Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Faith-based Educatshion and Scientz

"Mr. President, could you please explain Darwin's Theory to us?"


I don't normally get on a rant about the ridiculousness of intelligent design, largely due to the fact that so many others do it FAR better than I ever could, to wit: Pharyngula and The Panda's Thumb, to name but two. The last time I got into anything about ID was when the Smithsonian provided viewing space to the Discovery Institute for its ID flick, The Privileged Planet. I got a bit hot, sent off some letters, etc., and I had good company then. Well, the "I got a problem with ID" crowd is riled up again, and this time the stick stirring is coming from the very top, from our very own president.

There are many out there in the blogosphere who in fact have as much of a problem with ID as I do [alas, while I haven't gone looking for them, I'm also sure there are many out there in the blogosphere who have no problem with ID at all.] If you want some indication of some of who these are I'd recommend a quick trip to Pharyngula: Bush endorses Intelligent Design creationism to get a sense of how many people are riled up about our President's endorsement of "teaching the controversy", which is code for teaching intelligent design in our K - 12 schools.

We have so much else that's faith-based these days it should really come as no surprise at all that our president is pushing for faith-based education as well. It's not important to teach "real" science, to make students understand a true "theory" [note: Bush's own science advisor has come out and stated very clearly that ID is NOT a scientific theory, but why pay attention to
him when you speak to a "higher power"?] no, we should interject a modicum of faith, in at least biology anyway, to make sure that not only is no child left behind, but that no Christian right agenda to be foisted on the American student is without a chance to foul their brains.

What's irritating about this is that it's a controversy at the non-collegiate level. Mind you, it's not that college students are all ardent evolutionists, hardly, but the Christian right has not bothered to try and make their case at that level in education. I suppose that's a good thing for were this an issue there we'd likely really be in trouble. It's bad enough, and serious enough to merit the attention of anyone dedicated to true science, that we're having to deal with this in our k - 12 institutions, at an age that's ripe for the ID people, but also ripe to inculcate these students with true science, something we have a hard enough time doing as it is. When the president of the United States doesn't know enough to know how much he undermines science in this country, and makes us look foolish as a nation by spouting off about something he knows nothing about, well, what can you say? Should it come as a surprise? No, certainly not. Does it sting just the same? Damn right it does, and it pisses me off more than a bit. I think it's time to make a long overdue donation to the National Center for Science Education.


Blogger Africanuck said...

This is the sort of thing that will put America into the Dark Ages. You can't maintain your military and technological superiority when you are cranking out graduates who have to "unlearn" half of the "theories" before they can grasp science.

Next thing you know, the big pharma companies will be selling placebos complete with the instructions "Pray that it works".

I wonder which countries the scientific community will end up migrating to?

12:24 PM  
Blogger James said...

The last is a very good question inasmuch as with specific regard to stem cell research, another favorite of Bush and the Christian right, many in the scientific community are taking up positions in Europe. And, and this is a total flip over what anyone would have expected, the last few new developments in stem cell research has come out of South Korea, hardly what one would have considered a bulwark of frontline scientific research ten years ago but in this one area it's outpacing this country.

If we're going to play in the future ages we need to shuck off the dark ages, and this horse manure about "God did it", be it with creation or anything else, is fine for individual belief (I still have a lingering belief in the tooth fairy, for example --- Linus has his Great Pumpkin, we're all entitled to something), but not as an overlay to national policy and scientific teaching.

12:35 PM  
Blogger QuickSauce said...

I'm always curious why it seems as though it is the issue of life that most bothers creationists. There is little creationist rancor against chemistry; they're able to recognize that determining which reactions happen how doesn't require reference to a higher being. Yet, when it comes to life, all that acceptance of materialist causation goes out the window. Maybe if the Genesis account said, "Let there be iron," we'd be seeing creationist denials of the primacy of hydrogen.

6:46 PM  
Blogger she falters to rise said...

My problem with the evolution versus creationism debat is, and always will be, that I don't feel as though it warrants a debate. Science goes in the science classroom and philosophy goes in the philosophy classroom and religion goes in the relgious studies classroom...you get my point. No one has ever said you can't teach creationsim and/or ID in the schools as long as you categorize it correctly. I don't teach Scientology in my Brain Disorders classroom even though they have their own "explanation" for the origin of psychiatric illnesses because I'm teaching a science course.

This whole thing drives me insane, and the last thing I need is a subpar student such as GW himself advising me on what science is and what it is not.

7:58 AM  
Blogger James said...

Quick: Yep, no kidding. I make a similar point in today's post. I guess people take comfort from the notion that God's finger is somehow touching us from the point of conception on and that he'd never have us evolving from something like a monkey. Frankly on the whole if God's that involved in our lives my sense is that he's giving us the finger alright, and it ain't about our being particularly special.

SFTR: I'm with you. If someone wants to teach ID in a philosophy class, fine, go for it. I don't question what people should or do believe. I do question, and get my hackles up quite a bit, when people tell me we should be foisting belief-based perspectives on students in the classroom. Science is science, it ain't perfect, but it's not based on faith and faith in some high power has no place in our trying to explain the world around us.

9:57 AM  

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