The great debate: evolution v. intelligent design doesn't have to pull a school district apart and leave both sides gunning for the other.
Few topics strike terror in the hearts of K-12 school administrators like the evolution v. intelligent design debate--and with good reason.
School board members in Dover, Penn., found themselves blinking in the national spotlight when a federal judge ruled the district couldn't mandate intelligent design as part of the curriculum in December 2005, thanks to a lawsuit parents filed against the practice. Testimony revealed that a janitor even dragged an evolution mural in one classroom out and burned it, earning two school board members' approval.
In November 2005, 36 Republican state representatives in Indiana, based on a questionnaire sent to constituents asking for input on the topic, said they wanted to make intelligent design a mandatory part of the science curriculum for Hoosier students. Despite the survey result's implications, comments posted at the Indianapolis Star Web site ran strong in the opposite direction: "Move over Kansas! We want to bask in some of your notoriety! And hey Fortune 500 CEO's, bet you're looking to locate here now! Hurry and get your kids enrolled while there's still room in the church ... er, I mean the school."
Kansas, of course, has been the firestorm capital of the struggle surrounding evolution teaching in this generation--even though its new science standards approved in November 2005 do not even advocate intelligent design per se. They merely teach evidence for and against evolution, sums up Casey Luskin, the program officer in public policy and legal affairs at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, who cites Kansas and Ohio as having the two best policies in the country. He blames the media for the hoopla hoop·la
a. Boisterous, jovial commotion or excitement.
b. Extravagant publicity: The new sedan was introduced to the public with much hoopla.
2. . "It's a very reasonable position. Unfortunately, it has been misreported greatly in the process," he says.
Gerry Wheeler is a nuclear physicist Nu´cle`ar phys´i`cist
n. 1. A scientist specializing in nuclear physics.
Noun 1. nuclear physicist - a physicist who specializes in nuclear physics
physicist - a scientist trained in physics , not a biologist, but he can pinpoint the problem in a heartbeat immediately.
See also: heartbeat . "It's an emotional topic. If we have any ounce of spirituality in us, these are high-stakes questions and we have to honor everybody on the spectrum of the debate," says Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association in Washington, D.C.
Complicated, Contentious and Compulsive
Legally, the issue couldn't be simpler, maintains Nick Matzke Nicholas J. Matzke a doctoral student at University of California, Berkeley and former Public Information Project Director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the leading American anti-creationist organisation. , the public information project director at the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California “Oakland” redirects here. For other uses, see Oakland (disambiguation).
Oakland (IPA: /ˈoʊklənd/), founded in 1852, is the eighth-largest city in the U.S. : The Constitution prohibits the states from endorsing or promoting a religious view. This foundation struck down the Dover Area School Districts' approach, as U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III John Edward Jones III (born June 13 1955) is an American lawyer and jurist from the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. A Republican, Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush as federal judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in February declared, "The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism creationism or creation science, belief in the biblical account of the creation of the world as described in Genesis, a characteristic especially of fundamentalist Protestantism (see fundamentalism). ." Later he wrote, "No serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of [ID], including defendants' expert witnesses."
But the evolution v. intelligent design battle gets murky when experts like Luskin point out that the Supreme Court has already ruled you can critique prevailing scientific theories. Now comes the question: Is intelligent design a legitimate scientific theory? Not in Matzke's book. "It doesn't have any significant scientific support," he ticks off. "It is not really a philosophical view To take the philosophical view in common speech means to observe without passion.
Philosophers are fond of describing the stands they take on particular philosophical disputes as views. They also call them theories. . It is a particular religious view. The only reason they don't say the words 'miracle' and 'God' is because those have already been tested in court and it's been found you can't teach them in a science class."
So, adding ID to the curriculum would mean also teaching astrology during astronomy and alternative medicine in health courses, in Matzke's position--what will administrators cut from the curriculum to make room for such balance? "You have to give kids the basics and the best that is available from the scientific community. That means teaching the foundational central ideas in the field and not every wacky fringe idea that seems good to somebody," he notes. "It's not a matter of fairness. It's preparing people for college and the world economy--that's really what the game is."
