NAEP science: Less than half of students at competency

In a conference call on today’s release of national 2009 science scores of grades 4 and 8 and 12, members of the governing board of the the National Assessment of Educational Progress decried the one percent of students scoring at the top level. There was also concern over the growing number of students scoring below the most basic levels.

At the two grade levels where Georgia students’ test results were released, less than one-third are demonstrating solid academic performance and competency in science.

In Georgia, 27 percent of fourth graders performed at or above the proficient level on science, compared to the national average of 32 percent. In eighth grade,  27 percent performed at or above proficient, compared to 29 percent nationally. Twelfth grade scores were not released by state. (See the AJC story for more details on Georgia.)

“These are challenges that I think are very serious for all of us who are into science education and who want our children to be prepared to lead a full life,”  said Dr. Alan J. Friedman, a NAEP board member and a graduate of Georgia Tech. “The fact we have so few at the top rank and so many at the basic is really a problem.”

Friedman said his concern is not only the lack of students at the high end of the performance scale who will develop the new vaccines or create energy-efficient cars, but the fact that many kids lack the science basics needed to make informed decisions in everyday life.

“I am concerned by all the people who need to understand science. Farmers need to understand the choice to use genetically altered crops. Voters who have candidates with different views on global climate change don’t have to be experts, but they need to know what the key questions are. Science is not an elective. It is an essential…to a vibrant democracy,” he said.

In explaining the dismal scores, Friedman said, “Many science educators think it is an unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind.”

Because the sweeping federal reform law focused on math and reading and attached dire consequences to low performance in those areas, Friedman said schools paid less attention to science.  Another byproduct of this diminished focus on science is a decrease in high school students taking physics and chemistry, Friedman said.

The NAEP science test was redesigned to pose real-life problems and assess problem-solving skills. “This is really a great test,” Friedman said.  “It is the best we ever had to see if kids are where we want them to be….to see if they think on their feet..to be able to look at something and see if they can tell what is wrong with it.”

Here is the official release:

According to results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also known as The Nation’s Report Card – 34 percent of the nation’s fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders are performing at or above the Proficient level in science, meaning that less than one-half of students are demonstrating solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.

Partial mastery of the prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work was demonstrated by 72 percent of students performing at or above the Basic level at grade 4, 63 percent at grade 8, and 60 percent at grade 12.

“These results shed light on the critical need to ensure that all students have a strong foundation in science,” said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees policy for NAEP. “Science helps students further their understanding of our world, enabling them to connect ideas across disciplines and making them better problem solvers.”

The assessment, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), was given to 156,500 fourth-graders, 151,100 eighth-graders, and 11,100 twelfth-graders. Assessment questions measured students’ knowledge and abilities in the areas of physical science, life science, and Earth and space sciences.

National-level results are reported for public and private school students at all three grades, and state-level data are available for public school students in 46 states and Department of Defense schools at grades 4 and 8. The results are reported as average scores on a scale of 0 to 300, and as percentages of students performing at or above three achievement levels:

The science framework, which describes the knowledge and skills that should be assessed, was recently updated to incorporate new advances in science, research on science learning, and components from international science assessments. Because of the changes to the assessment, the results from 2009 cannot be compared to those from previous assessment years; however, they provide a current snapshot of what the nation’s fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders know and can do in science that will serve as the basis for comparison with future science assessments. The 2009 science results also highlight differences in students’ performance based on demographic characteristics (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, family income, and school location) and how results in participating states/jurisdictions compare to the national results.

Score gaps among racial/ethnic groups were evident at all three grades in 2009. The gap in average scores for White and Black students was 36 points at grades 4 and 8, and 34 points at grade 12.  White students scored 32 points higher on average than Hispanic students at grade 4, 30 points higher at grade 8, and 25 points higher at grade 12.

Scores also differed by gender and school location. Male students scored higher on average than female students in 2009 at all three grades. At grades 4 and 8, students attending schools in city locations scored lower on average than students in schools in suburban, town, or rural locations. At grade 12, the average score for students in city schools was lower than the score for students attending suburban schools but not significantly different from the scores for students in other locations.

