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Monday, March 16, 2015

Casey Luskin agrees with Lawrence Krauss ... teach the controversy

Casey Luskin suggests that we should teach science properly [How Should We Teach Evolution?].
Science education theorists agree that students learn science best when they learn about arguments for and against a particular concept. A 2010 paper in the journal Science observes that "[c]ritique is not, therefore, some peripheral feature of science, but rather it is core to its practice." The paper found that students learn science best when they are asked "to discriminate between evidence that supports ... or does not support"4 a given scientific concept.

Science education is about teaching students the facts of biology, but also about teaching them how to think like scientists. When students are told that Darwinian evolution is a "settled theory" or that there "is no controversy over evolution," that not only misinforms them about debates taking place among scientists, but it fails to teach students how to use critical thinking on these important scientific questions. When evolution advocates demand that students should not learn about scientific weaknesses in evolution, the real losers are the students who are denied opportunities to learn about all of the evidence and are prevented from studying different legitimate scientific viewpoints regarding Darwinism.
I agree with Luskin and Krauss.

They disagree about the probable outcome of this kind of education but let's put it to the test.

If we did, I predict that Casey Luskin will be sorry he ever mentioned critical thinking.


  1. I think that depends on who gets to frame the details of the curriculum.

    1. I'm pretty confident that Ontario teachers could handle this correctly with the kind of curriculum usually designed by the Province. Aren't you?

      I'm pretty sure it would work in Denmark and France.

      If there's a country where it wouldn't work, then that country probably has more serious issues to deal with.

    2. Who is going to teach the other side of the story? You? People like you?

    3. Re Prof. Moran

      I am afraid that it wouldn't work in the USA and I agree that we have some serious issues to deal with. Evolution denial, global climate change denial, heliocentric denial (some 20% of Americans reject the heliocentric solar system). The problem is the much greater religiosity in the US as compared with Canada and Western European countries.

      Re Pest

      There aren't 2 sides to the non-controversy of evolution vs creationism, any more then there are 2 sides to the non-controversy of the heliocentric vs geocentric solar system or that most diseases are caused by microbes and viruses.

    4. In every instance that we know of, where a teacher said he or she would teach the alleged "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, he or she in fact taught NO evidence for evolution at all-- they just lie about that-- in some cases they tell the students explicitly that there is NO evidence for evolution, even though they just falsely stated that they were going to teach both evidence for it and against it-- and in every case, the "weaknesses of evolution" that they teach are falsehoods and old wives' tales copies directly from creationist web pages, e.g. no transitional fossils, no beneficial mutations, etc.

      Example: Caroline Crocker, who popped up in "Expelled", telling the students she was going to teach evidence for and against evolution, then teaching no evidence for it, finally admitting there is no evidence for evolution, so she lied. As for the weaknesses of evolution, we have her slides online: the weaknesses were that Darwin was a drunken party boy, there's only one specimen of Archaeopteryx and it's a fraud (there are 10, none frauds), Eohippus was the same as a hyrax and found in the same strata as a modern horse, etc.

      Similarly for the John Freshwater case, Dean Kenyon case, etc. etc. Teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, in every case where it's been tried, always means teaching NO strengths, and teaching only weaknesses that were invented whole cloth by lying IDiots.

    5. @Diogenes

      None of those teachers are doing any good under the current system so they won't do any better, or worse, if we change the rules. However, teachers who are currently doing a good job teaching science will become much more effective if allowed to teach the controversy.

      Most of my American friends are deathly afraid of allowing teachers the freedom to teach the controversy because they think that most teachers will use that freedom to advocate creationism. If that's true, then the real problem isn't about having laws that forbid them to teach religion in public schools. The problem is the quality of teachers that are teaching your children.

      Concentrate on solving that problem because bad teachers are probably hurting students in every subject, not just biology.

    6. When you say "teach the controversy" you appear to be assuming that there are two sides to the issue.

      There's science and then there's 1,000 religious creation stories. When we "teach the controversy", which religion do we support-- or oppose-- as the "other side"?

      The very idea "teach both sides" is straight creationism. The key word here is "both". How do we know there are two sides? As opposed to 1 or 1,000? Who decides what a "side" is? Is any viewpoint a "side"?

