“Scientific Literacy” Survey Sparks Controversy

American students have normally scored low on questions like have humans come from lower species, did the Universe start with an explosion of energy?  These low scores have lead to numerous accusations such as illiterates in science compared to other nations. The National Science Board decided to drop such questions on the grounds that it fails to give a true assessment of a student knowledge of science. This set off angry protests by certain special interest groups, one of which is…

“NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau decried the decision, saying, “Discussing American science literacy without mentioning evolution is intellectual malpractice … It downplays the controversy.” Also reportedly dismayed by the decision was the White House. “The Administration counts on the National Science Board to provide the fairest and most complete reporting of the facts they track,” Rick Weiss, a spokesperson and analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told Science.”

Isn’t this the same Joshua Rosenau from the NCSE who believes there is no controversy about evolution rather it’s controversy is one concocted by creationists and the Discovery Institute? Does he now believe in teaching this controversy in the public schools? When one has to believe in evolution rather than just understanding it’s concepts makes evolution a religion! It’s also a violation of separation of church and state!

There is a myth propagated by radical left leaning evolutionists that you can have a PHD and have papers published in mainstream science journals and have discoveries that save lives but if you doubt evolution then your an illiterate in science. Does the likes of Joshua Rosenau want to require students a recitation that pledges of allegiance to evolution? Do you want left leaning socialists  forcing science curricula on students that say in order to understand science, you must believe that “nothing” banged and became everything by an unguided process?

The NSB defended its decision by stating the following…

“The questions were “flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because the responses conflated knowledge and beliefs,” says Louis Lanzerotti, an astrophysicist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark and chair of the board’s Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) committee.  John Bruer, a philosopher and president of the James McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri, and the lead reviewer for the chapter, says he recommended removing the text and related material because the survey questions “seemed to be very blunt instruments, not designed to capture public understanding” of the two topics.”

The only malpractice in science in this situation is by the likes of special interest groups like the NCSE who strive for goals of educational dictatorship over Christianity while demanding that students not only understand what you learned about evolution but believe in it as well which makes it a religion unto itself.


18 thoughts on ““Scientific Literacy” Survey Sparks Controversy

  1. Still no answer to our questions, Michael.

    You really are dodging questions, and not interested in your readers at all, apparently.

  2. Aaaaand the questions are:

    (1) Blog readership numbers in response to Eelco’s February challenge that your readership asymptotically approaches zero’

    (2) Your qualifications to discuss any scientific subject, in response to Olorin’s February accusation of towering ignorance and gynormous falsehoods in your posts.

    (3) A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009.

    You can run, but you can’t hide.

  3. Yup. The attitude of the pollsters was that they should not count cussedness as ignorance.

    Others say, what’s the difference between not knowing something and believing it is false? The result is the same—scientific illiteracy, which is what the poll attempts to measure.[1] You can probably noodle out which side of this question I’m on.

    One way out might have been to word the questions as, e.g.,

    (1) Biology holds that man evolved from previous species of animal; T (__) F (__)

    (2) Cosmologists agree that our universe began about 13.8 billion years ago in a singularity. T(__) F (__)

    This would at least separate ignorance from perversity. This corresponds to asking—

    (3) The Bible holds that unicorns exist. T (__) F (__)

    We could all answer in the affirmative here. Although we know that unicorns do not exist and have never existed, we could answer “T”, because the Bible does mention them favorably.

    We should note here that Michael again revealed his ignorance of evolution and cosmology by misstating the omitted questions: We should at least be glad that Michael didn’t get to write them.[2]


    [1] My suspicion is that the NSB omitted the questions so the that US wouldn’t end up below Kyrgystan and Lower Slobovia in the world rankings, as usually happens.

    [2] Here’s a case of an incorrect “right” answer in a math test that surfaced some years ago, and turned a few faces red when a student pointed out the mistake. A small 3cm diameter circle rolls around the circumference of a large 9cm diameter circle exactly once. How many revolutions does the small circle make? Michael, go ahead and try it. (Hint: This is a “fence post” problem.)

  4. NCSE: ” … It downplays the controversy.”

    Michael’s ghost writer: “Isn’t this the same Joshua Rosenau from the NCSE who believes there is no controversy about evolution rather it’s controversy is one concocted by creationists and the Discovery Institute?”

    Yesd, Michael. There isd no scientific controversy about evolution. Rosenau speaks here of the political controversy fomented by creationists and the Dishonesty Institute. You said it yourself. So what’s your problem?

  5. You say:

    American students have normally scored low on questions like have humans come from lower species,

    Could it be because they THINK evolution teaches that some creatures are lower than others? — Evolutionary theory says no such thing, so if that’s what they think, then I can see why they are getting low scores.

