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Geoscience education: Should numbers rule or words?

This* paper suggests that geoscience education struggles with  quantitative vs. qualitative research methods:

Geoscience education and geocognition researchers are an interesting group. As geoscientists, we work in the world of natural processes, and we speak a language that quantifies and categorizes our observations in an orderly fashion. As education researchers, however, we enter a different world. Here, we often find ourselves confronted with problems and data that are difficult to measure, that resist experimentation, and that are quite often impossible to quantify. “Reality” may become fuzzy, multiplying from our expected single, objective version to something iterative and subjective. In these situations, we realize that our trusted tools of observation, experiment, and objectivity fail us, so we turn to the tools of qualitative inquiry to provide the insight that we seek. But here we hit some interesting, and often frustrating, hurdles.

First of all, it is an unfortunate fact that many of us have little or no formal training in qualitative research methods. Usually working in isolation, we enter an entirely new literature base; we engage with unfamiliar and, at times, uncomfortable ways of thinking and practicing. Each application of a new method or approach is, in a sense, a private re-invention of the wheel. The inevitable outcome of this private labor is that we tend to work in isolation—we are an archipelago, laboriously discussing in our publications the theory behind qualitative convention and justifying standard processes (“…is well established in the social and behavioral sciences…”). Having negotiated this challenging (but eminently rewarding!) process, we then find that our geoscientist peers are often highly skeptical of our methods, results, and interpretations. Sometimes skepticism becomes criticism without critique. The following comments, or variants of them, will be familiar to many geoscience education researchers:

• It’s all subjective!

• That’s not an interpretation! That’s just what you wanted to say!

• Those aren’t data! Those are anecdotes!

• You need to run some statistics on this before it’s considered valid!

• There is no way you could replicate that!

• Show me the numbers!
And perhaps the most bothersome of all:

• This is just a bunch of edu-speak!

What does this “qualitative” trend portend?

* Anthony D. Feig and Alison Stokes, Geological Society of America Special Papers 2011;474;v-vii: doi: 10.1130/2011.2474(v)

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33 Responses to Geoscience education: Should numbers rule or words?

  1. This is a test to see if I have been silently banned. My comment for this thread is as follows: How does this article support your premise that science should include the supernatural?

    When you have the time, my original question regarding the hominid fossil record has not been answered.

  2. semi OT:

    The Power of Words – Inspirational Video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=KLW6WGNX

  3. OK, that’s a start-2 days in moderation, although my last post on the thread WITH MY NAME ON IT has been in moderation for 5 days and counting. With this moderation policy my question is held until the conversation moves on before appearing, so I don’t get an answer.

    I will ask again: Explain the fossil record for hominids (ages, features, distribution) using, as another poster said, the paradigm of ID. If ID is to be treated as science, it must explain the existing evidence (and new evidence) better than evolution.

  4. KL,

    ID is not anti-evolution, meaning you need a blind watchmaker explanation (for the fossils), not just an evolutionary explanation. Good luck with that.

    Also ID does not require the supernatural. With ID it is ARTIFICIAL vs natural.

  5. That’s not addressing the original claim, Joseph. The claim is that the explanations by physical and paleo-anthropologists is WRONG. So, if ID is the new paradigm, use it. Use it to explain the features, ages and distribution of the fossils. That’s what scientific theories are for. The authors here made these claims, essentially dismissing the work of my spouse and colleague. They made the claim, so they need to support it.

    Maybe you want to give it a go? No one else here seems to want to.

  6. But anyway KL- could you ask your spouse (and her colleague) if there is any genetic evidence that can be linked to the transformations.

    IOW how can we test the claim that the fossils they have represent a lineage or tree or bush- that is represent common ancestry?

    The point being is with 35 million years and new genes fruit flies are still fruit flies. Yet you expect us to accept that a slower reproducing population can make great gains in a shorter time period.

  7. Joseph, you are not answering the question. Explain the hominid fossil record from the ID paradigm. To do so you must actually discuss the fossils: their features, ages and distribution. Until you do (or someone does) the paradigm of evolution still reigns. That’s how science works. So, Wanna try again?

  8. OK KL, I will explain the pattern you (your wife and her colleague) see with the fossils- patternicity

  9. Joseph, that is simply not addressing the specifics. If you at UD know so much about these fossils that you know a better explanation than the folks that have done the work throughout their careers, then let’s have it. But you must use the specific features, ages and geographic distributions when doing so. The details matter.

    BTW, I am female-my spouse is my husband. AND that’s colleagueS. Many colleagues that are anthropologists and biologists and geologists.

    Of course, this post like my last one will; be in moderation for awhile. My last post was at 10:40 AM. I’s now after 7PM.

  10. KL/ lkeithlu:

    Explain the hominid fossil record from the ID paradigm.

    ID is not anti-evolution nor anti- common ancestry.

    The fossils are of organisms that once lived.

    Thre, they are explained.

    Patternicity explains the pattern evos “see”.

    Can you follow along?

    Until you do (or someone does) the paradigm of evolution still reigns.

    What “evolution” reigns? Blind watchmaker evolution or Intellignet Dsign evolution?

    Or are you just clueless, lkeithlu?

  11. Regarding this article:
    Having a background in both education and geoscience, I am curious as to why the ID community finds it relevant. The difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of education in any discipline area is common, and because you are working with complicated subjects (students) the work takes on a different nature than when working in the science field. So what? The fields of educational psychology and research methods handle this conflict just fine. How does that figure into the debate between “materialist” restrictions of science and ID?

    Of course, as usual, this will be hours in moderation. I am writing and submitting at 5:20 AM MDT, which appears to be the time that the blog server records.

    Oh, and Joseph, I eagerly await your answer regarding the hominid fossil record.

  12. Dr Behe:

    Scott refers to me as an intelligent design “creationist,” even though I clearly write in my book Darwin’s Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think “evolution occurred, but was guided by God.” Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier’s in the journal Cell: “More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human”. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?

  13. KL/lkeithlu:

    Explain the hominid fossil record from the ID paradigm.

    Seeing that ID is neither anti-evolution nor anti- common ancestry and seeing tat fossils cannot tell us anything about mechanisms, ID is OK with the way the fossils are currently explained.

  14. Sorry, Joseph, but you appear to be in disagreement with both kairosfocus and O’Leary. They specifically said that my spouse and his numerous colleagues had wasted their careers chasing a fantasy. So, do you break with the ID crowd here?

  15. KL:

    I am afraid you are playing at turnabout challenge, burden of proof shifting, and defaulting on a prioris to evo mat; again.

    Each theory must stand on its own legs of objectively credible warrant, not by rhetorical default of dismissing others.

    Here — from previous threads (cf also more detailed critiques here, onlookers) — is the unmet challenge to the Dawkinsian, Blind Watchmaker Thesis, evolutionary materialist research programme: explain, with evidence on mechanisms, stages and fossils — THAT ALSO ACCOUNTS CREDIBLY IN STEPS FOR THE RELEVANT REQUIRED GENETIC INFORMATION ETC, the origin of the human language capacity.

    Failing that — the current and long time state of play, every time you speak or write, you are highlighting a major explanatory gap in the theory of microbes to man evolution: inability to account for especially the FSCO/I required to arrive at islands of novel function expressed in new body plans.

    A theory that can address variations on a body plan within an island of function, is not at all to be extrapolated without further evidence and analysis into claims that the theory that accounts as well for the origin of such organised functional complexity.

    A simple example of a sufficient — as opposed to a necessary and sufficient — design model for human origins including language, would be a genetic programming molecular nanotech lab a few generations beyond Venter in capabilities. Venter and others have provided proof of concept for ID by genetic engineering. Such can easily be seen as working up a program with built in adaptability leading to the emergence of full man across a reasonable period of time, if you want a genetic emergence model. Scattershot variability on a basic plan, feed into environment, and let the best emerging variant win the hill-climbing contest.

