Expelled in Texas

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In FortBendNow we hear from a teacher about her experience with teaching the science of evolution

I taught sixth grade in Texas for three years 2001-2004. During that time, I was absolutely warned to not begin to say the word “evolution” or we would have every preacher in the district, as well as the media, breathing down our necks, and then there would truly be no teaching or learning. Sadly, I needed the position, so I played the “hide the issue and hide the learning” game.

The teacher concludes

God forbid that we should teach knowledge over “beliefs.” No wonder our politicians keep repeating the mantra “I believe …this and I believe …that” The “belief” word demands free reign to twist reality without being questioned. It is a true tragedy when believing trumps thinking, especially in our schools.

107 Comments

Investigating and publicizing this type of thing could prove very useful for promoting good science education. The IDers tend to complain about the “system” that shuts them out from science - but I suspect this type of discrimination is much more common than supposed anti-ID discrimination in academia.

And yet, these same fire-breathing Christians don’t mind the fact that they’ve turned their children into educational laughingstocks.

Investigating and publicizing this type of thing could prove very useful for promoting good science education.

Yes, but don’t expect miracles from it. Unfortunately, many would read about it and applaud the censorship, or worse, seek to implement it if they weren’t already doing so.

I wish that this were not a very old story (worth bringing up yet again, certainly), but it’s far too much standard fare throughout the mid-section of the US.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/3yyvfg

There’s more wrong there than just creationism, I’m afraid. It would be nice if a grade-school teacher could actually spell “free rein” properly. (The idiom refers to slackening reins to give one’s riding-horse its head, hence freedom to move as it wishes, not to any instrumentality of rulerdom.)

It is a true tragedy when believing trumps thinking, especially in our schools.

The last seven years have shown that it’s even worse in the White House.

It is as bad or worse in Arkansas. Most schools just don’t teach evolution. FWIW, it seems to be trivial for school districts to just ignore the state standards or US constitution. There seems to be no interest in monitoring or enforcing much of anything.

Don’t know about states other than Texas or Arkansas but it seems likely that this is common in the south-central USA. On the WC, teaching creationist myths in a high school science class can and has gotten teachers in huge trouble.

The missing link Scientist discovers that evolution is missing from Arkansas classrooms. Published 3/23/2006 by Jason Wiles

In the fall of 2004, I received an e-mail from an old friend back in Arkansas, where I was raised. She was concerned about a problem her father was having at work. “Bob” is a geologist and a teacher at a science education institution that serves several Arkansas public school districts. My friend did not know the details of Bob’s problem, only that it had to do with geology education. This was enough to arouse my interest, so I invited Bob to tell me about what was going on.

He responded with an e-mail. Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the “e-word” (evolution) with the kids. They are permitted to use the word “adaptation” but only to refer to a current characteristic of an organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term “natural selection.” Bob feared that not being able to use evolutionary terms and ideas to answer his students’ questions would lead to reinforcement of their misconceptions.

But Bob’s personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, “I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD … but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.”

As a person with a geology background, Bob found this restriction hard to justify, especially since the new Arkansas educational benchmarks for 5th grade include introduction of the concept of the 4.5-billion-year age of the earth. Bob’s facility is supposed to be meeting or exceeding those benchmarks.

The explanation that had been given to Bob by his supervisors was that their science facility is in a delicate position and must avoid irritating some religious fundamentalists who may have their fingers on the purse strings of various school districts. Apparently his supervisors feared that teachers or parents might be offended if Bob taught their children about the age of rocks and that it would result in another school district pulling out of their program. He closed his explanatory message with these lines:

“So my situation here is tenuous. I am under censure for mentioning numbers. … I find that my ‘fire’ for this place is fading if we’re going to dissemble about such a basic factor of modern science. I mean … the Scopes trial was how long ago now??? I thought we had fought this battle … and still it goes on.”

I immediately referred Bob to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). They responded with excellent advice. Bob was able to use their suggestions along with some of the position statements of numerous scientific societies and science teacher organizations listed by the NCSE’s Voices for Evolution Project in defense of his continued push to teach the science he felt obligated to present to his students. Nevertheless, his supervisors remained firm in their policy of steering clear of specifically mentioning evolution or “deep time” chronology.

I was going to be in Arkansas in that December anyway, so I decided to investigate Bob’s issue in person. He was happy for the support, but even more excited to show me around the facility. Bob is infectiously enthusiastic about nature and science education. He is just the kind of person we want to see working with students. He had arranged for me to meet with the directors of the facility, but he wanted to give me a guided tour of the place first.

Self-censorship in defense of science?

