Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Evolution, ID and the Law

The American School Board Journal has a thorough and informative article explaining what the law says about evolution, ID and public schools. This should be mandatory reading for school boards and administrators who are confronted with teachers who want to introduce creationism into the science classroom. Perhaps we should start with Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, who wrote in a letter recently that, “Since 1970, state law specifically allows public schools to teach “creationism” in conjunction with the theory of evolution.” Well okay, Ernie, but since 1987, such laws have been unconstitutional so you can’t enforce it. You’d think a governor would know that.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave S.
    April 13, 2006

    Over all, a very fine read.

    I would take issue with one sentence though:

    But science has repeatedly confirmed the counterintuitive theory of undirected evolution based on random variation and natural selection.

    I would not say evolution was undirected, only that there doesn’t appear to be any discernable direction to it – that it doesn’t culminate in humans for example. Also, the last bit might give the missleading impression that evolution is based only on random variation and natural selection. Although those are indeed important, there are other mechanisms at play too.

  2. #2 Joe Shelby
    April 13, 2006

    As Carol Rupe, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, has said, “Certainly teach the controversy. But teach it in philosophy class, teach it in history class, teach it in a comparative religion class.”

    I agree.

    I agree, but only to a point.

    The point being that if you’re going to teach ID’s version of the “controversy”, you should also be required to point out that the logical, argumentive, and factual fallacies of their claims. A teacher shouldn’t be permitted to present material from Pandas or Wells’s Icons unchallenged as the students will take the lies in those works seriously.

    If in a “Philosophy” class, the flaws in their arguments, especially argument from incredulity and their quote-mining tactics, should be made extremely clear.

    Of course, just how many Philosophy classes are there in a public high school? I graduated from one of the biggest and broadest schools in Virginia (Fairfax County) and there wasn’t a philosophy elective there at all. Most of us who could have handled such a class were too busy with our AP course lists (like Calculus, History, Government, and English, and in some cases a foreign language). Plus band. ;)

  3. #3 Peter
    April 13, 2006

    I agree that “intelligent design” should be taught in humanities classes. But I don’t see its own supporters finding much to like in that idea. Pushing “intelligent design” into science classes is their only way around the First Amendment. In science, if you have the dominant theory, then it will be taught regardless of how offensive it is (witness evolution for that one). But the humanities are a constant battleground. Nothing stands up for long in that environment. Put “intelligent design” in there and it just becomes one among many philosophical ideas to be used for intellectual cockfighting.

  4. #4 Dave S.
    April 13, 2006

    Peter says:

    I agree that “intelligent design” should be taught in humanities classes.

    I agree if you mean that we could teach about ID in a humanities class.

  5. #5 Peter
    April 13, 2006

    I don’t think that’s a meaningful distinction. Put it in another subject:

    “Teaching algebra” versus “teaching about algebra” — What’s the difference?

    In either case, the teacher can only put the information in front of the students, who must decide what to do with it. I think the “about” distinction is only being made for “intelligent design” because people imagine teachers brainwashing their students by forcing them to believe the claims of “intelligent design” proponents rather than simply telling them “about” the claims. I don’t think it matters.

    Regardless of the subject, once a teacher says, “You have to know this and you have to agree with it,” no matter how right the claims of the teacher are, that’s inappropriate in education. I don’t care if the teacher is saying “You have to know the law of gravity and you have to agree with it.” That’s just ludicrous. It’s antithetical both to education and to the scientific method, in which all claims are provisional — just some more provisional than others.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    April 13, 2006

    Peter –

    I think it’s a very meaningful distinction and it certainly was not just invented as some way to punish ID wherever it raises its ugly head. Intelligent design is an inherently religious idea (setting aside the fact it’s also scientifically vacuous) and inherently religious ideas cannot be advocated in public schools, whether you call them science, philosophy, or whatever.

    For example, it’s like the difference between teaching about Christianity in a Religious Studies class and advocating Christianity. The first is Constitutional, the second is not.

    Of course students don’t “have to” agree with what the teacher says. They don’t have to believe in atoms if they don’t want to. That doesn’t mean thier beliefs should be taken into account when grading their papers.

