Why “Neutral” Science Isn’t Neutral

Why Neutral Science Isn't Neutral - Secular Homeschooling

Why Neutral Science Isn’t Neutral

by Blair Lee

Are there any science types reading this title wondering who I am? Or do you know who I am and think I’ve finally lost it? I am not talking about science as it is practiced and taught at most universities throughout the United States. I’m talking about the special brand of “neutral science” found in the homeschool community and increasingly in public schools in the United States.

The neutral science I’m referring to is science that suffers from omission. These are middle and high school level science courses that leave out the bits they think will offend people because of their faith and philosophy of life, or omit things to obfuscate the importance and acceptance of science principles and theories. Any middle and high school level science course that does not include the main principles and theories that are the foundation of that science is not neutral at all. In fact, they would be the opposite of neutral. “Neutral” science allows for a pernicious form of proselytizing that for the most part goes unnoticed. It allows for groups such as the intelligent design camp to sneak their views and beliefs into texts that look like they only teach science. Texts that are infused with someone’s religious beliefs are actually well-disguised religious treatise and dogma. They are not neutral, and do not represent mainstream science.

If you had told me a decade ago I would be arguing against religious extremism in science I would have thought you were nuts. I am a scientist, not a religious scholar, or a religious philosopher. As such, I write about science not religion and not philosophy. Unfortunately, there are authors of science texts who allow their faith to affect their writings about science. For someone who is a passionate advocate for the teaching of science this is actually offensive to me. It is also disappointing when I see people unwittingly recommend courses that have this sort of religious dogma hidden within them.

Personal beliefs don’t have a place in science courses. It isn’t the job of science to support an individual’s philosophical beliefs. It is the job of science to explain how the natural and physical world works, even when scientific explanations are at odds with the person’s philosophical beliefs. Science by its very nature is neutral. What is neutral for science is to report the facts, accepted principles, and current theories. As a textbook author, I do decide what to include and what not to include in my books. My decisions for this are based on what is taught at well-regarded universities. I choose the best of those courses, look at what they include and how they are structured, and then write courses structured similarly, for the appropriate grade level. This is what you should expect from a course you are using to educate your child.

Why Neutral Science Isn't Neutral candy chromosome

Candy chromosome: Basic genetics is often left out of or under taught in neutral science courses, because a good understanding of genetics leads to an understanding of how evolution occurs.

How can you as a non-scientist figure out what to use? There are some key things to look for in a middle school or high school level science course that is truly neutral:
• The inclusion of evolution: Here is a neutral statement from the science of biology, “Evolution happens.” When we talk about the theory of evolution, the theory part refers to the processes of how evolution works. For example, there are theories about how multi-cellularity and eukaryotic cells evolved; no one knows exactly how either of these evolutionary steps occurred. That evolution occurs is a fact. No neutral middle school or high school biology course would omit it. No neutral biology course would omit how all the organisms on earth came to be here.
• Is the word design used in place of the word evolution? Fashion designers design clothes. Scientific researchers design experiments. Organisms evolve; they are not designed.
• Is the word created or creation used when discussing how organisms, the universe, or matter came into existence? Organisms evolved; they were not created. The universe and matter formed from events starting with the Big Bang; they were not created. There is simply no evidence any of these were created. The only topics and statements that belong in science courses are topics and statements that have evidence supporting them. Topics and statements based on a person’s beliefs with no supporting evidence belong in a philosophy course, not a neutral science course. When scientists do not know the answers to questions, for instance: “how the first organism evolved, and what its exact chemical makeup was” or “what was it like right before the Big Bang,” it is inappropriate to answer with personal beliefs.
• The inclusion of the Big Bang Theory: Here’s a neutral statement from the science of astronomy, “The universe is over 13 and a half billion years old. The best explanation for how it came into existence is the Big Bang Theory. The evidence for the Big Bang Theory grows all the time. The Big Bang Theory explains how all matter and antimatter in the universe came to be, even the matter that makes humans.” This is a scientifically neutral statement. An astronomy course that does not include an explanation similar to that about the Big Bang Theory is not neutral.
• Another neutral statement, “Humans have been burning fossil fuels in increased amounts since the Industrial Revolution. This has led to an increase in carbon dioxide and other molecules in the atmosphere that absorb sunlight in the form of heat. The more heat trapping molecules that are in the atmosphere, the more heat that is trapped, and the warmer the planet becomes. It is simple thermodynamics. The increase in absorbed sunlight is causing climate change on a global scale.” Any geology or environmental science course that does not include this topic is not neutral.
• Does the middle or high school level biology course only teach the old Linnaean system for classifying organisms? This is the system that uses kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. This might seem like a minor point, but scientists and universities only use the Linnaean system for naming organisms. The Linnaean system is popular with courses that are not neutral because it supports the philosophy of the “Great Chain of Being.” The modern method for classifying organisms used by scientists and taught at universities is phylogeny and cladistics.

