Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Injecting A New Idea Into the Debate

Ow. Still hurts to type. Charles Haynes suggests a new tactic in the effort to educate students about the vacuity of ID and creationism in the classroom. Working off the passage of the new “monkey bill” in Tennessee, he writes:
Under the new law, Tennessee teachers apparently get to decide what counts as science (and what counts as "weakness" in scientific theories) -- even if most scientists disagree. Critics of the law see this as a green light for teaching creationism or other religiously based ideas as science.They may be right. What Tennessee lawmakers tout as academic freedom (a freedom, by the way, denied to teachers in every other subject), is very likely to be used as a Trojan horse for inserting religious convictions into the science curriculum.
A far better approach would be to address the religion-science debate up front by preparing teachers to teach students something about the history and philosophy of science, including the interaction between religion and science over time. Helping students understand the context for the culture-war fight over evolution may help them accept what modern science has to say.
I think this is a good idea. When I teach my Introduction to Human Origins class, I include a section on the history of science and where some of the young earth creationist ideas came from. One of the best books I have recently read is Davis Young's The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence which he excerpted here. It is a great case study in the struggles of geologists and their attempts to understand the new evidence that the earth was revealing and why flood geology was abandoned 150 years ago. That it is still accepted by young earth creationists after all this time is a sad testament to their lack of scientific credibility. There is more evidence that the earth is flat.

I wonder if my idea that simply teaching creationism in science class would expose the stinkweediness of it is a good idea. It would only work if every teacher to a man or woman were honest about the scientific evidence but, as we have seen from recent polls, one in nine high school science teachers accepts creationism. Somewhere, an entry-level quiz is systematically being omitted. I would expect that if you want to teach science in a science class, you would have to have a basic understanding of what is science and what is not. I guess not.

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1 comment:

  1. I think that in teaching literally anything (I taught community college English), a good teacher presents not only content but also how people in that discipline think. I would think a science teacher at any level would show--and have students practice-- basic forms of hypothesis, experimentation and confirmation. The combination of teaching the type of thinking as well as the history of the subject matter, as you explain, would make it more difficult to pass along ID, one would hope.

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