I would like to describe the grounds of the facility in more detail, but I must honor the request of all parties involved to not be identified. It was, however, a beautiful place, and the students, fifth-graders that day, seemed more engaged in their learning than most I had ever seen. To be sure, the facility does a fantastic job of teaching science, but I was there to find out about what it was not teaching. Bob and I toured the grounds for quite some time, including a hike to a cave he had recently discovered nearby, and when we returned I was shown to my interview with the program director and executive director.

Both of the directors welcomed me warmly and were very forthcoming in their answers to my questions. They were, however, quite firm in their insistence that they and their facility be kept strictly anonymous if I was to write a story about Bob’s issue. We talked for over an hour about the site’s mission, their classes, and Bob’s situation specifically. Both directors agreed that “in a perfect world” they could, and would, teach evolution and deep time. However, back in the real world, they defended their stance on the prohibition of the “e-word,” reasoning that it would take too long to teach the concept of evolution effectively (especially if they had to defuse any objections) and expressing concern for the well-being of their facility. Their program depends upon public support and continued patronage of the region’s school districts, which they felt could be threatened by any political blowback from an unwanted evolution controversy.

With regard to Bob’s geologic time scale issue, the program director likened it to a game of Russian roulette. He admitted that probably very few students would have a real problem with a discussion about time on the order of millions of years, but that it might only take one child’s parents to cause major problems. He spun a scenario of a student’s returning home with stories beginning with “Millions of years ago …” that could set a fundamentalist parent on a veritable witch hunt, first gathering support of like-minded parents and then showing up at school board meetings until the district pulled out of the science program to avoid conflict. He added that this might cause a ripple effect, other districts following suit, leading to the demise of the program.

Essentially, they are not allowing Bob to teach a certain set of scientific data in order to protect their ability to provide students the good science curriculum they do teach. The directors are not alone in their opinion that discussions of deep time and the “e-word” could be detrimental to the program’s existence. They have polled teachers in the districts they serve and have heard from them more than enough times that teaching evolution would be “political suicide.”

Bob’s last communication indicated that he had signed up with NCSE and was leaning towards the “grin and bear it” approach, which, given his position and the position of the institution, may be the best option. I was a bit disheartened, but still impressed with all the good that is going on at Bob’s facility. I was also curious about other educational institutions, so I decided to ask some questions where I could.

The first place I happened to find, purely by accident, was a privately run science museum for kids. As with Bob’s facility, the museum requested not to be referred to by name. I was only there for a short time, but I’m not quite sure what to make of what happened there. I looked around the museum and found a few biological exhibits, but nothing dealing with evolution. I introduced myself to one of the museum’s employees as a science educator (I am indeed a science educator) and asked her if they had any exhibits on evolution. She said that they used to, but several parents — some of whom home-schooled their children, some of whom are associated with Christian schools — had been offended by the exhibit and complained. They had said either that they would not be back until it was removed or that they would not be using that part of the museum if they returned. “It was right over there,” she said, pointing to an area that was being used at that time for a kind of holiday display.

Later that evening, I had a visit with the coordinator of gifted and talented education at one of Arkansas’s larger public school districts. As before, she has requested that she and her school system be kept anonymous, so I will call her “Susan.” Susan told me she had overheard a teacher explaining the “balanced treatment” given to creationism in her classroom. This was not just any classroom, but an Advanced Placement biology classroom. This was important to Susan, not only because of the subject and level of the class, but also because it fell under her supervision. Was she obliged to do something about this? She knew quite well that the “balanced treatment” being taught had been found by a federal court to violate the Constitution’s establishment clause — perhaps there is no greater irony than that two of the most significant cases decided by federal courts against teaching creationism were Epperson v. Arkansas and McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education.

Susan sincerely wanted to do something about it, but she decided to let it go. Her reasoning was that this particular teacher is probably in her final year of service. To Susan, making an issue out of this just was not worth the strife it would have caused in the school and in the community.

As the discussion progressed that evening, I learned that omission was the method of dealing with evolution in another of Arkansas’s largest, most quickly growing, and wealthiest school districts — an omission that was apparently strongly suggested by the administration. I tried to check on this, but made little progress, receiving the cold shoulder from the administration and the science department at that school. However, I spoke with a person who works for a private science education facility that does contract work for this district: “Helen” — she, like the other people I had visited, requested that she and her employers not be identified. I asked Helen about her experiences with the district’s teachers. Her story was that in preparation for teaching the students from that district, she had asked some of the teachers how they approached the state benchmarks for those items dealing with evolution. She said, “Oh, I later got in trouble for even asking,” but went on to describe their answers. Most teachers said that they did not know enough about evolution to teach it themselves, but one of them, after looking around to make sure they were safely out of anyone’s earshot, explained that the teachers are told by school administrators that it would be “good for their careers” not to mention such topics in their classes.

