Promoting "teaching the controversy"
Some of the links below are to post-label groups of articles on this blog.
Scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms (or weaknesses) of evolution theory:
(1) Teaching scientific and pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution serves the bona fide secular purposes of broadening students' education, encouraging critical thinking, and increasing student interest. If students are mature enough to learn evolution theory, then they are mature enough to learn criticisms of the theory. Censoring these criticisms is anti-intellectual.
(2) Some of these criticisms are too sophisticated to be taught by laypeople, e.g., typical parents, Sunday school teachers, and non-science public school teachers. You have to know what you are doing when teaching such things as (1) the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction and (2) the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (even biology teachers are often not expert about this -- this is more in the realm of physicists and mechanical engineers).
(3) Point out that Intelligent Design is not the only (pseudo)scientific criticism of evolution. This blog has some non-ID criticisms of evolution, especially co-evolution, and there are others.
(3) Point out that Intelligent Design and other (pseudo)scientific criticisms of religion are based on scientific observations and scientific reasoning and thus are different from creationism, which is based on religious sources.
(4) Point out that even if the criticisms of evolution theory are wrong, they serve the important function of forcing scientists to confront weaknesses in the theory.
(5) Students may be told that some criticisms of evolution are not widely accepted in the scientific community.
Teaching evolution theory:
(1) Teach the difference between microevolution and macroevolution.
(2) Teach that evolution is part fact and part theory. Microevolution is fact. Unless the evidence is deceiving us, the earth is old and changes through time and some common descent are facts. However, evidence that evolution was driven solely by natural selection and what we know as natural genetic variation is poor.
(3) Teach that knowing evolution theory is useful even if the theory is wholly or partly untrue. Much of biological literature uses the terms and concepts of evolution theory. Evolution theory is the basis of cladistic taxonomy, which is popular today, especially in paleontology. Too often students are told that they need to learn evolution because it is true -- they should be told that they should learn evolution whether it is true or not.
(4) Avoid teaching about the religious, social, philosophical, moral, etc. implications of evolution theory. These subjects are too sensitive to be taught in science class.
(5) Don't teach the idea that evolution is central to biology or similar nonsense.
(6) Don't spend excessive time on evolution. I don't know how much time should be spent on the subject, but a recent national survey of teachers shows that about 38% of respondents spend 11-20 hours or more on "general evolutionary processes," and that much time is clearly excessive. Many of these teachers spend additional time on human evolution.
(7) Try to teach it just once and then forget about it. Try to avoid repeatedly sticking Darwin in students' faces unnecessarily. Textbooks should confine evolution to one chapter.
For the courts:
(1) Declare evolution disclaimer statements to be constitutional.
(2) Declare that scientific issues in the evolution controversy are non-justiciable. Get out of the business of trying to micro-manage evolution education.
(3) Recognize that there is no constitutional principle of separation of pseudoscience and state. Don't allow people to misuse the establishment clause for attacking (pseudo)scientific ideas that they don't like.
(4) Rule that when a university denies accreditation to any course in a private high school because the sole or main textbook has a special viewpoint or narrow focus (e.g., the fundy-oriented biology texts in ACSI v. Stearns), then that university must deny accreditation to all courses in that subject that use sole or main textbooks that have a special viewpoint or narrow focus. Otherwise the courts are going to be turned into textbook accreditation agencies.
(5) Overturn Blum v. Stenson, which ruled that attorney fee awards in civil rights cases may not be reduced on the grounds that legal representation was by a non-profit organization (the ruling presumably also applies to any pro bono representation). The ruling was based on a misinterpretation of a Senate report, which only said that the attorney fee awards should not be reduced on the grounds that the claims are non-pecuniary and said nothing about non-profit or pro bono representation. Only court decisions cited by the report discussed non-profit and pro bono representation (no, Kevin, you pettifogging troll, citation of a court opinion does not mean automatic endorsement of the entire contents of the opinion, nor are readers of the Senate report responsible for reading the cited court opinions, you stupid dunghill, and furthermore the Senate report doesn't even tell readers that they need to read the court opinions for more information, you beetlebrained crackpot).
(6) Recognize that excessive time spent on monkey trials results in short shrift or no shrift for other cases.
For state science standards:
(1) Avoid trying to define or redefine terms like "scientific theory" -- this will only lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
(2) Avoid stating philosophies of science, e.g., stating that science is by definition testable and falsifiable. By that definition, a lot of evolution theory would not be scientific.
Put a maximum cap on attorney fee awards to plaintiffs in establishment clause cases. The threat of exorbitant attorney fee awards to plaintiffs -- e.g., the $1 million award in Kitzmiller v. Dover -- discourages legislatures and school boards from doing things that the courts might find to be constitutional. Even a very generous cap would be an enormous improvement over the present situation. For balance, also cap attorney fee awards in free-exercise clause cases.
In the debate over teaching the controversy, we have heard the least from those who are most affected -- the students themselves. Students should be encouraged to support teaching the controversy.
Well, have I left anything out? I hope not.
Also, a recent national survey of public school science teachers showed that 25% of respondents teach creationism or intelligent design, so the question is not only whether to teach these subjects but also how to teach them. Darwinists who bury their heads in the sand and pretend that these subjects are not being taught in public schools will miss an opportunity to influence how these subjects are taught. A report on the survey said,
Creationism in the classroom: We also asked teachers whether they spent classroom time on creationism or intelligent design. We found that 25% of teachers indicated that they devoted at least one or two classroom hours to creationism or intelligent design (see Table 1). However, these numbers can be misleading because while some teachers may cover creationism to expose students to an alternative to evolutionary theory, others may bring up creationism in order to criticize it or in response to student inquiries. Questions that simply ask about time devoted to creationism, therefore, will overstate support for creationism or intelligent design by counting both those who teach creationism as a serious subject and those holding it up for criticism or ridicule. We asked a series of supplemental questions that provided some additional insight into the character of creationism in the classroom. Of the 25% of teachers who devoted time to creationism or intelligent design, nearly half agreed or strongly agreed that they teach creationism as a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species.” Nearly the same number agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism or intelligent design they emphasize that “many reputable scientists view these as valid alternatives to Darwinian Theory” (see Table S3).
On the other hand, many teachers devoted time to creationism either to emphasize that religious theories have no place in the science classroom or to challenge the legitimacy of these alternatives. Of those who spent time on the subject, 32% agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism they emphasize that almost all scientists reject it as a valid account of the origin of species, and 40% agreed or strongly agreed that when they teach creationism they acknowledge it as a valid religious perspective, but one that is inappropriate for a science class.
Labels: Evolution education (new #3)