The Washington Post has an excellent editorial on the recent attempts by Intelligent Design Creationists to ‘teach the controversy’ and ‘academic freedom’, observing that
Red-herring arguments about ‘academic freedom’ can’t be allowed to undermine the teaching of evolution.
The editorial points out how these efforts to undermine science are at best misguided.
NO ONE would think it acceptable for a teacher to question the existence of gravity or to suggest that two plus two equals anything but four. It’s mystifying, then, that a movement to undermine the teaching of evolutionary biology is attracting some support. Equally perverse is that this misguided effort is being advanced under the false guise of academic freedom.
The WP shows that they understand the issues and that while ‘academic freedom’ may sound appealing to the layperson, the reality is that there are no controversies about the fact of evolution. At best there are disagreements about the relative importance of mechanisms of evolution or there are areas where our ignorance does not allow us to provide satisfactory explanations. The absence of such explanations because of our ignorance is abused by Intelligent Design to create the impression of ‘design’ but the readers of this blog should know by now that in ID speak, design means nothing more than a measure of our ignorance.
What’s insidious about these measures is that at first blush they appear so harmless. Isn’t everyone in favor of academic freedom? What’s so wrong about allowing all sides of an issue to be heard? Why should teachers be punished for speaking their minds? Those arguments might have standing if there were any doubt about the reality of evolution, but, as an official with the National Academy of Sciences told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s no controversy.”
Indeed, ask any ID Creationist how they explain the Cambrian Explosion, the origin of life or the origin of the bacterial flagellum. They either will remain quiet or they will respond that such a request is just ‘pathetic’ and that ID should not be held to such silly standards of science.
And the WP also understands that there is a good reason why there is no ‘academic freedom’ for elementary and secondary education. Teachers have to follow the accepted curriculum and lesson plans just to avoid the undermining of education.
Consider, also, that there really is no such thing as academic freedom in elementary and secondary education. A teacher can’t deviate from the accepted curriculum to present alternative lesson plans or to offer his or her own notions. The Florida teachers association opposed the bills, though ostensibly they are meant to benefit educators. Clearly, the strategy is to devise an end run around legal decisions – going all the way to the Supreme Court – that restrict the teaching of creationism in public classrooms.
It’s clear to all of us and yet I am sure ID Creationists are still left denying the obvious. Par for the course I’d say.