David Campbell is a life science teacher in Florida who was recently profiled in the New York Times because of his involvement in the debate between Creationism and Evolution. This discussion is being picked up in the Blogosphere, and this is very timely, as this is the time when teachers in most US school districts are just heading back to class.

My “back to school” contribution is a repost of one of my more popular bits on the problem of the bible thumping student. This is revised and reposted from my old site. Enjoy:


…. Have you ever had this happen: You are minding your own business, teaching your life science course, it’s early in the term. A student, on the way out after class (never at the beginning of class, rarely during class) mentions something about “carbon dating.” This usually happens around the time of year you are doing an overview of the main points of the course, but before you’ve gotten to the “evolution module”…

image

Jeanne d’Arc was a very influential 10th grader. I understand she gave her Life Science teachers a very hard time. This is the only contemporary depiction of Joan of Arc. Some say the banner reads “IHS” but I’m pretty sure it says “AIG.”

The student is talking about C14 dating and how it “has problems.” But you are a life science teacher and can’t think of a single point in your class that you really touch on C14. Dating in the evolution section does not involve C14. This is for later time periods, more in the area of archaeology, and you know nothing about it. So you brush off the question but are left with an uneasy feeling.

Next class, probably just after class, the same student, again at a moment that gives you zero warning and usually no time to think of how to respond, mentions something about the Laws of Thermodynamics. This question you find more interesting and possibly even useful as the starting point of a “teachable moment…” The nature of life itself includes the fact that life works upstream against entropy. That one utterly mind-blowing aspect of life is really all you need to define life itself. If that was the only thing you used to define life, you would have very few non-life entities or events accidentally included. If you can truly understand … I mean really, really truly at a detailed level understand …. how the heck life works against the gradient of entropy, then you will understand a LOT (like, at the MA level, at least) of what is going on. To get a believable and reasonable level of understanding of this, you must get more than just basic cell function … it is not good enough to just say “The mitochondria are the tiny little powerhouses of the cell” because you have not explained how that works. You need to know about ATP and stuff. Really, you even need to know why cells use ATP as energy but none of the other obvious forms of energy that they could use … the phylogenetic effect at a very basic level indeed.

…And so on….

But those thoughts and other thoughts were only a digression in your own mind, because, you then crawl out of your private thinking place and the inquiring student comes back into focus … standing there being jostled amid a stream of exiting students, gazing innocently at you, waiting to see what you are going to say about thermodynamics … and your brain says … “hey, this is not about thermodynamics and the wonders of the Krebs Cycle. It’s about … it’s about …. creationism….”

Oh crap.


Now, the creationist reading this will say, “Aha! The teacher is annoyed at the creationist, and the great Doctor of Evolutionary Biology is disturbed that such difficult questions come from the mouth’s of babes … these simple honest questions that are in fact impossible to answer! The Evilutionists would prefer if these questions were never even asked….”

BZZZZZZZZGGGGKKKKKZZZZZTTTG

That was the “oh please, cut out the crap” buzzer going off. The annoying creationist’s voices must now stop … after a week of feverish delirium I don’t need that crap.. This is my head, and your voices need to go somewhere else… … OK, that’s better.

Back to the issue at hand… This student is not an innocent child asking legitimate questions. Child? Yes. Innocent? That needs, in my opinion, to be demonstrated, but from a teacher’s perspective, OK, you can assume innocent until proven nefarious. But wait and see what happens. Yesterday it was C14, today it was Thermodynamics. Tomorrow it will be intelligent design at the cellular level, later on it will be missing transitional forms, and so on. The student might or might not tell you … perhaps as an admission, perhaps as a proud statement (“See, I researched this.”) that these questions are mostly coming from the Answers in Genesis web site.

Did this student find the web site through a private initiative, or perhaps by accident? Did a parent point this student to the web site? Did a Sunday school teacher or pastor tell the student about it? All of these things tend to happen, but the latter two are the most common. There is a pretty good chance that this student has been put up to this, but most likely willingly. Little 10th graders can be the strongest crusaders. Jeanne d’Arc was in tenth grade, if I remember correctly. So this is not going to end quietly.

The student will eventually start to bring these issues up during class, not just after class or before class. Most likely the other students in the class will get annoyed and protest to the student directly … they are, after all, there to learn the biology for their own reasons (like getting a high school diploma or passing a test or whatever) and regardless of their own religious views, they are not interested in this disruption. Even if they did want to get a creationist or religious perspective, they probably don’t want to hear it from this kid even outside of the class. Jeanne d’Arc might have been a tenth grader, but most tenth graders, regardless of the level of their zealotry, are not Jeanne d’Arc. Their discourse does not tend to capture the audience and they are unlikely to make a credible case that they have been visited by The Virgin.

Teacher, listen to this: There is a wide range of possible responses to the situation outlined above (or some other similar situation). Only some of them are legal. Only some of them are ethical. There are things you can do that may make perfect sense but that will significantly enhance the probability of your school or district being successfully sued.

Anyone who tells you there is an easy way to handle this is misinformed.

When Pastor Bob arms your student with creationist claims and sends him or her into your classroom, he is creating not just a disruption or an annoyance, but a professionally dangerous situation. Most likely he knows this and is doing this to generate trouble. He is, obviously, using this child as a pawn in a game that he feels he is prepared to play and maybe win. He knows he is getting points with god by doing this (as does the pawn-child) and he cares not one bit about you or your career. He sees disruption of your science class, and thus of the science education of the other students in your class, as a good thing. This may, indeed, be his primary objective other than his own salvation from sin.

While it is true that almost no teachers are prepared through formal training to handle this sort of situation without risking career or the school’s legal budget, or losing control of the class, or losing the pawn-child, most teachers can avoid trouble by keeping a few guidelines in mind.

You can’t talk about religion in your science classroom. This means you can’t have a conversation about creationism in your classroom. You may have to pull the student aside and indicate that this discussion will not happen. The student will object, indicating that “intelligent design” is not creationism. You must very firmly indicate to the student that according to the current, standing law, intelligent design IS creationism, and creationism IS religion, and religion cannot be discussed in any way whatsoever in a science classroom without risk of breaking the law. It may be necessary to indicate to the student that continued attempts to bring this conversation into the classroom have to be seen as a disciplinary problem.