Inadequate science education

How often does this kind of thing happen? How many teachers are deleting the most fundamental principle of the biological sciences from their classes due to school and community pressure or due to lack of knowledge? How many are disregarding Supreme Court decisions and state curriculum guidelines? These are good questions, and I have been given relevant data from a person currently working in Arkansas. We will call this science teacher Randy. I was introduced to him through the NCSE. He made it clear that his identity must be protected.

Randy runs professional development science education workshops for public school teachers. He’s been doing it for a while now, and he has been taking information on the teachers in his workshops via a survey. He shared some data with me.

According to his survey, about 20 percent are trying to teach evolution and think they are doing a good job; 10 percent are teaching creationism, even though during the workshop he discusses the legally shaky ground on which they stand. Another 20 percent attempt to teach something but feel they just do not understand evolution. The remaining 50 percent avoid it because of community pressure. On an e-mail to members of a list he keeps of people interested in evolution, Randy reported that the latter 50 percent do not cover evolution because they felt intimidated, saw no need to teach it, or might lose their jobs.

By their own description of their classroom practices, 80 percent of the teachers surveyed are not adequately teaching evolutionary science. Remember that these are just the teachers who are in a professional development workshop in science education! What is more disturbing is what Randy went on to say about the aftermath of these workshops. “After one of my workshops at a [state] education cooperative, it was asked that I not come back because I spent too much time on evolution. One of the teachers sent a letter to the governor stating that I was mandating that teachers had to teach evolution, and that I have to be an atheist, and would he do something.”

Of course it’s false to suggest “you’re either an anti-evolutionist or you’re an atheist.” Many scientists who understand and accept evolution are also quite religious, and many people of faith also understand and accept evolution. But here was a public school teacher appealing to the governor to “do something” about this guy teaching teachers to teach evolution. Given that evolutionary science is prescribed in the state curriculum guidelines, and given that two of the most important legal cases regarding evolution education originated in Arkansas, how exactly would we expect the governor to respond? I am not sure whether Gov. Mike Huckabee responded to this letter, but I have seen him address the subject on “Arkansans Ask,” his regular show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. I’ve seen two episodes on which students expressed their frustration about the lack of evolution education in their public schools. Both times, Huckabee advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools. Here is an excerpt from one of these broadcasts, from July 2004:

Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?

Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?

Student (stunned): No, of evol … well, of evolution specifically. It’s a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.

Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you …?

Student: Yes.

Huckabee: I’m not familiar that they’re dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.

Huckabee’s answer was laced with important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy.

Furthermore, Huckabee claimed not to be aware of the omission of evolution from Arkansas classrooms. From my limited visit, it is clear that this omission is widespread. But it’s certain Huckabee had heard about the omission before. This is from the July 2003 broadcast of “Arkansans Ask”:

Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met … have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?

Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism …

The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:

Moderator (to student): You’ve encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?

Student: Yes, I’ve found that quite a few people’s high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they’re a bit afraid of the controversy.

Huckabee: I think it’s something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I’m afraid that somebody might find out what it is…

Sisyphean Challenges

How are teachers like “Bob,” administrators like “Susan,” and teacher trainers like “Randy” supposed to ensure proper science education if politicians like the governor consistently advocate the teaching of non-science?

It is telling that none of the people I spoke with were willing to be identified or to allow me to reveal their respective institutions. In the case of “Bob” and his facility’s directors, they were concerned about criticism from both sides. They did not want to lose students by offending fundamentalists or lose credibility in the eyes of the scientific community for omitting evolution.

The shortcomings of evolution instruction in Arkansas don’t end at the state’s borders. But we seldom realize the wider influence our local politicians might have. For instance, the Educational Commission of the States is an important and powerful organization that shapes educational policy in all 50 states. Forty state governors have served as the chair of the ECS, and Governor Huckabee currently holds this position.

Because anti-evolutionists have been quite successful in placing members of their ranks and sympathizers in local legislatures and school boards, it is imperative that we point out the danger that these people pose to adequate science education. The science literacy of our future leaders may depend on it. Although each school, each museum, or each science center may seem to be an isolated case, answering to — and, perhaps trying to keep peace with — its local constituency, the examples suggest that evolution is being squeezed out of education systematically and broadly. Anti-evolutionists have been successful by keeping the struggle focused on the local level. The fallout is widespread ignorance of the tools and methods of science for generations to come.

