generation every eleven days—they have never yet seen the emergence of a new species or even a new enzyme."—*Gordon R. Taylor, The Great Evolution Mystery (1983), p. 48.

It's not a made-up book. You can see it listed on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/102-0828996-1412139?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Great+Evolution+Mystery&x=17&y=19

The fruit fly studies are a matter of historical record. I challenge YOU to show me a source that verifies any useful fruit fly mutations in the 80 years of research if you think the book is making it up.

I think the issue here is that no matter what source anyone cares to cite, there is going to be a bias of some kind by the author.

As I mentioned before, scientists are no better nor worse than any other human being. ALL human authors, regardless of profession, are affected by bias of one form or another.

If one author has been educated in the public school system, and then a public university, he or she is highly likely to have an evolutionary bias.

By the same token, an author educated at home by creationist parents or at a conservative Christian school, and then a Christian college, will likely write with a creationist bias.

So unless you're talking about simple definitions that can't be manipulated by 'spin', such as a statement of the second law of thermodynamics, or a dictionary definition, or a documented historical record, there may be mild to extreme bias.

All I ask of evolutionists is one simple thing: An observable, testable, repeatable example of an animal that has 'evolved' into an entirely new form and is capable of producing viable offspring--not an internal change or a recessive trait becoming a dominant trait.

Is that really asking too much if evolution were an entirely natural process as claimed? This doesn't depend on any definitions of any words, or "bright red italics", just simple, physical evidence.

Plant and animal breeding (which of course is not 'evolution' since we start with a rabbit and end up with a rabbit, for example) can be conducted in a laboratory, so why not macroevolution?

Wish I had time to debate on the Internet Infidels forum you mentioned, but I've got too many irons in the fire already. Wasn't even going to comment here, but couldn't help myself--too tempting :-)

Dawn said...

I apologize about the comment you cited Brian. That reveals a moment of frustration that I thought I had deleted. You are certainly welcome to continue posting on my blog.

Google is a scattershot approach. Scienceblogs will narrow the search to sources where we can have more confidence in the results because the information will likely be presented with proper references and such.

As for, "All I ask of evolutionists is one simple thing: An observable, testable, repeatable example of an animal that has 'evolved' into an entirely new form and is capable of producing viable offspring--not an internal change or a recessive trait becoming a dominant trait."

Try this page from talkorigins.org...

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

I'm not sur eif it will satisfy you definition but that's sort of irrelevent. If we're talking science then it's got to satisfy the definition science has laid out.

Brian said...

Dawn:

No need to apologize. I must have been half asleep, because it didn’t even register in my brain that you were asking me not to comment :-)

I had to go back just now and re-read it, and I guess you did say “refrain”, but it escaped me at that late hour. So no harm, no foul, but I appreciate your concern.

I did just look at the new link you gave. Ouch! It looks very complicated. I'll have to read through a good portion of it and comment later.

I'm just getting online for the first time today (about 9:15 p.m. EDT, very unusual for me) and will have something to say later when I catch up on some biz.