Evolution vs. the Christians

In 19 states, legislators are considering proposals to challenge the teaching of evolution, the Washington Post reports.

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  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    Let’s just hope that they don’t decide to repeal the law of gravity.

  2. Steve LaBonne says:

    In anticipation of the creationist-symps who will undoubtedly post to this comment thread, I’ll just suggest http://www.talkorigins.org as an excellent one-stop shop for those who are uncertain of what to think about this business and are looking for a source of real information.

  3. Jennifer says:


    Surely you understand the difference between a law and a theory? I’m not advocating they stop teaching the _Theory_ of Evolution. But, that certainly that isn’t akin to trying to repeal the _Law_ of Gravity.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Tell us about global warming/freezing ozone hole over Kennebunkport nuclear winter silent spring, and explain why the world is better off with 2 million malaria deaths a year because Ruckelhouse wanted to impress the coeds and why AIDs deserved civil rights while you are at it, Steve.

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    Walter, please go easy on the drugs- I’m worried about you.


  6. Steve LaBonne says:

    Jennifer, I think Richard’s point is that like gravity, evolution will continue to occur whether the legislature recognizes its existence or not. Just like the ratio of the circumference and diameter of a circle continued to be π even after the Indiana legislature decreed that it was 3. 😉

  7. carpeicthus says:

    Not to mention that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, while useful to understand and an accurate predictor of results in most conditions we deal with, has long been discarded as a conceptual framework by gravitational… wait for it … THEORIES, such as the theory of general relativity or quantum mechanics/string THEORY, what have you.

    God I wish we scientific and practical theories went under different names. I’ve never seen so much radical misunderstanding sue to pure semantics.

  8. There’s no misunderstanding. Just a gradual increase in the desperation to hammer the square peg of religious indoctrination into the round hole of the observed universe.

    The creationists aren’t even trying to explicitly push their version of the universe any more. They’re just trying to pull the useful theory, evolution, down to the level of their explanation of the differentiation of life. The assumption being that if you don’t highlight the one theory, creationism, as explanatory of nothing and evolution as doing a pretty good job of explaining then you’ll have a window of opportunity to use the public school system for one of its designed purposes – indoctrination.

    That’s why the debate has morphed from one of supposed hostility to the biblical interpretation to an attempt to portray evolution as “just” a theory and, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, one theory’s no better then another.

    The standard that’s proposed, implicitly of course, is that all theorys are equal – after all, they’re all guesses, right? – until one is annointed as Scientific Fact.

    The essential dishonesty of that differentiation is that there’s no such thing as a Scientific Fact which means you can wait forever for “just” a theory to be enshrined as Scientific Fact. They’re all theorys and that’s the way they’ll all stay. It’s just that some theorys do a better job of explaining the observed universe which is as close as any theory comes to being a Scientific Fact.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Anyone for science? Obviously not Steve.
    If there were any science behind the attacks on creationalism the attackers would be equally against the Gaia worship that passes for science in a lot of curiculae today.

  10. Steve LaBonne says:

    Anyone for literacy (scientific and plain old) and coherence? Obviously not Walter.

  11. So if anyone can point to even the least bit of “science” supporting Creationism (other than “God did it”) and ID (other than “some mysterious force-but I swear it is not the god of the bible-did it”) then you can teach it somewhere.

    Saying “evolution isn’t the answer” isn’t science. Saying “ID is the answer” isn’t science if you don’t have any actual, you know, science to back it up.

    Like the previous commentor wrote: go check out http://www.talkorigins.org.

  12. Before we get too whipped up in a froth over the Creationists attempt to commandeer the science curriculum, it would be helpful to evaluate the merits of emphasizing the “theory” in evolution. I just read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson and was struck by the diversity in evolutionary theory. I was also fascinated by the “evolution” of the theory itself. By the time I was done with the book, I was less convinced about the support for any one theory of evolution, but very intrigued about studying the subject further.

    To be sure, the Creationists’ motives aren’t pure–they are trying to inject their beliefs into the science curriculum under the veil of scientific method. Nonetheless, the questioning of the “theory” has piqued my interest enough to compell me into further study. I don’t think it would do any harm in school to do the same thing.

    Fascinating read, if anyone is interested.

  13. Half Canadian says:

    Wow, Steve in Broomfield takes a contentious argument and injects a reasonable comment!
    Way to go!

  14. I’m not affiliated with any religion, but I do recognize the value in faith. It is a remarkable thing, believing in something without requiring proof of any sort. It’s hard for most of us to understand what it might be like not to question something as seminal as the origin of Earth. Let’s not get too bent out of shape about holding true to “science” in the classroom and even in a science class. Those who believe in the truth of science are simply putting that faith in something other than religion.

