Mike Dunford posted Entry 2871 on January 31, 2007 01:27 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2861

There’s an interesting op-ed on teaching evolution in today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune. The opinion piece is written by Michael Balter, and suggests that, “The best way to teach the theory of evolution is to teach this contentious history.” To support this position, Balter points to a 2005 study by Steven Verhey that was published in the November, 2005 issue of BioScience, that suggested that creationist students were more likely to change their views if the curriculum directly addressed creationist objections to evolution.

Balter has been advocating this position for a while now, and his views have been discussed at The Panda’s Thumb before now. Still, the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable, so it’s probably worth another quick look.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

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Comment #158913

Posted by Glen Davidson on January 31, 2007 1:58 PM (e)

Since a fair number of primary public school teachers (perhaps a smaller percentage of science teachers, but hardly a low enough percentage) are sympathetic to creationism and ID, I am at a loss to see how “teaching both” would actually work to the advantage of science. And as far as I know, the teachers who would like to contrast science with pseudosciences like ID are allowed to do so, but I suspect that even those teachers would like to do so would not do it, due to likely backlash from parents.

Well maybe Balter thinks that we can just start out with fresh new teachers and parents committed to science in a way that past ones have not been. Just set up the situation, Balter, and I’ll go for your recommendations.

Until then I’d try to just get evolution into the curricula in many places. I guess ol’ Balter thinks that evolution teaching is happening most everywhere, but to little or no effect, and he wants to change the teaching that in fact is not occurring in many cases.

And even if he could give us good solid teaching of evolution nearly everywhere, does he really think that beating up on religion would be allowed? Sure, they tell us that ID isn’t religion, but Behe explicitly states now that ID points to something “beyond the natural”, and if ID were getting picked on by us virtually all of them would suddenly recognize that ID is religious and would sue to prevent our contrasting ID to science. I rather suspect they’d make a really good case for ID being religious.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #158915

Posted by Jedidiah Palosaari on January 31, 2007 2:01 PM (e)

I think there’s a good point here. I’ve used Literal Creationist arguments myself as a jumping off point to 1) mollify students that they are taken seriously, 2) indicate there are many ways to approach this issue, but they need to learn the scientific way,
and 3) show how science adequately responds to the objections. So teaching the controversy can be good- as long as it’s being taught as the history of objections to evolution, and this is how science has shown them to be false or wanting. Too often the meaning of “teach the controversy” is that one presents both sides equally. But if it means showing what the Literal Creationists have said, in order to help students come from one point to another, and then showing how the evidence has accumulated- this seems to be eminently reasonable and a way to help students go through the same process that science has gone through in the last 150 years.

Comment #158921

Posted by Flint on January 31, 2007 2:40 PM (e)

I think people are basically on target here with their skepticism. As a pedagogical device for teaching science, it can be helpful to show how currently value-free misconceptions (the ether, geocentrism, blood-letting, N-Rays) were corrected through the proper application of the scientific method.

But as we all surely know inside out here, creationism is not a quaint long-forgotten scientific error, but rather a current virulent political program that regards the scientific method as irrelevant to achieving utterly nonscientific social goals.

Science might regard creationist claims as falsifiable (and falsified) statements about objective testable reality, but creationists aren’t fighting on that playing field. They are fighting to make Jesus primary in every aspect of our lives, and how well this goal is accomplished is the ONLY thing that matters. Not facts or evidence or tests. Not honesty or logic.

So we’d see two approaches applied in high schools. The first (by teachers of real biology) would probably be to simply avoid the subject altogether, to avoid religious arguments in science class and wrathful parents with torches and pitchforks - a guaranteed result of showing how science has “corrected creationist error”. The second (by creationists) would be to use this reasonable-sounding proposal as carte blanche to preach the Gospel Of Jesus Christ in science class, while the actual science gets no classroom time.

The Leonard case (at OSU) illustrated that even tenured university professors, IF they are creationists, are willing to game the system and sacrifice their employer’s reputation for Jesus if they can get away with it. And we expect more integrity in high schools? Why?

Comment #158928

Posted by Mike Elzinga on January 31, 2007 3:25 PM (e)

I’ve been watching the Creationism/ID movement since the mid 1970s and I am convinced that it is primarily a political movement pushing a mean-spirited sectarian agenda. Most of the major advocates of this movement make their living doing this, and they appear to be paid well for their efforts. They have also managed to run up the costs of education in every district they have bullied.

There is no advantage whatsoever to using up class time to cover material that would only encourage these idiots to continue conning people while making big money doing it. We would be participating in an enabling activity that keeps them going at our expense. Administrators in public schools are also part of the problem because so many of them prefer to use appeasement to head off these sectarian activists when they come in to complain. Better to cut Creationist/ID activism off at every opportunity and hit them in their pocketbooks.

One of the biggest services that Panda’s Thumb and Talk Origins provide is to keep these parasites under the microscope and to expose every sleazy twitch of their contorted reasoning. This is much more effective than trying to do it in a public school classroom where teachers are already overextended and stressed by a myriad of tasks that are basically unrelated to the subject matter in the class. More public school teachers should be made aware of the material on these sites so they can simply refer student questions to the excellent resources put together by many talented people.

Comment #158934

Posted by Charles Norris on January 31, 2007 4:13 PM (e)

Perhaps a better way would be to take the agenda out of the science. Just as a religious agenda pulls the ID train, an atheist agenda pulls the Dawkins train. But evolution can be upheld by theists and atheists. Problems occur when agendas lead science.

Comment #158936

Posted by Raging Bee on January 31, 2007 4:22 PM (e)

You mean agendas like teaching kids the truth and keeping religious indoctrination out of public schools?

Also, the atheist agenda may pull the “Dawkins train,” but that’s different from the science train or the education train.

Comment #158937

Posted by Anton Mates on January 31, 2007 4:23 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

Since a fair number of primary public school teachers (perhaps a smaller percentage of science teachers, but hardly a low enough percentage) are sympathetic to creationism and ID, I am at a loss to see how “teaching both” would actually work to the advantage of science. And as far as I know, the teachers who would like to contrast science with pseudosciences like ID are allowed to do so, but I suspect that even those teachers would like to do so would not do it, due to likely backlash from parents.

Exactly. That was my main disagreement with people who thought Ohio’s now-defunct “critical analysis” lesson plan could perhaps be fixed up into real critical analysis of both evolutionary theory and ID/creationism. Any actual science-based comparison of the alternatives is going to make creationID look very, very bad, and any teacher who actively accomplishes that is going to get slaughtered by angry parents and administrators.

Plus, from a constitutional point of view, they have some cause for that. Creationism and ID are very relevant to the politics of science, but totally irrelevant to science itself. When a teacher brings up creationID in a science class, a Christian student could legitimately feel singled out–why isn’t the teacher pointing out the problems with Hindu or Norse mythical history?

In a history/politics/philosophy of science class, on the other hand, a teacher could clearly bring it up as an example of an influential modern politicoreligious movement. They’d probably still face a community backlash, though.

Comment #158940

Posted by GuyeFaux on January 31, 2007 4:45 PM (e)

Creationism and ID are very relevant to the politics of science, but totally irrelevant to science itself.

But creationism is at least tangentially relevant to the history of evolution, which is relevant to its science. In particular, I remember that when I learned about evolution in High School, the teacher wove this very nice story about Charles Darwin, the Beagle’s voyage, finches, and in general how the theory came together. It was simply impossible to leave out the theory’s historical context, a big part of it being YEC and other good ideas of the time. I wonder if today the same story would elicit a discussion of ID anyway? In which case teachers knowledgeable about the “controversy” would be far more helpful than those who simply hushed it up.

I mean, what percentage of high school science teachers would use the invitation to discuss ID to actually promote ID? Am I being optimistic if I think it’s only a small minority?

Comment #158946

Posted by David B. Benson on January 31, 2007 5:29 PM (e)

GuyeFaux — Unfortunately, yes you are. Although it depends on the part of the country, I suppose…

“No IDiocy in science classes!”

Comment #158959

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 31, 2007 6:50 PM (e)

and his views have been discussed at The Panda’s Thumb before now

indeed they have, and a clear majority was NOT in favor of his position; there was much discussion and much debate.

so, unless there is something NEW to Balter’s arguments, which then, as now, are not really based on the study by Verhey, I can only wonder what the point of bringing it up again is.

discussing Verhey is discussing Verhey. Balter’s ideas are different, and really not well informed.

the two issues should be separated, not lumped.

Comment #158965

Posted by LaurenTheFish on January 31, 2007 7:43 PM (e)

“…the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable”

Superficially reasonable is right.

To officially deem ID (or YEC or astrology or …) as being of sufficient intellectual merit to make academic discussion valuable to any significant degree is to implicitly confer unjustifiable credibility on the topic.

Students, who by their very definition are not experienced or fully informed about the objects of their study, have no need to be gratuitously exposed to fallacies they are not yet equipped to recognize on their own.

The opposition, of course, intends that very thing - for credulous minds to be fed noncredible assertions before they’re capable of noticing those same assertions’ absence of credibility… the same rationale is behind brainwashing children into religious dogma; the likelihood of said dogma to be credible to an adult with no previous exposure to it is small indeed.

- - - - -

Charles Norris -

“…as a religious agenda pulls the ID train, an atheist agenda pulls the Dawkins train.”

Kind of you, I’m sure, to offer this observation in a form which would suggest that it is indisputable fact, when it is of course actually nothing of the sort.

Few rhetorical devices are more insidious than cultivating the erroneous perception of ‘even-handed’ and ‘balanced’ treatment of an issue where the distribution of supporting evidence is far from symmetrical. See ‘teaching the controversy’ for a cogent exemplar of this intellectually dishonest stratagem.

We’re to be misled into arguments for and against the atheist nature of the so-called Dawkins agenda. Quite spurious, presupposing as it does that such a Dawkins-related phenomenon as an “agenda” actually exists, in the face of overwhelming evidence, empirical and other, to the contrary.

If the ‘Dawkins train,’ as you would have it, is ‘pulled’ by anything, it would appear to be by a transparent commitment to the diligent use of rationality in pursuit of solutions to our epistemological shortcomings. The implication that the disinterested search for an accurate model of reality is no more than a disingenuous attempt to garner support for a trivial partisan ideology is insupportable humbug.

Or if you’d rather the long story > short, the act of trying to reduce the promotion of rational thought as the tool of choice for seeking the nature of reality to the petit, ultimately trivial level of merely promoting popular acceptance of superstitious dogma is nothing more than intellectual treason.

Then again, perhaps not, as the case may be. Wouldn’t care to sound too dogmatic.

Comment #158968

Posted by Coin on January 31, 2007 8:13 PM (e)

I’m pretty much in agreement with the idea that setting up creationist straw men and then showing what’s wrong with them is a great way to teach what evolution really says… but an even remotely realistic assessment would immediately show that this approach is neither appropriate for a public school setting, nor could it even actually correctly work the way Mr. Balter is intending in such an environment.

Comment #158972

Posted by k.e. on January 31, 2007 8:26 PM (e)

But creationism is at least tangentially relevant to the history of evolution, which is relevant to its science. In particular, I remember that when I learned about evolution in High School, the teacher wove this very nice story about Charles Darwin, the Beagle’s voyage, finches, and in general how the theory came together. It was simply impossible to leave out the theory’s historical context, a big part of it being YEC and other good ideas of the time. I wonder if today the same story would elicit a discussion of ID anyway? In which case teachers knowledgeable about the “controversy” would be far more helpful than those who simply hushed it up.

Well that would have been interesting 100 years ago, WHY is it still seriously being discussed in the most advanced country in the world?

ID and all its forms of religious apologetics including that said countries President claiming conversations going on in his head are with a g$d indicates not an education problem but a critical mass of national insanity.

The fact that an opinion writer, who in the past just reprinted (spell checked presumably) a DI press release, leaves nothing to the imagination, particularly his.

Critical thinking? Sure, but where do you start, after the horse has Baltered?

Balter’s opinions are worth the same critical assessment he gave to the reprinted ID press release; that is nil.

He has been shown to be a mere pawn of the DI.
Why is he getting warmed over again?
The DI are desperate and Balter hasn’t learned to think…some things never change.

Fortunately ID CAN be discussed as a religious apologetic along with Islamic Jihad, female genital mutilation, death cults, or the barmy idea of a literal and objective hell in any class but science.
It can be discussed and should be discussed in sociology; as a modern example of magical thinking and social engineering. Or politics/History; examining the separation of church and state.

That’s something Balter wouldn’t dare print.

Thankfully the political tide has turned, the BS is flowing out to sea, for the moment at least. Balter will have to wait until the next BS high tide to go for a swim.

The theocratic pseudoscience underworld cannot make the claim that ID, which has been tested by the SCotUS and found to be a religion, CAN be critically examined and compared to mythologies and other cults.

Print that Balter

Comment #158973

Posted by k.e. on January 31, 2007 8:34 PM (e)

bah ..last sentence has obvious grammer error.

The theocratic pseudoscience underworld CANNOT make the claim that ID, which has been tested by the SCotUS and found to be a religion,cannot be critically examined and compared to mythologies and other cults.(which is its educational catagory)

Comment #158974

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 31, 2007 8:42 PM (e)

Gaius Baltar just wants to give us over to the Cylons!

oh, wait, wrong story?

Comment #158975

Posted by Tom Moore on January 31, 2007 8:47 PM (e)

Guyfaux has made an excellent point.

I taught high school physics and mathematics quite a while ago, before Sagan’s Cosmos. The physics curriculum I preferred, called Harvard Project Physics, made quite a point of teaching the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and universe, and then following the development of astronomical thought up through Kepler, Brahe, Galileo and on up through Einstein and the modern era. In my opinion, this approach teaches the scientific method and process much better than a straight teaching of astronomy and physics as we currently know them. It’s important to understand the thread of logic that connects all the various observations with our evolving ways of understanding them.

Also IMHO, the “take no prisoners” approach to fighting ID in the schools is simply unscientific. We won’t win the battle until legions of schoolkids have been walked or find their own way through the arguments that lead so inexorably to our current models, however they may have been updated in the meantime.

Comment #158976

Posted by Fross on January 31, 2007 8:58 PM (e)

If i were a biology teacher, I’d totally address the topic of ID/creationism. However, I would also expect the parents to come after me with pitchforks for attacking their religious views. Apparently, they only want you to say nice things about their religion in science class.

Comment #158990

Posted by Michael Balter on January 31, 2007 11:42 PM (e)

I’m glad to see my piece discussed on the Panda’s Thumb, which is always an honor. Since the link to our extensive and heated debate after my October 2005 Los Angeles Times piece is provided, I don’t think it is useful for me to enter into the same debate here. It is nice to see that some of the usual suspects, such as Toejam and k.e., are still alive and kicking and fighting the good fight.

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

Comment #158997

Posted by Dan on February 1, 2007 12:34 AM (e)

To Michael Balter;

Creationism and ID are not kept out of the classrooms - they permeate our society, vestiges of religious ideas that just won’t go quietly.
You are fighting a dearly held belief system that is almost universally accepted and promoted within our society for no other reason than simple peer pressure.

Comment #158999

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 1, 2007 12:44 AM (e)

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

your views, were and are unchangeable, and still wrong.

as you say, there really is NO reason to rehash them at this point.

NSF, NAAS, and every scientific organization in the US disagrees with you….and yet you still don’t get why.

don’t forget that nobody thought it a bad idea to explore comparative religion and philosophy at the collegiate level. It’s still a horrid idea for secondary school education.

conclusion can only be you’re a fool with an agenda.

good luck with that.

I feel sorry for Mike that he chose such a non-issue to rehash.

Comment #159000

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 1, 2007 12:50 AM (e)

…oh and guyfeux is totally wrong to consider creationism as a tangent and thus a valid topic of a science class.

obviously, in the same vein, we should tangentially consider the impact of astrology on astronomy.

it’s a patently ridiculous argument.

Moreover, “creationism” as it currently stands is a far more recent phenomenon than the idea of the genesis story itself. Or have you forgotten the roots of the creationism movement in america? came LONG after Darwin, that’s for sure.

can’t we put this idiocy to rest?

Comment #159010

Posted by Michael Balter on February 1, 2007 2:51 AM (e)

“can’t we put this idiocy to rest?”–Toejam.

It doesn’t look like it, since people here seem to want to discuss it. I did not post the IHT piece here, Toejam! However, since we have had an extensive discussion of it here before, I will restrict the rest of my blogging on this subject to The Questionable Authority site. Toejam’s beef would appear to be with newspaper editors who think that my opinion is worth airing and bloggers who think it is worth discussing. Nobody is forcing them.

Comment #159011

Posted by k.e. on February 1, 2007 2:58 AM (e)

Same to you Michael.

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

Suggest people who profess to be adults pull their heads out of their collective asses and call creationism what it is, legalized schizophrenia?

That, a cold bucket of water.

Just a thought.

Comment #159012

Posted by k.e. on February 1, 2007 3:01 AM (e)

That, and a cold bucket of water..obviously

Comment #159021

Posted by Darth Robo on February 1, 2007 4:51 AM (e)

Discussing bad science in the context of a modern science class:

“In the old days they used to believe the world was flat. It’s wrong of course, as sailors figured out, and then we invented the sattelite.”

“But sir, what about ID?”

“ID is a load of rubbish.”

That’d about do it. ID is a recent concept and was designed as a con anyway. Teaching a little historical perspective on science is one thing, but to teach about the so-called ‘controversy’ in science class wastes time that could be used to teach proper science. If people wanna know about the ‘controversy’ then leave it for social studies class or something. In a science class it is just a waste of time.

Comment #159022

Posted by QrazyQat on February 1, 2007 4:53 AM (e)

What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

Teach science. Teach evolution, which has for many decades been kept out of schools by people pushing creationism/ID. In fact, that’s one of their goals in pushing their non-science; it’s a form of working the refs which has been quite effective. That’s why there are so many people who don’t understand the first thing about evolution, and so oppose its teaching in schools.

The controversy is not a science controversy, but a political one. The science of creationism/ID vs. evolution has been settled for over a hundred years.

Comment #159023

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on February 1, 2007 4:57 AM (e)

The physics curriculum I preferred, called Harvard Project Physics, made quite a point of teaching the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and universe, and then following the development of astronomical thought up through Kepler, Brahe, Galileo and on up through Einstein and the modern era.

It is a good approach. When we studied evolution, it too started with a historical overview on creationism, spontaneous generation, fossils, deep time, Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel.

However, nobody went into such irrelevant details as OEC/YEC/ID and their objections to evolution. Nor would I expect an astronomic course to detail historical flat earthers and their objections to a round earth.

What I would expect the courses to treat are the positive evidence and tests for each theory.

