February 19, 2009

Evolution vs. The New Academic Freedom

The numbers of Americans who believe human beings were created in our present form ranges somewhere north of 40%, according to several recent Gallup and the Pew polls. What does this say for the state of science in America? It doesn’t bode well, that much is certain.

The problem rears an ugly head with politicians, egged on by wingnut constituents, attempting to legislate Darwin out and help Jesus get a toe in the classroom door. Educators don’t like this very much, and thankfully neither do judges. As a result the theory of evolution remains dominant in almost all current public school science curricula. However, Darwin’s opponents have tried some impressively interesting challenges in the decades since Scopes.

One battle was recently lost, and until the Supremes step in this is problematic. In June of 2008, with the support of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana legislature passed the Science Education act. This is the first to pass of the so-called “academic freedom" laws. Previously all of the evolution battles were on the local level, but these academic freedom initiatives are aimed at a state legislative level. This is a whole new tactic in the never-ending siege on science by the vandals of myth.

This particular genre of laws is subtle. They do not make direct assaults with thinly veiled “alternative theories”, but instead force the state to support a teacher’s “right” to discuss the “strengths and scientific weaknesses" mumbo jumbo supported by the Christian purveyors of ID. Once such a law is passed, a teacher may introduce almost any supplemental classroom material desired.

Because of the success of the Louisiana bill, Alabama, Iowa, and New Mexico legislatures are now entertaining similar attempts. Legislation was introduced but defeated in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

All of this is likely rooted in the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which has long been a fountain of supernatural misinformation and an advocate of teaching ID (intelligent design) as an alternative to evolution. ID advocates claim that “life is too complex to have simply evolved without the hand of an intelligent designer” Right. This is the same garbage that a federal court in Pennsylvania rejected in 2005, just repackaged and with the name changed. It was originally called “creation science.” The “supplemental material” suggested is the same as pre-2005 as well, with a few words changed.

The 2005 decision has served only to slow the mythologists. These academic freedom initiatives are determined, creative, and deceptive. Because of this they are proving difficult to battle, as was shown in both the Texas and Oklahoma legislative votes. In both cases, reason prevailed by only a single vote.



Rogue Medic said...

They should call it the Allah in the Science Classroom Act. If they are going to be teaching religion in the science classroom, why not consider the ways that things will not go as expected.

With the presidential empowerment of the past 8 years, there was no consideration that a non-Republican would be president. Why? Only unreasonable optimism, but now the inevitable has happened and it may be too much power for a Democrat. Oh my! Even though the Democrat came in talking about change, that presidential power seems to be leading to a different kind of change. Change of mind.

I will only use these powers for good. We've just got to believe - No, Wait. The science classroom is where we just have to believe.

In the words of the Discovery Institute, Allahu Akbar. If they are not saying that now, they will be.

tgtsmom said...

This is propably going to get me in trouble but I have to say it anyway. I have no problem with a teacher in any classroom telling students "There are other ideas and if you want to know more, talk to your parents or your church leaders or go to the library and research it for yourself". I do not think that ID should actually be taught in class. But, if a student asks a teacher "What do you believe?", that teacher should have the right to say it out loud, even in class (that whole 1A thing, you know).

While I am not a "religionist", I do have a real belief that there is a God and he did have a hand in the creating our universe. However, the burning question I have for all those on both sides is "Who are you, in your arrogance, with your limited mind and feeble powers of sight and reason, to dare to tell God what shape his creation must have taken and how long his 'day' is?" Why can't both be true? God made it happen. Science is beginning to be smart enough to see glympses of how.

Mule Breath, said...

Mom says This is propably going to get me in trouble

Not on this blog it won’t. I welcome contrary opinion as an opportunity for civil debate. You make a good argument and present it without rancor and we can discuss it until the cows come home.

But, if a student asks a teacher "What do you believe?", that teacher should have the right to say it out loud, even in class

Hmmm. Even under those very narrow circumstances I am inclined to disagree. We must be very wary of the slippery slope this exposes. So long at the teacher isn’t a religionist (and how do we know this until after the fact?) and does not take the question as an opportunity to proselytize, maybe it could stop after a simple answer, but as I said, I’d be very wary. Christians and Muslims have a difficult time answering simple questions without embellishing with myth and evangelizing.

that whole 1A thing, you know

I’m supposing you reference the free expression clause, to which I would argue that such speech is illegal under the establishment clause, and there is no 1A defense of such speech per the Holmes opinion in Scheneck v. U.S.

