Houston Chronicle editorial on evolution and biology classes


The Houston Chronicle continues its campaign for good education and high education standards, with another editorial taking a stand for evolution over the frivolity pending before two different education agencies in Texas government.

Publication of a call to arms labs and books by 17 different national organizations of scholars gave the Chronicle a spot to tee off:

A coalition of 17 science groups, among them the National Academy of Sciences, has just issued a call for their members to engage more in the science education process — including explaining evolution.

The coalition warns in this month’s issue of the FASEB Journal (the acronym stands for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) that today’s muddling of scientific education with unscientific alternatives such as creationism weakens Americans’ grasp of the concepts on which science is based.

Texas creationists should be feeling the heat. Hundreds of Texas Ph.D. biologists have called the agencies to task for considering shorting evolution; Texas newspapers that have spoken out, all favor evolution as good pedagogy because it’s good science. The National Academy of Sciences published its updated call for tough standards and explaining why creationism is soft, and wrong. The experts all agree: No junk science, no voodoo science, so, no creationism in science classes.

Should be feeling the heat. Are they?

Look at the comments on the editorial at the Chronicle’s site.

Also see, or hear:

Jan. 6, 2008, 12:52PM

Evolutionary idea

Scientists rally to explain and defend the cornerstone of biological study.

Science education is in danger of collapsing beneath nonscientific teachings, and the nation’s biologists, social scientists, pathologists, chemists and others are worried enough to push back. It is high time for these specialists to share what they know.

A coalition of 17 science groups, among them the National Academy of Sciences, has just issued a call for their members to engage more in the science education process — including explaining evolution.

The coalition warns in this month’s issue of the FASEB Journal (the acronym stands for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) that today’s muddling of scientific education with unscientific alternatives such as creationism weakens Americans’ grasp of the concepts on which science is based.

Among the endangered basics: the scientific method, the process of reaching scientific consensus, and telling the difference between scientific and nonscientific explanations of natural events.

It is urgent for the nation’s top scientists, so aware of ethics and rigor in their own disciplines, to restore science education to the realm of the methodical, the testable and the repeatable. These pathbreakers in lifesaving, life-affirming disciplines need to make clear their work is based on centuries of accumulated facts and test results — not mere “theory” in the vernacular sense.

Making that distinction, in fact, is one of the tasks scientists are now undertaking. In a new peer-reviewed journal called “Evolution: Education and Outreach,” author T. Ryan Gregory explains once and for all why evolution belongs in science class while creationism and intelligent design do not.

“[T]erms relating to the process and products of science itself, such as ‘theory’ and ‘law’ are almost diametrically opposite in scientific versus vernacular settings,” he writes. “In daily conversation, ‘theory’ often indicates a lack of supporting evidence.”

A theory in science, by contrast, “is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inference and tested hypotheses.”

In science — unlike in conversation — reaching a theory is the ultimate goal. Creationism may well be worth study, but it lacks the gathered evidence to make it a scientific theory.

Yet it’s neither the goal nor the interest of most scientists to attack religion. Many are actually strengthened by their own faiths; most Christian denominations have no trouble reconciling spiritual beliefs with appreciation for the gifts of science, including the knowledge that for millions of years new species have evolved from earlier species.

Even Isaac Newton, a pioneer in the search for natural causes of natural phenomena, was devout, drawn to religious inquiry as to science.

What is not intellectually reconcilable, however, is attacking true science while accepting the benefits it has made possible. Drug-resistant tuberculosis and MRSA are terrifying examples of micro-evolution in action; bird flu transferred from human to human could be the next. Only rigorous use of scientific method — including concepts such as evolution —will help scientists contain these potential pandemics.

Denying science students access to these concepts in clear, unadulterated form threatens not just the students, but later generations who will need their expertise. Those bent on denying this access lack foresight. They also lack gratitude.

“In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason,” notes FASEB editor Gerald Weissmann, “it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them.”

The scientists who daily battle disease and ease the pain of disaster are now badly needed to show why science class must remain sacred.

4 Responses to Houston Chronicle editorial on evolution and biology classes

  1. Rebecca says:

    Wow! I hadn’t thought of that. LOL

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Rebecca, in Christianity, the only one who is not fully descended from humans (primates) is the Messiah.

    Do you think Huckabee was trying to elevate his position in the church? Was he saying he’s the Messiah?

    Like

  3. Rebecca says:

    Well, I think we are seeing the effects of this. When Mike Huckabee said, “If someone wants to believe that they are descended from a primate…” all sorts of people jumped on it, but I have yet to see anyone pointing out that humans are primates. So the need to pussyfoot around the teaching of evolution may be resulting in glossing over very basic things like animal classification.

    Like

  4. hoverfrog says:

    I’m not convinced about evolution*. These Creationists don’t seem to have evolved in the last 2000 years. I say let them go back to living in caves and believing in exorcism as medicine. Let’s see* how successful that particular offshoot of humanity will be.

    *OK not me. I’ll be long dead before evolution has much of an effect on humanity. Maybe one of my ancestors will look back and say “Those Texans didn’t do so well as a sub species. Shame they’re all extinct now.”

    Like

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