Thirty-four percent of twelfth-graders reported that they either completed or were currently taking courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. These students scored higher on average than those who reported taking just biology and chemistry, or taking only biology or other science courses. Fifty-eight percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders reported taking biology, chemistry, and physics, which was higher than the percentages of other racial/ethnic groups taking all three courses.

Of the 47 states/jurisdictions that participated at the state level, average scores for fourth-grade public school students in 23 states and DOD schools were higher than the national average, and scores in 10 states were lower. At eighth grade, average scores for students in 24 states and DOD schools were higher than the average score for the nation, and scores for 15 states were lower.

Results also pointed to some differences between how states performed overall and how students within certain demographic groups within those states performed. For example, some states that scored lower than the nation overall had racial/ethnic groups that scored higher than their peers nationwide.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

70 comments Add your comment

one second

January 25th, 2011
11:47 am

as it should be; if one would think of the Bell curve.

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Mid GA Teacher

January 25th, 2011
12:31 pm

one second: A minimum level of competency should not be a bell curve, it should be an overwhelming majority.

This is not norm-based.

[...] Education Trust raised some good discussion points for us.  This is the Ed Trust response to the NAEP 2009 science scores, which I posted earlier today when they were released: Tonight, President Obama’s State of the Union address will focus on the need to revive our [...]

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
2:07 pm

These results do not resemble a bell curve at all. A bell curve would have the majority of students in the middle level with more students and the top level and far fewer at the bottom one. Here everyone is clumped at the bottom. In addition, this appears to be a criterion reference test and not norm-based, so even if results resembled a bell curve they could still be considered disappointing. These findings are very troubling and help explain why China and India are surpassing us in productivity. It is also worth noting that both China and India have more people in the top quartile in IQ (geniuses or near geniuses) than we have in our ENTIRE country. There are 300 million people in the US, and China and India each have more than 300 million people who are geniuses or close to it. Americans better get their heads out of the dark ages.

Chemteacher

January 25th, 2011
2:10 pm

No surprise here!

songbird

January 25th, 2011
2:15 pm

When you have school boards decimating science text books to conform to their religious beliefs, this is what you get. Science illiterates in the USA. Another reason we are falling behind China.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
2:23 pm

One reason for this is that Americans tend to feed their children with ridiculous stories about religious myths from the earliest ages. When children are indoctrinated into believing illogical fiction as absolute truth, it breaks down their ability to reason throughout their lives. When one is indoctrinated into any religion, it makes it easy to reject objective evidence in favor of irrational, subjective beliefs whenever it’s convenient. And since science has debunked most of what the ancient myths state, a large portion of the population reject science outright, forgetting that science is responsible for the car that gets them around, the food they eat, the TV they watch, the eyeglasses they see through, the medicines they take, just about everything in their lives. Parents actually encourage their children to reject science because it will expose them to “evil” (but absolutely true) facts about evolution, an old earth, and the expansion of the universe. Americans have willfully embraced ignorance and have chosen fiction over knowledge. It is disturbing and is one of the main reasons for the decline of our society.

MiltonMan

January 25th, 2011
2:31 pm

Funny to see the libs here blaming this on religion. The bottom line is that this country looks down on engineers & scientists – ever heard of nerd, geek, etc.? Other countries like China & India – they are treated like rock stars, actors, etc.

Check out who is in charge of the government. Here in the USA – lawyers; China, India, Brazil – heavy representation of engineers.

songbird

January 25th, 2011
2:33 pm

well said Progressive!

Political Mongrel

January 25th, 2011
2:44 pm

As long as so many parents keep telling their kids that they’ve never used algebra, geometry, trig, biology, chemistry, or physics since they’ve been out of school, their kids’ attitudes are not going to change. They’re going to continue to go through the motions to get their grades and then forget it all.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
2:45 pm

I read something recently by a researcher from MIT who said that if he goes anywhere in the world, even the poorest, most isolated countries in Africa and Asia, people roll out the red carpet for him because they are so impressed at being in the presence of an actual scientist from MIT. But here in this country no one thinks twice about it. He might as well be a used car salesman because no one here values science. Unfortunately, it’s part of the culture.

