The More You Know

Should school boards silence the debate over evolution?

Some time ago, a highly charged argument was set in motion. It pitted evolution against the Creation. One side of this debate relies on scientific inquiry, and the other relies on ancient mythological texts. That's my view. That's what I intend to teach my children.

Yet I have no interest in foisting this curriculum on your kids. Nor am I particularly distressed that a creationist theory may collide one day with the tiny eardrums of my precocious offspring.

Which brings me to the Texas Board of Education's recent landmark compromise between evolutionary science and related religious concerns in public-school textbooks.

The board cautiously crafted an arrangement that requires teachers to allow students to scrutinize "all sides" of the issue. This decision is widely seen as a win for pro-creationists—or wait, are they called anti-evolutionists?

"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," explained John West, who is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, which is an anti-... a Charles Darwin-hating group that argued that students in Texas should have a right to review "all of the evidence."

What damage is there in challenging assumptions and "dogma"? None, of course. We should be fostering critical thinking in our youth. Allowing an inquiry into evolution, I believe, will almost certainly confirm its existence in the minds of millions of children.

Next up: a critical analysis of the existence of God in public schools.

But there is a deeper problem here. Why are so many allegedly tolerant and science-loving Americans aghast at the notion that their beliefs will be scrutinized in schools? Are school systems reflections of the population's diverse viewpoints or places of political control? Should school boards shut down debate on a topic that millions of Americans still disagree on?

Until we jettison the antiquated one-size-fits-all public education system, the majority of students will endure some seemingly preposterous objections to fact, useless sex and/or abstinence programs, historical textbooks that are mockeries of history, and/or truly questionable science employed for ideological purposes.

Which one works? Which one is true? Which one is better? It's often a matter of perception and largely irrelevant. What do parents want their children taught—or, perhaps, which controversial ideological topic would they like to avoid—is the real question. Why should a 1-vote majority on a school board resolve an issue for an entire community?

I wish everyone believed in the overwhelming evidence of evolution, but that's not the case.

Not long ago, board members in Texas removed a textbook reference asserting that the universe is about 14 billion years old (based, I assume, on an episode of "Nova"), because the board's chairman believes that God created the universe less than 10,000 years ago (based, no doubt, on faith alone).

On the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, Gallup conducted a poll that showed only 39 percent of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," while 25 percent of Americans say they do not believe in the theory. Thirty-six percent don't have an opinion. (My hope is that 36 percent does not have an opinion regarding evolution as I do not have an opinion about other indisputable scientific truths, such as osmosis and the yeti.)

The most sensible solution, of course, would be to permit parents a choice so that they can send their kids to schools that cater to any brand of nonsense they desire—outside of three core subjects.

The left never will allow any genuine choice in our school systems. So it seems highly disagreeable and political to trap kids in public schools and, at the same time, decide where schools fall on controversial issues.

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  • ||

    Let's just do away with all standards of education in the name of freedom.

  • Untermensch||

    Why do I suspect this will become another one of the running yelling matches on H&R between atheists and the few religious folks willing to tolerate the vitriol that comes out against them here? Note I am not biased against either side here, but that debate is not the Harsanyi raises...

  • Warty||

    The best thing is probably for everyone to silence creationists with some good skullfuckings.

  • NolongerTofuSushi||

    Speaking of education, who won the Kindle 2 Wireless Reader!?

  • Nonnie||

    I would have no problems with this as long as kids are being taught the difference between a theory and a hypothesis.

  • ||

    Central control of curriculae is something that all intelligent people support.

    Lysenko is the exception, rather than the rule.

  • random protestant||

    Not all religious folks are anti-evolution, just so you know. Why they keep insisting that a document created by nomadic people thousands of years ago should be taken as absolute scientific fact escapes me. But I will say there are some on the evolution side who are pretty dogmatic about it, in the "I'm absolutely right and to question me is heresy" way.

    Note: I disagree with the use of the word "believe" in the same sentence as the word "theory," but that's just me being pedantic.

  • ||

    Anyone who disagrees that we need a good tzar in charge of educating The Children probably hates The Children.

    You were raised correctly... why do you think that bad parents should be free to raise their The Children incorrectly?

    Should The Children really be allowed to be abused by Christianist parents by being taught an age of the planet different than the scientific consensus?

    What about The Children?

  • ||

    I think we'll have true educational choice in this country when we teach all theories of the causes of the Great Depression and whether or not the New Deal helped or harmed the country.

    That'll be a bigger fight than creation vs. evolution, a battle that should have been settled with the Scopes Monkey trial.

  • ||

    So which creation story gets its equal time with the biological theory of evolution? There are countless myths from a vast array of cultures to choose from. Should we really spend time on ALL of them? I have no problem with kids learning about creation stories, but they belong in a philosophy or history class and NOT a science class. There has to be some focus and in science that focus should be firmly on materialism. To start down the road of metaphysics is an invitation to a nebulous cloud of "belief". Science is about what you can believe. It's about what you can demonstrate and repeat. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the first amendment problems with all of these ID proposals.

  • ||

    Preferred solution - educational vouchers redeemable by any school, including the one in your home, for K-12 education.

    Until that glorious day in education funding arrives, creationism (not very intelligent design if you prefer), like phlogiston, the geocentic solar system and other incorrect hypotheses should only be taught in order to to thoroughly debunk them.

  • Taktix®||

    I have a problem, no because teaching creationism is EVAL!!! or something, but because teaching creationism as science undermines the true idea of science, namely conclusions arrived at through facts and observable experement.

    If kids learn that science=faith, they'll never fully grasp how logic works, and the last thing we need in this country are more future voters with no sense of logic.

    Religion or not, the assault on reality is the troublesome aspect...

  • Xeones||

    Ok, how about this: dismantle public education, let schools teach what they want, and parents can vote with their dollars. EASY.

  • stuartl||

    I agree with David Harsanyi in principle, but am very worried about the side effects. There is no doubt that when presented in a scientific manner, the science overwhelmingly supports evolution. And while it might be educational for kids to see just how foolish creationism is, doesn't teaching of nonscience in science classes open a large and dangerous door?

    Do we let the flat earthers in? Do we let in the folk who don't believe in modern medicine?

    As long as we have a public school system teaching science, shouldn't it teach science in science classes?

  • ||

    Public or private, schools deliberately lying to children should be considered abuse of some kind.

  • Warty||

    I agree that we should teach the controversy.

    http://controversy.wearscience.com/

  • Xeones||

    Yeah, Tony. Parents who talk about Santa Claus should be dragged off to jail, too. They should shut down the mall near my office 'cause they've got an Easter Bunny!

  • stuartl||

    Ok, how about this: dismantle public education, let schools teach what they want, and parents can vote with their dollars. EASY.

    As long as we don't make anti-discrimination laws requiring companies to hire kids from schools that teach non-science. Faith based engineering is not a good idea.

  • ||

    When schools taught Darwinian rather than Punctuated Equilibrium, was that abuse? Or since children were only accidentally taught lies rather than deliberately, should we be more sympathetic?

    Personally, I'd rather deal with the downsides of local control of curriculae than the downsides of central control.

  • Tim ||

    I'm find with this. As long as all students must take a class to discuss "all sides" of religion.

  • Xeones||

    As long as we don't make anti-discrimination laws requiring companies to hire kids from schools that teach non-science.

    Companies can hire whomever is the best fit for the job.

  • ||

    Central control of curriculae is something that all intelligent people support.


    Really? I would have thought that having the parents decide would be a better way.

    I mean, central control of religion might be more intelligent too, right?

    I think we'll have true educational choice in this country when we teach all theories of the causes of the Great Depression and whether or not the New Deal helped or harmed the country.

    Amen

  • ||

    What Wombat said...

    Plus, ALL creation myths and POV's (non-religious flat earthers, etc) would have to be given equal time. And remember that the number of religions is not fixed, but ever-expanding.

  • NolongerTofuSushi||

    But who won the Kindle2?

  • Taktix®||

    Yeah, Tony. Parents who talk about Santa Claus should be dragged off to jail, too. They should shut down the mall near my office 'cause they've got an Easter Bunny!

    Parent are allowed to tell their kids what they want (barring abuse, etc.) if a mall was telling kids the Easter Bunny was scientific fact, I'd... well, I'd not go to that mall...

  • ||

    We need central control to make sure that all creation myths are taught! It's all about fairness.

    If we don't teach the whole "pooped out" theory, we're discriminating against that one tribe of aboriginals, even if they aren't in the classroom!

    Remember, education is a public good which is why parents shouldn't have a say.

    You know, like the fire department.

  • ||

    The problem with science in the K-12 system, is much of it is taught as "take it on faith, that what I teach is true." I don't remember ANY experiments in HS that demonstrated the Big Bang theory or evolution, or the many other science subjects. You just read the book, or listen to the lecture, and took a test on how well you memorized the subject. So of course, some will question why one couldn't teach creationism the same way. Until you get to college level courses, most science is just "take it on faith that it is true."

    What is kind of funny, is in all my K-12 education, I think at most a total of 1 hour was spent on evolution. So it seems so ridiculous that so much anger is vented over the relatively little amount that is spent covering it.

  • Taktix®||

    As long as all students must take a class to discuss "all sides" of religion.

    Actually, this is the perfect arguement againsts creationists, because the only responses are:

    Yes, which is the only respose in line with the claim of "presenting all sides" or...

    No, which exposes the true agenda of these luddite mini-tyrants driving minivans with Jesus-fish decals...

  • ||

    The only problem with teaching creation in science class is that it isn't science. Once you're over that hurdle, everything is fair game. Should we be teaching children about the immune system without equal time for snake charming? Why aren't we teaching Dianetics? How can we let our children not contemplate reincarnation in this debate?

  • ||

    David H. - The problem is that there is no debate. Creationists want to create a debate, create a controversy, thus creating doubt. All of the "evidence" they use is shoddy at best, outright lies at worse. There are thousands of transitional fossils, they say there are none - outright lie, go to any natural history museum. Creationists start from the bible and move outward from there, squeezing fact in to biblical assumption about the age of the earth and the role their god played in it. It has no business whatsoever being discussed in a science class. Even calling it pseudo science gives it too much credit. It is a religiously driven lie concocted to arouse confusion in young minds and obscure them from learning the truth: That the multitude of evidence that science can provide demonstrates that the bible is flat out WRONG. They fear that if creation is accepted as wrong, so follows every other part of the book.

    This is not a matter of let's debate a new scientific theory called "intelligent design," it's about intellectual and scientific honesty and integrity. If you want your kids to learn this drivel, you should be allowed to send them to a place where religion is taught...at a parochial school. And you can do this now! But please don't confuse creationist theory with actual scientific rigor. That is exactly what these liars want.

  • ||

    I am surprised that no one has pointed out that if one wishes to teach one's children that the universe is only 6000 years old, one is free to move to Somalia.

  • ||

    When schools taught Darwinian rather than Punctuated Equilibrium, was that abuse? Or since children were only accidentally taught lies rather than deliberately, should we be more sympathetic?

    Nice troll, Jaybird. However, incrementalism ("Darwinian") and punctuated equilibrium both rely on the same set of observable facts (fossil record, speciation), and the same basic mechanism (natural selection). Only the details differ. Punctuated Equilibrium is AFAIK still a hypothesis, but is gaining acceptance.

    I realize that the shifting terrain makes true believers uncomfortable for many reasons.

