Sciencin’ Ain’t Easy

The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin is miffed because smart Finnish kids understand modern science. No really. An international study measuring education in 57 countries found that Finnish 15-year-olds are precocious little beasts. They scored first place in science, and near the top in both reading and math.

But Luskie is all QQ:

However, part of the test, which was created by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, may be a measure of nothing more than whether a student believes in evolution. For example, see the sample test question, Question 3, Evolution:

Which one of the following statements best applies to the scientific theory of evolution?

A The theory cannot be believed because it is not possible to see species changing.
B The theory of evolution is possible for animals but cannot be applied to humans.
C Evolution is a scientific theory that is currently based on extensive evidence.
D Evolution is a theory that has been proven to be true by scientific experiments.

Clearly Casey isn’t very good at that lawyerin’ stuff, because his argument is like.. moronic. The question isn’t testing about knowledge of or belief in evolution per se, but about the definition of a scientific theory. Watch this. I’m going to remove all references to evolution from the question.

Which one of the following statements best applies to a scientific theory?

A A theory cannot be believed if it’s not possible to observe it happening directly.
B A theory doesn’t apply to humans.
C A theory is currently based on extensive evidence.
D A theory has been proven to be true by scientific experiments.

Once you take away all mentions of evolution, you can see how truly nuanced the question really is, and what it’s really getting at. The first answer is clearly wrong. If it was true, then theoretical science would be impossible. The second answer appears absolutely absurd. The third and fourth answers seem plausible, and the difference between them is subtle. Weeding out answer D requires the student understand that science doesn’t “prove” things, since all scientific theories can ever be are models. The only answer left is C, which makes perfect sense.

Ironically, the misunderstanding of this one question by Luskin perfectly illustrates why he doesn’t understand what science is.

Less QQ, more pew pew, Casey.

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One response to this post.

  1. More pew pew? More like peeyoo. Can’t be long before another huge pile of steaming I.D. ends-up in a court room somewhere.

    Reply

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