A reader

January 25th, 2011
2:56 pm

Maureen,
Any idea how GA performed on this test?
Thanks

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
2:58 pm

If people would stop trying to force their ridiculous, fairy-tale religious beliefs in our schools maybe we would be able to advance our science curriculum.

teachermom

January 25th, 2011
2:58 pm

With the focus on remediation for the below level reading and math students in elementary school, time must be found during the day to pull them for additional instruction and review. Because these students can not miss reading or math instruction in the regular classroom, they are pulled during the science and social studies instructional blocks. Teachers can find content focused text to read during reading instruction, but we can’t recreate the science observations and experiments done while the child is out of the room. The love of science begins at the elementary level with hands-on instruction. How can we raise a generation of global thinking scientists when we send the message that it is not an important content area? It’s time to focus on learning for life rather than learning for a test score in Georgia!

[...] Visit link: NAEP science: Less than half of students at competency | Get Schooled [...]

Steve

January 25th, 2011
2:59 pm

Songbird@2:15 & Progressive Humanist 2:23PM,
I learned both creationism and evolution when I was in school. My parents were very religious, but always encouraged us to listen to others opinions with open ears, as everyone has something to offer, even if it’s only to show a ignorant point of view.
Thank you for proving their point.

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
3:02 pm

@MiltonMan

China, India, Brazil…wow. 3 countries any American would just DIE to live in.

/sarcasm

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
3:05 pm

@Steve

The problem is most religious parents aren’t like yours.

Troglodyke

January 25th, 2011
3:05 pm

Funny to see the libs here blaming this on religion.

I agree with Progressive Humanist that religion plays a part, especially in the South and Midwest. Is it the only reason most Americans are woefully ignorant in regards to science? No. Is it a big reason? Well, look at countries that are considered more secular, and how they view science and how they teach it. It is absolutely true that religion plays a part in politics, and politics plays a part in textbook editing and selection.

Why are children not taught critical thinking? The dearth of critical thinking ability is truly going to doom this country. It affects us in many more ways than just in the science classroom, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see how it is less valued in highly religious areas.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
3:10 pm

Steve @ 2:59,

So I guess we should be “open” to ideas about the existence of leprechauns and unicorns as well? And the idea of getting 72 virgins for our sexual pleasure if we martyr ourselves? There’s nothing to learn from creationism, not any more than learning from a comic book or fairy tale. There’s no factual basis for it. And if you choose to be snarky and try to insult someone, I’d suggest that you not write things like “a ignorant [sic] point of view”. Considering your grasp of the English language, I assume your grasp of science is not much better, even if you did “study” creationism.

jconservative

January 25th, 2011
3:12 pm

If having an educated population is a national defense requirement, about 30 countries are kicking our butts. We may have better tanks and guns but we make up for that with a population unable to perform
elementary workplace functions. So we send jobs to India.

And remember, 40% of PhD degrees awarded by US universities are awarded to foreign nationals, not US citizens.

Brad

January 25th, 2011
3:16 pm

Perhaps we can go back to teaching our kids to think critically, instead of teaching standardized test taking skills.

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
3:17 pm

@jconservative

We send jobs to India b/c our tax code allows Multinationals to outsource at an advantage.

MiltonMan

January 25th, 2011
3:28 pm

Go ahead Joe with your snide comments & ignore the truth. I said absolutely nothing about living in these countries yet you seem to “infer” that.

I worked with an engineer from China on a project who knew every inverse function value of a whole number (e.g., arctan of 83). They are taught not only memorization (no uses of calculators) but critical thinking skills. Their high school math/science teachers all had PhDs in engineering.

songbird

January 25th, 2011
3:31 pm

MiltonMan and Steve – I stand by what I said because there is ample evidence that this has happened many times. It was very close to happening in Cobb County a few years ago.

ShokWayve

January 25th, 2011
3:33 pm

@Progressive Humanist

You raise some interesting points. I am curious as to the evidence you use to support the claim that the teaching of religion erodes science competency?

Also, I would also like to know which specific claims of Christianity you believe are myths or have been debunked by science?

Finally, I would also like to know which scientific findings are at odds with Christianity?

