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February 13, 2004

Creation in the Schools (again...)
The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a 10th-grade biology lesson that scientists say could put "intelligent design" in Ohio classrooms.

Setting aside an impassioned plea from the National Academy of Sciences, the board voted 13-4 to declare its intent to adopt the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson next month...LINK

Reportedly, the language for the lesson plan is coming from Wells' "Icons of Evolution." (Talkorigins.org site on the book here)

A lot of people on GNXP (probably rightly) see all this as a battle between good and evil. The forces of ignorance versus the forces science. The Church versus Galileo

I see it as a god-awful mess.

First of all let's go over the problems on the Creationist side:

  • They're wrong and they want to teach their wrongness in the schools

That's about it for them really.

Now for the problems with our side:

  • Science is about debate, not suppressing dissent. Practically, though, what goes on in the schools is not science, but indoctrination. Kind of goes against scientific ideals. Necessary, of course, but not all that ideologically pure.
  • How do you reliably differentiate the kooks from the rational dissenters? That remains an unsolved problem for scientific institutions. More correctly, the practical solutions are not perfect, nor are they immune to inertia and bureaucracy. Creationists (rightly) jump on this.
  • Consensus controls the universities (mostly) which makes consensus necessary for any widely spread scientific view not promulgated by another source. This is a practical state of affairs, but not a strictly scientific one. With religion in the mix, you have that other source promulgating the wackos.

What are the practical solutions to this mess? War with the believers in the press? Maybe. That's what we are doing now.

Here are my personal goals for the teaching of evolution:

  • Make sure that anyone smart enough to understand the theory and do science with it (and who is interested in it) has access to the best arguments for evolution. And the best arguments against. They'll muddle through, mostly.
  • Make sure that the rest of the population does not believe anything so wacky that it negatively affects public policy

The first point, in my opinion, does not have much to do with high school. The second does. I suppose that it can be used as justification for the current Creationism v. Evolution school board wars. But frankly, I think that it is a matter of secularization levels, IQ, and literacy rates in society more than what is actually taught. IQ and literacy rates do not have much to do with public schools. Secularization can be promulgated in the public schools (and is), but I think the negative effects outweigh the positive.

Either way, the battle over lesson plans that we see now is of little consequence. Thankfully.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 07:24 AM