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    Published in the August 2003 Humanist Inquirer

    The Intellectual Chaos of "Intelligent Design"
    by Barry Loberfeld

    Good God, ID just won't go away! ID, of course, being "intelligent design," the creationist concept that nowadays seems to be leaping out at me from everything I watch, listen to, and read. An example of the last is the April 14, 2003 New York Times review of Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (ed. Robert T.Pennock, MIT Press). Near its end, the piece (by Jim Holt, who "writes a column about philosophy and science for Slate.com") attempts to refute ID with the counter-concept of "not intelligent design." To quote at length:

    "If nature were fashioned by a hands-on Divine Artificer, it ought to exhibit a certain elegance and efficiency. Then what of all the imperfections we see in the biological world? Why are organisms burdened with ill-adaptive features like the webbed feet of the frigate bird, which does not need them for paddling? Why is our genome littered with nonfunctional junk DNA? Why have 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed gone extinct including the poor dinosaurs, created only to be wiped out by an errant asteroid? As [Stephen Jay] Gould remarks, 'Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution -- paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.'"

    Ironically, whether it is the result of divine direction or just a natural development, a creationist rebuttal has come along in the form of Cornelius G. Hunter's Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Brazos Press). A cover blurb by Michael Behe (!) ably summarizes the book's thesis that the "main supporting pole of the Darwinian tent has always been a theological assertion: 'God wouldn't have done it that way.' Rather than demonstrating that evolution is capable of the wonders they attribute to it, Darwinists rely on a man-made version of God to argue that He never would have made life with the particular suite of features we observe." In other words, if the frigate bird has weird feet, it means only that that (for whatever reason) is the design. Those feet no more disprove the existence of a Creator than the Mona Lisa's queer smile disproves the existence of a painter. (We'll put aside the question of whether creationists themselves will ever get around to "demonstrating that [the Intelligent Design entity] is capable of the wonders they attribute to it.")

    Hunter (who is "currently completing a Ph.D. in biophysics at the University of Illinois") may very well have been aiming at "not intelligent design," but his argument backfires -- fatally. It is nothing less than a total obliteration of the concept of "design." The standard form of the challenge -- If you were walking along a beach and you found a watch in the sand, etc. -- drew its rhetorical force from the distinction between the man-made watch and the naturally-produced sand. But if now both the watch and the sand -- the complex and the simple, the efficient and the inefficient -- evince "design," then just what the heck does that term mean? What could possibly constitute non-design? Mr. Hunter has made "intelligent design" worse than unfalsifiable -- it is now irreversibly indefinable.

    As scientists know, not all changes in a species further its evolution. This most recent development of creationism is a maladaptive mutation that cannot help but lead to extinction.

  • ||

    Why are so many allegedly tolerant and science-loving Americans aghast at the notion that their beliefs will be scrutinized in schools?

    A

    G

    W

  • ||

    What Lamar and E.S. said.

    The creationists and IDers have no interest in debate as the author of the article understands it. The law is not intended by its proponents to foster debate as the author of the article understands it. The law will not in fact foster debate as the author of the article understands it.

  • ||

    And- by all means, more Harsanyi, less Chapman (and Hart), pls.

  • ||

    "What is kind of funny, is in all my K-12 education, I think at most a total of 1 hour was spent on evolution."

    How much time is spent teaching evolution? When I went to HS back in the 60's I too received about an hour on it.

  • ||

    Tonio, my problem with Special Creation/Intelligent Design are legion.

    However, they still are a molehill in comparison to the mountain that is central control of curriculae.

    This whole "we have to make sure that The Children are taught The Truth" reminds me of the whole "we have to save their souls" thing that previous generations had going on.

    Allowing The Children to go to Hell would be abuse. Eternal! Why, we even have a consensus.

  • stuartl||

    What is kind of funny, is in all my K-12 education, I think at most a total of 1 hour was spent on evolution. So it seems so ridiculous that so much anger is vented over the relatively little amount that is spent covering it.

    Either you didn't take biology, or your school system was so terrorized by the fundies that it didn't really teach biology.

    Companies can hire whomever is the best fit for the job.

    Uh-huh. The government would never put any restrictions on who can be hired and what wages they are paid.

    Wasn't Obama's first official act to sign the fair wage bill?

  • Xeones||

    Uh-huh. The government would never put any restrictions on who can be hired and what wages they are paid.

    Yeah, yeah. But i'd sure like for my scenario to be true.

    I'd also like a pony and a billion dollars.

  • ||

    Now, what we need to do, is put together an army and invade Iran and make sure that Iranian children aren't taught that Muslim Creation bullshit.

    To allow Iranian children to be taught that crap is abuse!

    ...

    I assume that you "central control" supporters see at least one problem with the above scenario. Good. So do I.

    Now please understand when I say that I see kids in Mississippi on the same level as kids in Iran and think that, if their local boards want to teach some stupid Islamic bullshit, they should be allowed to.

    Hey, if the parents in Mississippi want their kids taught something else, they can move, after all. Maybe homeschool.

  • NolongerTofuSushi||

    Jaybird,

    [channeling MNG]
    Where would you rather live, Mississippi, Iran or Gaza?
    [/channeling MNG]

  • ||

    I would only want to live in Mississippi if it was centrally controlled by people hundreds or thousands of miles away who knew best what me and mine needed from government services.

    Thankfully, Iran and Gaza already have stuff like that in place.

    If the people there don't like it, they can move to Somalia.

  • lunchstealer||

    Calling for an end to public schools for the sake of freedom is reasonable. Calling for Creationism/ID/Astrology/whateverotherreligiosuperstition to be taught in public schools is not. There is simply no debate in the scientific community as to the validity of geology, cosmology, evolutionary biology, or radiochemistry, all of which would have to be invalid for creationism to work. That's about as debated as the idea that Tesla was about to invent majickal free energies from the aether.

    The Discovery Institute is about as scientific as the Ghost Hunters (who aren't at all scientific, for those playing along at home). And just because it's kinda unfree for the government to control what schools teach, doesn't mean that we should let the government teach bullshit. You don't like public schools, fine, argue that public schools are bad. But don't argue for allowing hard-core Christians to force their religious beliefs on everyone else.

  • ||

    I am not for allowing hard-core Christians to force their religious beliefs on everyone else.

    I am, however, for allowing them to force them on their community if they can get a majority there.

    Rest assured, however: I also support your right to have the bleeding edge of science taught in your school if you can get a majority of like-minded individuals there.

    If the local school is not teaching Lysenkoism the way you know, in your heart, it should... you should move to someplace that teaches it. I don't see how calling Dear Leader and having teachers purged from the school for teaching other than what The Education Tzar has decided is appropriate is better than local control.

    I just don't.

  • Ska||

    Maybe I'm naive or dense, but which Christian denominations are the ones that believe the earth is 6,000 years old?

  • ||

    Ska,

    Any of the literalists. The 6,000 number is an approximation based around adding up the "begats" in the Old Testament and some other internal evidence. The Hebrew calendar also uses the first day of Creation as "Day One." In the Hebrew calendar, 2009 is 5769.

  • ||

    Should we be focusing on teaching the controversy of whether Christian's believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or not?

  • creech||

    My teenage son said that any kid, or teacher for that matter, that talks outside of church about his Sunday School lessons is treated as a laughingstock by the other kids. Subjecting religious kids to ridicule just may be the fastest way to cure them - sort of like a 12 year old earnestly claiming that Santa Claus really exists.

  • Ska||

    Alright. I went to Catholic school. We were taught evolution. It's pretty strange that they want to teach Genesis as science in public school.

  • ||

    Ska,

    The Wiki article on Young Earth creationism discusses Biblical dating fairly clearly and talks about denominations.

  • ||

    "Biblical dating"?

    Is that what *you* call incest?

  • NolongerTofuSushi||

    Is that what *you* call incest?

    I call it PARTY TIME!

  • J. P. Carlo||

    The problem is not the encouragement to students to consider all sides of an issue - in fact, that's always a good thing to do. Not just in science, but in life in general: always critically consider the evidence.

    The trouble is singling out biological evolution for this treatment, leaving the rest of science as it was. This invites the notion that biological evolution is "just a theory" and is quite controversial and only accepted by a subgroup of scientists, whereas the other material they cover (behavior of gases, Newton's laws, electromagnetism, the Bohr model of the atom, and so on) are not controversial at all.

    It makes people think evolution is "different" from the rest of science, which is absolutely not the case.

    (There's also an epistemological error in talking about scientific theories as "just being theories," but that's a more subtle issue, and secondary to the one above: very few people actually know what a theory really is in the scientific sense, particularly vis a vis Popper and falsifiability.)

  • ||

    I would only want to live in Mississippi if it was centrally controlled by people hundreds or thousands of miles away who knew best what me and mine needed from government services.

    One man's sarcasm is another man's truth...

  • FSM||

    I love the smell of Texas in the morning.

  • Zeb||

    The prediction that the sun will come up tomorrow is "just a theory" in the same sense that evolution is "just a theory".

  • Milton Friedman||

    Creationism is no more crazy than Keynesian Economics.

  • ||

    If your theory is so weak that it cannot hold up in the presence of alternatives being taught in public schools, then perhaps it's not so strong after all. Regardless of whether it's evolution or intelligent design.

    Dogma has no place in science.

  • ||

    Can someone please direct me to some good books and/or websites that you feel offer the difinitive proof that man has evolved from monkey (or whatever)?

    I am not interested in disprovals of creationism, but affirmative proof of evolution between the species, specifically between monkey (or whatever) and man.

  • ||

    Do we let the flat earthers in? Do we let in the folk who don't believe in modern medicine?

    I really don't see what's wrong with allowing teachers to present the best arguments that the earth is flat, and contrast them with the best arguments that the earth is round, and let the students figure out which arguments are more persuasive. ("Modern medicine" is a slightly more difficult case, because it isn't one thing but a whole bunch of things. I'd be happy, for example to see schools present the best arguments for the modern medical view that homeopathy is an ineffective way to treat illness and then present the best arguments for the opposing view that homeopathy works. (Repeat with, e.g., effectiveness of laetrile treatment for cancer, whether HIV causes AIDS, whether HFCS is more harmful than table sugar, whether smoking cigarettes causes cancer, or your favorite other dispute between the views of "modern medicine" and the alternative.))

    When it comes to evolution, on the other hand, schools seem to want to fall back on the argument from authority. ("The best scientists all agree, so you should too.") They are particularly reluctant to concede that some of the arguments against evolution are actually arguments that the theory is scientifically implausible, not arguments based on a "creation story." For example, Michael Dembski argues that there simply hasn't been enough time since life emerged on earth (considerably more than 10,000 years ago, by the way) for enough random mutations and the winnowing process of natural selection to have brought about the range of species we see today. That is not a religious argument, but a scientific (or mathematical, if you prefer) one. It may be a bad argument, but if it is, then it ought to be refuted scientifically, not dismissed as unworthy of scientific discussion.

  • ||

    The creationism vs. evolution is just two religions in collision. Science is the new religion. David Harsanyi talks about "believing" in evolution. Not so much different than believing in the Bible. The only real science is Engineering, in other words, cold hard practical applied science. The rest is speculation. I don't think either side knows the origin of life. And I think a child can be just as successful and happy in life believing in evolution or creationism. It's just not that relevant. How about teaching children how to think and evaluate and reason for themselves, then let them decide?

  • ||

    Let's just do away with all standards of education in the name of freedom.

    If the standards are controlled by creationists, why would you be against this?

    The problem with centralized control of cirriculum is that whoever controls the school board gets to decide what EVERYONE's children are taught.

    Why not just have a private rating system for schools, and let parents choose where to send their kids. Schools with bad reputations will have trouble placing their graduates at good universities. Just like how it works for higher education in the job market - where people are free to choose the university they go to and the curriculum is not centrally controlled by the federal government.

  • ||

    Maybe I'm naive or dense, but which Christian denominations are the ones that believe the earth is 6,000 years old?



    To expand on SugarFree's comment, the adding up was done by an Irish bishop named Ussher in the 17th-century.

    It is not as some creationists, who are probably totally unaware of its origins*, "in the Bible". Other authorities have made different interpretations but Ussher's is the most famous.

    As to a debate, what's the point?

