Intelligent design teachings not smart for public schools

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REP. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, has written the following letter to the editor which was published in the Palm Beach Post: Intelligent design teachings not smart for public schools

Florida is in the midst of determining whether intelligent design and creationism should be taught alongside evolution in our public schools. It would be a great mistake to give intelligent design, or any other faux science, a home in Florida’s science classes.

The state Board of Education will soon vote to accept or reject new science standards for teachers that must be updated to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the culture wars are heating up. When the Department of Education released its proposed standards in October, for the first time the word evolution was included as a standard to the agreement of many in the educational and scientific community.

The Board of Education is likely to vote on the new science standards in February. No matter what the outcome, legislators will have an opportunity to have their say when the legislative session convenes the following month. I fear the worst.

One of the problems with teaching intelligent design as the “other side” of Charles Darwin’s scientific theory is that it is not an opposing scientific theory. It is religion posing as science. While the theory of evolution argues that man and other species evolve through the process of natural selection, intelligent design is an assertion that living things are simply so complex that they are best explained as the act of some intelligent designer.

Intelligent design cannot be tested scientifically because it is ultimately premised on something that cannot be proven scientifically: faith. This is why it is so dangerous, to both religion and science, to teach them side by side. Imagine debates in science classes about what part a higher deity had in designing life. While knowledge of scientific theories can be tested, how would a teacher grade a student’s support of creationism based solely on faith?

If you have to teach creationism because it has been dressed up in a pretend scientific theory, what about those creation theories that forgo involvement of a deity and credit man’s creation to intelligent designers from another galaxy? Imagine how parents would react when they hear their child learned from the science teacher that aliens created the Earth and everything on it, without any scientific evidence.

Florida should resist efforts to include “intelligent design” in public school science classes. Mixing faith and science can only harm both.

24 Comments

But what if they vote not to teach ID or creationism, only the “flaws” of evolution? Judge Jones predicted this “critical evaluation” angle would likely be the next tactic attempted by the creos. All the anti-evolution propaganda, none of the religious baggage to make it unconstitutional. At least, that’s the goal. The question is, will it fly in a court of law?

If only there were more rational and forthright legislators like Mr. Gelber.

I fear for the future of science education, and therefore all aspects of education, in Florida because of the fundie nuts running around. I fear the same for my own state of Texas.

Legislators like Mr. Gelber should be recognized and supported loudly and as often as opportunities to do so present themselves.

Imagine how parents would react when they hear their child learned from the science teacher that aliens created the Earth and everything on it, without any scientific evidence.

Gort The Great Omnipotent Reclusive Theologian has my vote.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

to the agreement of many in the educational and scientific community

I believe I’m experiencing a culture collision - here it would say “to the agreement of the educational and scientific community”. Individualism is a given, but there is only one community each and they have their public voice, so no one would think of weakening the claim in such a way. (Worse, “many” isn’t necessary the majority.)

What does a curriculum that “addresses the controversy” look like? As a classroom teacher, I’m really curious. Can I address the controversy by simply outlining a discussion of phylogeny like the one in the hagfish post? As someone who posted there wisely pointed out, this is what “controversy” in evolution is all about.Will a school board discipline a teacher who “teaches the controversy” without bringing in any creo/ID talking points? Is that what will bring this into court again?

Also, teach the controversy implies to me that I am now free to critically analyze ID in my classroom, where before I was required (and preferred) to leave it alone. Imagine the uproar that will bring - but it can’t really be a violation of religious freedom since ID isn’t religion.

Obviously, they have no idea the can of worms they’re opening up. Hooray.

Obviously, they have no idea the can of worms they’re opening up. Hooray.

unfortunately, yes, they do.

what they want is for it to be legal to teach xianity instead of science in the classroom.

it hardly matters to them if some refuse to do so.

what they want is for it to be legal to teach xianity instead of science in the classroom.

Well, to be more specific, they wish to teach one specific flavor of Christianity in science classes. The fact that this particular flavor reflects BOTH the highest fervor and deepest ignorance is not a coincidence. Ignorance that profound requires zealous, dedicated perpetuation.

what they want is for it to be legal to teach xianity instead of science in the classroom.

But they’ll settle for not teaching evolution, and that’s the problem.

Getting creation into the classroom is (probably) an un-winnable uphill battle.

Making it so unpleasant to teach evolution that schools quietly give up on it is much, much more attainable. Indeed, in some places it’s already a fait accompli.

“what they want is for it to be legal to teach xianity instead of science in the classroom.”

What they want is what anyone who has a little power and little wisdom wants. To bend the will of everyone to ape their own. Because they think this will bring them more power. In the case of those who want to “teach the controversy” this power is perceived by them to be of an ultimate nature.

