One of the candidates who recently announced her candidacy for President said in a speech that “intelligent design” should be taught in science because all sides of an issue in science should be taught.Now that the race is on to see who will challenge our President for his job, one of the areas that distinguishes one side from the other is the nature of science. Typically the strategy is to initiate an assault on science by raising doubts about the research that supports a scientific theory. This strategy began with the tobacco industries blatant charges that the research that was linking the habit of smoking contributed–indeed caused diseases, especially cancer was junk science, and the results were flawed and should never be used to establish policy about the use of tobacco products.
The same strategy has been used to try and discredit the research that supports the theory of global warming.
To science teachers, however, the issue that takes center stage is whenever evolution, creationism, or intelligent design are discussed. So, here we go again when scientifically challenged politicians and wannabes try and make comments about why intelligent design should be discussed alongside evolution in the science classroom. They make the assumption is that these ideas have equal scientific basis and as such should be held up for students to vote on.
For the next year and a half we will listen to sound bites on TV and be led to believe that science proceeds by vote and that the research around some scientific ideas should be scrutinized very critically. These ideas include evolution, global warming, the big bang. Left off the list of ideas that need to be scrutinized include: gravity, atomic theory, plate tectonics, electromagnetism, mitosis, and cell theory.
Politicians in some states have actually put forth ideas such as the following that impinge on the intellectual freedom (and intellect) of science teachers:
After a teacher has taught the content related to scientific theories contained in textbooks and instructional materials included on the approved lists required under KRS 156.433 and 156.435, a teacher may use, as permitted by the local school board, other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, including but not limited to the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
The media has played an important role in demeaning the way teaching proceeds in that they have promoted the “split-screen” implosion of thinking. Here from a book on how the media distorts many issues is this quote:
Tags: climate change, evolution, global warming, intelligent design
One of the key reasons for distortion in the media reports on climate change is perceived need for “balance” in journalism (substitute science teaching for journalism, and you have the logic behind these efforts to discuss pro’s and con’s of a theory). In reporting political, legal, or other advocacy-dominated stories, it is appropriate for journalists to report both sides of an issue. Got the democratic view? Better get the Republican. In science, the situation is radically different. There are rarely just two polar-opposite sides, but rather a spectrum of potential outcomes, which are often accompanied by a history of scientific assessment of the relative-credibility of each possibility.