Monday, June 07, 2004

Branch Weighs In The always excellent Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education has written this fine editorial for Seed Magazine. In it he discusses the recent attempts by ID folks to bully school boards into adopting a “Teach the Controversy” approach to biology. By this they mean that science teachers should introduce students to false and misleading information in the hopes of convincing them that evolution is a lot of nonsense. Here's an excerpt:


“Teach the controversy” was pioneered in the wake of the Supreme Court's 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard. At issue in the case—between Edwin Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, and Don Aguillard, a science teacher who happened to be alphabetically first in the list of plaintiffs—was Louisiana's “Creationism Act,” which prohibited the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools unless it was accompanied by instruction in “creation science.” The Court ruled that teaching “creation science” in public schools is a form of religious advocacy and thus prohibited by the Constitution. The decision was a blow to creation scientists, who believe that evolution is impossible because living things reproduce “after their own kind,” as the Bible says. Regrouping, the Institute for Creation Research recommended that “school boards and teachers should be strongly encouraged at least to stress the scientific evidences and arguments against evolution in their classes... even if they don't wish to recognize these as evidences and arguments for creation.”

The latest incarnation of anti-evolutionism is intelligent design, which, say its advocates, is not traditional, Bible-based creationism. Rather, it claims that there is scientific evidence for the handiwork of a “designer” in the world, particularly in living things. By not basing their anti-evolutionism explicitly on the Bible, proponents of intelligent design hope to circumvent the decision in Edwards. Yet despite token references to the possibility of alien or time-traveling designers, it is clear they have God in mind.

2 Comments:

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I've noticed is that those who advocate teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution theory always -- always -- go on to detail an imagined list of weaknesses. Never do they suggest the strengths or how they should be taught.

For fairness, the strengths should be listed somewhere, shouldn't they? Evolution theory helps us cure and treat cancer, it helps us treat and search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. Evolution theory tells us how to prevent, treat and cure infectious diseases that used to kill millions of children. Evolution theory has given us pharmaceuticals to fight infections, extending the human lifespan to double what it was a century ago. Evolution theory aids in the development of better crops. Evolution provides us with new species to eat, such as broccoli and grapefruit. Evolution theory applied drives great commercial enterprises.

Evolution explains the natural world we see, and suggests how it got to be the way it is, and suggests how (but not exactly which way) the world may change if the climate changes. Evolution theory binds a broad diversity of practices into the discipline of biology, and makes sense of paleontology, geology, chemistry and physics where they interact with living things.

What possible "weakness" would convince us to leave such things behind?

What reasonable school board member would suggest any weakness be "taught" as something as powerful as any of the strengths of evolution theory?

Ed Darrell
Dallas

 
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