Let’s talk about that angle for a moment. Have you ever had a student who will not stop talking about sex or related anatomy whenever an opportunity arises in class… blurting things out and disrupting class? Think about that scenario for a moment. The student is not special ed or special needs. The student blurts out a profanity and/or sexual or anatomical reference four or five times per class, giggles with his buddies, attempts to recruit those around him into this shenanigans even if you keep moving him, etc. This is a disciplinary issue, and you have ways of addressing it as a teacher.

A student who has been informed that there will be no discussion of creationist claims from AIG (Answers in Genesis) or anywhere else in the classroom, that ID is creationism, etc. but continues to do so is no different. As a teacher, and as a particular teacher in a particular classroom, you can’t be told by me or anyone else how to deal with this, but you must deal with it properly. A chat with a dean/assistant principal, councilors, etc. is probably in order.

And if anyone in the admin, your department head or any colleagues tell you to lighten up, that the students can express their religious views in class because of the first amendment, etc. etc., then you are on the next level of difficulties, beyond what we can do here in this one blog post. Seek outside help. Drop me a line. Contact NCSE. Get a lawyer.

I want to end with a very specific idea that I’ve seen suggested many times among teachers, and it is something that you CAN NOT do. You can’t do this. There are books out there, such as and especially Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God” that deal with the religion/science interface in the area of evolution. I have seen it suggested that teachers can recommend a book like “Finding Darwin’s God” to students or parents. You can not do this. Miller’s book is about reconciling religion … and a particular subset of religion, a particular area of Christianity … with science. As a science teacher, in the context of a science classroom, if you recommend this book, you would be promoting religion in general, and a specific religion in particular. It may sound like a good idea, and it may seem perfectly sensible and innocent. But you would be violating the Establishment Clause. To my knowledge, this exact scenario has not been tested in the courts, but I don’t think you want to be the teacher on the witness stand when it is.

(Personally, I think if you take this tact, you should lose your job.)

The truth is that the legal protections supporting the teaching of real evolutionary biology in the classroom do not arise because real evolutionary biology is … ah … real, and creationism is not. The importance and veracity of the science itself is only part of the argument, even though it should be, and I think could be, the only argument. We don’t have slack-jawed yokels sneaking onto the school board so that they can force Language Arts teachers to tell the students that “i aint got no George Strait tunes, you gotta brang soma his CD’s over, ye’hear?” or to insist that the shop teacher tell the students “you know, these safety devices … especially the ones on electric saws … really are a pain in the ass, so the first thing we do every semester is learn how to disable the safety devices” and so on. Those are arguments about quality, and you can make arguments about quality all you want regarding life sciences in the classroom and no one will care even a little. Creationism is not allowed in the classroom because it is religion, not because it is stoopid. Which is a great convenience for you as a life science teacher, but rather shameful, at the broader social and political level, when you think about it.

Thank you very much, that is all the thinking I will be doing today.

Comments

  1. #1 RBH
    August 25, 2008

    When Pastor Bob arms your student with creationist claims and sends him or her into your classroom, he is creating not just a disruption or an annoyance, but a professionally dangerous situation. Most likely he knows this and is doing this to generate trouble. He is, obviously, using this child as a pawn in a game that he feels he is prepared to play and maybe win. He knows he is getting points with god by doing this (as does the pawn-child) and he cares not one bit about you or your career. He sees disruption of your science class, and thus of the science education of the other students in your class, as a good thing. This may, indeed, be his primary objective other than his own salvation from sin.

    And that’s what pisses me off most: The cynical exploitation of the kids to disrupt the class and put the teacher in jeopardy. We’ve got a couple of fundamentalist pastors like that here, and were I not a nice guy, I’d knee ‘em in the nuts for it.

  2. #2 Matt Penfold
    August 25, 2008

    Creationism is not allowed in the classroom because it is religion, not because it is stoopid. Which is a great convenience for you as a life science teacher, but rather shameful, at the broader social and political level, when you think about it.

    This is something I have long thought is a problem with the anti-creationism movement in the US. It seems to put to much emphasis on the constitutional aspects of teaching creationism. That may be a good tactic for winning in court, but it damages the argument of what science is actually about. Creationism is not science, but it is not science not because of what US courts have said, but because of how science works. If you have to rely on arguing teaching creationism is unconstitutional because it is actually religion rather than because it is just crap science then something is wrong with the legal system.

    Here in the UK we do have problems with the teaching of creationism in that too many teachers are subverting the science for fear of offending their students. I am glad though that it has not yet become a legal issue.

  3. #3 Argus
    August 25, 2008

    Thanks for this. I’m going to be teaching a lab in human evolution this semester, and I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the creationists I might get. I’ve been thinking more along the lines of how to “reach” the student, but hadn’t really thought of it as a discipline issue- so I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  4. #4 Virgil Samms
    August 25, 2008

    I imagine thumping them over the head with their Bible is no longer acceptable.

  5. #5 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    Maybe I am missing the point of this so stop me if I am wrong.

    Anyways, I disagree with treating these things as simply a ‘disciplinary’ problem. I think that if the student is raising these questions in class in a disruptive manner you tell him to ask the question like anyone else would and if he does this you answer him.

    Teachers, read ahead. Read Answers in Genesis and prepare a defense against it. You CAN answer the questions without violating the Establishment Clause. If he brings up Thermodynamics, tell him why his understanding of it is wrong. Carbon dating, same thing. You can answer the majority of his questions without bringing up God even once and if he brings God specifically into the question say that you cant discuss these things in the classroom.

    Don’t let them undermine science education, don’t let it be ‘win-win’ for the creationists. If you don’t address their claims I guarantee you some of the students will walk away wondering why you couldn’t answer him. But please, address the questions in a way that doesn’t involve God, DON’T MENTION God.

  6. #6 Irene of Athens
    August 25, 2008

    Jon,

    I don’t think you have been in this situation. We can’t have this conversation in a biology classroom because it is not a conversation about biology. Trust me. The student is there to disrupt the classroom and wants nothing more than for the teacher to engage in the conversation. Can’t do it that way.

  7. #7 Romeo Vitelli
    August 25, 2008

    Well, you can always offer to go to the student’s Sunday school class or whatever else they call it and offer to debate the issue there. That’s the only acceptable forum for this silly debate.

  8. #8 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    You’re right, I haven’t. But as someone who is concerned about the state of science education, I do have an opinion on the matter.

