Galileo’s Mistake. That title of a book caught my attention. I have always been interested in Galileo’s life and the contributions that he made to science, thus, the title was intriguing. Written by Wade Rowland, Ethics in Communication professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, the book is extremely timely in light the culture war going on between science and religion. Royland’s thesis is that it was a mistake for Galileo to insist that science—and only science—provides the truth about reality. According to the author, Galileo asserted the primacy of science in the territory of truth, thereby straying from purely scientific inquiry into the theological realm—resulting in a war with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, Rowland identifies what he calls the “myth of Galileo,” the understanding that Galileo’s trial with the Church was played out with Galileo “as the paladin of truth and freedom opposing a venal and closed-minded Church. According to Rowland’s research, this was untrue—a myth that has made its way into the history of science (see, for example, Jacob Bronowski’s video series or text, The Ascent of Man–where the myth part of Chapter 6). The concept in this book is important to science education because we have been involved in a battle since the Scopes Trial on the origins and development of life. What is the truth regarding the origin and development of species. Does it remain only in the realm of science, or religion, or is there a way the a holistic view might shed more light on the question of origins? What do you think?
A great dialog is going on right now in the midst of the Dover, PA school district’s defense of insisting that teachers read a statement in biology classes that upgrades Intelligent Design to the level of Darwin’s and Wallace’s concept of natural selection and the theory of evolution. The trial also demonstrated the legal power available to both sides in the case. The plaintiffs’ side, is being represented by the ACLU and the the school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a faith-based legal center. The trial centers on an examination of controversial idea of Intelligent Design. Of course the real issue is played out in the classrooms of high school biology where evolution is a central concept and organizing idea for understanding the development, origin and study of living things on the Earth.
Here students are making observations and measurements of fossil brachiopods collected from two different strata of sedimentary rocks (see below) from the Paleozoic Era. They are trying to find out if there are any significant differences in the brachiopods (length and width) in the two different layers of rock.
The trial is in its sixth week. I’ve been reading the court transcripts on line, and you can keep up with the proceedings too by checking out the trial transcipts.
In today’s Marietta Daily Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was reported that the Cobb County School District (one of the largest districts in Georgia) was in the process of removing stickers from more than 34,000 science textbooks that included the topic of evolutionary theory. The stickers were placed in the books some two years ago by the school board, and stated: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” The adhesive remover “un-du” was used along with a putty knife to remove the stickers! The stickers got on the books because of the efforts of a group of parents (claiming to be creationists) who pressured the school board by presenting a petition signed by several thousand residents of Cobb County. A small group of parents sued the district; in January 2005, a federal judge ruled that the stickers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, and ordered them removed. Amazingly, the school board has appealed the ruling. On a positive note, students were hired to remove the stickers, and are being paid $10 per hour. Total tab for the district: $25,000. Quite an episode in the evolution-creationist debate on the teaching of evolution in the public schools. For more information on the issue, you might visit The Panda’s Thumb, which is one of the Blogs that I’ve included on the Blogroll.