Pharyngula

Here’s the most depressing thing I’ve seen all week (and I’m grading genetics exams): it’s the result of a national survey of high school biology teachers.

i-a4134527bed57edc6ae0994ffbb59f10-creationism_in_hs.jpg

At least 16% of our high school teachers are young earth creationists. Furthermore, 12% our our teachers are using biology classes in public schools to teach creationism in a positive light. The majority are still pro-science, but even in the good cases, relatively little time is spent on teaching evolution.

The news isn’t all bad. One constructive discovery is that it is neither legal battles nor demanding state standards that determine how much effort is put into teaching evolution — it’s how much education the teachers have in the subject. The obvious lesson is that we ought to be encouraging more coursework for teachers; help educate the teachers, give them more material they can use in the classroom, and the students benefit.

Here’s the conclusion of the paper, which lays it all out very clearly.

Our survey of biology teachers is the first nationally representative, scientific sample survey to examine evolution and creationism in the classroom. Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation’s biology teachers are creationist in orientation. Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light. The number of hours devoted to these alternative theories is typically low–but this nevertheless must surely convey to students that these theories should be accorded respect as scientific perspectives.

The majority of teachers, however, see evolution as central and essential to high school biology courses. Yet the amount of time devoted to evolutionary biology varies substantially from teacher to teacher, and a majority either avoid human evolution altogether or devote only one or two class periods to the topic. We showed that some of these differences were due to personal beliefs about human origins. However, an equally important factor is the science education the teacher received while in college. Additional variance is likely to be rooted in pressures–subtle or otherwise–emerging from parents and community leaders in each school’s community, in combination with teachers’ confidence in their ability to deal with such pressures given their knowledge of evolution, as well as their personal beliefs.

These findings strongly suggest that victory in the courts is not enough for the scientific community to ensure that evolution is included in high school science courses. Nor is success in persuading states to adopt rigorous content standards consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations. Scientists concerned about the quality of evolution instruction might have a bigger impact in the classroom by focusing on the certification standards for high school biology teachers. Our study suggests that requiring all teachers to complete a course in evolutionary biology would have a substantial impact on the emphasis on evolution and its centrality in high school biology courses. In the long run, the impact of such a change could have a more far reaching effect than the victories in courts and in state governments.

Comments

  1. #1 Heather
    May 20, 2008

    Wow…I’m surprised that it’s 16% among biology teachers. Out of our science dept, I have to say I can’t think of a single one who would be a YEC.

    That means somewhere there is a school with more than their fair share of YEC in the biology dept. I’m hoping it’s a private high school rather than a public one.

    (Sorry if this posts twice, I kept getting an error message.)

  2. #2 brokenSoldier
    May 20, 2008

    Our study suggests that requiring all teachers to complete a course in evolutionary biology would have a substantial impact on the emphasis on evolution and its centrality in high school biology courses. In the long run, the impact of such a change could have a more far reaching effect than the victories in courts and in state governments.

    And that is exactly the point that needs to be made clear. I sat in a high school science class in Tennessee (years ago) and had a teacher tell me that religion and science weren’t in conflict, and that God loved science just as much as he loves each and every one of his children. How parochial…

    Until we get to the point where our teachers (the ones we hire to stand in front of the little ones) actually can grasp the material they’re supposed to be teaching, we’ll be fighting the court battles and PR wars. Every time a child comes out of a school system, vaulted by any of these Young-Earth creationists into a skewed view of the scientific world, there is the possibility that kid is a future Behe, Medved, or any other pseudo-scientific quack who looks more for recognition and influence than for the scientific fact.

    According to this study, 84% of teachers seem to be rational and competent, but those 16% give the rest of them a bad name. In this case, the 16%, due to the outrageousness of their ideas concerning science and their own field, trump the 84%, because they work in an area that has a huge hand in determining the development of youngsters’ minds. I don’t think the education system, and by proxy society, will be in the clear until that number os 0%.

  3. #3 Josh
    May 20, 2008

    Not really surprising considering that it’s more important to have proper certification as an educator than it is to have specific training in the particular science you’re asked to teach.

  4. #4 Philippe
    May 20, 2008

    You guys (the US) are more doomed then I thought. Hopefully, this particular delusion isn’t catching and won’t spread north…

    Good luck!!

  5. #5 zer0
    May 20, 2008

    Ridiculous.

  6. #6 Zeno
    May 20, 2008

    Man, it sure is easier to be a math teacher! Creationism seldom intrudes into our curriculum and if I have any creationist colleagues, I don’t even know about it because they have so few opportunities to act out.

    It does, nevertheless, pop up among our students occasionally. I was teaching a unit on exponential growth and decay in an algebra II class and worked out a problem using carbon-14 decay as an example, whereupon one of my students primly said, “Well, I don’t believe in that, of course.” She doesn’t believe in radioactive decay? Religion sure is goofy. (But you knew that.)

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    May 20, 2008

    Well that’s just it, they’re complaining about evolution in the classroom, without their theology being taught as well, when evolution’s been kept out of many classrooms thus far, either by settling for incompetent teachers, or by parents and schoolboards intimidating them in various ways.

    Evolution expelled.

    That just doesn’t seem to bother Stein much, as intent as he is on academic freedom (“5. What would you like to say to Darwin?

    [Ben Stein replies]“You are a wealthy man, you married a wealthy
    woman, why don’t you just live quietly out in the countryside and not
    torture us with your half-baked suppositions, which have caused so
    much misery?”).

    If they can keep preventing children from learning science, the cycle of ignorance can continue. Seems to be the plan in several states.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  8. #8 Angus Beefheart
    May 20, 2008

    9% of biology teachers have NO OPINION on evolution?! how can you possibly teach biology and not have any opinion on evolution?

  9. #9 Heather
    May 20, 2008

    It’s weird how reality vs. fantasy can come up when you’re not expecting it. And then you realize that in order to share the facts of science, sometimes you will be destroying someone’s fantasy.

    I was taking 9-yr old DS on a walk this morning and we were talking about the North Pole and the South Pole. I mentioned to him that the SP was actually land covered by snow and ice, while the NP was frozen water that could melt and disappear.

    And then I realized my mistake – Dang, now he’s going to ask about Santa. Sure enough, he wanted to know what was going to happen to Santa and all the elves if the ice melted?

    After conferring with my husband, we’ve decided it’s time for the Santa theory to be retired. 9 years old is plenty old enough to know the reality of things, so we’ll be having the talk soon. I’d rather he understand that the NP is not a land mass than continue to be concerned about some jolly guy in a red suit trying to swim for Canada once the ice melts.

  10. #10 Philippe
    May 20, 2008

    #8 “NO OPINION”

    That’s where the intimidation factors in.

  11. #11 ChrisG
    May 20, 2008

    16% aren’t YEC’s. They are standard creationists. According to the survey, they claim that God created humans about 10,000 years ago. They say nothing about the age of the earth. We can refer to them as YHC (Young Human Creationists), which YECS would be a subset.

    Now, whether this is any better than a YEC for the purposes of High School instruction… well, that’s not clear. :(

  12. #12 LordJiro
    May 20, 2008

    Every one of those 16% (or at least those that actively preach ID/Creationsm in the classroom) should be fired. It’s amazing that 16% can even *teach* biology while being creationists, since evolution is the cornerstone of the subject.

  13. #13 ChrisG
    May 20, 2008

    Ah crap, yeah, my pardon PZ.

    “, our data demonstrate substantial sympathy for the “young earth” creationist position among nearly one in six members of the science teaching profession.”

    My error. Sorry.

  14. #14 MikeM
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t know what more to say than to note that I’m stunned. The general public answers are pretty bad, too. 78% of us think it’s God-guided, whether in the last 10,000 years or not? When they go to the Grand Canyon, do they think, “Sure, 10,000 years, that’s possible!”?

    I just don’t get it. Is the battle lost?

    Isn’t this happening at the same time American churches are finally emptying? That implies a disconnect I do not understand.

    Ken Hovind is winning. Barf. That was my breakfast. Sorry.

  15. #15 Tosser
    May 20, 2008

    Glen D wrote:

    If they can keep preventing children from learning science, the cycle of ignorance can continue. Seems to be the plan in several states.

    That’s dead on. When parents intimidate teachers and school boards because of their own ignorance, evolution doesn’t get taught fully and energetically. Also, parents who don’t understand the topic can’t help their kids with their homework. Thus we have a society in which even many well-educated people hold and spread myths about evolution.

  16. #16 Brigit
    May 20, 2008

    I have a cousin that is one of those creationist HS bio teachers. One the good side, she’s in a private school. However since the public school system on this small American colony is worthless, small relatively inexpensive private schools like the one my cousin teaches at teach the kids from the working and middle classes.
    Since the rise of the crazy religious right in the mainland,charismatic churches are gobbling up the mentally unstable (like said cousin) in the colonies.

  17. #17 Peter Ashby
    May 20, 2008

    I am confused, in the rest of the developed world to teach a subject in High School you need a degree in it, or at least 2nd year undergrad papers or some equivalent (our head of woodwork/metalwork etc was a Master Mariner for eg).

    So either this is not the case or the problem actually lies in your tertiary education of those destined to be biology teachers. Considering how big biotech is becoming world wide you people at risk of being left behind. The Parliament here in the UK has just voted to allow hybrid human embryo creation for research purposes (cloning using an enucleated cows egg so the nucleus will be human but the mitochondria bovine).

    All your biotech stem cell patents are belong to us.

  18. #18 Paul Ferguson
    May 20, 2008

    The most astounding number is that 48% of the general population are young earth creationists. It utterly boggles my mind. How did America fall so far into such breathtaking ignorance?

    Religion truly is destroying our country, which means it may well end up destroying all of civilization before it’s done.

  19. #19 Screechy Monkey
    May 20, 2008

    I blame atheists.

    (Not really, I just wanted to be the first to say it in this thread.)

  20. #20 Don
    May 20, 2008

    The infection is spreading.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeTfW8-dCNE

  21. #21 BobC
    May 20, 2008

    #2: “According to this study, 84% of teachers seem to be rational and competent, but those 16% give the rest of them a bad name.”

    I think you meant only 28% of biology teachers are rational and competent. That’s the percent of teachers who accept the evolution of the human species without invoking magic to explain it. This is disgraceful, but not as bad as the only 13% of Americans who accept science without magic.

    In my opinion the 72% of biology teachers, who invoke magic to explain evolution, or deny evolution completely, should be fired immediately.

  22. #22 Martin
    May 20, 2008

    German news magazine “Der SPIEGEL” last year reported about a poll a biology professor at University Dortmund made among first year students. 12.5% thought that it’s still unclear if evolution took place. From the biology students 5.5 percent had that view. I’m not sure if that indicate that Germany’s high school biology teachers have similar views to yours or if the biology education is just bad for other reasons.

    Here’s the link to the article: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/0,1518,479460,00.html (Sorry German language only)

  23. #23 Epinephrine
    May 20, 2008

    I have to say,I’d like to see even more of a push in biology. Why limit it to high school? No teacher should be teaching any form of biology without an understanding of evolution – and that includes elementary school teachers who instruct children in general science.

    My eldest is only in kindergarden, and I already have issues with the scientific ignorance of her teachers. We allow people with no science knowledge at all to instruct children in science at younger ages, with the predictable result that they are taught fallacies such as: You lose 90% of your heat through your head; frogs aren’t actually animals (don’t ask me why…); tomatoes are vegetables, not fruits, bats are blind and see with sound, etc.

    If we respect our children, we should ensure that their education has a minimum degree of accuracy at all age levels, and it’s never too young to talk to them about evolution.

  24. #24 tacitus
    May 20, 2008

    Actually, it’s not that depressing. Given the pronounced trend away from religion in younger generations (from 4% non-religious 40 years ago to between 20%-25% today) that 16% is likely the high-water mark for creationists for years to come.

    We have to remember just how much more religious and conservative America still is compare with the rest of the western world. That’s not going to change overnight, and it’s easy in the continual battles to keep creationism out of public schools to miss the bigger picture. Religious fundamentalism in America is on the wane. We may all be dead and buried by the time the fundies are finally reduced to an insignificant rump but I expect it to happen eventually.

    We may have a long way to go yet, but we’ve come a long way, and I am optimistic about the future. That 16% can still do some damage, by let’s not forget that we have 65% (yes, including the non-creationist believers) who can do a lot of good. Let’s make sure we support them.

  25. #25 Colin J
    May 20, 2008

    I don’t know what the answer is (if anyone does, please let me know!), but this is insane that the very teachers that we work so hard to protect and allow to teach SCIENCE, are, in fact, teaching CREATIONISM IN A POSITIVE LIGHT. WTF!

    There’s moles on the inside, methinks.

    Something else for me to worry about. Crap.

  26. #26 Mike O'Risal
    May 20, 2008

    I haven’t read the report and likely won’t have time soon, so I’ll just ask of those who have whether the report identifies whether these 16% of biology teachers who teach something other than science are concentrated in any particular geography or demographic. I’m wondering, essentially, what percentage of students in the US are taught by those teachers. For instance, how much of that 16% are in large urban school districts and how much is in small rural districts? Are more of the 16% located in the southeast or is it spread equally across the country?

    Does the bad 16% of biology teachers wind up teaching 5% of students? 10%? 30%?

  27. #27 Brigit
    May 20, 2008

    Hey Colin, there are some crazy moles on the inside. I’ve had shady science teachers in school but I ignored them and considered them dumb.
    And it’s not necessarily lack of education of the teachers – my cousin got her bachelors in biology from a decent school, and I had friends in undergrad in chemistry that were creos, even though I went to a good school. It’s the kool-aid, man, that and their twisted little heads.

  28. #28 Jams
    May 20, 2008

    About 15 years ago or so, a friend of mine prowled the business district in Toronto asking random passers how long it took the earth to revolve around the sun. The number of people who answered “one day” and even the number of people who answered “the sun revolves around the earth” far outnumbered the people who answered “one year” (which is the right answer btw).

    I have a feeling answers would be better if there was something at stake for those being asked (money, their life, and so on). That aside, it seems to me that evolutionary questions are an order more complex than “how long does it take for the earth to revolve around the sun”. Certainly, questions that place evolution against religious belief are more likely to inspire instant confusion.

    It’s sad to say, but I’m actually impressed by the number of people from the general public who lean toward scientific answers. I would have expected far fewer.

  29. #29 Jud
    May 20, 2008

    Like ecology, everything in public policy is connected, and requiring additional education for public(-funded) school science teachers in the current USA environment is a recipe for failure.

    Public school budgets in the USA, including teachers’ salaries, are primarily funded from local (county or smaller political subdivisions) property taxes. This has the predictable effect on money for education, and teacher qualifications. Poorer school districts (mainly rural and inner city) don’t pay teachers very well and supply both teachers and students with quite limited resources. Thus asking someone who’s got a degree and a passion for biology to make perhaps a quarter to a third of the salary teaching as she would working for a pharmaceutical company is pure wishful thinking.

    Recruiting science teachers from those with education degrees rather than those with course work or degrees in specific sciences is simply drawing your employees from the pool of those most likely to work for what you’re paying. Requiring extra course work or degrees would very likely reduce the pool of those willing to teach science – they’d just take jobs teaching other subjects that didn’t pose such requirements, offering so little monetary reward in return.

  30. #30 C Barr
    May 20, 2008

    We had a creationist in our high school science department. I came into his classroom one afternoon to talk with him at the beginning of an Earth Science course and saw the seven days of Genesis outlined on the board under the heading, Creation Science, alongside the accepted Earth history starting with the Big Bang. I hit the roof. He just couldn’t conceptualize that it wasn’t OK for him to proselytize his evangelical worldview on the taxpayer’s dollar. He lived in an imaginary world of devils and demons. Loved Dr. Dino. He’d close the classroom door and show his church’s videos attacking evolution. Eventually the department wouldn’t let him teach Life Science Classes. To seriously deal with this would have divided the faculty, tearing the school apart. Since he could control his class, the administration wouldn’t push the issue. The fundementalist churches had a strong influence on the community. There was some significant push-back against the subject from the students. If you were on top of your game you could win over the college prep Biology classes but the lower level Life Science classes were a real challenge. This wasn’t South Carolina either, it was in the Los Angeles area. Only a parent threatening a lawsuit could have changed this situation.

  31. #31 CalGeorge
    May 20, 2008

    Those 16% + 47% should not be allowed to call themselves biology teachers – or be allowed anywhere near a high school.

  32. #32 Patricia C.
    May 20, 2008

    This is just bleak. Thanks for posting it though PZ, now perhaps people in other countries can see the monumental problem we are up against here in Fundy-S-A.

  33. #33 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 20, 2008

    Obviously 16% of high-school “biology teachers” aren’t biology teachers. They’re something else.

    Depressing as all hell. Maybe lots of these are just lying or pretending in order to keep their jobs. Maybe. But even if one figures intimidation, fear of losing one’s job or peer-pressure or whatever into it to balm the numbers somewhat, it stays pretty scary, since that just translates into a conclusion that putatively “American Virtues” like honesty, integrity and courage are not being served or cultivated. If anything, they are seriously eroding.

    Isn’t that surpassing strange? Such a LARGE proportion of religious morality-mongers in the population, and the general morality of the country is in DECLINE, in lock-step with the rise in ignorance. Don’t they notice? They sure point at it and complain about it alot, though, don’t they?

    A no-win-no-win situation of alarming proportions. It’s safe and cool to be weak and stupid. It feeds on itself.

