Take down that evolution poster!

I have an evolution poster in my classroom.  I teach both biology and AP Environmental Science, and it is part of the curriculum for both classes.  Recently on a science teacher message board, I inquired about activities for teaching evolution, after noticing a few students in class commenting on the poster. 

To my surprise and dismay, I had one teacher reply along the lines of the following:

I do not teach evolution in class as there are too many pit-falls.  I talk about DNA/RNA/proteins and mutations, and that’s where we stop.  The students are sometimes disappointed because they wanted to discuss or even argue about evolution.  If I were you, I’d take that poster down.

There are so many things I believe are wrong with this.  Where to begin…

First of all, I don’t know where this person teaches, or exactly which courses this person teaches, but teaching evolution is indeed a standard that must be taught in many classes, and as far as I know, in every state.  Chances are good that this person is completely ignoring something they are required to teach.

Secondly, I find it sad that science teachers are scared to deal with the issue.  Whether one is scared of the students, the parents, other teachers, or whatever, evolution is a huge part of biology and science in general, and should be taught.  We’re doing a disservice in preparing our students for the future by skipping such a central, unifying concept in science. 

Third, even if this teacher happens to be one that does not agree with evolutionary theory, I still contend what I stated in point 2 above–by not teaching the theory, you’re doing an educational disservice to your students.  After I teach evolutionary theory, if a student still disagrees with it, then at least I’ve taught them what the theory REALLY teaches, and perhaps they’ll be better equipped to argue with it, if they so choose.

Arg.  I’ll end this post feeling frustrated, but at least a little less so now that I’ve vented about it.

*Update: AAAAAANNNNDDDD the frustration comes roaring back.  I actually just got a message from another member explaining to me the nature of the controversy.  All I can do is stare with my jaw open at the screen.  Seriously, are there so many people out there that do not understand why some students don’t “believe” in evolution that this person feels the need to explain the issue???  Well, at least they followed it up with some actual suggestions, rather than just saying, “Don’t teach it”.

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7 Responses to “Take down that evolution poster!”

  1. Very sad. 😦

  2. I don’t live in the USA, but I only finished secondary school (high school) two years ago and the biology curriculum ‘covered’ evolution. I say ‘covered’ because all we needed to know about evolution for the final exam was two sources of evidence for it, and that was it. (You can imagine what the Creationists might say about that.)

    It frustrates me that, in a country with (probably) better science education overall, you have these dimwits trying to ban the teaching of one of the biggest theories in history – and when they don’t manage to ban it, they make it difficult for people like you to teach it.

  3. Its really important that that science teachers, more than any other group, stand firm in the face of teh pressure from creationsits and IDers and dont flinch from teaching evolution. I would argue that in many ways there should be more teaching of evolutionary evidence and theory as this is clearly the unifying theory that makes sense of the whole of life sciences.

    Indeed I would be tempted to go further and suggest that we should take the bull by the horns and teach the background to the development of evolutionary theory maybe in the history curriculum and in religious education and in geography classes ( if such things still exist).

    Maybe then students would get a really rounded understanding of the nature of science, scientific debate, progress based on observation and the religion vs science issue. Pressure to acknowledge religious explanations in science classes would then be less problematic because students would have been exposed to the full development of the issue and creationism and ID would be exposed as comletely unrelated to science and not even representative of mainstream religious understanding.

  4. Creationism
    1.
    When I first heard of creationism, I heard it from a fellow named Kent Hovind on TV. He is a fundamentalist, but he is now debunked and in prison, so I move to the next most well known fundamentalist creationist, Dr; Kurt Wise, whose lectures, and a book I am familiar with.
    Now Kurt Wise is a truly honest creationist because that he is willing to accept creationism even if he found, “all the evidence in the universe was against it”*. Kurt Wise volunteers, even if all the evidence in the universe flatly contradict’s his literalist viw of scripture, and even if he had reached the point of admitting this to himself, he would still take his stand on his view and deny dismiss the evidence. What we have here is fundamentalist creationism’s most highly qualified and most intelligent ‘scientist’ who admits that no evidence, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how all-embracing, no matter how devastatingly convincing, can ever make any difference.”
    This is a scientist?
    As to the content of his Books;
    1. “Ice cannot carry a mile-diameter boulder,” Dr. Wise explained that the boulder’s mass would cause the ice to melt. This is a straw man argument and misdirection. Not only are the large blocks not what is traditionally called glacial material, but Dr. Wise has also made glacial transport of any large rock sound ridiculous, even though it has been clearly observed happening. He denies the ice age.