The author, Jason R. Wiles, is co-manager of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal. The center’s mission is to advance the teaching and learning of evolution through research. Wiles, an Arkansas native, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harding University (with a minor in Bible) and a master’s degree from Portland State University. He’s currently a Ph.D. candidate in science education at McGill.

A slightly different version of the article was originally published in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, a peer-reviewed journal.

http://www.arktimes.com/articles/ar[…]b9997c912a91

Having a fair idea of what small towns in East Texas are like, I have a certain sympathy for the school administration in avoiding the “e” word. If it comes down to an ugly choice between academic standards and self-preservation, I can’t really sit here in the safety of my own little cozy home and fault them for choosing self-preservation. Obviously the problem needs to be addressed, somehow, at a higher level.

Having a fair idea of what small towns in East Texas are like, I have a certain sympathy for the school administration in avoiding the “e” word.

Rule #1 for school districts: Don’t make waves.

Rules #2-10 for school districts: See Rule #1

Yes, It is understandable. I don’t blame the school teachers for not wanting to be martyrs, especially when it probably won’t make any difference whatsoever.

I doubt most of the school officials really care that much one way or another.

We are constantly being told on the one hand that there is a shortage of qualified science and math teachers. That the US is falling behind in science education versus the rest of the world, stats say US students are about in the middle of the pack. Then, some places make it difficult or impossible to teach science and math.

At least we haven’t made Voluntary Ignorance a national priority. Yet.

The quote from Wiles was rather an eye-opener for me, having never lived anywhere where the TOE was seriously questioned, but I can sympathize with the people concerned not wanting their names to be mentioned.

What are the professional institutions in the states concerned doing? Situations like this closely resemble those in which unions were initiated. If a state-wide scientific or educational organization (such as a university or teachers’ society) is loudly promoting evolution, it becomes much harder for the creationists to keep the lid on than when individual teachers are acting alone.

Secondly, could universities specify that biology students who graduated from states that fail to have adequate teaching of evolution be required to take a remedial (and call it that) course in biology with the emphasis on evolution?

Could it be that a small change in word choice might make some small difference? Perhaps by avoiding the word “believe” or the phrase “do you believe” when discussing evolution versus creationism we might deny the carte blanch option of someone spouting doctrine instead of thinking about their reply. I don’t really know, but I am doing the experiment.

In my general conversation I have started omitting use of “believe” in favor of other expressions. For instance, when asking someone about their political preferences, I no longer ask, “Do you believe that candidate X is well informed on the problem of illegal immigration?” Instead, I might phrase the question, “What do you “think” of candidate X’s position on …”

This occurred to me some time back when I tried to define for myself what I “believe” in. After interrogating myself brutally I realized that the things I “believe” in were countable on the fingers of one hand. For instance, I believe (‘nuff quote marks) that my mother loves me. I can think of no way to prove this belief, even though she says she does. I have what I see as copious evidence but none of it would convince someone who might claim that she does not. There is no concrete evidence save the stories that I could tell to describe what I perceive as her love for me. The same goes for such things as, say gravity. I cannot convince someone else that mass creates gravity by mutual attraction to someone who thinks that the natural inclination of a weight is to rest upon something. Although it is quite obvious that a mass suspended from a string will swing slightly towards a nearby mountain such that the angle of the string will not be vertical as measured by geometry, someone could always say they don’t believe it. Whether from ignorance or dogma, their contradiction is the same.

Given the power of language and its malleability over time, could it not be possible to speak in such a way as to cause the listener to consider the facts rather than what they assume, or have been taught, to be so?

This may seem like a weak effort but I am being slowly persuaded that it might be one of the many tactics necessary to impart to irrational people the value of the scientific method in all questions concerning what is, and what ‘aint.

I don’t believe it, but I suspect that it might be so. Just a small addition to the arsenal of tools useful in combating the crap that we must wade through everywhere we go.

How come the science side doesn’t have the gumption to make a movie called “Suppressed,” showing that the creationists have been widely successful in shutting up science teachers about evolution?

I left this thread about the ignorant barbarians of Texas and Arkansas and “Floribama” a little while ago and checked in on another site where (among other things…) discussions occasionally arise about the creeping threat of pandemic influenza. I was stricken with this quote from Egypt (where 19 of the 43 bird flu cases among humans have been fatal since February 2006).

“It was the will of God that she died. The chickens had nothing to do with it.” - http://www.flu.org.cn/en/news_detai[…]newsId=14006

Is this where we’re going? Silence about “the e-word” can lead to silence about biology - and medicine - and science.

Pandemic influenza is coming someday…and we’re getting dumber.

Welcome to the New Dark Ages.

raven Wrote:

At least we haven’t made Voluntary Ignorance a national priority. Yet.