    If believers cannot teach their offspring that God made the world and to remember that the teacher is just teaching the works of the devil and to pay it no mind I can't see where it's the states business to do so. My preference would be to simply remove biology from the compulsary part of the curriculum.

    *And would likely be alarmed if they were. Imagine, accepting the teachings of an Anglican Priest. Those guys are near as bad as Catholics and he was probably gay to boot. :)

  • ||

    "Can someone please direct me to some good books and/or websites that you feel offer the definitive proof that man has evolved from monkey.

    Is it your understanding that 'theories' are subject to "definitive proof"?

  • ||

    The prediction that the sun will come up tomorrow is "just a theory" in the same sense that evolution is "just a theory".

    Really? I've observed the sun coming up every new day for several years now and am thus pretty well persuaded of the theory that the sun will rise again tomorrow. So I guess you've observed a new species emerge through natural selection every day, and that after enough days, you've seen new genuses, families, orders, classes, and phylums emerge, so that now you are persuaded of the theory of evolution? That's pretty cool.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I have it on good authority that we are all living in a computer simulation and our universe was created 4 milliseconds ago.
    At least that's what I'm teaching my kids.

  • ||

    "Really?

    Yes, really. You take all of your observation data to come up with a theory. You test that theory. Where your post fails is that you fail to distinguish between a theory with reliable inputs and well founded conclusions with a theory with less reliable inputs and fluid conclusions. In short, your post indicates that you simply don't know what a theory is. Or possibly, you just don't give a f*ck because you think you're right about everything.

  • ||

    if a mall was telling kids the Easter Bunny was scientific fact, I'd... well, I'd not go to that mall...

    Even if the shops there offered better goods at lower prices than the competition?

  • ||

    Seamus | April 1, 2009, 2:47pm

    The problem is that there really isn't time for those speculations. The purpose of primary and secondary education is to cram students heads full of as many universally accepted facts as possible.

    At one time it was assumed that people lived in homogenous societies where few differences of opinion existed over what was the truth when it came to what needed to be taught to children in schools.

    The French and the Germans still believe this, hence no controversies about streaming some students into vocational training and some into college prep at ages as low as ten and twelve years old.

    The notion that some children of the "working class" may want to escape their roots but might not understand it at that young age (and get no encouragement from their parents to do so) does not occur to anyone.

    I tend to favor a more flexible approach to education, but it is unlikely that a government bureaucracy will provide it.

  • ||

    The only real science is Engineering

    *sigh*

    I don't even know why we try anymore. Anyone truly interested in science has figured out by now that evolution is proven fact. Anyone still skeptical of this PROVEN FACT is someone too stubborn to be persuaded about anything.

  • mark||

    A concise WSJ article on the new Texas rules. It's absolutely unfathomable that the board chairman's personal belief that the Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago influenced the board's decision to remove language on the age of the Earth. I have no words for that.

    I believe the central issue of this silly and confusing debate was whether to delete the following 20-year-old language from Texas high school biology standards:

    The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.


    The revised standards had the following language:

    The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing


    In January the board voted to uphold the revised standards. Fair enough, but I hope there will still be room to debate strengths and weaknesses of AGW theory as P Brooks mentioned. For sure, there is no need to debate the weaknesses of evolutionary theory in general (in a biology class rather than philosophy), but there are plenty of ongoing debates between competing evolutionary theories.

    Personally I don't see much of a difference between the two standards, but apparently the former has been used by creationists in the past to force ID into the classroom, and that's wrong. I had trouble figuring out which standards Mr. Harsanyi was for, though.

    The real news here is troubling new language that was inserted into the science standards at the last meeting. Students are now expected to:

    Analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record


    and

    analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell


    This language is completely bogus. Common ancestry is a fact, and you can debate incremental evolution vs. punctuated equilibrium without bringing common descent into it. And there is already a pretty good explanation for the complexity of the cell--the "symbiotic hypothesis" I believe. Is there really any need to evaluate this in a science class?

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    So, Tony, do actually any kind of background in science or are you just going by what you understand to be "science" because people you trust say it is so.

    NTTAWWT

  • mark||

    Oh and there was no word from Mr. Harsanyi on common descent and the complexity of the cell, but I guess his article was more on federalism than education.

  • ||

    http://www.reasons.org/about-us/faq

    "Should we be focusing on teaching the controversy of whether Christian's believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or not?"

    Lamar, it's not in the spirit of Libertarianism to over generalize, which is why I posted the link.

    I'm a Bible believing Christian that agrees with the scientific measurement of the age of the universe (~13.7 mil years old).

    And yes, I'm against the fed/st governments defining marriage. Gays and Pollies (if all parties are in agreement) should be free to marry w/o gov't sanction.

    I also believe in legalizing all drugs, prostitution/porn (the consenting adult kind).

    Along with being a Christian, I'm also a Libertarian, which the same can be said of Ran Paul, whom I voted for (wrote-in).

    -----------------------------------------

    "If your theory is so weak that it cannot hold up in the presence of alternatives being taught in public schools, then perhaps it's not so strong after all. Regardless of whether it's evolution or intelligent design.

    Dogma has no place in science."

    Brandybuck, you hit the nail on the head. I concur.

    I have no fear of science, in fact I love it! It just saddens me to see most Christians, misinterpreting Genesis leads one believing in a 6,000 year old universe.

    The Noah's Ark flood in Genesis was only a localized flood in the Mesopotamian Plain, where humanity was centralized. Only today does Global = Universal.


    ---------------------------------------------

    Let's not forget that just because a person chooses to believe in a 6,000 uni, doesn't make him or her a bad person. Americans should have the freedom to make bad choices, the freedom to fail, and the freedom to believe in wrong ideas.

    -----------------------------------------

    "Creationism is no more crazy than Keynesian Economics."

    In most simple terms, creationism is bringing matter into existence from nothingness.

    The only plausible theory for the beginning of the universe is the Big Bang. If you can tell me what started the Big Bang then give yourself a pat on the back.

    http://www.reasons.org/resources/publications/facts-faith/2000issue03#big_bang_the_bible_taught_it_first

  • ||

    Kreel,

    I've studied extensively on the subject of biology, enough to know that any 7th grader with a sufficiently open mind can conclude that evolution is the only successful explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

    The creationists have lost this issue, now and for all time. They aren't going to convince a single biologist that 150 years of increasingly sophisticated research deserves to be summarily dismissed in favor of a hypothesis for which there is zero evidence.

  • ||

    Tony,

    Where can I find some of the scientific proof that you refer to?

  • ||

    The problem is that there really isn't time for those speculations. The purpose of primary and secondary education is to cram students heads full of as many universally accepted facts as possible.

    Ah, I see; when we say that we're trying to teach our children how to think critically, we're really just bullshitting.

    (Actually, I already knew that. I went to public school, after all.)

  • ||

    I would settle for explaining the difference between evoluation within species which has been proven, and evolution of species which is still just a theory.

    IE, we see dogs evolve over time becoming larger, and smaller etc.

    But... not once have we seen a dog evolve into a cat.

    Kind of an important distiction IMHO.

  • ||

    not once have we seen a dog evolve into a cat.

    And you will never see such a thing. That's not evolution. That's a common misunderstanding of evolution.

    New species arise when populations diverge over time. Dogs, cats, humans, apes, trees, moss, E coli all share common ancestors at certain points in time.

  • ||

    "Should we be focusing on teaching the controversy of whether Christians believe the Earth is 6,000 years old or not?"

    Lamar, it's not in the spirit of Libertarianism to over generalize, which is why I posted the link.


    I was actually suggesting, in a poorly expressed way, that Christianity has its own debate about human origins even without science classes. PS. Your link was interesting.

  • ||

    Where can I find some of the scientific proof that you refer to?

    I've found Wikipedia is a good starting point for most inquiries on mainstream topics. Googling "proof of evolution" and making sure you find a reputable science source is also a handy thing to do.

  • ||

    not once have we seen a dog evolve into a cat.

    And you will never see such a thing. That's not evolution. That's a common misunderstanding of evolution.


    OK, change that to "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

  • ||

    Harsanyi assumes the creationists are acting out of a sincere desire to discover the truth. If there any creationists interested in sincere open debate, by all means let them into school. But what I see is that creationists are mostly duplicitous propagandists interested in pushing an agenda. I wouldn't want them in my school anymore than I would want LaRouche backers, Trotskyists or Scientologists. You know the old saying about being so open minded your brain falls out? That's Harsanyi.

  • ||

    "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

    Go look at dinosaur physiology.

  • ||

    Shouldn't that billboard have Jesus, with whip and chair (and lion dinosaur tamer's hat), subduing that critter?

  • ||

    OK, change that to "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

    What do you think evolution is? One day a lizard is prowling around and *poof* it's a bird? Or perhaps one of its eggs hatched into a fully-formed bird?

    What we do have are mountains of compelling DNA and fossil evidence that indicate that birds and modern reptiles share a reptile-like common ancestor.

  • ||

    Lamar @ 2:49:

    I have just read on this site that evolution is a "PROVEN FACT" (Tony @ 3:06) from someone who has "studied extensively on the subject of biology" (Tony @ 3:24).

    Are you calling BS on this and stating that evolution is not a "PROVEN FACT" as stated above?

    By the way, we can prove that the earth spins on its axis, therefore the sun rising in the east is no longer a theory, its a proof.

  • ||

    "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

    Go look at dinosaur physiology.


    Looking at dinosaur physiology is not the same thing as seeing a reptile evolve into a bird, any more than coming upon twisted wreckage on the highway is the same thing as observing the crash. You may be able to draw some pretty good conclusions about what happened, but that isn't to say that you actually saw it happen. (And those conclusions can be made even more confidently if you can compare your observations of the wreckage to the results of laboratory crash tests. Unfortunately, scientists haven't yet been able to conduct analogous tests for evolution--you know, the ones that show members of one phylum having descendents of a different phylum.)

  • stuartl||

    So I guess you've observed a new species emerge through natural selection every day, and that after enough days, you've seen new genuses, families, orders, classes, and phylums emerge, so that now you are persuaded of the theory of evolution? That's pretty cool.

    Sigh. I'm sure you are aware of the clear evidence of genetic changes caused by natural selection. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and the peppered moth are the most famous. There are also numerous instances of observed speciation. See section 5 of this. As you noted earlier, the fossil evidence and our knowledge of mutation rates indicates that it takes a bit longer to get to past speciation.

    OK, change that to "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

    Except that we have the fossils.

    Keep you eyes closed. Don't look at the huge amount of genetic data on species divergence. To pick something at random, don't read the latest Scientific American. It has an excellent article on color blindness and how the genes spread for primate trichromaticism. The isolation of new world and old world primates is in the genes.

    Ignore the cases of scientists guessing that intermediate species will be found in certain strata and finding them. (Sorry no time to find a link, but think of all the pre-human reamins found in Africa).

    The amount of data supporting evolution is huge. Creationists are trying to level the Rocky Mountains with a toothpick.

  • ||

    It's as much of a proven fact as anything in science. The only reason people are confused about this is because it directly contradicts certain religious myths.

    (I'd argue that a rotating Earth also contradicts parts of the Bible, but that doesn't seem to be as important as the origin of human beings.)

  • ||

    Tony @ 4:06

    Wikipedia?! You have an extensive background in biology and you are sending me to Wikipedia?

    If you have "studied extensively" on the subject, surely you have a good reference source that has laid out this "proven fact".

  • ||

    What we do have are mountains of compelling DNA and fossil evidence that indicate that birds and modern reptiles share a reptile-like common ancestor.

    What we have is DNA and physiology that are sufficiently similar that we conclude that reptiles and birds are related. What we don't have is actual observation of reptiles evolving into birds. (And what's this "reptile-like common ancestor"? Are you saying that theropod dinosaurs weren't reptiles?)