  7. #7 Joe Shelby
    April 13, 2006

    Of course students don’t “have to” agree with what the teacher says. They don’t have to believe in atoms if they don’t want to. That doesn’t mean thier beliefs should be taken into account when grading their papers.

    On the other hand, if a pro-ID teacher teaches a class covering ID and the student’s paper or test essay rips ID to shreds, should the teachers’ beliefs THEN be taken into account? Certainly that Virginia community college biology teacher gives me the impression she would have graded an anti-ID paper down.

    Where is education when a student potentially has to regurgitate a total lie in order to pass a class?

    There is a point where somebody has to decide what is and isn’t true for a passing grade. Otherwise, education and grades merely become a war between the teacher’s and the students’ belief systems, each claiming their right to be taken into account.

    With evolution, the definition of required factual learning is generally in the hands of the science committees (whether they are ignored by their school boards as in Kansas or not).

    Where is the definition of fact when it comes to ID? Dembski’s version (and the lies that go with it)? Behe’s version (and the lies that go with it)? Johnson’s version( and its attendent lies)? Flying Spaghetti Monster (and its associated truths)? Or are the facts of ID those that have pointed out so many times on pro-science websites throughout the world and to report any ID “claim” as being factual gets the kid a failing grade?

    A pro-ID teacher could ignore the logical fallacies in a student’s pro-ID paper (thus, the student learns nothing to fix their incorrect arguments), merely because the same logical fallacies exist inside his/her own head.

    This is just not Aristotle vs. Democratus and “do we include the supernatural in our quest for answers”. Hand in hand with ID are the lies about evolution that have been thoroughly debunked time and time again (and 3 more debunkings were published this past week alone). When those lies show up on a test and the teacher and student have differing views because of religion, whose is the mark that matters?

    As long as ID requires acknowledging the claims of flaws of evolution that it currently does, it should be best left out of schools entirely. And if you take out those claims of evolution’s downfalls, ID is an idea that only takes about 10 minutes to talk about.

  8. #8 Dave S.
    April 13, 2006

    Joe says:

    Where is education when a student potentially has to regurgitate a total lie in order to pass a class?

    But wouldn’t the girl who’s a Young Earth Creationist say exactly this when graded on the evolution section of her biology class? I’m sure she considers it all lies.

    The education part comes from teaching the science as best we know it at the present time. It’s not about the ‘truth’, its about the best testable positive explanations for the evidence. Evolution theory makes tangible predictions (like Tiktaalik) and ID makes none. That’s why we teach one as science and the other is not.

    There is a point where somebody has to decide what is and isn’t true for a passing grade. Otherwise, education and grades merely become a war between the teacher’s and the students’ belief systems, each claiming their right to be taken into account.

    But the great strength of science is not simply in the claims, but that the claims are empirically testable.

    Where is the definition of fact when it comes to ID? Dembski’s version (and the lies that go with it)? Behe’s version (and the lies that go with it)? Johnson’s version( and its attendent lies)? Flying Spaghetti Monster (and its associated truths)? Or are the facts of ID those that have pointed out so many times on pro-science websites throughout the world and to report any ID “claim” as being factual gets the kid a failing grade?

    Again, its not merely the claim, but whether or not the claim has been or can be tested against the evidence (or even if it can be tested even in principle).

    As long as ID requires acknowledging the claims of flaws of evolution that it currently does, it should be best left out of schools entirely. And if you take out those claims of evolution’s downfalls, ID is an idea that only takes about 10 minutes to talk about.

    I don’t mind teachers talking about ID. But really, it’ll only be useful if the student already has a good grasp of the scientific method and how scientists find out the things they do.

  9. #9 Joe Shelby
    April 13, 2006

    Dave S., I respect you, but you’re completely missing my point. This is no longer about what is and isn’t in a *science* class where ID’s utter lack of testability makes it a non-starter in the first place.

    This is talking about what of ID can and should be taught in a non-science setting as is advocated by the article: a “humanities” or “philosophy” class. In such an environment, “testability” means nothing.

    In such an environment, ID remains an extremely flawed argument, a combination of incredulity (“it is too improbable for life to evolve via the accepted means”) and false dychotomy (“therefore, it must have been designed”). In addition to that, ID is often combined with the long list of “creationist claims” (the “lies” as I call them).

    (Bingo, I just *taught* all the ID that exists in 2 sentences.)

    But is that the ID that will be taught when it is taught (or even “talked about”) in a humanities or philosophy class?

    If not, then what will?

    If a teacher makes a false claim about evolution as part of a pro-ID argument/lecture, and then expects the student to repeat it on a test, is the student wrong for presenting the evidence that debunks it? Does it mean the student *failed* to *learn ID* and therefore fails the class?

    Is a philosophy teacher mis-teaching the students by not pointing out ID’s core argumentative flaws (incredulity, false dychotomy) when they present it? A “humanities” teacher?

    But really, it’ll only be useful if the student already has a good grasp of the scientific method and how scientists find out the things they do.

    In other words, for the vast majority of kids these days, never.

    And aside from recognizing a form of pseudoscience when they see it, how else is it “useful”?

  10. #10 Joe Shelby
    April 13, 2006

    But wouldn’t the girl who’s a Young Earth Creationist say exactly this when graded on the evolution section of her biology class? I’m sure she considers it all lies.

    It was this that bothered me – in this case it is the girl vs. the education system that asserts the she must know science as the science committees have decided. the school is backed up by school board and local governmental and state congressional authority.

    In the case of ID, however, what is the authority for the amount of ID to be taught and the approach it is taught at. do you give it a realm of credibility, or do you thrash it apart as a logically flawed argument supported by lies and distortions of evidence?

    Is giving ID any credibility at all considered “promoting” it?

    If the discretion is left to the teacher (as many of the “academic freedom” bills are trying to establish), then where is the teacher’s liability for lying and/or teaching false logic?

    Really, if the ID side just needs to get out of the education business because there is no way they can get into the schools and still look “good”.

  11. #11 wheatdogg
    April 13, 2006

    Sigh. I wish we in Kentucky could revise the Kentucky Revised Statutes to remove that item about Biblical creation. So far, it has not been challenged in court, because so far no teacher, AFAIK, has taken advantage of the law in a jurisdiction in which a challenge might be likely.

    For your edification, here is the actual wording of the law, as revised in 1990. Note that it does not use the word “creationism,” as Ernie implies, but the “Bible theory (sic) of creation.” The two are not quite the same thing.

    KRS 158.177 Teaching of evolution — Right to include Bible theory of creation.

    (1) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the creation of man and the earth, and which involves the theory thereon commonly known as evolution, any teacher so desiring may include as a portion of such instruction the theory of creation as presented in the Bible, and may accordingly read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation, thereby
    affording students a choice as to which such theory to accept.

    (2) For those students receiving such instruction, and who accept the Bible theory of creation, credit shall be permitted on any examination in which adherence to such theory is propounded, provided the response is correct according to the instruction received.

    (3) No teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational religious belief.

    (4) This section is not to be construed as being adverse to any decision which has been rendered by any court of competent jurisdiction.

    You legal hounds can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe paragraph 4 means this statute has no legal standing if a higher court has ruled such action unconstitutional.

  12. #12 Peter
    April 13, 2006

    For example, it’s like the difference between teaching about Christianity in a Religious Studies class and advocating Christianity. The first is Constitutional, the second is not.

    But I don’t think education should involve advocacy in science, history, literature, philosophy, or any subject that involves provisional knowledge. (Which basically leaves mathematics alone in the corner with incontrovertible content.) My point is not that “intelligent design” should not be specially watched for traces of advocacy in the classroom, but that all educators in (almost) all subjects should be watching themselves for traces of advocacy, Constitutional or not. My view is narrower than that of the constitution, in other words.

    Furthermore, I don’t think adding the word “about” is nearly enough to guard against “advocacy.” It’s just a vague preposition — smoke and mirrors, worthy of the ID people themselves.

    Science education is a two-tiered affair: (1) Children are taught the scientific method, which can be applied to anything; (2) Children are taught the prevailing theories about life and the universe that have been the products of the scientific method.

    As to the first tier, the scientific method, it’s a philosophical proposition just like any other. It’s based on the idea that we can know things about our environment and that we can know those things based on a system of causality and testing. Could a person reasonably disagree with that? Absolutely. But the scientific endeavor has led to many benefits of health and technology. Should that be pointed out to someone who rejects the philosophical basis for the method? Sure. But they can still disagree.

    As to the second tier, the prevailing results of the scientific method, it’s just like learning historical facts: “Evolution is the theory under which most life scientists operate under.” It is basic cultural knowledge, like knowing that Hitler led Germany during the Second World War. Whatever you further attach to either of those facts about evolution or Hitler depends on how you want to view the circumstances, how you want to spin the context, and so on. Do kids need to believe that Hitler was evil and that evolution is correct? No! They just need to know that Hitler is generally seen in a very poor light and that evolution is the prevailing theory of life.

    But as a society we fail to educate our children such that they can couch their knowledge of things in such provisional terms if they want to. If we taught them to do that, or allowed them to do that, they might be better independent thinkers and the scientific community might ultimately see a greater benefit at the professional level. But being able to use knowledge in provisional terms is exactly what makes science unique and exactly what religion refuses to do.

    If children came home to their parents and said, “Some people believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again a few days later, but other people think Jesus perhaps never existed,” it would be an absolutely true statement. Christian parents will have none of that, though. There will be no admission that there are in fact sane people who do not take Christianity seriously and are not in fact under the influence of Satan.

    So why should the scientific community be upset if children can similarly come home to their parents and say, “Some people believe that all life on earth arose through evolution by natural selection, but other people believe that God designed everything to be this way”? Why shouldn’t the scientific community be more able than the Christian to community to admit to its detractors and meet them face to face?

  13. #13 wheatdogg
    April 13, 2006

    Why shouldn’t the scientific community be more able than the Christian to community to admit to its detractors and meet them face to face?

    My response would be that Biblical literalism (creationism) and intelligent design (creationism disguised) are not sciences, and have no place in a science curriculum. So, one would hope, a child would not be bringing such news home from his science class.

    I do agree, however, that teachers should spend some time in class acknowledging that the theory of evolution is controversial in the public arena, but that in the scientific arena it is not. (Behe, Dembski, et alia not withstanding.) Teachers should not (especially in public schools) spend time discussing in detail what either creation science or ID propound.

    The question is not whether we are trying to avoid “the controversy,” but whether we are trying to avoid adding to the confusion between what is science and what is not.

    As for the question of the Resurrection (rather timely, don’t you think?), surely Christian families would recognize that Jews and Muslims, for example, do not accept the Resurrection. They may not be happy about the admission, but they would have to at least educate their children that not all people are Christian.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    April 13, 2006

    wheatdogg wrote:

    I wish we in Kentucky could revise the Kentucky Revised Statutes to remove that item about Biblical creation. So far, it has not been challenged in court, because so far no teacher, AFAIK, has taken advantage of the law in a jurisdiction in which a challenge might be likely.

    It doesn’t need to be challenged in court, it’s already invalidated by Edwards v Aguillard. It is as pointless as states still having laws against miscegenation on the books. The moment they tried to actually enforce such laws, a Federal court will hit them with an injunction so fast it’ll make their heads spin. Anyone challenging that enforcement would get a summary judgement in no time and that judgement would be upheld. In fact, you don’t even need Edwards to know that law is overturned. Kentucky is in the 6th circuit, which ruled in 1975 in Daniel v Waters that you could not teach the Biblical creation story. The case was not appealed, but it’s still binding in the 6th circuit.

  15. #15 Peter
    April 13, 2006

    In response to my question, “[W]hy should the scientific community be upset if children can similarly come home to their parents and say, ‘Some people believe that all life on earth arose through evolution by natural selection, but other people believe that God designed everything to be this way’?”

    wheatdog said:

    Biblical literalism (creationism) and intelligent design (creationism disguised) are not sciences, and have no place in a science curriculum. So, one would hope, a child would not be bringing such news home from his science class.

    It doesn’t matter whether Biblical literalism, creationism, or intelligent design are “sciences.” What matters is that they, together with the scientific enterprise, are attempting to answer the same question: “Why are things the way they are?”

    For the vast majority of human history, the theory of evolution by natural selection did not exist. Every culture has come up with a different idea for how things got to be the way they are. Some cultures have come up with multiple ideas. There is a historical and psychological connection between these attempts to explain the world and that connection cannot be denied, unless the scientific community wants to go Orwellian on the rest of the world.

    Taking the long historical perspective, evolution by natural selection is only the latest in the long stream of attempts to explain how things got to be the way they are. Most scientists agree that it is also the best explanation, by far (and I agree with them). However, the nature of our society, and especially the nature of human society on a global scale, is that many of those old ideas about the origins of life are still hanging on in various groups of people. It is one thing to say that those people should be aware of other explanations, but quite another to tell them they must abandon their old beliefs in favor of the new scientific explanation. To do the latter would not be significantly different from behaving as the most expansive and oppressive religions have done, and would cross the line from science to “scientism.”

    As well, from a historical and cultural perspective — wholly aside from the scientific one — I think we would do a great disservice to ourselves and our children by crushing or ignoring the long history of ideas about how life got here that existed prior to 1858. How can a student understand the growth and expansion of Christianity if he or she has been told that everything about Christianity is patently wrong and superseded by science? That may be true, but in order to understand how the world got to be the way it is, with Christianity filling the sails of Western Europe and subsequently expanding over the globe, a person needs to understand that there was a time before evolution by natural selection, indeed a time before science, when intelligent people could believe the claims of Christianity without seeming to be insane.

    Students need to be taught our complete cultural history and that includes Christianity. It also includes the very important fact that, in the last 500 years, Christianity has butted heads with science again and again. In my opinion, the only reason we are not doing that in our schools is because we, as a society, are using education as the latest battleground in the conflict and not allowing that perhaps the students deserve to know what’s going on and think for themselves, rather than passively suffer the fallout from constant ideological warfare.

  16. #16 Matthew
    April 13, 2006

    I don’t think an understanding of creation myths is very important to understanding european history. When religious clashes happened it was never over creation myths. Up until recently few people knew the prayers of their church, let alone theological positions. Aside from anti-evolutionism, the creation story has been a pretty irrelevant part of history.

  17. #17 Peter
    April 13, 2006

    There’s more to religion than just creation myths, and religion without creation myths is incomplete. Today we are accustomed to having massive amounts of reliable information at our fingertips and we have unprecedented control over our immediate environment. But for most of human history, neither of those things was true. The world was a vast, powerful, and capricious place. Having a tool to understand it was very important to maintaining sanity, goals, group cohesion, social hierarchy, and all sorts of other things that were necessary for human society to develop. Religion played that role and did it so well that for many people the idea of a sane society without religion seems impossible. Simply running roughshod over that historical legacy by insisting that Biblical literalism, creationism, and intelligent design are only religious beliefs and therefore must crumble before the bulldozer of science with the help of the Constitution is socially irresponsible. We cannot expect public schools to pretend that religion does not exist by failing to address the historical connection between religion and science.

    Religion should be taught (or “taught about,” if you think vague prepositions make it safer) in public schools; but all religions should be taught. Students should know about the Western religions as well as the Eastern ones, and how those religions have affected their cultures. (That is especially important with the increasing importance of Asia to the world economy.) Students should be aware that when they go to public schools, their classmates come from different cultural traditions so their parents teach them different things. With so much diversity at the elementary school level, where children are most impressionable, what good reason do we have for refraining from talking about these things until they’re undergraduates in sociology, philosophy, and anthropology classes? So long as no religion is advocated and no religion is excluded, I see no Constitutional barrier.

  18. #18 Joe Shelby
    April 13, 2006

    Which basically leaves mathematics alone in the corner with incontrovertible content.

    Actually, aside from the rules of proofs that one gets in geometry (one has to learn the rules of deduction at some point), basic algebra (communative and associative properties, etc), and the rules of arithmetic itself (really the rule of addition, as by the time one hits 4th grade, subtraction, multiplication, and division have been derived from addition), everything in mathematics classes is derived. Including fractions, percents, decimals, etc., as they’re derived from division by giving alternate means of expression for the “remainder”. Everything else is derived from those other rules and defining what terms to use when those rules seem to fail (like irrational in geometry (pi) and square roots, or imaginary numbers).

    In fact, its the whole “proof” thing, that while effectively supporting the fact that mathematics all “works” to the students, is the biggest turn-off to most students because it means learning too much of why something works so one never connects the dots to how one is supposed to pragmatically use it.

    Kids *seem* to take it for granted that this math stuff works, but in reality they are exposed to the proofs regardless of whether a particular teacher or level of understanding requires them to re-derive those same proofs on a test. (in some classes like calculus one rarely is actually asked at the high school level to re-derive the limit and/or differential from the infinite series, but one is often asked to rederive, say, the pythagorean theorem or certain facets of analytic geometry like why a parallelagram and rectangle have the same rule for calculating area).

  19. #19 wheatdogg
    April 13, 2006

    Peter –

    I am not disagreeing with your argument that students need to be educated about the “big picture.” I merely suggest that the science class may not be the best venue for such discussions. Rather, social studies or history classes may be a better place. Our Euro history teacher, for example, addresses the Muslim vs Christian and the Lutheran vs Catholic aspects of European history by holding mock trials, in which Luther (for example) has to defend his theology against the Catholic “prosecution.” No doubt this teaching method could be adapted to evolution vs creationism, or whatever.

    You are right in saying that students need to have a better idea of our history, and of how evolution and the rest of science fits into that history. For that matter, so do our teachers and politicians. This comment here, however, I have trouble with.

    Simply running roughshod over that historical legacy by insisting that Biblical literalism, creationism, and intelligent design are only religious beliefs and therefore must crumble before the bulldozer of science with the help of the Constitution is socially irresponsible. We cannot expect public schools to pretend that religion does not exist by failing to address the historical connection between religion and science.

    The first sentence here overstates the case, at least in my mind. Science and religion are connected, yes, but they are different pursuits that address different concerns. I am not proposing at all that science should become “scientism,” as you say, but that students should realize that science cannot and should not address questions that are purely theological, such as supernatural influences on the development of life. Similarly, religion cannot and should not address questions that are purely scientific, such as the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang. This coexistence does not mean science will obliterate religion, or religion science.

    Even atheists can agree that religion and religious beliefs have played an enormous, if not dominant role in human history. To ignore religion in the pursuit of some pristine “secular” education would do our students a great disservice. At the same time, we cannot let them disapprehend that religion can replace science, or science religion, which from my vantage point extremists on either end of the spectrum seem to advocate.

  20. #20 wheatdogg
    April 13, 2006

    ahem — it’s late and my fingers do not obey the mind. I meant “misapprehend.”

  21. #21 Caledonian
    April 13, 2006

    It is one thing to say that those people should be aware of other explanations, but quite another to tell them they must abandon their old beliefs in favor of the new scientific explanation. To do the latter would not be significantly different from behaving as the most expansive and oppressive religions have done, and would cross the line from science to “scientism.”

    So expecting people to abandon the intuitively appealing notion that the Earth is flat in favor of the scientifically-derived knowledge that it’s roughly spherical is ‘scientism’?

    ‘Science’ is what we named the method that produces high-quality approximations of the truth. We did not simply declare that method to be useful and productive, we acknowledged the objective reality that it is so.

    Some beliefs can only be justified irrationally. Other beliefs could theoretically be justified by evidence, but the existing evidence rules them out. Demanding that we NOT expect people to abandom those beliefs is insane.

    What you call ‘scientism’ seems to be nothing more than basic, applied rationality.

  22. #22 Dave S.
    April 14, 2006

    Joe –

    It’s quite possible I am missing your point. My apologies…its not done on purpose.

    This is no longer about what is and isn’t in a *science* class where ID’s utter lack of testability makes it a non-starter in the first place.

    To me, there are 3 issues here.

    1. Is ID science?
    2. Even if not a science, does ID at least posit some useful model of any kind?
    3. Is it religion?

    The answers are no, no and yes.

    This is talking about what of ID can and should be taught in a non-science setting as is advocated by the article: a “humanities” or “philosophy” class. In such an environment, “testability” means nothing.

