RSS 2.0 Feed

» Welcome Guest Log In :: Register

  Topic: Antievolution, antiscience, Larger implications< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Tom Ames

Posts: 238
Joined: Dec. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 06 2002,19:28   

Most of my scientist colleagues are highly skeptical of the value of addressing anti-evolutionist tactics head-on. Generally, the thinking is that the stuff is so self-evidently wrong that there is no need to waste time on it. They're right in some senses, of course. But the antievolution movements might better be seen as part of a wider attempt to reduce the influence science has on public policy and public education. It seems clear that the DI/CRSC for example are engaged in this general anti-science campaign, wherein they hope to replace science's authority with a more religiously conservative one.

What I wonder is this: is the focus on evolution and its teaching in public schools necessarily the best place to take a stand against anti-science/anti-rationality movements? In a sense, I believe that the teaching of evolution in public high schools might be a distraction. We're talking about a high school biology unit that takes up maybe a week, but probably more like a single day of classes. Given the complexity of the material, it is doubtful that it can be covered adequately in the time alotted.

And (despite our fondest wishes) it really does seem to be controversial among most people. In a sense we might be taking a stand at the most politically difficult-to-defend point (analogous maybe to defending late-term abortions in order to ensure pro-choice policies).

Might there be a compromise that allows the scientifically minded to better convey the importance of rational empiricism, while eliminating the heat caused by "forcing" a controversial topic upon unwilling local school boards? Can we better maintain the separation between church and state by focusing on issues that are more salient to the largest group of people? Or is this truly a case of a "slippery slope" whereby giving in on any point will be surrendering a bulwark against further attacks?

-Tom Ames


Posts: 97
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 07 2002,14:00   

Hi Tom, Welcome to AE.

I disagree that we should just "give in" to the creationists/IDists when it comes to teaching evolution in public schools.  Right now my ideas are kind of scatter-shot and I haven't organized them completely.  But what follows is the basic outline.

1.  First of all, I think there is real value to teaching kids evolutionary theory.  Just like introducing them to any science, it helps them understand why scientists think like they think and do what they do.  I consider it no less valuable than introducing them to basic physics or chemistry.  As for myself, highschool biology was a major turning point, and learning about evolution was one of the more fascinating parts of it.  This is largely why I chose to persue a career in biology.  If we remove or water down evolution, or obscure it by introducing pseudoscience along side, then we may be doing kids and our society a serious disservice.  Furhtermore, any highschool student who goes to college and majors in biology, or even just takes an intro class, is going to have to understand evolutionary theory, and it's best if they get a good taste of it when they're in highschool.  Professors already complain that they have to spend too much class time just catching the students up to where they should have been before taking the class.  We live in a country where most of our scientists have to be imported.  Let's not make things worse.

2.  The fact that evolution is controversial in our culture is not a legitimate reason to quit teaching it or water it down in science class.  It is not controversial for scientists, though of course many subtheories within evolutionary theory are.  The reason evolutionary biology is controversial in our culture is because creationists/IDists spend millions of dollars on an everpresent and highly dishonest propaganda campaign.  By allowing this to affect what we do and don't teach in schools, we're effectively allowing anyone who can stir up a controversy to dictate our science cirricula.  Our science cirricula should be dictated by scientific consensus, not by noisy ideologues.  The cure to their propaganda is better information and teaching.  By removing or watering-down evolution, we will only make the problem worse.  

3.  The goal of the cre/ID crowd is to use to science class for religious and/or ideological indoctrination.  The various "compromises" they suggest are just stepping-stones to their ultimate goal, put forth in lieu of other strategies that have been struck-down by the courts.  If we allow them to teach creationism/ID along side evolution, then we have an equally serious problem on our hands (from a church/state separation viewpoint), which is to prevent them from pushing religious doctrine.  I see alowing pseudoscience into classrooms as making our job tougher, rather than diffusing the situation.  

Anyway, that's my thoughts as disorganized as they are.  The NCSE has a few articles about why we should teach evolution, and maybe I'll post them later time permitting.


  1 replies since Dec. 06 2002,19:28 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


Track this topic Email this topic Print this topic

[ Read the Board Rules ] | [Useful Links] | [Evolving Designs]