House Bill 1457 – Scientific Inquiry Bill

Thursday 2/9/11 @ 11:00 am. HB 1457 Science Inquiry Bill Hearing scheduled.

Please go to this or have someone go that can read your letters into record.
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HB 1457 is a bill defining how Scientific Inquiry should be defined and taught, by two representatives Gary Hopper and John Burt.

HB 1457 states:

“Scientific Inquiry. Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

and can be seen here:  http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

 

What is the issue with this bill? 

This bill is worded in a very subtle way and may seem benign.  It is true that science does not hold on to one idea, science is always giving a nod to uncertainty and possible change.  However, the most troubling part of this bill comes from   “new evidence” and “Not committing to theories”

By not defining the terms “new evidence”, it becomes unclear as to what kind of evidence will be valid for consideration in the classroom.  Does any kind of evidence get accepted?  What if the evidence brought in by a parent or student, is from a study that has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal?  Will this type of evidence  be required to carry the same weight and consideration as actual scientific evidence provided by a study that has undergone peer-review and has shown up in scientific publications?

How much evidence?

By allowing the term “new evidence” to be so broad, people/students may think a theory will be overturned because one lone scientist discovered it.  Will they make the connection that a scientific theory is same as our day-to-day vernacular suggests?  Instead of what a scientific theory really is actually defined:  A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.  It cannot be overturned because of one new study.  It can be overturned, when a consensus of the scientific community has been reached, thanks to the repeated verification and study of the “new evidence”.

By allowing “new evidence” to be so broad, does it matter the form of evidence?  

Will science teachers have to teach Astrology during the Astronomy units, because of a well known astrologer and blogger posts about the 13 astrological signs and their “influence” on a person in relation to the various planets with those signs?

David Brooks’ “Granite Geek” article of the Nashua Telegraph said it best with

“Mention of astrology, claiming evidence about an instantaneous universal force unknown to science, means physics class should “not commit” to Newton’s ideas about gravity. Homeopathy means classes should “not commit” to basic chemistry. The Hollow Earth Theory means earth science should “not commit” to plate tectonics. Brouwer’s Intituitionism (to dredge up memories from college days) means math class should “not commit” to irrational numbers. And so on.”

“Not committing to just one theory”

Interestingly enough, this does not get limited to just science.  This bill in fact opens up possibilities for other subjects with the “Not committing to theories” statement.  What about our history classes?  Will history teachers have to give equal weight to Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, if some random person can provide any kind of evidence to it?

An even better example would be Economics!  Economics teachers should consider what they teach as well. For example:  They should not just teach the classic Capitalism theory which is so popular here in America, but Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Neoclassical economics, Keynesian economics, and any other theories deemed relevent by a student or parent.  New evidence may show that any of these economic theories are valid and if a student or a parent should bring these subjects up, then by george the teacher better be ready to do so.

(Wish I could take credit for the economics segment.  It’s brilliant, but it was brought up by a Dartmouth Professor who’s name escapes me right now; I apologize and thank you!)

 

While my questions/examples may seem far fetched and unreasonable, this is what many people think of when it comes to science.  Many people seem to share the incorrect thinking “Anything goes, after all.. science is just guessing”.  No, I am afraid it is not that simple.  Science is not out there just guessing with no guidelines, review, and oversight.  The scientific process is self correcting and stringent.  This type of thinking and other anti-science thinking from the population is not helpful to our society; it is especially problematic when our legislators follow up on this with bad bills.   The news media keeps mentioning how tough these tough economic times are.   It may be safe to assume that science and technology will be the types of jobs that keep growing in demand. Our state should be doing everything we can to attract these types business.  Showing our commitment not just to education, but an educational system that is strong in science and technology, can only help our situation (both present and future).  How can NH expect to attract these industries (that are so readily found in Massachusetts) when our state legislators are set on scaring them away with anti-science legislation such as HB 1457 and its other anti-science counter part 1148?

Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper as far as I am aware, are not educators nor do they not have a background in science. Instead of helping to strengthen our states educational system,  they are setting  our students up for confusion.  In fact, if these two would go take a look, the NH Dept. of Education already has an extensive outline for how scientific inquiry should be taught in the “Scientific Process Skills” section of the document “K-12 Science Literacy New Hampshire Curriculum Framework”   found at this link.  Why try to change what has already been laid out by the qualified people the state hired, by writing inferior laws?  Now I understand some would argue that the state has not provided a perfect guideline for teaching scientific inquiry.  That may be true, but it is a far better guideline then what Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper has provided us with.  HB 1457 is a good example of why those who do not have a clue of what they are doing when it comes to education or science, should not be writing bills that influence or affect education.

 

Please go to the Educational Committee hearing and ask that Bill 1457 be killed in committee.  If you cannot go to the hearing, then please write the committee members and also send someone to read your letters to the committee for the record.

 

Sources:

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/945078-196/lawmakers-zero-in-on-science-theory.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H05

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.education.nh.gov%2Finstruction%2Fcurriculum%2Fscience%2Fdocuments%2Fscience.doc&ei=8ZAUT6CyDOnl0QG-r6TKAw&usg=AFQjCNEZ_YmW_18wmLvuYLH9L3e9oaQm0A&sig2=dHBYUKMC_usI3AxIxB9Q1A

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About Dale Roy

Recently retired physical science teacher. Going for Masters Degree for Science in the Public thru the University of Buffalo Married to Sc00ter Looking to be more involved and active member of the skeptical community now that I have time.

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