Finally, evolution is indisputable, Matzke points out--as well established as the germ theory of disease The germ theory of disease, also called the pathogenic theory of medicine, is a theory that proposes that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases. Although highly controversial when first proposed, it is now a cornerstone of modern medicine and clinical microbiology, and the atomic theory Atomic theory
The study of the structure and properties of atoms based on quantum mechanics and the Schrödinger equation. These tools make it possible, in principle, to predict most properties of atomic systems. . "Critical thinking is important but you won't promote critical thinking by misinforming students, which is what you do if you pretend that evolution is not scientifically solid," he adds.
The experts with the opposite viewpoint ean counter every statement. The Discovery Institute, for example, insists it is bad policy to mandate intelligent design as a curriculum point. However, individual teachers should be allowed to choose this topic as part of their Constitutional right, Casey says. The official ID definition: certain features of the universe and of living things Living Things may refer to:
The one faction the two sides do agree on, however, is that school administrators can't avoid the conflict by declaring they'll teach neither. If the state science standards include evolution, Matzke maintains, you have to teach it to qualify for the No Child Left Behind standards. Besides, adds Luskin, removing evolution is most likely an unconstitutional move as Epperson v. Arkansas Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), was a United States Supreme Court case which invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. hinted in 1968--not to mention bad educational policy. "We think students should learn it. It's a very influential theory in modern biology, and students need to understand what it is," he says. "What hurts them is if you teach them to just absorb and swallow evolution as uncritical fact."
Starting Off on The Right Foot
Welcome to science 101. Controversy isn't new to this field--Americans still say the sun rises and sets even after Copernicus disproved that notion in 1530. Before Copernicus turned astronomy on its ear (and got his followers tortured, imprisoned im·pris·on
tr.v. im·pris·oned, im·pris·on·ing, im·pris·ons
To put in or as if in prison; confine.
[Middle English emprisonen, from Old French emprisoner : en- and burned at the stake for blasphemy blasphemy, in religion, words or actions that display irreverence toward or contempt for God or that which is held sacred. Blasphemy is regarded as an offense against the community to varying degrees, depending on the extent of the identification of a religion with ), Claudius Ptolemy was the undisputed word on the Earth's status in the universe.
Gallup polls consistently show a plurality of Americans say they believe God created human beings in basically their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. More than 70 percent told Gallup in 2000 that they prefer to see Creationism taught side-by-side with evolution in public schools. On the other hand, insiders emphasize, only 5 percent of scientists agree with Creationism. The poll results have not shifted appreciably in the past 25 years.
"It's not the business of public schools to inculcate in·cul·cate
tr.v. in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing, in·cul·cates
1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill: inculcating sound principles. belief, but with half the people opting out, the amount of anxiety in a great number of our students just learning about evolution is a problem. That is really a hard sell from the teachers' standpoint," says John Angus Campbell John Angus Campbell (born March 10, 1942 in Portland, Oregon, USA) is a retired American Professor of Rhetoric and is a Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture (a branch of the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank , president of the American Association American Association refers to one of the following professional baseball leagues:
But an administration's first mistake could very well be in stereotyping its biology teachers, Wheeler says. "Be aware that your own teachers may be misinformed and part of the controversy. That is the dirty little secret we don't like to say too often: When the surveys are done, a good third of the high school biology teachers believe that creation is an intelligent design and at least deserves equal time," he notes. Knowing their attitude today can avoid sabotages tomorrow.
Second, take the community's pulse, Wheeler recommends. "I'd argue if it's going to be an issue, checking gives you a sense of urgency on all the other steps you have to take," he explains.
Matzke offers several potential tacts for the public announcement:
* The superintendent could pass the buck Pass the Buck may refer to:
* Such an authoritarian stance, however, grates on some people who are used to America being the land of equal time for both sides. "It is fair to require students to understand something but there is a difference about learning and believing," Matzke says. So be prepared to emphasize that students retain complete freedom of conscience-they do not have to give up their faith.