Thanks

songbird

January 25th, 2011
3:35 pm

MiltonMan – I do agree that we idolize the wrong people in this country, sports stars, movie stars, etc., and not the highly intelligent, well-educated folks among us.

We need to start emphasizing the benefits of education in math and sciences because there aren’t enough jobs for MBA’s in marketing anymore, nor in blue collar jobs involving manufacturing and construction to take all of the people who want/need work.

The well-paying jobs of the future will require more science and math skills.

commoncents

January 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

education also happens to occur outside the classroom. One way to destroy the future is to promise reward without the work.

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
3:40 pm

@MiltonMan

They are taught not only memorization (no uses of calculators) but critical thinking skills. Their high school math/science teachers all had PhDs in engineering.

And yet their (China and India) citizens have no freedoms, the majority of them live in poverty, their healthcare system is only for the wealthy, and they lead generally miserable (by American standards) lives.

ShokWayve

January 25th, 2011
3:46 pm

@JoeV

Actually, in China, health care is provided for by the state. You are correct, however, that the standard of living (freedoms, high levels of abject poverty, access to goods/services, etc…) in both countries is comparatively low for the average person. Yet, we can still learn from how well their education system works. America, for example, has it’s own issues (a widening wealth gap, persistent discrimination, growing poverty, racial profiling by the police, a ballooning debt and a runaway political elite that consistently fools the masses – Democrat and Republican). However, there are still many things we do right in America that the world can truly learn from.

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
3:55 pm

@ShokWayve

Also, I would also like to know which specific claims of Christianity you believe are myths or have been debunked by science?

UHHHHHH, the age of Earth??? There’s a pretty big one. The existence of Dinosaurs, pre-historic man, evolution?

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
4:06 pm

ShokWayve,

1) I would suggest you read a scholarly paper titled “The Psychological Processes and Consequences of Fundamentalist Indoctrination” (Cuevas, 2008) to examine some of the evidence. Young children struggle to understand death and what happens at the end of life. Cognitive dissonance takes hold and when the children recognize what logic dictates to us about the issue, the cognitive dissonance would fade and a more realistic understanding of the world would emerge. Instead, many parents feed children myths and the realization stagnates. From then on it becomes easy, if not natural for the child to reject reason, logic, and objective evidence in favor of irrational subjective beliefs because their entire world view is based on fiction.

2) Christian myths debunked by science? Seriously? There are too many to list but I’ll give you a few- a 6,000 year-old earth, the great flood, creationism, the sun revolving around the earth, humans living for hundreds of years, an incorrect value of pi, people rising from the dead and floating up into the sky (space?), etc.

3) All scientific findings are at odds with religion (any of them, Christianity included because that one is as ridiculous and damaging as any other), because science is based on evidence. Religion, in contrast, is based on the believer suspending reason and logic in order to create a world view that is at odds with reality. Science is about finding evidence in the study of the natural world. Religion is about believing something without having any reason to do so (it’s called faith, or what I like to call willful ignorance). But if you wanted more specific findings, here are some- natural selection, the age of the earth, the age of the universe, the laws of physics, etc.

JoeV

January 25th, 2011
4:17 pm

…and BOOM goes the dynamite.

drew (former teacher)

January 25th, 2011
4:21 pm

“Because the sweeping federal reform law focused on math and reading and attached dire consequences to low performance in those areas, Friedman said schools paid less attention to science.”

Exactly! The last couple of years I was teaching middle school, students spent twice as much time in math and language/reading classes than they did in science and social studies, so these results are not at all surprising to me. The logic being, if math and reading scores are the measuring sticks by which we’re judged, lets spend the majority of our time there.

And the tail continues to wag the dog.

Tom

January 25th, 2011
4:44 pm

Actually, I went and looked at the test. A good percentage of the test was about controversial subjects that have disputed answers. Yes, disputed by SCIENTISTS, not just religious nuts. Global Warming, Environmentalism, Ozone depletion, etc. Even the quote at the top included mostly political questions, not science based ones : “I am concerned by all the people who need to understand science. Farmers need to understand the choice to use genetically altered crops. Voters who have candidates with different views on global climate change don’t have to be experts, but they need to know what the key questions are. Science is not an elective. It is an essential…to a vibrant democracy,” he said.