But some in this administration seem to be working hard on Compulsory Ignorance.

One of the schools in Arkansas is a specialized school for gifted and talented students ( here ). I have had some experiences with the national consortium to which this school belongs because I taught in one of them in Michigan after I retired from research. It would be a travesty if a school like this is being prevented from teaching evolution.

How come the science side doesn’t have the gumption to make a movie called “Suppressed,” showing that the creationists have been widely successful in shutting up science teachers about evolution?

Good question. The toll so far is 2 university professors tossed, 1 top administrator in Texas (Comer), and 1 professor threatened. Below the university level, who knows?

Clearly the teachers in Arkansas and Texas are scared to death of losing their jobs and they should know more about that than anyone. My guess, a lot of teachers just give up, move out, or teach something noncontroversial like burger flipping. Which will come in handy for their students after graduation.

“Persecuted” or HERETICS DIE!!! or “The New Inquisition” would be a better title.

Maybe there isn’t a wealthy donor who cares enough to kick in a few million bucks on such a movie. PBS did do a well received show on the Dover trial recently, reviewed on this website.

“It was the will of God that she died. The chickens had nothing to do with it.”

That attitude is common in the third world and not unheard of in the USA. It is not just Moslems.

Quite often it is blamed on witches. In Cambodia, when all the chickens in a village came down with influenza and died, the inhabitants quite cleverly identified a woman from another village as a witch, the cause, and killed her with a machete. They couldn’t understand why the government got so upset.

Emerging diseases are like buses, there is always another one coming along. Most likely they will arise in third world settings with negligible understanding of the germ theory of disease. After all, is is just a theory.

How come the science side doesn’t have the gumption to make a movie called “Suppressed,” showing that the creationists have been widely successful in shutting up science teachers about evolution?

There was a play once that rather made the point. It used evolution as an analog to the Red Scare and the persecutions perpetrated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It was made into a movie, eventually. You may want to watch for it: “Inherit the Wind.”

Raven Wrote:

It is as bad or worse in Arkansas. Most schools just don’t teach evolution. FWIW, it seems to be trivial for school districts to just ignore the state standards or US constitution. There seems to be no interest in monitoring or enforcing much of anything.

Don’t know about states other than Texas or Arkansas but it seems likely that this is common in the south-central USA.

This shocking state of affairs should make every American ashamed. It is no less than institutionalised child abuse.

Warning, turn off your irony meters:

Requiring public school science class to teach only that which has earned the right to be taught as science, and allowing students to learn every alternative “theory” or phony “critical analysis,” however religious and/or unscientific, on their on time, is “censorship.”

And “absolutely warned to not begin to say the word “evolution” or we would have every preacher in the district, as well as the media, breathing down our necks, and then there would truly be no teaching or learning.” is not.

raven,

Good things do also happen in the south-central US. Several years ago, the state of Tennessee was clearing a road bed near Johnson City and happened on a collection of bones, which upon some investigation, turned out to be a huge Miocene fossil bed, a wonderful and rare find for our part of the country. The governor of Tennessee stopped road construction in order for the bed to be studied and eventually, the road was moved to make way for a small fossil site and museum. It is a delightful little museum and very important fossil site - largest collection of tapir fossils in the world. Researchers have also uncovered the remains of a red panda. The museum is packed with visitors. Just so happens that the site extends under some property owned by a fundamentalist church, which offered to sell the property to the state for a huge sum of money and a signed statement that declared the earth to be only 6000 years old. The state of Tennessee politely refused to sign the statement. While some may think that we are a hotbed of ignorance down here, it’s just not true.

I am about to teach the opening lecture in our “Introduction to Biological Anthropology” class here in Arkansas. It serves as a core science class, and many students take it as an easy alternative to biology (and get surprised when they find out that we teach the same stuff). Over the years, we have had plenty of student feedback corroborating the fact that evolution is not taught in K-12 in many Arkansas schools. Just a month ago I had a student in my office who was telling me that she had failed the first time through the class because she had only been taught creationism. Generally speaking, it is rare for a student to openly object in the class. However, I am told we are on the “do not take” list of classes at one of the local Baptist churches off campus. One of my TAs yesterday told me that a student from last semester (when another faculty was teaching the class) was going to declare anthropology her major so that should challenge and harass the professor (sadly, she dropped the class). We regularly see students get up and leave when evolution is taught. We have had students reading Bibles in the class where everyone can see them. One year I found out that a couple of students were holding prayer meetings in front of my office while I taught. Another year I had two students who tried to disrupt the class by asking question after question. They finally backed off when there antics were documented by a columnist in the local student paper.

