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On Evolution, Biology Teachers Stray From Lesson Plan - Comments

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 1 by AtheistEgbert

Sack the lot.

Mon, 07 Feb 2011 23:38:18 UTC | #589098

The Truth, the light's Avatar Comment 2 by The Truth, the light

But Dr. Moore is doubtful that more education is the answer. “These courses aren’t reaching the creationists,” he said. “They already know what evolution is. They were biology majors, or former biology students. They just reject what we told them.

That may be true to a certain extent, but there are a lot of people who are taught a false view of evolution and these people often have very warped ideas as to what evolution actually is.

It's funny (well, sad maybe) that the evolution that creationists like to argue against is nothing like the reality.

Mon, 07 Feb 2011 23:42:55 UTC | #589101

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 3 by Stevehill

This really needs a court at federal level to state that they are not fit to teach. It has to be a bigger stick than the fear of being browbeaten by local fundie parents and the evangelical pastor... a threat of losing their careers forever, in this or any other school.

Sorry I'm only talking about sticks and not carrots, but that seems to be all that is going to work given where we are.

I don't think I'd want to pursue a science career, still less try to teach it, in America these days.

Mon, 07 Feb 2011 23:46:02 UTC | #589102

Astar's Avatar Comment 4 by Astar

I think that, just as many of us are trying to stamp out public use of labelling children by their parents' religion, public use of the term 'biology teachers' for any teacher who advocates ID or creationism should be discarded as well. The term is really inappropriate in these cases.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 00:16:55 UTC | #589108

Randy Ping's Avatar Comment 5 by Randy Ping

The creationists have their own acredited universities, like Liberty U (fouded by Falwell). They have deliberately churned out creationist "science" teachers as well as lawyers and political science grads. This is part of the wider plan to take over and back door the right-wing fundamentalist agenda. The creotard diploma mills are chugging along, producing more and more of these "science" teachers every year. It is a deliberate attempt to subvert science education, and there should be a way to stop them from getting teaching jobs in the first place.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 01:51:12 UTC | #589137

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 6 by Crazycharlie

I live in the U.S. and I'll just say that creationism is believed by the majority of lay people in our country.

Only time will change this sad state.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 01:52:09 UTC | #589138

Notstrident's Avatar Comment 7 by Notstrident

Like Crazycharlie (comment 6) I live in the U.S., but I'll just say that creationism is NOT believed by the majority of lay people in our country. (My unsubstantiated statement is just as valid as anyone else's unsubstantiated statement.)

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 02:04:58 UTC | #589144

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 8 by mjwemdee

Bloody hell. Was the Enlightenment totally in vain?

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 02:20:51 UTC | #589150

a_j_s's Avatar Comment 9 by a_j_s

I live in the U.S. and I'd say that Creationism is a predominant belief among the adults I know (who aren't college students, professors, etc.) My 10th grade biology teacher taught us several "theories" and was like "you can choose to believe whatever one you want but we have to have a test about evolution". She was very religious and blatantly did not believe in evolution. As "accepting" as that is and all, you can have your own opinions but you can't have your own facts.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 02:24:19 UTC | #589152

a_j_s's Avatar Comment 10 by a_j_s

p.s. My observation is also unsubstantiated. It's just anecdotal. It's possible we're all in different peels of society and are therefore surrounded by different cultures of belief.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 02:28:32 UTC | #589154

remijdio's Avatar Comment 11 by remijdio

Living in rural Missouri I've never been formally taught evolution. From a personal point of view I feel this had a few emotional repercussions. Growing up I never really understood the point of religion and how it could be so great and still fail so to help so often (and the holy trinity 3=1 didn't really make much sense to me either). If I were taught evolution when I was in 5th grade instead of my science teacher Mrs. Blumhorst skipping over it I think my life could possibly be quite different because I struggled with belief for several years to follow.

