Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

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On evolutionnews Rob Crowther quotes “a legal scholar” who is offering an interesting legal analysis of the Ohio situation.

Crowther informs us the scholar is Gonzaga University law professor David DeWolf.

Crowther hardly does DeWolf justice here. In addition to being a law professor, DeWolf was also the lead counsel for the Discovery Institute’s Amicus Curiae brief in the Kitzmiller case. In addition, DeWolf is one of the authors of “Teaching the Controversy: Darwinism, Design and the Public School Curriculum”.

Neither the Amicus Brief nor the “Teaching the controversy” fared to well in the Kitzmiller decision. In fact, the Amicus Brief may very well have been the reason why the Judge decided to rule that intelligent design is not science.

In “Teaching the Controversy: Darwinism, Design and the Public School Curriculum”, the authors wrote:

Dewolf Wrote:

As this guidebook will show, teachers and school boards who choose to tell students about the evidence and arguments for intelligent design actually fulfill this Supreme Court mandate.

Uhoh… This does not bode well…

In fact, the judge went out of his way to address and reject the arguments presented by the Discovery Institute Amicus Brief as well as ‘teaching the controversy’ approach.

However, this does not prevent DeWolf from giving some advice to the Ohio situation:

DeWolf Wrote:

“Not only is Ohio outside of Judge Jones’ legal jurisdiction, but the Ohio State science education standards explicitly acknowledge that they do not require the teaching of intelligent design, so his determination that intelligent design is not science doesn’t affect the actions of the Ohio Board of Education.”

But neither did the Dover Board require the teaching of intelligent design:

“The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.”(York Daily Record, January 8, 2005)

DeWolf’s own article shows how ‘teaching the controversy’ is synonymous with ‘intelligent design’ and as such, Judge Jones’ excellent analysis should apply to ‘teaching the controversy’ as well.

In fact Judge Jones did address the ‘teach the controversy’ issue explicitly:

Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

Now, DeWolf’s record is hardly impressive

He predicted for instance that:

DeWolf Wrote:

But the plaintiffs have made a second, broader claim. Their witnesses testified that intelligent design is not science; that it had “evolved” from creationism in order to evade the legal impact of Edwards v. Aguillard; and that it is an inherently religious belief that has no place in a science curriculum. By contrast, the school board presented witnesses who explained the scientific basis of design theory (the application to biology of clearly established methods for detecting the action of an intelligent agent); the benefit to science of permitting minority views; and the benefit to students from developing critical thinking skills. Fascinating as the trial testimony was, it is unclear that Judge Jones will answer the questions that formed the title of an article my co-authors and I published five years ago in the Utah Law Review, Teaching the Origins Controversy: Science, Or Religion, Or Speech? [PDF]. If Judge Jones does answer these questions, then the losing party will likely appeal the decision, and the Supreme Court could revisit some of the questions that were first raised in Edwards v. Aguillard.

Boy was DeWolf wrong… And as I have argued, the filing of the Discovery Institute’s Amicus Brief may very well have been a major reason why Judge Jones decided to address the issue of intelligent design not being science:

As USA Today reports

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the leading proponent of ID, told Dover its policy would invite a lawsuit. Instead, the think tank urges schools to “teach the controversy” about evolution without mandating intelligent design.

That’s the approach several boards are taking. Jones tried to drive a stake through it. “This tactic is at best disingenuous and at worst a canard,” he wrote. “The goal of (ID) is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.”

He said no other part of the science curriculum was criticized in Dover, there was no evidence of disclaimers on other subjects and science has refuted ID critiques of evolution.

In other words, DeWolf whose comments on the Dover ruling seem to have misunderstood the legal reality now seems to be on his way for yet another faux pas.

Intelligent design’s failure as a scientific contributor has generated significant concerns amongst ID proponents, especially the Discovery Institute, but why would they care as they seem to support (at least at present) that ID should not be taught in high school settings. Judge Jones seems to have understood however that teaching the controversy is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to introduce intelligent design. As such, Jones’ ruling is very relevant to the Ohio situation.

Seems to me that DeWolf, once again most likely inadvertently [1], is strengthening the legal case against Intelligent Design.

Judge Jones has shown that ‘the emperor has no clothes’.

Judge Jones Wrote:

To conclude and reiterate, we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation. However, we commend to the attention of those who are inclined to superficially consider ID to be a true “scientific” alternative to evolution without a true understanding of the concept the foregoing detailed analysis. It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science.

In other words there is no scientific controversy when it comes to intelligent design, it’s not even science.

DeWolf has argued elsewhere on the isssue of the Edwards ruling

DeWolf Wrote:

I want to just say a few words about Edwards. Edwards, it seems to me, stood on three basic principles. The first principle in the Edwards case was there had to be a genuine secular purpose, and the court in Edwards found that the ostensible purpose of promoting academic freedom was a sham. I don’t think in Dover the secular purpose of promoting better science education by exposing students to criticism of Darwin’s theory is a sham. Again, it’s a very realistic notion given the prevalence of intelligent design in the culture that this ought to have some place in the science curriculum, and to be treated critically.

In other words, DeWolf’s argument is based on the premise that Intelligent Design serves a genuine secular purpose. In his Amicus Brief he argued that such a secular purpose may include ‘teaching the controversy’ or the fact that Intelligent Design is scientific. Both were rejected. In fact, the judge in strong words rejected the attempt by ID proponents to wrap ID in “teaching the controversy”.

As such, it is important for school boards to remember that the findings by Judge Jones are highly relevant and although they may not be direct legal precedent, their nature of being well and in depth argued, make the ruling one that will be hard to ignore. This concept of persuasive or advisory precendent includes

…cases which a court may use but is not required to follow in deciding its cases. In a case of first impression, courts often rely on persuasive precedent from courts in other jurisdictions that have previously dealt with similar issues.

Source: Link

DeWolf finishes his article with:

To borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the controversy have been greatly exaggerated.”

Perhaps a more appropriate Twain quote would have been

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

Footnote [1] I am working on a thesis that it was the Amicus Brief filed by the Discovery Institute which ‘forced’ the Judges hand address the issue of intelligente design being science. DeWolf was the lead counsel for the Amicus Brief. Similarly, DeWolf has argued elsewhere, that teaching the controversy is constitutional. Seems that in both cases, he may have overreached.

33 Comments

Another really compelling headline, PvM.

Yawn.

You’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

Can someone enlighten me as to what the word “canard” actually means? I know it’s used to signify the discursive equivalent of a shaggy-dog story, but why should such an argument be referred to by the French word for a duck?

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=c&p=2

before 1850, from Fr. “a hoax,” lit. “a duck,” said by Littré to be from the phrase vendre un canard à moitié “to half-sell a duck,” thus, from some long-forgotten joke, “to cheat.” From O.Fr. quanart, probably echoic of a duck’s quack.

too late for what?

sounds like someone’s got the grumpies.

the substance of PvM’s postings are always of interest, and his headlines strike me as creative introductions. moreover, as a lawyer I find DeWolf’s lack of intellectual integrity to be outrageous. (alternative explanation: he is not a lawyer, he is just plain stupid and does not know how to make sense of the decision.) I guess it should not be surprising to find that the ID camp is equally willing to apply their distortions ot the interpretation of the law as they are to science.

the great thing about Judge Jones’s decision, however, is that it is so darned clear and well written, that it is virtually impossible to distort. in fact, it seems the judge was keenly aware of the propensity of creationists to invent ambiguities and twist them, so he went out of his way to… speak.… very… clearly.…. so.… that.… people.… like.… DeWolf.… could.… understand.… exactly.… what.… the.… he.… said.…

too late for what?

sounds like someone’s got the grumpies.

the substance of PvM’s postings are always of interest, and his headlines strike me as creative introductions. moreover, and to the point here, as a lawyer I find DeWolf’s lack of intellectual integrity to be outrageous. only alternative explanation is that he is not dishonest; he is just plain stupid.

I guess no one should be surprised that the ID camp is just as willing to distort the law as they are the science. the great thing about Judge Jones’s decision, though, is that it is so clear and well written that it is virtually impossible to distort. the judge seems to have gone out of his way to write.… very… clearly.…. so.… that.… people.… like.… DeWolf.… could.… understand.… exactly.… what.… he.… said.…

Perhaps this is the right context to ask a question that has been troubling me as I read about the Dover decision. Now that Judge Jones has declared “teaching the controversy” a front for ID, has he made it impossible for schools to legally teach anything negative about evolution?

I am not a creationist (at least not as usually defined) nor do I believe that ID should be taught as science, but I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution. As it stands, anyone who does so is automatically assumed to have religious motives, regardless of their true motivations or intentions. This is the kind of bias that makes creationists hop up and down and cry foul and complain about the lack of a level playing field. If evolutionists want to win this battle fair and square they need to allow for genuine scientific criticism, regardless of motivation. Talk.origins does a good job, for example, of presenting and then (usually) refuting the scientific arguments.

To me, the problem with the notion that ID is science is not just that there is no scientific evidence for it. Just as annoying is that they have no alternatives. ID consists almost exclusively of attempting to tear apart evolution without providing anything to replace it. Ironically, IDers spend so much time distancing themselves from Biblical creationists (“we don’t who the designer was, just that there is one”) that they come across as theist evolutionists. In the end the only place for them is in discussions of the existence of God, which, of course, have no place in the science classroom. Perhaps we should be more worried that they will find a home in some other classroom…

Now that Judge Jones has declared “teaching the controversy” a front for ID, has he made it impossible for schools to legally teach anything negative about evolution?

Not unless it has religious motives.

I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution.

First, someone has to FIND some.

If evolutionists want to win this battle fair and square

“Evolutionists” already won this battle, fair and square, 150 years ago. Two hundred years ago, virtually every scientist on the planet was a creationist. Within a few decades, virtually every scientist on the planet accepted evolution. Why? Because the evidence was massive, overwhelming, and unanswerable.

Nothing has changed since then.

JKC you said “freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution” ==Teach the controversy see Jones

“As it stands, anyone who does so is automatically assumed to have religious motives, regardless of their true motivations or intentions.” ==And their true motives would be ? =Teach the controversy see Jones

“Perhaps we should be more worried that they will find a home in some other classroom…”

I for one would not be in the least bit worried but I think IDers/Creationists would be very worried. Politics and Constitutional Law come to mind.

I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution. As it stands, anyone who does so is automatically assumed to have religious motives, regardless of their true motivations or intentions.

This too is disingenuous. There’s a world of difference between discussing HOW evolution works (although these details tend to be far beyond the competence of 9th grade children to even understand), and WHETHER evolution happens. The latter is a purely religious argument. Period. Not an assumption at all.

We’re back to the distinction between the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution. The fact of evolution (that it happens) is not in scientific doubt, and subject only to religious denial. The theory of evolution (how it happens) shows great promise of being extended and modified in interesting and important ways for some long time to come. But the cutting edge is properly encountered in graduate school…

Thanks for the article. Please focus on Ohio over the next several weeks. We need all the help we can get. Our dear governor Taft is already pattening down the hatches and preparing the same strategy as last time: claim neutrality while issueing orders behind the scences to serve the Christian fundamentalist voter base. His involvement in the last five years of struggle was uncovered in freedom of information act docs, but he seems to think the strategy worked well enough. The department of education and the fundamentalists and Taft supporters on the state board of education are set to stonewall.

I can understand why Witt, who is an English major, may not be familiar with the full ruling but DeWolf should be quite familiar with Judge Jones’ ruling as it addresses in large part DeWolf’s arguments that ID is science and that the Judge should not have to address this issue.

But by arguing that it is clear that ID is science, he almost forced the judge to look at the issue since it has become essential for the ruling.

Thanks for your responses…

I’m not sure I see why teaching the problems of evolution is the same as “teaching the controversy”. Controversy implies an alternative (e.g., ID). I’m sure there are some IDers with brains out there somewhere who will keep pushing the legal buttons until they find a sympathetic court or until they find a way to get around the establishment clause. I’m not saying there are legitimate problems with evolution; I’m saying that given the cursory level at which evolution is taught in high school, it would probably not be hard for someone to come up with a curriculum that sounded scientific enough to make it through the legal hurdles.

As Flint notes in his/her post, most of these issues are beyond the average high schooler. Kids tend to focus on the hard-to-believe transitions and don’t want to believe that they are related to other primates. They are then easy prey to arguments from incredulity (which is mostly what ID is). I have observed this at the private school I work at, where the biology teacher is an evolutionist and where the principal, who is a creationist, is trying to provide some “balance”. Some of the principal’s arguments sound plenty scientific and convincing, and many kids end up buying it because they don’t have the ability to reason it out, or else they get confused by the mixed messages.

Perhaps what is needed, in addition to better teaching of evolution, is teaching on the rules of evidence. The “is evolution a theory or a fact” argument is meaningless to kids unless they understand what the terms mean and unless they understand the tremendous magnitude of evidence that has accumulated in support of evolution. Understanding that will help them realize that a few counterexamples, regardless of their scientific validity, will not overturn evolution.

I think teaching this way could be kind of fun :) Pick out a few choice creationist canards and straw men and then blow holes in them, or at least show how irrelevant they are to the core of the theory.

I think teaching this way could be kind of fun :) Pick out a few choice creationist canards and straw men and then blow holes in them, or at least show how irrelevant they are to the core of the theory.

Superficially, it does sound like fun. But if you start digging into it, you find that what creationists say isn’t trivially false; indeed, it’s entirely consistent within an often plausible but in fact incorrect framework. The problem is, to “blow holes” one must first deconstruct the entire framework, and show where and how it’s based on incorrect interpretations of evidence, quote mining, and a couple dozen logical fallacies. THEN you must reconstruct a scientific framework, along with a fairly extensive philosophical discussion about the nature of evidence, the criteria for falsification, the preponderance of evidence, and a whole lot more. Then, finally, you need to compare and contrast these different frameworks, show how creationist arguments ASSUME an incorrect framework, and how their claims can’t survive reality. And to do all THAT, you must necessarily address religious beliefs (since the erroneous framework relies intrinsically on that belief), in ways inappropriate for science classes. And of course, in the process your lesson plans will be hijacked by religious discussions and the overall lesson will be lost in the noise.

And trust me on this, creationists are WELL aware of this. After all, they’re the ones deliberately organizing exactly the sort of debate you think would be fun. They know from long experience this will quickly degenerate into a debate about beliefs, and this means they win regardless.

Comment #64753

Posted by Registered User on December 25, 2005 05:26 AM (e) (s)

Another really compelling headline, PvM.

Yawn.

You’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

Figure out what? That you and your friends are legal losers and we have nothing to fear, so why bother kicking he dead horse?

viz “Why a duck?”

Some French intellectual took a dozen ducks, killed one and fed the remains to the survivors, repeating the process until he had a single duck. Then he wrote the papers about having a duck which had eaten up all its mates. Hence canard. (Remember that these are a people who think Jerry Lewis is both humourous and insightful)

So, actually, a canard is not a shaggy dog story, it’s a connivance contrived to promote a lie while being clinically truthful. Sort of like a tabloid headline.

jkc Wrote:

I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution.

Ah yes, the last refuge of a creationist looking to worship the god of the gaps. There are problems within evolution by the hatful. It’s what keeps us busy. To morph that into problems with evolution is entirely different. Imagine the difference between a couple going to counseling and saying that they have problems within their relationship, or with their relationship. A world of difference, as the former specifies the context, while the latter says that they are headed to splitsville.

I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution.

There already is that freedom.

Problem is, no one has been able to actually OFFER any valid argumentds against evolution. (shrug)

Me, I think that high school kids should be taught about the REAL controversies *within* evolution. Did birds evolve from dinosaurs? Did snakes evolve from aquatic lizards or terrestrial ones? WHat caused the Permian extinctions? They can learn a lot about what science is and how it works by studying such controversies and how they are decided – lots more than they can learn by listening to 40-year old creationist religious “arguments against evolution”.

Figure out what? That you and your friends are legal losers and we have nothing to fear, so why bother kicking he dead horse?

Dude, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree here. ;)

about the bird/dino evolution, lenny, that would be an excellent example of how scientific certainty increases as evidence comes in. IIRC, it was only in the 1990s that the chinese fossils really proved the link beyond a reasonable doubt.

I have observed this at the private school I work at, where the biology teacher is an evolutionist and where the principal, who is a creationist, is trying to provide some “balance”. Some of the principal’s arguments sound plenty scientific and convincing, and many kids end up buying it because they don’t have the ability to reason it out, or else they get confused by the mixed messages.

Is there no ethics code for educators in your state? This principal is acting in a highly unethical fashion. Is there an ethics board who reviews educators’ licenses, or is private education completely standards-free in your state?

Teach the facts first.

In social studies – history, geography, economics, government, civics, etc. – kids should learn the controversies, too. But we don’t teach the fight between Marxism and capitalism without a couple of years of background in basic history. Kids don’t learn the socialist alternatives to capitalism first. Kids are instructed to learn the Constitution before wading into the privacy issues.

Same with biology. Kids need to know evolution, the standing theory, first. They need to know it well. Only after mastering much of evolution, achieving foundational understanding of how it is thought to work and the evidence for it, can kids seriously, rationally and productively “discuss the controversy.”

ID advocates almost always ask to dilute, to stop, to cut short, to adulterate evolution theory in the schools first, then they ask that the weakened version of evolution be attacked. This is not education, but propaganda. That is the difference between hard academic standards and what the ID advocates ask in schools.

ID advocates ask for lazy academics, not higher standards. They ask that our children be educationally handicapped. That’s tantamount to the horrible custom in India of maiming or scarring children to make them more effective beggars. People are prone to give more money to a one-eyed beggar. One could argue, as a few deluded free marketeers do and as ID advocates probably would, that poking out a kid’s eye at least offers a better chance at a successful begging career.

Some of us think kids should have higher horizons, and some of us find intentional hobbling of children to be immoral.

Teach the controversy? Why not just sacrifice a few fingers of the kid? Chop them off. What’s the difference between finger amputation and “teaching the controversy,” in the long run?

has he made it impossible for schools to legally teach anything negative about evolution?

I have seen multiple courts recently endorse the argument that teaching “negative” things about the science of evolution while leaving out negative commentary on the sciences of chemistry, physics, astronomy etc. is inherently unacceptable.

There’s nothing the least bit more “negative” to say about the theory of evolution than there is about all those other theories. The only difference between the theory of evolution and the rest of science is that the theory of evolution has political opponents– all of whom are religiously motivated. Political objections do not belong in a science class. There is no non-political, non-religious reason to single out evolution for “controversy” while leaving the rest of science chaste, and the courts so far seem to realize this. When you teach science in a straightforward fashion for four years but then stop to slap big “JUST A THEORY– IT HAS PROBLEMS!” labels all over one single subject, that sends a very clear signal to the students. It says that subject is different from the others, even though the only difference lies in how you have chosen to present it.

What I do think would be neat to see would be if high school science curriculums would put more emphasis on a general, “this is what the scientific method is, science is an evolving process which is about best guesses and being useful” sort of thing.

It would also be interesting if all science classes could fit in a short “unanswered questions” sort of segment at the end. Like, physics courses could talk about how quantum physics is getting too complicated; or the mystery of how the particles we encounter in the physical world are only a subset of the particles quantum physics shows us are possible; or about the discrepencies in cosmological mechanics that lead us to postulate dark matter and dark energy and such. Biology courses could talk about the questions surrounding stem cells and embryo development; or the uncertainty surrounding the origin of the single common ancestor; or about the ongoing work to work out an exact phylogeny of the ancient world.

But, of course, there is only so much that can be fit in at the high school level; and, of course, this isn’t what creationists want. If the “problems” with evolution are presented as “these are the questions we haven’t answered yet”, the creationists have already lost. What the creationists want is to take scientific items that high schoolers cannot reasonably be expected to understand– like, say, the bacterial flagellum– and present them at the high school level, as sort of “gotcha!”s, as if they were things that science cannot and can never explain. These things won’t, and possibly can’t, be explained fully enough or in-context enough in a one year course for the high schoolers to really understand what’s going on, but this will confuse them enough to create the false impressions about the theory of evolution that creationists feel they need.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

Is there no ethics code for educators in your state? This principal is acting in a highly unethical fashion. Is there an ethics board who reviews educators’ licenses, or is private education completely standards-free in your state?

Sorry, I should have mentioned that…I work in an American school operating in a Muslim country, so we are not bound by US education standards. Most of the students are either Muslim or Christian, so the principal feels he has implicit permission, if not a mandate, to “teach the controversy”.

Frank Schmidt Wrote:

There are problems within evolution by the hatful. It’s what keeps us busy. To morph that into problems with evolution is entirely different.

Lenny Flank Wrote:

Me, I think that high school kids should be taught about the REAL controversies *within* evolution.

Thank you both for the helpful distinction. I think if more teachers were well versed in these issues they could present them in such as way as to totally pre-empt any future creationist attempts to hijack the science curriculum.

Andrew McClure Wrote:

These things won’t, and possibly can’t, be explained fully enough or in-context enough in a one year course for the high schoolers to really understand what’s going on, but this will confuse them enough to create the false impressions about the theory of evolution that creationists feel they need.

You said it much better than I could. Thanks also for the helpful reminder/caution about singling out evolution for special treatment. BTW, it may yet come to warning labels for other branches of science. Young-earth creationists believe that all of science (as well as some other disciplines) are involved in a systematic conspiracy focused on propping up evolution. Most notably, since evolution requires long periods of time, astrophysicists and geologists are co-conspirators for providing the needed age. So, don’t be surprised if the Big Bang and radiometric dating come under the knife some day.

Most people interested in science education in the United States aren’t fearful that Intelligent Design advocates will find some other educational forum for their beliefs, and recognize that there are subjects that I.D. fits into appropriately. This includes but not limited to History, Religion, Philosophy, Political Science, Current Events, and Marketing. Regardless of its initial purpose I think it has become clear (mainly through the testimony of Michael Behe) that Intelligent Design is an attack on metodologic materialism.

pro from dover on December 26, 2005 06:31 AM (e) (s)

Most people interested in science education in the United States aren’t fearful that Intelligent Design advocates will find some other educational forum for their beliefs, and recognize that there are subjects that I.D. fits into appropriately.

This is true, but I will merely point out that the “culture wars” in US public education will likely lead to the demise of US public education. Between this ID silliness, the supression of stem cell research and the inability of foreign researchers to enter the US for study and conferences, science will be moving abroad.

JKC

I do believe that there should be freedom in the classroom to discuss problems with evolution. As it stands, anyone who does so is automatically assumed to have religious motives, regardless of their true motivations or intentions.

I don’t remember my biology classes in high school being “dogmatic” in any way about the 100% perfect knowledge scientists have about the evolution of every living thing that ever lived on earth.

And I am not aware of single public school anywhere that teaches anything remotely like that.

Do public schools or biology textbooks teach that the overwhelming consensus of the world’s professional biologists is that life on earth appears to have evolved from a common ancestor over the past 4 billion years through a combination of natural selection, imperfect replication, genetic drift and other natural processes? And that there is no compelling “alternate” scientific theory which comes close to explaining the data?

Of course they do – the good ones, anyway – because those are THE FACTS.

To the extent evolution is taught as a “theory in crisis” or as a theory that is controversial to scientists, that teaching grossly distorts the truth.

So the question is: why disort the truth in this way?

There are only two possible explanations:

(1) a non-religious crank or cranks is spending substantial amounts of money and time to peddle propaganda about his/her “alternate” scientific theory simply to satisfy his/her crank ego; or

(2) a religious crank or cranks is spending substantial amounts of money and time to peddle propaganda about an “alternate” theory simply to satisfy his/her crank ego; or

(3) a religious crank or cranks is spending substantial amounts of money and time to peddle propaganda about an “alternate” theory in an effort to smear science and promote religion.

Are there any other explanations?

No, there are not. And Judge Jones realized this.

And he looked at the facts that were presented to him, listened to the arguments from both sides, and came to the obvious and unavoidable conclusion that the attacks on evolution in Dover were religiously motivated, as has been the case for attacks on evolutionary biology since the field was created.

I work in an American school operating in a Muslim country, so we are not bound by US education standards. Most of the students are either Muslim or Christian, so the principal feels he has implicit permission, if not a mandate, to “teach the controversy”.

Teaching the controversy, at least so far as suggesting there is controversy involving ID, is contrary to almost all Christian sects, and contrary to Sunni and Shiite teachings. What’s wrong with just sticking to the facts, and letting the teachers, who (we hope) are more expert in their subjects than the principal (who should be more expert at administration) go about their business?

Indeed, more time on the scientific method would be excellent.

I remember a very clever middle school science teacher who had a pair of marked tin cans. He would set them down and they would roll a certain way. He asked us to come up with hypotheses as to why they rolled that way, and then he would set them down differently and they would roll a different way.

We got the hang of the scientific method pretty quickly. We started recording the observations. After several quickly-disproved hypothesis, two of us came up with a theory involving magnets which worked pretty well. We predicted the results correctly for a while, until he did a setup where the prediction failed. After trying to patch up the theory for a bit, someone came up with a different theory involving weights. That theory explained *all* the previous results, and numerous subsequent results (and was eventually verified by opening the cans).

Although this was a chemistry teacher, the situation actually matches that in some other sciences better, because we couldn’t do experiments, and had to rely on the available observations.

Force students to go through the process a few times and they’ll begin to understand its value. Then you can start showing them the more fancy but vital details, like probablistic theories, statistical significance, etc.

Proper understanding of empirical and rational methods will allow them to see through BS like ID much more quickly. Perhaps the best way to begin teaching evolutionary theory is to explain that in the early 19th century most scientists were creationists – and then start laying out the evidence which caused them to abandon that view. After giving the rather messy and bewildering collection of evidence, the theory of evolution can be presented along with the ways it explains all of those – it’ll seem marvelous to the students. Then get them to make some predictions based on the theory, once they understand it. You can then tell them whether those predictions have been checked and what the result was. That’s not exactly “teach the controversy”, but it captures the good side of what is meant by that (not the dishonest side).

N Nerode:

While I agree that more time on the scientific method would be nice, there is a dynamic going on here that must be addressed first. There isn’t a whole lot of time, total, to cover much of anything. I think relatively few 9th grade courses ever get through the entire textbook. And so as a practical matter, recommending that more time be spent on anything, is perforce a recommendation that LESS time be spent on something else - but what that something else might be is somehow never specified.

The second problem is, evolution is a real hot-button topic in much of the US. It seems that kids go home with the scientific view of life and confront their parents. As someone testified in Dover, the kids know that *somebody* is lying. Gradual development over tens of millions of years simply doesn’t reconcile well with “poof, 6000 years ago.” The parents angrily call the school administrators, who in turn call in their science teachers and “recommend” that evolution be de-emphasized. In plain words, don’t mention it, you guys. Got that? Surely you can find something important to fill up the 50 minutes a year you spend causing trouble with this evolution stuff, yes? And of course, plenty of important things clamor for the freed-up 50 minutes.

The ID “theories,” and the such, are appropriate for the classroom, but not a Science class. Rather, for a critical thinking class that focuses on the subject junk and pseudo-science. This would be a type of Philosophy class that exposes that dishonest tactics and bad thinking in general that characterize the genre–pseudo-science and junk science, and their methodologies. It would teach how to think critically so as not to be duped into their fallacies.

There are a whole host of such ‘theories” that fall into the same category as ID and they should be all studied as a negative example ( However, this is not for appropriate for a Science class, which is for teaching about real science, not the quackeries of the present and past. Should we devote time to refute all the nonesense of the “flat earth society” in Geologies classes, too? hehe

The ID “theories,” and the such, are appropriate for the classroom, but not a Science class. Rather, for a critical thinking class that focuses on the subject junk and pseudo-science. This would be a type of Philosophy class that exposes that dishonest tactics and bad thinking in general that characterize the genre–pseudo-science and junk science, and their methodologies. It would teach how to think critically so as not to be duped into their fallacies.

There are a whole host of such ‘theories” that fall into the same category as ID and they should be all studied as a negative example ( However, this is not for appropriate for a Science class, which is for teaching about real science, not the quackeries of the present and past. Should we devote time to refute all the nonesense of the “flat earth society” in Geology classes, too? hehe

The ID “theories,” and the such, are appropriate for the classroom, but not a Science class. Rather, for a critical thinking class that focuses on the subject junk and pseudo-science. This would be a type of Philosophy class that exposes that dishonest tactics and bad thinking in general that characterize the genre–pseudo-science and junk science, and their methodologies. It would teach how to think critically so as not to be duped into their fallacies.

There are a whole host of such ‘theories” that fall into the same category as ID and they should be all studied as a negative example ( However, this is not for appropriate for a Science class, which is for teaching about real science, not the quackeries of the present and past. Should we devote time to refute all the nonesense of the “flat earth society” in Geology classes, too? hehe

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on December 24, 2005 9:35 PM.

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