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The evolution of teaching evolution

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Ask any high school biology instructor: Teaching kids about evolution is a science.

Students’ reactions to the theory of how life evolved on earth are as diverse as the species on this planet. Teens tense up and become confrontational, their religious beliefs cause them to reject lessons about natural selection and adaptation outright, or they simply shut down.

To help his students understand why evolution is widely accepted by scientists, Jeremy Mohn, who’s taught the controversial subject for more than a decade at Blue Valley Northwest High School near Kansas City, discusses different viewpoints, including creationism and intelligent design.

“You have to take the time to address these types of nonscientific concerns,” said Mohn, who writes about his experiences at anevolvingcreation.net. Biology teachers face different concerns than other science teachers, he said. “You don’t have people in a chemistry classroom who have been raised to believe that the periodic table comes from the devil and that if they believe in it they are going to go to hell.”

Mohn is part of an influential group of teachers and scientists pushing to dispel misconceptions about evolution—such as that humans descended from apes—and to more effectively communicate what many consider the lynchpin of biology.

They have their work cut out for them. A recent article in Science found that almost three out of four high school students will get no schooling in evolutionary biology, or a version “fraught with misinformation.”

And current opinion polls show eight out of 10 Americans believe God created humans in their present form or guided the process of human evolution—a figure that has changed little over the last 30 years.

Teachers not pushing evolution?

One of the biggest challenges to improving evolution education may just be the teachers themselves.

A recent survey of 926 public high school biology teachers has revealed that nearly three out of four are not aggressively endorsing evolution.

According to the survey, only about 28 percent of biology teachers are strong advocates for evolution and “consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council.”

Thirteen percent are just the opposite, and explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design.

Most teachers, called the “cautious 60 percent,” told interviewers that they are “neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of nonscientific alternatives.”

Frustrated by these numbers, many biologists are opening up, says Louise Mead, education director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which is headquartered at Michigan State University.

“Evolutionary biologists used to just put a hand up whenever people brought up the evolution controversy,” she said. “But there’s been a realization that we have to address the misconceptions. There has been a renewed focus on how we teach evolution and renewed outreach.”

Mead and other advocates for revamping evolution education conduct sold-out workshops for teachers where they strategize how to address questions about the controversial topic.

“Teachers mostly want to increase their knowledge, which increases their confidence to teach evolution,” said Judy Scotchmoor, assistant director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and contributor to its popular web portal “Understanding Evolution.”

The site is but one example of an explosion in the amount of material available to teachers that followed a 2005 federal court ruling, which found that intelligent design—the idea that life is so complex, a higher being must have created it—could not be taught as an accepted scientific theory.

Creationists continue efforts to persuade school boards to teach alternative theories to the method described by 19th-century biologist Charles Darwin, even as state science standards cover evolution more extensively than they did 10 years ago, according to an August 2009 review conducted by Mead and Anton Mates.

But although the treatment of biological evolution has improved, Mead and Mates found, only seven states and the District of Columbia provide a “comprehensive treatment of human evolution” in their science standards.

And scholars agree that much of the wealth of information on evolution—including major textbooks used in school districts nationwide—is riddled with inaccuracies that perpetuate stereotypes, such as that animals change purposefully over time.

With these challenges firmly in mind, scientists and teachers are pushing to make evolution the backbone of biology lesson-plans from kindergarten through high school.

Their first order of business: Convincing administrators that evolution isn’t too complex to be introduced in elementary school in hopes that starting early will build a foundation for more students to grasp difficult concepts in middle and high school.

“A lot of people think kids are not capable of sophisticated thinking about complicated science concepts,” said Nancy Songer, a professor of science education and learning technologies at the University of Michigan. “But all our research indicates this is simply not true.”

Songer designed BioKIDS, an evolution curriculum tested by educators in 22 Detroit public schools. Teachers credit the program with renewing their students’ interest in science, as well as improving their scores on Michigan’s standardized science tests.

Instead of requiring kids to memorize facts in a textbook, the program moves them outside, where they chart the lifecycles and food chains of local wildlife. They use this information to build scientific explanations by making claims, giving their reasoning and presenting their evidence.

Using the BioKIDS curriculum, Detroit middle-school teacher Connie Atkisson’s sixth-graders   placed playing cards with pictures of local animals according to their physical characteristics on a big piece of butcher paper to create a “wall of life.”

