Amy Binder and John H. Evans, associate professors of Sociology at the University of California at San Diego, have written a piece on efforts to force religion in the guise of Intelligent Design and Creationism down the throats of children in Texas.
A proposal before the Texas Board of Education calls for including the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution in the state’s science curriculum. This initiative is understood by supporters and opponents to be a strategic effort to get around First Amendment restrictions on teaching religion in science class. The proposal is a new round in an old debate, and, if it fails, creationists will innovate once again, just as they have since the 1920s.
If they succeed, there could be national implications: Because of Texas’s sizable school population, the state curriculum can influence national standards. Book publishers don’t want to produce multiple versions of the same text for different states or regions, so ideas that work their way into Texas’s curriculum often end up shaping content in classrooms elsewhere. Check it out.
I’m afraid the authors of this commentary are making an error. Two errors, actually…
The article borders on suggesting an appeasement strategy (as in that aspect of the old framing debate), but stops short and suggests that science teachers compromise with the moralists who are pushing creationism in one area: Make a clear statement that Evolutionary Theory should not lead to social Darwinism and other icky stuff.
Binder and Evans, well meaning and essentially correct, must be new to this debate. What they are saying is, unfortunately, offensive and incorrect, for two reasons.
First, in order for their argument to have any traction whatsoever, it has to be acknowledged that the religion side of this debate is actually the moral side, the side that is trying to protect ethical and moral values and behavior. But this is not true at all. The religion side of this debate is simply trying to push their particular religion (one of hatred, fear mongering, and intolerance) on others. Binder and Evans have been fooled by the rhetoric of the religious right into thinking that the pro-morals side of their argument is fundamental to their motivation. It is not. It is added as part of their strategy (and this has been the case for a very long time). All Binder and Evans need to know to figure this out is to read about the actual events, look at the actual documents, learn something about the actual politics of the evolution vs. creationism ‘debate.’
Second, we do this already. We (science educators) have been doing this for decades and decades. We already ” … tell students that even though evolutionary science talks about the survival of the fittest organism (sic), it is not a model for how humans should treat each other…” We already “… explain that students should not make an “ought” about human behavior from an “is” of nature and that competition in contemporary society will not lead to increased survival rates. (sic)”.. We even “… explicitly note that just because mutations in organisms are random, it does not follow that human morality is random.”
I’m glad that part of the message is presented in this commentary. Science educators who do not to this are doing it wrong, and hopefully they will read the Washington Post and get this message. But the message we are given here smells to me like little more than an “aha” moment someone had while taking a shower presented to us in a naive, though potentially useful, way.
At the beginning of every school year, I try to post new and “the best of” blog posts specifically written for teachers. If you want to see this year’s “back to school special” posts in a list, click here. I’ll be posting these items through the month of September. There will likely be one or two items new every day.
Please feel free to send a link to all your teacher friends so they know about it!!!! And, if there is something you’d like to see discussed, let me know.