  15. Steve LaBonne says:

    I’m all for teaching about religion, in a social studies or comparative religion calss. But science classes should be reserved for teaching science; why is that too much to ask? The easygoing, very American relativism of Steve in Broomfield or Matt Tabor may seem reasonable at first glance, but really just reflects a lack of acquaintance with the actual state of play in biology, coupled with exposure to misleading propaganda from the “ID” types. For those who would like to become better informed I once again recommend http://www.talkorigins.org, the best source of info on evolutionary biology for laypeople that I know of on the Web. By all means bring your open minds with you.

  16. Steve, saying that people view things differently isn’t relativism, it’s reality. I never assigned equal value, or any value, to those beliefs; I just said that, while manifesting themselves differently, both rely heavily on faith, and that people do, in fact, believe in both ideas. I never said which was truth and which wasn’t.

    Science classes – and this is a broad term – ought not be divorced from context, especially that of faith, but it takes a *very* good, knowledgeable teacher to do it justice [this is one area where knowing only a little can do a lot of damage]. Examining Copernicus’ ‘Rev. of Heavenly Spheres,’ Galileo’s ‘Two Sciences,’Descartes, Aristotle, oh my… once you go beyond the high school and undergraduate science curriculum, context means a little more. If you doubt the importance of comparing hard science and faith, read those original texts – you’ll see how powerful the influence really is.

    Please, be more attentive the next time you try to stir things up. Debate for the sake of debate just… stopped being fun when I was about 14.

  17. To Steve LaBonne; point well taken. I’m not suggesting that we make our science classes into a philosophical forum. Rather, by injecting the element of doubt in the theory, and even suggesting alternative viewpoints such as creation, the classroom becomes an even more challenging, and more scientific place for students to explore.

    If they begin by assuming that evolution is fact, then their time will be spent trying to justify their assumption. This, as far as I know, is not the scientific method. Alternatively, by looking at evolution as just one of many theories, students can then postulate their own theories and work accordingly.

    Honestly, I don’t fear creationism as much as you do. While I don’t want to inject it into the classroom on equal footing as evolution, I think students can learn science regardless.

  18. Steve LaBonne says:

    No Matthew, I’m not just debating for the sake of debate. This is a very serious issue, just part of the sustained attack on science and Enlightenment values in general in our society.

    Here’s what’s curious. If Joe Blow, who knows nothing about how cars work, conceived a new theory about how to repair cars via spiritual healing, people would think him a loon if he started lecturing auto mechanics about the drawbacks of their mechanical worldview. Yet when Joe Schmo, or Walter Wallis, equally innocent of any acquaintance with biology, presume to lecture distinguished scientists about their own business, I’m somehow supposed to consider that reasonable. Sorry- that’s baloney.

    Now the idea of “teaching the controversy” (the _societal_ controversy that is; the creation vs. evolution debate _within science_ was settled over a century ago)has a certain superficial appeal. But first of all it belongs in a social studies class, NOT a biology class, because it’s not really about biology. And second, the devil is in the details, and as you admit, “it takes a *very* good, knowledgeable teacher to do it justice [this is one area where knowing only a little can do a lot of damage].” How many of our high-school teachers are really equipped to do this? And why should it take precedence over many possibly more worthwhile things that might be taught?

  19. I think the debate on evolution gets a disproportionate amount of attention in the debate on science curriculum. For example, being a creationist does not preclude one from studying mitochondrial DNA and how it can be used to compare human lineage. For another example, studying the 35-day life cycle of the Wisconsin fast plant in the classroom does not require a firm belief in the Theory of Evolution. (What do you think, Steve L.?)

    I think this theory v. creation is often used as a catalyst for debate between Christians and non-Christians. Steve L., you seem to be passionate in your opposition to teaching (or at least mentioning) creation in the classroom. So much so that it appears you too are using this subject to push your personal agenda. I don’t have a problem with this, mind you, but I’m just making an observation.

    At any rate, thank you for the reference in http://www.talkorigins.org. I will definately check it out with an open mind and in hopes of learning something.

    And for one final comment, thank you all for engaging in debate without name calling. I wish all forums could be so respectful and informational.

  20. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I was not defending the teaching of evolution, I was pointing out that the science taught in many progressive schools today is just as faith based, just as bereft of reason, just as indefensable as creationism.
    I listed, in the submission Steve derided, a series of issues where progressives bring their God out of their Machine without either shame or acknowledgement. Hey, hey, Steve LaB, how many Africans have you killed today!