  34. #34 MutantJedi
    May 20, 2008

    Actually, what I see from that graph is that education hasn’t had much impact on the general public where evolution is concerned. I am not hopeful that fixing the teachers will fix the problem.

    We just appeared 10,000 years ago? How did we populate South America? Where did the aboriginal populations come from in Australia? Did the children of Adam and Eve simply spouted wings to quickly fly to the corners of the world? Or did they catch AngelAir?
    Who painted the caves in France?

    There is plenty of evidence to be found all around the general public to clearly indicate a longer than 10,000 years existence for humanity. Not seeing it is willful ignorance. About 1/2 of the general public. 10s of thousands of years of human struggle and culture willfully erased. Sort of like a retroactive genocide.

    Sorry, you don’t exist anymore. Bye.

  35. #35 torcant
    May 20, 2008

    Also it is important the fact that 9% of the teachers are afraid to answer the question!

  36. #36 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    “9% of biology teachers have NO OPINION on evolution?! how can you possibly teach biology and not have any opinion on evolution?”

    Actually that 9% is for both those who have no opinion and those who gave no answer.

    I agree with you that it is odd a biology teacher should not have an opinion, but more understandable if, given the present climate in the US, they would prefer not to state that opinion.

  37. #37 Jit
    May 20, 2008

    From the biology students 5.5 percent had that view

    martin in #22 ish

    This means that German students have a better understanding of evolution than US teachers…

    Did anybody ask how many teachers subscribe to the stork delivery theory of human reproduction? A non-zero percentage if the previous poll is anything to go by.

  38. #38 Simon Owens
    May 20, 2008

    This reminds me of an experience I had in college. I was working in a warehouse for a summer job and found myself doing some task with a woman who said her husband was a biology teacher.

    Thinking that I was in friendly territory, given her husband’s profession, I cracked a joke about the school boards in Pennsylvania who were at that time trying to get intelligent design taught in the classroom.

    Within seconds I found myself in a debate with this woman, with her arguing that the Earth was actually only 25,000 years old. I kept thinking, “Is she for real? This woman’s husband is a biology teacher and she thinks this?”

    The convo didn’t get ugly — it was mostly polite — but I left the convo with a bad feeling. Before then, I had thought that nearly 100 percent of biology teachers were on our side, and it turns out I was wrong.

  39. #39 Bill Dauphin
    May 20, 2008

    in the rest of the developed world to teach a subject in High School you need a degree in it, or at least 2nd year undergrad papers or some equivalent

    There’s a trap here: While it’s hard to argue with the general proposition that teachers should be well qualified in their subjects, defining “well qualified” as having a degree in every subject can be devastating to small schools, rural schools, and to specialized parts of the curriculum… because it’s only within the core curriculum, or at very large schools, that single subjects generate enough enrollment to occupy one or more full-time teachers. Teachers in English, social studies, basic high-school math, and basic science (i.e., just Physical Science and Chem I, at many schools) may be able to fill their whole days within a single degree area, but the reality in many schools is that the Biology teacher is also the Advanced Chemistry teacher and the Physics teacher is also the Calculus teacher and the Drama teacher is also the French teacher and the Psychology teacher is also the Auto Shop teacher…. Requiring an undergraduate degree in each and every subject taught would drive many advanced and non-core subjects right out of the curriculum altogether, and would (in fact did, under NCLB) put many small and rural schools into regulatory default.

    It’s easy to sneer at the fact that “it’s more important to have proper certification as an educator than it is to have specific training in the particular science you’re asked to teach” [Josh@#3], but speaking as a former teacher who missed out on the traditional “certification” curriculum (i.e., courses in pedagogy and student teaching), I can tell you that the importance of professional training in pedagogy is underrated. IMHO, someone with an undergraduate degree in any science plus solid practical training in teaching is likely to do a better job teaching high-school biology than even a world-class biologist who lacked solid grounding in how to teach.

    Any well-educated person (and pretty much all teachers are required to hold advanced degrees by fairly early in their careers) can learn the curriculum of any high-school subject well enough to teach it (excepting skills-oriented subjects like foreign language, music performance, etc.), but a subject-matter expert with no skill in teaching will find it difficult to impart his/her greater knowledge to a roomful of restless, hormonal teenagers.

    Honestly, the “extra” knowledge one gains in a specialized undergraduate degree program is usually outside the scope of the high-school curriculum, almost by definition. In the sciences, especially, I think it’s far more important that teachers be well grounded in, and well trained to communicate, the general methodology of science than that they be high-level subject matter experts.

    No, I’m afraid the defects revealed in this survey can’t be remedied as easily as simply by making people get more degrees. This is a cultural and political problem, not a teacher education issue. IMHO, of course.

  40. #40 Christopher Waldrop
    May 20, 2008

    It is frightening that 9% of teachers are afraid to answer. What I see over and over is that Creationists scream “academic freedom!” but what they really mean is they want the freedom to teach whatever mumbo-jumbo they want and keep actual facts out of classrooms.
    What’s even more frightening is that at the college I went to most of the Biology department professors were Creationists. Ironically there were more people in the Theology department who believed in evolution. Go figure.

  41. #41 Anonymouse
    May 20, 2008

    A study using self-response surveys with a data set <1000 lacks rigor in every sense. This study is shitty and shouldn’t be taken as science.

  42. #42 Jade
    May 20, 2008

    School curriculum seems to vary a great deal throughout different areas of this country. I attended Catholic high school (in New York City), where I was taught about evolution; it was the Church’s policy that religious belief and scientific theory could co-exist.
    It seems as though some would make this a battle between religion and science, when creating such a divide is what maintains ignorance. Is it not possible for those of faith to open their minds to science, and for scientists to show a mutual respect for those who are religious? Religious institutions have historically attempted to hold back scientific progress; however, it is not necessary for the pendulum to now swing the other way. As scientists, you are more enlightened than that. The way to combat ignorance and intolerance is not with more intolerance.

  43. #43 Katharine
    May 20, 2008

    Here’s an idea:

    Require everyone to get a college degree.

  44. #44 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    The wording of this option perplexed me a bit:

    Human beings have developed over millions of years…but God had no part in this process.

    Why “but”? Wouldn’t “and” be more appropriate here?

  45. #45 Anonymouse
    May 20, 2008

    A study using self-response surveys with a data set <1000 lacks rigor in every sense. This study is shitty and shouldn’t be taken as science.

  46. #46 Anonymouse
    May 20, 2008

    A study using self-response surveys with a data set <1000 lacks rigor in every sense. This study is shitty and shouldn’t be taken as science.

    (Sorry about the earlier double-half posts. There was a server error with SciBlogs.)

  47. #47 bernarda
    May 20, 2008

    Not in relation to anything, but Susie Bright’s Journal has a must read post, especially for younger readers to see what the world was once like.

    http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2008/05/sally-binford-n.html#more

    It is a long post about anthropologist Sally Binford. Impossible to summarize, and well worth reading every word.

  48. #48 Anonymouse
    May 20, 2008

    A study using self-response surveys with a data set less than 1000 lacks rigor in every sense. This study is shitty and shouldn’t be taken as science.

    (Okay, this is getting annoying.)

  49. #49 Brigit
    May 20, 2008

    #42, the creo science teachers I know have college degrees. In the natural sciences. Sometimes even being double majors in chem and bio. Somehow they remain impervious to reality in spite of their higher education.

  50. #50 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    These statistics do depress me.

    It seems to me that it’s impossible for a democracy to function when 50% of the people are so ignorant that they think tyrannosaurs roamed the Earth within the last few thousand years. I think I would support a scheme in which voters would have to take an exam that demonstrates a minimum competence in their understanding of reality.

    Yes, it’s elitist, but if we let such people continue to vote, then I hold out little hope for our future as a race.

    The only other option is some sort of universal education- but it seems this country is abandoning that path.

  51. #51 Bill Dauphin
    May 20, 2008

    Bernarda:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only Susie Bright fan here. Thanks for the pointer to her blog: I subscribe to her Audible.com podcast, but often forget to check the blog.

  52. #52 Chris Shaw
    May 20, 2008

    Is America heading for a new Dark Age?

    It would be interesting to do a similar survey in the UK. Religion is taught as a subject in schools; the science syllabus includes “variation, inheritance and evolution”, but as far as I know the subjects are kept strictly separate and most schools teach the Garden of Eden, for example, as a myth. As a school inspector for nearly 14 years I’ve only come across one creationist – but perhaps they just keep quiet!

  53. #53 CalGeorge
    May 20, 2008

    “Of teachers surveyed, 17% did not cover human evolution at all in their biology class, while a majority of teachers (60%) spent between one and five hours of class time on it.”

    Pitiful.

  54. #54 Matt Penfold
    May 20, 2008

    “Is it not possible for those of faith to open their minds to science, and for scientists to show a mutual respect for those who are religious? Religious institutions have historically attempted to hold back scientific progress; however, it is not necessary for the pendulum to now swing the other way. As scientists, you are more enlightened than that. The way to combat ignorance and intolerance is not with more intolerance.”

    Religious institutions are still trying to hold back science. You only need to look at the debate that has been happening in the UK parliament over the last couple of days to see that. Thankfully a majority of the members of parliament saw through the religious cries of “frankenstein science ” to approve the use of animal stem cells with the nucleic DNA replaced with human DNA for research. The whole argument of those against the bill seemed to consist three nonsensical arguments. First they claimed it was “frakenstein science”, and thus unethical. Quite why it was unethical was not spelt out. Second they claimed it was scientist playing god. I suppose they mean scientists playing god. Of course by that argument doctors play god everyday. The final argument was to claim it would not produce any decent science. How they know that was not made clear. Nor did they make clear why they knew better than scientist expert in the field who seem to agree it is a technique that shows a lot of potential.

    The last two days have also seen debates on “saviour” siblings and lowering abortion limit to 20 weeks from 24. In both cases we have had just plain lies from a good number of people who oppose saviour sibling, and want the abortion limit lowered. Lies that just ignore the science.

    We see people opposing sex education and easy access to contraception on religious ground. We see religious groups preferring to have women die from cervical cancer than support a vaccination program for young women.

    In short we see religious people behaving like despicable human beings, with more regard for their imaginary deity, than they do for their fellow humans. Not all religious people behave like this, but too many do. And why, in the C21st should we still be having to battle them ?

  55. #55 MikeM
    May 20, 2008

    Before my own daughter attended the excellent public middle-school she attends, I told the science teacher straight out that I was thrilled with the Dover decision. She didn’t know it, but I was giving her a mini-interview.

    She said, “I was too.”

    Signed my daughter up for that class. No-brainer.

  56. #56 Jeremy
    May 20, 2008

    I teach biology at a Catholic school in Texas, and I’m proud to say that intelligent design and creationism are never mentioned in any science class, even by overtly religious teachers. On the contrary, evolution is discussed at great length and considered one of the main overlying themes of all biology courses. In fact, some class time is even set apart to cover the flaws of intelligent design as a scientific theory in some biology sections.

    Consider this evidence that even private Catholic schools can believe in the benefit of quality science education.

  57. #57 Eric
    May 20, 2008

    939 Responses…a great start. The survey may slightly overcount the number of creationist teachers if you assume that creationist teachers are more likely to settle in smaller towns/more rural settings. From their materials & methods section:

    Our sample under-represents teachers at schools with more than 10% Black (27% compared with 42% nationally) and more than 10% Hispanic (22% versus 39%). In addition, we slightly over-represent Midwestern and small town schools.

    Still, this is a small quibble on what looks after first read to be a good and interesting survey. I’d second Bill’s thought that its going to be hard to increase teacher training requirements while the job remains low paying (compared to other 4-year degrees). So I’ll throw out a hypothetical follow-up question for PZ or the blogosphere in general: if we want to add a course in evolutionary biology, what other biology course do we take out to make room for it? Or is this going to descend into the typical argument over the value of subject matter training vs teacher skills training?

  58. #58 vhutchison
    May 20, 2008

    In some parts of the U.S. the situation is much worse. A survey in Arkansas a few years ago showed that 50% of science teachers did not mention ‘evolution.’ I suspect that this is the situation in quite a few states with a high proportion of fundamentalists. Most of the teachers that give slight to evolution do so out of fear from parents, admimnisrators, students and community churches.

    An example of school administrative interference in Oklahoma came to us from a teacher in Oklahoma just last week. The teacher’s principal told her that she was not to mention evolution (but could talk about natural selection!) and that each student would need a permission slip from parents for that part of the course. Such occurrences are not that rare. The ignorance of previous court decisions is similar to the ignorance about evolution!

    In an attempt to make at least a small impact on the teaching of evolution in our state, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) has organized the third annual weekend Teachers’ Workshop on Teaching Evolution, to be held at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station in November. A grant from the DELTA Foundation provides full scholarships for the teachers selected. Information is linked on the OESE website: (http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/oese/). This will not replace the need for solid college courses in evolutionary biology, but we hope it will help through continued education. Similar workshops are offered in a few other states, but more such endeavors could help.

  59. #59 kemibe
    May 20, 2008

    I apologize if I am repeating what’s most likely been said already but I’m short on time. PZ wrote:

    “At least 16% of our high school teachers are young earth creationists.”

    No, 16% of high-school biology teachers are. A survey of all high-school teachers would reveal even sadder numbers.

    Anyway, it’s fucking disturbing beyond measure to see that almost 70% of bio teachers with an opinion either believe that a skychopath guided evolution or reject the whole concept. This is where I really throw in the towel; if the burden of ignorance is that huge in this country, I have no desire to fight it directly, just to either deride it or avoid the hominids perpetrating this shit. I don’t even like going to Publix because if I happen to think of science or evolution while picking through produce, I start looking around and considering the reality that half the people in the store think the Earth is younger than domestic dogs.

  60. #60 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    Jeremy:

    I teach biology at a Catholic school in Texas, and I’m proud to say that intelligent design and creationism are never mentioned in any science class, even by overtly religious teachers.

    Anyone who teaches in a sectarian/religious school has my utter contempt as a disgrace to the practice of teaching.

    You’ve chosen to work at a school which educates children on the basis of the religion of the children’s parents.

    Sorry if I’m not impressed that you’re teaching them evolution. I do know that every child who passes through your school is subtly branded with a religious labeling system, and in turn learns to label others based on religious categories.

    I come from an island in which the little boys and girls are often divided into Catholic and Protestant schools. The quality of their education may be uniformly excellent, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that these children are placed into instant categories which define them with respect to the rest of society, often for life.

    (I’m grouchy today. I’m only criticizing you in the abstract- I’m sure you’re a lovely person.)

  61. #61 Brigit
    May 20, 2008

    Is said small island the same American colony I was raised in? That Protestant/Catholic division of the private school system is also the case where I’m from. I’m a product of a Catholic HS, and it did take me several years to deprogram myself.
    That was so much the norm, that in my college the benches of the general studies building were informally labeled with the names of our (mostly private and religious) schools. Public school students were few, and mostly from the center of the island.

  62. #62 Jim Thomerson
    May 20, 2008

    At my university, propsective secondary biology teachers are required to take our evolution course, and must maintain a higher minimum gradepoint in science courses than is required of premeds.

  63. #63 raven
    May 20, 2008

    While it is pathetic, it isn’t surprising. 20% of the US population believes the sun orbits the earth, and it is higher among fundies at 26%. It’s only been 400 years since Copernicus and we have a probe orbiting Saturn for Cthulhus sake.

    That indicates that no idea is so stupid that at least 20% of the population won’t buy it.

    Does that 20% ever wonder why a year is 365.25 days long? Probably not.

    A few of my science teachers were openly religious but AFAIK, none of them were creos.

  64. #64 omar ali
    May 20, 2008

    When i was a high school biology student in Pakistan, the high school biology textbook was imported from the US, but chapters 31-34 or so (which dealt with evolution) were specifically EXCLUDED from the curriculum. MANY students in our class (at an “elite” school) went one step further and PHYSICALLY TORE OUT the offending pages to make Allah happier wth them. It must have worked because most of them are here in the US now, raking in the big bucks.

  65. #65 Alexander Babus
    May 20, 2008

    Hi all, I’m from Middle Europe (Hungary)
    Despite that here the ID movement is not so widespreaded and serious as in US, we also have our local creationists/ID proponensists :) As expected they are usually the protestant-evangelic believers, but they are a tiny minority and our education system does not allow them to f**k up the biology curriculum (thanks to Jee :))

    I have had a frightening experience, as a biology enthusiast i bought a book called “Life of plants”, it is a very serious and well written university textbook, and was written by a hungarian professor. The foreword was really shocking. This guy wrote such kind of nonsense what is typical if astronomers are writing their misconceptions about biology..
    It was an eclectic mixture of Gaia-hypothesis, reiki/prana/psi-energy and his belief that our cosmos is a tightly coupled system, everything is connected with everything via an additional fifth dimension…
    That’s ok that he read a little too much esoteric bulls**t, but how can he write down such nonsense as a scientist – without any proof (! it should be his working method, shouldn’t it?) In their own topic the scientists/profs are thinking logically, i just can’t understand why do they need make fantasy stories when dealing with other topics like astronomy or physics, whatewer.