      The slogan "teach both sides" was invented by Henry Morris. It was his most brilliant and only successful invention. He brainwashed people into thinking there are two sides-- and he gave the young earth creationist a whole "side" to itself, while evolution, Old Earth Creationism and pagan religions were all jammed into the other "side". Then creationists demanded that each side get equal time. I want to emphasize that it was sneaky and brilliant for Morris to say that evolution gets half the time, when really he was jamming evolution in with 1,000 pagan religions and with the beliefs of his fellow Christians, the Old Earth creationists. Furthermore, by jamming the OECs in the same category with pagan religions, he was reading them out of the Christian religion. Killing two birds with one stone.

      When people say "teach both sides" they all have different ideas of what the other side is. For some it's young earth creationism; for others it's the Bible; for still others it's a vague God of the Gaps.

      When we "teach the controversy", who gets to pick what goes in the other side?

      We should learn from old Henry Morris: if we teach both sides, then anti-evolutionists have to all share a team, put the Christians in there with the creation myths of Native Americans and the blurts of random homeless people.

      "However, teachers who are currently doing a good job teaching science will become much more effective if allowed to teach the controversy."

      If that's the way you want to go, it would be better to teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of ANTI-evolution. Teach kids that some dumb people say no transitional fossils, no beneficial mutations, etc. Now here are the weaknesses of that: it's total BS. I don't object to teaching the strengths and weaknesses of ANTI-evolution.

      Larry: "Most of my American friends are deathly afraid of allowing teachers the freedom to teach the controversy because they think that most teachers will use that freedom to advocate creationism."

      I have never seen any educated American say such a thing; the majority of US public school teachers lean to the left and would not teach creationism. It would be an issue in certain Bible Belt dystopias (Arkansas/Mississippi/Georgia, a few other states) and with the occasional crank here and there. Such teachers would have no support from administrators except in rural parts of Arkansas/Mississippi/Georgia, etc.

      So this would be a minority of a minority, but even if a dozen US teachers taught creationism, we can't stomach it. Americans object to this because they care, really care, what's done with every penny of their tax dollars.

      James Madison once said that the American system meant that we don't want even three pennies of our tax dollars going to support someone else's religion. One teacher teaching creationism is too many.

    7. "None of those teachers are doing any good under the current system so they won't do any better, or worse, if we change the rules."

      Uh, if they can do no good under the current system, we can fire them. Freshwater burned crosses on kids' arms with his Van de Graf generator.

      Under your system, we can't fire geography teachers who teach the controversy over round earth vs. flat earth.

      But to return to my point: if you want to teach a controversy, then teach the strengths and weaknesses of ANTI-evolution. That way we get to debunk creationism and we get the last word.

  2. Are bets being laid ? Need it in Canada too. AND creationists should get our own advocates. As in court one should have ones own lawyer.
    The truth is what should be taught to the kids. The truth is in doubt relative to the population.
    So both sides etc should get time or equal time to make their case. Then the smarter kids and the rest will come over to the side that makes the better case.
    The side that loses will make detailed excuses.
    Possibly with good reasons.

  3. I always find myself agreeing with you in theory on this but being skeptical in practice. I mean, when I started studying I just had to learn a huge number of facts and theory before I could start working on the stuff that would lead up to a thesis a the cutting edge. And the problem is simply that it takes considerably more time to teach the historical controversies behind and experimental derivation of every fact and theory than it does to simply assume that that organic chemist in 1856 or that ecologist in 1960 got it right. To a point, of course, because once the students have absorbed that stuff for two years one can start to deal with actual science.

    In other words, teaching everything with the controversy would be nice if students could be undergrads for twenty years, but they can't; and focusing on critical thinking all the time would be nice if they never had to learn the pure technicalities like how to set up a PCR or how to conduct a phylogenetic analysis, but have to learn that too. The scientific method and thinking have to be part of it, but simply accepting a bunch of known facts also has to be part of it. There is simply no time to recapitulate all the history of science.

    1. As I've said in the past. We concentrate on those controversies that lead to misunderstandings in 2015.

      Learning how to do PCR and similar techniques should be a very minor part of an undergraduate education.

    2. I see. That means, however, that one lets the agenda be set by those who are most capable of manufacturing a controversy where none really exists...

    3. Are you saying that the conflict between science and religion is "manufactured" and doesn't really exist?

    4. What I meant to say is that the conflicts over the theory of evolution or whether vaccines work don't really exist except to the degree that some people pretend that the matters are still to be resolved. Those 'controversies' I (mis?)understood to be implied in what you wrote. Anyway, as long as you have enough money to throw around the sky's the limit as far as creating pseudo-controversies over settled science is concerned.