Tag Archives: Scientific Method

Darwin, Gradually

Having finally finished the unpleasant book about psychopathic killers, I have gone back to finish editing a series of essays about Charles Darwin. 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, so he’s being feted and written about left and right.

This evening Anthropapa came across this bit of artwork, which is very funny and fits so nicely with my current project:

By Mike Rosulek, buy it at http://www.zazzle.com/darwin2009

By Mike Rosulek, buy it at http://www.zazzle.com/darwin2009

Evolution is in the air right now. There’s my editing project, of course.

And then there’s the state of Texas. The public school science curriculum standards have been amended by the state board of education to require that students consider “all sides of scientific evidence.” Hey, that’s what the scientific method is all about, right?

I’d be a wee bit more supportive of Texas’s standards on critical thinking if it weren’t for the fact that it seems clear that what the NY Times so delicately calls “social conservatives” on the board are trying to push their avowedly creationist agenda into the curriculum, by systematically deleting references to such things as the specific age of the Earth from the science standards.

It is also certainly troubling that potentially, “publishers will have to include criticism of evolution if they want to sell science textbooks to Texas schools,” when essentially the only criticism of evolution is intelligent design (which as a religious belief, is lacking in the scientific evidence the board wants students to consider!) Texas is such a huge market for textbooks that their decisions affect textbook publishing as a whole in the US.

On the other hand, I wish scientists criticizing the board’s decision would be at least acknowledge that analysis, questioning, and not accepting estimates as fact are all part of critical thinking. Sure, Southern states (and, oddly, Pennsylvania) have a history of creationists trying very hard to use the idea of “balance” or “equal consideration” to get their beliefs taught in schools. But in the end, embracing the scientific method does not mean checking criticism at the door and accepting anything dogmatically.

(And if you’re wondering, I don’t believe in a “young Earth” but I do believe in a creator. I also believe that creator may very well have also set the processes of evolution in motion for his or her own purposes. However, I won’t support teaching any of that in public schools.)

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Filed under Books, editing, Rants, Religion, School, Science

SillyBilly’s Science Project

QUESTION: What would you like to find out?

What does mold need to grow?

HYPOTHESIS: What do you predict will happen when you do your experiment?

I think mold needs food and water to grow.

PROCEDURE: What will you do to test the prediction of your experiment?

I will put things in plastic bags and let them sit for a week. Some things are wet and some are dry. Some things are food and some are not.

ANALYZING RESULTS: What happened?

The bread, cheese, and wet paper got moldy. The dry paper, dirt, water, potato, and dried beans did not.

The dried beans and dry paper did not have water. The water did not have food. I think the paper is food for the mold.

Why didn’t the dirt and potato get moldy?

1. The dirt did not have food for the mold.
2. The mold needed longer than one week to grow.
3. The mold is too small to see.

SillyBilly had to explain his experiment to his classmates and a judge. He received “outstanding” marks (N.B.: the choices were “good” and “outstanding”.) and the judge congratulated him for the amount of thought he put into the experiment. The children were graded on whether they completed the steps of the scientific method (the headings in bold).

We were really stumped by the mold-free potato. We thought for sure that the potato had the requisite food and water. I wonder, aside from the three possibilities listed, if potatoes have a mold-repelling chemical in them? Something to investigate in the future.

Great job, SillyBilly!

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Filed under School, Science, SillyBilly