You might think chemistry and physics are immune and you don’t have to worry about these two subjects. The problem is what is being left out. What key parts of these courses are omitted? As Bob Seger says, “Deadlines and commitments; What to leave in, what to leave out.” If scientists are writing these courses, and I’m not always sure they are, what are they committed to? No scientist committed to adequately educating people in these areas of science would omit these facts and theories. They must be omitting key parts of these science disciplines to further an agenda other than quality science education.

Why Neutral Science Isn't Neutral

Here’s the problem with a chemistry or physics textbook that omits key parts:
• Chemistry is the science that definitively proves evolution occurs.
• Physics is the science that gives the clearest evidence the Big Bang is how the universe came into existence.
• Physical chemistry is the area of science used to study and explain climate change.

Many of the so-called “neutral” science courses omit the parts that provide the evidence supporting these facts and theories. If you use these “neutral” science courses for your middle or high school chemistry and physics courses, your child will be left without the necessary science background to understand evolution, the Big Bang Theory, climate change, and other key science principles. If you use these “neutral“ science courses for middle school and high school biology, astronomy, geology, or environmental science, your child will not even be getting the necessary background in these areas of science to understand that science discipline. I think you’ll agree with me, that isn’t neutral at all.


1406266378Blair Lee M.S. is the the founder of Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers. When she’s not busy doing these things, she’s busy writing or working on service projects. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Real Science Odyssey Biology 2 and Chemistry 1, http://www.pandiapress.com/publications/real-science-odyssey/. She is currently working on Astronomy and Earth Science 2 for the series.





Kate Laird: Homeschooling 101

kate Laird

Kate Laird: Homeschooling 101

Kate Laird’s talk will cover the basics of beginning homeschooling.

1. Who homeschools?
2. Is it legal?
3. How much will it cost?
4. What about socialization?
5. What about high school?
6. How do I begin?
7. Types of homeschooling
1. Deschooling
2. Unschooling
3. Eclectic
4. Classical
5. Afterschooling
6. Emergency Homeschooling
8. Should I buy a boxed curriculum?
9. Where can I find help?
10. Where can I find guidelines about what to study when?

 

Kate Laird is the author of Homeschool Teacher: A Practical Guide to Inspiring Academic Excellence.

She graduated from Harvard with a degree in history, a good set of study skills, and a 100-ton captain’s license.

Her first teaching job began seven days after graduation, tutoring three children on a sailboat crossing the Pacific. That “year off” turned into twenty-five, as she worked on boats around the world, sometimes pausing to write about it.

In the middle, she taught for another two years at the University of New Hampshire, while earning an MA in English, but then didn’t think much more about education until it came time to teach her two daughters.

She’s been homeschooling for twelve years (and counting), as the family worked and traveled on the edges of civilization from Greenland to Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego to New Zealand, through the South Pacific to Japan and now in Alaska.

You can find her online at www.katelairdbooks.com





Blair Lee A Science Lab in Your Home? It Really Isn’t that Hard. Trust Me, I’m a Chemist.

A Science Lab in Your Home, Blair Lee, Saber Tooth, Orce Spain

A Science Lab in Your Home? I am always caught off guard when homeschoolers worriedly ask me about setting up for and performing labs at home. It makes me think of how I came to write my first book, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Chemistry 1I asked a good friend of mine, who was also homeschooling, what 3rd grade chemistry looked like. She told me it was terrible. She couldn’t find any good resources and was struggling with labs and how to structure the topics. I started rattling off how I would do it. Her response, “That’s easy for you to say. You are a chemist who taught chemistry!” The purpose of this talk is to help you get over your concerns about having your child perform lab science at home. I promise you, it is easier than you think.

A Science Lab in Your Home? It Really Isn’t that Hard. Trust Me, I’m a Chemist

 

Blair Lee M.S. is the founder of SEA Homeschoolers and author for the critically acclaimed R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Series. Blair has been handcrafting the education of her non-linear thinker for over 11 years. During that time, she has learned as much about how learning happens from him as he has learned from her. Blair is a passionate advocate of innovative academics using secular materials. Through her speaking and writing, her goal is to empower homeschoolers to dare to be innovative and create something unique and academically-rich when handcrafting their child’s journey through learning. You can follow her at SEAHomeschoolers.com. You can learn more about Blair Lee’s “Evolution in Homeschooling” here.





