Monday, June 16, 2008

Strengths and Weakness Should Be Taught

Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch thinks that the strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught. He says so with a wink, though. About the supporters of ID, he writes:

A balanced discussion is not what they're after -- and is not going to change their minds.

You know what, though? That's OK.

IT'S OK FOR two reasons. The first is that the theory of evolution is strong enough to withstand skepticism. And it keeps getting stronger, because the evidence supporting evolution continues to grow. If creationists were right about the ease of refuting evolution, then scientists would continue to find more reasons to doubt it. They don't. They find just the opposite.

What's more, a robust discussion of the strengths and supposed weaknesses of evolution could help clear up some misconceptions. For example, science teachers might gently point out that natural selection -- the process through which genetic mutations give some offspring a greater ability to survive and reproduce -- simply doesn't bear on whether God created the universe. They're entirely unrelated questions, even though creationists often confuse the two. If science classes met such red-herring objections head-on, then perhaps public understanding of the issue might improve.

The second reason it's OK to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of evolution is that we shouldn't mind when non-scientists want to employ scientific principles. In fact, that should be encouraged as much as possible, because it is so instructive.

This is sort of the opposite end of the spectrum of teaching creation science to expose all of the weakness in it. Both would be equally effective.

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