  • ||

    convertable:

    Too many to possibly cite adequately. If you were truly interested in learning about the subject you'd go start researching it yourself. I've read the Wiki article on evolution and it's as good a starting place as any. It comes with citations if you want to dig deeper into the subject.

  • ||

    OK, change that to "not once have we seen a reptile evolve into a bird."

    Except that we have the fossils.


    The fossils don't show us reptiles evolving into birds. They show us reptiles that in some ways resemble birds, and then birds that in some ways resemble reptiles, and we conclude from this that the latter evolved from the former. That's an inference, not an observation.

  • ||

    "If I outsource my child's upbringing to the government, I want it done the best way possible! If I just wanted the kid's brains filled with any old bullshit, I'd do it myself!"

    All snark aside, I have to admit that this point of view isn't entirely without merit.

  • ||

    What we don't have is actual observation of reptiles evolving into birds.

    You can't really observe something that takes many millenia to occur. We have observed speciation in less complex creatures (with very short generations) such as bacteria and fruit flies.

    The offspring of any individual will be the same species as the parent. Over vast amounts of time and many generations you will observe that a descendant of one creature may well be a completely different species than that creature. That means at some point there is an animal that is neither bird nor reptile--or perhaps both (ever seen an ostrich?) and everything in between. Species are in fact more-or-less arbitrary distinctions. Life exists on a continuum.

    (And what's this "reptile-like common ancestor"? Are you saying that theropod dinosaurs weren't reptiles?)

    Yeah that's what we call them. So yes birds evolved from reptiles, if you like. I only used that phrasing because we divide classes of species based on the current makeup of life's diversity. A platypus is classified as a mammal but it's really a transitional species between reptiles and mammals that happened to survive to the present day.

  • the innominate one||

    Evolution is as much a fact as gravity.

    Evolution is also as much a theory as gravity.

    The theories are attempts to explain the mechanisms behind each concept.

    Evolution has been observed (repeatedly), as has gravity, thus both are facts.

    spyglass - evolution doesn't have anything to do with origins of life

    Seamus - unique prehistorical events aren't going to be observed, but they can be inferred and strong conclusions drawn from available empirical evidence, just as one can solve a murder in the absence of eyewitnesses to the event

    convertible creationist - try talkorigins.org and pandasthumb.org

  • ||

    There are also numerous instances of observed speciation. See section 5 of this. As you noted earlier, the fossil evidence and our knowledge of mutation rates indicates that it takes a bit longer to get to past speciation.

    Observing that new species can emerge through natural selection working upon genetic mutation and concluding that new classes, orders, and phylums must be able to emerge through the same process is like observing that I can increase my running speed from 5 mph to 6 mph by daily practice and concluding that I must be able to increase it to 7 mph by the same process (or, at my age, any process at all).

  • the innominate one||

    Seamus - classes, orders, etc. have no objective definition. only species do, and not always. the macroevolution/ microevolution distinction is a false dichotomy which violates Occam's Razor.

  • ||

    Seamus - unique prehistorical events aren't going to be observed, but they can be inferred and strong conclusions drawn from available empirical evidence, just as one can solve a murder in the absence of eyewitnesses to the event

    No, but we are fairly confident in our ability to do so because people *have* observed murders more or less like the one we are investigating. And the farther a particular murder is unlike others we (or other people) have actually observed, the less confident we can be of any inference we draw from the evidence. (Rarely are we faced with a murder as unlike one we have ever seen before as the emergence of one biological class from another is unlike emergence of one species from another (much less the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria of the same species).)

  • the innominate one||

    one class doesn't emerge from another in one big step, as you seem to think. They diverge from a common ancestor in a series of little steps.

  • ||

    It's a good thing DNA and fossil evidence provide enough confirmation of the concept not to require us to wait around until the invention of the time machine.

    Not that it would do any good. Speciation doesn't happen in an instant. But evolution is the most parsimonious explanation for the diversity of species as observed on this planet. To say that it can happen in small increments but not large ones over vastly more time is to introduce an arbitrary limit that is not supported by the facts. (which is pretty much what innominate said at 4:48)

  • ||

    Seamus - classes, orders, etc. have no objective definition. only species do, and not always. the macroevolution/ microevolution distinction is a false dichotomy which violates Occam's Razor.

    Fine. It's still a pretty big leap of faith to conclude that, because we can see natural selection working to cause one species of fruit fly to evolve into another, that the same process can cause a water-dwelling, gill-breathing cold-blooded animal to evolve into a land-dwelling cold-blooded animal, and that to evolve further into a flying, feathered, warm-blooded animal. We see fossils of those different kinds of animals and infer that one kind evolved into another through genetic mutation, followed by the winnowing process of natural selection, but we have never observed that kind of change happening. We just conclude that it *must* have happened that way, because frankly we can't think of any other way to explain the limited evidence we can observe (no way, that is, that doesn't take us down paths that we rule out ex ante, such as special creation or intelligent design).

  • ||

    Tony,

    In all fairness PART of my motivation here was to point out that a large percentage, if not all, of those who in these comments will typically mock the creationist for his believes has done absolutely no individual research on the subject and has taken the evolutionary (between species) science on, dare I say, faith.

    I do have a legitimate interest in discovering proven evolutionary facts and the sources I've been able to dig up leave far too many questions to satisfy the proof that I think is demanded to say "that settles it - there can be no dissent"

    I am only interested in the proof that humans have evolved from something else. Cave lizards devolping antennea in place of eyes does nothing to further the proof of between species evolution as it pertains to humans.

    I am also not interested in those who think you can prove evoluation by disproving items in the Bible. Good science will stand on its own merits and disproving Biblical writings is irrelevant.

    What I shall do, and hopefully we can converse in other one of these type of threads, is gather all of my questions and then hopefully you can provide good sources/starting points for the answers. This may take time (work,kids,life,etc.)

    Hope to talk again soon

  • ||

    To the larger point of the article--I don't think it does anyone any good to let parents' prejudices influence their child's education on factual matters. Children coming out of school smarter than their parents should be a laudable goal.

  • ||

    To say that it can happen in small increments but not large ones over vastly more time is to introduce an arbitrary limit that is not supported by the facts.

    To say that it can happen in small increments and therefore must be able to happen over large ones is to make an extrapolation that is not supported by the facts, and that may be no more valid that my extrapolation, from the fact that by strenuous exercise I can improve my running speed to 6 mph, to the conclusion that I must be able to improve it to 7 mph the same way. In the absence of actual observation, we are just guessing.

  • the innominate one||

    Seamus - your argument is more akin to saying that just because I can't reach from one floor of a staircase to another floor in a single step, then I also can't reach the next floor by a series of small steps.

    If birds aren't descended from dinosaur ancestors, explain why they have the genes for producing teeth (albeit inactivated) which can be turned on using biomolecular techniques.

  • ||

    convertable,

    I think it's a fallacy to equate trusting in scientific consensus with trusting in religious myths. Few if any people can comprehend the entire scope of the science of evolution. One of science's great strengths is its inevitable drive toward consensus and coherence. It's possible that every biology text and authoritative statement on evolution is part of a giant ruse, and that only people who have actually dug up bones and looked in microscopes are qualified to believe in it--but you don't apply that same standard to anything else. Have you actually observed the earth rotating, or do you just trust the authoritative people who told you it does?

    Even if we ignore the requirement for scientific explanations to be parsimonious (humans are DNA-based lifeforms just like all others; what evidence exists to suggest they may not have evolved just like everything else did?), there is probably more hard evidence for human evolution than almost any other species (given our particular interest in our own species).

  • ||

    Seamus - your argument is more akin to saying that just because I can't reach from one floor of a staircase to another floor in a single step, then I also can't reach the next floor by a series of small steps.

    No, without actually observing the process, we can only guess whether the emergence of birds is more like moving from one floor to the next (or to the 10th floor) by small steps or more like moving from a running speed of 5 mph to one of 7 mph by small increments.

  • ||

    Seamus your argument is just another version of "we don't know everything, therefore we know nothing."

    You can't dismiss vast amounts of data just because we haven't happened upon the data you want to see.

    Is all cosmology bunk because we haven't observed the big bang?

  • the innominate one||

    As I've already stated, you can't directly observe unique events in the past, but you can infer what happened from other evidence. The most direct evidence is evidence from fossils. A large body of circumstantial evidence which comports with predictions from evolutionary theory is also available to support the conclusion that birds descended from reptilian ancestors.

    In fact, in the most modern, cladistic understanding of taxonomy, birds are not a class separate from reptiles, but are a sub-taxon of the reptiles. The reptiles as traditionally understood (snakes, lizards, tuataras, amphisbaenids, crocodilians, turtles) do not form a properly constructed monophyletic clade, instead they are a paraphyletic grade.

    I'm all in favor of questioning scientific theory and examining alternatives, but time is limited, particularly in high school science courses, and one has to prioritize what subjects will be covered. When I teach biodiversity at the college, I discuss Lamarckian inheritance since it is of historical evidence, even though it is discredited.

  • ||

    In other words, Seamus, all science is is a collection of "best guesses." Not only is evolution the "best guess" for explaining the diversity of life, it's the only guess there is. There is not a single credible alternative "guess" that satisfies even the most basic principles of reason.

  • the innominate one||

    I am also not interested in those who think you can prove evoluation [sic] by disproving items in the Bible.

    In my experience, this form of argumentation is more frequently true of literal creationists and ID proponents who provide no evidence to support their assertions but instead merely attempt to discredit evolutionary theory and act as though their views are a viable alternative.

  • jester||

    Most of the time evolutionary theory is taught so poorly that one is left with the impression that life changes in the purely linear sense as depicted in that famous 'Evolution of Man' picture.

    Evolutionary theory is really the story of a miniscule amount of successes against billions of dead-end extinctions. There is no single 'missing link'. Instead there are billions of failed models.

    This improper metaphor is the source of much confusion. Most of the time I hear the faithful reject evolution it is clear that they have a Lamarckian view of it not a Darwinian one.

    Let's face it, most schools are so poor at teaching just about everything adding evolution to the curricula is really adding one more thing that most people will misunderstand and misapply in their weltanschauung.

  • jester||

    just reading through this thread one can see the misunderstanding of evolution by much of the public. innominate one is giving an excellent lecture.

    I might add that their really aren't even species per se, only populations. When you understand that, you're more likely to understand evolution.

    Again it is sadly poorly taught.

  • ||

    Theory of evolution and creationism are not two points of view! The former is science the latter is philosophy.

  • ||

    Not only is evolution the "best guess" for explaining the diversity of life, it's the only guess there is. There is not a single credible alternative "guess" that satisfies even the most basic principles of reason.

    Well, sure, if you put the rabbit in the hat by ruling out alternative explanations ex ante.

  • mark||

    convertable - You are being way too nice to Tony. He ratted out his parents to Big Brother at a young age.

    And to add onto innominate's point about fact vs. theory, gravity IS both a fact and a theory. The fact of gravity has never been in dispute, while Newton's theory of gravity has been disproved/superseded by Einstein's theory of Relativity, although it's still quite a useful theory. The attempts by the Texas Board of Ed to teach "sufficiency or insufficiency" of the fossil record are akin to showing a class a picture of an airplane flying and asking them to discuss whether it refutes gravity.

  • ||

    Theory of evolution and creationism are not two points of view! The former is science the latter is philosophy.

    Philosophy isn't a point of view? What is it, then? A dessert topping?

  • mark||

    Seamus - Your "ex ante" friend is causing quite a lot of damage. Perhaps we can meet him and reason with him.

  • ||

    Theory of evolution and creationism are not two points of view! The former is science the latter is philosophy.

    I disagree. They are two falsifiable claims, and they are mutually exclusive. But only one has any evidence in its favor.

  • ||

    The attempts by the Texas Board of Ed to teach "sufficiency or insufficiency" of the fossil record are akin to showing a class a picture of an airplane flying and asking them to discuss whether it refutes gravity.

