Evolution as Design

The world is flat; astronauts did not go to the moon; and the Earth is 10,000 years old.

A recent poll reported that very few people in the US accept the theory of evolution as a valid explanation for the creation of life on Earth. According to the National Center for Science Education, in a 24-country poll, 41% of the respondents identified themselves as “evolutionists” and 28% as “creationists”, and 31% indicating they don’t know what to believe. In the US, 28% were “evolutionists”, with the “creationist” view held by 40%. The evolution view was most popular in Sweden, with the U.S. ranking 18.

According to Edward O. Wilson, creation myths were Darwinian in nature in that just about all cultures devised myths for survival.  It gives members of society an explanation for human existence.  Wilson goes on to say:

Tribal conflict, where believers on the inside were pitted against infidels on the outside, was a principal driving force that shaped biological human nature. The truth of each myth lived in the heart, not in the rational mind. By itself, mythmaking could never discover the origin and meaning of humanity. But the reverse order is possible. The discovery of the origin and meaning of humanity might explain the origin and meaning of myths, hence the core of organized religion.  Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 194-198). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Darwinian evolution and creation science (including intelligent design) are two world views, and Wilson asks if these worldviews can be reconciled?  His answer is no.  As he puts it:

Their opposition defines the difference between science and religion, between trust in empiricism and belief in the supernatural.  Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 199-200). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Wilson explains that from the 1859 theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, science has provided in part the following:

There is a real creation story of humanity, and one only, and it is not a myth. It is being worked out and tested, and enriched and strengthened, step by step. Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 224-225). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Science teachers, who work to offer a bridge between the world of science, and the world of youth have to give experiences in an environment that is open and not dogmatic.  Students come to school with scientific perceptions that have been built up and learned over time. Students arriving in 9th grade biology have constructed ideas about origins, inheritance, genes, cells, traits, and the relationship between natural selection and the environment. Because these ideas overlap with their religious beliefs and their family’s political beliefs, there is often a conflict for them about evolution, and other controversial ideas in science. The important notion is that students enter courses in science with beliefs about evolution, climate change, and global warming, and each of these ideas has become politicized by various advocacy groups, and of course, the press.

Building on students prior knowledge is one of the guiding principles that teachers and researchers have discovered as crucial to deep learning.  Work in the field of the learning sciences has shown that one of the best ways for students to learn is in classrooms where teachers build on their prior knowledge.  In the context of teaching evolutionary theory, students views on evolution are probably not very different from the adult population’s acceptance of the theory of evolution as a valid explanation of the origin of life.  Research by Ron Anderson suggests that it is a mistake to ignore students’ world views which may conflict with the scientific worldview of the origin of life.  As I’ve suggested here, it flies in the face of constructivist learning and the learning sciences.

Science and religion are two differing world views.  But because we have created a curriculum that compartmentalized knowledge and study, science teachers are put in a precarious position.  Although we have experimented with interdisciplinary curriculum and study, science is taught in science class, and religion is taught in social science courses.  Although I agree with Wilson that science and religion cannot be reconciled, it’s not a valid pedagogical strategy to ignore the interactions in student’s minds about origins.

Unfortunately, for more than a century, the teaching of evolution has been politicized.  The famous Scopes Trial is the embodiment of the cultural war that succeeds to this day.  In the 1970s creation science made its way into schools, only to be rebuffed by the courts.  Intelligent design is a form of creationism, and especially promoted by the Discovery Institute.  Politicians and state and local school board members have worked in concert with the Discovery Institute to pass laws either suggesting that I.D. be taught alongside evolution, or that “controversial” scientific theories such as evolution, global warming, and cloning be scrutinized under the banner of “academic freedom bills.”

 

Click on Darwin Two Pound Coin to go to Evolution as Design

Evolution by Design is a new eBook exploring how the teaching of evolution has become a rallying cry for conservatives and religious fundamentalists who think that creationism or intelligent design should be considered along and be given equal time as evolution.  Creationism and intelligent design have been rejected by one court decision after another, but the forces behind this movement are still lurking.

They have made stealth appearances in Louisiana and Tennessee classrooms.   Over the past four years, these two states have passed laws that protect teachers if they present scientific information about the full range of scientific views about biological and chemical evolution in applicable curricula or in a course of learning.

Behind these two laws is the Discovery Institute, a non-science propaganda organization whose chief purpose is to attack Darwinian evolution, and wedge intelligent design into the science curriculum. Foiled by the courts to pull a fast one and claim that I.D. is science, the Discovery Institute now hides behind its new campaign of preserving the ”academic freedom” of teachers.