  21. Richard Nieporent says:

    Surely you understand the difference between a law and a theory? I’m not advocating they stop teaching the _Theory_ of Evolution. But, that certainly that isn’t akin to trying to repeal the _Law_ of Gravity.

    Jennifer, I think you are a little humor impared.

  22. Nice that this exchange is still civil after 20-plus posts – many threads on this topic don’t last this long!

    A good science education equips the STUDENTS to evaluate evolution, creationism, and any other theories that come along by the standards of scientific inquiry.

    1) There is NO place in a science class for creationism – certainly not in public schools. Evolution is the accepted scientific explanation of the fossil record.

    Faith is great. Shut off the TV and share your personal beliefs with Johnny. Not in school, not in science class.

    2) Darwin’s original theories have undergone significant revision as a result of the fossil record. And THIS story – how a theory gets tested against fact, rethought and revised – should be the centerpiece of scientific education, together with similar stories. It is a perfect example of the process of scientific inquiry.

    3) There is ALSO no place in a science class for politically motivated dogmatism, or the GAIA-like portrayal of “nature in Her wisdom” which most definitely HAS infiltrated a lot of science education.

    Some of the heat in this debate stems from the overreaching of science – people have tried to use the authority of science to support/enforce moral and political judgements. But science and its tools don’t apply to these aspects of human society. Creationist claims are a response to this misuse of science’s mantle. Which leads to:

    4) We must teach HOW science – and scientists – work. To understand the technology that shapes our lives, we must penetate a large “Wow” factor and increasing specialization that makes explanations arcane and inaccessible.

    But if non-scientists don’t understand how science achieves its results, we risk turning scientists into modern day shamans and wizards. With the reach of modern technology, this ability to critically evaluate scientific claims becomes a political/social issue as well.

    A good science education will equip the STUDENTS to evaluate evolution, creationism, and other theories by the standards of scientific inquiry.

    I am an Orthodox Jew with a double bachelor’s degree – Physics and Engineering.
    Ben David

  23. Chris C. says:

    At some level, most things taught in science class are “just” a theory – science is the best we can currently do at representing and predicting reality. Scientific knolwedge is always evolving (whoops).

    So, in many ways, Steve in Bromfield’s (and others’) desire to “inject doubt” into the teaching of evoluion reflects a pretty poor understanding of what science actually is.
    Shauli is right – science education should equip students to evaluate existing scientific knowledge and whatever else pops up in the future.

    The actual effect of this public debate is that many teachers are now sidestepping the issue of evolution in the classroom. Understandably, they don’t want that kind of attention drawn to them or their school. In other words, the “intelligent design” folks are doing a good job of bullying evolution out of the classroom.

    And for that, our students are dumber.

  24. Steve LaBonne says:

    “In other words, the “intelligent design” folks are doing a good job of bullying evolution out of the classroom.” And it should be clearly understood that precisely this is their goal. They have nothing positive at all to offer- there is no such thing as published laboratory research exploring, let alone supporting, “intelligent design”, and there is not even anything but coy evasion on what one would magine to be a rather important question, that of what sort of entity this “designer” is. The whole thing is nothing but a ruse designed to create a phony appearance of “scientific controversy” while attempting to skirt the court decisions that kept the previous scam, “creation science”, out of the classroom. If these people can’t manage to get religion taught in biology classes, they’ll settle for keeping the biology out.

    P.S. “There is ALSO no place in a science class for politically motivated dogmatism, or the GAIA-like portrayal of “nature in Her wisdom” which most definitely HAS infiltrated a lot of science education.” I very strongly agree with this (happy, Walter?) but it’s a topic for another discussion.

  25. Caffeinated Curmudgeon says:

    Back when I was in high school, walking barefoot over hot volcanic ash and fighting dinosaurs just to make the 8:30 bell, our very religious 9th grade science teacher bridled at teaching anything about evolution.

    For those sections of the even then ancient textbook, she instead taught “library science”. So we memorized the Dewey Decimal System instead of learning anything about paeleontology or other subjects inspired by The Great Deciever ™. Heck, I still can’t spell it right.

    So I naturally came to admire Clarence Darrow, and eventually became a lawyer.

    The creationists don’t have a clue about how badly their silly schemes to indoctrinate students will backfire. Imagine 20-30 years in the future an army of Darrow-inspired lawyers suing school districts for educational malpractice. Not that I’d personally ever do that, I’m just sayin’.

  26. Educational malpractice? Bwahahahahaha!

    You’re such a card!

  27. “So I naturally came to admire Clarence Darrow, and eventually became a lawyer.”

    You have my reciprocal condolences, fellow counselor.