I teach chemistry, and was not happy that 75% couldn’t balance an equation, I’d rather see a test that was based on science and not the political pseudo-science of the day.

catlady

January 25th, 2011
4:46 pm

At our level, kids who are behind in reading or math are pulled out of science or social studies to do additional work. So these kids don’t get instruction in these areas. However, if you can’t read, your options are limited (until we require mastery of basic facts, additional instruction in math is spitting in the wind much of the time.)

BNB

January 25th, 2011
4:50 pm

Good afternoon! I’ve never posted on this board but I felt compelled to do so this afternoon since this issue deals with two areas near and dear to me. I am about 6 months away from receiving two doctoral degrees and have spent the last decade of my life focused on science, health and medicine. I’ve read books and papers by the champions of both creation and evolution and have found that if science and data rather than bias are allowed to lead the way, neither creation nor evolution can be proven. Rather, either belief requires some kind of “faith”. Furthermore, there are many well-educated scientists that believe in God and feel that God and science co-exist quite naturally. In fact, Dr. Francis Collins the director of the Human Genome Project believes in God and states in an article on CNN that 40% of scientists claim to believe as well. I would encourage anyone who questions whether God and science prove or disprove each other to do the research themselves rather than trust another person’s judgment/opinion.

More on topic, science does seem to be problem in the US. At the conferences I attend, only about 30% of the scientists are originally from the US. Building an interest in science when kids are in high school seems to be paramount since that’s when they usually start to develop a true interest in a career field. I think that if students were educated about the job opportunities (other then being an MD) that are available in science, they might feel more motivated to investigate it as a future option.

john konop

January 25th, 2011
4:52 pm

This problem will only grow if we do not fix the issues with math 123. The traditional math tracked to Chemistry and Physics the new math program does not. This is a major issue that must be changed.

still@the bar

January 25th, 2011
5:23 pm

We continue to try and make the STUPID feel smart and cool. More students need to have the taste slapped out of their mouths if they just look cross at a teacher. Teachers fear students and it should be the other way around.

Count down to the judgment
1 hour 37 min until Hammonds pays for killing Miss LOVE.

ShokWayve

January 25th, 2011
5:29 pm

@JoeV and Progressive Humanist, thank you for your thoughtful responses.

1) I was not able to find the paper you mentioned.  Please provide a link.  What I did find was an article by Walter Davis addressing Christian Fundamentalism and it’s psychological implications.  That article examines the implications of interpreting the Bible as the literal, exact word of God.  It does not, and I suspect neither does the article you reference, claim that Christianity – nor religion in general – prohibits any degree of science literacy.  Calculus, the earth rotating around the sun, probability statistics and even the human genome project were all developed or led by devout Christians. I am sure you knew that Netwon, Galileo, Paschal and Francis Collins (human genome project) were devout Christians.  In fact, I am a devout Christian and scientist.

2) The “myths” you claim are debunked by science actually show that a literal interpretation of certain parts of the Bible is not accurate.  Regarding resurrections and people ascending into heaven, what type of evidence do you need?  We have good evidence that Jesus lived, was dead, and put in a tomb.  Are you saying that is not true?  Then, we have good evidence that people reporting sightings and maintained this despite lethal persecution.  Mind you, it’s the same caliber of evidence we would use to evaluate any historical fact.  How do you explain the evidence?

3) You make some pretty strong claims regarding religion and science. First, science is based on faith – the faith that our five senses are reliable indicators of the world as it is.  We can never transcend our five senses to know for a fact, for instance, that we are not in the ‘Matrix’ being toyed with by some alien scientist.  There are many other assumptions in science.  You are right that faith is a component of religion.  In addition, there are many rational reasons to believe in God.  I ask you, why does anything exist at all?  (Hint: please don’t appeal to Stephen Hawkings as I am well-versed with his approach.)  Why do you humans have a desire for transcendence, purpose and meaning?  What is the purpose and meaning of life?  Why does beauty, love and aesthetics exist?  Finally, what is good and evil?