    Isn’t this the same Joshua Rosenau from the NCSE who believes there is no controversy about evolution rather it’s controversy is one concocted by creationists and the Discovery Institute? Does he now believe in teaching this controversy in the public schools?

    97% of all scientists accept evolution, so . . . there is no controversy.

  6. Olorin,

    I looked up the answer for the circle problem AFTER I came up with the simplest, does-not-even-need-to-be-calculated, no-DUH answer for a certain definition of “revolution”.

    Wow, I learned something there about how spinning around a circle is not the same as rolling over a straight line. Unfortunately, I am too sleepy and lazy to figure out the actual math involved. I’ll just memorize the rule of thumb instead.

    But I’m proud that I was able to come up with a valid alternative answer by myself.


  7. Monimonika, after writing the problem, I started thinking that one really should specify that the two circles are in the same plane. You could say that the answer differs if their planes are mutually perpendicular. Then, after thinking some more, I realized that the latter situation demands a more precise definition of “revolution.”

    Chew on that one for a while.

  8. krissmith777: “97% of all scientists accept evolution, so . . . there is no controversy.”

    Assigning any number depends upon how one defines evolution, and the relevant domain of scientists.

    If evolution refers only to change over time, then maybe even Michael could accept it. If we mean universal common ancestry, then even most intelligent-design acolytes accept it—Michael Behe and Scott Minnich certainly do. If we narrow to “Darwinian evolution” then we start to go all murky. Evolutionary biologists do not think that natural selection is all there is.[1] Genetic drift is not Darwinian, yet it definitely exists. Epigenetics smells almost like Lamarckism rising from the grave, yet it happens. When arguing with creationists, perhaps a good working definition is “universal common ancestry with changes governed by natural law.” Because their contention, after all, is the insufficiency of normal laws, without supernatural intervention.

    I prefer to count as “scientists” those who actively conduct research in a related field, such as biology, molecular biology, paleontology, or geology. A couple years ago, I heard 484,000 worldwide meet that definition. Of these, there seem to be only 2 (Behe and Minnich) who do not accept evolution as in my preferred definition above.[2] That’s a lot better than 97%. One can find many “scientists” who do not accept evolution. Among research scientists, they tend to be pure mathematicians and a few theoretical physicists.[3] Engineers and programmers—whom I would not call scientists—seem to be more likely to adhere to creationism or ID. After all, they spend their whole careers designing things; is it any wonder they see design in everything?

    The Disco Institute maintains a list of scientists who “doubt Darwinism.” First, the “doubt” is watered down so much that an evolutionary biologist could probably sign it—if he didn’t realize it is a trap. Second, the credentials of many on the list are inflated and misleading. Third, very few of the signatories are knowledgeable about biology. Several years ago, an enterprising soul actually wrote to the first 100 (of a then total of 700) people on the list. He found only two (2) of them were research biologists—and one of those asked to have his name taken off the list!

    In opposition, the NCSE launched Project Steve. This is a list of people who are researchers in a relevant area, and whose names are Steve (or Stephan, or Stephanie, etc.).[4] Within a couple of months, the Steve list was longer than the Disco Institute list.


    [1] Group and multi-level selection are still controversial, for example.

    [2] What about PhD biology professors at Biola, Liberty U., etc., which require adherence to creationism as a condition of employment? Well, have you ever seen any actual published research by these people? (Behe’s case is instructive. Before falling in with the ID gang, he published more than 40 research papers. Since that time—1995 or so–he has published nothing in any field, ID related or not.)

    [3] The Discovery Institute has latched onto a physicist at U. Colorado (whose name escape me just now). They abuse him as a talking head because he professes atheism as well.

    [4] The name was in memory of Steven Jay Gould, who had recently died. Statistics show that about 1% of children have this name, so we can multiply the number of names by 100 on the name alone, and then by at least 100 again based upon the research-field limitation.

  9. krissmith777, sorry I didn’t reply to your comment under “Bacterial Flagellum” until 4 days later.

    (I’m retired, and therefore have little time for anything besides organizing my photos :-)

  10. Josh Rosenau, quoted above, responds to this post in Thoughts from Kansas.

    As to Michael’s “There is a myth propagated by radical left leaning evolutionists that you can have a PHD and have papers published in mainstream science journals and have discoveries that save lives but if you doubt evolution then your an illiterate in science.”

    Rosenau has this to say: “This is so adorable that if I had a photograph of Michael, I’d stamp “literacy FAIL” all over it! “Your an illiterate” indeed!”

    So I’m not the only one who questions Michael’s reading comprehension.

  11. Wait, there’s more.

    Josh quotes Michael’s: “Isn’t this the same Joshua Rosenau from the NCSE who believes there is no controversy about evolution rather it’s controversy is one concocted by creationists and the Discovery Institute?

    And responds: “Assuming I untangled that sentence’s grammatical failings correctly, it is. That this social controversy has been ginned up by religious extremists doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and doesn’t impact science education. I wish it didn’t, and I don’t want this social/political/religious controversy to be taught in science classes.”