    You’re also right that the student is trying to disrupt the classroom. However, I believe that you can still answer anything he says that questions evolution or even other fields of science. Yes, he will eventually bring God up or scripture or something like that. That’s when you bring discipline into the equation (provided the student isnt being unruly). I don’t think you should let the student sow seeds of doubt into anyone if his ‘questions’ can be answered without bringing God into it (i.e. transitional forms, carbon dating). If you leave the questions unanswered and simply discipline the student, I am afraid of the message it sends to the other students. I am sure many of them do not understand that this kid is just regurgitating things he’s seen on AiG or that he is just a pawn of a broader movement against education.

    Again, I am not an educator but I think it’s reasonable to believe that answering questions that are based on misconceptions about science and refusing to answer the questions that SPECIFICALLY bring Creationism, God or Scripture or Zeus or whatever on the grounds that you can’t discuss religion in the classroom is better for the other students than just flat out refusing to answer the question and disciplining the kid.

  9. #9 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    Sorry, some clarification. “That’s when you bring discipline into the equation (provided the student isnt being unruly)” I mean if the student is being unruly when asking ANY question, you treat him as you would any student asking questions out of turn.

  10. #10 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    And one more note (sorry for the spam).

    I do understand where you’re coming from on the ‘not biology’ aspect but you are discussing evolution so why would you get into trouble for telling the student why the c4 does not in any way conflict with evolution?

    Am I really blind to the state of your education system? Can a teacher really get in trouble to the extent you say for going off on a bit of a tangent and discussing other aspects of science?

  11. #11 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    *c14 dating

    I don’t know how that got cut off.

    Last post I SWEAR.

  12. #12 Irene of Athens
    August 25, 2008

    This is going to depend so much on the context of the classroom at the time. No, you do not turn to a student who asks a particular kind of question and because of that question discipline them. That would backfire and have many other negative implications. But I don’t think the Joan of Arc student in this post is that situation at all. This is a student with a plan, and the plan is to control the topic, and to take that control from the teacher. That is the last thing a good teach will want to have happen.

  13. #13 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    Of course, I do understand the difficulty of keeping the class in order. I also understand that the ‘Joan of Arc’ student is different from a student just asking a question. But my whole point in my last response was that the other students probably don’t realize the game that this student is playing. If they just see it as a question and they see the teacher disciplining the student for the question, I am worried about the concequences.

    I also realize that this is complicated and don’t want to sound arrogant or like I believe I have all the answers. It’s just this topic is of great importance to me.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2008

    I think it is often the case that these students come in with former baggage, or that they will demonstrate where they are coming from when they start handing out pamphlets to the other students, or reading bible passages out loud while spraying holy water on the teacher.

    It is absolutely always the case that you have to avoid making the students (generally) feel like they can’t ask questions, and so on, that is very true, Jon. But that is not what this is about. By the time it gets to this point, most of the students want Joan to go away.

  15. #15 Gerard Harbison
    August 25, 2008

    This has been reposted on freerepublic.com, so in a few minutes you’ll be deluged by a horde of bible-thumping lunatics.

    I would advise, BTW, against telling people that ‘life works upstream against entropy’. No, it doesn’t. Life obeys the second law, like everything else. In fact, it’s a mistake to think you can intuitively determine the relative entropy, say, of 70 kg of bacteria vs. a 70 kg. human.

    FWIW, I’m in a pretty religious state, and I’ve never run into a creationist student in a science class here.

  16. #16 Jo Samuelson
    August 25, 2008

    Those who think that evolutionary theory explains the origins of life are as faithful to their point of view as those who believe that life gives evidence of intelligent design. My guess is that neither side has the answer yet — neither is testable nor reproduceable. That’s science.

    Just because you have one world view does not mean everyone needs to have that same view. I used to teach philosophy: students needed to understand the theories, they did not need to base their life on them. Just because you have chosen to build your world view around evolution does not mean every else must. Try respecting those with whom you disagree. After all, that’s what you expect of your students. You’re the adults: show them what you expect.

  17. #17 Locomotive Breath
    August 25, 2008

    Well I got here from freerepublic and I’m on Greg’s side.

  18. #18 KansasGirl
    August 25, 2008

    There was no “student”, the teacher is at a crossroad! God bless America.

  19. #19 Brian
    August 25, 2008

    Gerard Harbison said: “I would advise, BTW, against telling people that ‘life works upstream against entropy’. No, it doesn’t. Life obeys the second law, like everything else. In fact, it’s a mistake to think you can intuitively determine the relative entropy, say, of 70 kg of bacteria vs. a 70 kg. human.”

    And this is true. In fact the net direction of any reaction is towards the reduction in TOTAL Gibbs free energy (or G).

    From Thermodynamics G = H – T*S where H is enthalpy (or heat/energy), S is entropy, G is Gibbs free energy, and T is temperature.

    Thus is it possible to increase entropy (S) while simultaneously decreasing G (thus a spontaneous process). Said another way, life takes energy in order to fight the natural trend of rising entropy. This is why we must eat food or die.

    Just for clarification btw :) and oh yeah, be wary of the incoming storm from Free Republic…

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    August 25, 2008

    Jo, I respect the people who disagree with me much more when they don’t conflate philosophy with science. Ditto when they don’t assume that because they can’t figure out how to test theories on the origin of life, no one else will ever be able to do so either. I expect much better of people than that.

  21. #21 Gerard Harbison
    August 25, 2008

    The Gibbs free energy only give you the direction of a spontaneous process under constant pressure conditions in the absence of non-PV work. It is a metric of the total entropy of system plus surroundings, but only under a restricted set of conditions. It is the total entropy that is governed by the second law.

    The reason why a plant can reduce the entropy of CO2 + H2O by converting it to carbohydrate is that it couples the chemistry to the absorption of photons from a source at ~10,000 K (thus very low in entropy) and re-radiates them at ~300 K (thus higher in entropy). Visible light has a much lower entropy per unit of energy than heat does. But nevertheless, total entropy increases during photosynthesis.

    As for the rest of you; evolution is science, not a ‘worldview’, any more than gravity is a ‘worldview’.

  22. #22 Brian
    August 25, 2008

    Jo Sameulson said:
    “Those who think that evolutionary theory explains the origins of life are as faithful to their point of view as those who believe that life gives evidence of intelligent design. My guess is that neither side has the answer yet — neither is testable nor reproduceable. That’s science.”

    … and last I checked there was nothing unscientific about evolutionary theory. The only people who claim otherwise have alternate motives.

    Yes, we are the ADULTS, and as such we should expect other ADULTS to not obfuscate that which we do not understand for selfish purposes.