Comment #159029

Posted by KL on February 1, 2007 6:04 AM (e)

“Teach science. Teach evolution, which has for many decades been kept out of schools by people pushing creationism/ID. In fact, that’s one of their goals in pushing their non-science; it’s a form of working the refs which has been quite effective. That’s why there are so many people who don’t understand the first thing about evolution, and so oppose its teaching in schools.”

One step further: teach All life sciences from an evolutionary platform. Don’t treat evolution as a “unit” that can be skipped or discarded if time is tight.( or someone gets their panties in a wad) Every topic should be approached from this paradigm, and connections drawn between topics throughout the course. Science is taught in such fragmented ways, mainly because we insist on compartmentalizing not only the disciplines but the topics within disciplines. This is what made the Harvard Physics curriculum so interesting and different.

Comment #159047

Posted by GuyeFaux on February 1, 2007 9:22 AM (e)

Moreover, “creationism” as it currently stands is a far more recent phenomenon than the idea of the genesis story itself. Or have you forgotten the roots of the creationism movement in america? came LONG after Darwin, that’s for sure.

Agreed here. When I said YEC was discussed, I did not mean its current, anti-evolution incarnation. Even before Darwin, people have dug up bones of what appeared to be long-extinct species, which displaced somewhat the popular view. And that I thought was useful, since you really got into the strength of the evidence between two conjectures.

Comment #159086

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 1, 2007 12:31 PM (e)

The proper teaching of evolution and the historical developments of our current scientific understandings have been vigorously opposed by the Creationist/ID crowd for a very long time.

Many here will also remember the fundamentalist response to BSCS, PSSC, Harvard Project Physics, all of which were excellent improvements to the high school science curriculum. Remember the Grablers in Texas and their effects on the content of biology textbooks? Statewide textbook adoption procedures in Texas, California, and other large states kept evolution out of the classroom because publishers didn’t want the include topics that would cause controversy and reduce sales. The effects are still with us today.

The Creationist/ID political crowd has always treated science as an interloper and usurper of their own imagined right to determine what the rest of us know and believe. From watching their preachers and political activities over the years, I suspect that the root of their distain is basically a jealous bigotry. Science is treated like a competing religion encroaching on their territory. Anything that deals with the historical development of science is a trigger for the political activists in this crowd to start complaining and threatening. In recent years, their approach has evolved (ironically), and they have become slicker in their pitches, but the underlying bigotry and motivations are still there.

I have taught physics and math to bright high students in advanced science and math programs. I have never encountered a problem with these students or their parents when I presented some of the twists and turns in the historical development of science. But I think teachers in the public schools should not have to compromise their professional integrity and responsibilities if they are confronted with creationist/ID activists. The teachers in Dover did the right thing in opposing the pressure their administrators and school board members placed on them.

Comment #159109

Posted by swbarnes2 on February 1, 2007 4:22 PM (e)

What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity?

If the day ever comes that Creationism is relegated to the dustbin of infamous dishonesty, where it belongs, it will not be because of anything that science teachers do.

It will be because enough religious people decide to say to Creationists “you can believe in hucksterism all you like. But honest people will not support your choice, and if you try to impose it on others, we will prevent you. So grow up already”.

Many science teachers are Creationists, and many more simply don’t understand evolution well enough to even teach it accurately, let alone defend it well. If the hope is to nip Creationism in the bud, most teachers aren’t going to pull it off in the classroom, and the tools of logic and evidence are the wrong ones for the job anyway.

Creationism is a religious, political problem. That is where the work must be done. Either politicians have to stop pandering to the stupidity of Creationism, or religious people must discourage their members from advocating stupidity.

Comment #159111

Posted by John Krehbiel on February 1, 2007 5:04 PM (e)

KL wrote:

“One step further: teach All life sciences from an evolutionary platform. Don’t treat evolution as a “unit” that can be skipped or discarded if time is tight.( or someone gets their panties in a wad)”

I agree completely.

I am a high school biology teacher, and I disagree with those who think we should teach the “controversy.”

First, consider a container of water, filled to the top, with a large chunk of ice floating so that the ice rises above the top of the container. If I ask 1000 people on the street what would happen if the ice melts, and 950 of them say the water will overflow, does that make the correct answer (that the water level stays the same) a controversial one? No, it just means that most people don’t know physics very well.

Similarly, the dismall showing of evolution in the conventional “wisdom” merely shows that most people do not understand science, biology in particular, very well.

If teachers are asked to lead a debate among their students, I have issues with that also. First, I had a chemistry teacher next door to me last year. He told the class that a photon was an electron that gives off light. He told them that any metal that reacts with oxygen was “rusting.” He told them that scientists were working on an electric car that would run on a fuel cell, then use the electricity to hydrolyse the water back to hydrogen and start over. In short, I have little confidence that some of my colleages know enough themselves to properly monitor such a debate.

As it is, the curriculum I am supposed to teach contains natural selection, and can be taught in a way that doesn not send the kids home thinking I am making fun of their religion.

Sadly, it is still treated by most as a “unit” that is left to the end of the year, where it gets lost in the review for the No Child’s Behind Left Untested assessments. This is just as ineffective and negligent, IMHO, as a “unit” on the scientific method.

Comment #159112

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 1, 2007 5:05 PM (e)

… and many more simply don’t understand evolution well enough to even teach it accurately, let alone defend it well.

there lies the real thing that needs to be addressed; Balter’s approach is not needed nor warranted. Rather, the focus should be on providing secondary educators with the resources needed to be able to teach evolution well enough so kids can understand it and the evidence that supports it to begin with.

NSF and NAAS have been funding programs over the last few years to research the needed resources, and provide them where necessary.

It’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long for a focus on the issue to be instilled in these agencies, but it will end up being the best way to approach the issue.

there is no need to introduce religious concepts into the science classroom, just better science teaching.

Comment #159113

Posted by GuyeFaux on February 1, 2007 5:08 PM (e)

What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity?

The majority of Americans, especially American school kids, don’t know squat about evolution except something vague about it contradicting their religious beliefs. There are obviously two fronts on which this can be combated: 1, educate Americans about evolution, and 2, as swbarnes2 has said, make sure the disinformation doesn’t get propagated in the first place.

Comment #159120

Posted by David B. Benson on February 1, 2007 5:43 PM (e)

Chong Ho Yu
Philosophical Foundations of Quantitative Research Methodology
University Press of America, 2006 (172 pp)

offers a view for those with but an intermediate knowledge of the philosophy of science and also statistics. For example, I learned that both Fischer and Pearson (the elder) were not only statisticians but also biologists. While mostly concerned with the applications of proper research methods in the social sciences, some applications of statistics to biology are briefly considered.

The final chapter is entitled “Statistical God of the gaps?” and is the main reason for bringing this brief volume to your attention. Here, arguments, from over 100 year ago, for live-birth sex ratios being different than 1:1 are reviewed with appropriate warnings against invoking God as an explanation.

The best part, for me, was the review and analysis regarding Brian Skyrms’s Evolutionary Game Theory as a explanation of the emergence of co-operative behavior.

I recommend the book provided you can obtain it from a lending library.

Comment #159168

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 2, 2007 1:05 AM (e)

There are multiple problems in attaining a teaching force filled with teachers who have deep knowledge of their subject matter and who also have sufficient time to teach properly.

One of the biggest problems I have seen is what is called “professional development”. This activity, as it is practiced in most public schools has nothing to do with developing teachers professionally. It is designed mostly to keep teachers under the thumb of the administration. Typically it is run by administrators and consists of meetings filled with inane activities and pseudo-consultants. Some of these “consultants” are paid con artists peddling astrology based assessments of student learning styles, and other things just as stupid. Teachers have to put in a minimum of 70 hours of time on this crap during the academic year, and it is all done in lock-step. Attendance at professional science meetings doesn’t count toward this kind of “development”. Most schools of education crank out administrators who have no idea what it is like to be in a classroom day after day dealing with issues that have nothing to do with the subject matter. Thus, much of the blame lies with the system of public education and the societal problems that are dragged into the classroom whether the teachers like it or not.

Then there are the teachers who have no will to learn anything themselves.

REAL professional development would involve having individual teachers improving their knowledge of subject matter and pedagogy tailored to their individual levels and needs. They would participate regularly in the science communities (of which they should be a part), and this should count for something. Part of that professional development needs to be learning how to fight crackpot science.

Good science teachers are relatively rare in the United States. These we see at our scientific meetings, but they are a very small percentage of the people who are at the head of the classroom trying to teach science. Part of the reason for that is that the public doesn’t put a high value on having such individuals. Many of the few that are good teachers quickly burn out. And, on top of all that, we get the creationist/ID political activists who want to dictate curriculum.

This is an issue that the professional science societies many of us belong to need to address more seriously, because, apparently, the typical, embattled school district will never get around to it.

Comment #159169

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 2, 2007 1:40 AM (e)

nice post, Mike. couldn’t agree more.

However, as you say, getting any particular school board interested in the resources an NGO can provide usually gets stalled on the “interest” part.

so many other more “important” things to address, that no time is ever made for such things; at least from my limited experience.

OTOH, groups like NCSE and those in other places have had much success attending and contributing to school board meetings in heavily creationist districts.

Have you looked at what those organizations are doing, and their measure level of effectiveness in approaching various school boards?

Comment #159174

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 3:52 AM (e)

It doesn’t look like it, since people here seem to want to discuss it. I did not post the IHT piece here, Toejam! However, since we have had an extensive discussion of it here before, I will restrict the rest of my blogging on this subject to The Questionable Authority site. Toejam’s beef would appear to be with newspaper editors who think that my opinion is worth airing and bloggers who think it is worth discussing. Nobody is forcing them.

If one were to ask of ID “Can’t we put this idiocy to rest?”, it would be rather foolish to suggest that it could be put to rest simply by not discussing it at PT. Ditto with Balter’s retread of his intellectually bankrupt and poorly informed ideas, which have even been dismissed by Verhey who noted, when his seminar was discussed here, that it isn’t suitable for high school students. Thus Balter’s statement that “I got into a ferocious debate with commentators on a pro-evolution blog, who argued that this approach was all fine and dandy for university students but too advanced for high school students. Yet the first-year students in Washington were just out of high school …” is dishonestly misleading; the differences between a high school biology course and a college seminar, as well as the selectivity of the college population, were discussed at length at the “pro-evolution blog”. It is because Balter ignores all counterarguments (as he repeatedly did here) that his views are unchanging.

Comment #159188

Posted by demallien on February 2, 2007 5:18 AM (e)

Putting aside Baltar’s misguided solution, the question he has asked here is still interesting. The battle is being lost in the classrooms in the US, if we are to believe the statistics. So what is a reasonable strategy to address that that a pro-evolution activist could adopt?

Comment #159189

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 5:24 AM (e)

So what is a reasonable strategy to address that that a pro-evolution activist could adopt?

Support the Richard Dawkins Foundation, which is seeking to understand the causes of superstition and how to counter it.

Comment #159198

Posted by KL on February 2, 2007 6:45 AM (e)

One task in this country is deciding what constitutes science literacy. I teach at a prep school; our primary task is college preparation. In science, that means a select group of skills, some basic concepts, work ethic, organization, etc. Although there are various ideas and philosophies at work, you can get feedback from colleges, former students, admissions departments, etc. to figure out how you are doing. Public schools must do this too, but in addition must acknowledge that they are teaching a diverse group of students, many of whom will not go to college but all of whom will become citizens. How do you define science literacy? What goes into teaching a scientifically literate population? How do you attract and reward teachers in sciences? Most people (myself included) did science in college because we liked it. Most science teachers (myself NOT included) had to give up doing science to become teachers. I am lucky to work at a school that allows us to be scholars and scientists as well as teachers.

I think that our population has a pretty good idea what constitutes “literacy” (reading and writing) even if some of our citizens are not literate. Our population is not “literate” in other ways, however. Take personal economics: We are spending more than we have, and savings rates are at the lowest point since 1933. We carry a heavy debt load, use credit cards incorrectly, and carry multiple mortgages to finance foolish purchases. We are politically illiterate too; many of us do not vote, and when we do, we vote repeatedly against our best interests, following wedge issues that appeal to us emotionally but provide little improvement to our daily lives. We have real misconceptions about health-overweight, couch potatoes that drive cars everywhere and that eat billions of dollars in processed food loaded with sodium, sugar, simple carbs and saturated fat, and wonder why we have diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure.

The same is true of science literacy. We have almost no idea what science is or how scientific inquiry is conducted. We are not skeptical enough, we know almost nothing about our physical world, and we follow superstitions that have no basis in reality. Is it any wonder that as a society we perpetuate these shortcomings in our education system?

I believe that nothing short of a nation-wide campaign of public awareness is needed for a lot of these things. (similar to the civil rights movement, which had to span several generations to finally see results) We are not a stupid nation, but we have been acting stupid for way too long.

Sorry for the looooong post-we are delayed an hour this morning for ice-I can afford to ponder this a bit!

Comment #159201

Posted by Michael Balter on February 2, 2007 7:49 AM (e)

“Yet the first-year students in Washington were just out of high school …” is dishonestly misleading; the differences between a high school biology course and a college seminar, as well as the selectivity of the college population, were discussed at length at the “pro-evolution blog”.”

I’m just going to step in and correct one comment from Popper’s ghost, because in accusing me of being dishonest he has misled all of you–whether it is dishonestly or not is not for me to say. During that discussion Verhey himself stepped in to say that there was little difference between a high school senior and a college freshman in terms of their sophistication and intellectual development, which was what was being discussed–because the issue was whether my approach was too difficult to put into practice at the high school level. Since Verhey was their instructor and had direct contact with his students, I think his judgement counts for something, and should not be distorted.

Comment #159209

Posted by Flint on February 2, 2007 8:35 AM (e)

During that discussion Verhey himself stepped in to say that there was little difference between a high school senior and a college freshman in terms of their sophistication and intellectual development, which was what was being discussed–because the issue was whether my approach was too difficult to put into practice at the high school level. Since Verhey was their instructor and had direct contact with his students, I think his judgement counts for something, and should not be distorted.

This is STILL not honest. Take every high school senior in the country. Select out the best, and send them to college. Take out the most interested and intelligent of *those*, to attend a (voluntary) biology seminar. Sure enough, they’re pretty intelligent, knowledgeable, and curious.

NOW, pretend that this twice-filtered population is *the very same* as the population of involuntary, bored, ignorant high school students nationwide, and act amazed that anyone might suggest that these populations are any different. And suggest anyone who notices otherwise *might* not be honest.

As Popper’s Ghost said, it’s only by ignorning all counter arguments, however stone obvious, that Balter can hold tight to a failed idea.

Comment #159211

Posted by Raging Bee on February 2, 2007 9:13 AM (e)

During that discussion Verhey himself stepped in to say that there was little difference between a high school senior and a college freshman in terms of their sophistication and intellectual development…

The difference in in the environment: the freshman is in a college, surrounded by students his age and older, and taught by professors who are likely to be a LOT more informed and qualified than the teachers he had in high school. Also, the dumbing-down pressure – from idiot parents, know-nothing activists, spineless administrators, cash-strapped school-districts, unqualified and/or lazy teachers, and unmotivated students – is not present in college as it is in high school. As a result of all of this, the college freshman is likely to be both more motivated and less constrained in his education and self-education.

Comment #159221

Posted by demallien on February 2, 2007 10:12 AM (e)

Flint wrote:

This is STILL not honest. Take every high school senior in the country. Select out the best, and send them to college. Take out the most interested and intelligent of *those*, to attend a (voluntary) biology seminar. Sure enough, they’re pretty intelligent, knowledgeable, and curious.

Flint, it’s an opinion. Unless you wish to claim that Verhey is actively trying to deceive you by advancing it (and one would hope that such a claim would be backed up with evidence), the most you can say is that you think the guy is wrong, and explain your reasons why, not claim that it’s not honest.

Or are you claiming that it’s Baltar that is dishonest in his reporting of Verhey’ comments? Your post wasn’t clear on just what wasn’t honest. I’m assuming that you were complaining about Verhey, since the rest of the post attacked Verhey’s point of view…

Comment #159222

Posted by demallien on February 2, 2007 10:14 AM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

Support the Richard Dawkins Foundation, which is seeking to understand the causes of superstition and how to counter it.

So what you are saying is that at the moment we have no good ideas for how to address the problem, but that the question is being researched?

Comment #159224

Posted by GuyeFaux on February 2, 2007 10:27 AM (e)

Are you serious?

Typically it is run by administrators and consists of meetings filled with inane activities and pseudo-consultants. Some of these “consultants” are paid con artists peddling astrology based assessments of student learning styles, and other things just as stupid.

That sounds illegal; teaching teachers pseudoscience has to be unconstitutional. Endorsement of religion and all that.

Comment #159232

Posted by David B. Benson on February 2, 2007 11:20 AM (e)

Given some of the comments, I am going to recommend the book briefly reviewed in comment #159120 more highly.

Appropriate assessment of student’s knowledge is precisely the type of research that Chong Ho Yu, Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, Director of Testing, Evaluation and Research for Arizona State University’s Digital Media Instructional Technology Department, addresses in his short book.

Comment #159234

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 2, 2007 12:12 PM (e)

GuyeFaux:

Yes, I’m serious. I sat through many such meetings. And when the teachers objected to the bullshit, the administrators who set up these meetings became defensive and started accusing the teachers of being unwilling to participate in “professional development” and attempting to circumvent state mandated teacher development rules.

What was really happening was that the administrators in these cases had no idea of what was bullshit and what was not, yet they were the ones who were responsible for enforcing educational mandates. My own criticisms fell on incredulous ears.

And all this was taking place in a program for gifted and tallented high school students taking college level courses.

Comment #159235

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 2, 2007 12:13 PM (e)

GuyeFaux:

Yes, I’m serious. I sat through many such meetings. And when the teachers objected to the bullshit, the administrators who set up these meetings became defensive and started accusing the teachers of being unwilling to participate in “professional development” and attempting to circumvent state mandated teacher development rules.

What was really happening was that the administrators in these cases had no idea of what was bullshit and what was not, yet they were the ones who were responsible for enforcing educational mandates. My own criticisms fell on incredulous ears.

And all this was taking place in a program for gifted and tallented high school students taking college level courses.

I also learned from teachers at AAPT meetings that this kind of thing goes on in other schools throughout the country.

Comment #159237

Posted by David B. Benson on February 2, 2007 12:23 PM (e)

Mike Elzinga — It was certainly worth repeating! Seriously.

Comment #159240

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 2, 2007 12:50 PM (e)

David:

Oops! I’m not sure how that happened. I think I may have hit post instead of preview. When the new screen didn’t come up right away, I hit preview again.

My apologies for the double post.

