Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Should creationism be taught in British classrooms?

 
As most of you know, the citizens of the United Kingdom do not obsess over the separation of church and state and they do not use their constitution to keep creationism out of their schools. That's why the question posed by Michael Reiss in New Statesman is a valid one in that country, "Should creationism be taught in British classrooms?". The answer might surprise many people in other countries.

Why schools and universities should encourage debate on evolution -- and how this could benefit science.

.... When teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have in order to shape and provoke a genuine discussion. The word "genuine" doesn't mean that creationism and intelligent design deserve equal time with evolution. They don't. However, in certain classes, depending on the teacher's comfort with talking about such issues, his or her ability to deal with them, and the make-up of the student body, it can and should be appropriate to address them.

Having said that, I don't pretend to think that this kind of teaching is easy. Some students become very heated; others remain silent even if they disagree profoundly with what is said. But I believe in taking seriously the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it. Although it is unlikely that this will help them resolve any conflict they experience between science and their beliefs, good teaching can help students to manage it - and to learn more science.

My hope is simply to enable students to understand the scientific perspective with respect to our origins, but not necessarily to accept it. We can help students to find their science lessons interesting and intellectually challenging without their being a threat. Effective teaching in this area can help students not only learn about the theory of evolution, but also better appreciate the way science is done, the procedures by which scientific knowledge accumulates, the limitations of science and the ways in which scientific knowledge differs from other forms of knowledge.
I agree with this point of view. I think the main arguments for creationism, and against evolution, should be discussed in science class. It's an excellent way of showing what real science is and how it should be practiced.

The problem with ignoring the main criticisms of evolution is that students are going to hear about them from other sources and they won't know what to think about those points of view unless we teach them how to reason. The goal of science education is to teach students how to think, not just fill them with facts. It's our responsibility as teachers to teach critical thinking. One of the best ways to do that is to give them some popular examples to discuss and debate.


[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net]

14 comments :

  1. I agree as well Larry, and here in Canada we have a very similar situation as the British do. I'm not sure of the stats in Canada, but unfortunately the data accumulated regarding Biology teachers in the United States makes me worry that a strategy such as this, which I agree with, would have the unintended consequence of having teachers promote Creationism and Intelligent Design instead. There is a very high percentage of people teaching high school biology that lean favorably towards creationism themselves.

    So while I, like you, agree with this I think it definitely needs to be coupled with more rigorous educational requirements for teachers. I had some teachers in High School teaching my subjects that they had no business teaching, like classes they had failed at the intro level in University several times before finally scrapping by with a C.

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  2. There's no problem in theory, but in theory theory all teachers giving science classes are both competent in and intent on teaching science, and creationism in this environment is a useful chew-toy to exercise critical thinking. In reality there are many classrooms where science is taught only as a collection of facts, and to introduce creationism there would at best cause confusion, and worst would be used as permission by creationist schools/teachers to teach creationism AS "science".

    In other words, this is Step #2. Step #1 is to upgrade all science programs to actually teach science.

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  3. The problem would arise when creationism is presented accurately, because this would entail demonstrating to students that a fair amount of religion is wrong. This would be especially a problem in the USA, fro reasons I'd think I don't have to outline, but I think you might find some problem with it in Canada and the UK too. However, it might be a small enough problem not to upset the idea.

    One problem you also have, for instance in Canada as I understand, there are no national standards about what to teach re evolution. (correct me if I'm wrong) This means that a kid in one place might get a good education while another is stuck with a teacher (as has happened in Abbotsford, BC) who uses it as an excuse to push creationism.

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  4. Get out of my universe, atheists...


    All you do is antagonize and try to eliminate the dream and hopes of the people...

    The real question is: Do you have a future?

    And the answer is: NO !


    visit:

    engfourm.pravda.ru/showthread.php?t=280780

    ReplyDelete
  5. THE DEATH OF ATH*ISM - SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD



    Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...

    *************************************

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vpw4AH8QQ

    *************************************

    atheists deny their own life element...

    LIGHT OR DEATH, ATHEISTS?

    ********************************
    ***************************LIGHT*********
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    ReplyDelete
  6. HERE IS THE LINK



    THE DEATH OF ATH*ISM - SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD

    http://engforum.pravda.ru/showthread.php?t=280780

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's time to clean up the Dennis Markuze comments again, Larry - *sigh*

    No, comments is too kind. Macros, perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Notice another cuckoo flew over.

    Never mind that, but IDiotics could safely be used as an example to show how not to do science, how not to do logic, and how not to argue.

    And the IDiots' arguments should be given all of five minutes. After that it would just be repetition anyway.

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  9. shonney says,

    And the IDiots' arguments should be given all of five minutes. After that it would just be repetition anyway.

    It takes a lot longer than that in my class.

    How long do you think it would take you to explain why something that is irreducibly complex doesn't refute evolution? How long would you take to explain why the Cambrian explosion isn't a problem? Could you describe the flaws in The Edge of Evolution in just five minutes? I can't.

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  10. How long do you think it would take you to explain why something that is irreducibly complex doesn't refute evolution? How long would you take to explain why the Cambrian explosion isn't a problem? Could you describe the flaws in The Edge of Evolution in just five minutes? I can't.

    Considering all the BS published by ID-creationist how much time is left for science then? Rather then discussing all items you have listed I try to embed examples in a course of the history of the creationist movement and put emphasis on the motivation that drives their actions. Thanks to the internet more than enough high quality sources are available that students can visit to study ID on their own.

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  11. anonymous says,

    Rather then discussing all items you have listed I try to embed examples in a course of the history of the creationist movement and put emphasis on the motivation that drives their actions. Thanks to the internet more than enough high quality sources are available that students can visit to study ID on their own.

    How's that strategy working for you? Do most of your students know how to refute creationism after passing your course?

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  12. Larry Moran said:

    Do most of your students know how to refute creationism after passing your course?

    Is refuting creationism the point of teaching biology or even the history of creationism?

    Didn't you once criticize Richard Dawkins for making an incorrect statement about evolution for the sake of refuting creationism?

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  13. Michael M asks,

    Is refuting creationism the point of teaching biology ...

    Not exactly but it's a good indicator of success. If you've done a good job of teaching what science is and how it works then your students should be able to take on the creationist arguments.

    If you are graduating students who still believe in creationism then you haven't done a very good job.

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  14. Lurker #753 has it right. Ideally, students who are likely to encounter Creationist arguments would learn about them first in science class and what was wrong with it. Sure, I agree with that.

    But the problem is that students most likely to be inundated with Creationist arguments are the same students who are more likely to have a science teacher with Creationist sympathies. Open the door a crack, and all the wrong things are going to slip in.

    In the US, at least, trying to do this would be far, far, far too dangerous. Better to just keep it out altogether.

    ReplyDelete