Friday, October 28, 2005

Like I mentioned before, I emailed many people and invited them to comment on my ID post. I've been getting some very interesting responses and I am going to try to post as many of the good ones as I can. Colin Purrington, Associate Professor at Swarthmore College answered the call with the following comment. I took it from the comments page because I like his position of early intervention.

Colin Purrington said...

Teaching "intelligent design creationism" (IDC) in science class is a bad idea, but there are several contexts that make it more or less bad.

In the worst case scenario, a teacher with creationist leanings is the science teacher. He or she will be, of course, _delighted_ to teach IDC, and will presumably sell it to students as if IDC were actually a scientific concept, which it is not. How common is this scenario, however? In the United States, it would be very, very common. Belief in the supernatural, and belief in biblical truth, is very high even among teachers hired to teach science. Teacher suspicion of evolution tends to increase if they don't have a higher degree in science, too, so that means anti-evolution teaching is likely to be higher among the lesser-qualitified elementary school teachers and middle school teachers.

Another scenario is a teacher who thinks that evolution is a completely well-supported theory and that IDC is just intellectual garbage, formulated my mushy-brained, pro-religion zealots. Given an opportunity to bash IDC in front of his or her students, he or she will. As for the above scenario, this means that one particular religion (Christianity) will be discussed to the exclusion of all other religions. In one case it will be praised, and in the other, laughed at. But for both cases it will be, essentially, illegal because it establishes one particular religion over another.

The final scenario that is likely to exist is in classes where the teacher could really care less about promoting/bashing supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon. He or she is just worried about teaching the academic standards, and getting the students to perform well on standardized tests. Diluting real science with IDC or other fad anti-science will have an immediate, and negative, impact on such scores, and the teacher will probably just skip over the IDC altogether. But he or she lives in the United States, and students (overwhelmingly anti-evolution due to indoctrination during elementary school years) will bring the topic up in class over and over again. It would not be pretty.

There are other scenarios, too, but all of them end up with U.S. public school graduates becoming dumb and dumberer. From a realists point of view, I think they only way to teach American's about evolution is to teach it to kids when they are in elementary school. Children of this age are being told at home that evolution is silly if not satanic, and are being told that everything we see has been created (rather recently!) by God. Therefore, instruction that counters these parental "facts" should be delivered via the school system...and delivered at the age when it might actually do some pedagogical good. If high school graduates in the United States still believed in Santa Claus, I'd bet good money that we'd have massively-expensive "interventions" in kindergarten, just to ensure that our citizens didn't have strange, unrealistic expectations about gifts during adulthood.

For Christmas, I want IDC to go to another, even more backward country. And, yes, I've been very, very good this year.

Thanks Colin!


The Phoenix said...

Yeah, staying out of the whole ID would be a smart thing for science teachers. Having worked with these professionals, I believe most know this to be true.

It's best to leave anything tied to religion alone. In history class, we had to learn about other religions - but we learned it from a historical and contextual perspective.

ID delves right into the heart of religion. And it's just too sticky of a situation to put yourself and your school in.

Heck, teachers haven't been able to put Christmas trees up in their classrooms in years!

Greg Laden said...

Colin makes good points.

The argument for teaching the controversy involves the idea that scientists are not interested in critique and debate.

My answer to this is here:

Teach the Controversy???