Comment #159241

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 1:12 PM (e)

I’m just going to step in and correct one comment from Popper’s ghost, because in accusing me of being dishonest he has misled all of you–whether it is dishonestly or not is not for me to say. During that discussion Verhey himself stepped in to say that there was little difference between a high school senior and a college freshman in terms of their sophistication and intellectual development, which was what was being discussed–because the issue was whether my approach was too difficult to put into practice at the high school level. Since Verhey was their instructor and had direct contact with his students, I think his judgement counts for something, and should not be distorted.

This is so transparently dishonest as to barely warrant comment, but: Balter addressed none of my points – the difference in circumstances, the selectivity of the population, and the fact the Verhey himself said that his seminar was not suitable for high school – and instead attacked a strawman. In any case, if Verhey said that, it was a silly thing to say, since “a high school senior” covers a lot of ground, and so does “a college freshman”; such a comparison is meaningless, and selectivity guarantees that high school seniors and college freshmen aren’t statistically equivalent – not even considering the selectivity of an elective college seminar in evolutionary biology, and not even considering that we aren’t just talking about high school seniors. And Verhey was not “their instructor” – I’m sure there are many college students that he has never instructed, and certainly many high school students he has never instructed, if any at all, so invoking him as some sort authority on the relative sophistication and intellectual development of high schoolers and college students is a rather bad argument from authority. And I as didn’t address Verhey’s judgment on that matter in my previous post, I of course could not have distorted it. Indeed, one should not deal in distortions, but Balter repeatedly does so, here and in his editorial.

Comment #159242

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 1:19 PM (e)

Or are you claiming that it’s Baltar that is dishonest in his reporting of Verhey’ comments? Your post wasn’t clear on just what wasn’t honest. I’m assuming that you were complaining about Verhey, since the rest of the post attacked Verhey’s point of view…

You must be referring to a different post than the one Flint put here, in which he refers to Balter‘s “failed idea” and its “stone obvious” counterarguments.

Comment #159244

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 1:43 PM (e)

The problem can be seen here in that I noted that Verhey said his seminar wasn’t appropriate for high school and then Balter says that Verhey claims that high school seniors are as sophisticated as college students, and seems to think that these two claims are contradictory. It’s a matter of shallow thinking and ignoring relevant details.

Comment #159247

Posted by Flint on February 2, 2007 2:05 PM (e)

I thought I was pretty clear in post #158921. I’m as astounded as Popper’s Ghost by Balter’s intransigence. A voluntary college seminar, even though it be attended by students only a few months older than high school seniors, is simply worlds apart. Balter doesn’t seem to understand ANY of the relevant factors. Selection has been discussed. College environment has been discussed. The fact that we’re mostly talking about introducing decent instruction about evolution in 9th grade, not 12th grade has been mentioned.

What hasn’t been mentioned is that college students, simply by virtue of attending college, are acting as independent agents. High school students are still very much proxies for their parents. When evolution is taught in Red America, it’s not typically the kids who rise up in righteous anger and make life miserable for the administration. The entire audience is different in character.

Finally, I want to re-emphasize a point Balter seems to have totally misunderstood - creationism is not scientific error, and teaching it as such completely misses the point. Creationism is religious doctrine, smuggled into science class both because science has such a good reputation to piggyback on, and because science class is where Satan’s Lies are perceived by be spread in the form of evolutionary theory. Using “scientifically incorrect” religious doctrine as a pedagogical tool to illuminate scientific principles is a frankly STUPID idea. The only conceivable lesson creationist students could come away with is that “Mr. Dumbass the science teacher says science proved God is a lie.” Yeah, great way to teach science.

Comment #159256

Posted by Anton Mates on February 2, 2007 2:20 PM (e)

GuyeFaux wrote:

Agreed here. When I said YEC was discussed, I did not mean its current, anti-evolution incarnation. Even before Darwin, people have dug up bones of what appeared to be long-extinct species, which displaced somewhat the popular view. And that I thought was useful, since you really got into the strength of the evidence between two conjectures.

Quite useful indeed. But Balter’s example was showing students “Icons of Evolution,” which has very little to do with historical objections to evolutionary theory from within mainstream science.

I would hope that any competent biology teacher will go into the historical reasons why evolutionary theory became the accepted foundation of biology, and that will definitely involve showing its superiority over competing theories. But modern YEC and ID wouldn’t really be involved there.

Comment #159257

Posted by GuyeFaux on February 2, 2007 2:24 PM (e)

I would hope that any competent biology teacher will go into the historical reasons why evolutionary theory became the accepted foundation of biology, and that will definitely involve showing its superiority over competing theories. But modern YEC and ID wouldn’t really be involved there.

Given Mike Elzinga’s horror story and the fact that Icons would be shown, I whole-heartedly agree.

Comment #159260

Posted by L. W. on February 2, 2007 3:03 PM (e)

It seems to me that one way to counter the influence of creationism is to emphasize the compatibility of Christianity and Darwinism.

At one time in my life, I was a zealous proponent of creationism/ID because I believed that it was inconsistent with my Christianity (then, a stripe of ‘evangelical’ Protestant). My own intellectual evolution (forgive the pun) included a conversion to Catholicism, and subsequently, a more sophisticated view of Biblical truth. As a result, I realized that the truth or falsity of any empirical theory was logically independent of the truth or falsity of the tenets of the Christian faith (i.e., as Paul puts it, “Christ and him crucified). With that realization, the impediment to accepting Darwinism was removed, and now I see the entire issue as unimportant (from a religious perspective; it is, of course, scientifically important).

Comment #159268

Posted by Steviepinhead on February 2, 2007 4:04 PM (e)

Flint just nailed it.

Sorry, Mr. Balter, at this point you’re engaged in nothing but avoidance of a whole series of important distinctions between what you think you’re talking about and, well, reality…

Comment #159298

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 2, 2007 8:00 PM (e)

My own intellectual evolution (forgive the pun) included a conversion to Catholicism, and subsequently, a more sophisticated view of Biblical truth. As a result …

In other words your acceptance wasn’t a consequence of accepting compatibility between Christianity and “Darwinism” (whatever the heck that is), it was a consequence of your conversion to Catholicism … which is officially (per pronouncements by the pope) consistent with the theory of evolution, which is taught in Catholic schools. But evangelicals have a different view of “Biblical truth” – that is, they actually think the bible is true (as opposed to a “more sophisticated” view in which biblical claims are to be ignored whenever they can’t be fit into the gaps in our empirical knowledge).

Comment #159302

Posted by John Krehbiel on February 2, 2007 8:49 PM (e)

guyfaux wrote:

That sounds illegal; teaching teachers pseudoscience has to be unconstitutional. Endorsement of religion and all that.

Illegal, maybe, but I had to tolerate an exercise meant to illustrate a reading strategy which used an article about Feng Shuei (I have no idea how to spell it, and really don’t care)

I was ticked off by the requirement that I read superstitious drivel. The reading strategy involved statements the reader either agrees with or disagrees with before reading, then confirms or disconfirms by reading the passage. On of the statements was “Having your bed facing East causes spiritual balance” or some such crap. Feeling kind of contrary, I pointed out that that statement is either true or false, regardless of what the article says.

Of course the vice principal running the meeting completely missed the point and insisted that if the articlde said it was so, it must be so.

Comment #159311

Posted by L. W. on February 2, 2007 9:44 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #159312

Posted by L. W. on February 2, 2007 9:47 PM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

But evangelicals have a different view of “Biblical truth” – that is, they actually think the bible is true (as opposed to a “more sophisticated” view in which biblical claims are to be ignored whenever they can’t be fit into the gaps in our empirical knowledge).

Apparently, you have a simplistic view of truth. On your account, Aesop’s fables, are not true in any sense (obviously, as there aren’t different senses of ‘true’) because they are fictional. An uncontroversial example from Sacred Scripture is the book of Job. Very few Christians of any denomination think that Job is (or purports to be) a historical narrative. Nevertheless, there are many truths expressed in Job.

Comment #159313

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 2, 2007 9:58 PM (e)

Or are you claiming that it’s Baltar that is dishonest in his reporting of Verhey’ comments?

IMO, Balter is NOT wrong about Verhey’s conclusions or the interpretations he has made of them. Where he errs is in his APPLICATION of those conclusions for a group they were not designed to address. You can use Allen McNeills attempts as field evidence for the efficacy of the strategy at the collegiate level (for what that’s worth), but even he doesn’t think it would be appropriate for secondary education.

Moroever, Balter continues to labor under the delusion that no alternatives for improving levels of secondary level education of the ToE have been presented.

He refuses to look at any of the NSF and NAAS projects looking at improving education of evolutionary biology at the secondary level, and also fails to note that NONE of those projects even remotely consider the teaching of creationism in a science class to be a viable strategem.

he’s as good at handwaiving away simple, basic arguments against his idea as any DI employee.

I told him on Mike’s site that I am going to make a list of ALL the things he has not considered to be “relevant or important” criticisms since this debate started way back when in the first PT thread.

It’s my project for tommorrow, and while balter will spin it as personal attack (just you watch), it will become abundantly clear he has no intention of addressing any serious criticism. he never has and never will. My interpretation of his behavior is that he simply wants to use this issue to generate publicity for himself, and that is supported by his statements to the effect that since the LA times published his editorial, it must have something viable to it. appeals to the media for support is the realm of the DI, and when we see this behavior in an actual science writer, it’s time to seriously examine his motives for doing so.

anywho, I will make a copy of the list of unadressed questions in this thread as well.

My point is not a personal attack against Balter (not that he doesn’t deserve it), but rather to curtail further discussion and wasted effort on a proposal that literally, not one single scientific organization supports, and for excellent reasons.

In short, it’s time to put this idea to bed, permanently.

Comment #159368

Posted by David Stanton on February 3, 2007 8:51 AM (e)

Balter said:

“Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will.”

Good question. Honestly we just don’t know, since nothing so far has seemed to make much difference. Putting creationism back in the classroom hardly seems to be the right answer. However, University faculty in Biology do have opportunities to make a difference.

First and foremost we need to present the basics of evolutionary theory in introductory Biology classes and teach the entire course from an evolutionary perspective. In addition, we should integrate that approach throughout the curriculum.

Second, there are many ways that we can also make a difference in the community. For example, at SVSU in Michigan we have a Regional Math Science Center. Several of our Biology Faculty participate regularly in collaborative education efforts. For example, we offer teacher training programs to area teachers to increase content knowledge, including evolutionary theory. We offer summer workshops to area teaachers for the same reason. We go to area schools and give presentations to increase interest and awareness of science as well as offering on-campus activities for K-12 students, such as science competitions between area high schools. We even participate in lifelong learning programs to increase awareness of science and evolution in the older members of the community.

Is all this enough? Only time will tell. It takes a lot to overcome ignorance. But then again, that is what the goal of all educators should be.

Comment #159377

Posted by fnxtr on February 3, 2007 11:27 AM (e)

L.W. sez:

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

But evangelicals have a different view of “Biblical truth” – that is, they actually think the bible is true (as opposed to a “more sophisticated” view in which biblical claims are to be ignored whenever they can’t be fit into the gaps in our empirical knowledge).

Apparently, you have a simplistic view of truth. On your account, Aesop’s fables, are not true in any sense (obviously, as there aren’t different senses of ‘true’) because they are fictional. An uncontroversial example from Sacred Scripture is the book of Job. Very few Christians of any denomination think that Job is (or purports to be) a historical narrative. Nevertheless, there are many truths expressed in Job.

L.W., It’s pretty clear to me, and, I hope, most readers, that when Popper’s Ghost uses the word ‘true’ he means ‘historically and factually accurate’, whereas you want it to mean ‘culturally relevant’.

PG’s use of the word is the more common, in the EFL world, anyway.

When you say ‘simplistic’ you really mean ‘well-defined’.

I’m sure PG will have more to say about this himself very shortly (in both senses).

Comment #159386

Posted by L. W. on February 3, 2007 1:01 PM (e)

‘Factual’ is a subtler word than you allow for. Nonetheless, I understand that Popper’s Ghost holds that ‘true’ is synonymous with ‘historically’ or ‘literally’ true. It’s unclear what you mean by ‘culturally relevant’.

If ‘truth’ is synonymous with ‘historical truth,’ then there is no sense in which fiction is true. That is obviously incorrect.

As for being ‘well-defined,’ a more sophisticated account of truth does not lack definition. It is fairly easy to describe the mode of truth in parables. They are literally false accounts that express other literal truths. As such, they are species of analogy.

Comment #159390

Posted by David B. Benson on February 3, 2007 1:28 PM (e)

L.W. — It is called fiction to separate it from fact. So fiction is not true. It might be illuminating or entertaining, however…

Comment #159422

Posted by L. W. on February 3, 2007 7:15 PM (e)

David B. Benson wrote:

It is called fiction to separate it from fact. So fiction is not true. It might be illuminating or entertaining, however…

And what does ‘illuminating’ mean?

Comment #159457

Posted by Steve Verhey on February 4, 2007 1:29 AM (e)

I’ve only taken a few minutes to skim all these comments, which I’m seeing for the first time, but here are a couple of quick comments of my own. Please forgive my tone. Reading all the comments at once makes one edgy.

1. The university where I carried out my experiment is not (with all due respect to the students) selective. Given the large fraction of high-school students who attend college nowadays, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that my students resembled high school seniors.

2. The seminar was part of the first-quarter intro biology class that is required for all biology majors; it was not optional. Students were randomly assigned to the various sections of the class, including mine. I compared grades, amount of college experience, and other characteristics, and students in my sections were similar in all ways to students in the other sections.

3. I don’t understand (and I’m not interested in knowing) the need for some discussants to abuse Michael Balter. Please stop it. And leave me alone, too.

4. It is true that during the last (and much more unpleasant) PT discussion I said that I didn’t think using my approach with high school students was necessarily a good idea, but not because I didn’t think the students could handle it. As you know, there are a fair number of creationist teachers out there, and parents can be exceedingly bloody-minded. This complicates things.

5. I am not impressed with the claim that all US scientific establishments are opposed to the approach I used, even when employed in college. My approach worked, and I have collected additional data to provide much stronger statistical support. On the other hand, the Teach Only Science approach has been tried for years and has failed. It is not based on sound pedagogy. It is tired dogma, and IMO it’s time for a paradigm shift.

6. If we were talking about a medical trial, the experiment would have been stopped by now, and my approach offered to all the patients. To do otherwise would be unethical.

7. Why does it sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? Because I got fired by my university, where no one understood what I was doing, after my paper came out. I’m grateful for this because I’ve gone to a much better place, but it was annoying at the time and some of the discussants here remind me of my former colleagues.

Comment #159459

Posted by fnxtr on February 4, 2007 2:07 AM (e)

L.W:

‘Factual’ is a subtler word than you allow for. Nonetheless, I understand that Popper’s Ghost holds that ‘true’ is synonymous with ‘historically’ or ‘literally’ true. It’s unclear what you mean by ‘culturally relevant’.

If ‘truth’ is synonymous with ‘historical truth,’ then there is no sense in which fiction is true. That is obviously incorrect.

As for being ‘well-defined,’ a more sophisticated account of truth does not lack definition. It is fairly easy to describe the mode of truth in parables. They are literally false accounts that express other literal truths. As such, they are species of analogy.

Ah. Sophistry.

What’s subtle about ‘factual’? Either something happens or it doesn’t. An account of an event can be inaccurate, but that doesn’t change the ‘truth’ of the event itself. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion. That is true, and it was true before we knew it.

Don’t be obtuse. Some stories are told to reinforce the beliefs of a community. These are the culturally-relevant ideas that those who chose to believe them call ‘truths’.

What specific ‘truths’ in the story of Job are you thinking of? In what sense are they ‘true’, other than in the community-binding-beliefs sense?

Do you see the difference between the “We shouldn’t question the Creator’s motives” kind of ‘truth’– which depends on your community – and the “Humans cannot live for three days inside whales” kind of truth – which doesn’t?

Comment #159460

Posted by Mike Dunford on February 4, 2007 3:14 AM (e)

Steve Verhey wrote:

I’ve only taken a few minutes to skim all these comments, which I’m seeing for the first time, but here are a couple of quick comments of my own. Please forgive my tone. Reading all the comments at once makes one edgy.

I do understand, believe me.

Steve Verhey wrote:

4. It is true that during the last (and much more unpleasant) PT discussion I said that I didn’t think using my approach with high school students was necessarily a good idea, but not because I didn’t think the students could handle it. As you know, there are a fair number of creationist teachers out there, and parents can be exceedingly bloody-minded. This complicates things.

I think you summed up exactly why people here are so opposed to Mr. Balter’s proposal to take your work and apply it to high school. I think most of us have a fair amount of confidence in the average high schooler’s ability to learn. I think the main issue is that most of us have little to no confidence in what would actually be taught in high schools if the curriculum was broadened to incude covering anti-evolution material.

At the college level, I think your approach is the right one to use, and I’ve made that argument in my department before, and will again next week when I do a 45-minute presentation to our Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program on why it really is important to pay attention to what’s going on with ID. In fact, I’ve already cited your study and results in the slides I’ll be using as an approach that people might want to consider more often.

Thanks for

Comment #159461

Posted by Michael Balter on February 4, 2007 3:29 AM (e)

“In short, it’s time to put this idea to bed, permanently.”

So Toejam here is Ichthyic on The Questionable Authority. That does not surprise me.

This idea will not be put to bed, permanently, because it takes more than blogging to defeat an idea–despite the illusion some bloggers have that they are acting in the real world when what they are mainly doing is typing. I can assure you that the debate will continue, that I will continue to publish and elaborate on my proposals, and that it is my view that they can successfully be ADAPTED for the high school setting. As Verhey points out in his post here, the teach only science approach has failed, miserably, because it is not based on sound pedagogy. Those who really care about science education should be more open minded about exploring alternatives and engaging with the prior beliefs of the majority of students, who are creationists. That is where we start, and no amount of hand waving about keeping our science classes pure will change it.

Comment #159470

Posted by SteveF on February 4, 2007 5:26 AM (e)

The following paper might be of some interest to Mike, Michael and Steve:

Kalinowski, S.T. (2006) Can random mutation mimic design?: A guided inquiry laboratory for undergraduate students. Genetics, 174, 1073-1079

Abstract: Complex biological structures, such as the human eye, have been interpreted as evidence for a creator for over three centuries. This raises the question of whether random mutation can create such adaptations. In this article, we present an inquiry-based laboratory experiment that explores this question rising paper airplanes as a model organism. The main task for students in this investigation is to figure out how to simulate paper air-plane evolution (including reproduction, inheritance, mutation, and selection). In addition, the lab requires students to practice analytic thinking and to carefully delineate the implications of their results.

