Thursday, March 31, 2011

13 percent of biology teachers advocate creationism

I missed this LiveScience article when it came out in January, but I doubt the underlying fact has changed: 13% of high school biology teachers "advocate creationism in their classrooms."

That's depressing.
"We say [evolution is] a central idea in biology, but someone can get a biology degree and not take a class in it," Randy Moore, a science and evolution education specialist in the biology department at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. "We let that go in the name of religious freedom."
This is where Stephen Jay Gould's idea of non-overlapping magisteria might be helpful. On the other hand, Gould's argument relies primarily on this assumption:
Creationism does not raise any unsettled intellectual issues about the nature of biology or the history of life. Creationism is a local and parochial movement, powerful only in the United States among Western nations, and prevalent only among the few sectors of American Protestantism that choose to read the Bible as an inerrant document, literally true in every jot and tittle.
The concept of non-overlapping magisteria, relying as it does on an assumption (the Bible is neither literally true in every detail nor inerrant) that creationists consider not just repugnant but false, isn't going to gain any traction among creationism's adherents.

Truly, we're talking about faith here, and that's terribly difficult to overcome because faith, in the extreme, is immune to evidence. And those who have adopted a literalist reading of the Bible are extremely faithful.

A couple of creationism-advocating teachers, not identified by name, are quoted in the LiveScience piece. Each has a different reason for teaching creationism in the classroom.
"I am always amazed at how evolution and creationism are treated as if they are right or wrong. They are both belief systems that can never be truly or fully proved or discredited."
I can understand, and I even have a distant sympathy for, this point of view. Humans cannot "see" evolution taking place before our eyes, so a person deeply skeptical of science's extrapolations from partial evidence could conclude that there's a lot more belief required for evolution than most biologists are willing to admit. (I happen to think -- yes, to believe -- that the same scientific method that has been so successful in other disciplines like chemistry and physics, whose status as "sciences" is not in doubt, is probably producing similarly valid results in biology. Evolution, then, remains by far the best current explanation for the profusion of life around us.)

This teacher, on the other hand, is simply deluded.
"I don't teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang Theory in my [E]arth [S]cience classes.... We do not have time to do something that is at best poor science."
A Stephen Jay Gould or an Albert Einstein would be qualified to judge whether something is poor science. Someone advocating as "science" the insipid fantasy of creationism -- or, as its current advocates would have us refer to it, intelligent design -- is clearly not qualified to pass judgment on the quality of scientific theories. And yet this nitwit is allowed to teach children "science." That's just sad.

I've said before that creationism, aka intelligent design, is not science. You can argue the contrary until you're blue in the face, but you'll still be manifestly, fundamentally, and irredeemably wrong.
Creationism is not science, period, end of discussion. Intelligent design is creationism with an asterisk and therefore is not science, period, end of discussion.

Why? Because any question posed by the fossil record that does not have an answer is assumed to represent the handiwork of God (or in the parlance of intelligent design, a designer that could, if you wished, be regarded as God).

Positing that God is responsible for as-yet unexplained anomalies in the fossil record allows creationism's supporters to declare victory and go home without even trying to answer the question.
Creationists, if you want to play in science's yard, then you play by science's rules. And creationism/intelligent design fails, egregiously, on that count.

Now if we could only get the 13% of high school biology teachers advocating for creationism -- and the 60% who "weakly [teach] evolution without explicitly endorsing or denying creationism in order to avoid controversy and questions" -- to understand that.

Maybe this simple equation will get through to the younger teachers:
Creationism = FAIL

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