Photo by Eugene Zelenko

Watching local animals and insects evolve outside the classroom also left a deeper impact on her students than looking at pictures in a textbook. For example, on a field trip to an oil field, of all places, her kids were astounded when they saw a colorful damselfly plying the breezes. They previously experimented with the insect back at school in its nymph stage, concluding it was a “boring black bug.”

“They were so engaged,” said Atkisson. “They took the information and said ‘we are little scientists, this is what scientists do.’”

Other pioneering efforts to teach evolution to elementary students—such as a fourth-grade curriculum, Evolution Readiness, created by the Concord Consortium in Massachusetts—attempt to build scientific-reasoning skills through technology.

The project—being tested in four schools in three districts in Massachusetts, Missouri and Texas—uses computers to show students that evolution is a process through which systems change from one thing to another and get better along the way, said Paul Horwitz, a senior scientist at the consortium.

In one experiment, fourth-graders click on a virtual greenhouse where they’re asked to find the light conditions under which different types of plants thrive. Through these activities, students learn several tenets of evolution, including selectivity, inheritance and variation, Horwitz said.

And the curriculum’s hands-on nature helps kids both remember what they’ve learned and perform better on tests designed specifically to monitor whether they can explain why changes occurred, Horwitz said.

Horwitz and Songer found their curricula required more up-front training for educators—particularly elementary-school teachers who may not have backgrounds in science—and created thorny classroom-management issues.

“One of the teachers told us she went home and cried the first year,” Horwitz recalled.

And although they’re pleased with the success of their experiments, they concede that expanding the programs is a tall order.

“We’ve been asked to scale all our programs to all elementary and middle schools in Detroit and we’re trying to figure out if that’s even possible,” Songer said. “We’re not publishers and professional-development people—we’re not in the business of scaling this to a state or full large district.”

Comments & Trackbacks (35) | Post a Comment

Rhonda

In reflecting on this subject for many years, my own questions are ‘not’ evolving at all. Questions, such as: Why can’t there be a compromise? Why do we insist that our educational system ‘only’ include the evolution theory? For those of us who believe in intelligent design, then why can’t we also see that as an alternative view? It is the ‘cramming down our throats’ mentality of the evolutionists that makes us more edgy than the presentation of all theories.

Without doubt, the evolutionist-minded folks are more narrow-minded than the pro-creation folks. I rarely ever hear the pro-creation side demanding that *only* their point-of-view be taught in schools. Yet, with the 2005 ruling, and with the backing of evolutionists, it seems *only* evolution can be taught in the classroom.

Where is compromise? Where is the laying of all stakeholders’ theories on the table? Where is civility of listening to other point-of-views in the biology classroom? Of course there will be uncomfortableness in the biology classroom as long as one side gets its say and the other side is touted as a fable. But, after following this closely for many years, evolutionists should be quaking with fear to discount the hard, scientific evidence of the pro-creationist crowd. This is a matter on which you don’t want to go wrong.

Harry

“Where is the compromise?”
There is no compromise for the same reason that astrology is not taught with astronomy or alchemy with chemistry or voodoo with medicine. Only widely accepted, scientifically supported topics are taught in science class. All of these “alternatives” have huge followings with lots of publications but that does not make them science. Science deals with natural explanations and as soon as you introduce a super-natural explanation, it is no longer science.
There is simply no other widely accepted (over 98% of all scientists) explanation for how life developed than evolution.

susy creamcheese

Because there is a little thing called The First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is the duty of a science teacher to educate students on the most recent and up to date ideas that originate from scientific testing, thought and analysis. There needs to be TESTS, evidence of proof and a general consensus by a group in order to confirm the hypothesis of an experiment. Intelligent Design and alternative ‘views’ have none of these components, and therefore are not considered science. You want science and religion taught in schools? Then send your kid to private school. You want a science education free of religion and a pre – set belief system? Thank the constitution and then send your kid to public school.

Lisa

I teach middle school science.

I started teaching in rural NC and did not realize the extant to which our students had been misinformed about evolution and the Big Bang. Some students are taught in schools that scientists are trying to destroy religion… that evolution = Darwinism = secularism.

Since then, I’ve moved on to teach in two affluent, university towns. Still there is a great deal of apprehension about evolution (and the Big Bang!) even hostility especially in my minority students.