I think some people may think a child not being taught evolution doesn't matter but from my personal experience, it really does.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 02:48:16 UTC | #589158

k_docks's Avatar Comment 12 by k_docks

But Dr. Moore is doubtful that more education is the answer. “These courses aren’t reaching the creationists,” he said. “They already know what evolution is. They were biology majors, or former biology students. They just reject what we told them.

Maybe there should be more showing than mere telling. I know from personal experience that there is an awful lot of telling and next to no showing when evolution is concerned. And that's not even mentioning thinking! How many people actually think about what they believe? I would hazard a guess at very few, and that goes for both camps.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:18:07 UTC | #589168

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 13 by sbrogdon

I think every person in a teaching position should be required to take an updated exam on their specific area of teaching once a year. I also think any teacher found deviating from the agreed upon curriculum should be fired on spot. Why make rules governing a body of knowledge that is to be taught if those rules are not upheld? If they have a problem with certain criteria surrounding their area of teaching, they should maybe find a new area of knowledge to teach in, or not teach at all(imo)

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:25:32 UTC | #589170

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 14 by cixelsyd5

Another reason why I plan to get a second degree in biology and get certified to teach it in the U.S. So I can help change this ridiculous disgrace.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:28:23 UTC | #589171

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 15 by Neodarwinian

Strange. I have read this before and I thought I had read and commented on it here. Why must biology be so sorely afflicted? Teach alchemy is chemistry class, astrology in astronomy class and 6,000 year old earths is geology class and give biology a break!

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:35:26 UTC | #589174

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 16 by rjohn19

I find it amazing that education has advanced in so many areas over the last 50 years but seems to have regressed in biology.

It takes me back to my days in the 60's when it was not in the least unusual to have a French teacher with a Brooklyn accent who had never set foot in France.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:53:59 UTC | #589178

Pete H's Avatar Comment 17 by Pete H

I have to disagree.

There’s no other field where teachers reject the foundations of their science like they do in biology.

Yes there is: economics.

Students are routinely taught some basic principles (including how markets operate – sometimes taught by people who don’t believe or accept market theory) and are then later taught that none of it really applies. People employed as economists are usually focussed entirely on aggregate statistical estimates that are politically manipulated and which tend to overlook or conceal what’s really happening. And which have almost no real connection with, or which even contradict, basic theory.

To the extent anyone even notices or cares the defence offered to this practise is to claim that economics is not really a science and is therefore exempt from scientific principles. Or that explanations are not relevant, only empirical predictions. Even the creationists at least pretend that they’re doing ‘creation science’.

@Crazycharlie

Time may yet change this sad state from a majority of creation believers to an overwhelming majority of creation believers.

Imagine what might happen when creationists eventually come to dominate biological research funding throughout the world. You can imagine things like bans on research involving genetic modified crops, stem cell research, euthanasia, pregnancy abortion, and sex orientation.

These things can really happen. This situation already also affects economics. An important perspective on economics petered out post World War 1 after many of the leading figures were denied positions in the depression era or were either killed off or exiled by the Nazis. Same thing happened in other sciences with similar results. Physics was something of an exception, perhaps because the field included so many people of Jewish background, with insight and resources to leave early enough to re-establish their careers in other nations.

There’s an interesting history behind the US churches’ opposition to evolution. It’s got more to do with politics than with science. Those who are indoctrinated against evolution are just being used as political pawns. Plus there’s the useful aspect that nothing much in biology and related sciences makes sense without evolution. Which makes indoctrinating non-evolution a useful trick for eliminating plausible explanations available to young victims that might otherwise only be explainable by religious ideology.

This has more to do with politics than with science in conflict with religion. Just trying harder to teach evolution is not a cure because it doesn't address the underlying problem.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 03:57:22 UTC | #589179

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 18 by Alternative Carpark

Why aren't the three main science disciplines taught simultaneously in the US?

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 04:03:16 UTC | #589180

Randy Ping's Avatar Comment 19 by Randy Ping

Comment 18 by Alternative Carpark :

Why aren't the three main science disciplines taught simultaneously in the US?

