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Darwin on Trial


A three-member subcommittee of the Kansas state board of education held hearings May 5-7 to consider whether to allow language critical of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution into the state's science standards. Many of the nation's top scientists and scientific organizations boycotted the hearings, saying they amounted to an attempt to foist views they consider religion-based, such as "intelligent design," upon teachers and students.

How should the theory of evolution be taught in public schools? What content knowledge do students need? What effect will the Kansas hearing have on the teaching of evolution?


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This refuseal to address legitamite scholars and credentialed scientists does not bode well for strict promotion of Darwin's Theroy. Scientific Method and Inquiry produces results, data, or a stated need to conduct more research. Science should stand on its own merits, to do less creates an image of the Middle Age university professor who responds to the student "because I said so".

I just read the story on "Success For All" and must wonder why certain folks are demanding science in the boardroom but not in the classroom. Makes you wonder.

When the class is called "science," then science should be taught. That means one looks to the scientists for the current knowledge and theory. Public schools under the constitutional constraints of separation of church and state are not supposed to be teaching religion that is masquerading as science.

The Kansas debacle, like others, results from a general lack of understanding of the nature of science. Typically, evolution is presented in textbooks (at least, in the ones I have examined) as the conclusions from what has been studied. There are occasional examples of basic principles, but rarely, if ever, do the texts present the data. It seems to me that this is essential, and we should do this in our classes. Rather than say "evolution works like this," we should give our students the data and ask them to develop their own explanations. With a few series of transitional fossils (the origin of whales [http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/whale.ev.html], the lobe-fin to tetrapod transition, and the origin of birds), some radiometric data from different geological strata, and perhaps a few simulations of genetic inheritance in separated populations that undergo random mutation [http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/evolution/selection.htm and http://www.bio.indiana.edu:16080/courses/L104-Bonner/selection/SelSim.htm], students should be able to understand not only what happens, but also the evidence upon which our conclusions are based.

If we simply tell our students what facts to memorize, then to many of them, it is a choice between the "received wisdom" from the classroom and the "received wisdom" from church--and they really think they are equally valid. We must re-orient our teaching strategies, so that students develop their own wisdom, rather than just receive it from us in time for the test.

I have compiled more thoughts, probably of variable quality, at http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/oso9.htm.

Over and over again, the beauty of science is that it proves, especially in the case of evolution, the existence of God, at least of a "First Starter," benevolent or not or whatever, at least an Initiator who/which at the very least began the process. Why we have to pitch one camp against the other is beyond me. Those of us who believe should encourage science to continue its quest for knowledge. If we truly believe, why fear the consequences? Even if the results to this point are not what we desire, can't we look upon those results as a step in what will ultimately be revealed as the right (divine) direction? So my hats off to both evolutionists of every persuasion - Darwinists, whatever - and to those who use the same scientific method and evidence to explore the possibilities of intelligent design - let's all have an open mind.

The question of intelligent design obviously causes a few hackles to rise, but in many cases it seems that there is something which causes the myriad of creatures to occur. C.S.Lewis surmised that occasionally God would alter something deliberately to produce a different result than would normally be expected.

I would suggest that members of this Kansas subcommittee be required to read The Beak of the Finch,, by Jonathan Weiner. This story of observed evolution in our time won the Pulitzer Prize.

As a child I believed my Sunday school lessons, and wondered about the thought provoking theory by Darwin. In Genesis, the order of astronomical and geologic events are listed as scientists have gathered evidence. The progression of the animals as Darwin suggests in theory is restated also. People could/should use the blessing of free will of religous teaching and scientific thinking to develop any personal thoughts/beliefs. The word era could be substituted for day in the translations of Genesis, and make for a good scientific account of an evolving dynamic process of the universe and life as we know it. Teaching the THEORY of evolution is about how things change in the systems of life and physical environments which science explores. It is not a FACT which disputes religous beliefs of the many faiths of the world cultures. Some people use free will to believe various beliefs about origins of life and the dynamic balance of the planet.
Myself, the past can offer understanding to the present and future, but the real question of sience is in physics and entropy. Energy is what drives the world and the survival of the human race. Presently, a historic war for control of natural resources from a fossil fuel used for energy is directing political, economic, and the existence of humans worldwide. Science and believers should study physics, not bicker over a theory which proves things do change.

The latest buzz phrase, "Teach the controversy," presupposes that there is such a controversy. This simply is not true - the scientific community is not sitting around debating whether or not evolution occurs! Change through time is the norm in ALL natural systems, without exception.

Another problem with this supposed controversy stems from the semantics of the conversation. When someone says "It's just a theory!" they are proving their own lack of understanding of the word "theory." For example, plate tectonics is "just a theory;" the concept that all living things are composed of individual units (cells) is called "Cell Theory." For something to be called a "theory" in science is to indicate that the concept has been repeatedly tested and is supported by a wide and varied body of evidence. If the idea was called the "hypothesis of evolution" it would be a different matter indeed.

I have a deep and abiding faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I also have a strong belief in the way of knowing known as "Science." The two have never contradicted each other in my world, as one is rational and the other based on faith. The Bible says, in II Peter, "A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day to God." That pretty much ends the argument about the semantics of the word "day" in Genesis, that is for me anyway.

Wikipedia has a good article about Intelligent Design (I.D.).

From a scientist's perspective, when I.D. has found at least a 33% percent of acceptance in any one of the sciences (biology, geology, etc.)could it even be considered a theory.

To allow laypeople argue for or against evolution in textbooks, is similar to allowing laypeople argue what is the best medical treatment for children. In short, foolishness that will be detrimental to the children.

To those who are coomforted by the certitude of certain fundamentalist religions, I ask that you open your minds and accept the fact that evolution is NOT a theory but accepted science that receives constant reaffirmation.

Intelligent design is based on fundamentalist religious orthodoxy and is belief based on faith not science. If faith comforts you, fine, but know that science is separate from religion. Religion should not invade our public schools. Religion is to be believed in church and in the home.

In the article "Darwin on Trial" it was reported that scientists were outraged that the immortal Darwin should be questioned in any way by mere religionists or people who believe in intelligent design...Galileo had the same problem; he wanted to question the immortal Aristotle, but the leaders of the Dark Ages were outraged. It would seem today the roles are reversed and Darwinists are the new religious bigots unwilling to look through the telescope of intelligent design. Forrest Gump said it best, "Stupid is as stupid does."

this is the worst thing for christians to believe

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