Humility be damned. Honesty be damned. Power for power’s sake is always the goal of those who would force their personal idiocy on others.

Resistance is necessary. Those of you who write so eloquently on blogs such as this need to write similarly, and forcefully, in a more widely read venue. I assume that some of you do. Many more voices are needed to point out the supreme fallacy of supreme power.

Which reminds me, I haven’t had a letter published in the Casper Star-Tribune for quite a while. Gotta get ‘er done.

“Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours.”

Because they think this will bring them more power.

or security.

But they’ll settle for not teaching evolution

Well, yeah, they might settle for something they already have. it could very well be that the stink they are raising in Florida is entirely meant to create the idea of an extreme that would tend to make the state board move towards a fictional “middle ground”, resulting in essentially status quo (no teaching of evolution in school; teaching of creationism without counter at home and church).

AFAIK, nowhere is it illegal NOT to teach evolution in a science class after all. As you note, teachers apparently often avoid teaching it as a unit at the secondary level altogether - we’ve seen many documentations of that here and elsewhere.

some states do have more rigorous standards, and schools that don’t follow them can be excluded from qualifying students for university, but it’s not illegal.

see, RE, the related court cases in CA going on right now. IIRC, some religious school even won one of those cases.

of course, this only tangentially relates to what they WANT, which is indeed to teach the babble as if it were a science text.

OTOH, fundies are nothing if not vocal about their idiocy (ah, I miss the input of Lenny Flank when I think about it), so even if it means risking what they already have, it’s entirely plausible that they would be stupid enough to do so if they think they might get what they really want.

Making it so unpleasant to teach evolution that schools quietly give up on it is much, much more attainable. Indeed, in some places it’s already a fait accompli.

That is true. Evolution isn’t taught in much of Texas and most of Arkansas that I know of. It doesn’t seem to be taught in much of Florida either.

There doesn’t seem to be any interest or ability to enforce the state standards.

So really the conflict about the state standards isn’t quite for the stakes everyone thinks they are.

Here on the west coast, the public schools get a lot of money from the state. The state can and will withhold some money from school districts that violate the state standards. It is rare but it does happen. I know one school district that isn’t in compliance and they have $17 million dollars being held up.

“Florida should resist efforts to include “intelligent design” in public school science classes. Mixing faith and science can only harm both.” Truly spoken!

teach Wrote:

What does a curriculum that “addresses the controversy” look like?

The ones I have seen are the usual “Gish gallop” of arguments “designed” to promote unreasonable doubt about evolution. While mostly “borrowed” by IDers from classic creationism, they shrewdly avoid arguments for a young Earth or direct references to common descent. IOW, anything that itself can be critically analyzed without cherry picking evidence, baiting and switching definitions and concepts (e.g. evolution vs. abiogenesis) and quote mining.

teach Wrote:

Also, teach the controversy implies to me that I am now free to critically analyze ID in my classroom, where before I was required (and preferred) to leave it alone.

I have taught chemistry, but not biology, so I hope that you know better than I do. But my suspicion is that there’s just not enough class time to properly critically analyze ID (including its unavoidable association with classic creationism). Most students, especially non-science-majors, would just remember the feel-good anti-evolution sound bites, and be confused about the technical refutations. In the worst case, they’ll take any arguments against ID/creationism as denial of God.

In any case, the latest strategy by IDers is not to teach ID anyway, but to just misrepresent evolution (students can always learn the ID part outside of class, where the same strategists flood the media with books, websites, etc.). The strategists figure (correctly?) that few teachers will have the time, interest or ability to show how those arguments fail.

Ichthyic Wrote:

(ah, I miss the input of Lenny Flank when I think about it)

Lenny is back on Talk.Origins but doesn’t post much other than to say that ID is dead. I disagree, because, as science it was never born, and as a strategy to mislead it’s alive and “evolving.” Nevertheless, I do agree that Dover was a big setback for the movement.

I suspect that your analysis, Frank, would be largely spot on for most students. It is important to remember that even in the face of reasoned measured arguments the social pressures and a natural tendency towards intellectual convenience can make it difficult to have students break from their parents and peers shared misconceptions. I’ve seen this sharply in focus with students and exchanging their “views” on global warming. In many ways the style of the debate mimics that found in evolution. You have a general convolution of the phenomena with the mechanisms and explanations of how it is coming about. Generally they are very bright students and even have serious training in formal logic. Yet they still fall back onto personal belief instead of inquiry. And personal belief is largely a function of their parents beliefs.

That’s a high activation energy as it were to overcome and it takes a lot of time. Time not usually present in the curriculum (always lots to talk about).

Ichthyic Wrote:

AFAIK, nowhere is it illegal NOT to teach evolution in a science class after all. As you note, teachers apparently often avoid teaching it as a unit at the secondary level altogether - we’ve seen many documentations of that here and elsewhere.

