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The Continued Saga of Science Education

The state’s director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design. (Source: Austin-American Statesman

A number of other bloggers have commented on this already (Pharyngula here and here, Wesley Elsberry, and The Panda’s Thumb), and you can review the story there. I’m generally a “late adopter” on these issues. I tend to wait for the rest of the story. But in this case it’s going to require a lot of convincing for me to believe that Chris Comer was not fired because of her support for teaching evolution.

My major problem with this case is this: Opposing the teaching of ID in public schools is the right thing for a science curriculum director to do. One of the most dangerous things coming out of this controversy between ID and evolution is a confusion between treating things appropriately and treating them equally, whether they are equal or not. We would not expect our science curriculum staff to be neutral about the teaching of astrology, geocentrism, flat earth, or any of a number of other non-scientific ideas in science class.

How do we know that those things are not valid science? Well, real working scientists have checked them out and found them to be invalid. There are still people out there who believe each one, but we don’t have to “teach the controversy” about them, because scientifically there is no controversy. The same is true of ID. Scientifically there is no controversy. A few guys with graduate degrees, largely outside of the appropriate fields do not create a scientific controversy. To have that, you require science being done on both sides, and you don’t. On one side we have PR and politics. On the other we have science. For a science curriculum director to remain neutral would, in my view, require a lack of integrity.

One indicator of trouble on this topic is the number of times one has to remind boards of education and other officials of the rulings of the courts on this issue. Why is it that such large numbers of people can only be persuaded to learn and teach (or allow the teaching of) well-established science because the courts say so? Here in Florida a school board is considering the teaching of ID. One major argument against it is, of course, the cost of a major lawsuit. But there is one argument that should rule the day, but doesn’t: We’re talking about science class. Let’s teach science.

Being neutral about ignorance is not an option.

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  1. One of the problems for evolution is that its public face isn’t always scientific either. Evolution as a theory of origin is as nebulous as an ID argument. Evolutionary principles when applied in the context of biological science are solid. It’s not often clear to school boards what it is that is/should be taught regarding evolution. Some clarity in this discussion would help. Voices like Dawkins have left people confused as to what the primary role of evolution in science really is.

  2. You Darwinists have no respect for due process. Chris Comer was directed to not communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, and she willfully violated that directive. The email she sent out announced a one-sided presentation of a theory that intelligent design is part of a fundy conspiracy to take over the USA. The idea of teaching criticisms of evolution is especially entitled to a fair hearing precisely because it is a controversial idea.

  3. I’m fully in agreement on the confusion issue. There are those who portray evolution as the organizing principle of everything, not just biology. There are some wider applications, but not that wide.

    What I would expect, however, is that people who are paid to deal with curriculum full time could figure this out and then explain it. That’s what we’re paying them to do.

    Of course, all the rest of us need to do our best to help.

  4. “Start by learning what ‘due process’ actually is.”

    You are the one who needs to learn, ignoramus. Here is how one law dictionary defines “due process” —

    “a fundamental principle of fairness in all legal matters, both civil and criminal, especially in the courts. ”

    Note that the term “due process” is not restricted to the courts.

  5. You are the one who needs to learn, ignoramus. Here is how one law dictionary defines “due process” –

    Oh, please, do continue to demonstrate your ignorance. Thanks!

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