May 06, 2008

Creationists in Maine: Matthew Linkletter Tries a "Don't Teach at All" Approach

Creationists are at it again, this time in Maine. In School Administrative District 59, Board of Directors member Matthew Linkletter is leading an effort to stop the teaching of evolutionary biology in district schools. He's doing so using typical Creationist canards; conflation of evolutionary theory with abiogenesis and a misdefinition of science. The Kennebec Morning Sentinel carries the story.

SAD 59 Science teaching debated Director: Evolution, creationism are unproven theories

MADISON -- Neither creationism nor evolution belongs in a high-school science curriculum, a School Administrative District 59 director believes.

Matthew Linkletter of Athens says that both are merely theories that represent "personal beliefs and world views," rather than proven science. Linkletter suggested during last week's SAD 59 board meeting that the board discuss evolution, the "Big Bang Theory" and other studies he believes should be deleted from the curriculum.

The school board tabled action on the science curriculum at the April 28 meeting, and will reconsider the issue when it meets at 7 p.m. May 19.

Linkletter, a Christian, said there is no way to prove either evolution or creationism.

"You can't show, observe or prove it," Linkletter said of the belief systems. "It's something you have to believe by faith. It doesn't meet the criteria of science.

"If it's not scientifically verifiable, then maybe we should leave it out of the science classes. When you make a statement that's not backed by facts and just represents a world view, then it has no place."

Linkletter said he wants the best science for SAD 59 students, who should "be armed with the truth." They should be able to explain the origins of life according to evolution if it is taught in the schools, he said.

"Nobody has the answer to the origins of life. It's a philosophical question."
We're used to seeing this stuff by now, but I'll repeat it again. Evolutionary theory doesn't address the origin of life, only the means by which diversity arose (and continues to arise) after life had begun. Moreover, Linkletter is absolutely wrong in his contention that evolutionary biology is a "personal worldview." That evolution occurred certainly can, and has been, shown by thousands of studies which Linkletter, the ignorance of which amongst his constituency Linkletter is counting on in his furious hand-waving. These studies demonstrate specific instances of evolution, and the scientists who carried them out would be very surprised to learn that their research "doesn't meet the criteria of science." This may be true in Linkletter's twisted imaginings of what constitutes science, but it isn't the case in the world of science.

I did a Google search to see what I could find out about Linkletter, but there's not much information about him. However, I did find his profile on Amazon. It's readily apparent that he reads nothing but Creationist books. His wishlist has been updated as recently as May 4, when he added Ken Ham's Darwin's Plantation: Evolution's Racist Roots, so you can guess what his next tack will be in the argument. The rest of his wishlist is almost as revealing. The only tags that appear in his profile are "creation" and "creationism." He's written two book reviews as well, one on an apologetics volume called I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist in which he writes the following:
This is by far the most logical book I have read for a while. The authors move step by step through a very convincing arguement, using each chapter to advance one thought at a time. This is not an exhaustive book on every subject of philosophy or appologetics but crams a lot of information into every chapter.
They start with broad concepts (is truth knowable, relative morality) and progress to specifics by the end of the book (is the new testament reliable, the resorection, who is Jesus)...
Rife with incorrect spelling and lousy grammar, the review leaves me wondering how someone this poorly educated winds up in a position to make decisions about the education of others. His other review is of a Creationist argument (see that, Matthew? No e in the middle of "argument") against the human fossil record, Martin Lubenow's Bones of Contention. It's equally revealing and equally illiterate.
If highschool general science class left alot of questions for you, this book will answer many of them. Excellent account of human fossil history, written for a layman like me. Plenty of definitions when reqired. Instead of just producing his own theories on the subject matter, he very effectively uses evolutionists' own arguements, findings, and quotes against them. For example: rather than argue over young earth creation vs billions of years in evolution, he accepts their dates to base effective arguements from...
Linkletter appears to be writing at about a sixth grade level here.

Going back to the article, at least one school teacher is standing up to Linkletter:
High-school science teacher Jessica Ward disagrees.

"The empirical proof of evolution is in the study of genetics and how genes relate between organisms," said Ward, who teaches advanced-placement senior biology, senior anatomy/physiology and 10th-grade biology. She said evolution is proven, as an empirical matter of science, through studies of the human genome.

"My personal, as well as the National Science Teachers position, is that you can't teach genetics or ecology without evolution.

"The basis for it is the theory of evolution."

Ward noted that the Maine Learning Results mandates instruction in the theory of evolution. Schools would not be accredited without it, she said...
Ms. Ward deserves the support of the scientific community. She's standing up for the hard part in this debate. Linkletter is appealing to emotion and ignorance, while Ward has to demonstrate something to people who may not be all that concerned with the details. She will probably have her work cut out for her; I doubt that this assault on science education in Maine is unconnected to Ben Stein's propaganda and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Ward is ultimately up against the Discovery Institute's machinations.

The article continues with comments from Board Chairman Norman Luce:
SAD 59 Board Chairman Norman Luce said that a high-school science curriculum might not be the correct forum for the study of evolution.

A philosophy class might be a better fit, the Starks resident said.

"It's OK to have it somewhere, but it depends on how much time they're spending on it in the sciences curriculum," Luce said. "I don't care if everybody else in the country uses it. Science is about proving things. (Linkletter) has a good point."

Luce added that he is not necessarily opposed to the study of evolution, but is not sure how much time should be devoted to it.
Is this sounding at all familiar yet? If Luce thinks Linkletter has a good point, Luce isn't knowledgeable enough about evolution in particular or science in general to voice an opinion. While I can't find anything about Luce, I suspect that he's got his own Creationist ties.

This may be another tack that the Neocreationist generalissimos are trying. If "teach the controversy" doesn't work, don't teach anything at all. Simply turn biology into stamp collecting with no unifying principles; gutting science entirely is completely satisfactory because, as we've been told recently, "science leads to killing people."

The SAD59 Board of Directors website provides contact information for all of the district's directors, although that for Matthew Linkletter (whom it is reasonable to think is related to fellow chair Alan Linkletter) includes only a PO Box. Norman Luce's contact information is freely available on the site is as follows:

Norman Luce (Chairman)
P.O. Box 22, Anson, ME 04911
696-3006 Home
696-4200 Work

The districts meeting minutes page is only current to February 2008, so the minutes of the meeting reported in the Morning Sentinel are not available there.

This looks like the beginning of another Creationist incursion into a school district with an eye toward an eventual statewide campaign. I'm reminded of the "first shots fired" in Polk County, Florida last year. Florida, to date, has been one of the most poorly rated states in terms of science education. If the people whose children attend Madison Area Memorial High School want to give those kids the best opportunity possible to prepare for a career in science, or just to receive a thorough and modern education, they need to stand up to Linkletter and Luce and demand that their district doesn't descend into the folly embraced by Florida's Creationist school boards and Ronda Storms' Citrus Taliban when new science standards formulated with the input of real scientists around the world were introduced. They need to listen to what Jessica Ward is telling them; she's right.

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