January 11, 2006

This class will take a close look at evolution as a theory..."

"...and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid," says a public high school's course description. Constitutional? This issue, raised in a new lawsuit, is very different from the recent case that dealt with teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in a biology class. It seems clear as a general matter that a high school can teach about religious ideas in history, literature, and philosophy courses. But if the whole purpose of the course is to teach religion under the cloak of a bogus label, it should be seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The question is: At what point does the school cross over the line?
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said, "This is apparently the next wave of efforts to bring creationism to schools, and that's why we want to dry it up immediately."

The school district, with 1,425 students, serves several towns in a mountain area where many students are home schooled. The special education teacher, who is married to the pastor of the local Assemblies of God church, amended her syllabus and the course title, from Philosophy of Intelligent Design to Philosophy of Design after parents complained.
These details about the purpose of the program are crucial.

UPDATE: Sorry I had the wrong link before.


chuck b. said...

I note some funny word choices. Scientific and biological "aspects" that suggest Darwin's "philosophy" is not "rock solid".

Do you have a link to this new lawsuit?

In another era, people considered science in much the same light they considered philosophy. The two were much closer once then than they are now.

I know more about evolution than I do about Darwinism or philosophy, but I can imagine Darwin might have thought of his work as philosophical.

So does the course have issues with evolution, or philosophy?

There are plenty of scientific and biological aspects (i.e., holes) in the evolutionary record without dragging the bible into it.

Nick said...

Did you link to the wrong article? The NY Times article linked is about the confirmation hearings.

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem is that they are right, as far as I know. There are holes in the theory of evolution that are just glossed over. Not really contradictions, but rather places where the evolutionary jumps may be too big to justify solely on random mutations.

I see this as a big difference. On the one hand, suggesting that those big jumps were a result of Divine Intervention, and on the other, just pointing out that they exist and that it has not been possible to satisfactorily test that they could be bridged by random mutation.

As a note though, the ID people have been saying for quite awhile that scientists didn't even know how bees fly. Well, now they do.

HaloJonesFan said...

There are plenty of areas where a skeptical, philosophical discussion about evolutionary theory could be useful. But I agree that the course description has enough "code words" to make it look less like such a discussion, and more like "ID is correct because God Said So."

It's also much too broad of a topic for a high school.

HaloJonesFan said...

The "we don't know how bees fly" bit is a strawman argument used by anti-ID fanatics. It's an attempt to portray ID proponents as idiots by claiming that they espouse a ridiculously anti-scientific position.

P. Froward said...

"...biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid..."

Hate to pick nits, but something about that looks vaguely... sectarian to me, somehow.

There's probably a worthwhile course to be taught about the whole mess (outside the biology deparment), is but I doubt that this is it.

Personally, I think a lot of ID people are responding to perfectly valid problems with evolution as they understand it. Their understanding of it just happens to be wrong. And frankly I have more patience with people who think for themselves with inadequate data, than with people who blindly accept ID, or blindly accept evolution, just because somebody in authority says it's so (though if you're going to blindly listen to one authority or other, the scientific establishment is a safer bet than Pat Robertson).

Smilin' Jack said...

Bruce Hayden said...

As a note though, the ID people have been saying for quite awhile that scientists didn't even know how bees fly. Well, now they do.

Well, there goes my faith down the drain...if God's not even needed to hold up the bees, what good is He?

Jake said...

I really don't know what the fuss is about.

Biology classes never get to evolution anyway as teachers are too busy preaching to the children to worship trees and animals. When biology teachers aren't teaching worship they are blasting the white man for polluting the planet.

PatCA said...

Yeah, Jake, I cringe when I hear the stuff kids learn in high school!

Let's have a whole philosophy class about enviro extremism, anti-West extremism, anti-science extremism: all the -isms that partisans are attempting to indoctrinate the young with.

Science is not objective truth; science is knowledge gained through the scientific method. Why can't teachers just leave the rest up to the families?

Coco said...

Smilin' Jack - funny post - thanks

Jake - your post amused me as well....but then I thought you might be serious...in which case its only funny in the sense that Oliver Stone-like conspiracy therists are funny (which isn't really all that funny). But since I read it as satire originally I'm sticking with that.

Aspasia M. said...

I do wish that more Americans were aware of the difference between a theory and a hypothesis in terms of the scientific method.

Gravity is a theory, ect, ect.

A basic high school Biology or Chemistry class should address the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. You have to know the difference to do basic high school lab work.

I really hope Jake was joking. If he wasn't, I'm sorry your school sucked.

Jen Bradford said...

If you all didn't catch Margaret Talbot's hilarious and insightful piece about the Philly case in The New Yorker, do check it out. It's called "Darwin in the Dock". I laughed out loud several times.

(sorry - I don't know how to post a link here.)

Simon Peter said...

Is this where I point out that while it's Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, it's Darwin's Theory of Evolution?

Theories are not laws, except in public school biology classrooms, it would seem.

Jacques Cuze said...

For the life of me, I don't even understand why they even teach biology or chemistry or physics or mathematics in high school. Those seem like much to broad of subjects with way too many holes in them. Evolution in biology, the reliance on quantum mechanics in chemistry, the ept paradox and string theory fiasco in physics, and weak or strong theory of induction in mathematics. Theories based on axioms wrapped in conjecture.

School really should stick to teaching the basics, football, baseball, basketball, and heavy lifting.

Ross said...

The syllabus for the class had three guest-speakers listed on the pro-ID side and two listed on the pro-evolution side. One of the listed pro-evolution speakers objected to the class and didn't intend to participate; the other was Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of DNA and probably would have been too busy to visit Lebec, CA, even if he hadn't already died in 2004.

Yep, these are credible parties.

Robert said...

I totally believe in “intelligent design”, man. I think aliens from outer space did it.