Can You Define a Conflict of Interest?

October 15, 2008 | By | 10 Replies More

A committee has been selected in Texas to define the science curriculum for the next decade. The 6 man committee consists of 3 reputable scientists, two co-authors of a new Intelligent Design textbook, and one chemistry professor who is known for his Intelligent Design stance.

Fair and balanced, right? Oh, the tie-breaking chairman of the group is an openly Creationist dentist. Should I mention that one of the co-authors is actually Vice President of the Discovery Institute?

Here’s more detailed information from Texas and from Minnesota.

But my point isn’t that they have 4 out of 7 anti-biology people on the board to determine science standards that will profoundly affect the other states. You see, Texas has such textbook buying power that it essentially chooses what texts will be available to most other states. My point is that they have two authors of a book on the board appointed to select which book should be used in classes.

One simply should not be allowed to judge a contest in which one is entered. It just isn’t proper.

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Category: Communication, Current Events, Education, Evolution, Fraud, ignorance, Politics, Religion, Science, snake oil

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (10)

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  1. Karl says:

    And what should the proper balance be that would ensure that science instruction is the choice of the people, not the university secularist?

    It shouldn't matter to most atheists because the matter will make it to a district court case anyway. The distrist courts are still loaded with darwinists anyway. No need to worry.

    After all the people don't have a right to elect or appoint those they think would represent them now do they.

    The time to start worrying is when the judges start becoming friendly to the ideas of the majority of the people.

  2. Brian says:

    It is simply stunning that any member of the Discovery Institute could be allowed on this panel. Texas will be the laughing stock of the U.S. if we allow textbooks like Explore Evolution to even be considered. I believe in God, but the Bible is not science. Dont teach our children falsities. They deserve better

  3. Karl. Come on. It's been my experience that the sort of democracy you advocate is fine as a general principle, but lousy when it comes to complex matters. Would you put someone in charge of a machine shop course who had never done anything mechanical and had a lack of knowledge about milling machines, lathes, and metal work? Would you trust a fine arts professor who had all but flunked math to select the textbook for a calculus course?

    Fact: intelligent design is not science. No way, no how, not here, not now. Once you can demonstrate to the scientific community that it is, using the scientific method to do so, you have an argument.

    The kind of decision-making going on in this instance has nothing to do with science vs religion, though. This is all about school board elections and political party shenanigans and pandering to the loudest squeeky wheel in the state, which has usually been the fundies (they do know how make a lot of noise, especially when they don't have a clue what they're talking about).

    For the record, I would welcome ID in a science course—as a counter-example.

  4. Karl says:

    I would defend to the death your right to teach all of the hearsay that has been used as proof for evolution if you would just admit that you live in a democracy that shouldn't be run by a bunch of elitists.

    You say – It’s been my experience that the sort of democracy you advocate is fine as a general principle, but lousy when it comes to complex matters.

    I guess Joe Plumber has no idea what it means to have values and reasonsble intent to do what's right for himself, his family, his heighbors and the rest of society.

    I didn't say Richard Dawkins (or a clone) couldn't be on the committee in reference. If three out of the six are reputable science teachers that feel as though they can't serve with other educated citizens of this nation than we really don't understand what democracy is really suppose to be all about.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Karl, any time you have a person in a government position that can use that position to enhance his or her personal income through the authority if that position, that is a conflict of interest.

    The conflict of interest is not so much that the the two authors believe in intelligent design, but that they are authors, in positions where they can have the government buy a large number of their book.

  6. Karl writes:—"I guess Joe Plumber has no idea what it means to have values and reasonsble intent to do what’s right for himself, his family, his heighbors and the rest of society."

    Hasn't got anything to do with values. Has to do with knowledge and expertise. You don't have to be an expert in anything to have values. But the linkage of pseudoscience to values has become a very useful tool for a particular voice in our polity, which has led to a massive polarization the details of which often leave Joe Plumber outside the parameters of the debate. Part of the function of having a democratic republic is for the citizens to elect those who do have the expertise in certain areas outside the general acumen in order to run things as they ought to be run.

    You should go read the judge's decision from Dover, PA. In fact, here's the link: http://www.stcynic.com/kitzmiller_342.pdf

    The function of science is to discover and understand how the world works. The function of Intelligent Design is to advocate for an a priori set of notions central to a religious viewpoint. Want to teach it? Fine. Stick it in history or social studies. It ain't science.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    The people can decide whether or not to teach science, by popular assent. But scientists should define what is science, when it is to be taught.

    When judges and the executive as well as representatives and lawmakers follow the will of the people, you get the tyranny of the majority. Historically a very dangerous way to live. Surely you remember reading about how our founders worked to avoid that very problem.

    Scientists are a very small minority who, when in opposition to popular opinion, are usually ultimately proved correct.

    Anyway, Karl, the question is whether one should appoint as a full third of a selection committee the authors of a book under its direct consideration.

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Karl, there is another thing to consider regarding committees and commissions. The members that constitute most committees and commissions are not elected by the public to these committees and commissions, but are selected by elected officials, unsually a "panel" of politicians who can then inject their personal bias into the selection process.

  9. Karl says:

    Dan says:

    Scientists are a very small minority who, when in opposition to popular opinion, are usually ultimately proved correct.

    Karl says:

    The word "usually" means they can sometimes be only partially correct and they can sometimes be just as biased as those they do not agree with.

    This bias can not be identified if the interpretations are not allowed to be discussed honestly, warts and all.

  10. Dan Klarmann says:

    So here is an outraged Texan on the issue of their Board of Education. Count his shirts.

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