    Actually, a fairly interesting question. To answer it, you have to go into a fair amount of detail about what gravity really means and about all the different forces working on physical objects. For some reason, schools seem a lot more willing to go into that than they are to deal with objections to evolution. (When that comes up, you'd think the question was "What about pointed sticks?")

  • ||

    Well, sure, if you put the rabbit in the hat by ruling out alternative explanations ex ante.

    What alternative explanations? Ones that perhaps many people believe, but which lack even the most rudimentary evidential support? I'm saying every single observation in biology either confirms the basic principle of evolution or adds nuance to our understanding of it. Evolution is an observed fact. The theory of evolution, like all theories, is constantly being improved upon. Something would have to have impossibly extraordinary evidence in its favor to refute it.

  • Justen||

    Until 'intelligent design' science produces a shred of useful hard science is it just another conspiracy/alternate history theory. The only difference between ID and any other quackery is that it's backed by religious institutions. If individuals want to teach their children ID, that's perfectly fine. They're also welcome to teach their children about the secret alien takeover of the world governments, the Illuminati, Atlantis, perpetual motion devices, or anything else they like as fact; hell, they might even be right about a few of them. It doesn't change the fact that you don't get to teach it in school until it's supported by substantial evidence. School is about teaching widely accepted mainstream theories. Sometimes, oftentimes even, what they teach is wrong; it's still a safer bet than giving equal time to every quack that comes along with crazy ideas that are not supported by available evidence.

  • ||

    The problem with this issue being discussed is that it goes away if public schools go away and are replaced by private schools.

    The real issue here is; i.e. the existance of public schools and even worse the fact that children are forced to attend these schools.

    Schools should go back to being private and this way they can teach what they want using the funds given to them by their students and private donars.

    With public schools you wind up with a lot of problems including the issue being written about in this article, something that wouldn't be an issue if private schools replaced the public school system.

  • ||

    The theory of evolution by natural selection is dogma? Like the theory of relativity is dogma? WTF, Harsanyi?

    I would definitely support teaching (in a social studies class) the history of the fundamentalist response to Darwin, followed by a unit on the philosophy of science, followed by one on comparative religion. But simply "teaching the controversy" won't give the fundie kids the intellectual tools they need to think this stuff through.

  • MNG||

    "Schools should go back to being private and this way they can teach what they want using the funds given to them by their students and private donars."

    Because look how well that served the general populace. I mean, think of the literacy rate in Dickensian England!

    And of course, if you were the member of some minority on some issue or belief who did not have enough market power to have a school that taught your beliefs where your job happens to be (which is a great deal of folks), then you would indeed have this problem in a private only system of schooling.

  • Kolohe||

    What is it, then? A dessert topping?

    No, it's a floor wax!

  • jtuf||

    I completely agree with your aticle, Harsanyi. The modern theory of evolution will stand up fine to the scrutiny. Teaching the debate also is a great opportunity to teach students how to choose between competing theories based on the data.

  • ||

    Well, sure, if you put the rabbit in the hat by ruling out alternative explanations ex ante.

    Creationism is not an alternative explanation. It is an appeal to authority. To go back to the car wreck analogy, the science of evolution is the investigator measuring the length and angle of skid marks, noting the location of the debris field, etc.

    Creationism is asserting that Dr. Magneto was nearby, and decided to use his mutated mental powers to yank the two cars together, just for fun.

  • ||

    1. If the authorities had students learning the basics of economics instead of fighting over this issue, then maybe we would have some politicians now that have a clue.

    2. If the theory of evolution posits survival of the fittest and the fittest survive because the are able to adapt more readily to their environment, then how come Caucasians don't have fur? I have heard the theory that it's because of spending millions of years fishing in the ocean, but that seems rather thin to me. I was awfully cold last winter, and a nice fur coat would have helped me survive. And wouldn't people never need sunscreen in Sweden?

  • Les||

    For some reason, schools seem a lot more willing to go into that than they are to deal with objections to evolution.

    Could you please name some scientific objections to evolution?

  • Les||

    For Seamus and Convertable, some excellent, informative links:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html#pred4

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-misconceptions.html#observe

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

  • the innominate one||

    If the theory of evolution posits survival of the fittest and the fittest survive because the are able to adapt more readily to their environment, then how come Caucasians don't have fur? I have heard the theory that it's because of spending millions of years fishing in the ocean, but that seems rather thin to me. I was awfully cold last winter, and a nice fur coat would have helped me survive. And wouldn't people never need sunscreen in Sweden?

    wow, that's some heavy ignorance.

  • spyglass||

    the innominate one,

    What's ignorant about it. Enlighten me. I don't pretend to know all about this issue.

  • Boogers MeGee||

    Since both are not science, how about we all agree on teaching either or. If the past was known it would be history. And since it is neither science nor history, the subject should fall to an elective philosophy class that is optional.

  • jester||

    Like I said earlier most people don't understand evolution such that their poor grasp of it doesn't hold up to their theological tests.

    It is poorly taught. Even 'survival of the fittest' is hugely inaccurate. Evolution really is about accident and natural selection.

    I honestly don't think most people know the difference between Lamarck and Darwin and I think more people think evolution in the Lamarckian way.

    I really think teaching biogeography in schools would help more people understand evolutionary theories. And it wouldn't be offensive to religious folks. It would plant the seed so to speak. Before they know it they will be rethinking things.

  • jester||

    Theology, not philosophy. Creationism should be taught in the Theology Dept.

  • jester||

    It is interesting to note that Alfred Wallace, the co-founder of speciation by natural selection, or evolution, believed in ghosts and channeled spirits.

    So Christians can still believe in angels and seraphims and demon spirits. Wallace is proof that the two are compatible.

  • KD||

    If the theory of evolution posits survival of the fittest and the fittest survive because the are able to adapt more readily to their environment, then how come Caucasians don't have fur? I have heard the theory that it's because of spending millions of years fishing in the ocean, but that seems rather thin to me. I was awfully cold last winter, and a nice fur coat would have helped me survive. And wouldn't people never need sunscreen in Sweden?

    Caucasians likely would have fur had they not started the practice of wearing animal fur as they gradually migrated north, thus eliminating the need to evolve their own built in fur coats.

    With sunscreen, skin tones also lightened in order to better absorb more sun, which they got less of the further north they moved. We "need" sunscreen today because we spend too much time indoors and don't have built-up natural tans, despite whatever our "starting point" skin tone may be. In winter, tans would lessen to allow more sun to be absorbed, and tans develop in summer to block more sun in response to the greater amount and strength of sunlight. This is the nutshell explanation.

  • mark||

    ...and as we all know, sunlight is necessary for the production of vitamin D, a vital nutrient. THAT is proof of human evolution!

  • george||

    evolution is not an observable experiment... just saying...

  • george||

    ...while we're talking about what belongs in the science classroom that is...

  • the innominate one||

    Evolution absolutely is observable under both natural and experimental conditions, george.

  • ||

    So which creation story gets its equal time with the biological theory of evolution?

    I'd vote for the greek myths. They're far more entertaining than Torah.

    -jcr

  • ||

    how come Caucasians don't have fur?

    Because fur was a disadvantage in Africa where we evolved, and we haven't lived in high latitudes long enough to get it back.

    Oh, and as it happens, caucasians tend to have rather more body hair than africans.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Mr Harsanyi's comments are intellectually juvenile. This notion that we should teach both sides is based on the flaw that there is actually a scientific creationism. There is not. At all. ID is more mytho-poetic crap pushed out by people whose theology is so weak that they can't deal with the fact that perhaps a three thousand year old Ugaritic campfire story AINT LITERAL TRUTH. ID is not science. It proposes no experiments (which is what THEORY does in science). Nothing would happen if ID were to become the dominant theory. Because of this uselessness, this lack of empirical content, ID is clearly not science. It is a mythopoetic redneck fantasy. Exposing children to ID will one day be mocked as some goofy American education experiment.

    As for the notion that it is a good academic exercise to learn how to discern between competing sides in a debate, how many college educated Americans even know what Epistemology is? let alone high school kids? With the amount of fully-baked conspiracy theories running around out there, the idea that American students will even begin to understand the complexities of falsifiability, verifiability, correspondence and hierarchy is highly wishful thinking. Philosophy of science is not the same thing as Biology.

    This op-ed piece is the equivalent of a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals saying "well that's just your opinion". I expect more from Reason. How pathetic libertarianism is becoming if "choice" and "freedom" become hollow buzz words. Has the social constructivism come to affect libertarianism as it has the Left and the Neocons? Science is not just about opinions, or choice or freedom. There are limits to action and limits in life. Evolutionary Biology is the only method by which knowledge of the natural world is accurately assessed and sorted. It has 150 years of observation, hypothesis, and experiment to back it up. Those who say otherwise are arrogant and ignorant. Period. There is no middle ground.

  • ||

    And this is why government/taxpayer funded schools shouldn't exist in the first place.

  • Untermensch||

    The fossils don't show us reptiles evolving into birds.



    Speak for yourself when you talk about "us reptiles" but this thread certainly proves that some of us have evolved into bird (brains)...

  • Reader||

    Schools could A) teach evolution, which provides a practical framework for understanding animal physiology through conserved mechanisms as well as being a good example of scientific reasoning or B) indulge a minority of americans by using teaching time to give a semblance of potential credibility to their cause. The second might be more equitable and fair, but the first actually succeeds in doing what the school should be doing.

  • Some Guy||

    Then why might as well teach communism in economics class. You have to ignore less evidence that it doesn't make sense.

    If I were in charge, they'd teach intelligent design, but it would be taught in logic class. If you can't debunk it by the time you're in 4th grade or so, you go to the remedial school.

  • ||

    Tony @ 5:25

    I'm not sure you are still following the thread, but I just wanted to give a quick response to your comments:

    I'm not saying that only those who have dug up the bones and looked in the microscopes are qualifed to believe in it, but if you are going to state that it is an undisputable fact you should at least know what exactly the evidence is.

    And it is true that will not apply the same standard to creationism. I recognize that creationism isn't science - it is faith. It would be impossible to prove creationism, you either believe or you don't.

    But evolution is what must be scientific and what must prove itself. If there are holes that does lead to a level of doubt. Doubt means that other explanations could petentially be viable, if not provable themselves.

  • spyglass||

    "how come Caucasians don't have fur?

    Because fur was a disadvantage in Africa where we evolved, and we haven't lived in high latitudes long enough to get it back.

    Oh, and as it happens, caucasians tend to have rather more body hair than africans."

    So there was time enough to turn the skin white, but not enough to grow fur back? That does not make sense.

  • spyglass||

    "Caucasians likely would have fur had they not started the practice of wearing animal fur as they gradually migrated north, thus eliminating the need to evolve their own built in fur coats."

    I am still confused. The DNA or genes or whatever which govern reproduction were somehow aware they furry apes were wearing fur coats so it slowly eliminated hair on out bodies? Wouldn't the furriest of apes be warmer in northern climates, and therefore reproduce more?

    If it's such a disadvantage to have fur in Africa where man evolved, how come the current primates in Africa have fur?

    Judging from the answers I have gotten so far, I think there are a lot of holes in the theory of evolution. It doesn't sound like any absolute truth to me, comparable to gravity.

  • J. P. Carlo||

    Convertable et al.:

    In science, nothing is ever proven. It is always possible that tomorrow data will be produced which fails to agree with a current theory. So any scientific theory, no matter how many times it's been tested, no matter how accurately its predictions have been confirmed, is still subject to falsification, and then must be modified or replaced by a new theory to explain the new data.

    Theories can never be proven true. But they most certainly can be proven false.