Then, taking it one step further to stress that evolution does not imply atheism atheism (ā`thē-ĭz'əm), denial of the existence of God or gods and of any supernatural existence, to be distinguished from agnosticism, which holds that the existence cannot be proved. is extremely important, he adds. "Science by definition is a selflimited focus on the natural world. It cannot tell you about the supernatural one," says Matzke. "That's why people of all different religious faiths can be scientists." One common theological way of reconciling the two: evolution doesn't disprove disprove,
v to refute or to prove false by affirmative evidence to the contrary. God, it tries to prove how He did it.
Finally, bone up on the topic yourself, Wheeler advises. After all, most administrators don't have a background in the life sciences to grasp the subtleties of the debate. So read the mission statements of the American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), private organization devoted to furthering the work of scientists and improving the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare. and the National Association of Biology Teachers, then ask a local resource to sit down and go over the materials with you.
"The good news is that most of the confusion and controversy lies in people not understanding the terms. You don't have to be a rocket scientist Rocket Scientist
In the world of finance, these are people with science and math degrees who work in the finance field building highly advanced quantitative finance models. These models help banking, insurance and investment firms to price financial instruments. or biologist to get to the level of an informed amateur," Wheeler says.
If Campbell, a communications scholar by trade, was asked to teach the evolution dispute, he'd naturally approach it as a fight. "Whatever else science is, it is also the history of great arguments over important scientific questions," he says. He advocates teaching all science in a point-counterpoint style to normalize normalize
to convert a set of data by, for example, converting them to logarithms or reciprocals so that their previous non-normal distribution is converted to a normal one. differences of opinion. "Then people can raise questions about ID without embarrassment. People disagree. So what?" is the resulting framework.
He'd further defuse the issue by actually handing students copies of The Origin of Species to study first-hand. (In its prime folks purchased copies at the railway station.) Its front piece in particular surprises many readers and would likely get the book thrown out of public schools today for stepping over the line by bringing theology to the argument. "If you look at The Origin of Species, assume a different relationship between religion and science The relationship between religion and science takes many forms as the two fields are both broad. They employ different methods and address different questions. The scientific method relies on an objective approach to measure, calculate, and describe the natural/physical/material than we have today," Campbell warns. "I'm not arguing for religion. I'm not arguing for intelligent design. I'm arguing for context."
This dovetails well with the critical analysis approach Luskin advocates. He sends seekers to lesson plans available on the Ohio Department of Education Web site, which spell out critical questions to ask, comparisons to weigh and how to score tests.
The only drawback Campbell sees is that the run-up to this mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
2. An inclination or a habit. won't happen overnight. Argument centered approaches to teaching science requires educators skilled in how to frame issues so that people can deal with one another in a civil manner. "That is part of the secret of the rhetoric. I've had 38 years teaching controversies in class. I think it is wonderful, but it does raise the bar for teacher qualifications," he sighs.
A more immediate solution might be to reclassify Verb 1. reclassify - classify anew, change the previous classification; "The zoologists had to reclassify the mollusks after they found new species"
class, classify, sort out, assort, sort, separate - arrange or order by classes or categories; "How would you the intelligent design discussion within a social studies or philosophy class, says Wheeler. Educators like Matzke give that the stamp of legitimacy--as long as the lesson plan sticks to outlining the basic tenants of major world religions without labeling one wrong and another right. And you'll never go wrong bringing in a lawyer to read over your course materials, no matter where you drop in the intelligent design topic.
But the good news is that it's easy to avoid a lawsuit by exercising a bit of restraint. "The fundamental thing is not to promote religion even if you want to. That's usually the thing motivating this intelligent design stuff, and it gets them in trouble," says Matzke. "It doesn't matter what you call it. There has to be some self-examination."
And while the court cases strike fear into administrators, Wheeler takes heart in the sheer number of school districts that dodge the cacophony. "Clearly a lot get through the issue without the drama," he says.