From the discussion:

Given the controversy in contemporary society surrounding evolution (ALTERS and NELSON 2002; SCOTT 2004), some instructors may think it best to remove the design component from this lab. This would not be difficult to do; the focal question of the lab could be rephrased as “Can random mutations create complex adaptations?” and the design element of the lab could be neatly excised. Below we describe why we have not done this. Before we begin that discussion, we would like to emphasize that we have deliberately constructed the lab so that it is not an investigation of whether species have originated via evolution or design. The lab may refute a criticism of natural selection made by advocates of design, but it does not attempt to evaluate the design hypothesis (see LAWSON 1999 for a lab that does). We discuss evidence for and against evolution and design in the lecture, but have been careful to not put our TAs in the position of leading such a sensitive discussion.

We have chosen to include the design element in the lab because it motivates the lab and because it helps to teach five important lessons:

1. Including the design aspect of the lab gives students an opportunity to read an excerpt from Paley’s Natural Theology. As with Darwin, we believe Paley’s argument is historically significant, his writing excellent, and his logic impressive.
2. Reading Paley gives students an opportunity to analyze his argument—which gives students practice with a foundational element of scientific thinking.
3. Having students design a paper airplane that flies as far as possible teaches students that there are many possible combinations of wing size and location. We believe students have a poor understanding of combinatorics, so this is an important mathematics lesson.
4. Including the design element also gives students the opportunity to clearly delineate the implications of their results, an important scientific thinking skill.
5. Finally, the design question gives students practice discussing a controversial topic with respect for students who have other views, and this may be as valuable a skill to practice as any other component of the lab.

Comment #159471

Posted by SteveF on February 4, 2007 5:31 AM (e)

Oh, and the paper can be found here:

http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/full/174/3/1…

PS; whilst I’m sceptical of Michael’s approach here, The Goddess and the Bull is a great book; highly recommended.

Comment #159476

Posted by Michael Balter on February 4, 2007 6:42 AM (e)

SteveF, your posting of this paper is an excellent contribution to the discussion we are having, and I don’t say that just because you praised my book! I don’t mind you and others being skeptical of my approach, but to me this paper does illustrate the kinds of things that could be done if educators were creative in applying what we know about how students learn from pedagogical theory and research.

Comment #159488

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 4, 2007 11:31 AM (e)

As has been mentioned in a number of posts, the environment in a high school and a 9th grade biology class is quite different from the environment in most colleges and universities. There are occasions where, despite the skill and knowledge of a good teacher, attacks come out of nowhere, and the administrators first response is appeasement.

Sometimes one can get a sense of what kind of anti-evolution activity is brewing in the community if there are letters to the editor in a local paper, bleating with “Tammy Faye Bakker tears”, about the psychological damage and loss of precious children’s souls due to the teaching of evolution in the schools. Most of us have probably seen these. At least in these cases there is some warning about what might occur. But most of the time, there is little warning, except perhaps a scolding by parents in a parent-teacher conference, followed by a complaint to the principle or school board.

I have had some opportunity for up-close observations of approaches that do work well in a high school environment (most of the time), and they scrupulously avoid any mention of the more recent creationist/ID literature and claims. There are plenty of excellent arguments in the works of Darwin, Lyle, and many other authors of the modern synthesis that have put to rest the historical objections to evolution and natural selection in the past. These are extremely interesting readings and well worth bringing to the attention of students. The creationist/ID pushers have added nothing new in attempting to resurrect these old arguments, and there is no need to refer to any of their propaganda. Doing so only provokes the political wing of these groups in the community. One doesn’t even need to mention religious objections to things like the age of the earth, but can simply pose such alternatives as historical objections based on human perceptions that date back to much earlier ideas about the observed universe. The important point is to focus on the evidence and steer clear of references to the more recent political/ideological time-wasting activities of the creationist/ID activists.

From what we have seen of attacks on high school science to date, there is usually a politically active creationist/ID group in a community that looks for or perceives a threat or weakness in the science program. My own observation is that they quickly back down in the face of a strong, knowledgeable science faculty, even when the administrators are spineless. It also helps to have students whose parents are knowledgeable about the science being taught and who are willing to defend the science teachers. Teachers themselves need to be well connected to the larger science community. How often does this happen in rural, red state communities?

My own somewhat limited experience with training of science teachers has been that teachers in rural and isolated communities are often at an extreme disadvantage. They often work in authoritarian environments, intimidated by parents and administrators, with few recourses, and no support from scientific organizations. They can’t afford to attend professional meetings and the school district cannot or will not help. Their demeanor is often cowed and they are reluctant to try new ideas without official permission. No one even dares to mention the word evolution in these environments.

Inner-city schools dealing with gang wars and violence bring in another set of issues. Teachers and administrators in these environments spend the greater percentage of their time just trying to hold the classroom together. No one cares about what is taught.

While Michael Balter’s suggestions may seem laudable at first glance, they appear to me to completely ignore the socio/political dynamics of those schools that have the greatest need to improve their science curricula. The problems are far bigger than he seems to recognize.

Comment #159495

Posted by David B. Benson on February 4, 2007 1:47 PM (e)

Michael Balter has stated that Teach Science Only has failed.

Failed to do what?

A typical 9th grade biology class probably never mentions evolution. Mine didn’t, but that was in 1953 or thenabouts.

Comment #159515

Posted by KL on February 4, 2007 6:41 PM (e)

Add to this the difficulty that rural schools have in attracting qualified teachers in math, science and foreign language. In my state many teach with “waivers”; allowing them to fill positions that they are not certified in because the need is so great. If you come out of college with a degree in one of these areas, there are certainly much better ways of making a living that being a teacher in a rural public school.

Comment #159524

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 4, 2007 9:12 PM (e)

Why does it sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? Because I got fired by my university, where no one understood what I was doing, after my paper came out

that plus descriptions of “paradigm shift” should have alarm bells ringing in any rational person’s head.

thanks for the contribution, Steve.

I decided to go all the way back to the original discussion on PT, so bear with me as I put this together.

Comment #159525

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 4, 2007 9:13 PM (e)

So Toejam here is Ichthyic on The Questionable Authority. That does not surprise me.

you’re absolutely brilliant to figure out something everybody already knows.

keep that mind a clickin’ there, boyo.

Comment #159536

Posted by Jim Harrison on February 4, 2007 10:21 PM (e)

Balter’s approach reminds me of some of the more utopian suggestions I used to hear from math profs who wanted to reform primary and secondary math ed in the United States. Those guys had the purest of intentions and a complete lack of understanding of the realities of American public education, in particular the fact that everything in our schools will always be done on the cheap by poorly paid and often poorly trained teachers supervised by principals and superintendents terrified of angry parents.

I’m very unhappy with the treatment Balter has received in these comments. So far as I can see, he is more naive than anything else–a child, not a villain. He doesn’t understand that “teaching the controversy” will only provide legal cover for even more religious indoctrination than already occurs in American schools. Policy suggestions must not be evaluated in a vacuum.

Comment #159545

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 12:31 AM (e)

As Verhey points out in his post here, the teach only science approach has failed, miserably, because it is not based on sound pedagogy. Those who really care about science education should be more open minded about exploring alternatives and engaging with the prior beliefs of the majority of students, who are creationists. That is where we start, and no amount of hand waving about keeping our science classes pure will change it.

…and Mr. Balter continues to ignore the primary critique of his proposal:

that it is based on a mischaracterization of the problem as one of pedagogy, rather than one of simply better education to begin with.

really, Mr. Balter is wasting so much time and energy on something that in it’s very essence is self defeating, where he would be far better off spending that energy detailing what NSF and NAAS ARE doing to improve science education in general, and he should also be writing about how teachers are missing needed resources in order to correctly teach the theory to begin with.

It really is a crying shame that someone with a decent writing background, especially in science, would abandon the reasoned approach for something logically untenable and rejected by every major scientific organization in the US.

again, it boils down to his knowledge of one question (and his ignorance of how evolution is actually taught to begin with), which he has never understood, nor answered:

why did the NAAS recommed boycotting the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt?

Comment #159598

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 2:10 AM (e)

I’m very unhappy with the treatment Balter has received in these comments. So far as I can see, he is more naive than anything else–a child, not a villain.

the reason Balter seems mistreated, is for the exact same reason it might seem a parent is mistreating a child at the grocery store when they are yelling NO!!! at the top of their lungs, if you came after the parent had already patiently explained why the child can’t have the toy 10 times, then said no in a quiet fashion ten more…

you’re missing some history here; Balter has been at this for years now, and ignores all critique.

where Balter becomes a villain is that if what Balter proposes was taken up by a school board or legislature, it would end up causing FAR more harm than good, and end up tieing up resources that would be far better used in trying to improve the actual education of the theory itself at the secondary level, which is where the real problem lies. Moreover, regardless of what he thinks, there is significant evidence to indicate that what he proposes would immediately be abused by over 30% of school districts in the US, and evolution would not be taught AT ALL.

It becomes very frustrating for those of us who actually know something about how evolution is taught at the secondary level, which he patently refuses to do.

Comment #159599

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 2:14 AM (e)

This idea will not be put to bed, permanently, because it takes more than blogging to defeat an idea

you should ask Sony’s CD music division if you are correct about that.

Comment #159627

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 8:10 AM (e)

“why did the NAAS recommed boycotting the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt?”–Toejam

This was a tactical decision with which I personally disagreed, I think reasonable people can debate the best course to take in these situations.

“you’re absolutely brilliant to figure out something everybody already knows.”–Toejam

This is an example of the kind of abusive style of argumentation I complain about. This is the first time I have ever been on The Questionable Authority site, although I certainly know Toejam from The Panda’s Thumb. Or is this some kind of closed club where only those who already agree can participate? I don’t think that is the attitude of most people here, but it is Toejam’s attitude.

Over on The Questionable Authority I said that my ideas should be put into practice first in school districts where they would be easiest to implement, such as major urban areas where creationism is not quite as strong. It would be silly to go straight into the Bible belt with this approach, although the lively debates in Kansas and in Dover make clear to me that there are parents who might be willing to fight for better evolution education. The crux of our debate is that I think there is plenty of evidence that the science only approach is not working, and clear evidence that engaging prior creationist beliefs can work. Some people have actually argued that evolution is not taught in many schools at all; if so, an approach that requires teachers to compare and contrast creationist and evolutionist ideas could only be an improvement over a campaign of silence, especially if there are syllabi that they are supposed to teach from. In essence, the objections to my proposals are really on the level of technical details rather than substantive, IMO.

Comment #159629

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 8:41 AM (e)

Maybe Balter should reflect on the wisdom of P.T.Barnum, something the DI has apparently done to great effect.

Intelligent Design is not science. Not created to be science, not intended to be science, and lacking scientific content. ID was concocted for one specific purpose: to *infiltrate* science with religious ideas, to get the camel’s nose into the tent. As Barnum said, “I don’t care what you say about me so long as you spell my name right.” The ID people don’t care how logically their claims are demolished or how much evidence and scientific method are deployed to do the job. They care to get their religious doctrine recognized as science!. Doesn’t matter if it’s bad science or wrong science or refuted science, so long as it’s presented as science.

Now, let’s make some (admittedly silly) assumptions: that the 9th grade biology teacher has nothing else on his curriculum, that he has the support of the administration, and that the parents of these kids won’t object to the pollution of their kids’ minds with sinful claims that endanger their chance of going to heaven.

Given this situation, what results might we reasonably anticipate? That more 9th graders will come away with a better understanding of science? But of course, the 9th grade biology teacher often teaches Phys Ed, and is often a creationist himself. Too often, the message being communicated is that science is denying God, science is saying the Bible is a lie, science is saying your grandfather was a monkey. The curriculum will be happily provided by the DI, and contain hundreds of links to AnswersInGenesis.

The goal of “intelligent design” is to make religious converts. Whatever it takes. Lying for Jesus is SOP, quote mining is standard, the Gish Gallop is the model for presenting a lesson, and anyone who protests that the *actual science* doesn’t agree is ipso facto trying to deny others their religious freedom. Some of the bills before State legislatures are already providing that students who give religious answers on biology tests can’t be downgraded!

Treating religious doctrine as “bad science” as a pedagogical tool for teaching better science would have the DI delirious. All by itself, this would justify spending millions of their budget trumpeting how, since it is now “taught in science classes”, this proves it was “scientific all along.” School boards across Red America would listen.

Balter proposes bringing cheats into the card game to teach honest players better skills.

Comment #159633

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 9:15 AM (e)

Flint is confusing the DI and its strategy with the millions upon millions of Americans who sincerely, rightly or wrong, believe in creationism in one form or another. That is a fundamental error which I pointed out repeatedly when we discussed this here in 2005. It leads to thinking that all one has to do is win court victories and that is enough, without dealing with the underlying, fundamental problem.

My main aim here is to get the fundamental principles right, the rest follows from that.

Comment #159634

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 9:17 AM (e)

This was a tactical decision with which I personally disagreed, I think reasonable people can debate the best course to take in these situations.

What an absolutely marvelous illustration of the disconnect. I couldn’t have done it better.

Let us carefully recall that the Kansas Kangaroo Court was carefully, deliberate organized NOT to permit reasonable people to debate. The three most ardent creationists on the school board were the ONLY judges. The agenda was set to favor creationist speakers. The procedures were carefully designed to let the creationists speak last on every subject, after which the “judges” would deem the creationists to have “won” the “scientific” debate, and then move on to the next subject.

This can’t be emphasized enough. The purpose of the Kansas proceedings had *absolutely nothing* to do with reasonable scientific discussion. The decision to stick creationism into science class *as TRUTH!* had already been made. The Kourt was a carefully contrived, tightly controlled PR exercise designed to justify this decision. Everything was rigged and orchestrated.

The reason Balter disagreed with NAAS, as far as I can tell, is that the NAAS understood all that was happening, and Balter just can’t seem to grasp that ID is not science, and PR exercises run by people with rigid one-sided agendas are not reasonable discussions. The entire purpose of the exercise was to do whatever it took to denigrate and humiliate any scientist foolish enough to play against a stacked deck. No reasonable debate was to be permitted under any circumstances. It was a sucker game from the git-go.

Until Balter understands that these sides have entirely different goals and methods, we’re going to get nowhere. The goal of science is to examine evidence to derive best-fit conclusions. The goal of ID is to make converts. Balter might reflect that where the creationists don’t control the forum, they demand “fairness” and “teach the controversy” and “present both sides”. Where creationists DO control the forum, they invariably use strict censorship. Opposing viewpoints are simply disappeared!

Now, Balter might argue that that’s not reasonable debate or discussion, and that’s not what will happen in 9th grade science classes. He should reflect on Leonard’s “PhD Committee” at Ohio State, composed of creationists from who cares what disciplines, for the purpose of stamping creationism with the unwitting blessing of Ohio State’s reputation. Creationists are willing to lie, to cheat, to break all the rules, whatever it takes. Reasonable debate? Forget that, it doesn’t make converts.

Comment #159636

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 9:28 AM (e)

Flint is confusing the DI and its strategy with the millions upon millions of Americans who sincerely, rightly or wrong, believe in creationism in one form or another. That is a fundamental error…

No. Balter is simply closing his eyes to the way that these millions of sincerely deluded Americans will be manipulated. Letting the camel into the tent doesn’t make the camel go away! Getting it back out of the tent would take a generation.

The way to educate people about evolution is to present the theory of evolution (something that is very commonly avoided across most of the country, in the interests of administrative tranquility). Religious claims should be addressed in comparative religion classes.

Balter might reflect on the fact that creationist claims CAN BE legally presented in such classes, and creationists want absolutely nothing to do with such an approach. That approach makes them sound like just another mythic system, rather than God’s Truth. Science class is the brass ring. Especially with a creationist science teacher. Creationism is not “Bad science”. Creationism is a public relations campaign. Balter may as well recommend releasing poison gas into science class, to “teach” the value of clean air.

Comment #159641

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 9:33 AM (e)

“Creationists are willing to lie, to cheat, to break all the rules, whatever it takes. Reasonable debate? Forget that, it doesn’t make converts.”

Wow, Flint is absolutely quaking at the mindblowing, awesome power of the creationists. How could science possibly win against such an invincible enemy? Best to just accept that 45% of Americans believe in the Biblical version of creation and leave it at that. No progress in those figures for 25 years, despite everything that scientists have done, just more proof of God’s omniscience–or proof that we need a new plan?

Comment #159644

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 9:49 AM (e)

I am not an education expert, but I have to say the the tone of Verhey’s and Balter’s recent posts here have caused serious damage to the credibility of their arguments.

Verhey wrote:

On the other hand, the Teach Only Science approach has been tried for years and has failed. It is not based on sound pedagogy. It is tired dogma, and IMO it’s time for a paradigm shift.

First, teaching only science in science classes worked pretty well for me: I didn’t major in any science, but the science classes I took taught only science, and I learned a good bit from them. I certainly didn’t need to hear any creationist hooey to enhance my appreciation of evolution.

Second, I don’t think there’s a single pedagogical approach that can be called a “success” or a “failure” in such absolute terms as Verhey uses here. I’ve been to public and private schools, and have heard lots of arguments, in a variety of fora, over which approach “works” for students, and I can tell you that what worked for me did not work for everyone else in my generation, many of whom had high (and IMHO sincere) praise for the schools I considered hellholes.

Verhey’s dismissive tone, and his use of fuzz-phrases like “paradigm shift,” imply a closed mind or a rigid agenda.

And when Michael Balter echoes the same statement and then adds:

Those who really care about science education should be more open minded about exploring alternatives…

…he starts to sound like a hypocrite.

Balter also says:

This idea will not be put to bed, permanently, because it takes more than blogging to defeat an idea–despite the illusion some bloggers have that they are acting in the real world when what they are mainly doing is typing.

So why is he typing on this blog? Here he sounds like a creationist who insists that there’s a huge “controversy” over evolution, and vows to keep on posting about this “controversy” – i.e., to keep on manufacturing a controversy – and dismissing, not addressing, those who respond to him.

Some people have actually argued that evolution is not taught in many schools at all; if so, an approach that requires teachers to compare and contrast creationist and evolutionist ideas could only be an improvement over a campaign of silence…

This is a false dichotomy: Balter is implying that the only two options are to ignore creationism altogether or take it seriously as something it clearly is not. There’s a third alternative which he refuses to consider: teach the real science, and answer creationist objections by exposing their logical fallacies and dishonesty.

This is an example of the kind of abusive style of argumentation I complain about. This is the first time I have ever been on The Questionable Authority site, although I certainly know Toejam from The Panda’s Thumb. Or is this some kind of closed club where only those who already agree can participate? I don’t think that is the attitude of most people here, but it is Toejam’s attitude.

