Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Were Scientists Right to Avoid the Kansas Hearings?

Today's New York Times has this entirely conventional article about the aftermath of the Kansas hearings on evolution. Recall that scientists refused to participate in these hearings (rightly, in my opinion) on the grounds that they were so obviously a show trial designed to give cover to the ignorance peddlers who currenlty control the Kansas School Board.

The article follows the usual “duelling quotations” model of journalism, and doesn't contain anything readers of this blog don't already know. Nonetheless, it's short enough to be worth reading:


When the Kansas State Board of Education decided to hold hearings this spring on what the state's schoolchildren should be taught about evolution, Dr. Kenneth R. Miller was invited to testify. Lots of people thought he was a good choice to speak for science.

Dr. Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University, a co-author of widely used high school and college biology texts, an ardent advocate of the teaching of evolution - and a person of faith. In another of his books, "Finding Darwin's God," he not only outlines the scientific failings of creationism and its doctrinal cousin, "intelligent design," but also tells how he reconciles his faith in God with his faith in science.

But Dr. Miller declined to testify. And he was not alone. Mainstream scientists, even those who have long urged researchers to speak with a louder voice in public debates, stayed away from Kansas.

In general, they offered two reasons for the decision: that the outcome of the hearings was a foregone conclusion, and that participating in them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution.

“We on the science side of things strong-armed the Kansas hearings because we realized this was not a scientific exchange, it was a political show trial,” said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution. “We are never going to solve it by throwing science at it.”

3 Comments:

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Izabel said...

I think that Kenneth Miller is very wise in his philosophies about science and religion. I particularly like this line from an interview with Dr. Miller on actionbioscience.org:

"ActionBioscience.org: Why does evolution remain a dangerous idea for some of the American public?

Miller: I think evolution remains a dangerous idea for two reasons:
Many people in the religious community continue to believe that evolution cannot be reconciled with religion. That is just not true. Most people understand that, but not everyone.
Evolution concerns something very fundamental. Evolution is controversial for the same reason that you can start a fight by going into a bar and saying something about somebody’s mother. It concerns where we’re from, what our status is as human beings, and how we relate to the rest of life on the Earth. That will always make it a controversial idea, not just in the U.S. but also in many countries around the world."
http://actionbioscience.org/evolution/miller.html

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger Doran said...

I prefered some of the earlier articles like the one by the Los Angeles times on this subject. What I found interesting is that the subject of teaching evolution in highschool every so often gets attention on political blogs. Its understandable that sections of the blogosphere segregate themselves, for I know a number of scientists who vehemently hate politics. Josh Rosenau over at Thoughts from Kansas did a great job along with Red State Rabble in covering this "Kangaroo Kourt" but these poli-blogs still have no clue what science blogs are out there. I remember Kevin Drum being shocked to find a whole group of biologists devoted to blogging about this issue at Pandas Thumb. We science bloggers need to point in the right direction these poli-sci people so we dont hear the endless he / she said BS evertime Evolution comes up in the news.

 
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