    2. Dr. Wise does not accept traditional geologists’ time calculations, their interpretation of the deposition of sedimentary strata, or any of their other findings that contradict the Deluge, but because his model leaves South America too far south, he accepts their finding that it moved northward as proof he is right!

    3. The Sahara, however, is entirely “post-Deluge” by his reckoning, and therefore cannot be more than ~4,000 years old, which is indeed close to the age of the current desert. Dr. Wise did not mention that the Sahara is the third desert to occupy the same area, that sedimentary rock underlies the desert and would not have had time to liquefy in his fundamentalist scenario before the loose sand was blown in place, or that fossils of mild-weather plants have been found there—all adding to the age of the location. He also did not mention that some of the older sedimentary rock in the Sahara shows evidence of glaciation; these facts seem to be avoided.

    4. The Pleistocene Ice Age, he discusses as a single Ice Age his model predicted, providing an interesting notion; “Siberia was never covered with ice. Central Canada was never covered with ice. Eastern Canada was, but not central Canada. … You could walk through all of Asia without any ice. You could walk through Alaska, as long as you stayed away from the mountains … down through central Canada … had a beautiful zone where you walked right through the middle of Canada …”* This goes against massive evidence of glaciation. With his degree, he is clearly misleading, dishonest, lying.

    5. Dr. Wise continued by claiming that dinosaur skeletons at Dinosaur National Monument offered proof that the animals were caught up in the Deluge because “many legs and necks were found articulated but separated from bodies, “… like the critters themselves had been ripped to pieces.” Dr. Wise did not mention that paleontologists have known for nearly a century that many of the fossils at this site were deposited in normal flooding, nor did he mention that several nearly complete skeletons each of Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarosaurus, and Barosaurus have been found there, all animals with long necks and legs. For the most part, complete skeletons go to museums, and fragmentary remains are left in place at the monument for tourists to see, oh well.

    6. Dr. Wise also said that dinosaurs lived alongside humans for up to two centuries after the Deluge. In fact, there have never been any human fossils found with any dinosaur fossils or vice versa. One wonders by what standards of evidence he goes by? Dinosaurs and humans lived far apart in time, not together in geography or environment.

    I could show other fallacies, many fallacies, but won’t. Acceptance of his ideas all depends on the ignorance of those who accept fundamentalist creationism.

    2.

    Here is what I find fundamentalist, in general state;

    A. “Fairness demands that evolution and creation be given equal time.”

    That’s an erroneous equation. Evolution is a scientific approach; creationism has no scientific grounding (in its research or methodology). Why not Hopi creationism> Why not Hindu Creationism> the list goes on.

    B. “Evolution is only a theory.”

    Duh! A theory is a terrific thing. Those who make this assertion simply do not understand science. A theory is special, because it helps to explain facts. Only theory? Only someone innocent of an understanding of science would assert that.

    C. “Second law of thermodynamics proves evolution wrong.”

    “Scientists, however, do know about the second law. It is an assertion made by fundamentalist based on, and offered as a simplistic cliché,’ as- fundamentalist creationists arguments are. To lift the cliché’ just a little about the fundamentalist ‘understanding’ of it the second law of thermodynamics applies to a ‘closed system,’ that is, to a system that does not gain energy from without or lose energy to the outside.” The second law of thermodynamics prohibits evolution.” I have read this assertion many times. It’s a head scratcher to me. This statement is simply inaccurate–and creationists often make statements that violate the second law.

    “The only truly closed system we know of is the universe as a whole. Within a closed system, there are subsystems that can gain complexity spontaneously, provided there is a greater loss of complexity in another interlocking subsystem. The overall change is then a complexity-loss in line with the dictates of the second law. Evolution can proceed and build up the complex from the simple, thus moving uphill, without violating the second law, as long as another interlocking part of the system the sun, which delivers energy to the earth continuously moves downhill (as it does) at a much faster rate than evolution moves uphill. If the sun were to cease shining, evolution would stop and, indeed, so would life, eventually.”

