CALIFORNIA SCIENCE FRAMEWORK LABELLED IRRESPONSIBLE Colorado Springs, CO (October 1, 1990)
CALIFORNIA SCIENCE FRAMEWORK LABELLED IRRESPONSIBLE
Colorado Springs, CO (October 1, 1990) -- Access Research Network, an
organization recently established to make scientific knowledge
accessible to the layperson, sharply criticized the new Science
Framework released by California last week, branding it an
"irresponsible document that sacrifices intellectual integrity for
The California State Board of Education last week released the official
version of its newscience education guidelines, which it approved last
November amidst bitter controversy over the document's treatment of
evolution. This new document generated considerable opposition by
stating that evolution is a fact and by making it a central part of the
science curriculum. Although certain passages referring to evolution as
a scientific fact were modified or dropped in last-minute wrangling, the
new Framework nonetheless takes a very strong position on teaching
evolution. The Framework does not mandate course content, which is
determined at the district level, but it does set goals and standards,
and strongly influences textbook publishers.
Commenting on the new guidelines, Executive Director of Access Research
Network (ARN) Mark Hartwig claims that the Framework contains many
serious errors and misrepresentations: "I just can't believe that
California has adopted this document as its Framework. The errors,
inconsistencies, and misrepresentations are absolutely astonishing for a
state with California's intellectual resources."
One of the more serious flaws, according to Hartwig, is the Framework's
treatment of the nature and history of science. Hartwig contends that
the Framework promotes a view of science that philosophers call
scientism, the view that science is the only source of valid knowledge.
"In one place," says Hartwig,"the Framework states that science differs
from other areas of study because scientific knowledge is testable,
consistent, and objective. That's just flat wrong. Testability,
consistency, and objectivity are the hallmarks of all good scholarship.
They're what separate good scholarship from bad scholarship, not science
from everything else."
Hartwig also asserts that the Framework seriously distorted an important
episode in the history of science, the famous Piltdown Hoax. In this
episode, scientists unearthed the pieces of a skull that they thought
belonged to a forerunner of the human race. In point of fact, the
"skull" was a forgery, consisting of a filed-down ape jaw planted with
fossil human teeth and a human cranium. Although the forgery was not
discovered for forty years, and is commonly regarded as a classic
example of failed objectivity, the California Framework, according to
Hartwig, describes this episode as an example of the self-correcting
nature of science. Actually, says Hartwig, "the forgery was not
discovered until after scientists had abandoned the theories that
Piltdown had so conveniently fit into. It was a classic case of
scientists seeing what they wanted to see, and to call it an example of
self-correction is a gross misrepresentation."
Asked if there are misrepresentations in the Framework's treatment of
evolution, Hartwig replied, "Absolutely. The document completely
ignores substantial evidence that contradicts the Darwinian model they
present. When you look at the scientific literature that's coming out,
and then look at the Framework, you have to rub your eyes. It's that
bad." Hartwig also stated that one of the Framework's authors has
published material criticizing the very theories that the Framework
At the root of the Framework's flaws, Hartwig believes, is the political
motivation of the document's authors: "When you look at the document,
it's very clear that one of it's primary goals is to silence dissent
from anyone who questions evolution or philosophical naturalism. In
fact, the effect of this document has been to disenfranchise an entire
segment of California's population--and one of the authors has even said
this." Hartwig was referring to Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian,
who, in an article for the National Center for Science Education
Reports, wrote "As for the religious right itself, the new Science
Framework leaves them totally disenfranchised from the public
educational system in California."
Hartwig believes that the authors' political agenda hindered their
objectivity, causing them to say things they wouldn't say in a
scientific journal. "What they wanted to do," says Hartwig, "was to
keep creationists out of the classroom by fending off any possible
criticism of evolution. Unfortunately, in order to do this, they had to
misrepresent a lot of material." This, according to Hartwig, was what
made the Framework was so controversial: "Who wouldn't be offended?
Even if you overlook the authors' shabby intentions, the Framework
itself is an irresponsible document that sacrifices intellectual
integrity for political gains. It practically invited controversy."
Access Research Network was established in response to the growing
concern over scientific illiteracy in America. Its purpose is to bridge
the gap between the world of science and the layperson; and to encourage
a sound understanding of issues related to science, technology, and
society. Not to mention forcing their occultism, called "Creationism,"
into the public school system.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank