Rebuttal to "Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper"

Updated 8 May 2015

I was asked to review:

"Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper" Found at:

I have used the executive summary of "Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper" as a frame work for my response. My response is in RED.
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Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper.
What is science? Science is much more than just a body of knowledge. It is” fundamentally about establishing lines of evidence and using the evidence to develop and refine explanations using theories, models, hypotheses, measurements and observations” (NRC, 2008, p. 18).

Yes, we do establish lines of evidence however:

The quality of the questions that we ask, determines the quality of the answers that we receive and also defines the limits of truth that we can discern.

The NGSS does not encourage critical questions. This is especially true in the consideration of data on highly controversial issues like man caused Global Warming, and the Darwinian Evolutionary paradigm, which is Common ancestry of all life and purely materialistic origins for the observed existence of complex structures, systems, and organisms.

Further, the scientific method usually includes the notion that there must be some experiment or test that could be conducted that would challenge or disprove a theory or show its error. This is not found in the standards proposed. If there is no way in which a theory could be shown to be false then the theory is merely a mantra, a belief system, a dogma, a philosophy, in which data can only support but never detract or show the theory to be false. This sounds actually sounds a lot like the NGSS in their discussion of Global Warming (or climate change) and Evolution. Check it out


Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming).


“Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms
to infer evolutionary relationships.”
(emphasis added)

These controversial issues are stated in a very dogmatic fashion, with a slant that ignores a fundamental consideration of the science. In light of the popularized “scientific theories” currently in vogue, how is questioning whether or not a complete picture of my family pedigree includes “a sketch of ancient fish” not to be considered? Should not such a foundational precept be worthy of objectivity and a deep consideration of all of the evidence both supportive and contradictory? Indeed, we need to keep in mind that “Science is always a work in progress, and its conclusions are always tentative.”

Lest you think that there is no scientist questioning these fundamental premises consider this:

Global Warming

Over 31,000 scientist have signed a petition cautioning the US government on acting on the Kyoto proposal, saying:

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate.

For those who question credential of these scientists consider:

It appears that there has been a slight increase in temperature over the last 100 years. However, there is significant doubt that man and his actions are the fundamental cause of it all. Much more powerful is natural causes. There are documented natural cycles in the climate of the Earth, as well as a number of other factors that affect our climate. Further, the computer models say our temperature should still be climbing, but we actually see a flattening or even a cooling trend.

For example see this from NOAA

Astronomical Theory of Climate Change

Try considering the facts presented in this:

Simple 10-question Global Warming test.

Caution: This contains sound science, not media hype, and may therefore contain material not suitable for young people trying to get a good grade in political correctness.

Just consider the recent news:

Top scientists start to examine fiddled global warming figures
(Well maybe global warming is man caused. Man caused in the adjusted spreadsheet data.)

'Bad, Bad Science': Weather Channel Founder Says Climate Change Is a Myth

John Coleman is a very competent and experienced scientist.

John Coleman of KUSI: How the Global Warming Scare Began

Evolutionary theory

John Craig Venter (born October 14, 1946) is an American biochemist, geneticist, and entrepreneur. He is known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome and the first to transfect a cell with a synthetic genome. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and is now working at JCVI to create synthetic biological organisms.

Speaking of the genetic code and how it relates to the “Tree of Life” he said:

I think the tree of life is an artifact of some early scientific studies that is not really holding up.”

You can watch the other participants of this ASU Origins discussion like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and others receive the rather unwelcome news. Here:

Here is a peer reviewed scientific journal article in which Darwin's Tree of Life fails to resolve with Genetic and Fossil examination. is generally assumed that, in principle, the TOL [Tree Of Life] exists and is resolvable... Here, I argue for a fundamentally different solution, i.e., that a single, uninterrupted TOL does not exist...”

Eugene V Koonin (Senior Investigator at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA. He is a recognized expert in the field of evolutionary and computational biology.)

The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution

Biology Direct

BioMed Central

Here are several other articles, from additional main stream scientific publications, showing similar challenges to the conventional theories:

Phylogeny: Rewriting evolution (from the journal Nature)

I've looked at thousands of microRNA genes, and I can't find a single example that would support the traditional tree,” he says. The technique “just changes everything about our understanding of mammal evolution”.

Is It Time to Uproot the Tree of Life? (From Science Magazine published by the AAAS)

When full DNA sequences opened the way to comparing many different genes in different organisms, the comparisons proved confounding. Rather than clarifying the tree that seeks to show how life evolved, they often produced new trees that differ from the traditional tree and conflict with each other as well. Now some microbiologists, pointing to evidence that microbes have swapped genes wantonly over evolutionary history, say that many of these genes are an unreliable guide to evolutionary history and the old tree is still basically sound. But others think it's time to uproot the old tree and are proposing candidates for new trees based on specific features of the genome and cell structure. And still others worry that gene swapping has turned the tree of life into a tangled briar whose lineages will be next to impossible to discern.

(Full text available)

True some of these researchers still cling to a lineal, single tree of life, but the evidence which is often claimed to substantiate their belief is in conflict and shrinking. I have found this to be true for nearly every line of reasoning which is usually used to claim evidence for Darwinian evolution.

Other scientist have expressed the same concept in other terms. Chinese Paleontologist J. Y. Chen, has had a notable role in excavating the relatively new discovery of Cambrian fossils in southern China near the town of Chengjiang near the Kunming Province. He has also published numerous scientific papers about the fossil find. In his evaluation of the fossil evidence that was found he said:

The Chinese fossils turn Darwin's tree of life “upside down.”
(Darwin's Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer page 52)

You can view him explaining this in his own words at this link:

More details on J. Y. Chen start here

I am not saying that our children should not have an understanding of what evolution is about but I do want it taught accurately with out bias and along with the data and methods which tend to falsify it.

Teach All of the Science:

In short, I believe the students of our Utah Families should be free to hear the full breadth of scientific evidence. Science teachers should not be shackled to sterilized arguments and filtered scientific facts, as we find in the NGSS standards, simply because other data points to what has become politically unpopular conclusions.

Back to:

Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper.

What is the nature of science literacy? In order to be literate in science, students must be able to:
• Understand scientific explanations
• Generate scientific evidence
• Reflect on scientific knowledge and
• Participate productively in science (NRC, 2007, pp. 36-41)
How do students learn science? Students learn science best when they are engaged in the practices of science. (NRC, 2007 p.3)

These bullet-ed points are are all important. However, there is a significant difference of opinion in educational circles on how we should go about achieving these objectives. The author of this paper "Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper" disagrees with the Fordham Institute's assessment of NGSS on this point and other aspects of the NGSS. I think it is worth while to consider some aspects of the Fordham report for the other side of the story. Turning to the Fordham report page eight I quote:

First, missing and “implicit” content.


Second, the risk posed by including “assessment boundaries” along with the standards. These are meant to cap large-scale assessments—to put a ceiling on the content and skills that will be measured at each grade—not to limit curriculum or instruction. The likely reality, however, is that such assessment limits will needlessly constrain what is taught and learned, particularly in advanced classrooms and for high-achieving pupils. The assessment boundaries articulated in the NGSS too often reduce the rigor or narrow the content of the standards when we could (indeed should) expect more.


Third, the failure to include essential math content that is critical to science learning. As our physics and chemistry reviewers explain:

In reality, there is virtually no mathematics, even at the high school level, where it is essential to the learning of physics and chemistry. Rather, the standards seem to assiduously dodge the mathematical demands inherent in the subjects covered. There is math available in the Common Core that could be used to enhance the science of the NGSS. No advantage is taken of this.

(Fordham Institute: Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards June 13, 2013, p8,9)

Again from the Fordham Report:

More problematic, however, is that the content of NGSS itself fails to ensure that all students will be equipped with sufficient content to make real the option of taking more advanced courses in the core STEM disciplines. This is particularly egregious in physics and chemistry, where our reviewers found that:

the physical science standards fail to lay the foundation for advanced study in high school and beyond, and there is so little advanced content that it would be impossible to derive a high school physics or chemistry course from the content included in the NGSS.

(Fordham Institute: Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards June 13, 2013, p10)

This is very concerning to me.

I think it would be safe to say that everyone on this state wants an excellent science program in our schools. By that I mean that we want a science program that can prepare our children to be informed, intelligent citizens, capable of assuming leadership roles, that will guide the future of Utah and this Nation to even greater achievements and ever greater discoveries of truth.

There is the impression given by a number of people pushing for adoption of the NGSS that Utah is doing a substandard job in science teaching. Historically, Utah has been shown to be a flagship leader in the education of science. Consider the ACT scores from previous years. Keep in mind that there has been an increasing effort to get all students to take the ACT in Utah, not just the best students, whereas in states where fewer numbers of students take the ACT it is typically just the better students that self-select to take the test. Even so let's look at some numbers:


Utah % Graduates taking Test

States % Grad Taking Test in Mix

Number of States Considered in Mix

Utah Rank

Utah Average Science Score



90 and above






90 and above






90 and above


Three way tie for #2




70 and above






70 and above




In 2013, superintendent Menlove stated this about the 2013 ACT scores.

What this data says to me is that when you compare Utah's results with states that have comparable participation, Utahns are getting an extraordinary return on their investment in public education. Utah students, their teachers and their parents can be proud of these results.”

Martell Menlove

Obviously there are many factors that go into the mix of a student's education: great parents and great teachers being several key factors. Apparently the science standards which our educational system labored under was not a sufficient detractor to decrease our score. In fact, the Fordahm Institute rated our Utah standards at a “B” (7 out of 10) and “Clearly superior” to the NGSS standards which we are currently considering in which scored “C” (5 out of 10) on the same benchmarks. Maybe the Fordham Institute is on to something.

Let's take the good that we have in our existing State Standards, update them, and pull out the bad and move forward with what are truly Utah Standards.


Vincent Newmeyer