Don’t ‘teach the controversy’

Oklahoma students and teachers would have a right to explore scientific controversies, under a bill proposed in the state legislature, reports the Oklahoman. It appears to be an attempt to introduce “intelligent design” into biology classes on evolution, writes Dan Willingham. In any case, it’s a waste of class time

Why shouldn’t science teachers “teach the controversy?” Isn’t it the job of teachers to sharpen students critical thinking skills? Isn’t it part of the scientific method to evaluate evidence? If evolution proponents are so sure their theory is right, why are they afraid of students scrutinizing the ideas?

Imagine this logic applied in other subjects. Why shouldn’t students study and evaluate the version of US history offered by white supremacists? Rather than just reading Shakespeare and assuming he’s a great playwright, why not ask students to read Shakespeare and the screenplay to Battlefield Earth, and let students decide?

. . .  Not every theory merits the limited time students have in school. There is a minimum bar of quality that has to be met in order to compete.

Modern scientists think all theories are open to emendation, improvement — and falsification, Willingham writes. In addition, g

ood scientific theories “change in the face of new evidence” and “continue to spawn new and interesting hypotheses.” While “evolution has been remarkably successful on this score for over 100 years,” intelligent design has been “static and unfruitful.”

Afraid of evolution

It’s been 86 years since the “monkey trial,” but most biology teachers still are afraid to teach evolution straight, concludes a survey of 926 public high school biology teachers.

Only 28 percent describe the evidence for evolution and “explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology,” reports the New York Times.  Thirteen percent teach creationism or “intelligent design” as a valid alternative to evolution. The “cautious 60 percent” tell students they teach evolution only because it’s on the state exam.

Others treat evolution as if it applied only on a molecular level, avoiding any discussion of the evolution of species. And a large number claim that students are free to choose evolution or creationism based on their own beliefs.

“It’s horrible,” Science Guy Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, tells Popular Mechanics.

. . . if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. . . . The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.

For one fourth of high school students, biology is the only science class they take.

Pastafarians seek equal time

Darwinian evolution? Intelligent design? In a letter to a Kansas school board,  Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster devotees demand that Pastafarian beliefs be taught in public schools along with other theories of creation.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

Pastafarians also want teachers to wear the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s chosen outfit, pirate regalia. (“He becomes angry if we don’t.”)

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

The Church of the FSM is “today’s fastest growing carbohydrate-based religion,” claims founder Bobby Henderson. And no wonder.  The Pastafarian heaven features strippers and a beer volcano. My husband, a devour Frequent Flyertarian is considering conversion.

Wikipedia has more.