Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Foolish Desires on Darwin and ID in the Classroom

Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute emails this news:

Seattle, WA -- A new nationwide poll by Zogby International shows that
69 percent of Americans support public school teachers presenting both
the evidence for Darwinian evolution, as well as the evidence against

“This poll shows widespread support for the idea that when biology
teachers teach Darwin’s theory of evolution they should present the
scientific evidence that supports it as well as the evidence against it,” said
Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs with
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

By more than three to one, voters say that biology teachers should
teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence
against it. Approximately seven in ten (69%) side with this view. In
contrast, one in five (21%) feels that Biology teachers should teach only
Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.

Not only do a majority of people in virtually every sub-group agree
that both sides should be presented when teaching evolution, but people in
every sub-group are at least twice as likely to prefer this approach to
science education. Among the biggest supporters are 18-29 year-olds
(88%), 73% of Republicans, and 74% of independent voters. Others who
strongly support this approach include African-Americans (69%), 35-54
year-olds (70%) and 60% of Democrats.

The public is also strongly supportive of students learning about the
evidence for intelligent design in biology class. More than
three-fourths of respondents (77%) agree that when Darwin’s theory of evolution is
taught in school, students should also be able to learn about
scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life. Furthermore, a
majority (51%) agrees strongly with this statement. In comparison, one
in five (19%) disagrees with the statement.

“While we don’t favor mandating the teaching of intelligent design we
do think it is constitutional for teachers to discuss it precisely
because the theory is based upon scientific evidence not religious
premises,” added Luskin. “The public strongly agrees that students should be
permitted to learn about such evidence.”

Seventy percent or more of people in just about every sub-group agree
that when Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in school, students
should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an
intelligent design of life. Just over two-thirds of Hispanics (68%)
strongly agree with the statement, as do good majorities of Republicans
(57%) and residents of the South (57%) and rural areas (58%). Others who
highly agree include over four-fifths of 18-29 year-olds (87%), African
Americans (83%), and Catholics (83%).

For complete poll results please go to:
Be warned: the Discovery Institute's link to the Zogby survey is in the Eeevil Adobe format. If you need the latest Adobe reader, get it here!

Interesting. Very interesting.

I started out one way, and then went the other on this issue. Yeah, you could call it a flip-flop, you cynic. Or you could call it a deeper reflection on a contentious issue in light of my experience. You decide.

Here's the reasoning behind my reversal:
The Trog makes an excellent case here for why the science, not philosophy of ID, makes important contributions to biology as a micro-evolutionary theory. Thus, it's very specialization makes it inappropriate for High School:
Many make a big deal out of the notion that intelligent design is not science because it does not provide a testable theory. This is nonsense. The ID process of categorizing "irreducible complexity" using "specification" is most certainly science because it is only the attempted accumulation of particularly troublesome anomalies that poses a serious problem for the existing disciplinary matrix of neo-Darwinism. In Kuhn's context, this is a precursor to a scientific crisis, for macro-evolution , or speciation, in this case, but does not represent a revolution in and of itself.

So should it be taught? Well, given its derivative nature, I have to say, "No." But given how little macro-evolution has to do with the practice of normal science, I must conclude the same thing for speciation. There are plenty of other scientific and mathematical topics (Newtonian mechanics, quantum physics, organic chemistry, Mendelian genetics, micro-evolution, calculus, linear algebra, geometry, etc.) to master before having a solid understanding of the most important dominant models and techniques for applying and expanding science.
Having team-taught inclusion biology and earth science (where special education and general education students learn side-by-side) in a city high school, I agree with the Trog. In NY, we prepare students to pass the NYS Regents exams. From a science point of view, ID calls for far too great a microview of the sciences then High School students on a regents track require. Perhaps an Advanced Placement science class, or an integrated science/philosophy seminar. I could see some benefit for college students to study ID. The discipline may be ready for that. Soon.
My concerns on the teaching of ID stem from its nature as a highly specialized scientific inquiry, not on its reality as a science. The Reasonable Absolute Individualist mouth-foamers will paint ID as the trojan horse of the coming theocracy. Pay no attention to their crying; just get the broom. And please keep the ACLU away from other school boards!

If people in their wisdom support the teaching of Darwin and ID for appropriate educational reasons, more power to them! The Reasonable had better get used to it; that's what representative Democratic societies do.