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August 11, 2005

Schadenfreude in Kansas

Lord knows it's wrong of me, but I'm always just a little bit delighted when entire states sabotage the educations of their children for no particularly good reason. As you know I have a child of my own, and by the time she gets to college age competition for the good schools will be fierce. Anything that knocks out hundreds of thousands of potential competitors in one fell swoop is a cause for celebration.

Yes, I'm sad that in the long run it means we'll just have several hundred thousand additionally poorly educated adults puttering about. But as I'm fond of noting, ignorant is not the same as stupid, and one can hope these folks can be made aware of the causes of their ignorance. After all, it seems possible that not every one of those hundreds of thousands of poorly educated adults will be pleased at the people who put them at a competitive disadvantage to my daughter (and other children whose parents are skeptical that a loving God, should he, she or it exist, would prefer followers to possess a lemur-like level of knowledge), and will respond accordingly. One may hope.

In the meantime, my kid will be kicking their academic asses up and down the road. It's an unfair advantage she has (but not too unfair, as Ohio is one the dumbass states that ignorantly confuses religious agendae for science, so we'll have to work with that), but I'm certainly not going to penalize my own daughter because other people seem content to enforce ignorance on other children. I'll just point it out to her as it happens and remind her that one of the worst things she can do to herself is let other people make her ignorant because they can't handle not being ignorant themselves. I point it out to her already.

So go, Kansas, go! You know, the heliocentric theory of solar system physics is lookin' kind of shaky. Go after that next. That'll up Athena's Ivy chances for sure. "Hey, here's a kid from the Midwest who is not as credulous as a pig," the admissions officers will say, and then reach for the thick packet. God bless them for it. And God bless Kansas, too.

Posted by john at August 11, 2005 01:18 PM

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Comments

Lauren McLaughlin | August 11, 2005 02:45 PM

As far as I’m concerned a god who blesses a bunch of stubborn dumbasses who voted for an upper class overlord who will screw them and their children to make his rich cronies richer, is a god with a sense of humor and I applaud him/her.

Trevin | August 11, 2005 02:45 PM

As a Kansas ex-pat, I think I'm speaking for a vast number of fellow Kansans (both current and former) to say that we're quite embarassed that...once again...our home state has become a national joke. These people don't speak for all of us, and my guess is that in another year these yahoos will (once again, as they were after the 1999 incident) be kicked out of office and the policy reversed. However, I must say that these are only guidelines - my parents are educators in KS and they have made it more than clear that they will not be teaching intelligent design, nor will other teachers be required to do so. Moreover, these guidelines do not say that evolution should not be tought at all. People get all wrapped up about something that really is rather trivial. Embarassing? Sure. But in the long run, most Kansas students will be just the same as students across the rest of the country. So...I think it's a bit soon to say that KS students will suddenly be "more stupid" than other students. Sorry to rant, but...many of us just don't understand why people seem to believe that as a result of all this, science won't be taught and all teachers in the state will be required to deny evolution. They won't. They just won't get in trouble if they -also- present alternatives.

That said...here's looking forward to throwing them out on the street again next year.

RooK | August 11, 2005 02:52 PM

It seems doubtful that it is purely coincidence that the very people most ardently against evolutionary theory happen to also be the ones whose genes are most at risk from being kicked out of the pool.

"Hey Ma, watch this!" being a common yet unrecognized cry of natural selection.

RooK | August 11, 2005 02:55 PM

Waitaminute. Athena's got an IN-N-OUT Burger t-shirt?! Lucky.

Jon | August 11, 2005 03:27 PM

Ah, they're just trying to make "What's the matter with Kansas?" the new license plate logo.

John Scalzi | August 11, 2005 03:36 PM

Trevin says:

"However, I must say that these are only guidelines"

Undoubtedly many Kansas educators and parents will work to keep science the main topic of discussion in science classrooms, and good on them for that.

It does not take away from the fact that Kansas is likely to approve to use of politically-motiviated, religious-based disinformation in science classrooms, or that some school districts and educators will avail themselves of the option to use it. That fact places all of Kansas' science education under suspicion. Educators should not have to be made to go out of their way to teach good science, and schoolchildren should not be made to labor under the impression their education was inferior, thanks to the work of the ignoramuses on the school board.

You also touch briefly on another problem, which is that people only seem to pay attention to school boards after they've been populated by religious morons.* The religious morons, on the other hand, are paying attention to the school boards all the time. The fact that the religious morons made it back on the Kansas Board of Education after being deposed brings that point into sharp relief. This is not blaming Kansas for this; it happens elsewhere, too. But it's a reminder to people who are not religious morons that they have to keep paying attention.

* Just in case people are new to me and this site: Not everyone who is religious is a moron (and not all morons are religious).

John H | August 11, 2005 03:40 PM

What's the Matter With Kansas - the book - is what I'm currently reading. Fascinating and funny, yet at the same time rather appalling and frightening to know our current 'leaders' are from the same deranged bunch...

MinstrelOfFunk | August 11, 2005 03:44 PM

This flash video seems apropriate. Good ol' MC Hawking.

Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 11, 2005 04:07 PM

"Kansas: Inheriting The Wind Since 2005."

Brian Greenberg | August 11, 2005 04:43 PM

Uh, folks....

Given that there are folks out there who believe in Intelligent Design, and given that some of these folks have enough support in various parts of the country to get put in responsible positions (i.e., it's not just a crazy fringe), wouldn't it be fair to say that when the subject of evolution came up in school, we'd be making our kids ignorant if we didn't teach them that there are other theories out there?

I'm dead set against replacing evolution with ID, and I'm mostly set against giving them anywhere near equal time (since evolution is the accepted science), but I'm fine with mentioning both in the classroom. What's wrong with giving the kids as much information about what's in their world as possible?

Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 11, 2005 04:56 PM

What's wrong with giving the kids as much information about what's in their world as possible?

Pardon me, my andrenal gland just went into hyperdrive. (This is just one of those issues for me.) I'll try to control myself and I'd like to make it clear that I'm not attacking you.

This isn't about "teaching alternate theories." This is about undermining science. All the scientific evidence points to evolution, so that's what you teach. You don't teach something else just because "people believe in it." People can be wrong very easily. In fact, in science, they usually are. This isn't about religion, this isn't about God, and this isn't about belief. This is about science. The moment you say "no, you can't teach what science says in a science class," or more accurately "you must teach this unscientifically-based theory in science class," you've defeated the definition. The effect of this proposal is to weaken the state of science classes in Kansas and nothing else.

John Scalzi | August 11, 2005 04:58 PM

Brian Greenberg:

"What's wrong with giving the kids as much information about what's in their world as possible?"

In this particular case because ID is junk science, the fundamental tenents of which have been shown again and again by evolutionary biologists (i.e., the experts in the field) to be full of crap. If ID proponents had any sort of academic honesty at all, they would have tossed aside their model years ago. Spending any real time on ID in science classes and particularly positing it as a going discussion in evolutionary biology circles, takes away from the teaching of science which has been extensively tested and vetted.

I have no objection to discussing ID in science classrooms, so long as it's discussed in the same way as Lamarckian eveolution and Lysenkoism, which is to say: examples of bad science, and in the latter case, of bad science in the service of ideology. In both of these cases, the amount spent on these subjects is relatively small, and correctly so.

Tor | August 11, 2005 05:01 PM

The quick answer is that evolution should be taught in science classrooms - and ID should be taught in social studies or theology. ID isn't science, and shouldn't be treated as such. ID fans are always going around saying that evolution is a 'theory.' In science class, students should learn about the difference between a scientific theory (like gravity) and an everyday theory (I think so-and-so is a jerk). One is backed up by peer reviewed studies, the other is slightly better than an opinion, at best.

ijsbrand | August 11, 2005 05:13 PM

What's wrong with giving the kids as much information about what's in their world as possible?

You'll have to teach them about the Flying Spaghetti Monster as well then, and several other theories of intelligent design.
http://www.venganza.org/

Tim Kyger | August 11, 2005 05:20 PM

Kansas: Just think of it as evolution in action...

[[heh!]]

Tim Kyger

phile | August 11, 2005 05:34 PM

A little drive-by pedantry:

Agenda is a normal English word, plural = agendas.

(In Latin, agenda is itself a plural form:
Agendum = (something which) must be done;
Agenda = (things which) must be done.)

John Scalzi | August 11, 2005 05:56 PM

Pedant!

danl | August 11, 2005 07:41 PM

Given that there are folks out there who believe in Intelligent Design, and given that some of these folks have enough support in various parts of the country to get put in responsible positions (i.e., it's not just a crazy fringe) . . .

But what does that have to do with science? Science is not a consensus process.

Regan | August 11, 2005 08:41 PM

I'd just like to point out that phile just used the phrase "normal English word" to a man who named his cat Ghlaghghee.


And every time I see the word "schadenfreude," John, I think of you. In the warm, fuzzy, my teammate just used a new, cool, terrible word for me and I'm so proud of it! way and not in the schadenfreudian way. ;)

Brandon | August 11, 2005 09:14 PM

Besides what Trevin said with his first post (that these standards don't require teaching ID or restrict teaching evolution), I'd also like to point out that no one coming out of highschool actually knows what the hell evolution is anyways. If they did, this debate wouldn't be happening.

So, before you all imagine that you're somehow better than Kansans, ask yourself why your states haven't instituted the same thing: because they actually understand evolution, or because they think it would paint them as backward not to have it.

John Scalzi | August 11, 2005 09:27 PM

Brandon:

"I'd also like to point out that no one coming out of highschool actually knows what the hell evolution is anyways."

Bullshit. I came out of high school knowing what evolution was and the processes by which it worked, so your patently absurd assertion goes right out the window. Moreover, I will assert that every student coming out of my high school knows what evolution is, if for no other reason than my high school is the only one in the United States that has an accredited paleontological museum on its grounds.

However, friends of mine who did not go to my high school also were perfectly aware of what evolution was and how it worked. The basics of evolution are not that complicated; anyone can understand them, so long as they don't stuff a copy of the bible in each ear and loudly sing hymns to block out the teaching.

If kids don't what evolution is coming out of high school, they're not being sufficiently educated. That's possible for a number of reasons, but blithely assuming that it doesn't matter whether we teach evolution or not as part of basic science (or alternately feed them some patently non-scientific religiously-motivated crap) because kids are being poorly educated anyway seems an ass-backward way of going about it.

snowcrash [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 11, 2005 11:44 PM

As a product of an education system that didn't teach evolution (*), I think that some of you are too concerned about whatever (additional?) harm this might do to Kansas schoolchildren. I was well aware of evolution from outside sources, as were those of my classmates who were interested in that part of the topic. We only paid sufficient attention to the theories taught in class to pass the exams. I doubt if any of us actually cared enough about what we were taught to form a meaningful opinion. I know I didn't, as it had no relevance to anything I did afterwards.

Personally, my (simplistic) view of this argument is that it is akin to the "violence in media" argument. Stupid kids will come out buying ID as a valid science, just as screwed up kids are influenced by violence in media.

(*)=It was based on some weird semi-Islamic Biology theory concerning an arbitrary distiction between "animate" and "inanimate" objects. It was also the ONLY thing we were taught. None of this "competing theories" crap.

John Scalzi | August 11, 2005 11:53 PM

Yeah, but, Snowcrash, the fact that you survived a poor science education does not mean that in general kids wouldn't be better off with a good science education. It's all very well to suggest that only the stupid kids will think ID is viable science, but it would be better not to offer them bad science in the first place.

Aside from that, this is another argument from the "kids aren't paying that much attention to what they're learning, anyway" point of view, which I find rather an appalling way to rationalize a lack of concern about teaching kids bad science or providing them a bad education in general. Fact of the matter is that how we choose to educate our children matters, quite a lot. We can't force a kid to learn if he is resistant to learning, but for God's sake we don't need to handicap the kids who want to learn, whose numbers, I suspect, are rather greater than have been hinted at so far in this comment thread.

Mark Ensley | August 12, 2005 02:15 AM

Rook wrote: "It seems doubtful that it is purely coincidence that the very people most ardently against evolutionary theory happen to also be the ones whose genes are most at risk from being kicked out of the pool."

I hate to burst your bubble, but there's a negative correlation between both intelligence and education with breeding.

Smart, well-educated folks don't tend to have enough kids to replace themselves: 2.1 kids per family as I recall. And these folks tend to have fewer kids overall than those less-intelligent and/or -educated.

We need to be encouraging our smartest and best educated to breed like bunnies. I'm thinking tax breaks and school vouchers for mensa and SFWA members per kid...

John, don't you think Athena needs a younger sibling to torment? *cough*

Q | August 12, 2005 07:14 AM

Two words:

Mensa Porn.

Brian Greenberg | August 12, 2005 12:16 PM

Tor:

The quick answer is that evolution should be taught in science classrooms - and ID should be taught in social studies or theology. ID isn't science, and shouldn't be treated as such. ID fans are always going around saying that evolution is a 'theory.' In science class, students should learn about the difference between a scientific theory (like gravity) and an everyday theory (I think so-and-so is a jerk). One is backed up by peer reviewed studies, the other is slightly better than an opinion, at best.

I agree with what you're saying, but I don't think it's practical. The fact that evolution is a controversial subject among many people (and it is a fact, despite it being peer-reviewed science) should be a part of the discussion. To separate it out into a different class (e.g., social studies) artificially separates the two topics, and makes it harder to see the connection. If that means we talk a little bit about theology in science class, I say that's fine.

danl:

But what does that have to do with science? Science is not a consensus process.

It's not? Since when? Wasn't it once science that the sun revolved around the earth? What did science say about reproduction before the invention of the microscope? What makes you think that what we "know" now is absolute fact, and that we'll never discover anything to refute it?

LARGE DISCLAIMER: I'm not suggesting here that one day we'll find out that evolution is hogwash, I'm just saying that all science is merely a representation of what we currently believe to be true.

M.M. Fletcher [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 12, 2005 01:03 PM

Just in case people are new to me and this site: Not everyone who is religious is a moron (and not all morons are religious).

Elizabeth Moon (author of the Paksennarion Trilogy and the Serrano-Suiza military SF series) holds two degrees in history and biology, is a devout Christian and a staunch scientist -- she once said that she wanted to get a Christian fish and a Darwin fish for her car, and stick a gold heart between them. I like that idea.

John Scalzi | August 12, 2005 01:07 PM

Brian Greenberg

"The fact that evolution is a controversial subject among many people (and it is a fact, despite it being peer-reviewed science) should be a part of the discussion."

Not in a science class, Brian, because evolution is emphatically not controversial to scientists, particularly biologists who study the processes of evolution. Likewise, in the case of ID, the vast scientific consensus is that it is a stinking load of crap.

The "controversy" surrounding evolution is 100% a social issue, not a science issue. If one wishes to have kids discuss the controversy, the appropriate place to have that discussion is a social studies class, not in a science class.

Also, Brian, based on your last comment (and disclaimer aside), your understanding of how we know what we know regarding evolution suggests that you hold out the possibility that evolution may one day be disproved, just like it was proven that the sun does not revolve around the earth. It would be wrong to say it's not possible, but given both the depth and width of the evidence for evolutionary processes, it's wildly unlikely, and what's not being understood here is just how unlikely it would be. It's entirely possible and also entirely desirable that we will refine our understanding of evolutionary processes. But as toward the likelihood of throwing out the whole model based on new information (or even dramatically changing it), well. Don't hold your breath.

The geo-centric theory of the universe was thrown out because it was based on bad (or, in fact, no) science; the current understanding of evolutionary processes do not suffer the same problem. What we "believe" to be true about it is based on rigorous scientific process, which are designed to weed out falsity; i.e., it's a belief based on empirical data, not (as in the case of ID) the lack thereof.

In short -- your oversimplification is far too oversimplified.

danl | August 12, 2005 05:05 PM

Yes, people did once belive those things, and that’s precisely the point. At some point in time the consensus among laymen was that those things were true, but a scientist found evidence proving otherwise. So should they have taught what most people thought to be true simply because there would be controversy otherwise?

No, we don’t know for certain that everything we know won’t be disproved. But that doesn’t mean we should start teaching things we already know are wrong. I don’t mean that theories which have been disproved should never be mentioned – there’s value in teaching an old theory, and then talking about experimental counterexamples as is done in introductory physics classes, but I get the impression that this is not what IDers want to see done with ID.

I don’t really understand why this is such a big deal. Every few months there’s another survey showing that the general public holds beliefs that systematically disagree with those of experts in some field like economics or physics, but no one ever protests that we need to start teaching alternative theories of economics or physics. Why is biology any different?

danl | August 12, 2005 05:08 PM

Apparently I failed to close that link tag correctly that somehow caused the last part of my post to become underlined. hmm. Sorry about that :)

Jeff Zugale | August 12, 2005 06:37 PM

"We need to be encouraging our smartest and best educated to breed like bunnies."

Boy, I'd sure love to go ahead and do that, but I just can't afford it! :)

John | August 12, 2005 07:55 PM

While I will admit to knowing little of ID, I'd say the theory of evolution (small 'e') should be a required part of ciriculum. The danger is when Evolution (big 'E') is supposed to be the end all be all of how we got to where we are today.

Here's a quote from an article by Peter Wood, provost of King's college in New York. Article is found at:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/wood200508090808.asp


A good place to start is to distinguish between the theory of evolution (without the capital E) and Evolution as a grand and, apart from a few rough edges, supposedly comprehensive account of speciation and genetic change. Small-e evolution is an intellectually robust theory that gives coherent order to a huge range of disparate facts. In contrast, capital E Evolution, is a bit illusory. Like a lot of scientific theories, on close inspection it is really a stitched-together fabric of hypotheses. Some of them are central and well-attested, while others are little more than guesswork. Some phenomena such as natural selection and genetic drift are on solid ground; but others like late Stephen Jay Gould's theory of "punctuated equilibrium," in which evolution proceeds in widely spaced bursts, are pretty speculative. Evolution (with the capital E) is today far from being a single comprehensive concept. Gould's last work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, was an attempt to repair that situation with a brand-new synthesis. The jury is still out on whether he succeeded.

While I am a proponent of small-e evolution, I recognize that it doesn't provide satisfactory answers to some key questions. We don't have compelling answers to how life began on earth, whether the self-organizing stuff that we recognize as life depends on earth-like chemistry, or whether nature's profligate complexity is inevitable. Earth was home only to complacent bacterial mats from about 3.5 to 2.5 billion years ago. That's a run almost as long as Madonna's career, but it did eventually give way to more complex organisms that could thrive in the presence of oxygen.

We also don't have any really convincing explanation of why nature split so many organisms into two sexes.

And above all, evolutionary theory hits a wall in trying to explain what happened with the emergence of fully modern humans about 150,000 years ago. We have a tissue of tiny clues, some of the most intriguing of which come from genetics. The picture accepted by most (by no means all) anthropologists is that a tiny population of modern humans — no more than a few hundred — emerged in east Africa and eventually dispersed over the entire world.

Brandon | August 12, 2005 10:45 PM

John, it's hardly fair to compare your highschool, which seems to have been pretty impressive, to the rest of the nation. Would you feel better if I said that 90% of the students in the US, and perhaps all of the underprivileged, didn't really understand evolution?

Which is besides the fact that the basics of evolution aren't very impressive. When you just know the basics, it really does seem like just a very good theory. The problem is that in a normal highschool, students don't see (or don't understand) the vast amount of evidence for evolution. The basics aren't enough to quell this debate permanently.

I was also lucky to have gone to a highschool where we learned about evolution in a fairly detailed context (in Kansas, no less), but all this hubbub wouldn't be happening (in Kansas and elsewhere) if people did actually learn enough of evolution to understand it.

John Scalzi | August 12, 2005 11:47 PM

Brandon:

"John, it's hardly fair to compare your highschool, which seems to have been pretty impressive, to the rest of the nation."

Actually, it was quite fair, given your initial statement: You posited a position which was easily refutable, thus it was refuted. John Scalzi's Whatever -- the rhetorical training comes free!

Also, I disagree that 90% of kids don't understand evolution, unless kids have gotten profoundly more ignorant in the 18 years since I graduated from high school. If you're going to make such a sweeping statement, I'm going to have to ask you to back it up. Understanding the basics of evolution is not notably more complicated than understanding the basics of physics or chemistry, and I doubt rather seriously you would say that 90% of American high school students don't understand those.

If the basics of evolution aren't being taught competently, it's specifically because groups of people wish to enforce willful ignorance on high schoolers, making it more difficult to teach the basics, thus allowing misunderstanding and doubt to increase -- which is the point for these willfully ignorant people. Aside from the issues of people trying to shoehorn ignorance and bad science into science classes, as a general rule I am against people who want to peddle ignorance swaddled as political correctness, whether that correctness comes from the right or the left.

Brian Greenberg | August 13, 2005 02:11 AM

John:

Also, Brian, based on your last comment (and disclaimer aside), your understanding of how we know what we know regarding evolution suggests that you hold out the possibility that evolution may one day be disproved, just like it was proven that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

Well, no. I said what I said because I meant it, not as a backhanded way of refuting my own argument.

I have no expectation that one day some scientist is going to conclusively prove the existance of God and/or completely disprove the theory of evolution. I'm 100% on board that evolution explains the history of living things on the planet. I don't know how to make that any clearer, other than just repeating it many different ways.

My point is this: every generation has a set of beliefs that they're sure of, and ideas that contradict those beliefs are thought of as having been proven wrong. We are no different.

As for teaching ID in social studies vs. science class, I honestly don't care where they teach it - I was simply pointing out that teaching it is not "imposing willful ignorance on our children." It is, in fact, quite the opposite - it's informing (read: teaching) them that despite the vast array of facts we have supporting evolution, there are still those who believe it's all bunk. I could even argue that not teaching them this is to impose willful ignorance upon them.

If your point is that teaching it in science class will somehow imply to the kids that ID is as valid a scientific theory as evolution, then it's my turn to call bullshit. Everything they learn in school goes into the same brain - kids are, for the most part, smart enough to understand that two different subjects can be covered by the same teacher. This is simply a case where a discussion on a single topic happens to span the two different subjects.

Brandon | August 13, 2005 03:18 AM

Actually, I would say that most highschool students don't understand physics or chemistry. I guess you're just more optimistic about these things than I am. Having recently been in college, and now being an instructor, I have seen how terribly incompetent even college-bound high schoolers are. I don't really understand optimism about the state of secondary education in this country.

John Scalzi | August 13, 2005 11:58 AM

Brian Greenberg:

"This is simply a case where a discussion on a single topic happens to span the two different subjects."

Wrong. If ID is taught as an equivalent or even viable scientific theory -- which it emphatically is not -- then we are explicitly saying to kids that it is an equivalent and viable scientific theory. ID proponents don't want a glancing nod in the direction of ID; they want it taught equally, or the very least to have evolution taught in such a meager fashion that ID appears to be equivalent and viable. That's bad science and bad education.

Taking time from teaching good science to teach bad science most certainly does increase ignorance, Brian, because teaching time is finite, and all the time a teacher spends teaching crap takes away from time spent teaching something useful. Every minute spent kow-towing to ID in a science class is a minute a kid is not learning something that has been rigorously vetted and is worthy of understanding.

"My point is this: every generation has a set of beliefs that they're sure of, and ideas that contradict those beliefs are thought of as having been proven wrong. We are no different."

Again, however, you're oversimplifying. We're not sure of evolutionary processes because it's just part of some community gestalt, where we all agree that it's "true." We're sure of it because the science rather definitively points to it as being an accurate model, and that model is constantly challenged and refined.

As I've noted before, there is no doubt that our understanding of the processes of evolution with deepen and become better over time, but among scientists -- even the ones with competing idea on particulars -- there no controversy on whether the concept of evolution as a whole is an acceptable model, any more than there's controversy as to whether the concept of electromagnetism is an acceptable model in physics.

Science classes should absolutely acknowledge that what we know is incomplete and subject to change -- the continuing pursuit of scientific knowledge is at the heart of science (that's why they make you contribute something new to science in order to get a Ph.D.). But they should also primarily teach the best and most complete knowledge of a subject at the time.

This is of course where ID fails; it offers a hypothesis but absolutely no proof beside "We don't understand this, therefore some master planner had to have done it." This is offensive not only because it's bad science but because it also suggests that there is no more to be learned on the matter -- no need to look into the physical processes that could quite acceptably explain things without the need for an interceding intelligent actor, since the intelligent actor has done all the work. Flummoxed by folding proteins? Unable to explain intermediary evolutionary adaptation? Some "guy" did it. Now, let's never speak about this again. Crap. Crap to suggest this deserves more than a cursory, dismissive glance in science classes, and crap to imply this is how science works.

To be clear: If an alternate theory of life creation arises to compete with and succeed evolution and it withstands rigorous scientific examination to the extent that evolution has, then by all means, let us teach it to our children in science classes. But let's not teach things to our children that have not (and structurally speaking, simply can not) make it over that same bar. It waste their time and their educations, and introduces bad thinking.

I'm not suggesting you're saying evolution is not valid science, Brian, so I don't want you to think that's where I'm going with that. But I think you might undervalue the extent to which, as a science, evolution is vetted and understood, particularly relative to its current so-called "competition".

As said before I have no problem looking at ID as a social phenomenon, in contemporary social studies classes, because it's a social phenomenon, not a scientific one, and it appropriately shows one of the social divisions that exist. That's an entirely different and not inappropriate educational context.

Brandon:

"I don't really understand optimism about the state of secondary education in this country."

I would be more optimistic about it if so many people weren't going out of their way to sabotage it -- if we as adults suggest to kids that what they learn is completely dependent on political pressures, they'll quickly learn to discount what they're supposed to learn. And that's no good.

Brian Greenberg | August 14, 2005 01:26 AM

I think we're splitting hairs at this point, but your point seems to be that discussing ID in science class is a waste of valuable time, but discussing it in social studies class is OK. That seems to suggest that time in science class is more valuable than time in social studies class (after all, if we did discuss it in science class, then we'd have more time in social studies class to discuss other topics, right?)

John Scalzi | August 14, 2005 02:52 AM

Brian Greenberg:

"That seems to suggest that time in science class is more valuable than time in social studies class."

It suggests no such thing.

What it suggests is that ID is not valid science and should not take away from time that could be used to teach valid science, but that the controversy surrounding ID and evolution is part of contemporary American life, and therefore a reasonable thing to discuss in a social studies class, along with other social divisions, like, say, abortion or the death penalty or affirmative action.

This isn't splitting hairs -- it's about placing information in an educational framework where it's relevant and useful, not irrelevant and useless.

Hao | August 14, 2005 01:51 PM

It looks like John finally got to the point at the end that ID is not science, ID is not theory, and thusly, doesn't belong in science classes of any sort, except maybe as an example of a non-theory.

Way back in middle school, I learned that theory (scientific definition) had to be something that could be proven incorrect. (through experiments and such) I find it fascinating that many of the arguments against teaching ID have to do with it being a trojan horse for religious doctrine rather than non-science.

On a side note, I find it sadly ironic that my college has Biology majors who don't actually believe in evolution. (especially since Caltech is one of the premier scientific research institutions in the world) So sad...

Samos Samos Gali | August 30, 2005 04:22 PM

Gotta be said, it is pretty serious if something that has next to no evidence for it (ID) is presented in classrooms as being of equal worth to a theory which has lots of evidence for it. Personally, I think in the nature of the average human mind it latches onto authority and tends to believe what it is told. Just imagine in the future if something like the recent SARS outbreak or Asian bird flu being were viewed as punishment for our sins, instead of products of evolution. And that the public was more easily convinced of this because of the education they received now.

John | October 7, 2005 01:49 PM

The question of what the content of science courses should be is really simple: The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community should determine it. That consensus is evolution, not ID. Let the scientific community determine what is science, not the revival tent.

fioricet fioricet | April 27, 2007 04:09 PM

fioricet .

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