If Balter is at all familiar with PT, he would already know that we’re not an exclusive club: in fact, we welcome stupid ideas like a slaughterhouse welcomes cows. Why is Balter being deliberately obtuse about this?

Over on The Questionable Authority I said that my ideas should be put into practice first in school districts where they would be easiest to implement, such as major urban areas where creationism is not quite as strong.

Slick strategy – introduce creationism where it’s weakest, rather than waste time where it’s already strong. And this contradicts his previous premise that evolution wasn’t taught at all. Also, he fails to answer an obvious question: if creationism isn’t as strong in these urban areas, then how can their current science-education approach be labelled a “failure?” Why is the Balter/Verhey “compare and contrast” approach necessary here?

Comment #159645

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 9:56 AM (e)

Wow, Flint is absolutely quaking at the mindblowing, awesome power of the creationists. How could science possibly win against such an invincible enemy?

This enemy is not invincible at all. What I’m protesting isn’t that we should combat it, but that we should use a strategy that achieves our goals rather than the goals of the creationists. I don’t know why Balter finds this concept so incomprehensible.

Best to just accept that 45% of Americans believe in the Biblical version of creation and leave it at that. No progress in those figures for 25 years, despite everything that scientists have done, just more proof of God’s omniscience–or proof that we need a new plan?

I think it shows that indeed we DO need a new plan. I’m just getting a bit fed up with the insistance that a BAD plan, a counterproductive plan, is better than no plan. Science class is simply not the place to address religious doctrine. Balter needs to understand that ID is not science, and not intended to be science. It is gussied up with scientistical-sounding jargon and doubletalk for the carefully calculated purpose of insinuating itself into science classes, so that the PR machine can say “See? It’s science after all!”

I propose a radical idea: Present the theory of evolution in 9th grade. It’s not too difficult to understand at that age, at least in general outline. Kids can grasp feedback processes. Creationism has hung on for multiple reasons - because people need something to believe in, because creationism is inculcated at a very early age, because evolution in most secondary schools is either not presented at all, or given about 10 minutes of a poorly-understood (by the teacher) presentation, late in the school year, and the students know it won’t be on the test.

Here’s another suggestion: Require biology teachers to be not only familiar with the basic outlines of evolutionary theory (or at least random mutation plus natural selection), but with common creationist misrepresentations, so they won’t get sandbagged and victimized like the poor schmuck in the Jack Chick cartoons. Make evolution a central part of the biology curriculum, and tie everything to it throughout the entire year.

Once again, creationism is much more than a few falsifiable scientific claims. Despite their formulation, most creationist claims can’t be refuted by evidence. Noah’s Flood is regarded as true not because of any evidence, but because God Said So! If the evidence says otherwise, even a prizewinning geologist with a gift for communication can’t show how science refutes a miracle. Creationism ultimately claims that reality is a reflection of supernatural magic. You Believe In God, or you Deny God. Science is relevant only insofar as creationists can steal from the gullible, the opportunity to claim they’re being “scientific.”

Balter seems to believe that if he feeds the fire more fuel, it will be satisfied and go away. I didn’t know ivory towers could be built that high.

Comment #159647

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 9:59 AM (e)

Balter (no relation to Gaius Baltar, I hope) further bloviates:

Best to just accept that 45% of Americans believe in the Biblical version of creation and leave it at that. No progress in those figures for 25 years, despite everything that scientists have done…

Well, back in the nineteenth century, that figure was around 100%, so I’d say bring it down to 45% is progress of a sort. Why is Balter blinding himself to the longer view?

By using opinion polls to decide what to teach in science classes, Balter sounds even more like a creationist; and his proposal sounds more like “teach the (nonexistent) controversy” all over again.

Comment #159651

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 10:25 AM (e)

I just gave Balter’s “let’s have a debate” article a quick read, and it seem to me that Balter is, at best, naive, gullible, easily bowled over by creationist bullying and flim-flam, and thus offering “son of teadch-the-controversy” as an attempt to appease enemies he’s given up on trying to defeat.

Consider his paragraph about that 2004 Gallup poll:

Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans don’t believe that the theory of evolution is the best explanation for our own origins. A November 2004 Gallup poll, for example, found that only 13% of respondents said they believed that God had no part in the evolution or creation of human beings, and 38% said they thought humans evolved from less-advanced forms but that God guided the process. About 45% said they believed that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 or so years. These results echoed similar Gallup polls dating to 1982.

He simply spits this stuff out without question or discussion, not even mentioning the wording of the questions, and oblivious to the fact – obvious even to me, despite being a virtual ignoramus on polls and statistics – that those categories he cites are simply not mutually exclusive or all-inclusive.

It is possible, for example, both to believe in evolution and to believe that “God” created us in pur present form: after all, if God created the Universe, and I’m part of the Universe, then God created me in my present form (what other form do I exist in?), evolution or not.

Also, that 13% who “believed that God had no part in the evolution or creation of human beings” probably reflected ONLY atheists, and completely ignored deists and theistic evolutionists, who reject creationism in all its guises.

Comment #159658

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 11:49 AM (e)

I wonder what Raging Bee’s point is here? That I have greatly exaggerated the strength of creationism among Americans, slightly exaggerated it, or given no useful information whatsoever? Obviously I picked out a few findings from the Gallup poll that I thought best illustrated the overall findings, but he is free to go look at the polls and the questions himself and come to his own conclusions. He also misquotes the findings about God creating humans in their present form, the finding is that 45% of respondents think that God did that within the last 10,000 years. Most people here would recognize that as a proxy for Biblical literalism.

I would say that picking apart the poll findings is not a very persuasive argument against what I am proposing.

Comment #159677

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 12:39 PM (e)

I would say that picking apart the poll findings is not a very persuasive argument against what I am proposing.

It was not intended to be. Care to address the points I actually made against your proposal?

Comment #159680

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 12:51 PM (e)

I would say that picking apart the poll findings is not a very persuasive argument against what I am proposing.

By now, I’d be willing to say that you wouldn’t find ANY argument against your proposal persuasive. Even if boosts the penetration of the most virulent forms of creation into American culture, I suspect you’d find no evidence your recommended activites had any bearing on this, or perhaps you’d claim that it *would* work fine, but hasn’t been implemented correctly, etc.

I propose instead that you visit a creationist website and explain to them, responsibly and scientifically, why their doctrine is refuted by the scientific method. After you have been banned from every creationist website (should take about one “responsible” post per site to accomplish this), you *might* have a better appreciation of how well your strategy works.

And maybe, who knows, you might have your very first second thought about throwing open the door and alowing such people equal time. Mr. Balter, you aren’t dealing with scientists here. You aren’t talking to people who honor facts, logic, or integrity. You will find that bits and pieces of your own words will be used against you, and passed from one creationist site to another, and you will be painted as “another scientist who abandoned evolution for God” - and every attempt to deny this will get disappeared. In the battle of Jesus against fair play, there is no contest.

Everyone here is trying to tell you to “know your enemy”. Pretending he’s not who he is may salvage the academic position you find yourself married to, but the rest of us out here will have to live with the damage you will never find persuasive enough to back off and reconsider.

Comment #159688

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 1:11 PM (e)

“By now, I’d be willing to say that you wouldn’t find ANY argument against your proposal persuasive.”

No, only the arguments I have seen here so far. This is really almost comical. The proof of my unreasonableness is my failure to be persuaded I am wrong by your arguments. By that standard, anyone who gets into an argument anywhere or anytime is unreasonable.

As for my proposals: The idea here is not to convince creationist activists that they are wrong, but to use a pedagogical method that is more effective in teaching evolution. Other than saying that they can’t work in high school, few people here have been willing to tackle or address the very interesting pedagogical findings in the Verhey and Kalinowski papers.

Comment #159690

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 1:32 PM (e)

Other than saying that they can’t work in high school, few people here have been willing to tackle or address the very interesting pedagogical findings in the Verhey and Kalinowski papers.

That’s not all we’ve said here, and you know it. Your failure to address the points we’ve made here make you look dishonest; and the impression of dishonesty is compounded when you ignore arguments and then pretend you haven’t heard them. (Start with my posts, for example, and tell me why I’m wrong.)

This is what creationists do: state reasonable-sounding objections to the theory of evolution, and keep on repeating the objections long after they’ve been addressed, while pretending they’ve never been addressed.

Also, when your article talks about the evolutionist “monopoly” in science-education, you are merely repeating an old creationist talking-point, which anyone with a basic understanding of how science works can see through.

Comment #159691

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 1:32 PM (e)

No, only the arguments I have seen here so far. This is really almost comical. The proof of my unreasonableness is my failure to be persuaded I am wrong by your arguments.

No. The proof of your unreasonableness is how blithely you simply ignore the objections raised, as though they do not exist. From reading the objections presented and your responses, one could come to the conclusion that you simply have not bothered to read them. Twice you have ignored every objection I’ve made while misrepresenting what I have been saying. I notice this has been the pattern of your response to every else as well. If you choose not to “see” any arguments, it’s very unlikely you will find any of them persuasive. Apparently you haven’t found any of them yet period.

I will try one more time. I argue that creationists will take advantage of your proposal to preach in science class, they will use your proposal to make the claim that magic is scientific, and they will gear up their PR apparatus to trumpet these claims widely. I argue this because this is exactly what they have done in the past, without exception. Your answer to why it will be any different next time, is to ignore this objection like nobody ever raised it, and then claim you can’t “find” it. I asked you to exert your persuasiveness on sites where creationists control the forum, to get the flavor of your opposition. Your answer to this request is to pretend you never “found” it. I suggested we restructure 9th grade biology in such a way that everything in biology is made to make sense in light of evolution. Your response is to pretend you didn’t notice this either. I asked you to consider the integrity of Leonard’s OSU committee, which is emphatically worth some consideration. Your response is to ignore that as well. I pointed out that creationist claims are founded on miracles, and do not present any purchase to scientific approaches. Your response is to ignore this. I explained why NAAS had the good sense not to get suckered into a rigged game. Your response: as usual, none.

These are real issues. Ignoring every last one of them, utterly failing to show why you consider any of them invalid, and THEN turning around and claiming you haven’t seen any good objections, indicates a mind so firmly made up that, like Behe, you don’t NEED to bother reading contrary material.

So I’ll be more blunt. If you DO not address these objections, what can we conclude beyond that either you CAN not address them, or you have painted yourself into a corner where you can’t afford to notice them. You’ve made no effort to grapple with difficult issues here. You’ve plunked down your solution for everyone to admire. In contrast, WE have given YOUR proposals some pretty damn careful consideration. Do you think nobody notices the contrast here?

Comment #159692

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 1:35 PM (e)

No, only the arguments I have seen here so far. This is really almost comical. The proof of my unreasonableness is my failure to be persuaded I am wrong by your arguments.

No. The proof of your unreasonableness is how blithely you simply ignore the objections raised, as though they do not exist. From reading the objections presented and your responses, one could come to the conclusion that you simply have not bothered to read them. Twice you have ignored every objection I’ve made while misrepresenting what I have been saying. I notice this has been the pattern of your response to every else as well. If you choose not to “see” any arguments, it’s very unlikely you will find any of them persuasive. Apparently you haven’t found any of them yet period.

I will try one more time. I argue that creationists will take advantage of your proposal to preach in science class, they will use your proposal to make the claim that magic is scientific, and they will gear up their PR apparatus to trumpet these claims widely. I argue this because this is exactly what they have done in the past, without exception. Your answer to why it will be any different next time, is to ignore this objection like nobody ever raised it, and then claim you can’t “find” it. I asked you to exert your persuasiveness on sites where creationists control the forum, to get the flavor of your opposition. Your answer to this request is to pretend you never “found” it. I suggested we restructure 9th grade biology in such a way that everything in biology is made to make sense in light of evolution. Your response is to pretend you didn’t notice this either. I asked you to consider the integrity of Leonard’s OSU committee, which is emphatically worth some consideration. Your response is to ignore that as well. I pointed out that creationist claims are founded on miracles, and do not present any purchase to scientific approaches. Your response is to ignore this. I explained why NAAS had the good sense not to get suckered into a rigged game. Your response: as usual, none.

These are real issues. Ignoring every last one of them, utterly failing to show why you consider any of them invalid, and THEN turning around and claiming you haven’t seen any good objections, indicates a mind so firmly made up that, like Behe, you don’t NEED to bother reading contrary material.

So I’ll be more blunt. If you DO not address these objections, what can we conclude beyond that either you CAN not address them, or you have painted yourself into a corner where you can’t afford to notice them. You’ve made no effort to grapple with difficult issues here. You’ve plunked down your solution for everyone to admire. In contrast, WE have given YOUR proposals some pretty damn careful consideration. Do you think nobody notices the contrast here?

Comment #159693

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 1:36 PM (e)

One more question, Mr. Balter: if you really want a debate where evolution and creationism are compared and contrasted, why not start with a transcript of the Dover trial, or a good synopsis thereof? Why do you fail even to mention that debate? It seems to me that would be a good reference for those students you wish to reach out to with your “compare and contrast” approach.

Comment #159698

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 1:45 PM (e)

“One more question, Mr. Balter: if you really want a debate where evolution and creationism are compared and contrasted, why not start with a transcript of the Dover trial, or a good synopsis thereof? Why do you fail even to mention that debate? It seems to me that would be a good reference for those students you wish to reach out to with your “compare and contrast” approach”

I will get to Flint’s comments later, but to deal with this from Raging Bee now: Just because I “fail to mention” something does not mean that I have not thought about it. Having students read segments of the Dover transcript would be a good pedagogical tool in a science class teaching evolution, provided that the students were allowed to read the testimony of Behe and others–something that many here seem not to want–as well as the testimony of Ken Miller and other scientists and the decision of the judge. That would be an interesting way of doing exactly what I am suggesting, or at least one possible way of doing it along with many others.

Comment #159699

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 5, 2007 2:12 PM (e)

It leads to thinking that all one has to do is win court victories and that is enough, without dealing with the underlying, fundamental problem.

For one who whines so about personal attacks, Balter offers quite a variety of personal failings that those who question his proposal must suffer from. But this is just another in a string of childish ad hominem strawmen; no one here has claimed that winning court victories is “enough” – naturally, because no one here is the sort of imbecile that Balter would like to pretend one must be in order to disagree with him.

My main aim here is to get the fundamental principles right, the rest follows from that.

Odd then, that instead of discussing fundamental principles, Balter is pushing a specific pedagogical proposal. It’s reminiscent of “We must prevent further 9/11’s. That is why we must invade Iraq. Anyone who disagrees is a Saddam-loving traitor.”

No progress in those figures for 25 years, despite everything that scientists have done

Speaking of fundamentals, Balter seems to have a poor grasp of the fundamentals of causation. Scientists are not the only actors, and thus they are not solely responsible for the outcomes.

just more proof of God’s omniscience

Speaking of fundamentals, Balter doesn’t seem able to distinguish between the limited but non-minimal power of those unfettered by ethics, and the unlimited power (charitably allowing that he used the wrong word) of a supernatural being.

or proof that we need a new plan?

More failure on the fundamentals. It is proof that we as a society need a new plan, but not proof that “scientists” have failed, or that any particular pedogogical strategy has failed, or that some other must be better. Balter’s sort of reasoning could be applied in other contexts – say, a husband trying to convince his wife that, because after 25 years of hard work they still cannot afford to buy a house, they should put all their money into that hot stock tip he got from his cousin.

Comment #159703

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 5, 2007 2:16 PM (e)

History is repeating with this “Teach-the-Controversy” ploy. Back when BSCS, Harvard Project, PSSC were introduced to improve high school science (partly in response to Sputnik) the fundamentalists went ballistic and started pushing their “creation science”. They knew then that there was a major attempt to improve the teaching of evolution with BSCS and that more of the history of science would be introduced. Bringing up the reasons that science has come to the conclusions it has would be devastating to them, even though no mention of their sectarian beliefs were part of the new science programs.

Their efforts pretty effectively scuttled the proper teaching of evolution in most school districts throughout the country in spite of the court decisions that went against them. In that victory they had the help of textbook publishers, school administrators, and school boards that didn’t want controversy. The basic strategy continues today.

The bills that they are now introducing in state legislatures are in response to Dover and the efforts of the science community to get an integrated approach to biology into the classroom. It is their ongoing attempt to scuttle any effort to teach evolution in the schools. The basic strategy is to allow all sorts of sophistry into the classroom and to eat away any time for a proper presentation of the science. Everything the creationst/ID crowd appears to be doing now has the effect of preventing teachers from presenting the scientific evidence for evolution by polluting it with the garbage generated by the Discovery Institute and the older garbage generated by the Creation Research Institute. It relies on the “I’m ok, you’re ok, and everyone is entitled to their opinion” technique.

The basic effect will have the whole scene in the biology classroom take on a character that is as surreal as someone returning from a vacation in Hawaii and being confronted with a hostile crowd of people who deny that such a place exists.

There are many of us in the science community who have been involved with education for several decades and have worked at nearly every level from elementary schools to graduate programs and in a wide variety of circumstances. We have seen what works under what conditions and with what resources. One of the most robust observations is that knowledgeable teachers who have the enthusiasm, support and the resources to teach the subject matter do a good job in a wide variety of circumstances. No one that I know of who has been involved in these kinds of activities for years would suggest that using false controversies to teach young adolescents subject matter is an effective technique. First of all, it underestimates the abilities of these young students to detect disingenuous bullshit. It wastes time when there are far more effective and efficient techniques already available.

The best evidences for our current scientific understanding are already in the scientific literature, and getting this evidence into the classroom has been part of an ongoing effort by the scientific community. It is that ongoing effort that is being fought by the creationist/ID crowd. Their primary techniques have almost always involved the use of confusion and taking gratuitous offense loudly and publicly.

My basic impression of Michael Balters’ proposal is that it is another one of those ideological teaching proposals that always sound good to people who have no experience with the realities of a situation, but yet they can push them because they have the power or a loud enough microphone to sound authoritative. Teachers in most public schools already have to put up with too much of that crap.

Pop psychology and pop sociology are filled with as much garbage as the creationist/ID propaganda. Using this crap just because it sounds good or plausible is not what a scientific approach would recommend. The knowledge is out there, and a lot of experienced people who have been working these streets know what it is and how to do it. They should not be ignored.

Comment #159707

Posted by David B. Benson on February 5, 2007 2:23 PM (e)

Michael Balter — Are you seriously proposing wasting the time of students in 9th grade biology class with reading the transcript of the Dover trial?

Comment #159709

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 2:41 PM (e)

Now for some responses to Flint.

“I argue that creationists will take advantage of your proposal to preach in science class, they will use your proposal to make the claim that magic is scientific, and they will gear up their PR apparatus to trumpet these claims widely. I argue this because this is exactly what they have done in the past, without exception.”