Julie Sturgeon sturgeon, primitive fish of the northern regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Unlike evolutionarily advanced fishes, it has a fine-grained hide, with very reduced scalation, a mostly cartilaginous skeleton, upturned tail fins, and a mouth set well back on the is a contributing editor A contributing editor is a magazine job title that varies in responsibilities. Most often, a contributing editor is a freelancer who has proven ability and readership draw. .
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The Evolution of Evolution
1859: Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.
1925: The Scopes Monkey Trial The criminal prosecution of John T. Scopes was an attack by citizens of Dayton, Tennessee, on a Tennessee statute that banned the teaching of evolution in public schools. The Butler Act, passed in early 1925 by the Tennessee General Assembly, punished public school teachers who taught challenges the ban Tennessee (along with a number of other states) had passed on teaching evolution in public schools. Scopes' team asked for him to be found guilty in order to bring the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court The Tennessee Supreme Court is the highest appellate court of the State of Tennessee. Unlike those of other states, the Tennessee Supreme Court is responsible for the appointment of the state attorney general. . That court eventually reversed the ruling on a technicality rather than the constitution grounds Scopes' lawyers had hoped for.
1968: In Epperson v. Arkansas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that bans on teaching evolution are unconstitutional, as they essentially established a religion.
1987: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the idea that schools can only Teach evolution if they give equal time to creation science in Edwards v. Aguillard Edwards v. Aguillard, . was a case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools whenever evolution was taught
2005: In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Schoo District, a U.S. district judge rules that mandating the teaching of a vaguer concept known as intel igent design also violates the Constitution.
RELATED ARTICLE: Design doesn't work in California; but proponents don't give up.
A California school that tried to teach intelligent design through philosophy, even after a U.S. district court rejected a Pennsylvania school board's decision to teach intelligent design as part of science, is a sign that the issue is here to stay, some experts say.
"It's definitely not going away," says Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Discovery Institute, which he says wants individual teachers to not be forced, but have the academic freedom to teach intelligent design in school. "Evdution is taught dogmatically--it's one-sided." He says students should be taught strengths and weaknesses of evolution.
Luskin describes intelligent design as a "scientific theory in which some aspects of life are best explained by intelligent cause rather than undirected cause, like natural selection." He adds that intelligent design is not based on the Bible and critics who link intelligent design to God or religion are wrong.
But the Americans United for Separation of Church and State Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United or AU for short) is a religious freedom advocacy group in the United States which promotes the separation of church and state, a legal doctrine seen by the AU as being enshrined in the Establishment disagree and filed suit with some parents in January against the El Tejon (Calif.) Unified School District A unified school district is a school district which includes both primary school (kindergarten through middle school or junior high) and high school (grades 9-12). In Illinois, these districts are called unit school districts. , seeking to end a course that promoted intelligent design and creationist ideas. Under the terms of a settlement, the month-long "Philosophy of Design" course at the Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec ended one week early.
"The bottom line is that schools can't teach religion as science, no matter how it's disguised," says Joseph Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "You can teach objectively about religion in appropriate points in the curriculum" such as in history where the settlement of Massachusetts was, in part, based on Puritan morals and values, he says.
The problem comes when school boards or teachers want to push their own religious agenda and include it in the regular curriculum, experts say. Administrators and school board members should be vigilant, looking out for proposed classes that carry red flags, according to Charles Haynes, senior scholar of the First Amendment Center.
The teacher of the philosophy course was a special education teacher, a soccer coach and the wife of a minister, with no certification or training in teaching philosophy in religion and science, Haynes says. The materials for the course included some videos and other literature that promoted intelligent design. A PBS PBS
in full Public Broadcasting Service
Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural, video on evolution was included, he says, but it did not engage students about the intelligent design v. evolution debate.
"The danger lies in the fact that at least the majority of school board members [in the El Tejon district] is more concerned about fighting evolution," Haynes adds, "than what is good for education."