The academic freedom bills that were passed in Louisiana (2008), and Tennessee (2012) disguise their intent of teaching creationism and intelligent design using clever and slick language that they are coming to the rescue of science teachers by passing a law that protects teachers’ academic freedom to present lessons questioning and critiquing scientific theories being studied including but not limited to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. Kind of a poor “Trojan horse” scenario, don’t you think? Where is the theory of gravity, plate tectonics, and atomic theory on their to do list?

Evolution by Design is comprised of four chapters

  • The Law of Evolution: The title of this section comes from a statement made by James Watson in which he said, “Lets not beat around the bush–the common assumption that evolution through natural selection is a “theory “in the same way as string theory is a theory is wrong. EVOLUTION IS A LAW (with several components) that is as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the Law of Gravity, the Laws of Motion, or Avogadro’s Law.”
  • Evolution in the States:  Over the past decade the evolution wars have been played out in a number of states, including: Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana.  We take a look at these events.
  • Intelligent Design.  I.D. is creationism in disguise, and has been used as a wedge to get into the science curriculum as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.  We ask what Darwin would think, and why a judge ruled that I.D. is not science.
  • Teaching Evolution: Teaching evolution in church, teaching science “critically,” and issues that teachers face in the classroom.

A Kindle edition of Evolution as Design is available on Amazon, and is free through August 14, 2012.

Creationism and Intelligent Design make Stealth Appearances in Louisiana and Tennessee Science Classrooms

Over the past four years, two states have passed laws that protect teachers if they present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in applicable curricula or in a course of learning.  Protecting teachers?  Have these legislators heard of VAM?  No protection of teachers here.

What is really going on?

Behind these two laws is the Discovery Institute, a non-science propagada organization whose chief purpose is to attack Darwinian evolution, and wedge intelligent design into the science curriculum.  Foiled by the courts to pull a fast one and claim that I.D. is science, the Discovery Institute now hides behind its new campaign of preserving the  “academic freedom” of teachers.

The academic freedom bills that have been passed in Louisiana (2008), and Tennessee (2012) disguise their intent of teaching creationism and intelligent design using clever and slick  language that they are coming to the rescue of science teachers by passing a law that protects teachers’ academic freedom to present lessons questioning and critiquing scientific theories being studied including but not limited to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.  Kind of a poor “Trojan horse” scenario, don’t you think?  Where is the theory of gravity, plate tectonics, and atomic theory on their to do list?

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science refers to the Louisiana Science Education Act as a “stealth creationism bill, that actually evolved from another bill, “The LA Academic Freedom Act,” which descended from the original bill that was created by the Discovery Institute.  The Tennessee Act also descended from the Discovery Institute’s bill.

Discovery Institute Dispersal Tree: Academic Freedom for Science Teachers!

The Discovery Institute disperses its ideas by making them public on its website .  If you are a state legislator, all you have to do is go here to copy or download the Discovery Institute’s Free Speech Campaign bill.  Now you are all set to fill in the blanks with the name of you state, and bingo, you can present your academic freedom bill in your state house.  This has actually been done in five states, with Louisiana and Tennessee getting the job done.  One more thing.  Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana signed their bill, the Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee wimped out! Continue reading “Creationism and Intelligent Design make Stealth Appearances in Louisiana and Tennessee Science Classrooms”

Intelligent Design: The Right Sound Bite

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.

Evolution or Intelligent Design at work?
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:

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.

Creation: A New Film About Charles Darwin

Earlier this week, I had a pingback  from Michael Barton’s very interesting website entitled The Dispersal of Darwin.  On his site I read about Michael’s recent trip to Cambridge, England, and on one of his posts from England he mentioned a new film that is coming out in September about Charles Darwin.

The new film is entitled Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin.  The movie is based upon Randal Keyne’s (great-great grandson of Darwin) book, Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution.  The book, and the film focus on Darwin the person, and his relationships with wife (Emma), and their ten children, and the intertwining of his ideas on the origin of the species.  In particular the film shows Darwin “as not only a world-renowned scientists, but a dedicated family man struggling to accept his daughter’s death.  Darwin is torn between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world where God has no place.  He finds himself caught in a battle between faith and reason, love and truth.”

The film will be first shown at the Toronto Film Festival on September 10th, and the film will be released on September 25 in the UK.  I am not sure when it will be released in the USA or other parts of the world.  If you do know, please leave a note in the comments.

If you are a science teacher, you will enjoy the website, and I think the film will be a great resource for teaching about evolution, and exploring the creation-evolution-intelligent design arguments.  Here are two resources for you; first an image and link to the interactive website for the film; and second, a video anticipating the arrival of the film.

Website: Creation---the true story of Charles Darwin
Website: Creation---the true story of Charles Darwin