Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Run With It

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, reader Benjamin Monreal, a postdoc at the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Science sees a potential upside to a bill sponsored by Missouri Rep. Cynthia Davis to require textbooks used in the state to include criticisms of evolution:

I noticed something great: Davis has worded the bill in a strange way. She mentions "controversies" and "philosophical claims", but she never says a thing about creation or evolution. Clearly she was trying to slip under the radar, but her particular wording can be read as a plea for better science education. I think we could take this and run with it.

"My bill is only three sentences," Davis says. "It says that all biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state of Missouri shall have one or more chapters containing a critical analysis of origins.”

Great! It can carefully cover spontaneous generation and Lamarck's theory, and show how the scientific method disproved them. It can give a good critical comparison of gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium models, with lots of data.

"The chapters shall convey the distinction between data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science."
Cool! You're right, Cynthia, ID *is* a "philosophical claim in the name of science", while evolution involves data and testable theories."Great!
"Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist… "
Sure, the full range of scientific views, punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism. Abiogenesis vs. RNA world vs. panspermia. "
“… why such topics may generate controversy…"
Fine. Perhaps with a lesson on the persecution of Galileo, on the Nazi purges of Jewish scientists, the story of Lysenko, or a lesson from James Randi on human gullibility."
“… and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society… "
Great! The textbook can cover, say, how plant and animal husbandry have revolutionized agriculture; drug-resistant bacteria; tracking the spread of HIV via its mutations; the importance of evolution in ecology; or how unscientific ideas about human populations led to to slavery and racism.

Thanks, Cynthia Davis! You've made a strong case for teaching evolution in Missouri public schools.


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