With both topics, I attempt to get this out of the way by addressing it up front. I spend some time talking about the different tools that Science and Religion have to solve problems. Science can answer some questions but some it can’t. The same is true for Religion; there are questions religion can’t answer, it simply doesn’t have the tools. I acknowledge that sometimes the two come close and appear to be providing different answers but suggest that they are asking different questions. I remind students that Science can only answer questions for which we can make observations.

I find this settles students enough to listen but then, I take them through Darwin’s journey, his doubts, his fears, his observations, his experiments, his conflicts, one step at a time. It takes a lot of time but it is worth it. PBS’s series on evolution is priceless for this in my opinion.

Lisa

Rhonda,

Creationism isn’t science. It’s a religious doctrine and its place would belong in a Social Studies course on religion.

Do we need to teach two sides for thermodynamics or Newtonian physics? No. This is no different.

We are not evolutionists. We are science teachers teaching science. Evolution isn’t a religion, it isn’t a doctrine, it is a scientific theory that is well supported with over a century of experimental data backing it up.

Doug

Harry,

No matter what your worldview is on the origin of life and the universe, each theory will ultimately involve a supernatural explosion. That argument holds no water.

Are you aware of the creationist scientists who hold PhD’s in astrophysics, biology, etc.? Regardless of your number (which I’d love to see evidence for), the scientific community cannot claim consensus on this issue. There is plenty of hardcore science supporting creation, and it deserves due mention in schools.

Cindy

Doug, this is not a sociological ‘argument’. Either you have evidence or you don’t. Thus far I’ve seen no science attributing ‘supernatural’ causes to the explosion (Big Bang?) you referred to. Where are the ‘hard-core’ results? Show us the replicate-able data on ID.

Keith

Whether one accepts evolution or creation, it is based on believing certain assumptions. Accepting evolution implies believing its materialist assumptions or presuppositions; accepting creation implies embracing a different set of assumptions or presuppositions. Neither approach can be repeated, no matter how hard we may try, as it happened to start a long time ago without humans being around to give us primary accounts of their observations or measurements. What would convince a person in his or her mind of either the one or the other side of the debate is clearly not in every case that 98% of scientists (or whatever percentage it actually may be) takes the evolution set of presuppositions, nor that 8 out of every 10 people believe that God was involved. No matter how hard they tried, is it not ironic that 98% of scientists have not been able to convince 8 out of every 10 non-scientists?
Perhaps it is, at least in part, that the story of evolution is constantly in flux and need of adjustment as new evidence or findings need to be incorporated, and the older story of creation has remained the same for thousands of years. (Actually, it has been widely accepted, in various forms, by many people around the world for most of the time.) Also, is it not ironic that the article must mention the need to dispel widely accepted myths or misconceptions about evolution, but then fails to mention what is problematic with it?
There is no need to compromise, other than to accept reality that some people work from one perspective, and others from another, and that both can come up with remarkably high quality work. May The Best One Win–and I trust it will. Meanwhile, courts, or emotions, or polls, or opinions are not necessarily very scientific or repeatable in their outcomes: they change over time. (I don’t think that the First Amendment was intended to prohibit publicly funded schools from giving a fair representation of creation, and certainly not to enforce teaching of evolution in those same schools; so, perhaps we should all calm down, take a deep breath, and incorporate in our belief system a civil understanding of the reality that there are some people who believe the same thing we do, and many others who don’t. Let’s also maintain the freedom to pray for our country–whichever country that may be.)

Kevin

I understand the paradigm shift that has to go on in a scientist’s mind to consider the inaccuracies of the theory of evolution. I refer many of my colleagues to Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, which make the convincing case that had Darwin been able to understand the human cell, its design and function, he would have come to very different conclusions.
If you find a watch on the ground, you cannot conclude that such an intricately made item could have evolved. The human cell is more intricate than any watch, and any part that was not in place initially would have doomed the cell and the organism. The parts had to be created simultaneously for it to work at all.