  23. #23 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    Those who think that evolutionary theory explains the origins of life are as faithful to their point of view as those who believe that life gives evidence of intelligent design. My guess is that neither side has the answer yet — neither is testable nor reproduceable. That’s science.

    You obviously do not understand evolutionary theory. There is no faith, there is evidence and it is certainly testable precisely the opposite of creationism. Which of course is why intelligent design should stay the hell out of biology courses. There is no reason to give ANY respect to the ‘theory’ or to the people trying to undermine education in the U.S.

    This isn’t an argument about evolution though. So I’ll continue my discussion with Greg.

    I think it is often the case that these students come in with former baggage, or that they will demonstrate where they are coming from when they start handing out pamphlets to the other students, or reading bible passages out loud while spraying holy water on the teacher.

    That is just insanity, if you’ve had to deal with this first-hand I really feel sorry for you. I am from Canada and while we’ve had discussions started by bible-thumpers in class, nothing as crazy as this not by far.

    When things like this happen, it’s time to drop the hammer.

    It is absolutely always the case that you have to avoid making the students (generally) feel like they can’t ask questions, and so on, that is very true, Jon. But that is not what this is about. By the time it gets to this point, most of the students want Joan to go away.

    My picture of the situation wasn’t as grim as yours, I can understand how using my approach would be difficult if the students behind it are that unruly.

    I was using the one student in the article as an example, he didn’t seem destructive he just asked reguritated questions. And as I mentioned, I believe that the teacher should answer them. Not only to show to the other students that the common arguments against the science of evolution have absolutely no merit but also in a way that doesn’t stifle questions.

    Maybe I don’t have any idea how bad things really are…

  24. #24 Emil Hawley, FOG
    August 25, 2008

    The students who arrive with so called “baggage” are the ones who have thought about so called “science” more than the other students and I would wager more than the teacher in this case. Joan d’Arc saw things no one else could see not because she was wrong but because she was enlightened. Perhaps you should try listening next time a pupil reads from The Bible during class.

  25. #25 Andrew
    August 25, 2008

    Biology for the biology classroom, please. Philosophy does not belong there, especially if, as suggested above, as a wedge to sneak creationism into the mix.

  26. #26 Matt Springer
    August 25, 2008

    As a science teacher, in the context of a science classroom, if you recommend this book, you would be promoting religion in general, and a specific religion in particular.

    Done properly, this doesn’t need to be the case. You could say “There are people who believe that evolution and religion are not in conflict, and have written about this idea in book X.” Leave it at that, and it’s just a simple statement of fact. There are in fact such people, and they have in fact written such books. You’re not endorsing the content.

    Even if you think the perspective in the book is horribly wrong, it’s not so different from a history teacher suggesting Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto as a historically interesting work. In all likelihood no one is going to worry that the teacher means to endorse either of those perspectives.

  27. #27 greg laden
    August 25, 2008

    Matt. No. The imagined conversation in which a reasonable book is recommended as a reasonable thing to consider reading overlooks the very special role of teachers as authority figures that has been recognized by the courts. It does not even matter if in a particular circumstance an especially unlikely to be intimidated by the teacher’s authority student in a relatively elevated conversation with the teacher etc. etc. pertains. A science teacher, working as a science teacher, who passes off Ken Miller’s book to a student is making a very serious mistake.

    And even if one does not (as a teacher) agree with this, consider this: What about the teacher who hands off a seemingly reasonable (from the teacher’s point of view) book on Intelligent Design to the student who raises an interest, saying “we don’t cover this in class but you may enjoy reading it” …. oh, let me throw in one more bit. This particular teacher is known for giving extra credit to students who write essays on outside reading. And so on.,

    No. Science oriented non-creationist biology teacher, please do not hand out books that promote a particular religious view, because you will not be on the technical high ground when you need to go to the mat (no pun intended) with the admins over your fellow teacher who is handing out creationist material.

    This is not a matter of what seems reasonable. It is a matter of politics and law, and a matter of being very careful. It is a shame that it is this way, but it is what it is (an expression I hate, by the way, but somehow it works here).

    The comparison to the history (social studies) teacher is not relevant. It is not a proper analogy. The biology classroom is not a philosophy, comparative religion, or philosophy class. It really isn’t.

  28. #28 travc
    August 25, 2008

    You are neglecting a perfectly moral, legal, and often effective tactic.

    Tell the student you don’t care what they think is ‘really true’, evolution is an extremely powerful and useful way of understanding the facts about biology. They don’t have be ‘believe’ it, but they do need to really understand it. Without evolution, studying biology turns into just memorizing a bunch of unrelated facts… which is much much harder.

    Recommending books seems a bit silly these days anyway. If a student is looking at Answers in Genesis, it seems acceptable to say that is filled with misinformation and that Talk-Origins actually contains real information written by people who know what they are talking about.

  29. #29 kermit
    August 25, 2008

    Emil: “The students who arrive with so called “baggage” are the ones who have thought about so called “science” more than the other students and I would wager more than the teacher in this case. Joan d’Arc saw things no one else could see not because she was wrong but because she was enlightened. Perhaps you should try listening next time a pupil reads from The Bible during class.”

    In my experience these kids aren’t thinking about science; they’re daydreaming about defeating the evil religion, which is what they imagine it to be. The kids who grow up to be researchers or science teachers are actually reading science books, and going to museums, and watching PBS documentaries.

    How could anyone tell the difference between Joan of Arc’s visions and the delusions of a schizophrenic? What test would there be?

    No, I would not appreciate your child reading the bible in a public school anymore than you would appreciate somebody’s child reading from the Koran or practicing Wicca in a classroom. This is a pluralistic society. Learn to play nice with your neighbors. Science classes are for science, and students should be taught to respect learning and teachers.

  30. #30 stewy.cvl
    August 25, 2008

    The students who arrive with so called “baggage” are the ones who have thought about so called “science” more than the other students.

    ORly? Then why would they be asking silly, unrelated questions referring to the violation of the laws of thermodynamics, or the shortcomings of carbon dating during a lecture on evolution? Perhaps they spend too much time thinking about science rather than actually studying it.

  31. #31 Paul Burnett
    August 25, 2008

    Emil wrote “Joan d’Arc saw things no one else could see not because she was wrong but because she was enlightened.

    Joan of Arc heard voices inside her head, and would be referred to her pediatrician and psychologist and likely quickly institutionalized today.

