Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Aren't We Special?

Divided Over Evolution

Extracted from The New York Times: Divided Over Evolution

42% of us are content to discount everything science has told us about evolution and assume that we have always been what we are, how we are, because ... well, of course, we're special. I don't have as much of a problem with that 18% who feel we evolved over time with the guidance of God - heck, I can't disprove that and if it otherwise takes into account the reality of the fossil record and there indeed having been an evolving of the species, well then they're as much in line with reality as I would hope for a God believing person to be. Myself, I don't think God had much to do with it, but other than that on the major sticking points we can agree and that's fine. But 42% honest-to-God believe we just popped up here as we are, I guess that would be starting with Adam & Eve, and things have just gone forward, or wherever in their minds, from there.

I guess it's easy to pick on the 42%, and rightfully so really, but that 10% have no clue doesn't lend any comfort, and that 4% haven't made up their minds, well I have to conclude from this that it wouldn't be too hard to see that 42% jump to 50%. The article that this chart comes with, Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey says that 64% of the respondents say that creationism should be taught along with evolution, and 38% felt that evolution should be replaced by creationism. That we manage to get "teaching the controversy" up to 64% does fit the spread between those who believe we've always been what we are and those who don't know about who life evolved or otherwise don't know much at all, though that does suggest that a few from the "...evolved over time" camp jumped into the 64% group.

Do that many Americans see themselves as THAT special that they're above the throes of biology, or are we really that fouled up in our educating people in the sciences in this country? Not sure what the reason for this is, but whatever it is is definitely disconcerting.


Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Evolution, evolution, evolution. I am doing my part to educate people rather than letting them sink into the quagmire of mythology and intellectual surrealism.

I feel very happy to be a light of reason in a world of darkness, too.


5:35 PM  
Blogger James said...

We gotta fight the good fight, no matter how frustrating it all too often is. It's good to be in the trenches with the likes of those like yourself!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And on the seventh day God created the fossil record."
- attrb. Martin Gardner

8:26 PM  
Blogger QuickSauce said...

I think your overall question in this post matches up fairly well with your quest to better define the why and what for of teaching chemistry. If nothing else, students should come out of high school understanding the process of scientific consensus and how true rebellious factions within science work, well, within science, not in politically funded think tanks.

Another thought (that really just came to me a moment ago), is that I'm not sure if the typical order of high school science is correct. Again, my education may not have been typical, but why not chemistry before biology. I memorized the Krebs Cycle as a sophomore, knowing next to nothing about chemistry, which didn't come until my junior year. And if it wasn't for the math requirements, I think H.S. physics could stand to be moved up (maybe even combined with earth science; i.e., teach physics through teaching the way the earth works).

I'd be interested to hear science educators' take on this, obviously.

8:43 PM  
Blogger James said...

Quick: Your point regarding the sequence of courses is totally on target. There was a process some years ago that developed the current sequence to be the way it is, but today it definitely raises questions regarding whether or not it's the right way of doing things now. There's a lot of focus on trying to have physics first, then chemistry, and then possibly bio, but there are other "issues" here that have to be taken into consideration. Are kids developed significantly enough from a mental perspective to jump into a highly conceptual course such as physics when they're just 14 years old? I don't know, though the possibility of offering a "physics light" or something like that, and then followed with the sequence I mentioned, is a possibility.

Amen to your first paragraph. I don't think the details of chemistry are so much what matters as is the process of science in general, and if we get kids out of the door that are able to appreciate and understand the process we've been successful.

9:34 PM  
Blogger XBIP said...

See what myself and a few others in the 42% crowd think about humans and animals here:

10:12 PM  
Blogger James said...

XBIP: Thank you for the invite, and while this may seem awfully closedminded of me, I sincerely doubt that there's anything you or the rest of the 42% could possibly enlighten me with.

5:29 AM  
Blogger XBIP said...

That's probably true. I know we had this discussion before on the Intelligent Design debate.

9:54 AM  
Blogger James said...


I couldn't exactly remember who you were, though your name, XBIP, did ring something of a bell.

I respect that folks such as yourself have a hard time with evolution, but the scientific facts are what they are. They don't obviate God, but they do obviate anything to do with creation per the Bible unless one is to treat the Bible as metaphor and most in the 42% crowd aren't so inclined. Intelligent design is not science. No one that advocates ID has done anything that's remotely scientific, though they like to talk a good talk and make impassioned appeals to "common sense", e.g. a watch found on a rock infers a creator, ergo how could a human being infer anything less - alas, science has overturned "common sense" on many an occasion and likely will do so for sometime.

4:08 PM  

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