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View Diary: What happens in Texas does not stay in Texas - “strengths and weaknesses.” (258 comments)

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  •  uh oh. (0+ / 0-)

    One of the issues that troubles me here is that, even though I'm against teaching intelligent design or similar in schools, they do have a point - to an extent. People have a right to believe what they want and teach their children what they want. Does that right conflict with the state's obligation to teach children current science? There has to be a big disclaimer stamped on it: "This is just what the great majority of scientists in the world believe. Take it or leave it." Does it then become a matter of the child deciding who to believe, between teachers and parents? That sounds like a reasonable situation to me - so long as schools and teachers are respectful of religious beliefs and make the boundaries between science and religion clear.

    The other issue that troubles me, which was brought up in the article, is that the weaknesses of evolution are a little complicated - and to teach them I feel it would be necessary for kids to fully understand evolution, which I personally really didn't until I took AP Bio. Evolutionary theory is logical and elegant, and there is absolutely no doubt that evolution occurs - the only question is about Earth's past. There are a lot of misconceptions about evolution (among them: humans came from monkeys, it's "just a theory," etc.) and to teach the "weaknesses" about evolution, it's important that kids really understand the strengths as well, and the scientific process. I don't have a problem with teaching that science is fallible, but using phenomena that are yet unexplained as a foothold to undermine the theory itself is just wrong.

    And the issue that really SCARES me is this:

    Dr. McLeroy, the board chairman, sees the debate as being between "two systems of science."

    "You’ve got a creationist system and a naturalist system," he said.

    Justification of religious belief, while I respect those beliefs, is hardly science.

    •  Evolution Is Not A Belief (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PBen, emeraldmaiden, evictorial

      It is not the case that evolution is something that a majority of scientists "believe."  That's not the way science works.  Science involves the collection of observable, verifiable data.  Scientists then posit a "theory" that attempts to explain the data.  The theory can be tested in a variety of ways: through prediction, through the collection of additional data, through experimentation, through mathematical modeling, etc.  If the data are inconsistent with the theory, then the scientist can reject or modify the theory, and then proceed with the verification process all over again.  Essentially, it is a never-ending process.  This is what the theory of evolution is all about.  Darwin collected vast amounts of data about numerous species, and he posited theories, commonly referred to as "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest", to explain changes in the species over time.  Darwin knew very little about what we now call genetics, and he certainly did not have the information that we have today concerning the biochemistry of living things.  Darwin's theories have undergone innumerable changes over the years as we have accumulated more data and gained new insights into genetics.  Unquestionably, there is no unanimity among biologists as to the validity of various aspects of these theories, although there is unanimity for the conclusion that species have evolved over a period of millions of years and that all life on earth was not simultaneously created a few thousand years ago.  Experimentation and analysis will resolve some of the disputes that scientists have about particular elements of the theory of evolution, but the continuing existence of conflicting theories is inevitable.  That's how science works.
      "Believing" has nothing to do with science.  It has everything to do with religion.  Both have their places, but religion has no place in a publicly-financed science class.

      •  I wouldn't label it as a belief either (0+ / 0-)

        I was referencing the scientific method that you understand so well yourself - scientists come up with hypotheses and do repeated tests. There is definitely a huge amount of evidence (as well as immaculate logic) supporting evolution. But even with massive amounts of evidence, we can never be absolutely sure of whether it was evolution that brought our world to the state it's in, without time travel. Science works by skepticism as well.

        I know there is unanimity among biologists that species have evolved over millions of years. What someone believes is what they perceive to be the truth. That that huge number of scientists (who are by nature skeptics) perceive that evolution is true, based purely on evidence, carries enormous weight, and I understand your complaint. The "only a theory" argument is clearly ridiculous, because what a Theory is to scientists is entirely different from what it is in ordinary discourse.

        I certainly don't think that evolution is a matter of "belief" in the religious sense. I didn't mean to imply blind faith in my use of the word. I was referring to beliefs based on evidence. At some point, though, students have to take their teachers' word for it about things like evolution, and they may not understand why scientists are certain about evolution.

        I definitely don't think religion should be confused with science. But I do think there is reason for science classrooms to at least make note of religious objections, to help students understand the issues involved. I was raised in a household where science was accepted as the greatest authority. Many kids are not, and it is harder for them to reconcile scientific views with how they were raised. Teaching students that evolution is an absolute truth, above anything that their religion might teach, also seems to equate to government interference with religious beliefs - though as I said, I can't condone using unexplained phenomena as justification for religious beliefs in a science classroom.

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