    Emil continued “Perhaps you should try listening next time a pupil reads from The Bible during class.

    A student reading from the Bible in a biology class is subject to disciplinary action for violating the Establishment Clause by disrupting the class with material that has nothing to do with biology.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    August 25, 2008

    Kermit, my understanding of the MMPI (test used for diagnosis of psychiatric disorders) is that the only difference between the scores of schizophrenics and religious fundamentalists is…uh…nothing. However, I don’t believe most religious fundamentalism responds to medication.

  33. #33 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 25, 2008

    The key always for this sort of thing is to tell the student that if they want they can talk to you after class but that you in the meantime need to cover the material. If a student is genuinely interested in learning they’ll talk to you. If not, they won’t. But disciplinary responses should generally be a last resort.

  34. #34 Pierce R. Butler
    August 25, 2008

    Little Jeanie started hearing lectures from the angels in sixth grade, but didn’t begin to explore their military application until 10th grade. She was captured (must’ve skipped an important class) around the time of HS graduation, and was permanently expelled at the end of her freshman year in college. No el-hi records have yet been found that reveal her deportment grades.

    Stephanie Z: I don’t believe most religious fundamentalism responds to medication.

    Have appropriate double-blind tests been conducted? Finally, a worthwhile use for FBI (Faith-Based Initiative) funding!

  35. #35 PZ Myers
    August 25, 2008

    I agree with Harbison — life works with entropy, not against it. Otherwise, though…yes.

    Public school teachers should shut down any discussion of creationism in the classroom for all the reasons you’ve stated. However, that does leave us with a problem — where will the students learn how to combat the bad ideas? I think we all have an obligation to make our opposition and our arguments known outside the classroom. We’re fighting a losing game when our response is a conscientious silence against the loud liars of religion.

    Also, those of us teaching at the college level have a different set of considerations. I do teach an intro course that has a significant philosophy component, and we do discuss the flaws in creationist thinking explicitly…again, not in terms of the fallacy of religion (you may have heard that I do that outside of class a little bit) because that isn’t discussing biology, but we do tear into the bad science of bogus arguments as instructive counterexamples, and also because I want college students prepared to fight and act as citizens.

  36. #36 Stephanie Z
    August 25, 2008

    Ooh. Pierce, can we start with chlorpromazine? Really big trials? Even if we only get some large fraction of them sedated, it has to be an improvement, right?

  37. #37 Jon
    August 25, 2008

    Yes PZ, although what I want to see is the bad science torn down in a mandatory for all high school students science curriculum.

    Some kid breaks out the ‘eye’ (cliche example I know but whatever), smack him down right there. Never give him the opportunity to let this be about creation just destroy any example of bad science he uses. Once he brings God into it the discussion ends and you let him know that.

    Maybe then a few years down the road a former student will remember why the eye is not ‘irreducible’.

  38. #38 Daniel
    August 25, 2008

    To discipline a student who is not being disruptive but is instead asking scientifically based questions about evolution in a science class would be setting yourself up for a lawsuit. You cannot discipline someone because you do not like their viewpoint – that is constitutionally impermissible viewpoint discrimination. If they are being disruptive or talking out of order than that is a different matter. But you cannot punish someone for asking questions that you don’t want to have to answer.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    August 25, 2008

    Daniel, read the post again. That’s not the situation being described. For that matter, read the comments, where Greg emphasizes the same thing.

    Answering a question or two is not outside the scope of the class. Failing to get through the curriculum because a student adopts a tactic of constant off-topic interruptions is an entirely different thing.

  40. #40 greg laden
    August 25, 2008

    PZ:

    To do what you suggest for college, which is the way to do it, in high school is absolutely possible, but this can not come from the teachers, and it requires more time to be given to life science. It is the kind of thing that can be piloted in a public science magnet school.

    I understand the point regarding thermodynamics, but I don’t really agree with it. If you just put all those elements in a dish and shine sunlight on them, the sunlight warms them. Then you put the dish in the shade, and they cool down.

    The same chemicals organized as a plant: Put them in the sun, stuff happens. Later, in the shade, there is trapped energy that may be used to, maybe, grow roots. This is the distinction I’m making.

    The laws of thermodynamics are obeyed by life, of course.

    (And, certain chemicals can store that solar energy, and so on … but not a dish of C,N,O and H).

  41. #41 greg laden
    August 25, 2008

    Wow, I just went and looked at the “free republic” repost. What a bunch of libertarian homeschooling yahoos …

    Sitting here watching the DNC, I laugh at them. Ha Ha Ha!!! I don’t know why I’m laughing, but it all seems very very funny.

  42. #42 Irene
    August 25, 2008

    I have used the entropy analogy as part of the definition of life without too much trouble. Works for me.

  43. #43 dave s
    August 26, 2008

    “The second law of thermodynamics, which states that the energy of a system tends to even itself out with its surroundings (�a system�s entropy always increases�), can be expressed in many different forms. Kaila and Annila focus on two of these forms. When written as a differential equation of motion, the second law can describe evolution as an energy transfer process: natural selection tends to favor the random mutations that lead to faster entropy increases in an ecosystem……”

    http://www.physorg.com/news137679868.html

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2008

    Dave: There are two reasons why what you cite is different from what I refer to in the above post, one being a difference in the topic the other being that the writing you cite is wrong.

    The first issue is that the research you cite is about ecological systems, and I’m talking about what happens inside cells with ATP. These are related but not parallel. This is not a fractal system where scale does not matter.

    The second issue is this: The entropy in an ecological system shifts over evolutionary time, through evolutionary process, to maximum level possible. But the bunny is still warm and the lizard still stores chemical energy and converts it to kinetic energy, and so on. These stored energy processes are not hobbies these critters engage in, they are what makes them alive. And, these glitches in thermal dispersion require that the etropic state of the system is not at the maximum obtainable given the physical elements and energy inputs that exist. Rather, the entropic state shifts towards the maximum obtainable given the bunnies, lizards, plants, etc. and the inputs and other factors. The living tissues maintain energy stores against the gradient. Unless the bunnies are hopping around due to devine intervention. Which I doubt.