    (It is also true, OTOH, that any theory proposed to replace the existing one must not only explain the new data, but also explain all the old data, or else it has "already" been falsified. For theories which are supported by a mountain of evidence, tested many times and/or to high degrees of precision, there are severe constraints on what could eventually replace it. So it is emphatically true that everything we know would never be "thrown out," despite scientific popularizations indicating such; what does happen is that modifications are made, and even after that, the old theory still maintains its validity in regimes where its predictions are valid - you can still make a damn fine airplane using classical physics, despite knowing that classical physics fails to generate valid predictions in certain limits such as high velocity, strong gravitational fields, or at atomic scales.)

    Anyway, the upshot of is that we shouldn't talk about "proving" things because that never happens. We should talk about the amount of evidence supporting a given theory (which also places constraints on any alternative which could be proposed should the existing theory someday be shown to be inconsistent with experiment/observation).

    Therefore, a more valid test of a scientific theory is whether it is *falsifiable.* If I produce a theory which can be contorted to explain any conceivable data whatsoever, that theory is unscientific (think: Miss Cleo, Nostradamus, horoscopes).

    Simply put, such a theory is not scientific because there is no observable difference between a Universe where the theory is correct and one where it is incorrect - in both Universes my "theory," being so vague or flexible, can explain any conceivable experimental result.

    (That's not to say it's wrong; it could well be correct. But it's not something that can be addressed by science, as science is about observation of nature. It's material for something else - philosophy, theology, or what have you.)

    So what one must ask is, Is my theory falsifiable? Is there any conceivable experimental result which would show my theory to be false?

    And creationism fails that test -- unless creationists can describe a potential observation or experiment that can be done, with a possible outcome that would convince them that creationism is false and some alternative is needed.

    i.e. "Perform the following experiment: ______ blah blah blah. If the results of that experiment are ______ yadda yadda, then creationism is proven false."

    Can anyone provide an example of such an experiment?

  • ||

    Wow, a lot of comments on this one, lemme just get mine in:

    Does either sides argument really do anything to prepare children for college and/or the working world? IMO, no. Neither needs to be taught in public school, if your focus is on critical thinking, there are many other subjects that can be used to exercise critical thinking. Both sides are just trying to get their opinion pushed, the atheists want everyone to be an atheist, and the dogmatists want everyone to be a member of their religion. How about the gov't does what they should do in every case and just STAY THE FUCK OUT OF IT. Let parents teach their kids their beliefs if they believe it is important that they children be knowledgeable in either or any of the theories about the beginnings of human life.

  • stuartl||

    Is all cosmology bunk because we haven't observed the big bang?

    We do observe the Cosmic Microwave Background, which is pretty close.

    Fine. It's still a pretty big leap of faith to conclude that, because we can see natural selection working to cause one species of fruit fly to evolve into another, that the same process can cause a water-dwelling, gill-breathing cold-blooded animal to evolve into a land-dwelling cold-blooded animal, and that to evolve further into a flying, feathered, warm-blooded animal. We see fossils of those different kinds of animals and infer that one kind evolved into another through genetic mutation, followed by the winnowing process of natural selection, but we have never observed that kind of change happening. We just conclude that it *must* have happened that way, because frankly we can't think of any other way to explain the limited evidence we can observe (no way, that is, that doesn't take us down paths that we rule out ex ante, such as special creation or intelligent design).

    Let's see, we have mountains of fossil evidence showing thousands of animals that appear to have changed characteristics over long time periods, indicating common ancestors to multiple species. We have genetic evidence that maps to the fossil evidence. We have numerous observations of speciation both in the lab and in nature that provide a mechanism for this to happen.

    We have clear examples of stupid design (misplaced optic nerves, the appendix, the genes in conflict with each other predicted by Dawkins, subsequently found many, many times( such as mitochodrial genes that cause male sterility, suppressed by nuclear genes)), that are all easily explained by evolution. If a designer was involved, it was a toddler on acid.

    But, you want to fall back to special creation or intelligent design. To quote Huxley, "I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth."

  • andrew||

    Hey Carston,

    If this was about BELIEFS than fine, but it's not. It's about science. And if you don't think science prepares children for the world, then what world do you live in?

  • ||

    Science does indeed prepare children for the world, but unproven theories don't help anyone, they just contribute to controversy. Teach facts, not theories. If you want to study theories, you can choose to after you leave the government schools.

  • the innominate one||

    Carston:

    There is no such thing as a proven theory. If you don't want children taught theories in public schools, then we'll have to stop teaching the germ theory of disease and the gene theory of inheritance.

    Theory doesn't have the same meaning in science as it does in the vernacular. Neither does proof.

  • Untermensch||

    I am still confused. The DNA or genes or whatever which govern reproduction were somehow aware they furry apes were wearing fur coats so it slowly eliminated hair on out bodies? Wouldn't the furriest of apes be warmer in northern climates, and therefore reproduce more?

    If it's such a disadvantage to have fur in Africa where man evolved, how come the current primates in Africa have fur?

    Judging from the answers I have gotten so far, I think there are a lot of holes in the theory of evolution. It doesn't sound like any absolute truth to me, comparable to gravity.



    You're actually making a common mistake with evolutionary theory. Evolution has absolutely no predictive power about what will happen. It is a mechanism for how change happens, not why. Even a lot of scientists speak about evolution in terms of volition, purpose, and causality (including even Dawkins), so it's not hard to see why people are confused.

    To answer your questions above, we don't know why any specific hypothetical result doesn't happen for any of those. That is not even a question that can be answered. All we can do is, after the fact, point out that a given adaptation met a need. But that adaptation did not arise to fulfill that need (something that implies a purpose). It arose because whatever individuals had it (or any of the steps leading up to it) were better able to survive and reproduce.

    This observation gets at your first question: DNA is aware of nothing. Genes are aware of nothing. They don't need to be. If caucasians wear coats that changes the environment within which genes operate and obviates the adaptive value of certain changes (like fur) so that they no longer convey a particular advantage. The need for warmth has been met by other means (purpose-driven actions in this case) so there is no pressure to make those changes.

    To turn to the second question: why apes have fur and humans don't. Again, we don't know. All we know is that they don't. There are loads of speculation having to do with bipedalism, but they are just that: (informed) speculation. The only answer that can be given is that lack of fur conveyed some reproductive advantage to proto-humans along the way. That advantage could have been something to do with cooling (per bipedalism hypotheses) or it could have been that proto-humans thought those with less hair were sexier than those with more and thus the ones with less hair reproduced better. Your questions are like asking why chickens don't have peacock tails. The answer to that question, from an evolutionary perspective is the same: chickens were not subject to the same pressures and maybe the jungle hens just didn't dig the dudes with bigger tails. We don't know.

    Ultimately your questions (or, I suspect, veiled arguments) really don't address evolution at all because they are based in the wrong premises. Of course you're going to find "holes" in evolution when you are asking the wrong questions.

  • ||

    Ok, well then in general, don't teach theories, teach facts. The theories you are referring to are a little outside of what would be studied in high school, at least public ones. Like I said in the first place, both sides are just trying to get their opinion pushed/backed by the gov't, the atheists want everyone to be an atheist, and the dogmatists want everyone to be a member of their religion, the government shouldn't be backing either side by pushing an agenda in schools.

  • ||

    Ok...here is the thing. Everyone is forgetting that teachers also have a degree control about what they teach within a classroom. I remember that in HS I had a teacher that wanted to teach both evolution and creationism. This was before it was even an issue. We were given slips for our parents to sign. More than half of the class had to go to another room when these lectures took place. Some teachers did nto agree with her lesson plans but could not do anything about it. If a teacher is part of a Union...there is no way that anyone can make them teach something they do not agree with. Before it even gets to the parents, we have to take into account the teachers. Most would not approve of such a curriculm and even though i am not familiar with others states, I know that now, being presently an educator, there are certain topics that cannot be enforced upon the educator to teach.

    In keeping this in mind, I would love to teach both topics in a classroom but lets be fair...most educators are not willing to part with their personal beliefs for the sake of education. Even when teaching Sex Ed. some educators impart personal beliefs upon their students. I dont agree with this but it happens all too often.

    Students should be given the information to make informed decisions for themselves period.

  • Untermensch||

    I should add too that your questions only make sense if you assume that there is a "correct" answer to any given environmental requirement. But nature doesn't work that way. There are hundreds and thousands of possible solutions to most environmental problems. Because of that evolution would be expected to produce multiple solutions. Sometimes they will be largely similar (you need some sorts of wings to fly) and other times they won't. So the the assumption that because evolution doesn't produce result X each and every time it is flawed is a fundamentally bad argument. Evolution has "choices" (here using a metaphorical term since evolution doesn't "choose" anything) between options A-Z, so to speak, and any one of them is the correct answer. (That said, there are far more wrong answers than there are right answers, which is why you'd never find some combinations.)

    I doubt that helps though since I really think you are willfully playing a naive to try to advance your argument.

  • ||

    On human hairlessness:

    Hair is a good place to find ticks and other parasites. Once humans figured out how to build fires and wear furs, the warming advantage of bodily fur is reduced, thereby opening up a selective advantage for less hairy individuals with fewer parasites.

    Scientists think this also led to sexual selection. Less hair was a way to advertise health, i.e., fewer parasites, so hairlessness becomes an attractive feature in mates.

    Head hair no doubt offers the advantage of not getting your scalp sunburnt, but is probably also a sexual cue. Pubic and underarm hair probably got retained due to its role in enhancing the exchange of pheromonal signals.

    Differences in skin color have to do with available sunlight. In the tropics there is a surplus, requiring protection in the form of dark pigment. In the north, there is a shortage, so light skin evolved to soak up more vitamin D.

  • ||

    We developed ways to stay warm using our intelligence (fire, shelter, dead animal furs) likely before we moved out of the African Velt to Northern Europe so we would not need to evolve to become covered in fur to stay warm. We walked there quickly (a human can walk thousands of miles in less than a year) but stayed there for long enough to change skin pigmentation to cope with the sunlight issue. So, while on the surface it would seem logical to be hairy up north, it was unnecessary. It does not disprove evolution. It just answers a question, which came first, people in northern climates, or our ability to use tools to create warmth?

    Our intelligence has allowed us to live anywhere in the world. That is where we have evolved the most. It is our great strength, but also our downfall. We can build nuclear power generators, but we also have over active imaginations that create deities out of thin air. (Not yours, of course. Your deity is right...or you are easily ruled by emotion.)

  • ||

    Untermensch @ 11:21 & 11:27am,

    My boss thanks you for typing that so I didn't have to. ;-)

  • the innominate one||

    Ok, well then in general, don't teach theories, teach facts. The theories you are referring to are a little outside of what would be studied in high school, at least public ones.

    Really? Public high schools don't teach that germs cause disease? Public high schools don't teach that genes are the units of inheritance? What's your basis for this assertion?

    I've taught biology at a private Judeo-Christian high school using state educational guidelines, at a public community college and at two public universities for over ten years. I have a B.Sc. in Biology and an M.S. in Biology. I'm working on a Ph.D. in Biology. Therefore, I'm going to assert the authority of firsthand experience in this area.

    Teaching evolution IS teaching facts.

    If your argument is don't teach theories, then biology classes in high schools won't be teaching evolution, germs, or genetics. Chemistry classes won't be teaching atomic theory. Have you ever seen an atom? Physics courses won't cover gravity or the standard model of particle physics.

  • ||

    convertable @ 8:41am
    But evolution is what must be scientific and what must prove itself. If there are holes that does lead to a level of doubt. Doubt means that other explanations could petentially be viable, if not provable themselves.

    Scientists are always looking for improvements in their explanations, this improves the predictive power of their theory. As well, it can lead to fame and fortune.

    They just aren't looking to creationism and "ID" as alternatives to evolution. See, evolution explains why bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, and may even suggest solutions. Creationism? ID? Not science, not an explanation, hence not useful.

