Sunday, April 23, 2017

Julie Chang: State panel limits teaching phenomena that challenge evolution

As Don McLeroy suggested, I hunted up Julie Chang's article covering the State Board of Education in Texas.  Here is what she writes:
By swapping out a few words in high school biology curriculum standards, the State Board of Education has limited the teaching of scientific phenomena that challenge the theory of evolution, a move that liberals hailed as a victory.

The panel on Friday approved a pared down version of the high school biology curriculum standards after committees of teachers and scholars worked for months to streamline the state’s voluminous science curriculum for all grades. The standards that covered evolution became the most hotly debated issue during the process.

“It was clear from testifiers that many who had varied concerns found the compromise language chosen by the board to be acceptable, addressing both the need to streamline content while still encouraging critical thinking by students,” said board chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston.
Then comes a particularly problematic paragraph:
Currently, high school students must learn about scientific phenomena that can’t readily be explained by evolution, like cell complexity, origin of DNA and life, and abrupt appearances in fossil records, which left-leaning critics have said invites teachings of creationism and intelligent design.
The origin of DNA and life is not the purview of evolution. Evolution deals with existing biological diversity. The notion that evolution explains the origin of life is consistently brought up by people antagonistic to evolutionary theory, despite this. Second, what abrupt appearances in the fossil record is she writing about? This phrase is often used by people who are unfamiliar with the fossil record.  Transitional fossils are commonplace in the fossil record and, often, “abrupt gaps” turn out to be nothing of the sort. There are certainly periods of time when evolution proceeds more quickly than others, but that is all.

Then there is the snarky remark that critics are “left-leaning.” I am not left-leaning, nor is anyone that I know at BioLogos.  Evolutionary theory is apolitical, as is gravitational theory, cell theory (which Ms. Chang incorrectly argues cannot be explained by evolutionary theory), plate tectonic theory and quantum theory. To argue that critics of some of these statements are “left-leaning” betrays a political bias, rather than a scientific one.

While the rest of the article may accurately portray the changes that were made to the standards, the editor of the Statesman should have flagged that paragraph for removal, since it adds nothing to the story and includes several incorrect statements. 

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