I have two kids. Evolution is required in middle school, and the textbook is excellent, giving extensive coverage. My son’s teacher has been doing a great job. My daughter’s teacher completely skipped the entire section. Fortunately, her 9th grade teacher aggressively teaches the subject. But this is in a University town. Then again, in this same enclave of openness, my kids encountered several teachers openly ridiculing evolution, and one who was teaching that the plow was invented by Adam (he was subsequently fired after numerous complaints). I can only assume that the situation is much, much worse in the more rural districts.

mplavcan,

For years I have been a hairline away from agreeing with Ronald Bailey (yes, that Ronald Bailey) that we should just get rid of public schools. Your examples are pushing me closer to the edge.

In the meantime I’m fascinated by the religious right’s stand on public education. When the subject is English or History, they’re more convinced than Bailey that scrapping the system is the only option. But when the subject is Science, they just want to “help”.

There was a play once that rather made the point. It used evolution as an analog to the Red Scare and the persecutions perpetrated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It was made into a movie, eventually. You may want to watch for it: “Inherit the Wind.”

Yes, but that made it look like a single, isolated incident. We need to make it clear that there is a pervasive trend toward suppressing teaching evolution. It’s especially pernicious since there are numerous creationists who claim that Americans systematically reject evolution even after being taught about it, which is far from the truth. Most of them have never been exposed to it in any systematic way.

Over the years, we have had plenty of student feedback corroborating the fact that evolution is not taught in K-12 in many Arkansas schools.

Never see that on the West Coast.

What bothers me the most, the fundies are just setting up their kids to fail. We are a technological knowledge based society in a competitive world.

Creationism is contradicted not just by biology but physics, astronomy, geology and all other sciences to one extent or another. I guess they don’t go into any hi tech knowledge based fields or health care very often.

PS The fear of creo college students about even learning about evolution would be humorous if it wasn’t so frightening. This is primitive superstition equal to anything one might find in the third world.

Is their faith really that fragile? Theologically it is total nonsense anyway. Salvation is by faith and/or good works only and there is no scriptural basis whatsoever that requires believing nonsense.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets next week, and could act on a recommendation IN FAVOR of state approval for a MASTERS DEGREE IN SCIENCE EDUCATION offered by the Institute for Creation Research.

Before January 23, I think the Board needs to hear that by interpreting their standards this way, they would risk violating the No Child Left Behind law, and jeopardize their reciprocity agreements for teacher certification with other states.

See http://curricublog.org/2008/01/12/icr-nclb/

My children go to a private Christian school that does not teach evolution as a fact like the local public schools. Our Test scores on the SOLs are higher than the local public schools. My sons favorite subject is science. They study physics, astronomy, geology and they know the difference between fact based science and theories. More of our graduating students go to colleges and universities than public schools. We have no need for police at our school. We have no teenage pregnancy rate, period. We teach biblical sex ed. and most of all accountability. Every student is held accountable for there own actions. You should take a little time and maybe study both sides or go hear a lecture from ICR instead of jumping to the conclusion that we are stupid and not intellectual.

J, Your children are doing well academically because of YOU. You seem to be a parent interested in the education of the children. You must be very nurturing, and I believe that is the main reason. If they were taught MET in science class they would have been even better prepared to take science and engineering careers.

Looks like your local church and clergymen are taking credit for results of the good parenting you are doing.

Public schools must take all comers, and sadly there are many parents quite apathetic about their children’s education and ethics. So beating your local public school is not really a great achievement to crow about.

As far taking some little time and studying both sides, how come your Christian school is teaching only one side?

The hearing on this proposal has just been delayed until April, according to a story just posted on the Dallas Morning News website.

See http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcon[…]2275123.html

Tony Whitson:

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board meets next week, and could act on a recommendation IN FAVOR of state approval for a MASTERS DEGREE IN SCIENCE EDUCATION offered by the Institute for Creation Research.

Before January 23, I think the Board needs to hear that by interpreting their standards this way, they would risk violating the No Child Left Behind law, and jeopardize their reciprocity agreements for teacher certification with other states.

See http://curricublog.org/2008/01/12/icr-nclb/

J, I know there are good schools that are public or private. I know that children can learn, even if they are sent to a school that intentionally refuses to teach proper science. I know that some schools can manage to have no pregnant students despite their totally irresponsible attitude toward those students. That does not mean that I believe your story or that I recommend such silliness to anyone else.

Clearly, you do not teach accountability, since you advocate dishonesty, even to the extent of endorsing the ICR. As anyone who has spent any time learning about them would know, the ICR is an enemy of science and Christianity. They have already proven that they lie to profit. They are now lying to Texas and falsely claiming that they are offering a science education. What kind of accountability is that?

