We know South Carolina has a serious education problem.
This is the state where one candidate for Superintendent of Education didn’t know what the science standards were while another openly promoted Intelligent Design. It’s the place where a bill to make the Wooly Mammoth the official state fossil was laden with Bible verses.
In June, there was an attempt to revise the science education standards to weaken the concept of evolution:
… a state senator pushed to require students to “[c]onstruct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian Natural Selection.”
The assignment would have been unusually short since there are no legitimate scientific arguments that discredit evolution, or “Darwinian Natural Selection,” as creationists are fond of calling it. Within the scientific community, there is no debate about the validity of evolution any more than there is a debate about the validity of gravity. Fortunately, the proposed amendment failed.
Even though that failed, the state’s Board of Education will meet today to potentially approve a “compromise” on the topic of evolution.
What, you didn’t realize there was a compromise to be made? Neither do any real scientists.
Perhaps more importantly, the board of education didn’t even have a hand in drafting the revised standards.
Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.
… all theories may change as new scientific information is obtained.
While all of that is technically true, there’s no need to single out evolution. If you replaced that word with “gravity,” it would make just as much sense — which is to say none at all.
The ACLU of South Carolina is furious:
The thing is, in science there’s no such thing as “only a theory.” Unlike the popular definition of theory — a guess or conjecture — scientific theories are well-supported explanations for parts of the natural world. And evolution is a cornerstone of science, undisputed by any legitimate biologist. That’s why the ACLU has written a letter to the South Carolina Board of Education urging it to reject this effort to inject religion into the science curriculum by falsely undermining evolution.
Spreading misinformation isn’t a compromise, it’s a capitulation, and students in South Carolina deserve better. If a group of people wanted to teach 2+2=6, we wouldn’t compromise by teaching that 2+2=5. Undermining evolution by denying its validity will leave South Carolina students ill-prepared for college and for scientific careers. And, more importantly, it violates the First Amendment.
State Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville), one of the strongest opponents of science education in the state, had a hand in this dumbing down of the science standards. In June, he even invited members of the anti-evolution Discovery Institute to speak to state officials. Fair thinks the Board of Education will approve the compromised standards:
“The courts are clear,” Fair said. “We can’t go where a lot of folks would like to go in the General Assembly. We beat around the bush the best we can do. … The classroom will not be harmed if they choose to reject it; it certainly won’t be harmed if they accept it.“
Bullshit. When government officials vote to alter the science standards so that evolution is singled-out as weaker than other valid theories, they’re sending the message that proper science doesn’t matter, that popular opinion can dictate scientific understanding, and that people who aren’t experts in the subject should determine how it gets taught.
The Board of Education must reject this amendment to the state standards before it opens the door to further attempts to chisel away at solid science.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to John for the link)