    Personally I think it could be taught in such a setting as a survey of who the main ID avocates are, and what they believe and what their arguments are. But I also think this can’t really be done without confusion until the student first has a solid background in the scientific method. It would not do to simply take the Dover model (or a blatantly pro-Creation model as happened in El Cajon) for example and present it in a philosophy class instead of a biology class, because that model clearly advocates the ID arguments, it does not merely teach about them. Obviously there are many grey areas which have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, depending on exactly what the class content is.

    But is that the ID that will be taught when it is taught (or even “talked about”) in a humanities or philosophy class?

    One could also teach about the specific arguments they use, such as irreducible complexity and specified complexity, and why scientists reject those arguments (and hopefully the students could figure this out themselves using their background knowledge in science). However what you can’t do (and we’re talking public schools here) is teach that they are valid scientific arguments. This would be so in my opinion even if you were in a philosophy class and not a science class.

    If a teacher makes a false claim about evolution as part of a pro-ID argument/lecture, and then expects the student to repeat it on a test, is the student wrong for presenting the evidence that debunks it? Does it mean the student *failed* to *learn ID* and therefore fails the class?

    This problem could well exist for any class. If a teacher presents a bad proof for example in math class and the student gives the correct proof on a test, should that student fail? No, he should be able to appeal to someone else or some acedemic body. I think common sence applies here.

    In other words, for the vast majority of kids these days, never.
    And aside from recognizing a form of pseudoscience when they see it, how else is it “useful”?

    I think kids at least have a better grasp than the average adult. At least, I hope so.

    As for usefulness, I don’t think ID has any use scientifically in the mainstream except as a bad example, although it has some political and social uses for a segment of the community. But like it or not, it is topical, and people want to hear about it. I don’t see devoting an entire course to it, but some may.

    It was this that bothered me – in this case it is the girl vs. the education system that asserts the she must know science as the science committees have decided. the school is backed up by school board and local governmental and state congressional authority.

    It’s not a punishment, but a responsibility for us to teach our kids the very best science we have, with the understanding that science is stable, but it never stands still. You can disagree with the facts, but you don’t get to choose them.

    Is giving ID any credibility at all considered “promoting” it?

    I believe in giving credibility where it’s due. So far, there is no credibility to the ID position from the scientific standpoint. But pointing out for instance that its a clever strategy designed to succeed where the more blatant and overt forms of creationism by attempting to hide its religious basis better, iow that’s its more credible legally or politically, is not promoting it. But that’s my opinion. Others may see it differently.

    If the discretion is left to the teacher (as many of the “academic freedom” bills are trying to establish), then where is the teacher’s liability for lying and/or teaching false logic?

    Well there’s no constitutional barrier against being a bad teacher, just a teacher that promotes religious viewpoints. There are other checks on that. Like any profession though, there are good ones and bad ones.

    Really, if the ID side just needs to get out of the education business because there is no way they can get into the schools and still look “good”.

    I don’t think they care about looking good. I think they care only about damaging evolution and in the process getting some form of acceptance of their theological views as genuine empirically supported theory.

    As for teaching about modern ID creationism, it’s going to have to be done carefully so as not to cross the line into proselytization. I’m not saying this is easy to do, and I know there are lots of areas where it might be argueable if you’ve gone too far.

    Sorry if I’m still not getting it Joe.

    Peter says:

    But I don’t think education should involve advocacy in science, history, literature, philosophy, or any subject that involves provisional knowledge.

    I think we certainly need to advocate science as its best we know it today. Of course we need to stress that scientific knowledge is always provisional, but this need not stop us from accepting certain theories with a very high degree of confidence and teaching that those are ‘correct’ – correct inasfar as we know at the present time, pending possible refutation.

    Which basically leaves mathematics alone in the corner with incontrovertible content.

    Certainly some things may be beyond formal disproof, but there must be some areas in mathematics where there is dispute.

    Furthermore, I don’t think adding the word “about” is nearly enough to guard against “advocacy.” It’s just a vague preposition — smoke and mirrors, worthy of the ID people themselves.

    Granted this is a fairly broad standard, but I’m not sure how else you would in practice to guard against this advocacy you speak of. Surely we can’t qualify every statement we make.

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