Sunday, February 03, 2008

Gadgets and Gizmos Abound at HASTI Convention

As a science teacher, one of the things I look forward to each year is the annual convention of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI). It takes place at the Indiana Convention Center.

Back during my first round of teaching through the 1980s, I not only attended each year, but one year I was a presenter. During the preceding summer, I had traveled much of the state taking photos and videos of the geology of our state. Yes, there is much more to Indiana than cornfields. So I presented a video program to the group covering all the different aspects and features of Indiana’s varied geology. It was well received.

But over the past four years or so, since I got back into teaching, I’ve just been a spectator. Like most conventions, there are lots of vendors displaying their wares. Some of the science equipment so cool I wish I had it in my classroom. But with school budgets being what they are, I’ll have to be content to just look.

In addition to the main exhibits, there are always plenty of break-out sessions where science teachers, textbook publishers, or science supply houses can present hour-long programs that are specific to certain grade levels and subject areas. I especially enjoy the hands-on programs that use candy or other food items to demonstrate scientific principles.

Keynote speakers are always a part of the convention. Most are nationally known for one reason or another. Last year, for example, an author of a popular science textbook who was also one of the expert witnesses for the plaintiffs at the Dover, Pennsylvania court case pitting evolution against Intelligent Design was the keynote speaker. His topic was why it is important for science teachers not to shy away from teaching evolution at all grade levels. He was preaching to the choir with me there.

I also enjoy hobnobbing with others of my discipline from schools across the state. It is fun to see what familiar faces show up each year from schools I’ve taught at in the past.

One of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the convention was the year I went with a group on a field trip to the National Weather Service. Weather has always been an interest of mine. It was fascinating to see the real meteorologists and their high-tech equipment in action.

As a fan of the CSI television series, I enjoyed last year’s field trip to the Indianapolis Crime Lab. Some of the things they do are similar to the TV show, but there are far more differences than similarities.

In past years, I’ve enjoyed previews of what have become staples of learning in Indianapolis, including the planetarium at the children’s museum and the Indianapolis Zoo. We got to see it before it opened to the public.

We all rely on science every day, whether we realize it or not. Many of the things we take for granted, such as cell phones, television sets, computers, our cars, and the weather forecasts we rely on are all based on what was once pure research and scientific theory. Most people don’t care about how it works or whet it came from; they just want to know it will work when needed.

And that’s fine. The purpose of technology is to make scientific theories workable and transparent. It’s too bad, though, that science has always had to fight an uphill battle against those who enjoy and use the benefits but would rather quash the process.

I’m referring, of course, to the vocal minority who are opposed to embryonic stem cell research, cloning experiments, and the teaching of scientific theories such as evolution in school.


Chris said...

I was at HASTI last year too. Here are some of the highlights that I remember from Dr. Alters.

1. We should all be worried so many people believe that God was involved in creation. We need to do a better job of teaching evolution.

2. ID proponents (or creationists) can be nice people (I don't want to be meanspirited or anything), but they really are ignorant, and the leaders of the movement are either stupid, or just trying to make money off of it. They have no real intellectual credibility.

3. We don't debate them, because we don't want to give them any credibility.

4. ID isn't science, anyway.

I wanted to laugh. First, he said that more than 50% of Americans believe God was involved,then he said he didn't want to debate because he didn't want to lend credibility to the opposition. Obviously, the opposition already have a lot of credibility (as evidenced by the 50%). So why doesn't he want to debate? I can only speculate, but I know there are some very difficult questions for pure Darwinists to answer. Think how embarrased he would be if he lost. (Remember Clarence Darrow? After the Scopes trial, debated GK Chesterton in New York city, and it was a joke. The newspaper accounts basically said that Chesterton won overwhelmingly - so much so that he was probably intellectually disappointed)

As far as the claim that ID isn't science, I suppose that is true, but only because science is specifically defined to exclude anything other than naturalistic explanations. So it isn't as if science concludes that God wasn't involved; science presupposes that God wasn't involved.

I certainly understand why we should be very careful about what we teach in public schools. I absolutely do not believe that is a place for teaching or pushing faith. But I also don't believe that it is a proper place for educators to belittle or demean the faith of their students. Perhaps we should simply explain the theory of evolution and all of the evidence - but also state that materialistic evolution is the presupposition of science - not the conclusion. (And maybe we can also throw in the well known fact that almost every piece of evidence can be subject to multiple interpretations). Does that seem too much to ask?

And why is it such a tragedy if a student leaves high school believing that God was involved in creation? They won't be accepted in the field of evolutionary biology anyway, so they can't do any harm there. Does anyone really think that they can't be good citizens, or good workers? If so, I would love to hear that argument. (And I have already heard the ridiculous argument that people who don't believe in Darwinism can't understand or believe in things like the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics - which is something that is totally different than belief in completely materialistic, unguided evolution.)

Sorry this was so long. I just get upset when I see people dealing with this subject in a manner that I think is unfair. To tell you the truth, I am probably reacting more to Dr. Alters' address than to your blog, but I still think my points needed to be made.

Jerry Wilson said...

Well, it's true that science only looks for naturalistic explanations for natural processes. If it included supernatural explanations then there would be no need to even do science. If you can assume that any natural process can be affected by supernatural powers, then it would be impossible to assume that the laws of nature are immutable. If the laws of nature can change at the whim of a supernatural being, then science has nothing to base itself on, so it's a perfectly reasonable assumption that there is no supernatural influence. So, anything explanation that resorts to the supernatural has to be, by definition, not science.

Also, evolutionists do not debate creationists simply because it only takes a brief time to assert falsehoods and half truths about evolution, but it takes a very long time to systematically discredit those assertions. So the debate cards are stacked against evolution from the start.