  • ||

    @ the innominate one

    Really? Public high schools don't teach that germs cause disease? Public high schools don't teach that genes are the units of inheritance? What's your basis for this assertion?

    You are completely mischaracterizing what I said. Yes they teach that germs cause disease, that is something very basic gone over in elementary health classes, and the genes/inheritance thing we went over in freshman biology (although I don't see it as pertinent to being a functional member of society). My basis for these assertions, I graduated from my public high school five years ago, nothing taught in the realm of genetics or germs was referred to as a theory.

    My opinion, biology classes do nothing to prepare people for their future, (to me it was just a lot of useless memorization, not actually learning anything) unless their future is in biology, students can choose to get into that after high school if they want.

    Teaching evolution IS teaching facts.

    If its a fact, why is it called the "Theory of Evolution" and not the "Fact of Evolution" , or just plainly, "Evolution"?

    I see chemistry and physics the same way I see biology, if you are into it, good for you, go study it, otherwise, there is no purpose in forcing it on students who will either choose something to study in college, or take a job out of high school where this knowledge will never serve a purpose.

    I took some physics classes in college because I found it interesting, so I studied its theories. Everyone should have this available to them, no one in a public school setting should have theories shoved down their throat, either from god-fearing dogmatist, or science-loving atheist.

  • ||

    If its a fact, why is it called the "Theory of Evolution" and not the "Fact of Evolution" , or just plainly, "Evolution"?

    Understanding the semantics involved here is pertinent to being a functional member of society. You apparently skipped school that day.

  • ||

    @ jasa

    I understand the semantics, I was being partially sarcastic due to the fact that this is a retarded argument, at least for what are supposed to be self-described libertarians. The whole aspect of choice and freedom is taken out of the equation I guess when you have paternalist trying to make everyone believe what they believe, as always, for their own good.

    In short, lets leave it up to parents and students. This is going to be very difficult since we decided to go down the road of government run schools in the first place, but hey, lets at least try to leave it up to people to decide for themselves.

  • ||

    In short, lets leave it up to parents and students.

    This is the more interesting discussion. For myself, having HS education treated as an all elective exercise would not have resulted in much change at all. I came from a family with high educational standards.

    For other kids, the answer may have been very different. Being pushed to learn only what your father knows, when your father is an alcoholic janitor, is pretty darn limiting.

    No offense intended to the alcoholic janitors among us. ;-)

  • ||

    Cmon jasa, you must be trolling.

    So without assistance from the government, people are limited to the occupational and/or educational realms of their parents? So individuality, drive, desire, and open-minds don't exist or serve no purpose, because you are destined to be one of your parents without the government's help? We have reached a very sad point in human existence.

  • mark||

    Carston,

    Just because I describe myself as a libertarian does not mean I throw my hands up and say the government should not teach anything, therefore it's ok for the government to teach whatever they want. The job of a school board is ostensibly to promote the most useful curricula with the best science available. But many of the posters here say that it's ok for a board to say that gravity is caused by the devil to test us, so long as a majority (or vocal minority) of people represented by the board want that to be taught. That is an incorrect assumption about the role of elected officials.

    Now, if you want to get really specific: Biology teachers should teach that natural selection is the best explanation for how (the fact of) evolution works, with some discussion of discredited theories if there is time. There is no time or place for ID in a biology class, unless you're trying to teach how NOT to do science.

    Are you concerned that a biology teacher will explicitly say "The fact of evolution proves there is no god" because that would never happen.

  • ||

    Are you concerned that a biology teacher will explicitly say "The fact of evolution proves there is no god" because that would never happen.

    The point I am trying to make, is that neither side deserves to have their view sponsored by the government. Teaching creationism does nothing to prepare students for the working world, and either does teaching evolution.

    My concern is for the public education all together, it needs to focus on facts that prepare students to become functional members of society, no matter what their chosen path may be after leaving school.

    Unless you are choosing to be in one of the specified fields, be it mythology (Jewish,Christian, Islam, take your pick) or biology, the teachings behind creationism and/or evolution do nothing for you.

  • ||

    So without assistance from the government, people are limited to the occupational and/or educational realms of their parents?

    WTF? Dude, we're talking about kids. The university works as you suggest. They have adults for clients.

    Regarding "drive" and "desire": Would your 10, 12, hell, 16 year old son go to school if you didn't make him? Would he learn algebra if you didn't make him? If the answer is yes, you got damn lucky.

    Are you going to be willfully obtuse all day long?

  • ||

    Carston,

    What are you arguing? That children should be able to choose their eventual profession and should only study those subjects that will help them in that profession?

    I haven't used a single bit of calculus in my life since high school. But I'm glad I had the option to study it. Biology is even more important to a well-rounded education, and without a basic understanding of evolution, you don't have a basic grasp of biology. So the logical extension of your argument is that we need not teach literature unless you're gonna be a lit. professor. How a 9th grader knows whether she will be a lit. professor or not you don't explain.

  • Anonymoose||

    The point, Carston, is that teaching the theory of evolution is not teaching a "viewpoint." It is teaching the generally accepted, scientifically testable and falsifiable theory relating to how species develop over time. At the moment there exists no competing "theory" that is able to make predictions or is falsifiable. If there were, it would be appropriate to teach that alongside evolution. As soon as you can explain to me how creationism/ID/Flying Spaghettimonsterism can make any useful and falsifiable predictions about the future based on observations of the past I will be glad to let those be taught.

    Biology is a pretty basic building block of a decent modern science education. Evolution is a fundamental building block of a true understanding of biology.

  • ||

    Just because they are kids, does not mean they are helpless or unable to form their own thoughts, or do not have desire to be the best. In my experiences with kids, they always want to be the best, regardless of what the activity is.

    Regarding "drive" and "desire": Would your 10, 12, hell, 16 year old son go to school if you didn't make him? Would he learn algebra if you didn't make him?

    Being in school doesn't imply learning. Just making a kid go there guarantees nothing, many kids I went to school with that had a great attendance record were still stupid. If a kid doesn't have it naturally, parents must teach drive and desire and a want to succeed. If this is done, kids will learn about what they want or what they feel is important to them regardless of public education.

  • the innominate one||

    Carston - apparently you don't understand the semantics or you wouldn't be engaging in falsely equating creationism and evolution. Also, apparently you haven't read the thread comments carefully and haven't read up on the subject generally.

    click this link if you'd like to read my previous explanation of theory

    As to why it is important to understand biology even if you're not a biologist: you are a biological entity. Biology is the basis of medicine and health.

  • ||

    If a kid doesn't have it naturally, parents must teach drive and desire and a want to succeed.

    Thus my comment about the alcoholic janitor father dooming the son to a very limited future.

    I've gotten my answer; you are going to be obtuse all day long.

  • ||

    @ the innominate one

    I don't think you are reading into what I have been saying. I am not disputing evolution, I am not disputing creationism, I am disputing the fact that either of them serve a purpose in a public K-12 education, be it in a philosophy or biology class.

    Yes, basic biology needs to be taught, such as how to eat right and keep yourself physically fit, other than that, it doesn't serve a purpose in a K-12 education, unless the student wants to get into that field after they are done with school.

    Knowing the origins of human life do not serve a role in being a functional member of society. Educators would be much better serving their students with teachings in economics and financial responsibility, since these are things that people actually deal with throughout their lives, unlike the big bang and a rise from the primordial goo.

  • ||

    Thus my comment about the alcoholic janitor father dooming the son to a very limited future.

    What can I say, stupid usually bears stupid, but there are outliers. Maybe that alcoholic janitor should have maybe done better for himself before having kids, but this is where personal choice and individual responsibility come into play. We all feel bad about the kids with shitty and/or poor parents, but unless you advocate a nanny state, there isn't really anything you can do about it. Just let them make their own mistakes and hopefully people will learn from them, like learning from your fathers mistakes, and not becoming a drunk.

    Wow, we have really drifted from where this began.

  • the innominate one||

    I am reading what you are saying plainly, Carston. You continue to falsely equate evolution with creationism as just two equally viable viewpoints. You don't seem to be reading what I wrote. I am aware you aren't disputing evolution per se.

    There is much more to biology than health and nutrition; there is much more to evolution than human origins.

    You have a sadly limited view of the world. The American educational model is based on giving everyone the opportunity for a renaissance-style fully rounded education. I'm fully in favor of letting 16+ year olds opt out of the college track for a vocational track, but most people take biology as 14 and 15 year olds.

    Another example: understanding evolution gives insight into the production of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a phenomenon of increasing importance and frequency in the world.

  • ||

    Yes, basic biology needs to be taught, such as how to eat right and keep yourself physically fit, other than that, it doesn't serve a purpose in a K-12 education, unless the student wants to get into that field after they are done with school.

    So, the kid makes this decision before or after he learns about evolution? ;-)

    The whole point of a well rounded K-12 education is to equip a kid to make those decisions.

    You're killing me here, Carston, just killing me. Please stop before I crack a rib.


    ...understanding evolution gives insight into the production of antibiotic-resistant bacteria...

    We're repeating each other, innominate one. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's standard lecture theory. :-)

  • ||

    Another example: understanding evolution gives insight into the production of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a phenomenon of increasing importance and frequency in the world.

    But only serves a purpose if you are a doctor, R&D at a drug company, or some type of biochemist.

    What makes you think I am equating creationism with evolution?? I am just using those as examples since thats where this started. There is a whole lot of nonsense going on a public schools that needs to stop being taught, creationism and evolution are just the subjects of this article.

    Seems to me like we just have a basic disagreement on the purpose of the public education system. I think that its purpose is to prepare our citizens for the working world by teaching them the basic skills necessary to start their life. While I cant really pinpoint your view on its purpose, my guess is its something like throwing a handful of rocks at the lake hoping one will skip, i.e. expose children to everything that is out there, and hope they pick up on something they are good at and like, regardless of all the time wasted (wasted in my opinion) on stuff they will never have anything to do with in their career.

  • ||

    I think that its purpose is to prepare our citizens for the working world by teaching them the basic skills necessary to start their life.

    So 9 months out of the year, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and we can't even squeeze in the foundations of biology somewhere?

  • ||

    So, the kid makes this decision before or after he learns about evolution? ;-)

    Well, hopefully these kids aren't making their own decisions on what to eat and exercising, since they are kids and living with their parents or some type of guardian.

    Oh, your talking about the career path. So someone needs to be taught about evolution before they decide they like subject of biology? Surely there are other aspects of biology that do not deal with the origin of human life, like learning about plants and animals, their relationships and environments. Thats at least what I was learning about in 8th and 9th grade stuck in biology classes, and when I decided I wanted nothing to do with the subject.

  • ||

    So 9 months out of the year, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and we can't even squeeze in the foundations of biology somewhere?

    Well we could, but would it really improve anything, or just be a waste of students time when they could be learning things that everyone needs to know.

  • Les||

    Carston,

    I absolutely agree with you about what kids should learn in school: first the very basics, enough to live independently in the world. Then only what they want, what they're interested in. Our educational system would improve a great deal if it focused on the basics and made everything else an elective.

    But, in this imaginary, practical world of education, if a kid is interested in the natural world, they would learn about evolution the way they would learn about gravity and astronomy and germs, etc.

  • the innominate one||

    When you wrote "The point I am trying to make, is that neither side deserves to have their view sponsored by the government." you were equating evolution and creationism as two equally viable viewpoints, when in fact one is scientific fact grounded in empirical evidence (and also theory, just as gravity is both fact and theory) and the other is a religious belief grounded in faith. Thus, creationism isn't taught in science class because it isn't scientific and it isn't taught in public schools because it violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    When I wrote "The American educational model is based on giving everyone the opportunity for a renaissance-style fully rounded education." I was explaining the philosophy behind the development of the curriculum content of the public school system. Since the vast majority of high school students don't yet know what their careers are going to be, perhaps exposure to a variety of subjects to see what they might be interested in is a good thing.