This represents a misreading or misunderstanding of what I have proposed both in the LA Times piece and the IHT piece more recently. The creationists will not “preach” in science class because they will not be invited to do so, nor would it be legal for them to do so. Rather, I have suggested that science teachers stage debates in class over these issues, where the students take sides, play roles, etc., and there could also be debates on a schoolwide level where someone like Behe is invited to debate someone like Jerry Coyne, for example. In addition, the science teachers would use both creationist and evolutionary materials suitable for high school students, which do in fact exist as everyone here knows. Read the Verhey and Kalinowski papers for examples of the KINDS of stategies that can be employed.

“I asked you to exert your persuasiveness on sites where creationists control the forum, to get the flavor of your opposition. Your answer to this request is to pretend you never “found” it.”

The second part of this is pretty much a lie. The first part: The idea is not to persuade professional creationists, but students. So proving that I can persruade a diehard creationist is irrelevant to the pedagogical issues that we are discussing here.

“I suggested we restructure 9th grade biology in such a way that everything in biology is made to make sense in light of evolution. Your response is to pretend you didn’t notice this either.”

The second part of this is another lie. I agree wholeheartedly with the first part.

“I asked you to consider the integrity of Leonard’s OSU committee, which is emphatically worth some consideration. “
I have not studied the Leonard lesson plan in detail, but my understanding is that there was considerable evidence that Leonard was deliberately biasing it in favor of a creationist outcome. The fact that it included creationist materials, however, is not in and of itself proof of such bias, as the Verhey study illustrates. Verhey deliberately included creationist materials, as did the Kalinowski study (Paley). There would obviously need to be safeguards and lesson plans that would be subject to approval. I have not ignored such concerns but consider them to be a red herring by and large.

“I pointed out that creationist claims are founded on miracles, and do not present any purchase to scientific approaches.”

If this is true, all the better to present them in comparison with evolution. But in fact the arguments put forward for intelligent design by Behe and others are fairly sophisticated and their claims to be scientific must be addressed, rather than ignored. Again, my argument is that ideas we do not consider science should be explored in the classroom if they are the ideas that are challenging evolution. Read, again, Verhey and Kalinowski for the basic pedagogical principle, applicability to high school is a different question.

“I explained why NAAS had the good sense not to get suckered into a rigged game.”

I think that scientists should grab every opportunity to present their views, especially when there is likely to be significant media exposure, even if they feel they are not on a level playing field. Evolution is not on a level playing field in America, with such a great majority having creationist views. So what, deal with it. The Kansas situation was a tactical decision, on which honest people can disagree. There is no need to say I am dishonest because I disagree with you.

“claiming you haven’t seen any good objections”

What I said is that I have not seen any objections that convince me I am wrong. There are a lot of difficulties with my approach, to be sure, and it would be challenging to put into practice, I never said differently. But once again, just doing a better job of teaching evolution is not as good an approach as engaging prior creationist beliefs, as demonstrated–need I say it again?–by the Verhey paper, which specifically contrasted these two approaches and there was no contest in how it came out. This is the basic pedagogical finding. How to apply it to the high school setting is an entirely different issue, although Flint and so many others want to conflate the two.

Comment #159710

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 5, 2007 2:46 PM (e)

provided that the students were allowed to read the testimony of Behe and others–something that many here seem not to want

It’s fascinating the way that Balter’s pugilistic approach to this issue seems to create a simplistic caricatured mental image of those who disagree with him, leading him to fail to grasp their arguments, and replacing them in his mind with strawmen. No one here has indicated, or suggested, or implied, that if the Dover trial were made a subject of high school science classes, they would not want the testimony of Behe and other IDists to be included. Rather, this seems to be Balter’s construction – that “teach science only” means teach only one side of a court trial, or teach only one side of a science vs. religion debate. But the process of science and the findings of science are not the results of legal trials or religious debates; Balter’s claim in his editorial that “The history of the theory is one of bitter debates between science and religion” is quite mistaken, and suggests that Balter doesn’t know very much about the theory of evolution and its history.

“By now, I’d be willing to say that you wouldn’t find ANY argument against your proposal persuasive.”

No, only the arguments I have seen here so far. This is really almost comical. The proof of my unreasonableness is my failure to be persuaded I am wrong by your arguments. By that standard, anyone who gets into an argument anywhere or anytime is unreasonable.

What is comical is the way Balter blatantly misrepresents a simple statement, while adding evidence for it. Flint didn’t say that Balter’s failure to be persuaded is proof of his unreasonableness – that inference is solely Balter’s construction, a strawman that he then flails away at. But let’s turn it around; by what standards might it be fair to conclude that someone is being unreasonable, and is it conceivable that Balter has met those standards?

Comment #159711

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 2:48 PM (e)

“Michael Balter — Are you seriously proposing wasting the time of students in 9th grade biology class with reading the transcript of the Dover trial?”

No, Raging Bee suggested this. I said I thought it was an interesting idea. Would it be a bad idea to show high school biology students the film “Inherit the Wind” about the Scopes trial? In my opinon, it would be an excellent idea. As an earlier post on PT pointed out, there are several books coming out on the Dover trial, which many consider the latter-day version of Scopes. Assigning one of them to high school students might not be a bad idea either.

Comment #159713

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 3:07 PM (e)

“No one here has indicated, or suggested, or implied, that if the Dover trial were made a subject of high school science classes, they would not want the testimony of Behe and other IDists to be included.”

They don’t have to explicitly, because the position many here have taken is that creationist views (including ID) should be kept out of the classroom, period. My argument has been that there are certain contexts in which they should be brought into the classroom, specifically the context of teaching evolution. You can’t have it both ways.

Comment #159714

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 3:08 PM (e)

Rather, I have suggested that science teachers stage debates in class over these issues, where the students take sides, play roles, etc., and there could also be debates on a schoolwide level where someone like Behe is invited to debate someone like Jerry Coyne, for example.

Let’s take your “approach” into other areas of study. Should geography classes include debates between round-Earthers and flat-Earthers? Should history classes include debates between Holocaust-survivors and Holocaust-deniers? And while we’re at it, how about debates on the validity of germ theory? WE could have a debate between a biologist trying to find a cure for AIDS, and a bigot who insists that AIDS is God’s punishment of gays. It’s all part of your “paradigm shift,” no?

Why should students waste precious class time having “debates” between evolution, which is universally accepted among honest and competent scientists; and creationism, which has been repeatedly shown to be false, dishonest, and scientifically vacuous? Any attempt to treat these two obviously unequal sides as if they were equally worthy of attention is either breathtakingly ignorant or just plain dishonest – and, in either case, a dereliction of duty on the part of any teacher who allows it. There is nothing to be gained by “debating” an issue that has already been settled, or allowing students to believe, or pretend, that it hasn’t been settled.

In addition, the science teachers would use both creationist and evolutionary materials suitable for high school students, which do in fact exist as everyone here knows.

Yes, we know they exist. We also know that the creationist materials are pure crap, not merely obsolete or uninformed, but blatantly dishonest, intended to deceive, and no more valid than a geography textbook written by flat-Earthers.

Comment #159716

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 3:17 PM (e)

“Why should students waste precious class time having “debates” between evolution, which is universally accepted among honest and competent scientists; and creationism, which has been repeatedly shown to be false, dishonest, and scientifically vacuous?”

Raging Bee really should step aside and let someone who is capable of at least putting this issue into its proper context step up to the plate to debate. Unlike the other examples he gives, flat earth and the Holocaust, etc, creationism is the majority view in America. Crushingly so. If it were a fringe view, like his other examples, I certainly would not be making my proposals.

Comment #159717

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 5, 2007 3:21 PM (e)

“I asked you to exert your persuasiveness on sites where creationists control the forum, to get the flavor of your opposition.”

The idea is not to persuade professional creationists, but students. So proving that I can persruade a diehard creationist is irrelevant to the pedagogical issues that we are discussing here.

Here’s a straightforward example of Balter’s unreasonableness. Flint didn’t say anything about him proving that he can persuade a diehard creationist; Balter puts words into Flint’s mouth and addresses a strawman. Balter might have addressed Flint’s statement by saying that he already is quite familiar with creationist tactics and doesn’t need to to go to their forums, but he didn’t – he attacked some other claim of his own creation.

If this is true, all the better to present them in comparison with evolution.

Should we also compare YEC claims to the science of geology in order to teach high school science? Should high school science teachers hold debates about which Catholic saints, who are required to have performed miracles, really earned their sainthood?

But in fact the arguments put forward for intelligent design by Behe and others are fairly sophisticated and their claims to be scientific must be addressed, rather than ignored.

They haven’t been ignored. For instance, PvM has written extensively here at PT, with numerous citations, about the lack of scientific content of Behe’s and other ID arguments. Not teaching ID in high school science classes is not the same as ignoring ID – another false dichotomy.

Again, my argument is that ideas we do not consider science should be explored in the classroom if they are the ideas that are challenging evolution. Read, again, Verhey and Kalinowski for the basic pedagogical principle, applicability to high school is a different question.

A different question? But it’s the very question that Balter raised and that people have responded to.

Comment #159718

Posted by David B. Benson on February 5, 2007 3:22 PM (e)

Such staged ‘debates’ might be appropriate for the (voluntary) debating club or team. But such does not even seem appropriate for the (voluntary) science club.

I am referring to high school. The situation at college is different…

Comment #159720

Posted by Michael Balter on February 5, 2007 3:28 PM (e)

In my view the question of applicability to high school is the weakest argument against my proposals. If high school students should be taught evolution, as many here seem to agree, then they should be taught its history, the continuing challenges to it, and the responses to those challenges. Otherwise they will just walk out the door and back into church and that is that.

I have to do some other things now, will check back tomorrow and see how we are doing.

Comment #159721

Posted by Raging Bee on February 5, 2007 3:31 PM (e)

Raging Bee really should step aside and let someone who is capable of at least putting this issue into its proper context step up to the plate to debate.

That statement would carry more weight if you had actually addressed and refuted my previous arguments beforehand, rather than simply ignoring most of them, as you continue to do.

Unlike the other examples he gives, flat earth and the Holocaust, etc, creationism is the majority view in America. Crushingly so.

First, why should public opinion affect your assessment of the effectiveness of this or that method of teaching science? And second, creationism is a significant MINORITY view, not a “crushing” majority view, as the recent Ohio school board elections – and a few other elections in 2006 – demonstrate. Your distortion of this fact raises serious questions about your objectivity and credibility. Intentionally or not, you’re echoing the creationists’ verbal bullying – “You can’t stop us, WE’RE THE MAJORITY! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!”

Comment #159724

Posted by Flint on February 5, 2007 3:43 PM (e)

Well, at least we have a little bit of a dialog going here; enough to see where we are talking past one another. This is a good start.

The creationists will not “preach” in science class because they will not be invited to do so, nor would it be legal for them to do so.

Sigh. In my very first post on this thread, I made the following point:

“we’d see two approaches applied in high schools. The first (by teachers of real biology) would probably be to simply avoid the subject altogether, to avoid religious arguments in science class and wrathful parents with torches and pitchforks - a guaranteed result of showing how science has “corrected creationist error”. The second (by creationists) would be to use this reasonable-sounding proposal as carte blanche to preach the Gospel Of Jesus Christ in science class.”

We’re not talking here about inviting Behe into 9th grade science classes. We’re talking about the not-uncommon creationists among the native teachers of 9th grade. They are plentiful. They don’t need invitations. The Colorado proposal that students not be penalized for giving religious answers on biology tests suggests how Balter’s proposal would be put into practice.

The idea is not to persuade professional creationists, but students. So proving that I can persruade a diehard creationist is irrelevant to the pedagogical issues that we are discussing here.

This misses the point. The professional creationists are the source of the pressure behind doing exactly what you propose, and they are the ones who would dishonestly misuse the most well-meaning and innocent proposals for PR purposes, where voices of reason are disallowed. I wasn’t asking you to *persuade* such people, I was inviting you to expose yourself to the techniques you are inviting in the door, to see how they work in Real Life. Bottom line: they cheat.

I agree wholeheartedly with the first part. (That we restructure 9th grade biology)

Maybe this nominally less explosive approach should be tried first. The response to such a restructuring might provide yet another educational lesson in creationist tactics and responses.

I have not studied the Leonard lesson plan in detail, but my understanding is that there was considerable evidence that Leonard was deliberately biasing it in favor of a creationist outcome.

I’m not talkiing about Leonard’s proposed creationist lesson plan. I’m talking about the fact that Leonard and two OSU professors carefully, with full malice aforethought, conspired to sleaze a bogus PhD past an inappropriate committee composed of self-appointed creationists (Leonard, not surprisingly, testifed at the Kansas Kourt), for the express purpose of lending the institutional reputation of OSU to creationism. The lesson, once again: creationists cheat.

If this is true, all the better to present them in comparison with evolution.

I am flabbergasted. We’re going to teach better science by telling students God is a lie? That God does not pass miracles? I’m wearing out my fingers repeating that creationism is not science and their claims are not scientific claims. You aren’t *comparing* religious doctrine with scientific understandings. You’re only inviting religious doctrine into science class.

But in fact the arguments put forward for intelligent design by Behe and others are fairly sophisticated and their claims to be scientific must be addressed, rather than ignored.

Behe’s claims have been solidly refuted in entire books, many of them beyond the grasp of the layman. Informatively, Behe simply denies all of them, showing how “education” is helpless against Belief. None of that material could be presented in 9th grade, even with the entire year devoted to nothing else.

I think that scientists should grab every opportunity to present their views, especially when there is likely to be significant media exposure, even if they feel they are not on a level playing field.

They did. They hired a room directly below the Kourt, and invited in the press to hash out every distortion the creationists trotted out. But they did so using a fair deck.

Evolution is not on a level playing field in America, with such a great majority having creationist views.

Gee, how did that great majority *adopt* such views, without science there to “learn from”? Evolution is very poorly understood in the US, even by those willing to accept that scientists probably know what they’re talking about. This ignorance isn’t due to lack of exposure to creationist religious doctrine in science class, but rather due to lack of exposure to evolution AT ALL. A campaign to get evolution prominantly featured in classroom lectures and discussions, and placed on both local and national standardized tests, would go a lot further to fixing this problem than to pretend religious doctrine is science, so as to try to persuade kids that their faith is a lie.

Finally, I suggest there is a qualitative difference between students entering 9th grade, and students graduating from 12th grade. What needs to be presented in 9th grade is the general shape of the theory of evolution. These children aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the malicious construction of invalid mathmatical defaults to create statistical doubletalk; they ARE sophisticated enough to understand differential reproductive success. The success of creationism in America is almost entirely a matter of keeping its victims too ignorant to resist it. Teach the kids the facts, and the fallacies of creationism present much less of a threat.

Comment #159725

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 5, 2007 3:44 PM (e)

They don’t have to explicitly, because the position many here have taken is that creationist views (including ID) should be kept out of the classroom, period. My argument has been that there are certain contexts in which they should be brought into the classroom, specifically the context of teaching evolution. You can’t have it both ways.

Notice how Balter simply ignores the point I made about court trials not being the content of science. Those who want ID to be kept out of the (high school science) classroom “period” want, by implication, the Dover transcripts kept out of the classroom. But the notion that there are people who would allow the Dover transcripts, but with the ID parts edited out, is entirely Balter’s fabrication; there is no evidence that such people exist. Despite not wanting such things taught in high school science classrooms, “period”, it could of course come to be that they are taught in high school classrooms – people don’t always get their way. The question is, in those circumstances, would those who are opposed to the introduction of “the controversy” into high school science classes want, once the controversy is introduced, to have all the ID testimony blacked out? Balter has explicitly owned that absurd caricature of those who oppose “teaching the controversy”. According to him, one cannot both be opposed to “teaching the controversy” and, if it were taught, to oppose teaching it in a ridiculous and buffoonish way, with ID testimony blacked out of transcripts – one can’t have it both ways, he says. But why not? Apparently, to Balter, to oppose” teaching the controversy” in high school science classes is to be ridiculous and buffoonish.

Comment #159726

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 3:44 PM (e)

This was a tactical decision with which I personally disagreed, I think reasonable people can debate the best course to take in these situations.

as usual, that didn’t answer the question.

the question wasn’t “did you agree with their decision”

it was “do you know why they made the decision they did”

you still haven’t given us any indication you really understand the underlying reasoning.

I ignore the rest of your idiocy.

Comment #159727

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 3:50 PM (e)

Just because I “fail to mention” something does not mean that I have not thought about it.

and yet, your editorials certainly give the impression that is the case, despite your protestations to the contrary.

again, the link to the discussion of your 2005 editorial on the subject is at the top of the thread.

so much was left out of that editorial, that the logical conclusion can only be that not only did you not think about a LOT of things related to your proposal, you were entirely ignorant of them and decided to go purely on your gut instinct anyway.

that’s EXACTLY how creationists rationalize ID, or hadn’t you noticed?

Comment #159730

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 5, 2007 3:57 PM (e)

In essence, the objections to my proposals are really on the level of technical details rather than substantive, IMO.

of course that’s your opinion!

what you keep failing to realize is that your opinion is based on nothing more than subjective gut feelings of your own invention, rather than anything based in reality.

technical details????

hardly.

the very BASIS for your proposal, which you point out is pedagological in nature, is simply mistaken.

that sure ain’t a “technical detail”.

you do more handwaiving than the pope on tour!

Comment #159732

Posted by David B. Benson on February 5, 2007 4:05 PM (e)

Locally, one semester of biology is required of all (college) students, irrespective of major. To be fair, there is a way out by taking and passing a challenge examination. But almost nobody does so.

As a mass college course, there are big lecture sections. For those taking the course as a lab course, there are lab sections supervised by TAs. Since all of biology is introduced, nothing can be done in depth. But it is all introduced, including evolution.

About a decade or two ago there was a flurry of YECers complaining. There response was that belief was not required, simply understanding evolution well enough to pass the course.

Despite the fact that the infamous DI is located in the largest city in this state, every little IDiocy has arisen here. When it did, the response was the same as for the YECers. In any case, since Dover there is no vocal IDiocy around here.

So, at least at one university, just science in science classes seems to work. I mention this here because I am under the impression that requiring a semester of biology of all students seems not to be the norm.

Perhaps it should become so?

Comment #159734

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 5, 2007 4:18 PM (e)

In my view the question of applicability to high school is the weakest argument against my proposals.

Ah, it’s Balter’s “view”. I guess that explains why he don’t actually respond to the numerous problems people (including Verhey, and Craig Nelson) have pointed out about teaching this stuff in high school.

If high school students should be taught evolution, as many here seem to agree, then they should be taught its history, the continuing challenges to it, and the responses to those challenges.