  45. #45 Gerard Harbison
    August 26, 2008

    Greg:

    The sun also evaporates water from the ocean. It falls as rain up in Colorado, fills mountain lakes, which then empty through mountain creeks. Energy is stored in the lake as gravitational potential energy in the same way that energy is stored in a bunny muscle in the form of ATP as chemical potential energy. The flow of a mountain stream is a spontaneous process driven by the gravitational potential, just as is the hopping of the bunny driven by the chemical potential. In many senses they are very different, but in the thermodynamic sense they are just spontaneous processes. There’s nothing thermodynamically unusual about life.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2008

    I want to add that I think this discussion of entropy stems from a miscommunication of what I said in this post, but it is also possible that what I said could be modified.

    Gerald Harbison stated: “I would advise…against [saying] ‘life works upstream against entropy.’ No… Life obeys the second law, like everything else.”

    Of course it does, and I did not say anything like that. The storage (and use) of energy (in cells), however, does not facilitate shift towards entropy. The opposite happens, and this is how life works. A battery, water pumped into a high elevation lake for a pumped storage generation station, and carbohydrates all function because of the laws of thermodynamics but are all examples of a system that works against the gradient now, using the movement of energy through the system later.

    I’m rather amazed that people who seem capable of putting the LOT into equation form would not understand this. Thefore, I’m guessing that I’m either explaining it wrong or simply not being clear enough. So I will work on the wording. (Or is it simply that this is a blog post so people tend to skim?)

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2008

    Gerald: Sorry, our posts crossed in the intertubes.

    Now I am increasingly convinced that this is a combination of the two … your failure to read it carefully and my failure to write it clearly.

    On the TD side, life is not (utterly obviously and not obviated or contradicted by anything I said above) doing something different. But on the energy capture side, the storage of energy and later use in ATP is orders of magnitude more complicated than the process of evaporation, and is a process that is historically developed and thus quirky (as most phylogenetically constrained systems are), and is a process that grabs the energy that would in the absence of life process through this system one way and makes it do it differently .. not following different laws of physics (which no one here has ever suggested or even come close to suggesting) but in terms of where the energy is and when it is there, and under what circumstances it gets used and released.

    It really is not true that thermodynamics can explain how biological systems work at any useful level of detail. We need to look at what the molecules etc. in the system are doing to understand life. I’m not sure how one goes from this to the idea that studying biology in detail implies ignoring physical laws. It does not!

    This is the second draft of this bit of writing. I promise that in the third round I’ll make this more clear. Specific suggestions that do not assume that I do not get or accept the basic physical laws would be apprecaited!

  48. #48 Charles
    August 26, 2008

    This is simply quite sad. All I hear is poor little me. I would say that most of the students who bring up the subject are not trying to disrupt the class. They are looking for real answers to complicated questions that evolution simply does not have answers for. Isn?t that what school is for, to ask questions and learn. If you don?t have an answer do your own research, read more than just the simple biology text that you have been teaching for the last 6 years. The books do get outdated. As far as evolution is concerned it really is a religion. Yes I said religion. Darwin is its “god”. Explain the bombardier beetle and how it evolved and I will give you extra credit. The kids that challenge you, at least some, have a real brain and are not afraid to use it. Oh my, a student that asks tough questions that I can’t answer, I?ll plead the 5th, I mean I will hide behind the socialist view of separation of church and state. Go back and read what our founding fathers wrote about God and how America was to be governed. I forgot you will be to busy examining the beetle for the rest of your life. Intelligent Design is the only way to explain everything. Form follows function and only a creator knows the function for which He creates. By the way my kids can give you two answers, the right one and the regurgitated one that secular schools shove down their throats. I am not trying to be a butt-head, as a society we need to push back from the table of garbage and start learning on our own. I challenge you to take the next 3 months and let all your reading be a comparison from AIG and your text books and ask yourself which is more plausible, which is more likely. The very thing that most are running from is that if there is a God then we have to look at ourselves. Its funny how all religion is accepted now except Christianity. Yes I said it, I am a Christian and I love the Lord with all of my heart. Thank you, God for your wonderful creation of this world and universe. Thank You for the invention of Science that we might study it and see your mighty hand at work.

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    August 26, 2008

    Charles, it’s quite obvious you’re not trying to be a butt-head. However, it shines straight through the veil of piety when you can’t resist calling scientists and educators (you know they’re different, right?) myopic and socialist (you know that’s not a dirty word, right?). All the garbage you regurgitate about ID doesn’t mask it either. Therefore, I have to conclude your butt-headedness is just natural and that all the piety in the world won’t fix it for you.

    And for the record, no, people don’t embrace evolution due to ignorance of the “alternatives.” Your AIG hooey is everywhere and impossible to avoid. It’s just not convincing when held up next to reality.

  50. #50 Charles
    August 26, 2008

    Stephanie you are so right. Scientists and educators are different. Hundreds upon hundreds of Scientists have jumped ship from the Evolutionist point of view and believe that it is far insufficient to hold water, even a drop. This is not to say that they have embraced ID as a solution to all of it. As for educators they are usually years behind research Science and have a tendency to push their own agenda, especially in college.
    When I was attending graduate school one of my professors (who had two doctorate degrees) was ranting about how we only had enough natural gas to last 8 to 10 years and that there was not enough coal to last through the year 2000. Whatever, there is almost an unlimited supply of both.
    Yes so I recognize the difference. One group following their passion has left the old and is in search of answers that will eventually lead them to the truth. The other group holds on to their jobs and cries out for help from the horrible God fearing children who use their brains for something other than a hat rack.

    By the way socialist is a very dirty nasty cuss word. We live in a Republic!

    Thank you for the kind words it is a genetic inheritance. I am also assuming that you will not be taking the challenge; why dont we just go back to teaching the kids that the earth is flat, the moon is made of cheese, and the universe revolves around the earth.

    Change, I know that this is hard for the educators of this world, but if you can embrace the ignorance of Change we can believe in then surely you can embrace change that has real science backing it. You need to do your homework.

    Thanks for the volley.

  51. #51 Stephanie Z
    August 26, 2008

    Charles, you missed the point that I’ve already done more than three months of comparisons. Pretty much everyone here has. I’m unimpressed, just like I’m unimpressed that you can’t tell the difference between economics and structures of government.

    It’s very interesting that you deride scientists in one post for studying beetles intently and in the next you haul out the dribs and drabs you think support your claims. Most of those don’t, you know. Stating that something about evolution is currently unknown or unsettled is not the same as abandoning everything that is known about it, no matter how much you quotemine the scientist.

    The few scientists who do support you aren’t exactly experts in the field. I don’t take medical advice from my plumber, and I don’t quote physicists on the subject of evolution. I also note you don’t mention what your professor got his doctorates in. A doctorate is a specialist degree, not a recognition of general knowledge.

