‘It’s Time for Education to Evolve’

That’s the headline for a compelling column from the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Falkenberg yesterday. Falkenberg clearly lays out the threats to our children’s education and to the state’s economy posed by the creationist faction that controls the Texas State Board of Education.

Falkenberg explains how far-right board members are politicizing education by trying to “inject unfounded doubts about” evolution in the public school science curriculum. Those doubts come in the form of fabricated “weaknesses” and “limitations” to the theory of evolution. None of those so-called “weaknesses” has support in mainstream science. In fact, she writes, the theory is “as basic to the teaching of science as the U.S. Constitution is to the teaching of American government.” Falkenberg notes how biology teachers feel so intimidated by the attacks on science from evolution deniers that they water down discussions of evolution in their classrooms. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs look to other states with stronger science education to locate their biotechnology firms.

Falkenberg concludes:

Texas may not yet be Kansas, which drew nationwide ridicule when it adopted science standards that challenged evolution.

But if the “weakness” language stays, there’s a strong possibility that the board’s conservative members on the partisan, elected board will try in a couple of years to insert it into textbooks. And, this time, they might have the votes to win.

True scientific debate is healthy. So are questions. But injecting doubt in curriculum for the sake of ideological agenda will harm our students and our state.

You can read the full column here.

2 thoughts on “‘It’s Time for Education to Evolve’

  1. Good grief, she swallowed the crap about scientific theories not having weaknesses:

    “And scientific theories don’t have weaknesses. If they did, the board would be justified in raising challenges to everything from gravity to relativity to the germ theory of disease.”

    General Relativity has definite weaknesses, which is why inflation, dark energy and and dark matter have been proposed to explain observations in cosmology that GR can’t. Quantum mechanics has weaknesses, it is only in the last few weeks that they have been able to calculate the mass of the proton from 1st principles and that only by adding lattice constraints. The germ theory of ulcers was challenged for many years, the challengers were wrong but not unjustified.

  2. Arguments against the theory of evolution are so full of weaknesses that I doubt the proponents of these arguments have a clue what evolution is about. For example, the claim that the incompatibility of human and animal blood types proves evolution false is not a rational argument since incompatible blood types exist among humans.

    Here is a simple clarification: Evolution is the study of the natural world; it is not the study of the supernatural world. Evolution is the study of the diversity of life; it is not the study of the origin of life. Science is science, and faith is faith. Anti-evolutionists (or “creationists”) are trying to compare apples and oranges.

    Creationists claim scientists are “afraid” to discuss the “weaknesses” of Darwin’s theory. This claim is laughable when one considers the peer-review process in which scientists examine each other’s and their own hypotheses which, under scrutiny, can and do get demolished. When a hypothesis is proved false, it never reaches the level of ‘theory.’ The theory of evolution having been discussed, hashed and rehashed, still remains valid until proved false – which, after 150 years, has yet to be done by the scientific method. So, to say scientists are “afraid” is an example of projecting one’s own fears onto someone else.

    If I understand creationism correctly, it presents life as static; that creation is a finished product. Thus creationism, by definition, has to deny the existence of drug-resistant bacteria, mutations, vestigial organs, volcanoes and earthquakes, and animals that are neither apes nor modern humans but that once lived. And we know they once lived because their bones and fossils (which have been carbon-dated) prove they lived. We know life is not static but dynamic, and the universe is expanding.

    A literal interpretation of Genesis requires the acceptance of a talking snake and, later, a talking donkey. These Biblical creatures not only vocalize but have the ability to speak in a language the humans of their time can understand. Such animals would be supportive of evolution since, last time I checked, snakes and donkeys today do not talk. This would be an example of evolution reversing itself, exemplified by sea animals who have the remnants of legs in their skeletons, suggesting they once walked on land. If evolution can reverse, why can it not also go forward? Creationists might also observe the human skeleton with its superfluous vertebrae of the coccyx. They’ll passionately resist considering the coccyx might be the remnant of a tail. But I would ask them what purpose could these extra vertebrae have. What organ are they shielding? And what purpose does the appendix have other than to become infected?

    How many “creationists” are brave enough to examine their ideas in the same objective way they allege scientists fear to do? Where are their critical thinking skills they claim science lacks? If one defines the teaching of evolution as ‘indoctrination,’ what does one call the teaching of creationism? Or the teaching of English, of math, etc? One person even claimed scientists “would negate the Bill of Rights.” Thanks be to our founding fathers – many of whom were Deists, Unitarians, and scientists – for the Bill of Rights! Otherwise, we might still be stuck in the “Age of Faith” when scientists and “heretics” who presented ideas incompatible with church doctrine were condemned to the stake. It is back to the “Age of Faith” that creationists seem to want to go. They are free – and should be free – to do so, they and their children. But they can’t expect to take all public school children with them. Those children have a right to be educated enough to know what material they may later want to discard.

    As I read Genesis, I see a beautifully simplified version of evolution in which creation took place in stages over a period of time. I am baffled why people insist there must be a conflict where there basically is none. They seem to have an inexplicable need to confine the Creator to one tiny box rather than use their God-given evolved brain to think outside boxes.