James Mac Shane

Science is about the discovery of how the universe rally works. It is not about how I think, hope, or believe it works but how it really works. I have had a series of workshops on relativity for students eight to eleven that is based upon the each child’s natural beginning consciousness of time and space. This is when children to ask the question, “Art we there yet?’. In the scientific physical to abstract experience I start with physical perspective drawing that I call playing in space. There are six toys that can be used to play in space. The toys are: overlapping, larger and smaller, higher and lower placement, lines of direction or one point perspective, more details close and less details far away, and gradual change of colors of shades and shadows. Then I draw a hole in the ground and a hole in the sky and draw a ladder from the hole in the sky to the hole in the shy and say, “Have fun”. This experience naturally focuses their attention that leads to a conversation about how can time and space be the same thing? I used the explanation of the duality light waves and photons as an example. In my second workshop when I gave that duality example an eight year old girl said, “That’s like the difference between who I am and what I am.”. Because of the purity of their beginning consciousness of relativity at that point in their life I have had some of the most profound discussion in these workshops. Unfortunately the workshops were canceled because of the conflict that is related to the problem that this article is pointing out. What this girl pointed out was the conflict between scientist and theologians. The scientists are looking and the physical and trying to justify the spiritual and theologians are looking at the spiritual and trying to justify the physical when in fact they are a duality. The science an technology developments of the past 200 years is changing the human survival need from physical to intellectual that is evolutionary in itself. It is this evolutionary change that is scientifically behind the unprecedented search for change in education. There is no science of natural intellectual development in the present externally motivated education system. The science that is used is the science of student’s response to the external motivation. It is not based upon each student’s natural scientific intellectual development process. The overall human response to science is because scientific experience is something outside of our selves. When education becomes based upon the natural intellectual development process becomes science. Science is about truth no matter who discovers or communicates it.

James Mac Shane

Science is about the discovery of how the universe really works. It is not about how I think, hope, or believe it works but how it really works. I have had a series of workshops on relativity for students eight to eleven that is based upon the each child’s natural beginning consciousness of time and space. This is when children to ask the question, “Art we there yet?’. In the scientific physical to abstract experience I start with physical perspective drawing that I call playing in space. There are six toys that can be used to play in space. The toys are: overlapping, larger and smaller, higher and lower placement, lines of direction or one point perspective, more details close and less details far away, and gradual change of colors of shades and shadows. Then I draw a hole in the ground and a hole in the sky and draw a ladder from the hole in the sky to the hole in the shy and say, “Have fun”. This experience naturally focuses their attention that leads to a conversation about how can time and space be the same thing? I used the explanation of the duality light waves and photons as an example. In my second workshop when I gave that duality example an eight year old girl said, “That’s like the difference between who I am and what I am.”. Because of the purity of their beginning consciousness of relativity at that point in their life I have had some of the most profound discussion in these workshops. Unfortunately the workshops were canceled because of the conflict that is related to the problem that this article is pointing out. What this girl pointed out was the conflict between scientist and theologians. The scientists are looking and the physical and trying to justify the spiritual and theologians are looking at the spiritual and trying to justify the physical when in fact they are a duality. The science an technology developments of the past 200 years is changing the human survival need from physical to intellectual that is evolutionary in itself. It is this evolutionary change that is scientifically behind the unprecedented search for change in education. There is no science of natural intellectual development in the present externally motivated education system. The science that is used is the science of student’s response to the external motivation. It is not based upon each student’s natural scientific intellectual development process. The overall human response to science is because scientific experience is something outside of our selves. When education becomes based upon the natural intellectual development process becomes science. Science is about truth no matter who discovers or communicates it.

Paul

We don’t teach Intelligent Design (ID) in science class for a simple reason: because it isn’t science! It isn’t science because it doesn’t make predictions–other than the trivial one that living creatures should look as though they were designed. But that’s not a prediction; it’s just an attempt to “explain” a set of observations by postulating an unexplained Designer, invented for that purpose.

It’s kind of like saying “Lightning looks as though Thor is throwing thunderbolts at us so that’s what it must be.” A theory like that is unscientific because it’s untestable and unfalsifiable. There is no way, short of looking around for Thor and not finding him (and he could, after all, be hiding somewhere), of checking out the theory. In contrast, the theory that lightning is caused by electric fields, while considerably harder to understand and at first blush a lot less plausible than the Thor model, predicts, among other things, that if Benjamin Franklin flies that kite in a thunderstorm one more time he’s liable to get fried. And a theory like that leads somewhere; among other things, it leads to the invention of the lightning rod.