Also, when you mention natural selection, cosmology and the laws of physics, how is that supposed to oppose religion.  In fact, science was in part developed because it was thought – based on the Bible (gasp!) – that God created an orderly world thus it lent itself to prediction and regularity.  Ergo, we can explain it using science.  Never mind that the great scientific minds of old often were also devout Christians or theists.  By the way, where do the laws of physics and the universe come from?

JoeV, don’t play with the dynamite, you might get hurt :-)

Old Physics Teacher

January 25th, 2011
5:30 pm

Sorry people, kids value what their parents value. When their parents only watch “Reality” TV, game shows, and sports, while the kids watch youtube and listen to iTunes, while doing NO “boring” homework, what do you expect? High school teachers only have the kids for a few minutes every day. The kids’ classmates have far more influence on their efforts to learn… whatever, than their teachers. Even the parents who watch Reality TV, etc, etc, etc have more influence than we do. Rather than complain about/to the educators, you need to complain to the public about their appalling disinterest in education. Yeah, let’s see a politician tell the voters, “It’s YOUR fault!”

Every so often this goes through the press. I still remember when Sputnik went up and the politicians claimed our way of life was going to be destroyed because of the appalling lack of educators’ ability to teach. I got caught in the middle of “programmed learning.” That was the 1960’s version of NCLB. It collapsed for the same reasons NCLB fails – it doesn’t address the real problem! The general population doesn’t care about science because they don’t understand it, and it conflicts with their prejudices.

In China, India, etc, the general population is in abject poverty. The only way these people see for them to get out of poverty, is for their children to get better jobs so the kids can take care of their parents when they are old. These poor people see that the better jobs go to the “smarter” people because they’re better educated. These poor people then demand of their children (see Tiger Mom) that their kids take responsibility for their own education and improve their lot in life.

We simply sit on our couches and hope and pray our kids can get on Reality TV and make a ton of money. Well, what did you really expect?

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
5:34 pm

BNB,

If your education was a quality one you’d know that we would not say any scientific theory is “proven”. All information about the natural world is subject to new findings, and therefore to revision. Here are some scientific theories that we would not classify as “proven”: the Theory of Gravitation, the Theory of Light, Atomic Theory, Germ Theory, the Theory of Friction, the Theory of Evolution. All have gone past the popular definition of a theory (a hypothesis) and qualify as theories in the scientific sense (massive bodies of knowledge supported by vast amounts of facts). While none of these are “proven”, no educated person in their right mind would deny the existence of light, gravity, or germs, and no educated person would believe that creation happened and not evolution.

As someone with a PhD from a research university, I would have to say that the fact that you seem to put creationism and evolution on equal footing is evidence that your education has been lacking. One is an actual scientific theory (a reality because it’s supported by thousands of facts from multiple disciplines- biology, genetics, embryology, agriculture, archeology, geology, etc.). The other is a superstition that is not being studied or researched in any field of science by anyone anywhere. Surely if you are working on a doctorate you would know this. Creationism relies on faith because there is no evidence for it, but evolution relies on massive amounts of evidence from the fore-mentioned fields.

Yes, there are scientists who do believe in god. But most of them believe in the metaphorical sense- they like to believe in a benevolent higher power, something that they hope adds meaning to life, but no legitimate scientist will deny objective facts in favor of mythical beliefs. They don’t believe the earth was created in seven days or that the universe is less than 10,000 years old or that humans and all life just poofed into existence. You also should have some understanding of statistics, which show a negative correlation between education and religious belief. Across the population, as education goes up religious belief goes down, and the lower the level of education the higher the likelihood of religious belief. This is because the more highly educated someone is the less likely they are to be convinced of nonsensical myths and vice versa. Francis Collins was a poor choice for that position because the personal beliefs he brings to the job (some literal translations of the bible) are in contrast to the tenets of science.

In the six months you have until you graduate, I recommend that your reconsider your principal views on science vs mythology, particularly if you hope to make a career in the sciences in higher ed.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
6:10 pm

Shokwayve,

I have to consider your entire perspective a grand act of rationalization. You continue to try to find ways to support your religious views and make them justifiable in the face of a lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary. That’s why it’s clear that reasonable dialog will be of no use. You will just find a way to continue to believe in the existence of leprechauns and unicorns.

