Gotta love Doonesbury:
The comic actually raises a deeper question:
Would you rather a science teacher bring up Creationism/ID in order to debunk it, or would you rather the teacher not mention the fake “controversy” in the first place?
I understand the arguments for the latter. Why bother mentioning something that’s not science? Why limit ourselves to the Christian Creation myth only? Isn’t talking about Creationism somehow validating it? We wouldn’t teach students about “alternatives to gravity,” would we? There are plenty of reasons not to bring up “alternatives” at all.
But just for the sake of argument….
If you’re not going into a science-related field, how often would you ever talk about evolution? You would really only hear about it in the context of certain Christians trying to push it out of public schools. I think there’s a case to be made as to why students should be aware of the arguments anti-evolutionists tend to use, just so they know how to knock them down.
Brian Clegg made a similar argument a couple years ago:
… I’m a popular science writer. My job is to make science accessible to the general reader, and a tool that popular science uses with great success is context. We put science into its historical perspective. We include stories of the people involved in the discoveries. This makes the subject more approachable. School science often lacks context. It is presented as bare fact, and as such is often a turn-off…
… By putting creation myths into context in this way, we are much more likely to defuse the issue than by rigidly insisting that they should never appear in science lessons.
Or, perhaps, consider this as an exam question:
“Kenny says there is plenty of evidence for microevolution but there is none for macroevolution, adding that we’ve never seen one species change into another. How would you respond to him?
You need to have a certain knowledge about how evolution works in order to answer that, and I can see the educational benefit of the question.
If we want students to be scientifically-literate, do we need to make them aware of why some people think evolution is so controversial?
I had a chance to ask a similar question to the National Center for Science Education’s Executive Director Eugenie Scott when I interviewed her a few years ago. She was in favor of teaching evolution-only in the classroom:
Hemant: Should we teach ID in the classroom if only to say “Here’s why it’s not valid”?
Eugenie: No… just for purely practical reasons. In order to teach ID, a student has to know a great deal about molecular biology [and] about cellular biology. In order to understand [William] Dembski’s probability theory argument, students have to know a fair amount about probability. Now… how much background knowledge would students have to be given to get them up to the point where they can understand why these arguments are really invalid? It’s not that high school students are incapable of learning this, but teachers don’t have the time to do it.
For what it’s worth, I lean toward her side. You barely have enough time to teach the curriculum as is, without getting into the nonsense people associate with the subject. But I still think that exam question and others like it — not directly associated with Creationism/ID, but addressing common misconceptions about evolution — are good ones.
(Thanks to Karl for the link!)
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