A deliberate attempt to divide and conquer? :o

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 04:40:21 UTC | #589187

sanctus's Avatar Comment 20 by sanctus

Ironically, considering that we're talking about evolution, one of the most exhaustively researched theories in the history of science, many of the comments here seem draconian. I read this article with more than a little healthy skepticism. Where are the statistics from the exhaustive studies that must have been done to unearth this intellectually tawdry controversy? I think we all need to take a deep breath and consider that this may be a bit overblown. It almost reminds me of the laughable "attack on Christianity" that some fear is the most insidious threat to "free-thinking" Christians everywhere!

Admittedly anecdotal, I went to public school in the US, in four different states, and I had excellent science teachers in each one. Some of them were better than others, but none of them were reluctant to discuss and teach evolution. I'll grant you that it's been a few years since I went to high school (using the term "few" quite loosely) but I also have three children and I have met with and discussed science with all of their science teachers. I have never found one who did not teach evolution in some respect. I have also never seen any public school curriculum that covers creationism nor have I ever observed it being taught in any US public school.

Now, obviously, I have not visited every public classroom and there is no way that I could say whether or not creationism is actively being taught, but I would love to hear of specific schools and teachers who teach creationism. Without such specifics, I am left with such paltry missives as "where's the beef?" or "show me the money!" Seriously, who specifically did the researchers survey? What classes did they visit? I don't know, it's not detailed in the article. Frankly, phrases like "national survey” and national research council" fail to impress me. Surveys are not scientific studies. Observation alone does not good science make.

I know it's quite fashionable to malign the teaching of science in the US and there is no doubt that some of that criticism is appropriate. However, that is not enough to say that there is no good science being taught or even enough to posit that bad science teaching prevails. I think we should all consider what science and truth is. Instead of ringing the alarm in fear of creationism supplanting real science let’s all make an effort to be science ambassadors. Are you afraid of creationism being taught? Teach evolution yourself then! Learn the arguments against evolution, they are quite amusing. Have fun with science and creationists. Be real; don’t base your reactions on dubious surveys. Hope may spring eternal but evolution has a beginning and an end.

Daniel

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 04:44:33 UTC | #589190

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 21 by aquilacane

Man, I would have loved to give a strong verbal beating and some serious mockery to one of these teachers, as a student. I would have been looking for just this sort of opportunity to walk out of school laughing and confident I'm waisting my time there.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 04:57:26 UTC | #589193

NH King's Avatar Comment 22 by NH King

@ Sanctus

It almost reminds me of the laughable "attack on Christianity" that some fear is the most insidious threat to "free-thinking" Christians everywhere!

Just because one group cries wolf too often does not mean there are no wolves. The Wedge strategy, authored by the Discovery Institute (http://ncse.com/webfm_send/747) has as its goals, I quote, "To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies." Interestingly, not one of their goals or objectives is to show that their idea is correct, but they do have the goal of suing their way into schools. To think they are not attacking science is, as you admitted yourself to be, ignorant of this reality.

Now, obviously, I have not visited every public classroom and there is no way that I could say whether or not creationism is actively being taught, but I would love to hear of specific schools and teachers who teach creationism.

Dawkins.net doesn't generally out middle and high school creationists, but other blogs do, and the NCSE keeps a good summary of the legal battles around the nation. If you scroll through PZ's blog, you'll find several mentions of specific teachers, such as one that went so far as to brand children with a cross using an electric probe. These are anecdotal, though. NCSE is much better for "proving" my case, here.

However, that is not enough to say that there is no good science being taught or even enough to posit that bad science teaching prevails.