Science is not a collection of facts; it is a process by which to discover new facts — and come to trust some of the old ones. The hallmark of every scientific theory is that in addition to explaining known data it makes predictions about data that hasn’t been discovered yet. Which means, among other things, that every scientific theory is in constant danger of being disproved if its predictions fail to come true.

Until the Intelligent Design folks can point to some finding–anything!– that might in future cause them to revise or abandon their theory, that theory is no more scientific than the once widespread belief that the plague was God’s punishment for our sins. If we allow such theories to be treated as science we might as well go back to curing disease by whipping each other to atone for those sins.

John C. Jahoda, PhD

Science is all about evidence (data)

Without evidence there can be no science

Evolution – Lots of evidence from many different areas of science

Creationism, Intelligent design, etc – No evidence whatsoever. Only beliefs.

Thus only evolution is a scientific theory

Keith

Perhaps a distinction needs to be maintained between the science that can be replicated and confirmed, and the approach to understanding origins. ID and the creation narrative are about origins, and acknowledge, using the tools of science, that, not only in biological sciences but also in physics and astronomy for instance, there is ample evidence of the credibility of what they hold about origins.
What ID, creationism, and evolutionists seek after is whether what they observe is consistent with what they believe about origins. ID found that the thoroughly explored and yet not fully understood but scientifically determined complexity of the cell, for instance, is not consistent with evolution (it could not have come about randomly, no matter how much time is given); like ID, creationism is interested in exploring the not yet understood parts and stands in awe that God created it. Evolutionists believe it was not created by God (I find that hard to believe); ID leaves that out of the discussion (that’s too bad, like they’re sitting on the fence). It is about what we believe, and we believe different things. Shall we burn evolutionists at the stake because they believe somethings else than the vast majority of the others? Shall we quarter ID adherents because they believe their concept and don’t want to speak of God as the creator? Shall we bury creationists alive because they believe God did make it all?
If you are a Democrat, and your neighbour is a Republican (or whatever the political alliances may be in your country), will you therefore be prepared to send him to death row for that simple reality? I don’t think that’s how our society should work. One of the big gains of the 16th and 17th centuries was that people discovered that they could live peaceably with their neighbours who held different beliefs than they did. Let’s not throw that overboard; let’s also honour to whom honour is due.

Keith

Of course, another big gain of the 16th and 17th centuries (say, the Renaissance era) was that a scientific approach was developed which assumed that the universe and everything in it made sense and had logic to it, and that it would not change from one day to the next, or from one century to the next. That was an assumption which led to an amazing advance of science in the western world, unparalleled by any other society. It also was an assumption based on Christian faith that God had created everything, and sustained it for as long as He gives people time to acknowledge it.

[…] via Hechinger Report | The evolution of teaching evolution. […]

Paul Braterman

Keith,

OF COURSE biological complexity could not have arisen at random. No one says it does. It arose by repeated intersections of variation (random) with selection (non-random).

It sounds like you have been misled by Dembski/Behe type probabilistic arguments, which ignore BOTH the sequential nature of evolution AND the non-random nature of the fitness landscape.

As to why people choose to be misled by such arguments, that’s another long and interesting story.

February 9, 2011 - Science and Religion Today

[…] Evolution Education Jeremy Mohn is part of an influential group of teachers and scientists pushing to dispel misconceptions about evolution—such as that humans descended from apes—and to more effectively communicate what many consider the linchpin of biology. (Jennifer Oldham, The Hechinger Report) […]

Jeremy Mohn

Keith writes:

“Evolutionists believe it was not created by God (I find that hard to believe). ID leaves that out of the discussion (that’s too bad, like they’re sitting on the fence). It is about what we believe, and we believe different things.”

I am the evolutionist who was quoted at the beginning of this article, and I personally believe that evolution is one of God’s creations. You have constructed a false dichotomy.

Michael McNeece, PhD

As a principal, I expect teachers to teach both sides of the evolution debate.
There are two competing theories and both sides have intelligent supporters. I accept the idea that an intelligent person can, theoretically, believe that people could have begun their evolution in pond slime, washed down from a volcano, that originated from nothing at all. Now that really takes some kind of blind faith!

James Mac Shane

Someone or something created the universe that way that it is. The unknown is weather there was any conscious intent in that event which brings humanity to the same place we were when we thought that the earth was the center of the universe. Our scientific understanding of the Big Bang as a beginning of the universe and the speed of light as a measurement of light year distances are undeniable time lines that require unscientific beliefs to provided actual understanding that are related to that truth.