River Rafting in the Pyrenees and an Amazing Dinner

Rafting

River Rafting in the Pyrenees and an Amazing Dinner

When you travel for an extended period everyone has a low energy moment. Today was my turn. I woke up feeling exhausted. I am usually the most up of the group, but not this morning. Luckily Jim, Sean, and Sophia realized what was going on and got me laughing and moving around in no time.
They were all excited about the day’s adventure. “Mom get up and let’s raft!”    We booked a raft trip with Adventura Raid Sarratillo, www.sarratillo.com, 974-500-725. Javier was booking guided trips. His english was great. (Isn’t it sad how important that was for us.) We booked the trip in Ainsa and drove to Campo to raft. The four of us were in one raft with our Italian guide Mimo. Mimo admitted to Sophia and me that the Spanish cannot seem to make a good Italian red sauce. For some reason it tastes like Campbell’s tomato soup on pasta ;P. With all the high quality vegetables in this country I don’t get it. The red sauce they make could not taste good to anyone older than 5.

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Rafting was fun. It was a nice mix of tranquil, work, and excitement. There were quiet stretches and white water rowing and floating.

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When traveling, like this, we have learned that everyone appreciates the historical, cultural side of things more if we break it up with something different in the middle. When we walked in to the guide shop and Sean saw all the options he wanted to do it all! We limited him to three. It was a family decision what those would be, with Sophia and I opting out of the next days kayaking.

When we returned to Ainsa, we moved to an apartment Javier rents. Javier built two apartments at his house in the small (very small) mountain hamlet of Guaso, about 15 minutes outside of Ainsa, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guaso. Many people in this area have apartments or rooms for rent. Our decision to break things up resulted in our staying at an apartment in the mountains and not the historic town of Ainsa. We were very happy with our choice. Javier calls his house La Cicuarala, http://www.lacicuarala.com/www.lacicuarala.com/Bienvenida.html. It had the most comfortable beds of the entire trip. La Cicuarala is off the grid. It was nice to stay in a house in the mountains  Once again we found a spot that was warm and welcoming. A place that felt representative of an aspect of the area where we were staying. In Barcelona, we stayed in and apartment in the city. In Girona, Casa Cundaro was like stepping back in time. At the Abbaye de Capservy was a respite in the French Countryside. At La Cicuarala, we stayed in a mountain aerie like many of the inhabitants of this region. Guaso is up in the mountains overlooking a valley and across at a series of peaks.

  

    We asked Javier for a restaurant recommendation. He called the restaurant, explained we wanted dinner sin carne, and that we were American. We went into the town of Ainsa to Restaurate Callizo, http://www.viamichelin.es/web/Restaurante/Ainsa-22330-Callizo-217208-41102. When we arrived we were greeted and then passed off to a waiter who was a native of Great Britain now living in Spain.  

 

When they started making this Sean and Sophia said, “This is so super cool!”

The meal and experience of dining at Restaurante Callizo is unique. (I must apologize about the dearth of photos. I left my camera at the apartment, and no one else is good about taking photos.) While we were deciding between the Land menu or the Stone menu, we were served a small cocktail made with dry ice served in a cucumber. We were then told we had to choose Land because we did not want meat. The chef was adapting the Land menu to prepare a special meal with no meat for us. Once we chose between these two options there were 4 courses that we had no choice over what we were served. The entire table all needs to choose the same of one of these two. Sean and Jim decided to eat meat, so they chose a meat item for the 5th course and a dessert item for the 6th course. The artistry and creativity of the presentation of the dishes can only be truely appreciated by experiencing them. Here are a few photos of what was served. At the very end a case about the size of a small antique suitcase is brought out. It contains a sweet after dinner drink and little deep fried cake balls with melted chocolate in the center. This meal involves your sense of taste, sight, smell, and hearing. If you have the opportunity, I recommend you try this one of a kind dining experience.

These delicious olives were served 1 to each of us, hanging from the branches of bonsai trees.


These are spun sugar over goat cheese with strawberries lightly around the goat cheese. They are designed to look like parasitic catapillar balls that you see in trees around here. Once the trees get these on them, it kills the tree.

The salad served to Sophia and me. They have the best asparagus in Spain. There was a salsa, saffron, and seaweed salad.