  12. Over on Pharyngula, PZ Myers shows a relevant Calvin & Hobbes cartoon.

    Calvin sits at his school desk holding a quiz paper saying “2+7=______”. He writes, “I cannot answer this question, as it is against my religious principles.”

    He looks at the paper, pencil behind ear, then thinks, “It’s worth a shot.”

  13. Hm. No “New Discoveries” or even “Comments” about creationism in four days now.

    Wait–methinks Michael is waiting breathlessly for his ghostwriter to suss out why the newly discovered 2 million year old Australopithecus sediba fosiils[1] are actually modern Homo zythoa who were sleeping off a big one and missed the sailing date of the Ark. (In fact, a number of empty beer cans were discovered by a creationist team near the archeologists’ site.)

    Those less enamored of the creationist persuasion should read this discovery[2] as a study in transitional fossils. Although provisionally classified as Australopithecus, the fossils display many features of our later genus, Homo. Creationists try to force fossils into one genus or another, because they cannot force themselves to admit any “transitions.” But here we have fossils that show many A. characteristics—small brain and body, long arms, etc.—and also bear modern H. features—small teeth, prominent nose, less pronounced cheekbones. To the point that the experts in the field disagree as to which genus should bestow a name on them. Creationists think of transitions—when they think at all–as poof-like events. Mommy & Daddy Australopithecus, who look like apes, scratch their hairy heads over their firstborn child, a baby Homo who looks like us. Creationists demand to see “the” transitional fossil, the clean break between older (lower) and newer (higher) genera. Sorry, guys, that just ain’t the way it works.

    This plays out in spades, of course, inth Cambrian explosion. Creationists huff and puff that 37 different body plans appeared all at once, which shows creation.[3] But, if you look at tjhe Cambrian fossils closely, it is difficult to tell the different plans apart—they all look pretty much like worms. Yes, Virginia, if you look at our Cambrian ancestors and the Cambrian ancestors of the shrimp you had for dinner, you probably would not be able to tell them apart. In fact, paleontologists still argue over which phylum—we’re talking major, major divisions here—to classify some of the Cambrian fossils. They have features of several different modern body plans.

    So, Michael, when you get around to deciding what your ghostwriter thinks about A. sediba, give us a summary, and provide us all with


    Reason #92 why people laugh at creatinists.


    [1] Berger, et al., “Australopithecus sediba: A New species of Homo-like Australopith from Soth Africa” Science 328:195 (9 April 2010)

    [2] The same issue of Science carries an excellent news article ob A. sediba at pages 154-55.

    [3] This is more laughable than they know, because Genesis has animals with the same body plan created on different days, and those with mutually different plans created on the same day. So their own contention on the Cambrian explosion is evidence against biblical creation.

  14. @Olorin: It is obvious Michael doesn’t actually want to learn anything new or be corrected; his only purpose here is to preach creationism.

  15. Hi, Tim. many of us believe that knowledge is power.

    To a creationist, however, knowledge brings fear. Fear that their beliefs may be wrong.

    Did you ever wonder why creationists have never done any research, even on “junk DNA” or any of their own pet theories? It’s because—as all scientists know—the research may turn out differently from their expectations.

    So they have a lose-lose situation. If the research confirms their belief, they have gained nothing, because they already “knew” it was true. If the results differ, then their faith has been falsified. So they will never ever put their beliefs to the test.


    It really is a sad situation for them. To be driven by fear.

  16. I am really frustrated at the willfull ignorance of Creationists, and particularly, Young Earth Creationists….

    — I used to be an Old Earth Creationist, . . . and I was ALMOST suckered into beinga YEC at one point. . . . I am so relieved that I wasn’t.

    I look at YECs now and say to myself in horror “Wow! And I almost became one of them!”

  17. krissmith777. there is now a move by the atheists (a/k/a philosophical naturalists) to slide us “theistic evolutionists” over into the creationist camp. That is, if you believe at all in a God who can influence the physical universe, and who might have guided evolution, then you are a creationist—ja “new creationist,” in the words of Larry Moran (Sandwalk blog).[1]

    I resist this new classification. Personally, my belief is that the handiwork of God is discovered by science. As to whether God did thus and so in such and such a way, I try to have no preconceived theological opinions. “Hypotheses non fingo,” as newton said. For me, the important part will always be that God cares for us and wishes us to live moral lives. The other stuff has less importance.


    [1] Those who see any place at all for religion are tarred as “accomodationists.” The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is accomodationist. The National Academy of Science is accomodationdist, according to Moran and PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne. Francis Collins (BioLogos, “The Language of God”) and Ken Miller and Francis Ayala are accomodationists. If so, then I can’t feel bad singing in the accomodationist choir.

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