J:

My children go to a mainstream Presbyterian church which accepts the fact of evolution. Our church places many candidates in the ministry of Word and Sacrament and does extensive missionary work within our community. My children understand the difference between right and wrong and are constantly working to understand the role of faith and service to God in their lives. Maybe you should take a little time to study both sides and go hear a lecture from a scientist instead of jumping to the conclusion that evolution is amoral.

We have no teenage pregnancy rate, period.

I take it it’s an all-boys school?

it does not help to over-rate the modern theory of evolution as “the best supported”. Surely thermodynamics wins that place.

That depends on how you define “best supported” of course.

If you mean the most basic theory, which constrains the others, thermodynamics wins hands down.

If you mean predicting the most facts, perhaps evolution wins? Biology has amassed a great deal of observations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if evolution would be tested more than thermodynamics as such.

If you mean predicting the most qualified facts, I would put my money on messy biology.

And if you mean the most statistical significance or precision evolution wins hands down:

The stunning degree of match between even the most incongruent phylogenetic trees found in the biological literature is widely unappreciated, mainly because most people (including many biologists) are unaware of the mathematics involved (Bryant et al. 2002; Penny et al. 1982; Penny and Hendy 1986). […]

Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches! In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998).

However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants. For comparison, the charge of the electron is known to only seven decimal places, the Planck constant is known to only eight decimal places, the mass of the neutron, proton, and electron are all known to only nine decimal places, and the universal gravitational constant has been determined to only three decimal places. [My emphasis.]

Thermodynamics is not. Maybe Torbjoern will oblige us with a better exposition than I could give.

Huh, we crossposted.

Good idea, generality (unity) is yet another sense of support.

But AFAIK, general relativity, incomplete and/or flawed as it is, has no unique global energy description (energy condition). [Or at least that is what they tell me, as I haven’t studied it.] So in that sense thermodynamics is only supported locally as of yet.

Then again, Penrose and Hawking may have some global thermodynamical descriptions on the full cosmic scale, covering the big bang singularity and onwards. Does anyone know about their results?

Btw, thinking further, to be fair to evolution in such a comparison it would be applicable on the cosmic scale too.

And again I would bet money on that evolution would describe all life everywhere but a vanishing number of entities, as it contains selection (AFAIU among a population, but still) and would in all probability be the most vigorous. (Earning the epithet the process of life, as this lay man sees it.)

I’ve heard (no doubt from biased sources) that quantum eltectrodynamics (QED) has the record for the most decimal places of agreement between theory and experiment, probably due to the statistical nature of the theory combined with the fact that there’s no difference at all between one electron and another, making for less experimental variation. You also get mountains of raw data even faster than breeding fruit flies.

Apologies for the run-on sentence.

Yes, I agree that QED agrees best with experiments and also with cosmic scale observations. It is only general relativity which appears to be in some difficulties just now: possibly non-constant cosmological ‘constant’ in Einstein’s equations; apparent failure of the frame-dragging experiment; the puzzling behavior of the robots leaving the confines of the solar system, …

Bill Gascoyne Wrote:

I’ve heard (no doubt from biased sources) that quantum eltectrodynamics (QED) has the record for the most decimal places of agreement between theory and experiment, …

Actually it is the g minus 2 experiment (about 15 decimal places).

I had the distinct “privilege” of having my original Ph.D. g - 2 thesis in Art Rich’s group at The University of Michigan, beaten out by about 2 orders of magnitude by Hans Demelt’s group, and I had to abandon that thesis for another. Fortunately I had only got the 1 MeV electron accelerator finished (this was going to inject the electons into the magnetic trap where their spins were to precess relative to their cyclotron orbits). The superconducting magnet was being constructed by a Canadian company and it had lots of problems. I would have been tied up for many months just trying to repair it.

Hans Demelt got the Nobel Prize for his clever technique, which I could not have matched with my experiment.

One would think, after my experience with him and his measurement that I could at least get Hans Dehmelt’s name spelled correctly.

No creationist argument I’ve ever heard sounded like this:

“I was an evolutionary biologist and an atheist. I discovered a mountain of evidence that suggested that the earth was only 6,000 years old. Then I discovered a bunch of people who already knew that. Then I became a fundamentalist Christian.”

If science actually led to that conclusion, that’s what the public schools would be teaching.

Lastly, evolution IS a theory. But then again, so is gravity, and I don’t see fundamentalist Christians afraid that they’ll fly off the planet. They also don’t take their cars to be exorcised when they don’t run properly, and they don’t seem to have a problem trusting science to solve their medical mysteries or to furnish them with technology to make life easier. But evolution? That’s a problem…

Beckster02, you are correct.