In the case of banning it because of religious objections, it’s actually unconstitutional as decided in Epperson vs. Arkansas*.

I disagree with Crudely Wrott that this is primarily an issue of power over others. I rather see it as an issue of people wanting to convince themselves of the correctness their own opinions. They want people to agree with them mainly to reinforce their beliefs. If science disagrees with them, then science is wrong and must be changed by any means necessary because this disagreement threatens the validity of their views. Perhaps they really do buy into that whole line about either being a Christian OR an “evolutionist,” and it isn’t just a ploy crafted to rope the dopes. No matter how many times you try to reason with them or show them the facts, they’ll dismiss it because it’s inherently threatening to their preconceived notions. We all do this at times for one thing or another, in the case of anti-evolutionists it’s simply focused and abnormally strong. It wouldn’t be domination of others that’s at the heart of it, but rather the fear of being wrong. Then again, I’m not a psychologist.

*Ironically enough for Mr. Huckabee from Arkansas, the would-be president who wants to amend the US Constitution to make it more fundie-friendly, while consistently ignoring the problem of evolution being avoided in his state’s public schools, and also advocating the “teach both” approach. His plan would run directly against the ruling in McClean vs. Arkansas.

Truly, those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

It wouldn’t be domination of others that’s at the heart of it, but rather the fear of being wrong.

Exactly. Cults must maintain isolation of opinion, because their idiocy can’t withstand challenge. It doesn’t matter what the difference is, because they already know it is wrong. This is why they can’t be bothered investigating any pathetic level of detail.

H. Humbert:

But what if they vote not to teach ID or creationism, only the “flaws” of evolution? Judge Jones predicted this “critical evaluation” angle would likely be the next tactic attempted by the creos. All the anti-evolution propaganda, none of the religious baggage to make it unconstitutional. At least, that’s the goal. The question is, will it fly in a court of law?

IANAL, but it should still be possible to demonstrate their sectarian motives. Most (if not all) of the “critical analysis” proposals I’ve seen so far single out evolution for “critical analysis,” in much the same way that the “just a theory” disclaimers singled out evolution. More to the point, the “weaknesses” that they want to teach are all drawn from creationist literature; it shouldn’t be too difficult to demonstrate that they are without any scientific merit as legitimate criticisms of evolution.

There’s also the question of motivation to consider. One of the things that sunk ID in Dover was the obvious intent to insert some form of creationism into the curriculum. The impetus for “critical analysis” in both Texas and Florida is coming from self-admitted creationists, who clearly identify it with their support for “alternative theories” (read: creationism.)

Shrike,

In order to circumvent the “singling out” charge, some have included “global warming” and other causes near and dear to the far right. But even if (IANAL too) a case could be made for the “singling out,” anti-evolution activists deliberately avoid a real critical analysis in favor of deliberate misrepresentation, all of which is, AIUI, traceable via “cdesign proponentsists” to what was ruled unconstitutional in 1987.

The irony that I keep bringing up is that they could get away with a true critical analysis, even one skewed toward “weaknesses,” if they didn’t have that prior commitment to the “big tent.” Example: “The data show that ‘common descent with modification’ might not be the best explanation, so what could be the next best explanation, and how do we critically analyze that one?” From there students could examine saltation, front loading, and even independent abiogenesis of “kinds.” But anti-evolution activists won’t dare call attention to the weaknesses in those potential explanations.

“From there students could examine saltation, front loading, and even independent abiogenesis of “kinds.”

You left out fixed unchanging species, and the “one mated pair of each in a boat” theories.

Hi all,

At the time of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District Trial, I attended an alumni gathering held in the auditorium of my alma mater, Stuyvesant High School, which is regarded by many as the foremost American high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics and engineering. During a Q & A period with the school’s principal, Mr. Stanley Teitel (who, incidentally, still teaches an advanced introductory level high school physics course to a class of entering freshmen), an alumnus asked whether Intelligent Design would be taught at Stuyvesant. Mr. Teitel vowed that Intelligent Design would never be taught at Stuyvesant as long as he continued serving as its principal.

I think the folks in Florida should heed Mr. Teitel’s harsh view of Intelligent Design.

Cordially yours,

John Kwok

Dear ABC/Larry,

The Florida Board of Education should heed Mr. Teitel’s harsh view of Intelligent Design, simply because of the fact that he is the principal of a prominent American high school which has produced many distinguished scientists, doctors and engineers (including four Nobel Prize laureates in medicine, chemistry and economics). I hope that if there are fellow Stuyvesant alumni residing in Florida who look at this website, then hopefully they might advise the Florida Board of Education of Mr. Teitel’s harsh - but accurate - view of Intelligent Design.

Best regards,

John

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 19, 2008 2:38 PM.

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