So you say the bible isn’t completely (literally) accurate (true). So it’s just kind of true? Or is it just the parts that you want to be true? So the more ridiculous notions that are debunked, the more “metaphorical” we must view the bible to keep believing it’s true? And no, there is not an abundance of evidence that Jesus really lived, much less that he floated up into the sky. You’re relying on hearsay from a supposed handful of people from 2000 years ago? Really? I hope you don’t use that kind of evidence in your scientific endeavors.

Your third argument is the fool’s argument. It’s the default argument that basically makes the case that if science cannot explain everything yet, then the answer has to be god. If science cannot explain purpose, then that purpose has to be god- not the Muslim one but the Christian one. Uh-hmm. Your god is disappearing the more we learn about science because that window is getting smaller and smaller. We don’t have to provide evidence that the gaps that science hasn’t answered yet are not filled by god; if you are going to make that claim you have to provide evidence, not rationalization, that they are.

And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If I claim that the universe was created when it was farted out of the rear end of a purple unicorn (about as likely as your creation myths), then I must provide evidence for that claim. I cannot say that because you cannot prove that the universe wasn’t farted out of a purple unicorn (which you can’t), then it must have been. But this is exactly the argument you’re perpetuating. If you are indeed a scientist you must see how absurd this position and your rationalization is.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming.

January 25th, 2011
6:14 pm

Progressive Humanist,

I think you are running into difficulty because you are equating the religion of “Christianity” with the narrower viewpoint of the “Fundamental/Creationist” Christian. There are many “Christians” who are not Biblical literalists. I come from a family of scientists who are also Christians and have no problem balancing the two.

I do agree with your point, that a “creationist” viewpoint does not mesh well with scientific theories and facts. I am currently teaching two creationist students in my class, and it is rather disheartening to watch them try to “justify” everything we study in terms of their narrow religious belief system… which generally means trying to find some odd way to explain away the scientific fact to suit what they have been taught to believe. The convoluted metal gymnastics they go through to try and fit what they are learning in class into the framework of their belief system is painful to witness. Yet, I do what I can to show respect for their religious beliefs, while pointing out the difference between faith and fact. Ultimately, it will be their decision as to what they choose to accept.

I also agree with posters who mention the fact that because science/social studies have not been linked to AYP previously, they have suffered. It all seems to come down to those sacred standardized test scores!

Time is also an issue. There simply are not enough teaching hours in the day to cover everything we are expected to teach with any depth and attention to detail. Good science lessons require time – time to discover and discuss and experiment… time I rarely seem to have in my elementary classroom.

ShokWayve

January 25th, 2011
6:22 pm

@Progressive Humanist

I am not sure if you are addressing my points, but I did not put “creationism” and “evolution” on the same footing.

Also, your statements interact largely with a very literalist, fundamentalist Christianity and don’t at all address other mainstream Christian perspectives that fully and unconditionally embrace the findings of science.  Are you familiar at all familiar with these perspectives (biologos.org, http://www.reasonablefaith.org, asa3.org)?

Regarding Christians (such as myself) who are also scientist, many of us absolutely believe that God is real, Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead by God.  We also believe in his second coming.  Check the websites I mentioned for references.  This, by the way, is not a new phenomena.

Also, you mention the correlation between education and faith.  For purposes of this discussion lets assume it’s true.  What exactly does that prove?  Are you saying that because educated believe or not believe something it is true/false?  So, should science be based on a poll of educated people rather than an actual examination of the evidence?  Are you aware of the “genetic fallacy”?

Finally, if Francis Collins is an excellent geneticists, the fact that he is a believer should preclude him from the project?  Really?  Newton should not have been permitted to invent the Calculus, Benjamin Carson should not be allowed to perform wonderful neurological operations on children, etc…  Finally, have you read Francis Collins’ book?  What in it is against science?  In fact, he uses science to provide evidence – not proof – for belief.  I recall Stephen Jay Gould saying that science neither proves nor disproves the existence of God.  Would you agree?