We were too busy eating to take any more photos. Sophia and I had tempura vegetables for our main course and fresh fruit for dessert. Sean and Jim had an entree they loved and with a caramel something for dessert.

The old city of Ainsa is a lovely small historic town set on a hill. It over looks the small modern town of Ainsa, http://www.villadeainsa.com. It is different from Girona, in that it does not feel like it is full of full time inhabitants. It is different than Carcassonne, in that it feels quieter do more accessible. They are all so different a comparison is not fair.

Check out our previous post from Spain here.





Driving through the Pyrenees, The Peace Van Wags Its Tail

Pyrenees

Driving through the Pyrenees, The Peace Van Wags Its Tail

We really liked the Abbaye de Capservy, and we loved Odile! It was a wonderful stay. Jim and I took a walk up the road to the lake where you can fish. Then I asked to see the other rooms. I did not want people reading this to think the rooms all had low ceilings, although for us that added to the charm.   

          The last three photos are of an apartment you can rent.

I wanted to take some local wine home for a gift. Odile told me it was made by Lulu from grapes grown on the property. Lulu and his wife live in the house right next to the Abbaye. I had Lulu sign the bottles. Here is a photo of Sophis and me with Lulu. We were sorry to leave Odile. Actually we have been sorry to leave every host of this trip.  All the people we have met have been warm and welcoming. Especially considering my poor French and Spanish are the best in our group. In France I kept getting confused and speaking in Spanish, French, German, and Russian all jumbled together! Gracias, no danke, no spaciba, what is it in French again?    

 We have had small, humorous things happen this trip. One of them was that somehow we turned on the rear windshield wiper 3 days earlier and we could not figure out how to turn it off. It bothered Jim so he pulled it out away from the window. It still moved back and forth. But instead of wiping the window, it wagged in the air behind us as we drove. All of us were disappointed when Sean jumped on the peace donut in the pool and created a small leak in it, because we thought it was very funny to have the word peace in our rear window with our wiper waving. It made us think of a friendly, peaceful dog. We had Sean blow the peace donut up one last time so we could have it in the rear window for today’s drive.   

 Before leaving this area, we had two things to do. We needed to get the sticky soda off our car. 

And we wanted to stop at the lock we had been driving by between Carcasonne and the Abbaye. The lock is on the Canal du Midi. The locks were originally built of wood from 1666 to 1681, during the reign of Louis XIV. Today they are made from metal and mechanically operated by the lock operator. The operator sits in a short, elevated tower above the lock. There are a series of locks spanning 240 km (150 miles) from the Mediterranian to the Atlantic.


       

     There was a boat going through the lock when we stopped. The series of photos shows how the water level is raised and lowered by opening and closing the successive series of lock gates. The locks are needed to maintain a level of water so that boats can make their way through the canal. Lucky for us Mary from New Jersey was on the boat. She and her husband were traveling with two German couples. They were going to travel 65 miles in a week. She told us that the distance they traveled each day was dependent on timing. The lock operators go to lunch and go home for the night. When this happens you are stuck where you are until an operator returns. Many people who vacation this way take bikes so they can get around when they stop. It reminded Jim of renting a house boat in the U.S. 

                Today would be a long but beautiful drive. We are deciding where to go as we travel from place to place. We have been visiting and learning about historical sites. While researching where to go next, I read about rafting in the Pyrenees. When Jim and the kids heard about that, they were ready for a change of pace and some adventure.


        We stopped briefly in the lovely town of Mirepoix, France. We might have stayed there, but the guys were ready for some adventure! and it was hot. Sophia and Sean had to use another self cleaning toilet. What was I thinking!?! I did not even stick my head in to check one out!


We could have taken a much faster but less scenic route. We chose the scenic road complete with hairpin turns, charming vilłages, and high mountain passes. If you have the time I recommend taking D173 through the Pyrenees.


  

  

  

  

  

Once you begin the ascent on the French side of the Pyrenees it is one small, picturesque town after another. The French side is the rainy side, although both sides look like they get more moisture than the eastern side of the Sierras. The Pyrenees run north/south instead of east/west. The Pyrenees divide France and Spain. We drove through a long tunnel at the top of a pass and went from France into Spain.

Whereas the French side of the Pyrenees has charming little hamlets close to the road, the Spanish side has old castles, churches, and villages that you can see in the distance from the road.