Who are you, in your arrogance, with your limited mind and feeble powers of sight and reason, to dare to tell God what shape his creation must have taken and how long his 'day' is?

Sounds like a quote from the Metzger short story aimed at a non-Christian god; Instrument of Allah. Can you cite the quote?

Why can't both be true?

You’ll not catch me saying both couldn’t be true, which illustrates the difference between a belief in science and the mythologists. I’ll say only that I find creationism so unlikely that it seems a waste of time to pursue. Honestly. What one believes or disbelieves is of little interest to me. I care only that my child be subjected to testable science and not faith-based myth in a public school for which I contribute part of my paycheck to support.

Rogue Medic said...


If we are considering whether a teacher should express opinions in a science classroom, we should look at similar examples of anti-science ideas.

What would be the response, if the teacher were to mention believing in other anti-science ideas?


The earth is flat?





We should not vaccinate children because a Playboy Playmate just knows it is wrong?

Why not teach all of them in the science classroom?

Creationism has no place in a science classroom, because Creationism has no scientific basis.

Creationism is appropriate as a topic in a class on religion, but not in a science classroom.

Teaching Creationism in a science classroom should be grounds for revoking the teacher's qualification to teach science, because it is the opposite of science.

Evolution does not claim that God did not create the universe and the opportunity for life to evolve. Evolution, astronomy, geology, biology, et cetera - basically all branches of science make it clear that Creationism is a false belief. To believe in Creationism, you have to believe that science is wrong.

If that is the case, you probably should not:

Drive in a motor vehicle, because the function of the vehicle depends on science.

Fly in a plane, because the ability to fly depends on science.

Take any medicine, because the assessment and treatment depend on science.

Use a computer, or a phone, or any electronic device, because the function of these devices depends on science.

For Creationists to justify the use of these scientific items, perhaps they believe in some apocryphal text that describes God giving technology to Adam, maybe in the image of God's technology? (Not a PC, or did Adam lose the good security software?)

Who knows. Science is incompatible with Creationism. Creationism can clearly be demonstrated to be false.

God may have initiated evolution, but the story told in Genesis can only be a metaphor.

Mistaking a metaphor for science is a big mistake.

Mule Breath, said...


While we couch much conversations in the terms of truth vs. non-truth; belief vs. disbelief etc., I find it difficult to state conclusively that Creationism can clearly be demonstrated to be false. We have insufficient evidence. As I stated earlier, I find the likelihood so remote as to not be worthy of thoughtful consideration. I might even go so far as to state that I have no belief in anything other than accidental evolution. I'll even stretch it to say that there is not a shred... not so much as an iota of evidence.

Absence of evidence does not definitively disprove.

Rogue Medic said...


I am referring to the Creationism that denies the possibility of evolution. The Creationism that claims that God had to behave exactly as described in the Bible.

The Creationism that claims that astronomy is wrong.

The Creationism that claims that geology is wrong.

The Creationism that claims that chemistry is wrong.

The Creationism that claims that biology is wrong.

The Creationism that claims that evolution is wrong.

Creationists do not claim that God Created the appearance of evolution? As I see it, this would be the only possible explanation consistent with all of the evidence of evolution and with Genesis. The Creationist claim that science is wrong.

Without God leaving fraudulent evidence of evolution to mislead people, how do you explain all of the evidence that contradicts Genesis?

On the one hand, you have this false evidence explanation, that Creationists do not seem to accept. It would explain the scientific evidence.

On the other hand you have all of the evidence, from all of the scientific fields. Evidence that clearly contradicts Creationism.

Evidence that contradicts the Creationist claims is quite different from absence of evidence of Creationist claims.

Mule Breath, said...

I understand, RM, and know that you are correct. However, understanding and proof are two different animals. Yes, the preponderance of evidence contradicts the creationist claims, but not beyond *all* doubt. A great deal of misery, energy and money could be saved if we could.