  52. #52 Charles
    August 26, 2008

    Stephanie, you missed the point. I was not trying to impress you at all or anyone else on this silly blog. I was just trying to yank someones chain and I obviously got yours.

    A Republic is a form of government not a type of economic structure.

    In order to study the origin of life itself you have to study it from more than just the perspective of Darwinism. The Scientist that I am referring to come from all different backgrounds, biology, molecular biology, physics, quantum physics, chemistry, geology etc. Their vast knowledge in their field far outpaces my reading on any particular subject. Ecology and Geology were the two doctorate degrees that he has. He should have the knowledge necessary to teach the class but his environmental activism had the best of him. Yes and I know how intelligent your mentor is, Richard Dawkins, who believes that life on earth was seeded by UFOs who evolved through Darwinian processes. I dont think that I want teachers who believe in the paranormal educating my children.

    And yes you should learn to read what other scientists say about evolution. You cant build a car with just a chemical engineer, you need a whole team. That is of course unless you are God.

    It really boils down to several things. Most of you laugh at my faith. I say that it takes more faith to believe that something came from nothing without help. Order does not come from chaos without something orchestrating the pieces of the puzzle. Faith is the basis for religion that is why I said that Darwinism is a religion. Name me one thing that has evolved! Everything that you could through out has actually lost something not gained. But please go ahead and through one out for discussion. Lets please for once have an open discussion and not try to silence each other. Open discussion and debate is all we ask for.

  53. #53 Stephanie Z
    August 26, 2008

    Huh. “Yes, I’m just trolling” and “Open discussion and debate is all we ask for” in the same post. Magical.

  54. #54 greg laden
    August 26, 2008

    Charles:

    With all due respect, I don’t think you have a clue what is going on in classrooms. Oh, and if this is a silly blog, than I’m a monkey’s uncle.

    Oh wait, I am a monkey’s uncle…

  55. #55 Jim
    August 26, 2008

    Some time back, I guess about 100,000 years ago, the homo sapians wanted explinations for stuff they observed. They did not have many facts just stuff handed down as oral tradition from parent to child so stuff learned in one generation might be forgotten severeal generations later. They came up with an explination: God (or gods). This worked well; could be used to answer any “why did this or that happen?” question. This god idea was passed down until there was writing to make passing information easier. Unfortunately record keeping also allowed accumulation of information that did not fit well with the god explination and, now that (in some geographic areas anyway) religion is not powerful enough to block thinking out loud, we can recognize god for what it is: an early attempt at explaining what people observed.
    Sorry folks; there is no supernatural, there is no god or gods.

  56. #56 Jim
    August 26, 2008

    supose i should lern to spel

  57. #57 greg laden
    August 26, 2008

    speling is relitiv.

  58. #58 David C Harmer
    August 26, 2008

    I can see where you have a problem with this.

    You might try saying that his comment on Carbon 14 dating is interesting, but far beyond the topic of discussion in your class – that it is more of a college subject where such things are examined in greater detail In your class, you are only covering the basics in order to give students a better foundation for college level subjects. If he is interested, he could perhaps write a paper on it for extra credit.

  59. #59 charles
    August 27, 2008

    Greg first I would like to backtrack and pull out the emotionalism from the comments. We both have very strong beliefs which are diametrically opposed. My entries to the blog were among the five or six that I have ever written, I am usually too consumed with work to care. This particular thread was sent to me by my lovely wife and after reading it I admit I was angry. I am angry because this country was founded on Christian values whether you like it or not. Anyone who has read anything from George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin would be forced to agree. They believed in God, they believed that He is the creator of all things. Even your own Alma mater was established to help spread the gospel. You laughed at my spelling errors. I have dyslexia, sorry. Even Merriam Webster who formed the dictionary, (with correct spelling) could quote the Bible chapter and verse. These were not ignorant men. My belief in God, creation, and His son Jesus does not make me ignorant. They accepted my application to Mensa International the same as yours Im sure. Science has been able to unlock the door on our understanding of how things work. You look at it through your world view and say isnt evolution wonderful. I look at it and say thank you Lord for this magnificent creation. I commend you for your advanced education and your commitment to teach. I finished a five year professional degree in Land Planning and Engineering and two years of graduate studies in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. I work in the private sector and do not deal with students everyday. I believe that science can be taught without forcing one opinion or the other. I dont need to know the inventor of the math formula to compute it. I would think that you would encourage your students to think and think outside the box. Most just memorize and fall in line with the rest of the sheep. That is part of what I dont like about public schools and a lot of private ones as well. The kids know how to text message, have sex, cuss, be disruptive, disrespectful, and experiment with drugs and alcohol. But ask them to balance a check book, sing the national anthem, name the last five presidents or the Supreme Court Justices and they cant. But they will tell you global warming is bad and sign a petition to ban pure dihydrogen monoxide. I think our national test scores are proof that the system is broken. The question is how you fix it. Teachers do not get the respect that they disserve. On top of that their authority in the classroom has been removed. I have several friends that are teachers, who are constantly threatened, cussed at, and totally disrespected on a daily basis. When I went to school you would get the paddle and then your dad would spank you again when you got home. That was the end of the discipline problem. We are reaping the consequences of the removal of prayer, corporal punishment, and the Ten Commandments from our schools. Anyway I hope that you both have a good year.

  60. #60 Airtightnoodle
    September 1, 2008

    What a great article. I’m going to trackback to it on my own blog. It’s very tempting to do some of the things you mentioned above that should NOT be done, like recommending books and whatnot. But unfortunately to keep yourself out of trouble you need to keep it simple–just don’t allow that kind of discussion in class.

  61. #61 Joe
    September 1, 2008

    Thanks for the post and the comments. Very worthwhile reading. A students raising of non-science issues (such a inappropriate sexual comments, creationism, etc.) in science class is a disciplinary issue and needs to be treated as such. Id agree with other commentators that it would be nice to make students understand that science teachers do not censor free speech, but that Creationism simply de facto and de jure simply is not science, thus has no place in the science classroom. I personally feel a little strange sitting at my laptop at the beginning of the 21rst Century C.E., still addressing Creationist thinking. We need to move on. We have bigger fish to fry.

  62. #62 Ediacaran
    September 6, 2008

    Charles wrote: “I am angry because this country was founded on Christian values whether you like it or not. Anyone who has read anything from George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin would be forced to agree.”

    I’ve read writings of those men, and I disagree. Ben Franklin wasn’t a christian. Read one of his last letters to Ezra Stiles, about his religious views. Franklin was a deist, so he beleived in a creator god, just not your particular god.

    Some 18th century Muslims were also under the mistaken impression that the United States was founded on christian values, so the Founders cleared up that misconception in Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli:
    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    Hey, if it was good enough for John Adams to endorse, I guess you’ll have to agree that “… the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; …”

    Thumpers seem to disrupt history classes, too.

  63. #63 Ediacaran
    September 6, 2008

    Charles bears false witness: “Yes and I know how intelligent your mentor is, Richard Dawkins, who believes that life on earth was seeded by UFO�s who evolved through Darwinian processes.”

    Charles seems to have fallen for the creationist lies peddled by Ben Stein. What Dawkins was describing was not what he believes, but one variant of Intelligent Design Creationism. Here’s Dawkins setting the record straight:

    Another example. Toward the end of his interview with me, Stein asked whether I could think of any circumstances whatsoever under which intelligent design might have occurred. It’s the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give ID its best shot, however poor that best shot might be. I must have been feeling magnanimous that day, because I was aware that the leading advocates of Intelligent Design are very fond of protesting that they are not talking about God as the designer, but about some unnamed and unspecified intelligence, which might even be an alien from another planet. Indeed, this is the only way they differentiate themselves from fundamentalist creationists, and they do it only when they need to, in order to weasel their way around church/state separation laws. So, bending over backwards to accommodate the IDiots (“oh NOOOOO, of course we aren’t talking about God, this is SCIENCE”) and bending over backwards to make the best case I could for intelligent design, I constructed a science fiction scenario. Like Michael Ruse (as I surmise) I still hadn’t rumbled Stein, and I was charitable enough to think he was an honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist. I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet (Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel suggested something similar — semi tongue-in-cheek). The conclusion I was heading towards was that, even in the highly unlikely event that some such ‘Directed Panspermia’ was responsible for designing life on this planet, the alien beings would THEMSELVES have to have evolved, if not by Darwinian selection, by some equivalent ‘crane’ (to quote Dan Dennett). My point here was that design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity. Even if life on Earth was seeded by intelligent designers on another planet, and even if the alien life form was itself seeded four billion years earlier, the regress must ultimately be terminated (and we have only some 13 billion years to play with because of the finite age of the universe). Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen. That, for goodness sake, is the creationists’ whole point, when they bang on about eyes and bacterial flagella! Evolution by natural selection is the only known process whereby organized complexity can ultimately come into being. Organized complexity — and that includes everything capable of designing anything intelligently — comes LATE into the universe. It cannot exist at the beginning, as I have explained again and again in my writings.

    This ‘Ultimate 747′ argument, as I called it in The God Delusion, may or may not persuade you. That is not my concern here. My concern here is that my science fiction thought experiment — however implausible — was designed to illustrate intelligent design’s closest approach to being plausible. I was most emphaticaly NOT saying that I believed the thought experiment. Quite the contrary. I do not believe it (and I don’t think Francis Crick believed it either). I was bending over backwards to make the best case I could for a form of intelligent design. And my clear implication was that the best case I could make was a very implausible case indeed. In other words, I was using the thought experiment as a way of demonstrating strong opposition to all theories of intelligent design.

    Well, you will have guessed how Mathis/Stein handled this. I won’t get the exact words right (we were forbidden to bring in recording devices on pain of a $250,000 fine, chillingly announced by some unnamed Gauleiter before the film began), but Stein said something like this. “What? Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN INTELLIGENT DESIGN.” “Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE.” I can’t remember whether this was the moment in the film where we were regaled with another Lord Privy Seal cut to an old science fiction movie with some kind of android figure � that may have been used in the service of trying to ridicule Francis Crick (again, dutiful titters from the partisan audience).

    From http://richarddawkins.net/article,2394,Lying-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins

  64. #64 last scientist alive
    December 1, 2009

    Wow so much for discussion and exploration of ideas let alone education. Evolution is a theory and some can effectively argue it is not even a very good one but hey that opens up real scientifc discusssion. I would assume from your closeminded tirades that maybe you all are just not educated enough in the scientific method to understand that. I would say sounds like educators taught science not scientist taught to educate. All theories should be eternally questioned until proven by consistant and reproduciable experimentation to be true in all instances.
    I have never seen anyone even intentionally produce an intergenius mutation which is viable and able to recreate even at the bacterial level. Let alone one that randomly happens within the lifespan of the organism and withn its range in a frequency to bring similar mutated organism together for actual propagation of the mutation. Add the mathematics of that requirement to the evolutionary process and the earth itself would have to be many trillions of years older–but no need to crunch those numbers the politicians have declared it to be so–no funding of anything else by our government -science was sold out to the highest bidder our federal governement back in the 60s via Grant Money. It is sad that those that should be educating our child to question everything and to encourage them to think differently, outside the box, embrace new ideas, and to constantly ask why…. are themselves so misguided.

  65. #65 a real scientist
    December 1, 2009

    Wow so much for discussion and exploration of ideas let alone education. Evolution is a theory and some can effectively argue it is not even a very good one but hey that opens up real scientifc discusssion. I would assume from your closeminded tirades that maybe you all are just not educated enough in the scientific method to understand that. I would say sounds like educators taught science not scientist taught to educate. All theories should be eternally questioned until proven by consistant and reproduciable experimentation to be true in all instances.
    I have never seen anyone even intentionally produce an intergenius mutation which is viable and able to recreate even at the bacterial level. Let alone one that randomly happens within the lifespan of the organism and withn its range in a frequency to bring similar mutated organism together for actual propagation of the mutation. Add the mathematics of that requirement to the evolutionary process and the earth itself would have to be many trillions of years older–but no need to crunch those numbers the politicians have declared it to be so–no funding of anything else by our government -science was sold out to the highest bidder our federal governement back in the 60s via Grant Money. It is sad that those that should be educating our child to question everything and to encourage them to think differently, outside the box, embrace new ideas, and to constantly ask why…. are themselves so misguided.

  66. #66 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2009

    real: No. Bigfoot has no place in zoology class, Paul Bunyan is not a real historical figure for social studies class, and Creationism has no place in science class. There is no longer a legitimate debate about this. If you feel that there is, then that simply means that you are way, way wrong. Sorry.