This morning I was treated to not just one, but two diaries from the overnight shift dealing with the way evolution is to be taught in science classes in Missouri and Oklahoma. These have to do with bills in each state legislature pertaining to what students and teachers may say about the subject, apart from and unrelated to the 'proper' answer to the standardized pass/fail test. Which is the standard formulaic description of Darwinism, RM-NS [Random Mutation - Natural Selection].
In the earlier diary - What If Students Could 'Debunk' Science And Still Get Good Grades? by Purple Priestess - the proposed legislation is described thusly by its (the bill's) author:
"I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."In the latter diary - Action Alert! MO HB-179 Permitting ID in Science Classes by NationalAtheistParty - the proposed legislation is described thusly:
"Specifies that the State Board of Education and other public school entities must encourage students to explore scientific questions and assist teaching strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories of biological or chemical evolution."Which, of course, the authors of the diaries assert to be a way to sneak Intelligent Design into the teaching of evolution in public school biology classes. Though neither bill mandates that teachers themselves bring up the subject. Or put another way, neither of these bills mandates the TEACHING of ID in public school science classes. One simply says students can write papers questioning the simplified RM-NS paradigm, and the other says students should be encouraged to look deeper into the subject. Neither of which seem that dangerous to me, given the actual state of evolutionary biology these days and the misconceptions about it embodied by the formulaic RM-NS response required on standardized testing.
One of the authors complains that the [MO] bill encourages students to think critically about whether or not the Natural Selection half of the formula is the whole story. The other complains that the [OK] bill allows students to challenge the Random Mutation half of the formula. I am quite honestly befuddled by the notion that challenging either one of these simplifications is necessarily a bad thing.
In the end, no student need demonstrate greater understanding than RM-NS, and for the vast majority of students that particular formula will have exactly zero impact on their lives. For the one or two out of every teacher's annual class load who might go on to become scientists, medical researchers or such, those kids will dig deeper and go farther no matter what anybody in their high school classes encourages or discourages.
I do not understand why any opportunity to encourage students to think critically and examine subjects in more depth is something we should be all up in arms against. Really.
NOTE: Yes, I do realize that the expressed alarm about these bills has to do with the 'fear' that students might be allowed or encouraged to believe that evolution's engine may not be completely random, and/or that what survives may not be purely the luck of the draw. Big damned deal.
I do not believe it is the state's business to impose any beliefs as to whether or not some spiritual entity or force exists or intervenes in natural processes. I do believe it is a good thing for students to learn how to think critically and explore subjects that interest them much deeper than is possible in a single textbook's chapter on evolution or even a given semester's 40-minute per day class schedule.