The scientific challenges to various aspects of the theory of evolution and the scientific responses to those challenges can play a role in the teaching of the theory of evolution. That helps students understand that science is not based on the sort of argument from authority that Balter claims in his editorial it is being taught as.

Otherwise they will just walk out the door and back into church and that is that.

“Otherwise”? Does Balter really think that, if ID is contrasted with the ToE in high school science classrooms, Americans will stop going to church? He seems to have read a bit more into Verhey’s survey than is warranted (not to mention his basic acceptance of Verhey’s interpretation of the data, which has been disputed here at PT by Gary Hurd).

Comment #159737

Posted by Glen Davidson on February 5, 2007 4:28 PM (e)

But in fact the arguments put forward for intelligent design by Behe and others are fairly sophisticated and their claims to be scientific must be addressed, rather than ignored.

I haven’t simply dismissed Balter’s claims, overall, however I do have to wonder how well he can argue his case or create policy when he writes anything like the above statement.

Sophisticated? A stupid mousetrap (no Behe, a mousetrap probably can’t evolve. Think about why that might be, as well as the lack of apparent derivative structures in truly designed objects), a “Duh”, and a conclusion “God did it.” Of course there’s some clever filler to obscure the lack of sophisticated thought, however there’s nothing sophisticated about his “arguments”.

A whole lot of his claim rests on nothing more than the false notion that “everyone” thinks that aspects of living organisms appear to be designed. He can hardly know that “fact”, since it is no fact, and repeats it because it makes it sound as if competent scientists are denying the obvious conclusion, that a designer is responsible for “apparent design”. IOW, his claims rest upon a series of fabrications (I’ve mentioned others in a fairly recent post on one of PZ’s threads), nothing sophisticated about them at all, aside from some slick PR.

Balter needs to characterize the issues involved much better than he has, even to argue for the claims he’s made so far–let alone before he prescribes a course of responding to Behe’s “fairly sophisticated” arguments.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #159739

Posted by Henry J on February 5, 2007 4:49 PM (e)

So, at least at one university, just science in science classes seems to work. I mention this here because I am under the impression that requiring a semester of biology of all students seems not to be the norm.

Perhaps it should become so?

Well, I didn’t take biology in college (went with physics and chemistry instead), and when I started paying attention to Creationist arguments, I didn’t have much trouble noticing that the Creationist arguments didn’t hold up when examined.

Henry

Comment #159747

Posted by David B. Benson on February 5, 2007 5:20 PM (e)

Henry J — I chose geology rather than biology for my one optional science course (along with required chemistry (1 year) and physics (2 years)).

Indeed, geology suffices to demolish YECer arguments. Not so clear it demolishes IDiocy, tho’.

Now I have had highly competent colleagues who denied biological evolution. These men, PhD in EE in hand, had somehow avoided learning any historical science, i.e., biology, geology, etc., despite considerable training in physics and chemistry before specializing in EE.

A more liberal proposal might be that either biology or geology is required. Indeed, many students doing a non-science major take just those two subjects to fulfill their science requirement.

Anyway, I suspect that even that is far from the norm in American colleges and universities…

Comment #159749

Posted by MarkP on February 5, 2007 5:57 PM (e)

The creationists will not “preach” in science class because they will not be invited to do so, nor would it be legal for them to do so.

Does Mr. Balter really not understand that the creationists we most fear here are not the invited speakers, but the teachers themselves?

I have suggested that science teachers stage debates in class over these issues, where the students take sides, play roles, etc., and there could also be debates on a schoolwide level where someone like Behe is invited to debate someone like Jerry Coyne, for example.

I wonder, if debate is such an effective teaching technique, why is it not part of a wide range of the curriculum? The answer seems like the 800 pound gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about: it is a lot easier to sell bullshit in a live debate than it is to do so in written form. Scientists write papers: they do not “debate”. Debates aid people like Gish with his gallop, people generally able to speak quickly, those skilled with truthiness, and people with a flair for making confusing statements that take a great deal of time to refute. They are speed chess to science’s regulation chess. None of that aids education. We have all seen time and time again on the blogs that one IDer’s paragraph of gibberish takes 10x that much space for a scientist to refute. In a debate, science is going to lose, it’s that simple. It isn’t because ID is right and science is wrong. It’s that debating a subject live among people not-too-educated on the subject is not the most effective method of discoveing or learning information.

my argument is that ideas we do not consider science should be explored in the classroom if they are the ideas that are challenging evolution.

But they aren’t challenging evolution. If they were challenging evolution, they would be writing in the peer-reviewed literature. They lost that fight, but instead of taking their ball and going home, they hang around and throw rocks at the kids that are actually good at the game. You don’t learn much about football studying rock throwing. Yes, it is that bad.

creationism is the majority view in America. Crushingly so.

Among the ignorant, yes. Among the educated, no. This is the other 800 pound gorilla. I spent about 10 years of my life debating creationism/evolution with anyone who would agree to do so, and I never, not once, debated a creationist that understood evolution. They would expose their ignorance almost immediately, 100% of the time. The conclusion is obvious: teach evolution, directly, completely, and without apology. Let’s see what that does before we start talking about polluting scientific education with politically charged, intellectually dishonest bull cookies. One can hardly blame scientists for the failure of science education until you present their findings properly in class.

Mr. Balter doesn’t seem to want to grant the dishonest nature of the ID/creationism movement. He dodges that issue every single time. I wonder if this is a result of his apparent CCD (Compulsive Centrist Disorder), which leads him to dismiss those charges with the “you say they are dishonest, and I’m sure they say the same about you” technique. I hate to put words in his mouth, so hopefully he will clear that one up for us.

It also raises an interesting irony. Mr. Balter has expressed a basic egalitarianism about debate. He sees the fact that the creation/evolution debate has lasted for so long as evidence that one side is not totally right. If many of the hypothetical students in question have the same egalitarian view of debate that he has, and I assure you they do, then presenting evolution vs creationism in class in debate, or any other two subjects for that matter, is going to basically guarantee that the students come away thinking both sides must have merit. So Mr. Balter’s basic premise in persuing his solution, in the minds of the students, ultimately undermines it.

Comment #159756

Posted by Steviepinhead on February 5, 2007 7:04 PM (e)

Um, ya mean that Balter’s compulsive urge to “debate” both “sides” of the “issue” is itself the result of his overexposure to debating both sides of the issue, regardless of merit, perhaps during what passed for his education?

Mr. Balter, you’re trapped in a circularity not of your own making!

Please return to the factory for a free warranty-covered adjustment…

Comment #159757

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 5, 2007 7:30 PM (e)

In my conversations with teachers over several decades, there is nothing that sticks in their craw more than the lack of professionalism with which they are treated in many school districts around the country.

This argument that the majority of people in the US want creationism in the classroom is extremely revealing. It says that creationists view teachers as paid political whores who must submit to the majority johns. It is quite consistent with the attitudes fundamentalists have historically had toward women and slaves.

Teachers are supposed to be experts in their subject matter, hired on the basis of that expertise with the expectation that they will bring the best of what knowledge we have to the students in the community. Asking them to participate in fraudulent controversies in a way that gives legitimacy to junk science not only compromises them professionally and ethically, it destroys their credibility as experts, drives out real expertise and replaces it with submissive political whoredom.

Comment #159759

Posted by Gwen on February 5, 2007 7:39 PM (e)

I remember that in my high school biology class, we talked a little bit about the history of the theory of evolution through natural selection (like the discredited idea that acquired characteristics could be passed on and punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism), watched the PBS film on Charles Darwin (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, I think it was called), and discussed evolution and intelligent design. But although we had a largeish minority of people who all went to the same church and seemed to all be creationists, we also had a teacher who was not afraid to say, in essence, “that’s a nice-sounding idea, but it’s factually wrong”, an administratrix who would have backed her up no question if there’d been any problems, and a good group of smart, well-spoken, unabashed Darwinists (*cough*me included*cough*), so the “debate” (discussion after we finished the movie) didn’t last long and together with a couple of other well-made videos on the modern “controversy”, “why would anyone want to believe that we came from monkeys/some primordial soup” met fairly quickly with “why would anyone want to believe that we came from dirt and God’s spit”.

But this was at a charter school, a college prep school, and like I said, an awesome teacher/director/student/movie-creator team. I doubt that it would have gone like this at pretty much any of the fully public schools in the area. We were using a textbook that was typically used for AP biology classes that seemed pretty much on the same level as the textbook I’m using for both of my biology classes I’m taking at the college, which are basically for science and pre-med majors. And there were only five periods in a school day. We had very good resources.

Do I think that teaching the history of evolution as a way of explaining evolution is a good idea at the high school level? If it’s implemented properly–proper resources, good teacher, students who are ready for it, lots of time not taken up with Feng Shui and astrology–yes. Do I think that teaching New Math, or philosophy, is a good idea in grade school is a good idea? If it’s implemented properly, same caveats, yes. Do I think that it will be implemented properly, not taken advantage of, not touted as “see, it *is* science”, &c. if it’s tried nationwide by everybody? Um, no. Let’s stick to requiring biology teachers to understand and then teach random mutation and natural selection first, and move up from there.

Or we could just use the Daily Show’s special “Evolution Schmevolution” to teach the controversy. ‘Cause it was *awesome*.

Comment #159762

Posted by David B. Benson on February 5, 2007 7:49 PM (e)

Gwen — Well put. Think of that, actually teaching an easily understood, central principle of biology in 9th grade biology class…

Comment #159774

Posted by Henry J on February 5, 2007 9:02 PM (e)

Re “why would anyone want to believe that we came from monkeys/some primordial soup”

Whenever I hear that “argument”, I want to ask why is anybody dumb enough to believe that what they want has anything to do with whether the premise is true or not. I don’t particularly like the idea of being related to monkeys, shrews, worms, etc., but I know better than to mistake that for an argument against it.

Henry

Comment #159785

Posted by Steviepinhead on February 5, 2007 9:37 PM (e)

Oh, Henry!

Don’t say that about worms…! I was just hanging out (for, y’know, an hour or so that my day didn’t have to give) up in the eye doctor’s office the other day and the National Geographic on the slush-pile had a great article on marine worms of Hawaii.

Ooh, pretty! And oh so many kinds! Not like those nasty old shrews!

Ouch! Ouch! Miss Potter, I take it back about the shrews!

Comment #159793

Posted by Henry J on February 5, 2007 10:46 PM (e)

Depends on the worm, I guess. LOL.

Henry

Comment #159808

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 1:24 AM (e)

Gwen’s comment is very interesting. Teaching evolution in its social and historical context is fine for well off charter school students, but out of bounds for the plebes who just couldn’t handle it right.

We can meet here again after I publish the next piece I am planning to write on this subject.

Comment #159851

Posted by Flint on February 6, 2007 8:01 AM (e)

Teaching evolution in its social and historical context is fine for well off charter school students, but out of bounds for the plebes who just couldn’t handle it right.

Maybe we are all laboring under a misconception here. I don’t think anyone has an objection to presenting evolution, even in 9th grade, as connected to the historical development of the theory. Science history is informative and useful, and doesn’t take inordinate amounts of time. At best, science history does a great job of demonstrating how actual evidence on the ground interacted with proposed explanations, which in turn suggested fruitful searches for more evidence, in the usual iterative process.

But the DI, and the creationists, aren’t objecting to the history, the evidence, the testable proposals that failed the tests, etc. The DI would be no happier with this historical approach than they are now. They want equal time for the “explanation” that goddidit, that the Garden of Eden was real, that “immutable kinds” were created all at once by means of POOF, and that Genesis is scientific fact. In other words, they want to present the doctrines of their faith. These doctrines do not represent “Scientific error”. Science cannot address miracles.

Combine this with teachers who sincerely believe in POOF, and laws preventing real science teachers for marking POOF answers as wrong on biology tests, and Verhey’s approach becomes a catastrophe. Gwen’s point shouldn’t be glossed over:
1) A teacher not afraid to buck the creationists
2) An administration solidly behind that teacher
3) A teacher who knew the material inside out
4) An AP-level text used by everyone
5) Expensive custom audio-video tools
6) An external public school system for flunkouts to attend (and they know it). This is worth emphasizing. This environment *required* a private, expensive school, where attendance is a privilege, and where if anyone didn’t like the instruction, public school was always there. But where should poor creationist parents send their children? Home-schooling?

Comment #159860

Posted by Raging Bee on February 6, 2007 9:07 AM (e)

Glen, Gwen, Flint, and many others have clearly taken a lot of time to give articulate and informed responses to Balter’s/Baltar’s arguments here; and how does Balter/Baltar respond? By very hastily kinda sorta maybe calling us elitists and running away. This only reinforces my impression that, whatever Balter himself may think, he’s been pretty much suckered into the creationist camp, and has bent an entire educational philosophy to rationalize shoewhorning religious doctrine into science classes.

I guess I should have seen this earlier. A look at his “let’s have a debate” article strongly implies that he either does not understand, or is unwilling honestly to address, the creationist talking-points he quotes.

Comment #159861

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 9:24 AM (e)

There seems to be some sort of assumption here that a large percentage of biology teachers in the public schools are creationists and so can’t be trusted to handle the teaching of evolution in its historical and current context, and/or that they are intimidated by school administrations. Is there evidence for this notion? If not, then such assumptions on the part of many here do indeed smack of elitism. Gwen’s post was explicitly elitist in that regard. And if there is evidence for this, then a curriculum that requires teachers to compare and contrast evolutionary and creationist materials in class could hardly make things worse, since it is unlikely that creationist biology teachers are teaching evolution effectively anyway.

So I am not calling some here elitists and then running away. I am calling some here elitists and hanging around.

Comment #159863

Posted by Flint on February 6, 2007 9:32 AM (e)

he’s been pretty much suckered into the creationist camp, and has bent an entire educational philosophy to rationalize shoewhorning religious doctrine into science classes.

I guess I should have seen this earlier. A look at his “let’s have a debate” article strongly implies that he either does not understand, or is unwilling honestly to address, the creationist talking-points he quotes.

I see strong indications that Balter has become the victim of the academic shotgun marriage. I’m informed by reliable sources that when an academic takes a formal, official position with respect to some issue, the possibility of admitting error simply does not exist. Academics can continue to command respect, or at least some deference, for clinging doggedly even to the most prima facie error. But saying “oops, seems I was wrong” kills any academic career dead.

At best, Balter could try to reposition, saying “what I really meant was…” and substituting something quite different, such as substituting historical development material for creationist “other side of the story” religious doctrine, as though this is what he meant all along. Maybe it will fly. Certainly we see no sign of any willingness to admit that Balter took the creationists at their word, which will *always* make a fool out of you.

It might be interesting to watch how this gets finessed.

Comment #159865

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 9:42 AM (e)

Interesting hypothesis, Flint, although it has the major weakness that I am not an academic. I am a journalist, a science writer, although I do have an MA in biology from UCLA. But I left my academic career behind 30 years ago.

Back to the drawing board with your psychological profile of me.

Comment #159866

Posted by Raging Bee on February 6, 2007 9:47 AM (e)

Balter/Baltar dodged thusly:

There seems to be some sort of assumption here that a large percentage of biology teachers in the public schools are creationists and so can’t be trusted to handle the teaching of evolution in its historical and current context, and/or that they are intimidated by school administrations. Is there evidence for this notion?

We just gave you a veritable truckload of such evidence, from our own experiences as well as from the news we read and see. It’s in the posts above, and on too many other PT threads to list completely. And, like all creationists, you simply ignored (or refused to comprehend) the answers, and simply asked the same question again. And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?

Gwen’s post was explicitly elitist in that regard.

Gwen’s post was explicitly factual, whatever epithet you think you can pin on her. She was writing of her own real-world experience and applying it to the issue being discussed (or, in your case, avoided like the plague) here.

Besides, if you know ANYTHING about education, you would know that it’s based on an “elitist” premise: that those who don’t have knoeledge need to listen to and learn from those who do; and having received knowledge, they then need to pass it on to those who still don’t. Calling Gwen “elitist” for stating the obvious is not just dumb – it’s stupid.

Comment #159874

Posted by Flint on February 6, 2007 9:56 AM (e)

Interesting hypothesis, Flint, although it has the major weakness that I am not an academic.

Inability to admit error isn’t the sole province of the academic. But I hope you realize (though as part of your usual tactics, you ignore rather than address valid objections) that the creationist position would actively oppose a historical development approach to evolution. You have not yet addressed the issue that creationist claims are not bad science, but are rather religious doctrine. I made these points very carefully, and take note that from reading your non-responses alone, nobody would have any clue that anyone made any points at all.

I suppose Gwen’s post was elitist in that she doubted that incompetent or even creationist-sympathetic instruction would achieve your goals. But I hope you realize that creationist biologists, like biology teachers across the country, are simply not teaching evolution AT ALL. Too controversial. Buys nothing but trouble. My own biology textbook mentioned evolution only in the last chapter, which the class never reached during the school year. This is not an accident.

So our complaint with your presentation has remained the same: You have not dealt with the key objections to your recommendations: That adequate teaching of evolution simply has not been tried very often, and that religious doctrine is not “bad science”, it is religious doctrine. I can understand why you sidestep these issues despite hundreds of posts trying to elicit some response from you: both of them are fatal to your fixation.

Comment #159881

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 10:07 AM (e)

Flint, I have never said that creationism is bad science rather than religion. You should look back at the October 2005 debate (there were actually two of them here) that Mike links to at the top of this thread where I stated my position ad infinitum which is why I have not elaborated on it here: That creationist views should be debated and evaluated in the classroom despite the fact that they are religious views, because they are the main obstacle to students learning about evolution. I have been so crystal clear on this point that your waving this around now is nothing but a red herring.

Nor, as you imply, have I now substituted teaching evolution in its historical context for a direct confrontation between creationism and evolution as part of some shifting of my position. These are simply two nuances of the same strategy and I think both should be done.

I hate to be pugilistic, as someone said above, but we really need to get people more astute than both Flint and Raging Bee in here or just forget it because we are getting nowhere. On the other hand, I suppose if I can call you elitist you can call me a closet creationist if you want to, ridiculous as that charge is. Why don’t you go online at Science and read my stories on human evolution to see if you can catch any whiffs of creationism.

Comment #159892

Posted by Raging Bee on February 6, 2007 10:41 AM (e)

…That creationist views should be debated and evaluated in the classroom despite the fact that they are religious views, because they are the main obstacle to students learning about evolution.

I will repeat this again: your basic assumption – that “teach only science” has failed, or is somehow responsible for the current strength of creationism among adults – has not been backed up by you, and has been refuted by the experiences of many respondents here, myself included. And since your basic assumption fails, all conclusions based on said assumption likewise fail. (And BTW your statement quoted above is a non-sequitur.)