Bad science is prevailing! Not one poll shows fewer than 40% of Americans rejecting, all together, evolution in favor of direct magical creation. And this is not a circumstance that remains isolated. The lack of critical thought that allows creationism, and in which creationism depends, also rears its head in the billions of dollars spent on fake medicine, the uncounted deaths and disabilities caused by fad diets, the absolute failure of the abstinence only campaign that still prospers, the rejection of clear scientific consensus on climate change in favor of what that nice man from the coal company said, and such a ludicrous yet pernicious belief that we only use 10-20% of our brain that a new movie is being made about it (Oh! how that little bit of idiocy will rage back into my list of peeves).

Look, I am not saying you're stupid for thinking this war on science doesn't exist. Many of the scientists I work with laughed at me when I told them these were popular ideas. But the the US midterm elections grew closer, the debates were televised more often, and every day at the lab I heard, "Holy ^$%# #$*@ #&$@*$@!!!!! You're right. They actually think we're lying about everything." Too much time spent with other educated people left them thinking too highly of the average American's knowledge. This is part of the Dunning-Kruger Effect (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect).

You need to leave your circle. When you're in line at the grocery store, look at a magazine and just say, aloud, "[Celebrity on cover's name] is insane. He/She thinks evolution is wrong." Often times, you'll be ignored. But wait for the time when just one person stands up and says evolution is wrong. It'll be a landslide of stupidity as nearly half your line fellows scoff at your desire to be a monkey.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 05:56:01 UTC | #589199

sanctus's Avatar Comment 23 by sanctus

NH King,

I am not claiming that science is not attacked. I don't consider blogs to be a verifiable source of data. You're saying bad science is prevailing, I'm saying bad science teaching does not prevail. I don't try to guess what or how people are thinking. You know nothing about me or my circle...that was funny!

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 06:19:16 UTC | #589206

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 24 by sbrogdon

I know it is off topic, but has anyone else read the garbage Albert Mohler is spouting?

( http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/02/07/the-new-atheism-and-the-dogma-of-darwinism/ )

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 07:08:21 UTC | #589212

PERSON's Avatar Comment 25 by PERSON

Comment 17 by Pete H

Economics has nothing like the degree of validity that biology has. I guess a few of its principles are comparable to natural selection, but none has the explanatory power. It operates in a very different domain, and it simply cannot for the foreseeable future be as rigorous. There is also wide disparity of views amongst economists on how to describe economic systems. This is not the case amongst biologists.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 08:35:18 UTC | #589222

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 26 by Starcrash

I took biology in high school from a man who taught evolution as fact, and wouldn't give creationism the slightest foothold. However, I was a Christian in a Christian home. Sadly, despite my biology teacher's best efforts, I learned close to nothing. My close-mindedness ruined my education even though my teacher was great.

Now that I'm an atheist, I feel free to educate myself. I'm so thankful for The Greatest Show on Earth. I now know a lot about evolution, and can defend it when talking about it with the ignorant... like my folks.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 08:44:13 UTC | #589226

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 27 by rod-the-farmer

Here is a suggestion for those with an interest in helping promote the teaching of evolution by natural selection. Contact the local school board, appear at a full meeting if you can, and invite the local media to attend with you. Ask them if they can confirm that all their biology teachers are discussing evolution properly, and not as just another theory like creationism. Remind them that lawsuits are likely to be launched like the one in Dover, PA, if creationism is being taught. Every single U.S. lawsuit about bringing religion into the classroom has been lost, with costs assigned to the school and/or the board. Mention the Dover example and how much the costs were (one million dollars) and that you will be monitoring their response to your question. Mention that a simple Google search for "dover creationism" will pull up multiple hits on that case. If the media can get that Google mention that helps a lot. The board should consider your question as a warning they might be putting the board at risk of legal action and great financial damage, by not keeping very close track on what biology teachers are saying in the classrooms. After that, they will do the heavy lifting for you. Any teacher causing a potential problem by teaching creationism will be dealt with, possibly by losing their job. All eight members of the Dover school board who supported ID were voted out of office the very next election, and replaced by evolution supporters. Some of them were extremely lucky they were not charged with perjury.

This works best in the U.S., of course, but it may also work in other countries.