The creationist stance (especially YEC, but generally any sect that requires anti-evolution commitment) contains many hypocrisies. However, if you believe the Wedge Strategy (Wikipedia has a fairly objective page on that), denying evolution is only the beginning of a quest to replace “materialistic” science with something more “spiritual”. Though how anyone is supposed to do “spiritual” science is beyond me - it’s hard enouigh to get scientists to agree with one another when there are hard empirical facts to refer to. If science were to become a matter of opinion, you’d never get anywhere.

quantum eltectrodynamics (QED) has the record for the most decimal places of agreement between theory and experiment,

Yes, Theobalds’ argument revolves around how you define precision and test. You can test phylogenetic trees as I understand it, either in likelihood tests or in later predictions (Tiktaalik.

Remains if a precision as remaining uncertainty is agreable for you. The context isn’t the standard interpretation. Personally, I like Theobalds description, not least as it was eye opening as well as provocative.

OK all you great evolutionary thinking minds out there answer me this. If we (anyone, anything and everything) have been constantly evolving over millions or billions of years or whatever, why do we die? Shouldn’t evolution have figured out how to conquer that one by now?

J:

OK all you great evolutionary thinking minds out there answer me this. If we (anyone, anything and everything) have been constantly evolving over millions or billions of years or whatever, why do we die? Shouldn’t evolution have figured out how to conquer that one by now?

Organisms die because they have limited regenerative abilities with which to combat circumstances like disease, mechanical injury, starvation, and day-to-day wear and tear. If you actually studied Biology, you would have known this already.

And if you actually studied Biology, you would know that organisms circumvent “death” through reproduction, either sexual reproduction, or asexual/clonal reproduction.

If this explanation does not make sense, then, could you explain what sense is there to be had in the Bible’s explanation of “Death,” in that all life is to be punished with mortality forever and ever and ever until Judgment Day simply because Adam and Eve ate one apple?

If evolution can figure out things like making our each and every part of our bodies work like all of our senses,and those are amazing things that shouldn’t be taken for granted then why not death? Doesn’t death defeat evolution? Was I taught wrong that we came from amonia and gases to what we are today? If thats evolution then why is everything dying? If humans came so far from behind everything else why are we at the top of the food chain? Why dont turtles or monkeys think like we do? If the animals are smaller now and the deserts getting bigger is that evolution? Or is that death and the planet dying? How in the world could this planet and life on it lasted so long if we have limited regenerative abilities? No you do not circumvent death through reproduction. When “You” die “You” die. Your body will go back to the earth from which it came. Your children may live but what you see as your body now will be gone. There are different deaths in the bible,physical and spiritual. Unfortunately for probably you and most of the world your spiritually dead. Our God is so much greater than this universe we live in that we cannot understand everything. But I do know that Adam and Eve didn’t simply eat one apple. They disobeyed God. God cannot stand disobedience at all. God is sinless and so is where he is and thats why it makes no sense to you and the world what I say. But please answer my questions.

J:

If we (anyone, anything and everything) have been constantly evolving over millions or billions of years or whatever, why do we die? Shouldn’t evolution have figured out how to conquer that one by now?

Why should it? If death stops, evolution stops.

J said

But please answer my questions.

It is difficult because they don’t make much sense but I’ll try one or two.

Doesn’t death defeat evolution?

I’m not sure what you mean here. Death and replacement permit evolution.

why are we at the top of the food chain?

We aren’t. Things like the malaria parasite and bed bugs feed on us.

Why dont turtles or monkeys think like we do?

Because they have turtle brains and monkey brains and we have human brains.

If the animals are smaller now and the deserts getting bigger is that evolution?

Are the animals smaller and the deserts larger (compared to when)? If a particular group of animals is getting smaller, it could be a result of evolution. Any change in the size of deserts is not a result of evolution.

Or is that death and the planet dying?

What do you mean by ‘the planet dying’?

How in the world could this planet and life on it lasted so long if we have limited regenerative abilities?

Regeneration and reproduction are usually not closely related.

The only time regeneration and reproduction are involved with each other is when an organism buds off a clone of itself, like when a planarian pulls itself into two, or when a kalanchoe produces a plantlet.

And that J does not appear to be physically capable of even looking up biology articles in Wikipedia, and that he can not answer why all life is being punished for two humans’ sin makes me think he is just a troll.

Shouldn’t evolution have figured out how to conquer that one by now?

Evolution without death would be somewhat self destructive…

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 14, 2008 12:14 PM.

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