Nor, as you imply, have I now substituted teaching evolution in its historical context for a direct confrontation between creationism and evolution as part of some shifting of my position. These are simply two nuances of the same strategy and I think both should be done.

No, they are two clearly different actions, not “nuances” of any overall “strategy.”

I hate to be pugilistic, as someone said above, but we really need to get people more astute than both Flint and Raging Bee in here or just forget it because we are getting nowhere.

In case you haven’t noticed, Flint and I are far from the only people responding to your assertions. Glen, for one, had a good bit to say, and you can’t even bring yourself to mention his name. Avoiding something, are we?

Comment #159901

Posted by Anton Mates on February 6, 2007 11:26 AM (e)

Michael Balter wrote:

There seems to be some sort of assumption here that a large percentage of biology teachers in the public schools are creationists and so can’t be trusted to handle the teaching of evolution in its historical and current context, and/or that they are intimidated by school administrations. Is there evidence for this notion?

Yes, there’s tons. I can’t provide URLs without hitting the spam filter, apparently, but Google the Skeptical Inquirer article “Educational Malpractice: Why Do So Many Biology Teachers Endorse Creationism?” Or look up the Panda’s Thumb articles “New York Times: Teachers pressured to avoid evolution” and “AAAS: Teachers and Evolution on the Front Line.”

If not, then such assumptions on the part of many here do indeed smack of elitism. Gwen’s post was explicitly elitist in that regard.

Some people are better-educated on any given subject than others. If it’s “elitism” to recognize that fact, then the very idea of having professional teachers in the first place is elitist. Hooray for elitism.

Comment #159905

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 11:49 AM (e)

“And if there is evidence for this, then a curriculum that requires teachers to compare and contrast evolutionary and creationist materials in class could hardly make things worse, since it is unlikely that creationist biology teachers are teaching evolution effectively anyway.”

I am quoting myself here, because our worthy debaters have already forgotten this part of my post. I will have to see if any of the suggested sources actually provide figures for the percentage of high school biology teachers that are creationists, but if it is a large percentage then what do people here propose to do about it? Fire them all and start over? One of the advantages to my proposals is that they would require evolution to be discussed in the classroom, as well as creationism, a situation far better than nothing on these subjects being taught at all. And there would be curricula to follow, and readings, of course, just as with other subjects. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we have to start with the biology teachers we have, not the ones we would like to have.

The comments about elitism once again miss the point. I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said, not about the relationship between teacher and student which of course is one of inequality in knowledge and experience (or should be.) But of course that doesn’t stop folks like Flint and Raging Bee from distorting what I said.

Comment #159910

Posted by Michael Balter on February 6, 2007 12:03 PM (e)

Oh, and Anton Mates, sorry.

“And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?”

I can’t resist this one. Why are you debating with me? Because whether my ideas are right, wrong, stupid, or whether I am a dupe of the creationists–whatever–I have managed to get them published in two major publications with more than a million readers between them, the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune. Again, that does not mean they are right, and I have never claimed that it does, only that it means you must debate me or ignore me–you choose to do the former. But it means they are publicized, disseminated, commented on, analyzed, and it also means that the editors of these publications think they are worthy of dissemination. Again, for those blockheads here who can’t get this straight, it does not mean that they are right, but it means that you have to contend with them. Why else have they been posted here and made the subjects of threads and nearly 150 comments now? It couldn’t be because people here have nothing better to do, could it?

So go ahead and disagree with me, but you have to deal with these ideas because I can tell you they resonate with lots of people and not just creationists. I can also tell you from the response that I have received from working scientists, that while only a minority agree with me, they don’t feel as threatened by these ideas as some of the people here on PT. Subscribing to scientific rather than religious explanations for the world does not necessarily make one superior in any fundamental way, although a few here seem to get their sense of self worth from their notions of themselves as great heroes in the anti-creationist fight.

I will talk to you when someone on PT posts the next article I write on this subject–as they will.

Comment #159912

Posted by David Grow on February 6, 2007 12:17 PM (e)

I must de-lurk a moment to respond to the question whether there are any creationist biology teachers in public schools. There are out here in the Bible Belt. In fact, a local organization promoting creationism in schools is headed by a biology teacher. They are organized and aggressive. Introduction of such a concept, no matter how well meaning or carefully constructed, would be an unrecoverable disaster in this Red State. David G.

Comment #159914

Posted by Raging Bee on February 6, 2007 12:23 PM (e)

And if there is evidence for this, then a curriculum that requires teachers to compare and contrast evolutionary and creationist materials in class could hardly make things worse, since it is unlikely that creationist biology teachers are teaching evolution effectively anyway.

So now you’re justifying a radical policy change merely by insisting that it can’t make things worse? Is that the best, most stunning endorsement you can offer for your proposed solution?

Even if the premise is true, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Just because a situation is bad, does not in itself prove that a particular proposed solution can “hardly make things worse.”

Besides, if your propsed solution can’t make things worse, how can you be sure it can make things better?

And here’s something else you haven’t thought through: if creationism is, as you have admitted, a religious doctrine, then why should only one religion’s doctrine get shoewhorned into biology classes? Christians aren’t the only ones with a non-scientific creation story; why not get the Norse and Native American versions of “creation science” in as well? (The Norse version is really cool and dramatic! More fraught, as Douglas Adams would say.)

I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said…

The point here is that you called Gwen “elitist” without even pretending to address the actual substance of what she said. You were avoiding the central issue then, and you’re avoiding it now. You can hang around, like a fart in a Russian space station, as long as you want, but you’re still running away from reality, and hiding behind a lot of diversionary name-calling.

Comment #159915

Posted by Raging Bee on February 6, 2007 12:32 PM (e)

Why are you debating with me? Because whether my ideas are right, wrong, stupid, or whether I am a dupe of the creationists–whatever–I have managed to get them published in two major publications with more than a million readers between them, the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune…

I’m sure Ann Coulter and Noam Chomsky can make a similar boast.

And the fact that you’re using the argument itself as proof of “victory,” only proves that you know you’ve lost the argument, and can’t pretend to have won any other way.

PS: if we’re the ones feeling threatened by your ideas, why are you the one running away from our responses?

Comment #159920

Posted by Mike Elzinga on February 6, 2007 1:01 PM (e)

Flint, Raging Bee, and others have done a good job stripping back Michael Balter’s journalist facade. I suspect members of the schools of journalism would be raising their eyebrows over the genuineness of his credentials.

If he really wanted to get at the realities of this matter, he wouldn’t be doing it sitting on his ass debating with people on the internet. He would be spending quite a few years of his life “living among the natives” in a wide variety of circumstances. He would be living with the same crap that teachers put up with day after day for years. It is obvious to those of us who have immersed ourselves in this world that he is blowing smoke and looking pretty pathetic.

I suppose he has the right to make a fool of himself in the eyes of people who actually know what is going on, but apparently he feels it worth price he pays to be a shill for the creationist crowd and getting some imagined fame by publishing in widely circulated newspapers. Rush Limbaugh has become quite wealthy with this kind of shtick and has drawn a lot of wannabe imitators. Find a subject that people argue about and throw gasoline on the fire while appearing to report facts. Unfortunately, it is this pseudo-journalism that is a big part of the problem.

Comment #159933

Posted by Flint on February 6, 2007 2:05 PM (e)

Golly. So Balter’s questioners are dismissed as not “astute” enough to realize that historical, correctible (and corrected) scientific error (among scientists) is really just a nuance, but not essentially different, from *current religious doctrine*, put forth by religious people for religious purposes, without the slightest respect for integrity, facts, error, falsifiability, or anything else about science. And which hasn’t budged, despite all advances in knowledge, for a century. Golly, those nuances sure are hard to grasp.

I don’t know if Balter deserves to be called a creationist, but he sure has taken more than one page out of their playbook. Don’t listen, dismiss the opposition with pejoratives, repeat error, ignore anyone who’s been there and has experience, and when statements are demonstrably false, repeat them some more.

What’s obvious to those of us not too astute to know better, is that IF creationism held any water scientifically, there wouldn’t be any need to use political and legal means to get it into science class; it would have earned that in the literature. Us people not astute enough to be listened to have mostly *been through* religious arguments in discussions of science, and have seen how well they communicate knowledge about science. But I guess demonstrated failure is a bit too subtle a nuance. Certainly experience can’t defeat ideology in a fair fight, because ideology has never permitted one.

Comment #159934

Posted by Popper's ghost on February 6, 2007 2:11 PM (e)

Gwen’s comment is very interesting. Teaching evolution in its social and historical context is fine for well off charter school students, but out of bounds for the plebes who just couldn’t handle it right.

I wonder if Balter has any grasp of just how badly he comes off with these sorts of facile dismissals of thoughtful comments.

Again, for those blockheads here who can’t get this straight, it does not mean that they are right, but it means that you have to contend with them. Why else have they been posted here and made the subjects of threads and nearly 150 comments now? It couldn’t be because people here have nothing better to do, could it?

Balter apparently doesn’t understand the dynamics of discussion groups any better than he understands the dynamics of religion, creationism, and public high school education. Length of the thread does not measure importance. We have had much longer threads here, debating people of far less significance making far more absurd claims. They tend to go on as long as the person keeps posting. People will drop in to once again explain why the claims are so absurd, but there would be no consequence if they failed to do so. That people do contend with these claims does not mean that they have to. We also have long threads that repeat pointless debates about religion; these threads never resolve anything and rarely introduce any ideas that haven’t been rehashed dozens of times. People don’t have to engage in these debates, they just do. But very important findings in science might be posted here with only one or two comments. Controversial statements draw comment, and nothing can be inferred about the importance of the statements from the number of comments they draw.

Aside from that, what is Balter’s point? When the swiftboaters went after Kerry, he had to contend with them (but didn’t soon enough). So what, exactly, other than that Balter takes poor advantage of his ability to get opinion pieces published? Balter seems to think that he was answering Anton’s question “And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?” but he doesn’t seem to have understood it, perhaps because he considers his importance self-evident. But Balter brings no particular experience or expertise in education policy to the table, and there’s no reason, really, that people “have to” pay attention to his opinions on the matter.

a few here seem to get their sense of self worth from their notions of themselves as great heroes in the anti-creationist fight

Oh, the irony. One does, it seems.

we really need to get people more astute than both Flint and Raging Bee in here or just forget it because we are getting nowhere

The lack of astuteness is primarily Balter’s. Just what does he consider getting somewhere … people agreeing with him? Having his proposals implemented? From a more objective POV, we have gotten somewhere; people have explained at some length, based in part on personal experience, why they reject Balter’s proposal, and people have learned a bit more about the thought processes of the person making the proposal.

Comment #159936

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 6, 2007 2:20 PM (e)

There seems to be some sort of assumption here that a large percentage of biology teachers in the public schools are creationists and so can’t be trusted to handle the teaching of evolution in its historical and current context,

and yet, one of the things you constantly stress is that “creationism” is the majority viewpoint.

do I need to show you how many times you have said that?

so why do you find it an unreasonable assumption that a large proportion of teachers(estimated by those who actually HAVE looked at the issue at around 30%) really CAN’T be trusted to teach creationism as a “historical challenge” to the ToE. Instead, they would seize the opportunity to do exactly what they want, which is to put up false criticisms of the ToE in order to make a clear preference for creationism as an explanation.

I swear, it’s like you find it easy to WRITE editorials for a newspaper, but never actually READ the newspaper itself.

I suppose you missed all the legislation in creationist states backed by school boards who would rather teach creationism than evolution?

If you did, in your blind ignorance, in fact miss ALL of that, you can use this very site to track it down, as there is likely an entry regarding these measures on just about every page.

This goes right to the charge I keep making against you, that you refuse to acknowledge your limited understanding of how evolution is actually taught at the secondary level, and refuse to check your own ignorance, which completely flies in the face of what is well documented in the very papers you choose to publish your editorials in! It’s a shocking bit of denial on your part. You should think twice about accusing scientists of denial, when you yourself exhibit it more oft than not.

Comment #159938

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 6, 2007 2:26 PM (e)

a few here seem to get their sense of self worth from their notions of themselves as great heroes in the anti-creationist fight

Oh, the irony. One does, it seems.

oh yes, this level of irony does seem familiar, especially to anyone who has ever argued with a creationist on PT.

doubtless Balter will not see it though, which also seems eerily familiar.

I swear, this one shows as much denial and projection as any creobot we’ve had on PT in the last couple of years.

Comment #159940

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 6, 2007 2:36 PM (e)

Why are you debating with me? Because whether my ideas are right, wrong, stupid, or whether I am a dupe of the creationists–whatever–I have managed to get them published in two major publications with more than a million readers between them, the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune.

again, that doesn’t answer his question.

it’s like you use the fact you managed to get an editorial published in a newspaper as some sort of weird self-authoritarianism.

hey, some of my photos of flowers made the front page of the local paper where I live.

does that make me a professional botanist?

really, you have said this as support for your ideas on several occassions now, and yet have the gall to say that referring you to commentary directly on point by NSF and NAAS is “a authoritarian argument”.

the mere fact that you use being published in a newspaper as support for your idea should be giving any rational person pause.

One can only marvel at someone who has been a science writer for serious peer-reviewed publications, that somehow then thinks a newspaper is somehow a more substantive publishing platform.

I’m sure Anne Coulter makes the exact same arguments about the validity of her contentions based on her tremendous book sales figures.

Comment #159941

Posted by Sir_Toejam on February 6, 2007 2:46 PM (e)

I have suggested that science teachers stage debates in class over these issues,

hmm, now where have I seen THAT before… Kathy Martin maybe?

wasn’t there a PT post about one of the creationist school boards proposing setting up just such debate in order to discredit evolutionary theory in their classrooms?

there was even a xerox copy of the notes showing exactly how they would do it, IIRC.

anybody recall that post? It was about a year ago.

Comment #159988

Posted by Anton Mates on February 6, 2007 8:40 PM (e)

Michael Balter wrote:

I will have to see if any of the suggested sources actually provide figures for the percentage of high school biology teachers that are creationists, but if it is a large percentage then what do people here propose to do about it? Fire them all and start over?

Yes, they do provide figures, and no, that’s not the proposal–the proposal is to give them a good evolution lesson plan & textbook and require them to teach it.

One of the advantages to my proposals is that they would require evolution to be discussed in the classroom, as well as creationism, a situation far better than nothing on these subjects being taught at all.

Is anyone from the pro-evolution side proposing that we teach nothing? And most of the official state standards at least nominally require discussion of evolution AFAIK; the problem is that those standards are ignored or subverted.

The comments about elitism once again miss the point. I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said, not about the relationship between teacher and student which of course is one of inequality in knowledge and experience (or should be.)

Well, yes. For some reason you don’t like the idea that a discussion about a given topic might be unhelpful if students and teacher aren’t sufficiently educated on that subject, so you condemn that as “elitism.” On the other hand, you’re perfectly cool with the idea that the teacher-student relationship is based on an inequality in knowledge and experience, so you don’t want to call that “elitism,” even though it obviously is–it implies that ignorant, inexperienced people are unsuited for the exalted position of teacher.

Oh, and Anton Mates, sorry.

“And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?”

Raging Bee said that, not me.

Comment #159994

Posted by Gwen on February 6, 2007 9:50 PM (e)

“I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said, not about the relationship between teacher and student which of course is one of inequality in knowledge and experience (or should be).”

A. The students at the high school I attended were not especially well-off. Not everyone went to this particular high school as a first resort. I suspect that that situation is similar to the situation at most, if not all, charter schools. Charter schools *are* public; they are funded by the government and have to teach what the government mandates (a little more flexibility on some things, I think). The major advantage a charter school has over a traditional public school is that you are put into the latter by default, and have to actually “apply” (as far as I know, the school cannot reject an application, but can say that they don’t have enough space; good charter schools, at least in our area, have waiting lists) to get in. They’re not answerable (again, AFAIK) to the elected school board of the “public” school district. And, depending on the school, they may attract a different type of teacher.
Tri-City College Prep High School took full advantage of the flexibility afforded it. We had a shorter overall day with longer class periods (only five total, and some students weren’t enrolled for all five periods; seniors mostly, I think, because we had a credit-based graduation system), and we had, as I said, a rock-solid biology teacher who was nice but wouldn’t’ve let herself be pushed around, backed up by Dr. Halvorsen, same on both counts. And it only takes a couple of perfectly-willing-to-be-vocal ToE supporters, the aforementioned PBS videos, such a teacher, and a solid textbook to make the somewhat-tentative “but I heard in church” people get the idea that ID wasn’t going to be terribly welcome in class.
But (and let me spell this out for you) we had a lot of things on our side:
-the videos and video equipment. No, they weren’t HDTV monitors and DVD players by any means; it was the only video equipment in the school and we were stuck with a fickle VCR. (Prescott, AZ is not Silicon Valley.) But it’s still more than that inner-city school you’re thinking of doing this at, where they’re a little more worried about keeping the roof from leaking and the textbooks less than fifty years old; still more than extremely rural areas like some places in Mississippi and the Appalachias where if you’re an adult and you can read you’re in the (statistical, still substantial) minority.
-the teacher, and Dr. Halvorsen. The “doctor” should tip you off that we had more in her than most schools have, and she got it in education. D’ya think she’d make her teachers waste their time learning feng shui and astrology? Didn’t think so. And the teacher was in the seventy percent of biology teachers who reject creationism (think about that, only seventy percent) and in the maybe thirty percent total who was willing to fight the good fight and everyone else knew it.
-the time, the knowledge, the inclination. The students. The parents.
These are simple facts, Mr. Balter. And you can talk about how elitist I am for using facts to support my argument ’til you’re blue in the face, but I will still think, at the end of it all, that it’s more elitist by far to care so little for the students who will be harmed by your proposal that you refuse to even look at the facts, to consider the attitudes toward creationism in the places where more than anywhere else students cannot afford to be failed again, to consider how fair the fight can be when one side will give anything to win and obfuscation and outright lying are its favorite weapons, that you refuse to even look at those oh-so-elitist facts or listen to the oh-so-elitist teachers and the people who live in the places you’re trying to affect because you’re afraid that your pet theory of how to teach science to high school students will be rejected if you actually listen to scientists, teachers, or high school students (or recent high school students). You’re willing to sacrifice all these students on the altar of your philosophy of pedagogy, and you know so strongly that you are right, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that you will gladly do this because you’ve got truthiness on your side, and your gut, and everyone knows that facts are elitist.

Comment #159997

Posted by demallien on February 6, 2007 10:56 PM (e)

The thing that I don’t get with Baltar’s proposal is that to me, it’s exactly the same as “Teach the Controversy”, proposed by creationists.

Michael, I’m very interested to hear how your proposal is different from Teach the Controversy, or, if they are substantially the same, why you think it’s a good idea to adopt a creationist tactic in public schools?