Scott

Principal McNeece:

There is no “evolution debate”, so no two sides, although I don’t imagine that’s a popular opinion in Greenville, MS. Your argument from personal disbelief has no scientific merit whatsoever, even though it’s shared by many, particularly in the Bible belt. Unfortunately, people in positions of educational influence, like you, are the main reason this country is lagging far behind the rest of the world in science education.

Scientists accept Evolution as the only Theory (not “just a theory”, as ignorant Creationists often chirp) of the origin of life on this planet. As an Educator, you should be ashamed or yourself: nothing should be presented in the science classroom that does not meet the stringent requirements of the scientific method and rational inquiry–why would you think otherwise?

The Dover trial put ID out of our misery in 2005. Put it in the social studies classroom if you will, but please, don’t force your religious beliefs on Science.

Alyce

Kevin,
You stated your opinion as such: “If you find a watch on the ground, you cannot conclude that such an intricately made item could have evolved. The human cell is more intricate than any watch, and any part that was not in place initially would have doomed the cell and the organism. The parts had to be created simultaneously for it to work at all.”

Please watch this BBC video (which can put it more eloquently than I ever could) and possibly do some research of your own. I think the more that you learn about the animal kingdom the more you will come to realize that evolution is a deeply rooted scientific theory that will remain to be a cornerstone that we humans will build on to understand life more intricately the more we learn.

The evolution of the eye:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TEKDWAe_b8

Rhonda

For an intellectual look at evolution, please read: _Evolution Exposed: Biology_. My stance in writing a reply to this article was that there is NO balance, no compromise in public schools. There needs to be. Yes, I agree, one can leave the public schools for private schools, but that is not an option for many. Perhaps this has driven the homeschooling population to rise in record numbers. (And I argue that it’s not the teaching of evolution that has driven those numbers, but the exclusion of all other view points that has truly caused balanced-thinkers to leave in droves.) Your arguments state there is no scientific proof of creationism; I state there is. Look. Open your eyes. Open your minds and you shall find. Start with the above named book, but there are many more. Again, there needs to be balance.

Dr. McNeece, I applaud you. If we allow the voice of only one side to be heard in our public schools (the Pauls, the Keiths, etc), then we have failed our students. Not giving them the choice of intellectual discussion on both sides discredits their intelligence. Balance. That’s all we ask. We’re not asking to cram only one side down throats. What is wrong with a curriculum that weighs multiple view points?

Rhonda

By the way, creationists are not adverse to believing in natural selection. We know there are molecular changes within species. In fact, creationists believe in most tenets of natural selection as observed by evolutionists. What we can’t swallow is the fable that we all come from one beginning, one molecule. Some of you purport that biology is based upon scientific proofs–then show us the proof of the one-origin fable. I promise you there is more proof in the existence of God and God as Creator. Look. Open your eyes.

Alyce

Rhonda,
There, in fact, is scientific evidence of life evolving from ‘one molecule’ (it’s more like 4, but who’s counting). There is a wonderful Nova special about how scientist are developing their theory on the origins of life on earth. Very fascinating stuff.

Please, if you are going to label a scientific theory as a fable (fable: a short story ,usually with animals, used to teach children a lesson), at least rightly label God as a creation myth, which is precisely what it is (Myths are defined as a creation story. A story that a culture attributes to be the truth about the origins of things, but are only true to the culture). Also, if you are going to expect evolution to provide the evidence (which it has, for many year, and will for many years to come because we are continuing to LEARN ABOUT IT!) then you should back you your ‘God’ case with cold, hard, physical evidence rather than just say, “look around”. Because, when I look around I see the wonders of the natural world, and to attribute them to some higher being would take away the complete awesomeness that happens without any ‘God’ figure, but we digress.

The whole purpose of this argument is teaching evolution is school. Evolution is a scientific theory (definition of theory: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena. Gravity is a theory, and I hope we continue to teach it in schools). Students have the right to know what science has found about our amazing origins. God, on the other hand, is something that is spiritual, not scientific. I have nothing against beliefs of God, but I feel that it is a subject that should be taught by families and NOT public school teachers. A spiritual belief is a personal one, and should not be brought into a public school. If you insist on teaching creationism in school, please also include the highly popular FSM belief, and all of the Native American creation myths as well. Let us be thorough if we are going to throw spiritual beliefs at our children.