    As in real world genetic algorithms.

    As design methods.

    In short, my base argument is that intelligent evolutionary theories have been on the table since the days of Russel, and with what we know of the sources of FSCO/I, they are more viable than ever. In fact the evidence Joseph just highlighted is that at least 40% of those scientists who believe in macro evo believe in INTELLIGENT evolution. Just, they know who runs the roost and with what sort of ruthless iron hand.

    So, it is time for a level playing field, as Philip Johnson called for:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    So, KL, it is time for you to now show by writing out a true and fair summary that you understand what we are saying, and that you have moved beyond setting up, sliming and knocking over rhetorically convenient strawman opponents.

    Then, you can explain to us how the Dawkinsian Blind Watchmaker evo mat view accounts successfully, step by step, on evidence, for the human linguistic capacity.

    For, unlike ID — a specifically minimalist theme on detecting design as causative factor on empirically reliable signs thereof, it claims to be a successful and complete account of origins of life forms.

    GEM of TKI

  16. Alfred Russel Wallace

  17. “For, unlike ID — a specifically minimalist theme on detecting design as causative factor on empirically reliable signs thereof..”

    That’s exactly what I am asking you to do here, applied to the hominid fossil record. So, let’s have it.

  18. kairosfocus,

    Do you agree or disagree with what I said- that ID is not anti-evolution nor anti- common ancestry?

    Do you agree or disagree with the following:

    Common ancestry in combination with common design can explain the similar features that arise in biology. The real question is whether common ancestry apart from common design- in other words, materialistic evolution- can do so. The evidence of biology increasingly demonstrates that it cannot.

    How about:

    ID precludes neither neither significant variation within species nor the evolution of new species from earlier forms. Rather, it maintains that there are strict limits to the amount and quality of variations tha material mechanisms such as natural selection and random genetic change can alone produce.

    HINT- both are from the same source.

    On another note- do you think that biological design can be determined by looking at fossils?

    IOW would you apply CSI, FSCI or the EF to fossils to determine whether or not biological organisms were intelligently designed?

  19. KL @ 1:How does this article support your premise that science should include the supernatural?

    Design thought — as you have been corrected already but obviously stubbornly ignore — from the days of Plato in the Laws, Bk X, has been about the impacts and signs of chance, necessity and art or intelligence as causal factors that leave empirical traces that may be objectively studied.

    Please, go read the UD definition of ID, top right this and every UD page, the ENV fair-minded intro to ID, the IDEA FAQs and the UD weak argument correctives and get your basics straight.

    Or else you are simply perpetuating long since exposed slanderously loaded and poisoned talking points, especially the old “ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo” smear from NCSE.

    That is a turnabout distractor in the teeth of — read all FOUR clips noting sources — telling evidence of a priori materialism as an imposition on origins science.

    Good day,

    GEM of TKI

  20. Joseph

    I gave just one of the many design-compatible sufficient possible causes of the immediate origin of man.

    I simply chose a model that is built up from the Venter results, to underscore that ID of genes is a DEMONSTRATED FACT.

    Another model is common descent with some species of frontloading.

    Mike Gene champions this over at Telic Thoughts. Behe seems to believe something like this. Doesn’t Dembski too? (Not quite sure.)

    Another is that we live in a matrix world type simulation. (I cite this one specifically to show that empirical evidence alone is not decisive, such a world is empirically indistinguishable from the world we think we inhabit.)

    Another is that we are created across deep time by a God who designed a world for life and set out to populate it.

    In short design theory is neither for nor against macroevolution or common descent.

    What it is about is the detection of design on empirically observing and testing credible, reliable signs; which happen to be all over cell based life and all over body plans, and all over the physics of the cosmos, and it looks like all over maths and logic too, if the Mandelbrot Set’s message is to be believed or the Euler Equation.

