Kansas Rejects Evolution In Science Classes

David Starrett dstarret at BIOLOGY.SEMO.EDU
Fri Aug 13 19:15:42 EST 1999


>Fourth.  IMHO what should be taught is critical thinking and the proper
>evaluation
>of hypotheses, setting up of experiments, evaluation of data, etc.  If this
>is done
>then I have no fear for the theory of evolution.  But if, these
>"alternatives" are
>offered, without critical analysis of their assumptions or evaluation of the
>data in support or against them, then we will have gone one step further
>towards scientific
>illiteracy.  I suggest that teachers confronted with pressure to teach
>evolution and these alternatives might consider it as an opportunity to get
>into teaching data evaluation, lay out the cases and let the students decide.
> After all, even an opponent to the theory of evolution might (and I stress
>the might) make a contribution if they identify an aspect of the theory that
>needs confirmation and goes out and does it in a rigorous fashion.  We have
>to accept and promote informed skepticism and criticism of all biology.  What
>students really need here is not the "facts" about evolution, but a tool kit
>to evaluate data and thinking on a broader range of issues.  [My 2 cents,
>others my disagree...]


This is exactly how we teach or intro bio course as well as non-majors
course.  It does help and many of the students, if not most learn about
science, biology, etc.  They learn to evalauate the information.  Many
change their thinking about the world, learning that they can have faith
and religion while at the same time accepting what is out there, what is in
front of their eyes.  Some come for help with the conflict between what
their Sunday school teacher is telling them and what we teach (they want US
to resolve their internal conflict, the evidence for evolution is
overwhelming, but the pastor says I am just the Devil's tool to test their
faith, etc.).  But, what I have found is that the firm believers who take
the bible literally, believe so strongly, etc., are typically fairly closed
or narrow-minded and though presented with tools for testing evolution
themselves don't believe a word we are saying.  They don't believe the
evidence they uncover right in fornt of their own eyes.  They know we are
testing their faith and they will withstand the test.  It is these people
that I think are making school board rules, making statements such as
discussed to the press, etc.  These people don't WANT to believe and simply
won't.  

I get admitted athiests come to me after class, give a wink or nudge with
elbow and tell me "get a load of the bible swingers in the class, what a
bunch of morons, don't they know God doesn't exist, it's so obvious", etc.
They KNOW God doesn't exist.  I tell them that they are just as bad and
closed-minded as the bible swingers.  I/We try so hard to teach critically
thinking, evaluating the evidence, etc. but some people simply won't do it.
 THESE are the people who scare me.  I am the next state over, in a state
that I sometimes think is more backwards and further behind than KS.  I
can't imagine them making such a decree here.  I recently watched the
George C Scott version of the Scopes Trial and have thought about showing
that to my class.

People are entitiled to their beliefs, their faith, their opinions.  I just
have a hard time understanding how an intelligent person (I know, maybe
that's the problem?) can be so close-minded, can try to control the
thoughts of others, can refuse people their own beliefs.

I wish critical thinking would do it, I hope critical thinking will do it,
my gut instinct is that if someone doesn't want to beleive, they won't.
Particularly one who's views are based on NO evidence and nothing but
belief, the definition of faith!!!

Sorry for ranting, this KS thing is unnerving and really saddens me to hear
about.


Dave

P.S., for an idea of what we do in the class I mentioned check out the
website.  At least part of the study guide is up.

http://biology.semo.edu/courses/bi120


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