Getting ID confused with Science. Still happening…

Woah. Where to begin with this one?

Turns out that, according to a study of science teachers in the USA, 1 in 6 believe that humans have been on Earth fewer than 10,000 years. 1 in 8 present Creationism to their students as “a scientifically valid alternative to evolution”. During a school year, biology teachers might be lucky to spend 5 hours on the topic of human evolution. Nearly a half of these teachers believe that a supernatural being has a hand in evolution.

This boggles the mind.

Firstly, if this is correct then there is a significant number of American science teachers who are completely unaware of the meaning of the term ‘theory’ as it applies to their area of (alleged) expertise. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on it:

In science a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation.

I could have picked any one of a variety of similarly phrased definitions from ’round the web (go look for some yourself), but the point that it can be tested is critical; no faith-derived explanation can be, and future predictions from a faith perspective are notoriously imprecise or just plain wrong.

Secondly, it is probably against the law. Several recent court judgements in the US have underlined the need to keep ID out of the science classroom. Unfortunately, without any kind of standardised curriculum, the materials taught in Science classes are still vulnerable to being hijacked by the superstitious.

For a concise analysis of the highlights, I can recommend this blog entry, at LayScience.net

I imagine this happens in Australia too, although I’m proud to say that I know of no-one in my school or in my extended professional circle who would do this. Still, it could happen…

(cartoon from http://www.fsteiger.com/theory.html – a precis of the argument against ID)

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8 Comments on “Getting ID confused with Science. Still happening…”

  1. darren777 says:

    Hey Mr Wever,

    Maybe evolution should be banned agianst Christian school, but there is no need for it to be banned at other schools. Learning about evolution doesn’t mean that you have to believe it. I am a christian and I don’t beleive in evolution but, but i still went along with it. It’t not bad just to know about it. It’s better to know some than none. It’s really the students choice.

    Darren

  2. wever says:

    Hi Darren – I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think it is a matter of ‘believing’ in evolution or not.

    The point that the authors of this study are making is that confusion is rampant amongst people – in this case, teachers of science – who ought to know better.

    Rationally, there is no better explanation for the diversity of life than the process of speciation through evolution by means of natural selection. To introduce an immeasurable influence – divinity, supernatural entities or whatever – is to take the discussion outside the bounds of scientific enquiry.

    Arguments on the existence, or not, of a ‘designer’ are philosophical; they can be useful to help us form personal beliefs, but they don’t really belong as part of a science course. There ought to be somewhere else in the curriculum where they can be addressed.
    Cheers

  3. alagmac says:

    Hello,

    Sorry I am confused. Are you saying it is bad to teach evolutionism, or that it is bad toteach creationism in schools? I am a young christian, american student and I have never been taught anything about human evolution. 😦

    • wever says:

      It seems that the failure to teach evolution is a depressingly widespread phenomenon in your country. And the fervent believers of creationism try harder every year to keep it that way. But there is nothing in the fundamentalist christian understanding of creation that is in any way scientific, despite what the proponents of ID keep saying. I’m concerned by how many people are unaware of how hollow and unsubstantiated their ‘facts’ and ‘questions’ and controversies’ really are. But worse is the general ignorance of the simple principles of evolution by means of natural selection.
      Good luck – keep questioning.

  4. alagmac says:

    Are you saying that evolution is a theory?

  5. wever says:

    Of course it’s a theory. But you need to be aware of what it means when a scientist uses that term.

    Gravity is a theory, too. In Science, a Theory is a set of ideas that comprise an explanation that can both explain all elements of the data thus far observed as well as make predictions that are testable.

    It is this verification process that underpins Science. Religion of any kind – and christianity isn’t special in this or other regards – makes no verifiable predictions or claims; miracles, by definition, are contrary to the natural laws we understand and depend upon to be true.

  6. wever says:

    You test it by predicting specific outcomes that should occur given certain conditions – survival pressures, for instance – in a system that you can control then doing an experiment that allows you to observe whether your predictions are accurate. For best outcomes, get a wide variety of other people to try the same experiments and see if they arrive at the same outcomes.

    For instance, our understanding of how microbial resistance to antibiotics – a real problem in many hospitals these days – is entirely dependent on an appreciation of how evolution can ‘select’ organisms to survive that are better adapted than their competitors.

    Might I suggest you watch some of the ‘Evolution in 2 Minutes’ videos from Discover Magazine – google or youtube them – for an overview of the principles and evidence for what is, I can say quite reasonably, the fact of evolution.


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