I am a practicing scientist by the way.  Regardless, thanks for your well-wishes :-)

Jon

January 25th, 2011
6:22 pm

Biglaw firm lawyer: three years of law school, $160k as entry-level associate plus bonus, $500k to $1+ million as partner.

Scientist: 5-8 years of PhD grad school, $35k as a postdoc for 3 years, assistant professorship at $60k, associate prof at $80k and finally $100-120k as a full tenured professor when you’re 50.

IQ for both to be promoted to the very top under heavy competition is probably about the same.

And we wonder why people don’t go into science here in America.

Jon

January 25th, 2011
6:34 pm

There is a world of difference between the Christianity of “i love teaching” and that of “ShokWayve.” The latter seems a bit strained. By the way, Newton’s Christianity (Arianism) was considered a heresy to the Anglican Church and explicitly violated the Holy Trinity. How convenient of ShokWayve to leave that tidbit out.

ShokWayve

January 25th, 2011
6:45 pm

@Progressive Humanist

Being a scientist, I would hope that you would at least do me the justice of representing my views correctly.  After all, isn’t it all about the evidence.  Also, it would be great if you could address my questions and statements rather than your suppositions concerning views/opinions I have not expressed.  Again, let’s just stick to the facts.

First, I never said that the Bible was not completely accurate.  I stated that a literal interpretation of the Bible was not always accurate.  In other words, it’s not always accurate to interpret the Bible literally.  Apparently, eyewitness testimony, the historical accuracy of the gospels and multiple sources of consistent evidence is not enough to convince you.  Tell me, what standard do you use to evaluate whether something happened or not in history.

Second, I am in no way appealing to a “god of the gaps” theory.  My questions about ultimate meaning, purpose, good & evil and the existence of the universe are not appealing to gaps in science.  Those questions, in fact, are out of the purview of science.  Science is a method of describing, manipulating, predicting and understanding nature.  It is a powerful tool of human discovery.  Some questions – morality, meaning, the purpose of life, etc… – are not in its purview.  It’s not a gap, it is simply not a question that science is intended to answer.  In fact, the cosmological evidence being amassed provide even more evidence for belief (the Cosmologocial Constants for example).

Finally, regarding extraordinary claims and the need for extraordinary evidence.  I don’t know about you, but I think the universe is pretty extraordinary when you think about it.  The laws of physics, the concepts of time and space, and even the awe and grandeur of life – those are all pretty extraordinary.  So, in fact, evidence for God is the existence of the universe.  Why else would anything exist at all (even a multi-verse)?  I’m not appealing to any gaps; it is a positive claim for the existence of God.

Finally, again, please answer my questions.  I am really enjoying answering your questions, but I’d really like to learn more about your views regarding the questions I pose.

Thanks and I do appreciate the conversation.

Progressive Humanist

January 25th, 2011
6:55 pm

Shokwayve,

You were responding as if my 5:34 post was directed at you, but it was actually directed at BNB. My 6:10 post was directed to you. I am well aware of the historical role that the church, particularly the Catholic Church, has played in the development of science. However, I would argue that those advances were made despite the influence of religion, not because of it. I would agree that science neither proves nor disproves the existence of god. It neither proves nor disproves the existence of wizards, witches, magic, fairies, etc.either. It is not science’s place to disprove fabrications of the imagination. If you believe they exist you must provide evidence for them and you cannot.

I Love Teaching,
I see little difference between “mainstream” Christians and fundamentalists. The mainstream Christians just provide cover for the fundamentalists because they can rationalize the illogical suppositions of the bible as metaphorical, and the fundamentalists can see themselves as “truer” followers of an accepted religion. But they’re all indoctrinated, they all base their world view on fiction, and they’re all wrong. Concerning religious people’s difficulties in justifying their beliefs and tying themselves in mental knots, see Shokwayve’s rationalization above. It reminds me of the very sad case of Kurt Wise.

Jon,
Good point, but I think your numbers are a little skewed. There was a recent article that was highlighted here that discussed how many law school graduates are now finding themselves with huge college debts and no job. They’re working as paralegals, secretaries, clerks, and even in food service. The outlook for law graduates is no longer so rosey. I do agree, though, that the country would be better off if being a scientist was a more tempting proposition.