Study of climate change is search for evidence

July 22, 2013 

Daniel Phelps is a geologist and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society. He has also taught at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

  • At issue: July 5 commentary by Martin Cothran, "New science standards overdo focus on climate change"

Martin Cothran's July 5 attack on Kentucky's science standards and the Next Generation Science Standards was unfounded and, to put it kindly, extremely odd and irrelevant.

Cothran, a political lobbyist for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, lacks a background in science. Furthermore his organization is an extremely conservative religious one and does not have science advisors.

In contrast, the NGSS were developed by educators and scientists in various states with the aid of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (one of the world's largest and most respected scientific organizations), the National Research Council (which includes the National Academy of Science) and the National Science Teachers Association.

Organizations that have declared support of the NGSS are numerous and include: the American Chemical Society, the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Anyone interested can read the NGSS at http://www.nextgenscience.org/ instead of relying on the obfuscation supplied by Cothran.

Our students deserve and require a high-quality science education free of sectarian, ideological or political influence. Evolution and climate change are included in the standards because there is overwhelming consensus within the scientific community in support of these ideas.

The supposed controversies over whether evolution has occurred and whether climate change is influenced by human activities are politically manufactured controversies. Scientific debate properly occurs in peer-reviewed journals and at scientific meetings.

Opposition to teaching evolution and climate science is not coming from within the scientific community. If you doubt this, go to any university library and peruse scientific journals, especially those in relevant fields such as biology, biochemistry, geology, paleontology and climatology.

Opposition to teaching evolution is overwhelmingly coming from people who mistakenly feel evolution threatens their religious faith. Creationism and intelligent-design creationism are not considered science by any major university's science research departments.

Indeed, respectable religious universities from a wide spectrum of faiths — including Baylor, Notre Dame and Brigham Young — do not teach creationism or intelligent-design creationism in their science curricula. However, they do teach evolution in the relevant scientific fields.

Opposition to the idea of human-influenced climate change is coming from well-bankrolled political organizations that both fear the possible economic implications of climate science and sponsor media campaigns to confuse the issue.

Anyone can have an opinion; science, however, is based on evidence. The opposition to teaching well-established scientific ideas in the Kentucky standards and the NGSS has not produced science, just opinion.


At issue: July 5 commentary by Martin Cothran, "New science standards overdo focus on climate change"

Daniel Phelps is a geologist and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society. He has also taught at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

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