  66. #66 omar ali
    May 20, 2008

    I posted this on Greg Laden’s blog a few days ago:
    Evolution has become a “core issue” for the religious right (which, among other things, is a semi-rational political enterprise whose LEADERS have fairly rational short term political aims, mostly having to do with grabbing more money and power in the shortest possible time…and having NOTHING whatsoever to do with actually believing bullshit about talking snakes and water into wine). Because they find that this nonsense works (bringing in voters and canon fodder) they are not going to shut up about it. Science in general is sufficiently complicated that MOST people really understand it only to the extent that they get a simplified (oversimplified) version from “experts”. When a competing version is in the market, a good number of people are bound to be fooled if “their experts” are pushing ID, specially if if it is stamped with religious authority. Still, the segments of society that actually DO science are going to stick with evolution. Scientists and science supporters should continue all efforts to educate people, but for years to come, this nonsense will be with us…
    By the way, the leading Islamist creationist in the world (a charlatan with the pen name Harun Yahya) was just sentenced to prison in Turkey (some financial technicality)….makes you think there IS a god, and he is NOT a creationist.

  67. #67 Robert Ward
    May 20, 2008

    Thanks to my parents for living in an area, where despite how backwards the town itself is, all of my former high school biology/other science teachers were not stupid, and did not fear teaching evolution. If anyone complained our teachers laughed.

    -RW

  68. #68 raven
    May 20, 2008

    A survey in Arkansas a few years ago showed that 50% of science teachers did not mention ‘evolution.’ I suspect that this is the situation in quite a few states with a high proportion of fundamentalists.

    It is. From the web, it seems that evolution is not taught and/or creationism is taught in much of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida that I know of. Probably it is the same in many more states. And there is a sprinkling of creos everywhere.

    I’ve heard of a few in Washington state and Minnesota. About time for Mr. Olsen of Osego to show up and brag about violating state and federal laws again.

  69. #69 GregV
    May 20, 2008

    What really stings about this is how there’s no balance. Between 12 to 16 percent of high school biology teachers are YECs… and what’s the percentage of atheist Sunday school teachers? Theologians? I think this is a relevant observation because YECs disbelieve the very core of modern biology. How could they possibly be qualified, nay allowed, to teach it? I disbelieve the Christian myth, but I am not going to sign up as an instructor at a Bible Camp so I can lecture the kids on skepticism.

    … maybe that’s what we should do. ;)

  70. #70 Marcus Ranum
    May 20, 2008

    I bet the remaining 9% are YECs too, they’re just being clever and lying for jebus.

  71. #71 Dennis N
    May 20, 2008

    Marcus, I bet they’re smart biologists in Texas or Florida who don’t want their house egged or cat stolen.

  72. #72 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    To be fair… and I’m *nothing* if not fair.

    I’m not sure it matters if a teacher is a YEC. The only thing that concerns me is if the teacher is capable of fulfilling his or her roles as an educator.

    I try to be a secularist, but that cuts both ways. It’s not enough to only criticize the religious when they bring religion into the public sphere- I should also defend the right of the religious to enter into public life, as long as they are able to leave their religion at home.

    To be honest, I think it would be wrong to discriminate against any teacher for holding *private* young earth creationist views. I agree that we should be shocked that so many teachers hold these views, but I think action is called for only in the cases where those teachers let it affect their professional ability to teach their classes.

  73. #73 Steve Sutton
    May 20, 2008

    Before they hire science teachers, there should be a national requirement for them to be informed, in no uncertain terms, that they’re being hired to only teach actual science, not their personal beliefs. If they’re unwilling to do that, then they’re unwilling to do the job as it is required to be done and, as with any other job, they should be informed at that point that they won’t be hired. If a teacher who has already been hired is caught not doing or openly admits to not doing the job he or she was hired to do, he or she should be immediately dismissed from the job.

    Alas, that’s not the world we live in.

  74. #74 Chris Bell
    May 20, 2008

    Is there a link/source for this survey?

  75. #75 James F
    May 20, 2008

    #73
    Chris, just hit the “paper” link in PZ’s post and it will take you to the open access article in PLoS Biology that contains the survey.

  76. #76 Ross Nixon
    May 20, 2008

    Good to see that 48% of US citizens still know The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

  77. #77 BoxerShorts
    May 20, 2008

    Yes, it’s depressing (and surprising) that 16% of high school biology teachers are YECers. But I never cease to be depressed that 48% of the general public are YECers. Think about it: That means that when you walk down the street, almost half the people you walk past are complete fucking whackjobs.

    Of course, that probably wouldn’t be the case if 100% of high school biology teachers had a competent grasp of their own subject.

  78. #78 Fedor
    May 20, 2008

    WOW!

    About half of the population of your country is YEC!? Say it ain’t so, PZ! I am still shocked every time I hear it. In Western Europe, for most countries it is at most 12%, if I am not mistaken. A silly minority that barely anyone takes seriously. Whatever went wrong in “God’s own country”?

  79. #79 Rey Fox
    May 20, 2008

    Good to see that 48% of US citizens still know The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    Are you kidding? It wasn’t until I got to college that I met anyone outside my family who had read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  80. #80 Julie Stahlhut
    May 20, 2008

    [Ben Stein replies]“You are a wealthy man, you married a wealthy
    woman, why don’t you just live quietly out in the countryside and not
    torture us with your half-baked suppositions, which have caused so
    much misery?”).

    I don’t know anything about the independent net worth of Ben Stein’s wife, but aside from that, I long for the day that Ben takes his own advice.

  81. #81 Jeremy
    May 20, 2008

    Christianjb,

    “A disgrace to the practice of teaching”? Those are very harsh words, and you better know I’m not going to let someone say that about me sitting down.

    First of all, you blame me for producing students that immediately categorize people when that is EXACTLY what you are doing.

    You are making a very bold statement that every religious school teaches students to label others according to their religious beliefs. It is entirely possible that occurs at my school when students graduate, I can’t say, I didn’t graduate from here. I can tell you that, in this particular case, going to a Catholic school pushes students away from the Catholic church. But I can’t say that occurs generally across the nation.

    But guess what does occur here: learning, completely removed from religion. The same learning that all of us cherish and strive for and want our kids to have. Yes, at times it is infused with religious dogma, and yes, that’s harmful to these kids, but they still deserve a shot to learn what science really means, don’t you think?

    I disagree strongly with most of what the theology teachers here believe, and I would certainly not consider myself religious. But that doesn’t mean that these students should be exempt from real science education. There are times when I question whether it is right to work at a religious school, but it’s hard for me to convince myself it is wrong when I know that I am doing everything I can to interest students in science, even though their parents think they should grow up Catholic.

    So you want to say I’m a “disgrace to the practice of teaching”? I think I’m perfectly in line when I say fuck you.

  82. #82 George Hammond
    May 20, 2008

    There is a program at Colorado State that has had good success in increasing the number of undergraduate physics majors who then go on to pursue K-12 teaching careers. They started with physics, and so have more results there, but have since expanded to included other sciences, though not evolutionary biology. It’s pretty simple really, they provide a system for upper-division science students to act as “learning assistants” for large undergrad science classes, and at the same time the the LA’s take a single seminar in science ed. Turns out there is a significant population of science-majors out there who are interested in teaching K-12, and with a little experience and encouragement, some of them will pursue it. Biology faculty might want to keep this portion of their students in mind, and make an effort to encourage this as a potential career path for science majors.

    Here’s the website for the program at CSU:
    http://www.phystec.org/index.php

  83. #83 Josh
    May 20, 2008

    Bill wrote: It’s easy to sneer at the fact that “it’s more important to have proper certification as an educator than it is to have specific training in the particular science you’re asked to teach” [Josh@#3], but speaking as a former teacher who missed out on the traditional “certification” curriculum (i.e., courses in pedagogy and student teaching), I can tell you that the importance of professional training in pedagogy is underrated. IMHO, someone with an undergraduate degree in any science plus solid practical training in teaching is likely to do a better job teaching high-school biology than even a world-class biologist who lacked solid grounding in how to teach.

    Okay, first, I wasn’t sneering. I’m sorry if you interpreted it that way. But yes, my point was made with an air of sincere frustration and it was intended to convey that. I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has also been in the classroom and who works with science teachers every day. Based on my experience, I actually take the opposite position from yours (but agree with some of the things you said, see below). I think that the training in pedagogy is overrated. The teachers and professors I’ve had who are truly exceptional are in all cases people who missed out on formal training in how to teach. Regardless, they love the job and are good at it. I’m starting to think that really good teachers have a lot of innate talent at it and that this is far more at the root of their success than training. I’m not sure that the really good teachers are all that trained. I realize that these types will never be all of the teachers out there (or perhaps even a significant percentage) nor am I advocating for the abolishment of training in pedagogy. But I do think, and this gets reinforced to me every day, that training in the science is critical. A lot of training. I don’t actually think a BS is enough in many cases. It wasn’t until I got a long way into graduate school that I knew enough about science to really teach it. Sure, I knew a whole lot of facts after college. So what? I didn’t really get science until I started doing it and my BS thesis wasn’t sufficient. Having a bunch of facts at recall isn’t enough. NOT if we’re going to combat this sort of bullshit. But in holding this view, Bill, I agree with your statement:

    I think it’s far more important that teachers be well grounded in, and well trained to communicate, the general methodology of science than that they be high-level subject matter experts.

    Agreed. Completely. I just don’t think that this understanding often comes with an undergraduate degree. It just doesn’t seem to. I see too many undergraduate science degree holders with masters degrees in education who just don’t understand how science actually works (e.g., those who teach that we prove things in science) to think that this particular educational formula is effective in providing the ability to communicate the methodology of science. I agree with you that the specialized knowledge gained in graduate science programs is above grade level. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about process. I don’t think you really understand science until you have done some and unfortunately that usually comes after college. I’m sure some of you out there are saying “Hey! I have a BS and an EdM and I’m a great teacher!” You might be. You have brethren with similar educational backgrounds who have yet to convince me that they are. In short, I think it is in many ways a teacher education issue, and I would like to see economic incentives put toward encouraging more subject education along with educational training (and yeah, I do realize what I’m asking here). But your comments about rural schools are well taken (and I don’t have much of a solution for that problem).

  84. #84 Ragnor
    May 20, 2008

    I am currently a secondary education major, concentrations in history and biology (effectively majors) and a minor in social sciences. At least in my smallish Michigan state university. To get a B.S. for secondary education in biology I have more biology and general science requirements than the straight biology B.S.’s. Evolution is a required class and there are no classes in which a knowledge of evolution overall is not necessary for passing the course. Basic principles are hammered in early – biological theories do not become laws with more evidence, the earth has been here for much more than 10,000 years, humans are not descended from monkeys. It does humble me often to think that I am thought to know a good deal about biology since I am in the upper-level courses, but I am quite aware how little I really know.

    A bad thing is that those who wash out of our education program often find their way to Florida, which maybe explains a lot about that state. How many years can they teach there before they have to prove some competence? Three I think. Three years x many teachers with provisional certificates = a lot of damage.

  85. #85 anonymous
    May 20, 2008

    this survey is based on about 400 responses, of people who spontaneously responded. In addition, if you read the way questions are written, it is implicit in all questions that Gods exists, therefore 100% of the people who responded believe in God. Anyone who receives this survey and dos not believe in God, would think it is a submarine of creationnists, and would probably not answer.
    therefore, this survey is only about whether teachers who believe in God, also believe that God created humans.
    It is therefore meaningless.

  86. #86 Bill the Cat
    May 20, 2008

    #9: What happens to Santa and the elves when the northern ice cap melts? The polar bears feed on them.

  87. #87 Kate Jones
    May 20, 2008

    Some of the ‘no comment’ and ‘evolution, but God caused it’ and even the ‘young earthers’ camps could just be protective camoflage.

  88. #88 Rose Colored Glasses
    May 20, 2008

    Why so many cretins?

    The answer is not ignorance. Nor is it stupidity.

    The answer is malice. These people mean to do ill. They know their stories are lies, and they like lying. To them it is so much fun, lying and getting away with it.

    Growing up, you probably knew or heard of kids like this. The ones who find out people can be fooled by lies, and who find fooling people a real kick. Then when they discover that some people are easily riled by the lies, they have a hot button to push any time they need an extra giggle. Well, this is what those kids turn out like when they grow up.

    They know enough to be careful, though. Usually they won’t lie to a pissed-off cop.

  89. #89 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    Jeremy:

    Thanks for the response.

    I know I was being harsh, and it seems I did upset you (no surprise there!).

    I can only reiterate that I believe that sectarian education, which includes dividing schools (and hence children) into Catholic and Protestant, Jewish or Muslim is a bad thing which has disastrous consequences for society at large.

    I am also not the first to point out that it is unethical to label children according to the religion of their parents. However subtle, it’s undeniably the case that sending your child to a Catholic school contributes to this process. (See Dawkins’ book for further opinions on this matter.)

    I realize that we’re faced with a sticky moral dilemma. Is it ethical to send your child, or to teach at a school, which despite its religious connotations has an otherwise outstanding educational record (including its record on teaching evolution)?

    For me, the answer is no. It appears you disagree.

    Essentially, I’m accusing you of ‘selling out’. That’s an easy criticism to make, and not coincidentally, it’s also a criticism most often used by adolescents who haven’t quite reached the stage where they appreciate that the world is not always painted in clear black and white choices corresponding to good and bad.

    For instance, I’m sure that many of us have worked for companies with individual policies which we are morally in opposition to. it’s not always possible to only work for the most ethical of organizations. For one thing, we do have to feed ourselves and our cats. For another, we cannot be held morally complicit for every action of our employers. So, we hold our noses, and we do the best we can and sometimes we can actually help to improve the imperfect environments we find ourselves in.

    —–

    So, OK, I am perfectly willing to accept that you are helping these kids learn, and you are doing the best job you can as a teacher. I also see no reason to question you as an individual. As I said, you’re probably a lovely guy!

    What I don’t accept is that you’ve made the correct ethical choice. You’re actively contributing to a system which divides kids according to a religious identity which they are too young to have decided for themselves.

    I do not think that you are exempt of responsibility for making that choice. If you wish to defend that system, then please do so, but don’t pretend that because you’re personally not religious, that you’re not responsible for helping the propagation of the system.

    You’ve chosen to teach at a Catholic school, and by doing so, you are helping that school bring in yet more kids.

    ———-
    I regret being so rude as to claim you have my ‘contempt’.

    Let me revise that a little.

    You still have my contempt for making the choice to teach at a Catholic school. However, you have my admiration for doing the best job you can as a teacher.

    Ultimately, I think you are doing more harm than good. I think it’s more harmful that you’re helping an institution which brands kids according to a religious identity, than any good you’re doing as a teacher.

    I’m more than willing to be proven wrong about my opinions. I’m also interested in hearing your side of the story.

    Again, I don’t imagine that you are a bad person, but I do think you are wrong.

  90. #90 CButterb
    May 20, 2008

    I try to be a secularist, but that cuts both ways. It’s not enough to only criticize the religious when they bring religion into the public sphere- I should also defend the right of the religious to enter into public life, as long as they are able to leave their religion at home.

    But see, I’ve never understood how it’s actually possible to do this. If you have confidence that you’re privy to the ultimate meaning of the universe, and you believe that you have access to facts about the actual, true history of the interaction between humanity and God within recorded history, and most critically, you think your ultimate fate rests upon your adherence to the directives that sprang from that interaction, one of which is to shout the truth of all these things from the mountaintops, then how is it possible to not inject this ostensible knowledge into all your actions and interactions, including those in the public sphere? If you really believe you’ve Got It All Figured Out, how is it desirable or intellectually honest to pretend otherwise for the purpose of being on the school board?

    I’d seriously be interested to hear a true believer explain how they’re able to justify it.

    Although you can chalk it up to the brain’s amazing ability to compartmentalize, it still seems like praising hypocrisy to praise those who are actually able to do it. And pinning hopes for a truly secular society on people’s ability or willingness to self-police in this regard seems like a great way for secularism to ultimately lose. Which, I understand, is why we don’t pin all our hopes on it; instead, we have legal mechanisms (and the threat of embarrassment and financial loss) in place to punish transgressors. But given that (often religious) people ultimately control those legal mechanisms, and that individuals must willingly decide to act according to the rule of law in the first place, I’ve often wondered whether a secular state can be made stable in the long term without the ultimate extreme marginalization or extinction of religion altogether.

  91. #91 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    Cbutterb.

    It is not up for us to work out how the religious manage to rationalize their beliefs with the rest of reality. (Well, maybe as an academic exercise, or for fun, but it’s not our duty.)

    All I can say is that *if* a YEC manages to somehow square the circle, such that he/she can beleive in six impossible things before breakfast before managing to professionally teach a class on human evolution, then I would very much support the right of that teacher to continue in his/her job regardless of his/her private beliefs.

    A person’s private views on anything are a matter for their own conscience, and no business for the state, or for the employer.

    Again, secularism cuts both ways. That’s why I think it’s our best hope, because it’s the only system which can be said to be in the best interests of the religious and the atheists and society at large.

  92. #92 Leigh
    May 20, 2008

    Calgerge @ #30: “Those 16% + 47% should not be allowed to call themselves biology teachers – or be allowed anywhere near a high school.”

    Seriously, you want to get rid of the 47% who are apparently theistic evolutionists?

    You don’t think Scott Hatfield, for example, should be allowed to teach?

    Good luck with that, dude . . . not.

  93. #93 Steven Sullivan
    May 20, 2008

    ‘anonymous’, have you actually read and understood the Materials and Methods supplement of the paper?

    939 questionnaires, not 400, were returned, our of a possible 1954. That was a 48% response rate (939/1954). The sample was also analyzed for representativeness.