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 09:55:56 UTC | #589238

Pete H's Avatar Comment 28 by Pete H

@PERSON

Economics has nothing like the degree of validity that biology has

Not quite correct.

Anything that is testable and consistent with logic and evidence and related theories is valid science. It's not a matter of consensus of the members of various institutions. (There is plenty of pseudoscientific economics that isn't valid – but much of it is.)

Economics is much more specific than biology. It's an emergent social science to the extent it helps understand human society, but it is equally relevant in biology and psychology and engineering. If you lump all economics and economists together it's no different to lumping together all medical practitioners, including chiropractors and homeopaths, or evolutionary biologists and creationists, astronomers and astrologists, who inherently have diverse and conflicting views.

There is a general set of concepts that virtually all people with an interest in economics agree on. Just as homeopaths and physicians agree on at least some things. The key areas of difference are essentially political and ideological rather than technical scientific issues. Typically one side argues that the other side is scientifically invalid, while the 'dominant' side (that influences national economic policy) fudges the issue and argues that economics is more a mysterious matter of faith and trust in sophisticated expert authorities and therefore isn't accountable in that sense – kind of self-defeating. The scientific method is not generally ever relevant to political interests. When politics encroaches on science then the normal rules get thrown out. The state of economics (as seen with the conflicting theories of the cause and implications of the GFC ) is an example of how bad things can get if erroneous ideas are allowed to take root because they are politically appealing or expedient.

I don't know whats the objective status is of creationism interfering with biology teaching in the USA. But it was once regarded as a significant risk around the time of the Sputnik scare, and again around the time Carl Sagan, Martin Gardner, and friends attempted to tackle it. (Mid 1970's I think.) It's been challenged by biologists now for generations – not sure if the battle is being won or lost. Part of the problem with losing such a battle is that it's not obvious when or that the battle has been lost. One of the combating sides is just beaten into insignificance. As with economics it is possible that evolution could end up being something the most people don't believe is relevant. it's an asymmetric game. Scientists are busy doing their real work and have much to lose and little to gain - while the opponents are very motivated, well resourced, and have much to gain.

There is no doubt that economics is a science. Similar to nutrition being a branch of science, despite the many practitioners who regard themselves as scientists yet apparently don't comprehend basic principles of science.

BTW there is a close historical connection with biology and economics. Evolution couldn't become a plausible hypothesis until economic theory had become well-established, and several key economic concepts were instrumental to explain biology. The explanatory power of evolution is derived from the explanatory power of economic theory. Once these ideas were out there it was inevitable that they'd see wider application eventually. (Ideas from Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill like comparative advantage and opp cost aka what isn't seen. i.e. the full picture of any dynamic system requires an awareness of what gets selected out and therefore isn't obvious or no longer exists or never existed.)

To understand why our civilisation has only comprehended evolution for 150 years you need to understand why the crucial foundation ideas of the extreme age of the Earth, the moderation of religious fundamentalism, AND basic principles of economics were such a long time in coming. This could all have happened nearly 2000 years ago but for some bad luck. By now we'd be well into the 2nd millennia of industrialisation and research into molecular biology and genetics. (With a complete absence of both christianity and creationists. Plus global warming would've been dealt with centuries ago.)

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 10:11:19 UTC | #589242

monkey uncle's Avatar Comment 29 by monkey uncle

@ comment 5 by Randy Ping,

So I did a little digging and found out that Liberty U's biology education curriculum is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Surely that accreditation should be revoked if they are training teachers to teach creationist nonsense. Anyone know how to accomplish such a revocation?

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 11:27:45 UTC | #589262

DaveGilbert's Avatar Comment 30 by DaveGilbert

“With 15 to 20 percent of biology teachers teaching creationism,” he continued, “this is the biggest failure in science education. There’s no other field where teachers reject the foundations of their science like they do in biology.”

Is this not child abuse too?

Tue, 08 Feb 2011 11:32:52 UTC | #589264