    The only known source of FSCO/I is design, or, art.

    The infinite monkeys results kick in at just 125 bytes worth of info, not enough to spit with in a real world design setting.

    So, whether or not evolutionary mechanisms were involved, we have good reason to know that the cause is design. That tweredun is effectively settled. Whodunit and howtweredun, then how to reverse engineer ti are the next items on the agenda.

    For me, my big interest is in modular open tech systems fitted to small communities that are an effective semi automatic self replicating factory capable of being a limited universal constructor; or at least something respectably close, enough to transform Caribbean and 3rd world development prospects.

    As in the self sustaining, modular global village construction set Marcin Jakubowski has been working on.

    Robust, self-sufficient community with enough tech to go.

    When things cool down from the MG challenge, DV, I will pause for a bit then put something up on this as the next level of ID.

    GEM of TKI

  21. PS: Remember, I am saying that — on origin of FSCO/I grounds — blind watchmaker CV + NS is not sufficient to account for body plans, but will account with some mods perhaps for adaptation. Fossils are remnants and do not directly imply design save where maybe we have something irreducibly complex or have enough DNA or maybe protein preserved to see us past the Chi metric-type complexity threshold. Wasn’t there some recent noise on evidently discovering soft tissue remnants from dino fossils? [Some molecular studies on that would be interesting.)

  22. PPS: Remember to work the Chi metric without headaches over chance hyps –as Robb has been reminding us of — we need a pretty direct evidence of info storage and/or a nodes arcs and interfaces pattern in something irreducibly complex and past the threshold.

  23. Sorry, Mr. Focus, but you guys made the original claim. In the rules of science, you must use your theory to explain ALL the evidence better than the old theory. I should not be asked counter questions until you have done this.

  24. kairosfocus:

    In short design theory is neither for nor against macroevolution or common descent.

    Thank you, but I still envy where you live ;)

  25. Not the volcano or the economy, I am sure . . .

  26. kairosfocus:

    Fossils are remnants and do not directly imply design save where maybe we have something irreducibly complex or have enough DNA or maybe protein preserved to see us past the Chi metric-type complexity threshold.

    Thank you once again.

  27. Joseph:

    A suggestive, incomplete list of credibly or arguably irreducibly complex body plan-related objects potentially observable in the fossil record:

    1: The various eyes, including the trilobite, insect compound, and the camera eye of molluscs and of vertebrates.

    2: The bird wing and the bird lung

    3: The primary flight feather (Wallace featured this in his Intelligent Evolution book, The World of Life [?] c 1914)

    4: As a microfossil, perhaps the flagellum and/or the cilium

    5: In-skull markers of the speech system (e.g. Broca’s area)

    6: Self-replication capacity of microbes — say an amber cast or the like?

    7: Embryos as manifestations of self replication and body plan development.

    8: The whale’s key adaptations to sea life, including breathing, calf bearing and nurture, sonar system etc.

    9: The bat’s sonar and flight systems. (IIRC, there is an interesting coincidence in genes involved in sonar for whales and bats)

    10: Others?

    Of course, several of these are fairly obvious, but they will all be hotly disputed as empirical data pointing to entities better explained on design than on blind watchmaker thesis evolutionary materialism [getting long: BWTEM].

    BWTEM would need to show empirical evidence that on a stepwise process and/or co-optation, such objects could and did arise without design. To do so, they will need to account for several key issues, Angus Menuge’s C1 – 5:

    For a working [bacterial] flagellum to be built by exaptation, the five following conditions would all have to be met:

    C1: Availability. Among the parts available for recruitment to form the flagellum, there would need to be ones capable of performing the highly specialized tasks of paddle, rotor, and motor, even though all of these items serve some other function or no function.

    C2: Synchronization. The availability of these parts would have to be synchronized so that at some point, either individually or in combination, they are all available at the same time.

    C3: Localization. The selected parts must all be made available at the same ‘construction site,’ perhaps not simultaneously but certainly at the time they are needed.