  94. #94 Ed Darrell
    May 20, 2008

    Oh, hell. It’s just as bad in other disciplines. Kenneth Davis always gets a rowdy response among college seniors when he asks, “How many of you had history teachers whose first name was ‘Coach?'”

    Administrators are trained in disciplining children. They think tough rules make good scholars. They hire teachers who agree with them, passing over the biology majors who know the stuff, the math major who took six years off to take care of the kids and is ready to stop being a full-time Mom and get the career going, the prize-winning journalist who can teach the kids how to write fast and well.

    So long as students can answer that Darwin was “that guy — you know — that guy with the beard” on some test, the George Bush Memorial War on Education is happy with the educational product. Ignorance is Wisdom. Big Bother is going to the Ranch, but his minions have tapped your phone.

    I need a soak in the mythical waters of Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Maybe more, later, there — this finding troubles me a lot.

  95. #95 Anonymouse
    May 20, 2008

    #92: I assume you’re talking to me. First it’s Anonymouse not anonymous. As in a mouse that is anonymous; remarking on the fact that, because I modified the name, I am not considered anonymous on the net, yet I still maintain a significant degree of anonymity. Second, no matter the reporting rate, THE SAMPLE SIZE IS TOO SMALL. Given the inaccuracies inherent in questionnaires as a source, you need to compensate with a large sample size to gain any real information from the study. There is simply too much chance for variability in the study for it to be anything other than mild entertainment.

  96. #96 BobC
    May 20, 2008

    #91: Seriously, you want to get rid of the 47% who are apparently theistic evolutionists?

    47% of high school biology teachers agree that “Humans beings have developed over millions of years … but God guided this process”.

    Any biology teacher who thinks God, also known as Magic, is a mechanism of biological evolution, is incompetent and should be fired. I don’t have a problem with people who believe in magical sky fairies, but if they invoke their fairy to explain natural processes, they are not qualified to teach any science.

  97. #97 Steven Sullivan
    May 20, 2008

    “Second, no matter the reporting rate, THE SAMPLE SIZE IS TOO SMALL. ”

    According to whom, ‘anonymous’? Did you see the references in their M&M setion? Have you consulted those and found them either wanting or not appropriate to this study?

    btw, I actually sign my real name, so there’s no need to refer to me as a number.

  98. #98 Leigh
    May 20, 2008

    BobC: “Any biology teacher who thinks God, also known as Magic, is a mechanism of biological evolution, is incompetent and should be fired. I don’t have a problem with people who believe in magical sky fairies, but if they invoke their fairy to explain natural processes, they are not qualified to teach any science.”

    I’m not at all surprised that theistic evolutionists would check that box; I’d check it myself. That DOES NOT mean that I consider God a mechanism or that I would mention God in any way in the classroom.

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten that the plaintiffs in Dover were theistic evolutionists. If you continue to insist that those who accept and teach the ToE while maintaining a private belief in God are incompetent, you’re going to have damn few high school teachers.

  99. #99 Blaidd Drwg
    May 20, 2008

    Why do you think the radical religious right (sorry about the triple oxymoron) are so keen on knocking down any Federally standardized cirricula? They want the students in each district to be taught in accordance with LOCAL agendas, to create as much disparity as possible in overall achievement. Then, when the nation’s students are well and truly fucked, they can step in, demand control, and ram through their pet religion-based ‘learning’. That’s long-term, of course. In the short term, all that is really desired is to so weaken public schools (through budget cuts and textbook battles) that they are completley incapable of doing any sort of real teaching, opening the door for religious nuts to homeschool their kids in ever-increasing numbers.

    Here’s a good rule-of-thumb I try to follow as often as possible: Listen to Rush, Sean, Medved, and Savage as much as you can stand, figure out what issues they support, and vote the other way. Likewise find out what those guys are against, and vote FOR. It’s not ironclad, naturally, but…

  100. #100 BobC
    May 20, 2008

    Leigh, I never heard Ken Miller call himself a theistic biologist. Competent religious scientists and science teachers know theism has nothing to do with science. They don’t call themselves theistic scientists for the same reason religious garbage men don’t call themselves theistic garbage collectors.

    I’m in favor of letting religious biology teachers keep their jobs, as long as they keep their idiotic sky fairy beliefs out of the classroom.

    I’m wondering, why would you check a box that said “God guided this process” if you don’t think God had anything to do with it? The question was not “do you believe in God”. The question was “did God guide evolution”.

  101. #101 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#97 Leigh —

    I’m not at all surprised that theistic evolutionists would check that box; I’d check it myself. That DOES NOT mean that I consider God a mechanism or that I would mention God in any way in the classroom.

    But that option says that it was “guided” by God, language which implies some kind of active involvement — so God would be a (guiding) mechanism, if not for evolution itself, the direction evolution took.

  102. #102 labert
    May 20, 2008

    Jade: “Is it not possible for those of faith to open their minds to science, and for scientists to show a mutual respect for those who are religious? . . . As scientists, you are more enlightened than that. The way to combat ignorance and intolerance is not with more intolerance. ”

    Your premise assumes that religious belief systems deserve respect. That is an unsupported premise. Calling something that is silly, silly, is not intolerant. It is truthful. Would I be intolerant if I played along with the psychotic who walked up and told me that I had to believe in the alien living on his left shoulder?

  103. #103 Leigh
    May 20, 2008

    Etha and Bobc: You may be right. Perhaps the people who voted for what I would call the “theistic evolution option” in this poorly-designed poll would indeed drag God into their science classrooms, where s/he has no place at all.

    If that is so, then you’re right. If I’m right, then those people would teach science, not theology.

    Given the design of the poll, we could both be right (for some subset of those who answered), I suppose.

    If we specify that anyone who discusses theology instead of biology gets fired, are we in agreement?

    (BTW, Ken Miller is a theistic evolutionist by any definition I’ve ever run across. I can see why the term bothers you, but it is in common usage.)

  104. #104 MTran
    May 20, 2008

    Eric said @56: I’ll throw out a hypothetical follow-up question for PZ or the blogosphere in general: if we want to add a course in evolutionary biology, what other biology course do we take out to make room for it?

    I just don’t see where this question comes from. No course needs to be removed, there is plenty of room in a basic biology course to integrate evolution into the explanatory framework.

    Is this really so difficult? I mean, my grade school science courses touched on evolution in such a way that it was a simple matter to understand the interconnectedness of life and the environmental forces that can shape it. Enough of a background that it became the topic of conversation as classmates would talk about dinosaurs and the ultimate fate of humans.

    This was back in the 60’s, just after cumpulsory prayer in public schools had been found to be unconstitutional. Yet there were no parental religious temper tantrums about evolution.

    By the time I was in junior high, there was enough coverage of genetics to grasp the nature of inheritance. In my two years of high school bio classes, much larger portions were devoted specifically to genetics, populations, and evolution.

    Evolution is essential to tie all the diverse parts of the biology curriculum together. My question is how can biology be taught *without* adequate attention to evolution?

  105. #105 Neil Schipper
    May 20, 2008

    On the conversation between Josh & Bill Dauphin:

    I’m partial to Josh’s POV. While I think great teachers are usually born, I don’t dismiss the possibility of making them.

    What I do have a problem with is a lot of ed. theory and psych — subjects which tend to follow fashionable trends — displacing resources better utilized in an apprenticing system (similar to interning for docs and articling for lawyers: a few years on-the-job). Superior, experienced teachers should be employed as trainer-coaches (and paid accordingly); I’m afraid I trust them more than Ed. PhD’s (I need more evidence that the latter’s “research” bears fruit).

    As for the science training itself, as nice as it would be to have BSc’s and MSc’s (with the appropriate people-orientation) enter the teaching field, I think there is an opportunity being missed to have courses designed for non-scientists that are very substantial.

    Imagine courses where you had to read a lot of the very best pop science, like books by Asimov, Dawkins and others. Such courses should be taught by scientists, especially the best communicators. (I can imagine organizational self-interest getting in the way of something like this.) Such courses would be less rigorous than conventional required courses for sci degrees — less need to memorize hundreds of latin names, less derivations for physics, etc.

    Such courses ought not be for teachers in training specifically; if unis bought into a concept like this — and it’s something “Big Science” should push for — if implemented with verve and commitment, these should be fairly popular courses for all non-sci folks: those heading towards history, lit, econ, pre-law, and, never say never, theology.

  106. #106 LS
    May 20, 2008

    Two points:

    First, a 9% no opinion/no response rate is fairly standard in a survey of this nature. It’s not always reported – if you do the math on many surveys without such an option reported, you’ll frequently find they only add up to 90-95%. It is no likely that all of these respondents truly had ‘no opinion’ on evolution or were ‘afraid to answer.’

    Second, that 47% some of you are so inclined to mock are probably your own science teachers/professors and colleagues. That option covers the full range from someone believing that God directed every stage of evolution (basically an ID perspective) to the notion that an omniscient being caused the Big Bang knowing the outcome, and everything in between. Towards the latter end of that spectrum, there is absolutely no reason to think that the teachers in question would talk about it in class at all. Note that the question was about the teachers’ personal beliefs (“Our teachers were each asked a question about their own personal beliefs about human origins.”), not their classroom focus. It is not necessary to be a strict atheist to understand and teach evolution, or any science. Personal theistic believes can and do coexist peaceably with science.

  107. #107 negentropyeater
    May 20, 2008

    Wow, 48% of Americans are YECs, one out of two, madre mia !
    That’s a bit higher than I thought (about 40%).

    I’d be really interested to know the evolution of that figure, does anybody know ?

    Has it been stable or decreasing or increasing over the last few generations ?

  108. #108 BobC
    May 20, 2008

    “(BTW, Ken Miller is a theistic evolutionist by any definition I’ve ever run across. I can see why the term bothers you, but it is in common usage.)”

    Christians who know nothing about science talk about theistic evolutionists, but they are called biologists, not evolutionists, and there’s nothing theistic about biology.

    I never heard Miller use the adjective theistic. Theistic evolution implies God had something to do with the development of life, and Miller, while he probably has some idiotic religious ideas, certainly has never invoked Mr. God to explain biology.

    Do religious mathematicians call themselves theistic mathematicians? Of course not. The word theistic does not belong in science either.

  109. #109 Pierce R. Butler
    May 20, 2008

    Ed Darrell @ # 93: Big Bother is going to the Ranch, but his minions have tapped your phone.

    Thanks for either a witty epithet or an inspired typo.

    In other news, 16% of US history teachers think the South won the Civil War; eight out of 50 driving instructors think the red light means Go; four of every 25 English teachers require an apostrophe in every use of “its”; 32 of each 200 coaches tell pitchers to kick the ball toward the batter with either foot; and 160 health educators out of 1,000 tell their classes that the answer to all sexual questions is to ignore them.

    Oops, that last estimate may be a bit low.

  110. #110 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#106 negentropyeater —

    Wow, 48% of Americans are YECs, one out of two, madre mia !
    That’s a bit higher than I thought (about 40%).

    I’d be really interested to know the evolution of that figure, does anybody know ?

    Has it been stable or decreasing or increasing over the last few generations ?

    Gallup polls has a whole page devoted to stats on evolution/creationism now and since 1982. Their most recent number is a bit lower than the one reported this study’s (43% in May 2007), but the general numbers for each of the three options has been pretty stable over time — 43-47% god created man in present form, 35-40% man developed with god guiding, 9-14% man developed, god had no part. There’s a nice little graph at the top of the page showing these stats. They have other questions specifically asking about creationism, ID, and evolution as well (in those terms) — depressingly, as of June 2007, only 15% responded that creationism was definitely false, compared with 28% responding that evolution is definitely false; likewise, 39% responded that creationism was definitely true, compared to 18% that evolution is definitely true.

  111. #111 Buzz Buzz
    May 20, 2008

    I’m honestly having a hard time believing that those statistics are accurate. I’ve never, ever, met a young earth creationist biology teacher.

  112. #112 Etha Williams
    May 20, 2008

    @#110 Buzz Buzz —

    I’ve never, ever, met a young earth creationist biology teacher.

    They exist, and not just in the more rural/conservative areas. My younger brother got the “from goo to the zoo to you” lecture in his biology class. This in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica….

  113. #113 cyan
    May 20, 2008

    Individual high school boards are not going to change without direction. Neither are state legislators going to change without federal direction.

    Each year there are beaucoup more university baccalaureate graduates certified to teach high-school-level biology than there are teaching positions. Who currently determines that certification? – certainly not biologists, nor any other scientists.

    And of those so certified to teach, few are required to have had a course or courses in evolutionary biology. The current certification requirement exists for some other reason than to fill biology positions otherwise not filled, and does not require thorough understanding of biology.

    Currently there is a huge gap in education qualifications between those who teach biology up to the 12th grade level and those who teach it at the 13th level and beyond. Some of the former are very qualified, and many overqualified, versus some others certified just meeting those legislative qualifications. There is no job advantage to those who have a thorough understanding over those who just meet the legislative requirements.

    And those hired for the high-school biology position are those who both meet the requirements (either just or thorougly) AND will also volunteer to be a coach or yearbook advisor, prom advisor, etc. Academic knowledge of a subject is not considered to be the most important job of the high school teacher, rather a perfunctory acquaintance of the subject is a prerequisite necessary but not sufficient to be hired in a public high school. The adjunct suffiencies are willingness to be coach, or yearbook advisor, or prom chairman,etc.

    Who determines the certification of those at the 12th grade and below? Currently, state legislatures seem to have that authority.

    Why cannot the AAAS or another scientific body determine the standards necessary for certification of all high school science teachers?

    It could, or a similarly informed body could, if this requirement were legislated.

    I think that a body of biologists should determine the certification necessary to teach at the high school level.

    To provide evidence that the teacher is keeping up-to-date with the increasingly rapid accumulation of biological information, those teachers that do so would not at all mind a regular re-testing: the school districts would pay for the testing gladly to show that their teachers are among those that are most cognizant of both former and current knowledge.

    Currently, all biology teachers have to do to maintain their positions is to show that they have:
    1 completed meager-to-biologists current legislator-mandated certification and
    2 updated lesson-planning skills

    The most tightly planned lessons are worthless is the knowledge & understanding is lacking.

    The most lax effort in planning (most extemporaneous) presentation of great knowledge & understanding is better than the latter.

    The combination of both: extremely advantageous to students who want to learn, over the heads of students who absolutely do not want to learn.

    Anectdotal evidence from being a student with those varing kinds of instructors, and as an instructor with varying kinds of students and with varying kinds of fellow instructors.

    So, my opinion is that you have mandates made by professionals in the field as to what is required initially and continually, so that teachers in positions in that field are those that display the best knowledge of it.

    I have written the AAAS urging them to advocate and delineate national standards in biology in particular and science in general, so that the limpid legislation of uninformed state reps is not that at which principals can point to as being the best goal they are trying to fulfill.

    If you want public schools improved and science education improved, inform scientific organizations of your opinions on this and urge some kind of legislation and action on it.
    Without this kind of action, its not that its business as usual: its that science education in the US is going to continue on the current downward slope compared to the rest of the countries.

    This kind of expert-sourced direction would result in a pyramid, then an inverted pyramid of science knowledge.

    And if the student then didn’t want to make use of it, okay.

    There has got to be some change to the current system or else academic results will continue to be diminished.

  114. #114 yiela
    May 20, 2008

    #110- Buzz Buzz
    My high school biology teacher was a YEC. When we got to the tiny section about evolution in our book he told us how he had a gold fish for however many years and it had never evolved into anything else so we were skipping this section. He had been a minister once and had a string recently graduated “girlfriends” that he put up in his boat over the years. It was common knowledge among the students but I guess the administration never caught on. He’d also up your grade if asked pretty please with your shirt unbuttoned in his office. I actually did this with my friend. She was a cheerleader and was failing chemistry and would not be able to be a cheerleader if her GPA dropped (something like that, I wasn’t a cheerleader). To say it was a horrible experience is an understatement but I did get a B from a class I was failing. He also taught earth science.

  115. #115 Brandon P.
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve never, ever, met a young earth creationist biology teacher.

    I have, back in 8th grade. She would preach to us about Christianity virtually every homeroom, and she had a shelf packed with creationist books and the infamous Left Behind series. I am still amazed she managed to get hired here.

  116. #116 Name withheld
    May 20, 2008

    I have taught biology in 3 high schools in the midwest and each has had 1 or more creationist biology teachers, one who was clearly a YEC. I had a confrontation with one of these teachers who had her students research and write a position paper on intelligent design vs evolution. SHE USED VALUABLE CLASS TIME for this project. To this day I cannot believe that she encouraged her students to use websites like answers in genesis. I saw a copy of the test she gave students, and every question was preceded by the phrase, “Evolutionists believe…” I registered for a professional development class on Evolution and asked if she had registered too. Her response was, “I wouldn’t register for something like that.”

    This survey doesn’t surprise me in the least. We need to require experienced biology teachers to attend classes on evolution. I guarantee that they will not seek out those opportunities themselves. If it makes them too uncomfortable to hear what the foundation of biology is all about and to realize that’s what they MUST teach, let them find another job. That’s what I say.

  117. #117 Brandon P.
    May 20, 2008

    My younger brother got the “from goo to the zoo to you” lecture in his biology class.

    Funny, I heard VenomFangX say that exact same phrase in a Youtube video just yesterday. It must be a common creationist slogan.

  118. #118 Buzz Buzz
    May 20, 2008

    Yeah, I know they exist, and are remarkably unqualified to be teaching modern biology. But more than one and a half out of ten biology teachers? Where the heck did they do this study?

  119. #119 greg laden
    May 20, 2008

    In a different study, the number of biology teachers that you would have to classify as creationists (theistic evolutionists) plus all more severe forms of creationists, was more like one in three.

    I see a lot of comments here suggesting that people are surprised to learn this. I find it depressing and remarkable that this is surprising to so many people. Nothing in this study is unexpected. This is the way things are, and this has to be reversed.

  120. #120 toto
    May 20, 2008

    considering the wording of the questions, it is obvious that anyone who does not respond is either an atheist or a very mild believer, therefore the actual number of biologists who actually believe that god played role in creation should be much smaller than what is reported. I think this survey is really low, I agree with
    anonymouse who states

    “There is simply too much chance for variability in the study for it to be anything other than mild entertainment”,

    an add, that not only there is too much variability, but the data are offset by 52% of non respondents, who are probably all atheists.

    This brings the figures close to the 1/3rd figure

  121. #121 Wendy
    May 20, 2008

    Regarding the 48% of people who believe god created humans in the last 10,000 years: Isn’t that about how many people have an IQ below 100?

  122. #122 Christianjb
    May 20, 2008

    W.

    Though it may be correlated, IQ deficiency alone cannot explain creationism.

    To give (a very oddball) example, the artists who illustrate the creationists Chick tracts are at least smart enough to have mastered the general rules of perspective, light and shadow, bone structure, etc. etc. Most of the Chick tract artists are far more technically skilled than I could ever hope to be, even if I devoted years to cartooning. It seems probable that these people are ‘high-IQ’, or (if you disagree with IQ testing) would be regarded as ‘gifted’ by most independent observers.

    For instance, take a look at the skill that went into drawing this tract I chose at random:

    http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0042/0042_01.asp

    Can you really imagine that the artist, who makes such inventive use of perspective, is really a functional idiot, or do you think it more likely that the artist is actually reasonably clever, but has had his/her mind corrupted by an insane religious ideology?

    Also, do you think that someone talented enough to have illustrated that tract is mentally incapable of understanding at least the basics behind evolution?

  123. #123 toto
    May 20, 2008

    I would put aside the ones who might be smart, but did not have the chance to get a decent education, and just do not know.

  124. @LS, #106 – “Note that the question was about the teachers’ personal beliefs (“Our teachers were each asked a question about their own personal beliefs about human origins.”), not their classroom focus.”

    If you dig a little deeper into the PLoS report, the teachers who acknowledged addressing IDC in class were queried on their approach – did they do so to push it as science, or to show why it’s not science.

    Those teachers were asked about their level of agreement/disagreement with the following statements:

    “A. I emphasize that this [IDC] is a valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species.
    B. I emphasize that many reputable scientists view these [IDC] as valid alternatives to Darwinian theory.
    C. I acknowledge them [IDC] as valid religious perspectives, but which are not appropriate for a science class.
    D. I emphasize that almost all scientists reject these [IDC] as valid accounts of the origin of species.”

    If you’re interested, the responses are graphed here.

  125. #125 C Messerman
    May 20, 2008

    I taught with a creationist biology teacher for many years. And another colleague avoided it. The former was actually damn good at teaching inquiry-based biology. In the end he was probably doing more for the students’ ability to think critically than if he’d covered evolution and left out the inquiry. He also had more time to get to the major phyla, which I don’t get to. I am, however, proud of my evolution unit this year. I used several activities from the ENSI site and spent four or five weeks on it. I showed NOVA Evolution episode one, and NOVA ID on Trial, an old National Geo on Human Evolution. I even had the fundies thinking!

  126. #126 MrWil
    May 21, 2008

    As a teacher I strongly believe that a lack of content knowledge is a major problem in science education today. The root of the problem is the large number of reading teachers who enter the ranks of administration. In reading, education courses matter. In math, science, and history, I feel a strong content background is far more important. Fortunately, the difficult economic times should force a number of these college of education types out of administrative roles as tax payers look more at real results rather than a feel good image.

  127. #127 Steven Sullivan
    May 21, 2008

    [QUOTE]Yeah, I know they exist, and are remarkably unqualified to be teaching modern biology. But more than one and a half out of ten biology teachers? Where the heck did they do this study?
    [/QUOTE]

    Have you considered, oh I don’t know, maybe, reading the paper itself, to see if they discuss ‘where they did this study’?

  128. #128 Steven Sullivan
    May 21, 2008

    [QUOTE]considering the wording of the questions, it is obvious that anyone who does not respond is either an atheist or a very mild believer,[/QUOTE]

    no, that is not obvious, it is an assumption that would need to be tested with data.

    [QUOTE] therefore the actual number of biologists who actually believe that god played role in creation should be much smaller than what is reported.[/QUOTE]

    They weren’t polling *biologists*, they were polling *high school biology teachers*

    [QUOTE]I think this survey is really low, I agree with anonymouse who states
    “There is simply too much chance for variability in the study for it to be anything other than mild entertainment”,

    an add, that not only there is too much variability, but the data are offset by 52% of non respondents, who are probably all atheists.[/QUOTE]

    Neither you nor anonymous seem to have actually read the paper, if you believe there is ‘too much variability’. If you do, you might see statements like “all percentage estimates reported in this essay’s tables and figures having a margin of error of no more than 3.2% at the 95% confidence level.”

    [QUOTE]This brings the figures close to the 1/3rd figure [/QUOTE]

    Yes, when you make your *assumptions*.

  129. #129 Leigh
    May 21, 2008

    Cheryl @ #124:

    Hell and damnation!

    Check out the graph, folks. I concede, BobC, Etha, and whoever else I was debating with. Alas, my argument is defeated by the data. The teachers surveyed apparently do indeed think that God should be taught as a mechanism.

    I’m not upset because I lost the debate. I’m greatly disturbed because we ALL lose when biology teachers can’t see that ID is bullshit.

    I hope that Toto @ #120 is right, and that this sample is too small to be valid. But I fear, based on this discussion and the anecdotal evidence offered in addition to the survey, that many of you are right in accepting the study’s conclusions.

    But dear God, what can we do? They’re outbreeding us by leaps and bounds, and the erosion of Enlightenment principles is enlarging the shallow end of the gene pool every damn day.

  130. #130 Wowbagger
    May 21, 2008

    How much does difference does education make on the strength of religious beliefs? I mean, I can understand how someone who hasn’t been exposed to anything contradicting religion can retain their beliefs; they’ve never had a reason to think otherwise. But I know a number of university-educated people who are strong Xians.

    When your worldview can allow you to believe that your beloved deity would ‘fake’ evidence (fossils) to test your faith, that scientists would lie for the sake of it, or that anyone challenging your beliefs is an agent of Satan you’re pretty much immune to anything contrary.

    I wasn’t ever a believer, so the means through which people are deconverted is something I’m not very familiar with.

  131. #131 Leigh
    May 21, 2008

    Wowbagger: “But I know a number of university-educated people who are strong Xians . . .
    When your worldview can allow you to believe that your beloved deity would ‘fake’ evidence (fossils) to test your faith, that scientists would lie for the sake of it, or that anyone challenging your beliefs is an agent of Satan you’re pretty much immune to anything contrary.”

    Is that what your well-educated Christian friends believe? Wow. They must have a really dark view of God, if so. I can’t say I know anybody at all who holds that view.

    I know very few educated Christian people who don’t unreservedly accept modern science. Those few I do know resolve the cognitive dissonance by insisting that scientists, are liars, not that God is. (Their disbelief in the scientific method doesn’t keep them from using their computers, though — more’s the pity, since it means they circulate everything from Liars for Jesus they receive.)

  132. #132 Futility
    May 21, 2008

    Glen D wrote (& #15)

    If they can keep preventing children from learning science, the cycle of ignorance can continue. Seems to be the plan in several states.

    That seems to be the plan and needs to be thwarted. But even when all children get a good science education, I am not convinced that this will weed out the misconceptions about evolution completely. Religion seems to be such a strong filter.
    An engineering major told me once that after reading ‘On the origin of species’ he came to the conclusion that it is BS since it is just a collection of correlations. He seriously thought that he just delivered a devastating blow against evolution but instead just put in plain sight his poor understanding of the nature and evolution of a scientific theory. In the beginning, a scientific theory is necessarily only supported by a few experimental correlations which might or might not be indicative of the causal nexus the proposed theory purports. Only with time, more correlations are found, the theory’s predictions are verified, evidence from other, seemingly unrelated fields pours in, the scope of the theory is extended to encompass new or previously unexplained evidence, etc. The theory becomes stronger and the case for causation can be made. It is not surprising at all, to find mainly correlations (and generalizations) in the initial proposal of a new scientific theory (like Darwin’s ‘Origin’, I should add that, as a physicist, I haven’t read this book myself. It appears to me, however, that this is not necessary either since a modern treatment of the theory is to a layman (like myself) probably more instructive than going back to the source.).
    The point is, that this guy was a UC Berkeley alumni but deeply catholic (he seriously believed that some relicts in Spain are really from holy persons and don’t age at all, etc). If an university educated person can tone down his rationality in order to accommodate some religious dogma, how much hope is there for general science education?

  133. #133 Peter Ashby
    May 21, 2008

    Bill Dauphin:

    Honestly, the “extra” knowledge one gains in a specialized undergraduate degree program is usually outside the scope of the high-school curriculum, almost by definition.

    It is not knowledge that is important, it is the understanding and the depth and confidence of that understanding that matters. It makes the difference between a teacher who is sure of the material and questions from it from one who is at the edge of their understanding and is flying by their wits on the questions. Being a good teacher means you can ellide those and be better at projecting competence. I would rather the teacher were actually competent.

    As for competing with the pharma companies for science grads, the world is awash with biology grads, there is no shortage. The world is awash with biology PhDs (the need to distinguish yourself from the herd). Here in the UK there is absolutely no problem recruiting biologists. However they are offering golden hallos to physics, chemistry, maths and compsci teachers.

    So don’t try hiding behind that fig leaf, it leaves you naked. Also don’t tell me about how poorly you pay your teachers then continue to complain about their standards. No community here would put up with that sort of situation, but then people here care about education. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. The graduates are out there, you just have to pay them enough, which means you have to want them enough.

    I repeat: all your bio patents are belong to us. If you are happy with that situation, carry on.

  134. #134 Fergus Gallagher
    May 21, 2008

    I studied “high school” biology in the UK to age 16, at a non-faith state school.

    We studied things like the life cycle of butterflies and worm anatomy. Nothing at all about the origins of life. My point is that, if that’s not part of the syllabus, there’s not necessarily a problem with having a creationist teacher.

  135. #135 negentropyeater
    May 21, 2008

    Etha #110,

    thx, so it looks like it’s been pretty stable over the last 25 years, with maybe if even significant, a slight increase over the first half of that period, a peak around 2000, and a slight decrease since then.

    What’s interesting if you compare 1982 and 2007 is that basically, within one generation ;

    YECs (God created man in present form) 44 -> 43% = -1%
    Theist Evolut. (Man evolved, God guided) 38 -> 38% = 0%
    Non Believers * (Man evolved) 9 -> 14% = +5%

    (* incl. probably Atheists, agnostics, deists)

    So non believers as a category has increased significantly but it seems to have done so not at the expense of the two big categories of believers.
    What has reduced significantly are the undecided.

  136. #136 Ben
    May 21, 2008

    The teacher stats are inexcusable.

    However, those of you pining over the stats for the general public need to face reality. Until or unless we can genetically manipulate the intelligence of new humans, the IQ Gaussian looms over all attempts to convince the general public of anything. By definition, half+ of the population lies under the left-to-center region, and they are, and will remain, extremely vulnerable to stories with minimal rational content and loaded emotional appeal. That’s not to mention those under the right half who, through fear or general gullibility or outright defective thinking skills, join those who can’t grasp the basic known facts.

    I’m not going to quibble about just where on that curve the indoctrinated really start to become common. There’s a line somewhere.

    Today I went into a subway and asked for a salad. When I got down the line to the person (18-ish) with the vegetables, I said “please quarter them, they’re easier to eat that way.” The response was a rabbit-look at the other employees and a freeze. I said “you know, cut them into quarters.” Still frozen. The manager looked over, and not unkindly, said “cut them into four pieces” and this young person cut them in half, held them up to me and said “like this?” I said “that’s fine, thank you” and moved along. Now, I’ve spoken to this person before – hello, how ya doing, that kind of thing. No evidence of particular disfunction, speech is clear, sandwiches are fine, etc.

    I don’t think you’d want to ask this person anything about evolution. If you did ask, I don’t think disappointment with a simplistic or outright bewildered response should be our reaction. Further, I think this is a lot more common than most of the right side of the Gaussian — or at least the optimists I see well represented here — would really like to honestly consider.

    So are we winning the war? No. There’s no war. You can’t “fix” these people, or their descendants, unless someone modifies them, and that’s a social boundary we have yet to cross successfully.

    They lost the grey matter lottery, and kvetching about it on our part — as lottery winners, more or less — is neither appropriate or productive at this juncture (again, until we can fix the actual problem.)

    But I sure do wish the teachers, at least, were vetted for superstition before they were allowed to speak to young minds of any caliber. That might short-circuit a few of the crackpots on the right side of the curve directly out of the gate, if nothing else.

  137. #137 Brandon P.
    May 21, 2008

    @ Ben

    If the reason 48% of Americans believe in creationism is because, in your view, about half of people in any population are below-average intellectually, than why is the percentage of creationists much lower in other developed countries, as shown by surveys which I recall have been posted on this blog?

  138. #138 Vince
    May 21, 2008

    After teaching middle school science, including quite a bit on evolution, for 33 years, and working with over a dozen student teachers, I have to agree. More work in teacher preparation requirements regarding evolution is definite needed. However, improved standards are needed not just for HS biology certification, but for middle school science as well. (Here in NY State it’s generally, but not always, the same certification area.)

    That being said, we recognize that many working teachers today need help. They need curriculum help, help from being intimidated by parents, administrators, school boards, and even other teachers. For those teachers, whether elementary teachers reading dino books with the students, middle level science teachers introducing evolution to the students, or high school biology teachers, the best recommendation this retired science teacher can give is to use the excellent resources of NCSE. (www.natcenscied.org)

    Frequent readers of this blog are probably familiar with the videos from National Center for Science Education. They offer much more beyond those excellent videos. Their site should be a first stop for working teachers needing help.

    Wow – this sounds like ad copy for NCSE. Yes, I’m a member. But I’ve directed more than a few prospective and beginning teachers to NCSE, and they’ve found it quite helpful. You can help get the word out, too.

  139. #139 MarkW
    May 21, 2008

    Futility #130:

    It appears to me, however, that this is not necessary either since a modern treatment of the theory is to a layman (like myself) probably more instructive than going back to the source.

    Agreed. Things have moved on a bit in the past 150~ years ;-)

    I’m another Brit, I studied Biology at ‘A’-level (i.e. to age 18) and we had a whole module on evolution.

    Teaching evolution is now mandated as part of our national curriculum, and despite one or two problems (e.g. Vardy foundation) I’m not really aware of any creationist anti-education action here.

  140. #140 John Phillips, FCD
    May 21, 2008

    MarkW: There was an attempt last year by what is ostensibly the UK arm of the Discovery Institute in sending out teaching packs advocating ID as science to all English and Welsh secondary schools which included a DVD and course material to be used in science classes. Fortunately, enough of us got up in arms about it and contacted our various MPs and the various education ministers such that various statements were made in both houses by the relevant ministers, that in state funded schools at least, ID couldn’t be taught in the science classroom and the curriculum was tightened to make it impossible for non science to be taught in science. So apart from the Vardi’s of the UK, and they are not the only private schools pushing this poison as science, we still need to be aware that they are out there, even though they lost this one.

    Then again, have you seen some of the crap that some of our more recent unis are offering as courses. If you don’t yet know, have a read of http://dcscience.net/?p=223 for starters, it will open your eyes to the woo that is being now being promoted to students as supposedly valid degree courses. All in all, at he very least, it amounts to a dumbing down of what science stands for. I sometimes find it hard to believe that we are actually living in the 21st. Century.

  141. #141 negentropyeater
    May 21, 2008

    Brandon P.,

    exactly, and you know, when I read this study, I didn’t see striking differences with the way biology is taught in France.
    No, where I notice the striking difference is elsewhere.
    It’s on TV (I get American TV via satellite, Fox, NBC, …).
    It’s the constant, repetitive little sentences, the permanent hammering of those innocent infiltrations of God delusions in everything. It’s so obvious when you compare American TV and French TV.
    So, people get exposed for a few hours in their entire life between the ages of 14 and 18 to reality and critical thinking in the science class and then they spend the rest of their lives hearing these innocent little phrases that mean nothing but sound good to them.
    I hear them all the time, it’s incessant, it hurts my ears.
    Just now : Fox and friends half an hour ago : Oh the miracle of life ! when someone has a baby, it’s a real miracle to see this.
    It just doesn’t stop.
    So yes, the biology class room is very important, but it seems to me that the ones who should go first to take a biology class are those fucking braindead american TV presenters.
    The only hope is that this debilitating black box looses its grip on influencing the opinions of the youth.

  142. #142 Kamats
    May 21, 2008

    Creationism is a sick joke! I believe in God, also(of course)!
    C`mon… I hope it wont reach my country with that kind of thinking. I study in a catholic school and believe me there is no creationism stuff going on. You guys are doomed. (That is what rich countries do on free time, thinking about useless things.

  143. #143 Josh
    May 21, 2008

    So long as students can answer that Darwin was “that guy — you know — that guy with the beard” on some test, the George Bush Memorial War on Education is happy with the educational product. Ignorance is Wisdom. Big Bother is going to the Ranch, but his minions have tapped your phone.

    Ed, I thought all of comment #94 was terrific, but this paragraph was simply inspired fucking brilliance.

  144. #144 Stoo
    May 21, 2008

    What bugs me about these poll questions is when the “evolution, but it was guided” option comes up. See, what if you had a God who designed the Rules such that humanity would arise, then sat back and let the clockwork run? The survey posted doesn’t allow for such an option – so if someone believes it, which box do they tick? I just wonder if it’s something that could chip away at the pro-evolution result.

  145. #145 Eric
    May 21, 2008

    CButterb said:

    If you have confidence that you’re privy to the ultimate meaning of the universe… and most critically, you think your ultimate fate rests upon your adherence to the directives that sprang from that interaction, one of which is to shout the truth of all these things from the mountaintops…how is it desirable or intellectually honest to pretend otherwise for the purpose of being on the school board?

    Oh that’s easy. Here are several answers:
    1. Variation in belief: not all Christians (or religious folks in general) believe they are directed to shout the truth from the mountaintops. There are many relatively non-evangelical religions (e.g. Judaism), many non-evangelical sects of Xtianity (e.g. Quakers), and even many flavors of mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism that believe in less than “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” evangelism.
    2. Relevance: I believe in the ‘truth’ of algebra AND that it is absolutely critical for everyone in society to learn to add and subtract – but I wouldn’t interrupt a history class to teach it. History class is for history. Similarly, a religious person can believe in religious knowledge, and that they should share it, yet come to the conclusion that a high school biology class is the wrong setting to do so.
    3. Methodological naturalism: biblical truth is based on the argument from authority, an argument ruled out by the rules of science. There’s nothing irrational or illogical in a religious believer holding the position that, within science, religious truth is unfounded, but that scientific premises do not hold in other contexts. This is methodological naturalism. (Another example of inconsistent behavior which is rational in context: I accept that lying is legitimate behavior when playing poker, but I accept that lying is not legitimate behavior for a witness on the witness stand)

  146. #146 Scott Hatfield, OM
    May 21, 2008

    The results of this survey are in accord with other research and my experience in the classroom. In my judgement, all prospective science teachers needs a survey course not only in the history and philosophy of science, but in the ‘big ideas’. Evolutionary biology should be on that short list, along with ‘the Big Bang’ and plate tectonics. In addition to that, biology teachers should have passed a three-unit course on evolution.

    Is this a barrier to filling the increasingly-desperate teacher pool? Sure. Some people need to be kept from our children.

  147. #147 Bill Dauphin
    May 21, 2008

    Peter:

    It is not knowledge that is important, it is the understanding and the depth and confidence of that understanding that matters.

    I don’t disagree… but at the high-school level, IMHO, what’s important to have “depth and confidence of … understanding” about is the basic approaches and methods of a subject, plus the high-school level content, rather than specific higher-level content that’s outside the scope of the class you’re trying to teach. The ability of a high-school math teacher (for example) to communicate fundamental concepts clearly and effectively is far more critical to successful learning than his/her ability to manipulate high-level differential equations; a high-school physics teacher is likewise not much helped by the ability to manipulate Maxwell’s Equations using math years beyond anything his/her students can possibly have been exposed to.

    I’m not saying teachers don’t need to be well educated and highly trained; I am saying that mastering 4 years worth of college-level content in a subject is not required to teach that subject at the high-school level, which is the predicate assumption when you talk about requiring a full undergraduate degree for each and every subject taught. (BTW, the idea that teachers get touchy-feely degrees in generic “education” with no subject-area training at all is completely false.)

    I’m also saying that people who focus exclusively on high-level subject matter training underestimate the extent to which teaching itself is a critical skill that requires training. Instead of valuing pedagogy as a professional skill…

    Being a good teacher means you can ellide those and be better at projecting competence. I would rather the teacher were actually competent.

    …you characterize it (borderline offensively) as simply a trick to allow people of bad faith to “fake it.” That has not been my experience of American public school teachers during my 40+ years as a student, colleague, and parent. This is the right-wing talking point: That teaching is an easy gig that attracts lazy people who want to get rich on the backs of our children without having to actually know anything or work very hard. It’s abject BS, in each and every particular, and deeply insulting.

    In fact, teaching is complex and difficult (and teaching adolescents in a public school is far more so than teaching young adults in a university setting; I’ve done both), and command of the content you’re trying to teach is only a small part of the definition of “competence.”

    My college diff eq teacher was a world-class expert in his subject — a visiting professor from Australia teaching mostly graduate students, plus the one honors undergraduate class I was in — but he couldn’t teach a lick. He taught at a stratoshperic level; we were all monumentally perplexed and all got raw scores in the 20%-30% range on his tests… but because he graded on a curve, we all got As and Bs for our final grades. I came away from that class totally clueless about how to work with differential equations… and that was a major factor in my switching from Engineering to English. Nevertheless, I guarrantee I’d be a better high-school math teacher than that guy.

    As for competing with the pharma companies for science grads … don’t try hiding behind that fig leaf, it leaves you naked.

    That wasn’t my argument. Someone upstream attributed it to me, but they were conflating my comment with someone else’s. My actual argument has to do with the fact that the economics of public schools pretty much force them to assign a significant percentage of their faculty multiple subjects, because many subjects (esp. high-level and non-core ones) don’t attract 5 or 6 full classrooms worth of students (i.e., a full load for a full-time teacher). If you require a full bachelor’s degree in every subject taught, the staffing puzzle becomes almost unsolvable… as many rural schools found out when No Child Left Behind V1.0 included just such a requirement. It’s not a matter of pay; it’s a matter of… how many people do you know who have full BSs in Biology and Physics?

    Of course, this is not troubling to the right-wing back-to-basics crowd, because the obvious solution is to just eliminate all those “elitist” advanced and non-core subject classes… which is just what they’d prefer in any case. But I don’t imagine it’s an outcome commenters here are rooting for.

    Also don’t tell me about how poorly you pay your teachers then continue to complain about their standards. No community here would put up with that sort of situation, but then people here care about education. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

    On the contrary, my experience is that when you pay peanuts you get dedicated people who care more about their profession than they do about money. Most of the public school teachers I have known genuinely see it as public service; the stereotype of teachers as ignorant, incompetent, and lazy is nothing but political slander. That’s not to say that pay has nothing to do with attracting top talent… but you don’t have to be a highly trained research scientist to make more than a schoolteacher. Pretty much everyone who’s qualified to be a teacher is smart enough and well educated enough to be making more money doing something else, if maximizing earnings were their top priority.

    As for “No community here would put up with that sort of situation, but then people here care about education,” I’d like to know how public education is funded where you are (the UK?). Here in the U.S., it’s almost universally funded by local property taxes. In my community, which votes directly on the town budget (either through a town meeting or a referendum), education overall accounts for more than 2/3 of the total town budget, and professional staff (i.e., teachers and in-school administrators) accounts for a vast majority of the education budget. That’s perfectly as it should be, of course, but it also means that tax money appears to be going more or less directly from the pockets of homeowners into the pockets of teachers… and homeowners who don’t have kids in school (esp. the growing number of senior citizens living 55+ housing) feel disinclined to pay for something they don’t feel they benefit from.

    That’s selfish and shortsighted, of course: The whole community benefits from education, which is the only reason public education can be justified at all. But are you really suggesting there are no selfish, shortsighted Brits? Or that Brits generally are more generous and forward-thinking than us Yanks? I call BS on that: People are, by and large, people; our problem is not that “Americans are stoooopid”; it’s a structural defect in the way we fund our schools. If I had my way, all public school funding would come from the federal government, out of general funds… but that would fall afoul of the traditional “states rights” arguments of the right wing.

    In short, our politics is f*cked up on the education issue, but that doesn’t justify slandering our teachers.

  148. #148 STUARTLEHRER
    May 21, 2008

    I KNOW THIS WILL BE UNPOPULAR (AND PROBABLY ILLEGAL) BUT SCIENCE TEACHERS SHOULD TEACH SCIENCE…AND NOT PERSONALLY BELIEVE IN THE ARRENT NONSENSE OF CREATIONISM OR INTELLIGENT (UN) DESIGN.

    THESE IGNORENT SIMPLISTIC BELIEFS HAVE NO PLACE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION, AND ANY TEACHER WHO FEELS THEY DO HAS NO PLACE INSTRUCTING STUDENTS IN A STATE FUNDED FACILITY.

    SHALL WE TEACH VOODOO BELIEFS NEXT? VOODOO HAS EXACTLY AS MUCH VALIDITY AS CREATIONISM OR INTELLIGENT DESIGN.

    CAN WE ALL FINALLY JUST GROW UP?

  149. #149 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    Uhhh, I think your caps lock was on…

  150. #150 John Phillips, FCD
    May 21, 2008

    Bill Dauphin, another from the UK here and you are right, or at least partly right, as things are far from rosy in the UK. Especially for science teachers, for though biology is well supplied, the dearth of chemistry, physics and IT teachers (there may be other similar subject areas) led to the government offering golden handshakes to science graduates to take teacher training in those subjects as well as a significant salary boost when they actually start as teachers proper.

    However, were we do win over the US is in having a national curriculum, at least for state funded schools, so schools and/or teachers have far less latitude to try and sneak any form of creationism into science. In fact, last year, we had an attempt by what is effectively the UK arm of the Dishonesty Institute to parachute in an ID ‘science’ teaching pack to all English and Welsh secondary schools in an attempt to promote ID into the science classroom. Fortunately, enough interested parties got in touch with the relevant MPs and education ministers that it was quashed at birth. As a bonus, we had the national science curriculum strengthened to explicitly exclude non science frm the science class with ID and creationism being specifically mentioned as not science.

    A small win for rationality, but we have our share of creos in the UK, one rich one running a number of private schools (The Vardi Schools) which do teach creationism as science. However, overall they are a minority and any school that takes sates funds has to comply with the national curriculum. Of course, this won’t stop those determined to get around this in some of the new (yeuch) faith based schools. However, they have to be very careful if they get any state funds.

  151. #151 Donnie B.
    May 21, 2008

    If the reason 48% of Americans believe in creationism is because, in your view, about half of people in any population are below-average intellectually, then why is the percentage of creationists much lower in other developed countries?

    Because all their children are above average?

  152. #152 RatoinalZen
    May 21, 2008

    I think that the article is trying to lead people to a wrong conclusion.

    In the part that says:

    “Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation’s biology teachers are creationist in orientation. Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light.”

    This leads me to believe that one in eight of the 16% are teaching the “Young Earth” belief in a positive light, not one in eight of the total teachers surveyed.

    It just seems inconsistent to go through and article that primarily uses percentages as it’s numeric identifier to stating explicitly 1 in 8, rather than saying something like, “Roughly ..between 12%-13% ……..”

    It’s a small thing, but it would appear that they used a different mechanism to describe the second part in order to differentiate the two.

    It’s pure conjecture but it seems to me that they are trying to lead you down a path so you draw your own conclusion rather than state the explicit fact themselves. If it were me I would have said that roughly 16% of the surveyed teachers believe it, and roughly 13 percent of surveyed teachers actually present it in a positive light. I believe that would have been consistent with the author’s writing style as well, but instead he differentiated, my guess is that it was a a conscious decision to do so.

    All in all I think public education in the US is in shambles, like most federal oversight programs, but it’s not as chicken little as it’s being reported.

  153. #153 Kseniya
    May 21, 2008

    Ooh. Another fine comment by Bill Dauphin in support of public education. My oldest memory of Bill involves another such comment.

    Dude U ROCK. :-D

  154. #154 guinevere
    May 21, 2008

    hhhmm..I do believe in God and science concepts too..with all the religious factions and different cultures in public schools now..(I’m 20 and student taught biology this yr)..I wonder how many parents when they find out a religious concept (that probably isn’t what they believe in) is being taught to their kids..think creationists need to get out of public schools and find jobs at a parochial school that believes as they do..I wouldn’t appreciate a child of mine being told this is how it is science is wrong..I learned about both through church and school made my own decision about what I would believe in as far as science goes

  155. #155 Bill Dauphin
    May 21, 2008

    John Phillips:

    However, were we do win over the US is in having a national curriculum, at least for state funded schools, so schools and/or teachers have far less latitude to try and sneak any form of creationism into science.

    I’d love it if we had a national curriculum, or at least national minimum standards for curricula (didn’t Clinton propose something like that?). But the structural impediment to that is the same as the impediment to federal finding of schools: conservatives’ commitment to the concept of states’ rights. This is a political hangover of our civil war, and has the effect of insulating local prejudices from the more egalitarian influence of the larger national culture.

    This concept f*cks up our politics in many, many ways, and you’d think the mobility (both physical and virtual) of our modern information-age society would render such parochialism obsolete… but somehow the states’ rights model resists all assaults. Personally, I’m at a loss as to how to attack it.

    Kseniya:

    [Blush!]

  156. #156 Bill Dauphin
    May 21, 2008

    D’oh!!

    In my last, “federal finding” should, of course, have been “federal finding“!

  157. #157 James
    May 21, 2008

    I don’t understand the fetish about creationism vs. evolution. Does it really matter in daily life. Can anyone really say 100% certain that there is a God or there is no god? As a nation, do we have nothing more important to focus on? How about the “3 R’s” for starters. If our kids can actually read, they can make up their mind on evolution.

  158. #158 Bill Dauphin
    May 21, 2008

    Oh, I give up. [sigh]

    Isn’t there some “law” about correcting errors on teh intertoobz?

  159. #159 Katrina
    May 21, 2008

    It’s stuff like this that encouraged me to start homeschooling.

    The only time I encountered a YEC Science teacher, he was teaching 12th grade Physics. He was a great Physics teacher, though.

    I can hardly remember my 10th grade Biology teacher. His was not a memorable class, even with a frog dissection.

    My oldest son has been homeschooled this past year for 6th grade. Not for religious reasons (well, I could say it’s against my religion to have a poorly educated child, I suppose). We spend a semester studying Earth Science, and are wrapping up a semester of Astronomy now.

    Next year I plan on homeschooling part-time. He’ll have me for Math, Language Arts, and Critical Thinking/Logic. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his Science class, too. If I don’t think it’s adequate, we’ll be doing Biology at home next year, as well.

  160. #160 Kseniya
    May 21, 2008

    RationalZen:

    This leads me to believe that one in eight of the 16% are teaching the “Young Earth” belief in a positive light, not one in eight of the total teachers surveyed.

    R-Zen, while it’s true that the wording is less than perfectly clear, I don’t share your suspicion.

    I think what the article does is state the conclusion, then offer the data supporting the conclusion; the author varied the word selection to avoid repeating himself.

    Check it out:

    Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation’s biology teachers are creationist in orientation.

    Then the writer offers up some explanation of why the survey “suggests” that some number in the range of 12-16 percent of biology teachers are probably creationists at some level:

    Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light.”

    16% = “roughly one sixth”
    12% = “about one in eight”

    The writer opted for “one in eight” instead of “one eighth” in an attempt to avoid being repetitive.

    If I’m wrong, where did the 12% come from, and why is it mentioned at all?

    It’s not clear how much (if any) overlap there is between the 16% and the 12%.

    Of course, you could be totally right, in which case the article is either poor written, or written by someone who doesn’t understand the statistics.

    I admit that it’s a quibble. If sixteen percent of HS bio teachers believe in a young earth, we’ve got a problem that somehow goes deeper than the problem of how many of them are presenting creationism in a favorable light.

  161. #161 Bill Dauphin
    May 21, 2008

    Katrina:

    I’m sympathetic to your reasons for homeschooling, and I wish you nothing but success, but I’m skeptical about homeschooling generally, for a couple of reasons:

    1. There’s a lot more to the education enterprise than just the transmission of knowledge and skills that takes place in the classroom. Not only do homeschooled kids potentially miss out on extracurriculars and sports (which are a more integrated part of the school experience than many give them credit for), but there’s the harder-to-define, but no less important, social learning that comes from functioning in a large, diverse community of one’s peers. I know that there are some cooperative strategies homeschoolers use to combat these limitations, but to fully answer these objections, homeschooling would pretty much have to turn itself into unlicensed private schools.

    2. While I know homeschooling can have good individual outcomes in terms of students’ success in higher education and careers, I also wonder if it’s possible for homeschooling to accomplish the larger goal of public education, which is not just career training but the production of better citizens… the socialization mentioned above is important not just to the individual students, but to the larger culture as well.

    3. Like school voucher plans and, to a certain extent private schools in general, homeschooling by parents who are worried about the quality of public schools tends to preferentially remove the best students and most engaged families from the public system. This creates a sort of unfortunate “distillation,” leaving behind in the public schools relatively more difficult students and less interested parents, which makes it ever more difficult for poor schools to fix themselves (and, potentially, prompts even more quality students to leave).

    I can’t blame you for wanting to get your kids out of bad schools… but I also can’t help thinking that the whole community would be better off if you and other parents like you instead rolled up your sleeves and got involved in making the bad schools better.

    I don’t mean to be criticizing you personally; just wrestling with a fundamental tension between public and private goods.

  162. #162 Josh
    May 21, 2008

    Isn’t there some “law” about correcting errors on teh intertoobz?

    I don’t know, Bill, but you get +10 points for writing teh intertoobz.

  163. #163 Devad
    May 21, 2008

    Why does it matter what people believe? Let’s face it, if evolution were true and we all came from the slime and when we die, we become dead meat, then why should anyone care about anything? If one responds for the “truth”, then that is appealing to creationism, who says there is such a thing as transcendent truth, but in an evolution view, there is no such thing. So being consistent in an evolution mindset means that no one should care what anyone believes.

  164. #164 Julie Stahlhut
    May 21, 2008

    Kenneth Davis always gets a rowdy response among college seniors when he asks, “How many of you had history teachers whose first name was ‘Coach?

    My CALCULUS teacher’s first name was “Coach.” He was clearly unhappy teaching math, and he presided over the beginning of the end of my once formidable love for the subject.

    In fairness, most of the science and math teachers in my high school were excellent. (Nothing against coaches either — my FIL is a retired one, and is in the Indiana Track and Field Hall of Fame.) And I’m sure Coach Calculus actually did have the formal credentials to teach math. It’s just a pity that they assigned the most advanced math class in the school to someone who didn’t give a crap about teaching anything but sports skills to anyone who wasn’t a varsity-level male athlete.

  165. #165 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    Devad, evolution isn’t a mindset or philosophy any more than gravity is. Evolution doesn’t tell us what to care about. Being evolved doesn’t mean not being human. We’re all still humans, no matter our origins. Don’t you find it odd that you’re telling us what we SHOULD care about if we accept evolution, instead of asking us what we actually care about? I turn to you and ask, if we were all created by a god to worship it for eternity, why should we care about anything else?

  166. #166 Ben
    May 21, 2008

    @ Brandon P

    If the reason 48% of Americans believe in creationism is because, in your view, about half of people in any population are below-average intellectually, than why is the percentage of creationists much lower in other developed countries, as shown by surveys which I recall have been posted on this blog?

    That’s not what I said. I said:

    they are, and will remain, extremely vulnerable to stories with minimal rational content and loaded emotional appeal

    Which is something else entirely. In other countries, the stories are different. Sometimes they’re similar in structure: Hinduism, Islam, Terrorism; sometimes they’re not: Voodoo, Santeria, Shamanism. The story that gets there first is generally the one that wins. In the US, that’s generally Christianity in one form or another, so far, though (the religion of We Must Fear) Terrorism is making great inroads, and in the process discrediting much of the Islam story.

    At a pre-wedding meeting in West Hollywood, FL where a Catholic priest was informing my friends Bob and Dianne how complex Catholicism was, and how hard it was even for smart people to fully understand, I piped up (I was a witness or something equally ridiculous for an atheist) and asked “So why the emphasis on bringing small children into the church?” That man looked me straight in the eye and said “They’re like little ducks, y’see. They tend to follow the first thing they see.”

    I think that pretty much sums it up. Cobble up a good story with a bad guy (or more than one) who has it in for you, a good guy (or more than one) who will do you right if you conform to a rule-set, get the story in there early, and you’ve got a recipe to keep minds in a loop. Not just slower minds, but good minds, too; the thing is, the good minds have the tools to get out relatively easily if they so desire; the slow minds, not so much.

    Intelligence is a factor — but as I mentioned above, so are gullibility, fear, and outright lack of critical thinking skills (and such skills are most often developed over time, not inherent, regardless of your intelligence.)

    My point was made in the context of schooling; the tone here at the time of my post was “save the children” by getting schooling to approximate reality, as science currently understands it. I don’t think you can “save” them as long as the stories are inculcated in these kids well before they ever see a school, a situation that is presently unavoidable; and furthermore, if you could eradicate the myths of Christianity, something else of a similar nature would almost certainly slip in to replace them unless, as I said, you can make them better thinkers overall.

    If the tide turns, socially speaking, the story is told less or it is told as an example of stupidity, gullibility, or failure to reason properly, it loses its attractiveness. England used to be quite religious; not so much any longer, and speaking with English folks, I think they’ve simply turned on the storytellers. That’s not to say they aren’t vulnerable to the next popular story that comes along, they certainly are. Look at the surveillance society they’re embracing now. Stories about how the “good guy” is looking out for you are endlessly appealing to shallow thinkers who rarely, if ever, mentally visit the mundane side effects and consequences. The “bad guy” (“terr’ists”) is as dark as any from a religious / mythological story (and almost as rarely seen.) Bush is in the process of doing the same thing to this country. Faith in someone taking care of you comes in endless varieties; charlatans who will take advantage of same can usually be found nearby.

  167. #167 Devad
    May 21, 2008

    Dennis, if evolution is not a mindset or philosophy, then why does it oppose creation which is a philosophy and mindset? If what you said was true, then evolution can mesh with things like young earth creation. But obviously it can’t.

    Second, evolution doesn’t say to care at all and what is this “being human” comment? Are you agreeing with the creationists that humans are special and not animals? Sounds like you are a closet creationist, or on the verge of changing your religion. In evolution, humans and mosquitoes are no different.

    What I find odd is that you are trying to tell me what to care about and this article and all the comments are people trying to force their view onto everyone else – so why should you or anyone care. In an evolutionary mindset, I can do whatever I want and the most powerful wins. That’s natty selection if you aren’t strong enough then tough.

    With your comment “asking us what we actually care about”, who are you to play God and set the rules. I’m not your puppet. With evolution, there is no reason to care what anyone else cares about. Caring what other people think is a Christian concept of loving they neighbor …maybe you are a creationist.

    With regards to your god comment, what “god” are you talking about – the God of the Bible? Where does the Bible say that all were created to worship it? Even a remedial reading of the Bible will show that isn’t even close to what it says. If people want to be real evolutionists, then they need to live it – no marriage (that’s Christian), no caring (that’s Christian), self first to survive, lie to get ahead (lying being wrong is a Christian concept), and so on. Stop being such a compromised evolutionist…

  168. #168 Nick Gotts
    May 21, 2008

    Re #163. Devad – you’re an idiot. You can perfectly well see from this site, among many other places, that very, very few evolutionists or atheists agree with your peculiar viewpoint that if we evolved and are not immortal this means nothing matters. Should that not at least have caused you to reflect, and perhaps notice that you had made no attempt whatever to provide an argument for this supposed implication?

    Re #167. Ah. “idiot” was clearly too generous a term.
    Caring what other people think is a Christian concept of loving they neighbor
    Are you really vile enough to believe, or pretend to believe, that people other than Christians do not care what others think, and love others? Yeuch.

  169. #169 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    Devad, you do not get a monopoly on caring or marriage or anything else. All those things existed before Christianity. You can lay claim to eating little wafers as the body of your god if you want…oh, wait, that existed before Christianity too. Same with a dying and rising god. See Mithraism. Evolution proposes creation in that evolution makes predictions about that world that are true when test, and creation makes predictions that are wrong when tested. That’s science. That’s reality. That’s not how I view the world, that’s how the world is. It does not mean we should act like might makes right.

    Humans being special does not imply creation. We evolved intelligence and self-awareness, through evolution. That is what makes us special.

    Trust me, I’m not on the verge of converting from no religion to religion. But, I would if I was presented with any valid evidence. The problem is that no one has any.

    With your comment “asking us what we actually care about”, who are you to play God and set the rules. I’m not your puppet. With evolution, there is no reason to care what anyone else cares about. Caring what other people think is a Christian concept of loving they neighbor …maybe you are a creationist.

    You set up a strawman telling us that we don’t believe anything matters if we accept evolution, instead of actually checking what we do believe. You accomplished nothing but beating up on a false idea. Again, loving your neighbor is not Christian. That was around a long time before 2,000 BCE. You’ll notice animals in social groups love their neighbers, and they can’t read the bible.

  170. #170 Dennis N
    May 21, 2008

    I meant: “Evolution OPPOSES creation in that evolution makes predictions about that world that are true when test, and creation makes predictions that are wrong when tested.”

  171. #171 CJO
    May 21, 2008

    Dennis, if evolution is not a mindset or philosophy, then why does it oppose creation which is a philosophy and mindset?

    What opposes what now? If Christianity is not a political orientation, then why does it oppose Stalinism, which is a political orientation? See your stupidity, moron? Creationism is the “philosophy and mindset” that has as its entire focus how harmful, evil, and just plain wrong evolution is. The mindset that opposes it most directly is called intellectual honesty. When committed to, a clear concomitant is acceptance of evolution as currently the best explanation available for the diversity of the biosphere.

    If people want to be real evolutionists, then they need to live it – no marriage (that’s Christian), no caring (that’s Christian), self first to survive, lie to get ahead (lying being wrong is a Christian concept), and so on. Stop being such a compromised evolutionist…

    Do you god-bothering lackwits have to be ignorant of everything?

    Jeezus.

  172. #172 Julie Stahlhut
    May 21, 2008

    If people want to be real evolutionists, then they need to live it – no marriage … no caring … self first to survive, lie to get ahead …

    Let’s see — break all ties with people, treat other folks like crap, and make oneself totally untrustworthy, obnoxious, and generally horrible to be around — now THERE’S a way to thrive, prosper, and leave lots of descendants. Not.

    (that’s Christian)^3

    Have you ever actually met a person who was not Christian? It sounds like you really should get out more.

  173. #173 Wowbagger
    May 21, 2008

    Leigh #131

    I wrote: But I know a number of university-educated people who are strong Xians . . .
    When your worldview can allow you to believe that your beloved deity would ‘fake’ evidence (fossils) to test your faith, that scientists would lie for the sake of it, or that anyone challenging your beliefs is an agent of Satan you’re pretty much immune to anything contrary.

    Leigh wrote:

    Is that what your well-educated Christian friends believe?…I can’t say I know anybody at all who holds that view.

    My apologies; I didn’t explain myself very well. It isn’t that my Xian friends have told me that that’s why they’re religious in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’ve never actually asked them about why they’re Xians, nor have they ever asked me why I’m not. It’s not something that comes up in conversation – people tend to keep their faith (or lack thereof) to themselves around here. It was a simplification of speculation on my part – speculation that’s coming across as assumptions, for which I plead the laziness defence and apologise.

    I wish I could ask them how they do it. I can’t even being to understand what it’s like to believe. But it’s almost impossible to do without someone getting offended.

    Anyway, what I listed was some of the ‘reasons’ I’ve heard for people choosing to ignore scientific evidence that contradicts the Bible.

    But with that – the scientific evidence against Bible literalism – in mind, how else does one maintain one’s belief other than one or more of the options that I included? Either science is wrong, the bible (as written) is wrong because it was written by humans without 100% divine inspiration (i.e. they made at least some of it up), or the bible is wrong because that’s the way god wanted it – i.e. to ‘test our faith’.

    And as we’re well aware, the creationists are quite happy to claim that ‘evolutionists’ are all part of a conspiracy to maintain their dominance over science, and that evolution is only a poorly supported ‘theory’.

    Sure, there aren’t too many people out there who claim that any challenges to Xianity are thanks to Satan, but there are some. Sam Harris claims survey data that shows that 68% of the US population believe he exists.

    Wow. They must have a really dark view of God, if so.

    I don’t know how anyone could honestly believe in God and not have a dark view of him. All I do is think of what’s happened recently in Burma and China, and that assures me that there’s nothing ‘just’ or ‘all-loving’ out there watching over us.

  174. #174 Mark Chandler
    May 21, 2008

    I am a Special Education Teacher, I teach Emotionally Disturbed middle and high school students. I teach in rural Northern New York State. In the program I taught in a couple of years ago, I (or my assistant) would attend the mainstream classes with the students who could mainstream, so we could reteach the material as needed. I always attended the Science classes.

    I found that the Ninth Grade Earth Science teacher had a small table in the front of the classroom covered in Young Earth Creationist tracts. They were never referred to in class, as far as I heard. But they were there!

  175. #175 Kseniya
    May 21, 2008

    Wow, Devad (#167), that’s one of the most mind-numbingly stupid comments I’ve read in… well, hours!

    Hmmm. Okay, maybe not. There are other possibilities. You may be either:

  176. - remarkably obtuse
  177. - contemptibly dishonest, or
  178. - a clumsy satirist (in which case I must at least say, “Nice try.”)
  • #176 Wowbagger
    May 21, 2008

    Devad #167

    What I find odd is that you are trying to tell me what to care about and this article and all the comments are people trying to force their view onto everyone else

    Devad, you tell the atheist who’s got you tied up and is forcing you at gunpoint to view the posts on this blog that he’s not going to achieve anything.

    What’s that? There isn’t any gun-toting atheist? But…I don’t understand…how, then, are we trying to force our views by posting on a blog that you are choosing to read?

    Don’t you believe in free will?

    As my Hitchhiker’s namesake was wont to say: you’re a jerk, Devad. A complete asshole.

    Let science classrooms be for science, not magic. You’ve got plenty of hours left in the week to lie to the children if you so wish. It’s blatantly obvious that you’re all so afraid that teaching people the truth will mean they’ll discard your rotten Bronze-age nonsense and deprive you of the justification for hatred that your small, vicious minds enjoy so much.

  • #177 cyan
    May 21, 2008

    David,

    Please follow this simple analogy (and realize there is never a perfect analogy). It was created in an effort to try to help you look at a topic which you may have formerly reserved from analytical and logical thinking into looking at it analytically and logically, even if just a bit.

    “I am alive. To remain alive, I must eat food. The food that I eat has enabled me to remain alive. Therefore, the food that I eat is what is necessary for all to ingest to remain alive”

    Do you see the illogic in the above conclusion?

    Now, consider that there is wisdom in some of the teachings of christianity. This wisdom is present in other religions, as well as in the thinking of beaucoup people with no religion.

    Ie, christianity is not the only diet which contains macromolecules which are essential nutrients.

    Lots of what we put in our mouths comes out the other end: molecules for which our bodies have no use: crap.

    Again, analogous to some aspects of every religion.

    A perfect food would be one which contains every molecule essential for life and no molecules that are not essential for life, and one whose molecules would not be converted to ones which are potentially harmful to the organism if consumed in excess.

    But, at the current time, there is no perfect food.

    There is no cultural diet that is perfect, but many that are sufficient to maintain life. Any cultural diet has come about because it has been sufficient to maintain life with the substances available to that culture.

    Current scientific knowledge helps explain why cultural diets are sufficient but not perfect, and why the diverse diets are sufficient, even though diverse. And what modifications can be done to improve each cultural diet to maximize availability of nutrients and minimize potential hazards.

    Okay, now can you shrug off the tough spore-capsule of mysticism and unquestionable authority around your religious belief and apply this imperfect analogy to it in some way?

    I understand if you are either unable or unwilling to do so.

    It’s so much easier and comforting to envision an omnicient, logical being in charge of a world that only appears illogical to the promotion of individual well-being, but in the end is actually promoting human well-being,

    than to envision a world that functions due to mechanisms that exist without regard to the well-being of individual humans: just exist because that is what has occurred.

    Let’s each of us try to be more objective than we formerly have been: which view of these views is that which has resulted and now results in a benefit to the whole of current & future humanity (whose future welfare depends on a large extent on other organisms)?

    Summary:
    David, christianity embraces many ideals that were incorporated by many religions created before christianity and after. These ideals are also fundamental to many people who have no religion. What all of these ideals which are common to all these factions is that there is a benefit, in their activation, to human societies. The ideals in a single religion which are not universally common in all religions and in the ideologies of those without a religion: not necessary or beneficial to the existence of the individual human existence.

    Accept what is, try to perceive patterns that might lead to the understanding of the mechanisms of why what is, is.
    Then try to apply those perceived patterns in a creative manner to make the world more accommodating to current & future humans. (scientific view)

    Instead of: this is what the world would be like if it were best for me, so this is what the world is really like, and its just because others don’t believe this that my belief is not the current reality. (religious view)

  • #178 Anne
    May 22, 2008

    OK, I have a question. Are we going backwards in our education process? Is the conservative right winning the battle? The reason I ask is that when I took high school biology, and throughout college all of this nonsense about religion in schools, ID, and young earth was a non issue. I came out of high school biology and then college with a firm understanding of evolution, and with creationism debunked. As I recall, creationism was simply not included as a valid explanation for the creation of the earth or life on earth. Now, admittedly I attended public high school and college longer ago than I really care to think about. At the risk of dating myself, I was in high school in the late fifties. My question is whether I was luckily in an environment that was uniquely progressive, or, more likely, is the religious element more effectively infiltrating our educational institutions? I would like to hear what others have to say about this question. Thanks for an excellent blog. anne

  • #179 Ichthyic
    May 22, 2008


    Dennis, if evolution is not a mindset or philosophy, then why does it oppose creation which is a philosophy and mindset?

    If a wall stops a bullet, is the wall a projectile?

    Logic: you’re doing it wrong.

  • #180 Ichthyic
    May 22, 2008

    are we going backwards in our education process? Is the conservative right winning the battle?

    no, I don’t think so.

    If you look at all the related gallup poll data (same questions as above, applied to the public at large) for the last 20 years, it hasn’t really changed much.

    I think what is happening, is that people are finally getting tired of seeing the idiocy of creationism taught, and have started raising a quiet (out of the media eye) stink about it, which then causes the fundies to be more reactionary (and much more vocal), and thus the media senses controversy and gives it a lot of exposure.

    There is also the fact that certain political parties (*cough*neocons*cough*) have utilized this issue (anti-science) and issues like homosexuality as hotbutton issues to energize their fundie voting base for several decades now, so while I don’t think there are more fundies than before, the issues also get more press because of the deliberate politicization of them.

    as to your particular education, i rather think it is more important where you got your education than when, which would explain why you feel evolution was well covered when you got your secondary education.

  • #181 Ichthyic
    May 22, 2008

    Do you god-bothering lackwits have to be ignorant of everything?

    actually the answer is yes, and willfully in most cases.

    It’s a bloody house of cards, after all.

  • #182 Devad
    May 22, 2008

    Hmmm…Stirred the pot a little…and most arguments could easily be refuted, I noticed two common arguments presented against the post:

    1. The subtle and not so subtle arguments that morality actually does exist
    2. Name-calling (and if that is best argument, then no one has refuted what I said)

    If dome overarching morality exists, it is borrowed from the Bible and can’t be accounted for outside of it, and the Christians know this: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/04/14/evolution-challenge-of-morality

    Just few comments though and then I’m not responding again:

    1. Wowbagger and his appeal to a “will”. Loud and clear: evolution teaches that our wills are just chemical reactions that are forced to do what they do. And if all you can do is call names, such first grade antics make me laugh. Next having a dark view of God: I can tell you haven’t read the first three chapters of the Bible. You blame God for disasters in Burma, etc. and think “god must be mean to make the world like this and inflict pain and death” but Christians often point that God didn’t make it like this and because of human sin (not Satan’s), that is why the world was cursed and broken. That’s why Christ came. That’s why Christians often appeal to salvation from this world and claim to inherit a new heavens and a new earth that will again be perfect. If you are going to talk theology, then at least get it right, because you look bad when you don’t. In the same why when evolutionists botch what evolution says loud and clear.
    2. Cyan: what are you doing trying to appeal to immaterial things like when you say “objective” and try to use logic? What you perceive as logic is just a chemical reaction in the brain, and everyone’s is different. So what is “true” for you is not true for everyone. If truth is transcendent to all, then it is immaterial. If that is case, then maybe there is a God…that is if you are teaching that there is an immaterial realm which materialist reject a priori. If you are saying there is a God then, you need to re-think your life.
    3. Ichthyic: “If a wall stops a bullet, is the wall a projectile? A Christian can revert this right back to you where the Bible could be the wall and projectile is evolution.
    4. Kseniya: do you think “honesty” really exists? Once again you are appealing to some absolute moral code i.e. borrowing form the Bible.
    5. Denis, creationists can make predictions about the world too: i.e. Russ Humphreys correctly predicted the magnetic fields of Neptune and Uranus. So be careful how you try to use that argument. Creationists can use it too. Next, you said: “Again, loving your neighbor is not Christian. That was around a long time before 2,000 BCE.” Duh: Moses said it (Leviticus 19:18) and Jesus’ repeated comment was merely recorded in the NT. Moses said it 1500 years before the date you cite. But typical, you obviously don’t know much about Christianity and the Bible. Jesus is the Creator (hence around much earlier than 2,000 BCE) and morality stems (such as loving they neighbor) from character of God (Jesus). So the characteristic of loving thy neighbor goes back to dawn of time in a Christian view. In an evo view hate is no different from love. Some may cite animals loving but animals also rape, hate, murder each other and so on. So if anyone is going to appeal to animals for morality, then be consistent.
    6. CJO: Stalin was an evolutionist and so was Hitler. They lived their lives understanding what evolution meant.

  • #183 Nick Gotts
    May 22, 2008

    If truth is transcendent to all, then it is immaterial. If that is case, then maybe there is a God. – Devad

    Your train of argument here is unclear. Many immaterial things are nonetheless real: numbers, algorithms, spatial tesselations, topological relationships, preferences, sensations, thoughts… as well as truth (in the wholly unmystical and lower-case sense of the semantic property common to all and only true propositions). None of those we know of, however, are supernatural. It’s true that “maybe there is a God”, if by “God” you just mean an intelligent creator of the universe. Yes, it’s logically possible. Maybe there are fairies living in my compost bin. Maybe there are unicorns on Mars. There’s just no particular reason to take any of these fantasies seriously. However, if by “God” you mean an omnipotent and benevolent being, worthy (by that combination of omnipotence and benevolence) of human worship, then the evidence is overwhelming that no such being exists.

    In an evo view hate is no different from love.
    You persist in asserting ignorant and offensive nonsense such as this. There is an enormous multidisciplinary research literature on how cooperation and altruistic behaviour can evolve and persist through both biological and cultural processes: you could try Axelrod’s “The Evolution of Cooperation” for a first taster, although it’s not state-of-the-art. However, I know well enough you won’t.

  • #184 Dennis N
    May 22, 2008

    Hitler was a Christian too. And he lived his life understanding Christianity. I don’t see your point.

    If dome overarching morality exists, it is borrowed from the Bible and can’t be accounted for outside of it

    That is wrong. Morality does exist, but it doesn’t follow that it is from the Bible and can’t be accounted for outside of it. It clearly can be. Watch chimps interact in their social groups. As I pointed out before, they can’t read the bible. Also, look at every other civilization that has ever existed that hasn’t been Christian. They had and have morals. It’s supremely arrogant of you to try and usurp them and claim their morality came from your god.

    Dennis, creationists can make predictions about the world too: i.e. Russ Humphreys correctly predicted the magnetic fields of Neptune and Uranus. So be careful how you try to use that argument. Creationists can use it too.

    The problem here, is that they are making predictions today and those predictions are wrong. The Earth was not made 6,000 years ago. The Exodus never occurred. Again, you haven’t made any real point. So what, they got something right in a sea of wrong? Science is getting it right, and discarding what it finds out to be wrong. Creationists are discarding anything that contradicts their beliefs.

  • #185 tony (not a vegan)
    May 22, 2008

    Devad@182: If dsome overarching morality exists, it is borrowed from the Bible and can’t be accounted for outside of it

    You use words but obviously don’t understand them.

    morality is NOT a biblical artifact.

    Humans are social creatures – and have a social morality.

    Our social morality is an evolutionary adaptation to ‘living together’. Our evolutionary adaptations are at the core of our innate tribalism – but we also have incredibly flexible brains that we can re-program… we are not blindly instinctual. We can make our ‘tribes’ encompass everyone. Some however don’t seem to want to make that effort.

    Why not try reading something other than the bibble? But then you’ve already demonstrated an inability to parse english properly, so that would likely be a futile exercise.

    Tony.

  • #186 Etha Williams
    May 22, 2008

    @#182 Davead —

    Your assertion that ethics/morality in general and the ethics of reciprocity (“love your neighbor”) is solely within the domain of Christianity is utterly ridiculous. Leaving aside the hilarious theological retconning to explain how the Levitical commandment is also Jesus’, the ethic of reciprocity is part of nearly every belief system and has been explored and refined by various philosophers (Thales, Kant, Shaw, etc). The ethic of reciprocity — and with it the ethic that one should not lie, murder, rape, etc — is essential to the creation and maintenance of any functional social group, particularly the complex ones humans have formed. Our ethics are not part of the “character of Jesus.” They’re a part of the character of humanity.

    And then there’s this:

    Stalin was an evolutionist and so was Hitler. They lived their lives understanding what evolution meant.

    No, no, and no. Stalin supported a weird brand of russified Lamarckism (“Lysenko-Minchurinism“) because he claimed that Darwin’s theory was too “reactionary” and “idealistic.” Stalin had many prominent geneticists executed in the Purges, and in 1948 officially declared the study of genetics a “bourgeois pseudoscience.” Prior to that, it had been discouraged as a “fascist science” based on the same Darwin/Hitler arguments your ilk are so fond of using.

    As for Hitler, “Darwinist” books were among those that were burned during the Nazi regime; listed on Die Bucherei was:

    6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel).

    Hitler himself believed in the creationist notion of kinds:

    The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. (Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. xi)

    And that man and his faculties were created by god, not the result of mere neurochemicals:

    For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. (Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x)

    So no, neither Stalin nor Hitler were “evolutionists,” and certainly neither had the faintest idea what that meant.

  • #187 Kseniya
    May 22, 2008

    Devad:

    Evolution teaches us that we’re just biological robots? LOL. No. Try educating yourself before making such empty, malformed claims.

    Once again you are appealing to some absolute moral code i.e. borrowing form the Bible.

    You can’t even see what a ridiculous claim you’re making? Good grief. You think honesty, marriage, love only exist in the Christian world? What myopic arrogance! What insulting foolishness! Hey, I was raised Christian, I’m not particularly insulted, personally — I just think your “argument” is extremely narrow-minded and simplistic to the point of incoherency.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that… ;-)

    If you’d like more detail than that, I’ll be happy to supply it, but I see others have already done some of that work for me. Thank you, Others!

  • #188 Kseniya
    May 22, 2008

    (Note to self: Cut back on feeding into the vacuous sophistry of pseudo-intellectual theists.)

  • #189 CJO
    May 22, 2008

    What a truly reprehensible piece of shit you are, Devad.

    Your utter inability to fashion even a coherent sentence, much less anything resembling an argument, obviates any need to consider your position as anything other than the ignorant mumblings of a vituperative, deluded moron.

    I can only take solace in the fact that beliefs like yours are a source of shame to the vast majority of your fellow Christians.

  • #190 Eric
    May 22, 2008

    Devad trolled:

    if evolution were true and we all came from the slime and when we die, we become dead meat, then why should anyone care about anything?

    …because I want my children to grow up happy, healthy, prosperous and free to pursue their interests? Y’know, that whole “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” thing.

    evolution doesn’t say to care at all

    Nope, it doesn’t. Neither does the law of gravity. Neither does the manual for my car. That’s because these are all descriptions of how parts of the physical world work, not moral precscriptions. Please get it through your head that athiests do not think natural selection is morally “right” any more than they think down is a morally right direction, or the statement “your tank holds 15 gallons” is morally right.
    Moral codes are about how one ought to act. Evolution, Gravity, Quantum Mechanics, and the manual for my car are about how the physical world operates. No moral lesson is contained in them.

    If [some] overarching morality exists, it is borrowed from the Bible and can’t be accounted for outside of it, and the Christians know this:

    1. You don’t speak for all Christians…or are you of the opinion that anyone who disagrees with you is not a real Christian?

    2. It is simply factually wrong to claim an overarching morality can’t be accounted for outside of the bible. Unless you think the Torah or Bible was magically teleported to Australia or the Americas, their moral codes developed completely independently of Jewish or Christian thought before the 1500s, and therefore CAN be accounted for outside of it (the bible).

    Please, I really would love to know, tell me how you think the overarching moral codes of the Australian aborigines or the Incans, or Mayans, or Sioux, or Inuit were borrowed from the bible?

  • #191 Kseniya
    May 22, 2008

    “your tank holds 15 gallons”

    Eric, I think it’s far more likely that Devad’s tank holds a couple of quarts, tops.

  • #192 JeffreyD
    May 22, 2008

    Oh for Zoraster’s sake, Devad is just something you pick up on your shoe in a city with a large dog population. He has had his five minutes of interest, scrape off your shoe and try to ignore the smell that lingers behind.

    Ciao

    Yep, awakened from a nap by the phone, so yes…grumpy!

  • #193 Kseniya
    May 22, 2008

    Please, I really would love to know, tell me how you think the overarching moral codes of the Australian aborigines or the Incans, or Mayans, or Sioux, or Inuit were borrowed from the bible?

    Yes, a good question. And what about those of the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Hindu, or the moral codes of all the hominids who lived, loved, worked alongside each other in social groups for several million years before the first line of Genesis was even imagined, let alone penned?

    Why doesn’t the average Bible-thumper think to ask these excruciatingly obvious questions himself? Could it be because his own worldview is so short-sighted, so limited, so shallow and narrow that it cannot tolerate views or answers any broader or deeper than the thimble into which such a worldview could so easily fit?

  • #194 Richard
    May 23, 2008

    I’m going to open myself up to ridicule for this, but I have to put it out there. I am a fairly religious person and I have no problem with evolution. I love science and am a very critical thinker, and it only seems logical that religion and science would work hand in hand. I think it’s funny that this comment section pulls people from both sides of the argument completely discounting the other’s viewpoint. Just because you beleive in God does not mean you are not as smart as the “educated” people who so quickly bash the Christian God. Just because you beleive in evolution does mean that you don’t posses a simple moral code to live and interact with your fellow humans.

    My two cents…
    I beleive that a perfect God would not create a world or a universe that so strongly relied on scientific principles, only to break them to create man. I once was stuck in a car where two idiots said that dinosaur bones must have come from other planets that God used to create the Earth…REALLY??? I was also forced to sit through a scientific course where the jackass Professor singled out a confessed Christian to tell them how the Bible was 100% incorrect because of a few stories/allegories that defied science…again, REALLY??? I believe that God would most definately follow the laws of science when creating humans, not to test our faith as others have proposed, but because it makes sense. Is it really that hard to beleive that book that contains beautiful stories meant to teach lessons would contain a moment by moment account of the history of the earth.

    I beleive that on the “First Day” God did some amazing shit. I also beleive that to God a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years. I am perfectly happy beleiving in both God and Science.

  • #195 Kseniya
    May 23, 2008

    Richard, I believe that makes you a member of the vast majority – though the fundies and creationists seem to be growing in number each year. Or so it seems.

  • #196 the strangest brew
    July 10, 2008

    From the perspective of the totally unenlightened…

    American fascination for the overtly religious content in day to day life seems to be more of a situation created by the historical context of first world Christianity….that if you have an overt Christian religious outlook you are …
    A)…Not a witch
    B)…Not a warlock
    C)…Not Satanic
    D)…Moral
    E)…A pillar of society
    F)…Truthful
    G)…Trustworthy
    E)…Have family values
    F)…Completely electable

    And that is only the view from the moderates in the Christian faith…
    But it does no obvious harm if even some moderates flirt with the evangelical/fundamentalist clan…in fact it is almost de rigour in politics to pretend some allegiance to fundamentalist principles…the premise of the Genesis myth is never really challenged openly anywhere…if anything it is conveniently ignored …helps generate support in the marginals…
    And not only in the U.S…

    The point being that it seems that every bunny that praises the lord does so because they seem to think everyone else expects them to…and in a way so they do…that is the dichotomy ..it is what is expected from them…a kind of social trap that is very difficult to extricate themselves from…takes a very brave American to break the mould and stand up to proclaim a status of Atheist…because the American social tradition is god and apple pie and mum…

    Tis a difficult habit to shake methinks…because the large institutions and government are staffed at the top by the older more staunch god fearing white anglo saxon wabbits that have known little else to shake their scaffolding of religious construct…

    The ID/Creationist bunnies have… for some time… had education… specifically Science education… as a main target to infiltrate…the aim is to cast doubt and cynicism on the theory of evolution…being the only theory that removes…quite comprehensively…any deity from the recipe…whether it be Jehovah or Zeus…thus totally disarming their delusion at point one…
    No other theory currently in scientific circulation has quite that import…these bunnies rarely have a go at gravitational theory…preferring to boast that Newton was a Christian instead…
    Thing about Charles Darwin is that half of them think he was Atheist and the other half prefer the story that he recanted on his death bed….and so it goes…

    The evolutionary theory also dings their bell on other levels as well…tis a blow against their ego’s to admit they are a descendant from the great ape branch of evolution…that to them renders the possibility that are not quite as special as the bible/god declared them to be…that they are not in fact placed above the beasts in the field… and that will not do…apparently…

    Anyway their stated aim reiterated on any web site or media outlet is to discredit evolution and replace it with their preferred version of events…under the guise of fairness and balance…
    Balance to what I wonder and fairness to whom…?

    I do not think that creationism has the actual brain power or guile to be devious enough to actually mount a coordinated infiltration…but the ID bunnies have…that is the real concern…because both tribes are really one….and that one is extremely well funded…

    ID is a wounded animal at the moment…not having a lot of joy at the courts these days….but if the polls are correct…and given a tad of statistical correction are probably not far off…the possibility of pressuring these ID/Creationist leaning biology teachers…into a concerted effort to do their bit for Jesus…

    This kind of suggestion will be delivered more as a direct message from their god…or so it will intimated… rather then as a request…it might be the defining moment that will either cement the premise of secularity or promote the theist position of anti-Darwinism…

    Religious affliction is an insidious movement…it gets everywhere…and the poll is not really surprising…but it is a worry cos it will galvanise it’s loins to do battle …in a concerted attempt…at the moment they depend and draw comfort from surreptitious promotion of their waffle in certain regions by their clones…when push comes to shove they will try and try again to make it general policy everywhere it is what they are angling for…a lot of grief will ensue…and a lot of nonsense will flow…and the loser will be science education and ultimately scientific research…

    A YEC biology teacher is not a fact to inspire confidence in science education…simple like so…

  • #197 Dale Headley
    July 22, 2008

    As a teacher for 36 years, including middle school science, I can honestly say I never met a teacher who understood evolution. And that includes science teachers, none of whom in my district taught evolution, because it offended their religious beliefs. One science teacher told me that her college professor claimed that nearly all all scientists believed in God.

  • #198 Johnb300m
    July 23, 2008

    There was a comment about tertiary education. Yes our tertiary education is just as weak as our primary and secondary.
    However, I’m PROUD to say that over here at Northern Illinois University, our BIO dept. has a professor that teaches a course called “Evolution and the Creationist Challenge.”
    Yes it’s on our side.
    And the Education dept here actually requires all Bio/science teachers to take that course.

    Sadly the prof is retiring in a few years, I hope the class continues. I took it with him, it was wonderful and depressing at the same time.

  • The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.