Scary stuff

As if anti-evolution pseudo-science isn't a big enough problem, teachers in the US are reluctant to teach the real science. An article published on the Science Daily website discusses the results of a recent study entitled 'Defeating creationism in the courtroom, but not the classroom'. The title says it all. Despite the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (separation of church and state), there have been constant challenges from fundamentalist groups who want 'both sides' to be taught in science classrooms. The fact that creationism and intelligent design are not science, and thus should not be taught in science class, is only half of the problem. The other half is that by law, in the USA, publicly funded institutes such as schools cannot promote any religion, including the dogma surrounding them e.g. intelligent design.

The results of the study, which included 926 state high school biology teachers, are pretty scary. Thirteen percent of the teachers reject evolution out right and present creationism in a positive light. Considering the Gallup poll I mentioned in a previous post this is somewhat unsurprising. What I find distressing is that 60 percent of the biology teachers questioned 'are neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of non-scientific alternatives?' The authors of the paper suggest that the reason for this is that teachers would rather avoid any controversy.That means that kids aren't learning the importance of evolution in biology since as Theodesius Dobzhansky famously said "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution".

It seems that the crazies are getting the attention they are looking for and having a big impact regardless of the fact that they have have not won a single major federal case in court for over 40 years in the US.


dcusens said...

Ah yes, but we are somewhat outnumbered by crazies, especially in Education.
The idiot's are indeed breeding.

Paul said...

The notion that it is appropriate to try to "defeat creationism" - as in the original paper's title - is probably not particularly helpful, especially not in the US. I'm sure those sorts of words must alienate religious people who accept evolution alongside their faith.

If people feel that they have to choose between a religious faith and an evidence-based approach to biology, you can be sure that the latter will be a minority in the US in the foreseeable future.

This is not to say that those on the 'evolution' side of the debate are to blame for the conflict. I don't think they are. Obviously, a strong tradition of bible literalism forces the dichotomy between 'god' and 'evolution'. All the same, it may be that the way forward is to soften the militantly anti-religious attitude that the "new atheists" advocate. In other words, I think it's important to separate an argument about evidence-based biology from an argument about religion/faith which reason, by definition, cannot win.

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