Monday, July 08, 2013

Richard Day's New Math: A defense of my article on the state's science standards

Richard Day at Kentucky School News and Comment did not like my comments on Kentucky's new science standards in my recent opinion piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

His chief problem with my analysis is that I measured the emphasis in the standards on the basis of a word search I did on the state's academic standards document and noted the number of times climate-related terms were mentioned in relation to terms having to do with other issues. I found what appeared to be an inordinate emphasis on weather and weather-related topics.

"Is this really the best way to understand what's going on with the science standards?" he asks.

I wasn't trying to find out "what's going on" with the science standards. I was trying to get an idea of the relative emphasis on certain scientific subjects. "What's going on" could mean any number of things. I wasn't trying to do any number of things, I was trying to do one thing.

Day seems to be arguing that the amount of text in a text document devoted to a particular topic is not a measure of how much the text of that document emphasizes that topic.

Think about that for a minute.

If the amount of text devoted to issues in a document is not a measure of the relative emphasis on those issues, then how precisely are you supposed to measure it? Do we put it over a low flame to determine its boiling point? Do we dip the document in a chemical solution to see what color it turns?

How does Day figure out how many miles he's got on is car? Does he check his odometer--or his horoscope?

I realize that objective methodologies are not popular in the bastions of progressivism like the teacher's college at which he holds a post, but in the real world they're not a bad way to measure things.

In fact, now that I think about it, did I just get a lecture from ed school professor about not using an objective measurement to analyse science standards?

Oh, the irony.

One indication of Day's troubled relationship with the facts is this comment:
Accepting science advice from Cothran is a dicey proposition. The slippery Cothran has written in defense of Intelligent Design for the Discovery Institute. So, there's that. If I understand him correctly, he sees Intelligent Design as distinct from old school creationism, a concept soundly rejected by the court in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District.
Huh? I have written in defense of Intelligent Design? Where? Give me the reference. Comments like this just show the kind of intellectual sloppiness characteristic of ideologues.

I have never once advocated Intelligent Design. Not once. And if Day had bothered to check this blog, he would have seen multiple occasions on which I have answered this assertion. I am an Aristotelian-Thomist, and as such have some serious issues with with any theory that is mechanistic in nature, which ID arguably is.

What I have done is written pieces against the dogmatism that passes for science among many (though not all) Darwinists. But it does not follow from that I agree with Intelligent Design. I have personal friends at the Discovery Institute and they asked to rerun some of these blog pieces, which is just fine with me. I'd let Panda's Thumb run them too, but I'm not expecting that request any time soon.

And then there's the matter of Kitzmiller v. Dover, which apparently meets Day's rather low standards of reasoning. In fact, I wonder if Day even read the decision. I did. The section of that decision on whether ID is science (whatever you believe about whether it is or not) is a complete mess, as I pointed out here and here. So far, no one has refuted my argument.

Just invoking the names of legal decisions may be considered a competent scholarly procedure in places like EKU's education department, but where I come from you've actually got to take account of what they say.

And these are people whose opinions we are supposed to trust on climate change. Sheeez.


Anonymous said...

Singring said...

While we're on the topic of intellectual sloppiness:

'I wasn't trying to find out "what's going on" with the science standards. I was trying to get an idea of the relative emphasis on certain scientific subjects.'

Your press release had a *headline* which claimed that the new science standards were a 'global warming manifesto'.

But here you suddenly pretend that all you were doing is trying to find out the 'relative emphasis on certain scientific subjects'. So either you have a severe problem with retaining short-term memories or you just like to play a bit fast and loose with the facts while you accuse others of doing just that.

In addition, as I pointed out earlier, you didn;t even search for the term 'global warming' in the text - you searched for 'climate change' - which is obviously not the same. But maybe I am expecting too much awareness of nuance from an Aristotelean-Thomist here.

Which brings me to my next point:

' I am an Aristotelian-Thomist, and as such have some serious issues with with any theory that is mechanistic in nature, which ID arguably is.'

So what you're explicitly saying here is that, if you had your way, we'd be teaching some form of creationism or 'supernatural evolution' in schools. You clearly state that you have problems with naturalistsc/mechanistic theories, so the only alternative to that (unless you can think of a third option) are supernatural/metaphysical theories.

Well, at least you have the honesty to admit you'd like to bring supernatural material into the science classroom.

I just don't think that's going to help you make this argument.

Singring said...


Martin, why didn't you actually engage with the specific examples given of your shoddy methodology.

One commenter on Richard Day's blog points out that your data appear to be false and makes the point that not all occurrences of the word 'weather' are related to climate change.

You didn't even attempt to deal with these quantitative issues - which is remarkable seeing as your entire starting point was to do a quantitative analysis of the words in the new science standards.

How do you respond?

Richard Day said...

Some demonstrations prove only that the things are a certain way, rather than why they are so. The latter are the most perfect.

Or more here: