Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Creationists' New Design

The tactic among the anti-Darwinists in Kansas is the same as the tactic of people everywhere who want to impose their whims on the rest of us: To paint themselves as the victims. It seems to be working. As Ellen Goodman writes, "something is happening when the opponents of evolution recast themselves as defenders of academic freedom and guardians of open debate." She continues:
The parade of Darwin's adversaries argued in terms that might have been ripped from the playbook of People for the American Way. One insisted, ''We're looking for an objective approach that looks at both sides." Another called the evolutionists ''the true censors." A third called evolution ''an ideology." A fourth said, ''It's important to foster academic debate and thinking and reasoning."

My favorite remarks came from a member of the Kansas science standards committee, William Harris, who said, ''Public science education is an institution. It appoints a teacher to be a referee among ideas. . . . Nobody would tolerate a football game where the referee was obviously biased." Who knew the budgets were so tight that teachers were now referees?

My, how the opponents of evolution have evolved. As recently as 20 years ago, the leaders quoted Genesis as the one true scientific source: The world was created in seven days, those geological layers were the work of Noah's flood, case closed. This evolved into creationism or creation science. But in 1987, the Supreme Court declared that teaching creation in the classroom was teaching religion and unconstitutional.

Now the leading argument is ''Intelligent Design," an intelligent redesign of the old arguments in new clothing. As Ken Miller, co-author of one of the most respected biology textbooks, says, ''So-called Intelligent Design is nothing more than creationism stripped of everything that a court would immediately recognize as religious content."

...I suppose there is something positive in the audacious way that the right has taken over the language of the left. It means that values such as open debate and academic freedom are so universally accepted that the right is using this popular vocabulary. But only when they need to. The same political allies in Texas who argued for an open debate in science textbooks last year are back arguing to close the debate -- abstinence only -- in sex ed textbooks this year.

So let's "Teach the Controversy." I'm all for it. But this controversy doesn't belong in biological science. It belongs in political science.

Hat tip: dhodge


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