    The second law of thermodynamics is an insubstantial concept that they clearly know nothing of, as their use of it as a cliché deminenstrates this fact. The fundamentalist fallacy becomes clear when we consider theory of gravitation, in the same simplistic (cliché’) terms the fundamentalist apply to the second law of thermodynamics. “All objects in the earth’s vicinity are attracted to the earth and, therefore, fall to the ground.” Consequently, balloons and airplanes and rockets are clearly impossible. If you don’t accept this, you need not accept the fundamentalist simplistic cliché’ unique appreciation of the second law of thermodynamics.

    D. “Man and dinosaurs coexisted.” This is simply ludicrous, the Stratigraphy and all geologic evidence points this out. Moreover, for this to be true, we would have to trash all the multiple scientific disciplines, such as paleontology, chemistry, and physics.

    E. Wholesale Rejection of science. Fundamentalist scrupulously rejects the “evidential” approach in favor of a “presupposition” approach: The Bible is a priori true; evolution is ipso facto false. If you accept the truth of the Bible, as they see it, then evidence is irrelevant, thus science is of no value. “Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen . . . Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:1, 3). Others, thinking Christians who incorporate evolution into their worldview are seen as in the process of conciliation with the ‘world,’ meaning the devil. What fundamentalist do is simply disregard what ever “scientists,” secular or otherwise do by discovering or accumulating and interpreting evidence. These scientists are, to the fundamentalist, engaged in a superfluous endeavor that is only detrimental to faith. I see fundamentalism as a prescription for gross ignorance.
    F. The fundamentalist redefine ‘science.’ They dismiss the scientific method- which disqualifies the well established fields of astronomy, archaeology, paleontology, geology, epidemiology, climatology, linguistics, forensics, and a host of other historical sciences, including history itself. In short, they believe that any statement about the past is no better than a guess. They make no allowance for methodological or evidentiary considerations that might render one “guess” better than another. This is ignorance in action. This is the most absurd repackaging of medieval superstition and mythology into the guise of ‘science. Ever.
    G. Gross misrepresentation of science. As said, this wholesale disdain for historical science is matched by their perversion of the scientific method. The creationist mantra is that evolution is “just a theory.” This facetious stance might be of merit if evolution was “just a hypothesis,” but in fact a theory is much stronger than a hypothesis, and requires more in the way of “disproof.” I wonder why fundamentalist do not also protest the theory of gravitation, the germ theory of disease, the heliocentric theory of the solar system and the atomic theory of matter. I have even heard them identify evolution as a religion. Because, to them evolution is non-science, and because a theory is no better than a guess, belief in the theory of evolution must be based on faith. But if evolution is a religion, then so are archaeology, epidemiology, forensics and dentistry!
    Fundamentalists state that we cannot know about the past simply because no one was ever there. One creationist said in a class where science/evolution was discussed, fundamentalist students should wave their Bibles in the air and holler, ‘Were you their” several times. Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance in action. The implication of such gross ignorance being encouraged in schools is frightening.

    I can only try to attempt to acknowledge their line of ‘reasoning.’ Let’s see, wouldn’t we deduce that there cannot be any justification for a murder if nobody was there? As a matter of fact, forensic scientists put into practice the same procedures archaeologists, historians, and paleontologists do. And all other ‘scientists’ who deal with the past.
    My children go to public school and hopefully college where they will never hear a word about fundamentalist creationism simply because it is not science. My religion does not believe in creationism either because creationism is far right-wing dogma, nothing more. Creationism is anti-God because it denies the existence of a complex universe made by God over billions of years. I stand against creationism being taught in the public schools for that reason. I spoke to a few of the science teachers in my children’s public school. They say they would resign if they were required to teach creationism instead of evolution or creationism as a ‘science.’ I would pull my child out of any school that taught creationism. Teach your children the scientific truth about evolution and religious faith will follow as water flows over rocks in a stream. My own argument for God is ontological. True faith is a faith that does not fear science in any form. True faith is a vibrant dynamic. I believe God created the earth, but not in the manner a small idiosyncratic ecclesial group wishes to impose. The mental gymnastics one needs to espouse fundamentalist creationism are in effect denial of reality, not real faith. It exposes these people as not retaining genuine faith, but denial masked as faith.

  5. It seems the chain of events in Dover was precipitated by removal and destruction of a student-produced mural on evolution. As I recall, the story reconstructed by journalists is that the mural was removed and destroyed by a custodian while a Board member looked on approvingly.

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