    Similarly, how can people have an opinion on evolution if they have never learned about it (or have only learned an inaccurate version of it from a biased opponent). Evolution stands up very well to critical examination. The fact that it is singled out for criticism (where atomic theory is not) is obviously related to the emotional implications of the theory for people's beliefs.

    As for shoving theories down people's throats, I've always pointed out to my students they were expected to learn and demonstrate to me that they had learned what biologists have demonstrated about evolution and the current consensus on various facets of the topic. I don't care what they personally believe, I have no control over that. If they have questions, I'm happy to address them, but honestly the opinion of an uninformed person on evolution makes me no never mind. Similarly, I don't expect physicists to take my opinion on relativity very seriously. You see, I'm not a physicist, and despite my interest in relativity have a limited understanding of the topic.

    If you think only doctors and biochemists need to understand antibiotic resistance and germ transmission, I predict you will contract a case of MRSA before long.

    You're welcome to your opinion, though I think it's quite wrong. It is also plainly uninformed (i.e. your misunderstanding of the semantics of the word "theory"). You ought to have greater appreciation for your own limitations of knowledge and experience.

  • the innominate one||

    "Surely there are other aspects of biology that do not deal with the origin of human life, like learning about plants and animals, their relationships and environments."

    As I previously stated, there is much more to evolution than human origins. You continue to erect straw men and drag red herrings. The plants and animals are related by (ready?) evolutionary relationships and have evolved adaptations to their environments.

    I'm out, troll.

  • Les||

    The American educational model is based on giving everyone the opportunity for a renaissance-style fully rounded education.

    Unfortunately, this is impossible for the state to do without willing students and parents. I think by decreasing the mandatory subjects to that which is necessary to live independently (reading, writing, basic math up to pre-algebra), and making everything else elective, we would see a more efficient and effective public school system.

  • ||

    you were equating evolution and creationism as two equally viable viewpoints
    I was not equating the two, I was using them as starting off points because this is where the debate lies, and as I have stated numerous times, I have no horse in this race, both horses should have already been shot (as far as them belonging in required k-12) in my opinion.

    That is very neat you know about "The American educational system" and "renaissance-style fully rounded education" but that doesn't change the fact that it ISN'T WORKING. That is what we need to go to a system based in teaching student the basic skills necessary to start their life, and then from then on, they can choose to study what ever they would like.

    As for forming an opinion, that could be gone about the way people form opinions on every other subject that exists in this universe by finding their own sources and evaluating themselves and choosing who to trust.

    Your teaching style, I have no problem with, but if the students aren't going to use the knowledge in the future other than their assignments and tests, what was the purpose of learning it all? They could have been using that time more efficiently by learning something that they have an interest in or will eventually be found useful. I was not saying you in particular are shoving anything down anyone's throat, but the system itself forcing kids to waste a lot of their valuable years on crap that they will never have to recall as long as they live.

    I know there is much more to evolution than human origins, but that is where the focus lies in every lecture I have observed or book I have read. Maybe I have had bad teachers in that sense, but obviously if humans evolved we had to evolve from something.

    As for MSRA, I had to google it to know what it is, and I don't think I will be having any problems like that. I'm pretty sure my doctor knows what it is, and how to check for it, so I don't have anything to worry about.

    Its pretty sad we are having a debate on a subject and you turn it to name calling and accusing me of becoming infected with some shit. Also, where are these straw men and red herrings you speak of? My stance from the beginning was that evolution and creationism have no place in k12, and thats where I have stayed.

    How about responding to the question I asked about your education philosophy, where mine was "prepare our citizens for the working world by teaching them the basic skills necessary to start their life" and yours I was guessing was "expose children to everything that is out there, and hope they pick up on something they are good at and like, regardless of all the time wasted (wasted in my opinion) on stuff they will never have anything to do with in their career."

  • ||

    Carston,

    A couple of questions:
    you don't think American high schools should teach either creationism or evolutionary science, but "prepare our citizens for the working world by teaching them the basic skills necessary to start their life"? Who decides what a basic skill is? What is " not working"? (vis-a-vis the American school system).

    the problem with your idea is that you believe that this is all a matter of opinion, like whether or not you like jazz or not. it isn't a matter of opinion. That is pseudo-intellectual bullshit, quite frankly. That is aesthetics, man. Evolutionary Biology is useful. Creationism is not. I am expressing it using your own value system of useful/not-useful (which I do have problems with.)

    The problem with focusing on pure use-value in education is you never know what will or will not be useful in one's life. The point of the classical education is to put as many tools in the toolbox as possible, because one never knows what kind of problem one might have to solve.

    And yes, should we be paternalistic about K-12 education? Damn right. They are kids, you know... And frankly, I would rather have some State oversight into my Local schoolboard's curriculum. I grew up in Texas and half of those fools still believe the Earth is only 10000 years old. It isn't. They're wrong, but if enough of them stock the school board, my kids and neighbors kids get graded on fantasies and wrong information. Why is this bad? Because if they wanna go to college (and make more money on average than a non-college grad) and they wanna study any of the health sciences OR biology for its own sake,the kids have to re-do bio. my local fundamentalists just wasted my kids time and MY TAX money. And that's really what it's all about now isn't it?

  • ||

    reading writing and arithmetic. i dont see evolution or creationism on that list. kids dont need to learn it.

  • ||

    you don't think American high schools should teach either creationism or evolutionary science, but "prepare our citizens for the working world by teaching them the basic skills necessary to start their life"? Who decides what a basic skill is?

    Basic skills, like things people use on a daily basis, reading, writing, arithmetic (like the guy above me said), and a basic knowledge of US history and our government.

    What is " not working"? (vis-a-vis the American school system).

    How about we are graduating people who don't know the 3 branches of government, and in many cities there is a more than 50% drop out rate. This tells me kids are either extremely bored (so been there) or they are being taught garbage they feel is useless, and most of the time, I would have to agree with them.

  • ||

    Everyone who has objectively looked a this issue will agree that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has discovered the only real truth on this subject. If I.D. is going to be taught then FSM is equally valid and as a Pastafarian I want my version of creation taught also. And I don't want any discrimination when my kids dress up as Pirates during our religious holiday season either.

  • Les||

    grognard speaks the truth!

  • honest||

    I'd like to commend roguepatriot on the only sensible post in this entire Quality Thread (tm), which of course got zero response from the noise machines that followed.

  • Ga||

    "Allowing an inquiry into evolution, I believe, will almost certainly confirm its existence in the minds of millions of children."

    No. You seem to be wearing blinders, in that everything depends of HOW the debate (between evolution and creationism) is presented. If the debate is presented as valid, in any way, we have lost our children. End of story.

  • Ga||

    Oh... (I am a bit slow.)

    This article is on "Reason" magazine? Sad. Truly sad.

  • anonymous||

    If I want to believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, shouldn't I have the right to go to a school that confirms it? Won't my engineering degree be just as valid as one that teaches Newtonian physics?

    Stop stepping on my freedom!

  • tanc||

    Who's gonna pay for the welfare required to support the ignoramuses?

  • ||

    1. Not to be in the echo chamber here, but you can't teach creationism in science class because it isn't science. Not to mention evolutionary biology isn't exactly cosmology, which is really what creationism/ID actually is. Think what this sensibility would do to physics classes as well.

    2. So, we'll "teach to the controversy", eh? So that means we should allow equal time in History class for Holocaust deniers to make their case? Should Brown v. Board of Education include a pro-segregation section? Oh, that's right, "teach to the controversy" means "teach evangelical Christianity".

    3. What ultimately offends me is the author's suggestion that if a school doesn't specifically cater to the religious superstitions of the families, that the state should allocate taxpayer funds in order to help said families maintain their isolation from a pluralistic society. No offense, but religiously based societies have a tendency to fly planes into buildings because they think their god wants them to.



    3.

  • bill||

    the only industrialized nation with worse rates in the belief of evolution than america is turkey. even nations that have state churches uniformally belive in evolution...sad

  • ||

    There are many subjects people disagree on. Surely not just evolution, US history (founding fathers: freedom fighters or slave owners who didn't want to pay taxes?), sex education, aids/STD topics. Physics, ("how old is the Earth?"), Biology, (nature vs. nuture), literature (the all Western White Male classics curriculum or one with less classics but a more diverse (and possibly more relatable perspective?).

    My point is, is that there are numerous permutations of various choices and we'd have to allow an exponential number of varieties in order to truly have a free choice. It quickly becomes unmanageable and one can easily see the pragmatism behind standardization.

  • ||

    "The most sensible solution, of course, would be to permit parents a choice so that they can send their kids to schools that cater to any brand of nonsense they desire-outside of three core subjects."

    Wait, wait. Why the libertarian exception for three core subjects? If local control is always best, surely that includes the three favored subjects. If central control is best for three subjects, why exactly those three?

  • ||

    The option already exists. Private parochial school. Of course that would require one to put their money where their belief is. Public funds spent on essentially religious arguments? A model already exists: Madrassa. Bottom line, it's science or it isn't. A beleaguered Bio prof of mine tried to head this off years back, allowing the creation argument to be raised and discussed for one period...after which he intended to do his job and teach the science. Didn't work, of course. A cabal of young creationist continually "corrected" the scientific record, to the exasperation of eighty others. I dropped the class and picked up the section later. Cost me an intersession.

  • ||

    Your right in that parents should be able to teach there kds whatever kind of nonsense they want.but guess what not in public school.

    Should we then ban black kids from attending because the KKK thinks theyre inferior?

    I mean really this is science......kind of important in this day to keep our country competetive ,no?
    They are still free.........free to leave.

  • ||

    This may be a bit heretical: but why does liberty imply that parents own their children? In other words, why should a kid have their future ruined because their parents find reality scary? That's exactly what vouchers to schools that teach any bullshit they feel like would amount to. I speak from experience here. If my parents hadn't become too poor to send me to private school about the time I was in fifth grade, I don't think I would have ever learned the necessary to succeed in history, now my chosen field.

  • larryniven||

    This article is an embarrassment - I haven't read anything this fantastically stupid probably since the election. Whoever decided to post this under the guise of a legitimate intellectual inquiry into the issue of teaching evolution is a hack and a sophist, and this Harsanyi fellow is worse still.

  • ||

    I think christians need to explain the talking snake and how Adam and EVE had to screw their own kids to perpetuate the species.

  • ||

    Simple solution:

    They teach Creationism in public schools.

    We teach Evolution in Church.

  • ||

    Why are so many allegedly tolerant and science-loving Americans aghast at the notion that their beliefs will be scrutinized in schools?

    This question encapsulates a lot of ignorance on this issue.

    First, let's look at the use of the term "beliefs". The left has a BELIEF that gays should be able to marry. They have a BELIEF that we should have a progressive tax. The right believes that life begins at conception. These are "beliefs".

    Evolution is not a "belief". It is a scientific theory, with more evidence supporting it than practically any other scientific theory in existence. It is a theory that covers all of life on our planet that does or ever has existed, and yet has few holes.

    Evolution has been shown to be correct at the macro level. It has been shown to be correct on the micro level. It is backed up by the fossil record. It is backed up by current observations. There is no real evidence contradicting it, and more and more of these supposed holes are being filled as the years pass.

    The issue isn't that ideas shouldn't be scrutinized. It's that no high school student can possibly comprehend the vast array of evidence for evolution. Being able to scrutinize and intelligently debate he micro level evidence is probably even beyond the abilities of most biologists.

    That is why evolution in particular should be taught as is. There is simply no credible evidence against it, and no other hypothesis or theory that comes anywhere close to explaining what evolution does. Just like gravity. Just like the elements.

    If you want students to learn to think and assess, give them a topic that truly has multiple sides. Don't take a theory with overwhelming evidence and compare it to theology.

  • Scarpe Nike||

    is good

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