Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Conservatives Talking Sense

Here's National Review's John Derbyshire discussing the appropriate subject matter for high school science classes:


What, then, should we teach our kids in high-school science classes? The answer seems to me very obvious. We should teach them consensus science, and we should teach it conservatively. Consensus science is the science that most scientists believe ought to be taught. “Conservatively” means eschewing theories that are speculative, unproven, require higher math, or even just are new, in favor of what is well settled in the consensus. It means teaching science unskeptically, as settled fact. (Emphasis in Original)


And later:


And Darwinism ought to be taught conservatively, without skepticism or equivocation, which will only confuse young minds. Darwinism is the essential foundation for all of modern biology and genomics, and offers a convincing explanation for all the phenomena we can observe in the life sciences. It may be that, as we get to finer levels of detail, we shall find gaps and discrepancies in Darwinism that need new theories to explain them. This is a normal thing in science, and new theories will be worked out to plug the gaps, as happened with Newtonism a hundred years ago. If this happens, nobody — no responsible scientist — will be running round tearing his hair, howling “Darwinism is a theory in crisis!” any more than the publication of Einstein's great papers a hundred years ago caused physicists to make bonfires of the Principia. The new theories, once tested and validated, will be welcomed and incorporated, as Einstein's and Planck's were. And very likely our high schools will just go on teaching Darwinism, as mine taught me Newtonism fifty years after Einstein's revolution. They will be right to do so, in my opinion, just as my schoolmasters were right.


The whole article is so good, it was difficult choosing just two excerpts. It's a pity there are so few liberals and progressives willing to speak that bluntly on this issue.

Meanwhile, here's Andrew Sullivan weighing in on the Derbyshire article:


I have to say that, although it happened while I was avoiding the news, president Bush's endorsement of “intelligent design” for teaching in public schools really does strike me as the dumbest idea he has ever expressed. There are two views of Bush-as-evangelical. The first is that he uses the religious right; the second is that he is the religious right. Of course, they're not exlcusive. I think he's around 30 percent cynical on these matters and 70 percent sincere. It's the 70 percent that more thoroughly worries me.


Right on.

5 Comments:

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous David said...

Then again, for another view of Derbyshire's essay, look here.

http://helives.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_helives_archive.html#112544949117300403

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Its All Just A Ride said...

I think it pertinent to mention, though, that saying that only consensus science should be taught does not place ultimate ligitimicy for a scientific theory on consensus. Its a problem of context. As far as the scientific community goes a theory stands or falls based on its own merits, i.e. the strength of its experimental results. In the schools a theory gains legitimacy by consensus of scientists for the reasons in the article. Two contexts, two different ways of canonization.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger RPM said...

Darwinism? Sorry to beat a dead horse, but it's painful on the ears to hear someone support science using the terminology of the anti-science contingency.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger tgibbs said...

It's nice to see that intelligent conservatism does still exist. I was beginning to doubt it.

 
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