Our ultimate destination for the night was Ainsa, Spain. We were tired when we got there! We were given directions to a place to stay. We became turned around and ended up in the small town of Gerbe. It has 50 inhabitants. Thankfully we found a room for the night in Gerbe. Gerbe was about 10 minutes outside of Ainsa. We spent the night in a small B&B that the owner is restoring.

  
   As you can see they are worried about aquatic snails just like we are in the states. At first glance we thought it might be a warning about ticks. Sophia and I spent some time discussing the morphology of the cartoon drawing and decided it could not be representing a member of class arachnida.

  
          

Jim rode a bike around a bit before dinner. We might have stayed longer in Gerbe, but at 12:30 a.m. (00:30) some guests returned from town and rang the door bell to get into the B&B. The ringer for the doorbell was in our bedroom! I didn’t want to deal with that for multiple nights!

Check out the previous post from Spain here.





Carcassonne is Like a Castle from a Disney Movie

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is Like a Castle from a Disney Movie

Today we visited Carcassonne. It was lovely! Like many of the places we have visited, there were almost no people. We have been told most Spanish and French people vacation in July and August.

  
  

Check out my new Dali t-shirt. It was hot and sunny walking the wall!

    

We walked around the outer walls with Sean hanging off of many of them! This was free of charge. There are still some structures dated to Roman time, but much of the castle has been restored or is being restored. In the 19th century, the city was restored to its medieval appearance.

  
  


I could have had a child who walks on the path instead I got a wall climber. Check out how far down it is!

   It does not have the same feel as Girona. If you want to feel like you are in an excellent restoration of the real thing, Carcassonne is great. If you want to feel like you are in the real thing Girona is better. Actually they were both very different, and it isn’t fair to compare one to the other. They are close and both are worth the visit. The old town of Girona still has people in it, but there is nothing in it as imposing and impressive as the castle Of Carcassonne.


After walking around the outside we ate and then paid to walk around the inner castle. There were more people here. Including a school group of teens all dancing in unison to a pop tune. I taped it, but with the Internet service I am getting I cannot post it.

We could have stayed inside Carcassonne, and for some people that would be their optimum choice. It was hot and touristy though. We all agreed, we preferred the Abbaye du Capservy. It was about 25 minutes away through the lovely French countryside, http://www.abbayedecapservy.com/en/.

Today Sean had us laughing. One of the things that differs from one country to the next are bathrooms and toilets. Sean went into a bathroom that locked on its own when you went in. It did not unlock until you washed your hands. Once you were out it completely disinfected itself. Sean was freaking out that it might lock with him in it.

This evening Odile made reservations for us in a restaurant in the small picturesque town of St Denis. We had the best pomme frites ever, a dish I do not usually like much. They were crisp on the outside and light & flakey on the inside. Then we treated ourselves to dessert. Every dessert including the citron sorbet was handmade by the owner. I was told this is called fait maison. Yum!

Check out the last post from Spain here.





On the way to Barcelona

On the way to Barcelona

At the airport in San Diego: May 27

It takes a long time to get from the West Coast of the U.S. to Barcelona. We left in the evening of the 27th from San Diego, flew to San Francisco, next stop Frankfurt (I love Germany!), and finally we arrive in Barcelona in the evening of the 28th. I plan on sleeping most of the way! Hopefully… Sean will probably watch movies the entire way.

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This trip we are taking, Sophia, a friend of ours with us. We have asked friends of Sean’s if they want to go on trip with us before, but Sophia is the first to say, “Sure, I am okay being away from my family for almost 4 weeks.” It probably helps that she and I are super close! I had to borrow someone else’s daughter to have one to travel with us. Good thing I have 2 granddaughters!

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Sophia and I are dressed in black in super comfie clothes. No makeup either. The photos will of Spain in a day!

Made it to San Fransisco with no problems. There was a problem with engine 4 on the plane leaving for Frankfurt. We left 3 hours late from San Francisco, but we made it safely which is what really counts. I won’t bore you with the details, but that delay made us late for our connecting flight to Barcelona. The new flight we were put on was delayed… 24 hours later.

Good things Barcelona is a late night city! 😉

It is 2:42 a.m. in Barcelona. We walked around a bit, but Sean wanted to come back so he could sleep.. Sophia probably would have walked more, but she was too nice to tell Sean that. I would have walked much longer, but I Jim was ready to sleep too. Wait until you see photos of where we are staying. I found it on Aire B&B.

P.S. Typos will happen in my travel blog. I just don’t want to take the time to put every comma where it belongs. I am sorry if that bothers you. 🙂

Check out my previous post about our trip here.