Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Should Intelligent Design Creationism Be Taught in Schools?
PZ Myers and someone named Jerry Bergman debated the question; "Should Intelligent Design be Taught in The Schools?." Bergman said "yes" and PZ said "no."
You can read summaries of the debate on Greg Laden's Blog [Bergman vs. Myers Debate: Should Intelligent Design be Taught in The Schools?] and on Kittywhumpus [I thought it went really well, until he brought up Hitler]. PZ has posted a summary on Pharyngula [That Bergman-Myers debate].
By all accounts it was a rout. PZ won the day for keeping Intelligent Design Creationism out of the classroom. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
I'd like to debate PZ on this topic. I think Intelligent Design Creationism has to be brought up in the classroom. It's the major misconception that students have and to ignore it is stupid. You have to address the issues that students are confused about or you aren't educating. It's one thing to say that Intelligent Design Creationism isn't science when you are outside of the classroom but unless the students hear it in the classroom you are wasting your time.
We are never going to make progress against scientific illiteracy unless we recognize the elephant in the room and deal with it. Study after study has shown that the misconceptions of students aren't changed when you just present them with facts. They will readily incorporate those facts into their distorted worldview and that's exactly what happens when we teach evolution to creationists.
They need to be shown why their worldview is wrong and this means bringing up in class all the problems with Intelligent Design Creationism. Like it or not, that means teaching Intelligent Design Creationism in the science classroom even if the goal is to refute it.
Astrology is a good analogy. One way to teach critical thinking is to have a lesson on astrology where you explain what's wrong with it and why it doesn't work. You don't ban it from the classroom because it's bad science—you bring it into the classroom because it's bad science and students need to hear why.
If you don't do that, many students will continue to think that astrology is real and before you know it you've created another generation of citizens who don't understand science.
The thing that Intelligent Design Creationists should fear the most is that we actually will confront it in the classroom and expose it for the nonsense it is. They're safe as long as we tip-toe around it. That leaves them free to teach their nonsense in Sunday school without fear of ever being contradicted.
(I'm well aware of the Constitutional arguments in America. If someone like PZ wants to argue that Intelligent Design Creationism should be taught in US schools but the Constitution forbids it, then I'm prepared to agree with him. The debate I want is whether it should be taught in schools that don't have such a silly law. Should it be taught in Canadian schools? I say yes.)