Check out this video that goes into to great detail about what scientist are doing now to figure out the greatest mystery of all: How did life form on earth?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/origins-life.html

James Mac Shane

Alyce; I think that your perspective is a good scientific base. I have a personal teaching experience that adds dimension to your comments. In the early 60’s I read a research study on children’s naturally becoming aware of time in the birth to 8 1/2 to 10 age span. That research + Einstein’s theory of relativity became a scientific aspect of my facilitating student’s artistic perspective drawing conscious abilities starting at the age of 4 1/2. In the late 80’s I was developing workshops for the Corridor Partnership for Excellence in Education and had a 4 1/2 workshop on Relativity for Kid’s. I demonstrated the toy box of perspective drawing:
overlapping, larger and smaller, higher and lower, lines of direction, more details close and less details fare away, and gradual change of color or shades and shadows. Then I’d draw a hole in the ground and a hole in the sky and draw ladder from the hole in the ground to the hole in the sky and said have fun. When they finished their playing in space drawing we had a discussion about how time and space could be the same thing. I used the understand of light waves and photons as an example of light as a duality and an 8 year old girl responded, ” That’s like the difference between what I am and Who I am.” In her purity of personal experience she was understanding the difference between science and theology. There is psychological research understanding that moral accountability also naturally occurs in the same time span as relativity. As adults the scientist’ are looking at the physical and trying to understand the spiritual/psychological and the theologian’s are looking at the spiritual/psychological and trying to understand the physical. Life is a duality of the physical and the spiritual/psychological and that is what she became aware of at the age of 8.

Salvador Cordova

“In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics.”

Was that quote by a creationist? No, but by one of the worlds top evolutionary biologists, Jerry Coyne!

Children should be made aware why evolutionary biology is likened to pseudo-sciences like phrenology. It’s distasteful to see Charles Darwin elevated to be some great scientists for his unproven speculations.

Darwinism should not be elevated to the status of real sciences pioneered by such creationists as Maxwell, Faraday, Newton, Boyle, Dalton, Joule, etc.

You can teach evolutionary theory, but admit is speculation and not on the order of real experimental disciplines like physics and chemistry. As Coyne said, it’s at the bottom of the pecking order, and until it does better science, it should stay there!

Jeremy Mohn

Apparently, Salvador Cordova thinks that “pecking orders” are accurate measures of the usefulness of scientific theories. Thankfully, they are not.

Scientific theories are useful if they can be used to make predictions about what should be observed if the theory is correct. Evolutionary theory allows for innumerable such predictions, and these predictions have been repeatedly confirmed through experiments and observations. As a Biology teacher, I am committed to ensuring that the students in my classes understand this, which is one of the reasons why I made this series of videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/standup4REALscience

In truth, evolutionary theory is much, much more of a science than any “alternative” explanation promoted by Salvador Cordova and his fellow Intelligent Design promoters. Of course, Salvador knows this, but his goal is to cast doubt on evolution by any means possible, which is why he resorts to disingenuously quote-mining evolutionists.

[…] religious, etc.) have objected to science being taught.  We are all well aware of the struggles of biology teachers regarding their ability to properly teach their students about evolution.  However, the […]

[…] political, religious, etc.) have objected to science being taught. We are all well aware of the struggles of biology teachers regarding their ability to properly teach their students about evolution. However, the science of […]

[…] political, religious, etc.) have objected to science being taught. We are all well aware of the struggles of biology teachers regarding their ability to properly teach their students about evolution. However, the science of […]

[…] political, religious, etc.) have objected to science being taught. We are all well aware of the struggles of biology teachers regarding their ability to properly teach their students about evolution. However, the science of […]

Mike Boyd

Everyone keeps talking about Evolution as if it’s Science. It’s NOT.
I do not want Creation Science taught either. Just teach the Truth to our Children. If it’s not True you shouldn’t be able to teach it as FACT. There are debates going on all over the Country. And I will say the Creationist are winning BIG TIME. But’s it because the Atheist have brought attention to this Evolution Model as FACT. It’s not even a Theory. It might pass as a MODEL or maybe a RELIGION.

Take it out of our Schools.

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