    C4: Coordination. The parts must be coordinated in just the right way: even if all of the parts of a flagellum are available at the right time, it is clear that the majority of ways of assembling them will be non-functional or irrelevant.

    C5: Interface compatibility. The parts must be mutually compatible, that is, ‘well-matched’ and capable of properly ‘interacting’: even if a paddle, rotor, and motor are put together in the right order, they also need to interface correctly.

    (Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science, pgs. 104-105 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). HT: ENV.)

    The ID foundations 3 post goes on to argue:

    In short, the co-ordinated and functional organisation of a complex system is itself a factor that needs credible explanation.

    However, as Luskin notes for the iconic flagellum, “Those who purport to explain flagellar evolution almost always only address C1 and ignore C2-C5.” [ENV.]

    And yet, unless all five factors are properly addressed, the matter has plainly not been adequately explained. Worse, the classic attempted rebuttal, the Type Three Secretory System [T3SS] is not only based on a subset of the genes for the flagellum [as part of the self-assembly the flagellum must push components out of the cell], but functionally, it works to help certain bacteria prey on eukaryote organisms. Thus, if anything the T3SS is not only a component part that has to be integrated under C1 – 5, but it is credibly derivative of the flagellum and an adaptation that is subsequent to the origin of Eukaryotes.

    So, this is yet another set of pointers to design in nature that are at least potentially observable in the fossil record.

    (Note, the nodes, arcs and interfaces network organisation involved in such structures rapidly converts to network lists that are countable in bits, i.e. are specifiable and informationally measurable. A computer sim of a wing should be able to tell us a lot about how tight the island of function is. And we must remember that flight feathers, a key component, are also on the list, and that the neuro-muscular control and power system and the specialised avian lungs and bones also implicated, make this a major unexplained set of entities. In addition, the information measured rapidly runs past 125 bytes worth.)

    And at least some of these are not only observable but observed.

    In short, there is reason to suggest that body plans are intelligently desinged, and of couerse I am now arguing that these are designed to be adaptable to environmeNts, reversing the direction of the evo mat argument on GA’s. For it turns out that evolutionary algorithms are fine-tuned, specific and complex, and in fact are known cases of design. Do we have any good reason to think that such a system in the natural world — insofar as the one is any reasonable analogue or model of the other — would not be a DESIGN as well?

    GEM of TKI

  28. kairofocus-

    KL has labeled me a “bootlicker” because I asked for clarification and thanked you when you responded- oh and I have strong feelings for the Caribe’.

    And to think I was starting to wonder why she was put in moderation in the first place…

    But anyways, thanks again- do you even wear boots? I know when I lived in Florida it was sandles pretty much all the time, unless I was barefoot.

  29. J:

    As a matter of fact I have boots on just now (helps my ankles), but I would never tolerate the thought of degrading someone to such acts, without even mentioning that the suggested act is utterly unsanitary.

    You asked, I answered, giving some of my reasoning. If the response here or elsewhere is denigratory, that probably reflects lack of a cogent answer on the merits backed up by a want of basic broughtupcy. (One of several Caribbean words that need to go into the standard dictionary.)

    I do often wear slippers or go barefoot. Especially on the beach.

    GEM of TKI

  30. 30

    brought·up·sy [ bráw tùpsee ]

    noun

    Definition:

    Caribbean good manners: especially in Tobago, good manners indicating that somebody has been brought up well ( informal )

    She eh have no broughtupsy.

    - – - – -

    LOL. I do love the Carribean.

  31. Trust the Trinis to spell it different. (Well, Tobagonians.)

  32. KL,

    Seeing that you are reading this if you want to continue this with me you can bring it to my blog.

    However seeing that I have already destroyed your main premise I don’t see what there is to discuss.

  33. :oops:

    I forgot to set up the thread, duhhhhh:

    Intelligent Design and the Fossil Record (unofficial)

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