3/16/2008

DROPPING THE GAUNTLET

Prolific pro-ID blogger 'ftk' has a post mocking Eugenie Scott, who is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a modestly-funded non-profit organization which is a national clearinghouse of information and support for science educators and anyone else who is running into opposition to evolution education.

Ftk references an article by Dr. Scott from the UCMP web site, and comes to a conclusion similar to that floated in the last few months by Discovery Institute mouthpiece Casey Luskin, which I have previously savaged on this blog. Basically, folk like ftk are seizing upon strategies to address the role of religion in resistance to the acceptance of evolution. They allege that the recommendations made by Dr. Scott and others intended to 'defuse the religion issue' violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Ftk, for example, writes:

That's right folks...*use* clergy and religious beliefs in the science classroom just as long as it doesn't conflict with Genie's own atheist/humanist religious beliefs.

Casey Luskin and the DI are misrepresenting the intent of Scott and the NCSE, ftk, and by parroting them you are doing the same, albeit perhaps unwittingly. Perhaps you only feel that they are hypocrities, rather than violating the Constitution. Still, it may interest ftk and other ID-friendly types to learn that this science teacher is not only a proud supporter of NCSE, but a member of the Interfaith Alliance, which works assiduously to promote that very First Amendment they seem convinced that people like me are violating.

To put it bluntly, I am deeply offended by the suggestion that I am pushing or privileging any religious belief in my classroom, mine, Dr. Scott's, ftk's, anybody's. Here's why:

In the first place, the quote referenced has to do with clergy addressing school boards in support of evolution education, not address students in science classrooms. I would not invite a member of the clergy to address my science class, ever, because (duh) it is a science class, not a religion class, and bringing in just one speaker would privilege that sect within the community. I would never do that, regardless of whether the clergy in question was in favor of teaching evolution of not.

However, it does not violate the Constitution to point out to students that there is a diversity of religious views regarding evolution. I use the episode from the PBS series 'Evolution' entitled 'What About God?' to make that point. It is especially telling to show students that one of the authors of their text (Ken Miller) is an observant Catholic. Does this privilege holy mother church? Not at all, for Miller's co-author (Joe Levine) is Jewish, and the PBS program makes it clear that other views exist. The statement that there are a diversity of views, and that some believers have made their peace with evolution, does not constitute a de facto endorsement of religion. Casey Luskin and the DI surely know that. It misrepresents the intent and practice of the NCSE and Dr. Scott to suggest otherwise, or to suggest that these organizations (or their members, like me) are urging teachers to violate the Establishment Clause.

Secondly, constitutionality aside, it is intellectually dishonest for any teacher to pretend that religious views have no bearing on how evolution should be taught! You can't understand evolution without knowing the context in which Darwin and Wallace produced their theory, and you can't understand why evolution is controversial in the culture today without having some familiarity with the role of religious belief.

What makes this truly ridiculous, of course, is that Luskin and the rest of the DI scholars are constantly preaching 'teach the controversy'. But, if we can't reference religious belief, then the 'controversy' depends upon...what? Arguments produced by conservative Christians, which the mainstream scientific community has concluded are without merit? Giving 'equal time' to design in that context would expose me to a real constitutional challenge. On the other hand, teaching that there is no scientific controversy, but there is a religiously-motivated controversy in the popular culture, should be constitutionally-protected speech.

Of course, if I am wrong, I once again invite you or any other fellow travelers to contact me. I'm starting my evolution unit after Easter break. I am not afraid of you people. Come into my classroom as my invited guest. Watch me teach: you will see for yourself the way I will weave the theme of religious belief and assumptions into both the historical and present context required to actually understand evolution. If you are right, this will constitute advocacy that runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, and then you can rat me out to the DI and see if they or any of their other trained courtroom clowns would like to sue the school district I work for.

My cell phone is 1-559-916-0777.

Put up or shut up.

27 comments:

Stan said...

Let's discuss Eugenie's message on its merits, and forget about the Discovery Institute. I am not a creationist nor a supporter of DI. However, I do support clearheaded thinking about each viewpoint, and I think a dissection of E. Scott's actual statement is in order here.

First off, the message is not about talking to school boards, it is written to teachers. The advice at the end is explicitly to teachers.

Next, Scott does here, and has in the past, taken a strong position against religion in the science class, and by not-too-veiled inference, any other classroom, too.

Next, she advocates against even using debate in classrooms, even non-science classes. While she takes a somewhat liberal view of the definition of "theory", she also denies that it is debatable, especially by students.

Next she advocates the use of culled religionists which support her view, to "defuse" religious objection in the classroom, going against the teachings in the home.

This does not in any way misrepresent E. Scott's view point. She is explicit and unapologetic. She explicitly fights the use of anti-evolution religion in the classroom, while being an strong exponent of using pro-evolution religion in the classroom.

It appears to me that you have missed the irony of E. Scott invoking religion and denying access to religion, all in the same paper. It is that irony that induces the comments that are intended to decorate it: if one side is prevented access by the first amendment, then so should the other side be denied access, for the same reason.

E. Scott is typically intemperate in her statements, and this paper is actually a smoother read than others I have seen. If her position on the use of the word "theory" were in fact used, much of the dispute might evaporate. But her prejudicial use of culled clergy is inflammatory and uncalled for, to say the least.

Stan said...

BTW, this paper is not dated and references nothing newer than 1996. Maybe it is just cold soup?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

First off, the message is not about talking to school boards, it is written to teachers. The advice at the end is explicitly to teachers.

Yes, but she's advising them on strategy to deal with school boards and other members of the community. She's not advocating bringing clergy into the science classroom, nor is she (as ftk implies) 'using' them. They are, as she notes, allies.

She explicitly fights the use of anti-evolution religion in the classroom, while being an strong exponent of using pro-evolution religion in the classroom.

"Culled religionists" including yours truly, no doubt. This, along with ftk's trope of 'using' clergy, serves the sort of rhetoric that tries to imply that somehow Christians like myself are oddballs, or in the vast minority. Why do people use this rhetoric? Because, regardless what they say for public consumption ("ID is not religious", with a straight face) the fact is, when these folks go to the pews, they do in fact urge people to reject evolution because it conflicts with their literal understanding of the Bible.

From your perspective, you might imply that Dr. Scott or myself are guilty of a similar 'have our cake and eat it too' recommendation: that is, when the religion is evolution-averse, we avoid it, but when it is evolution-friendly, we use it in the classroom.

If that's your understanding, then that's simply wrong, Stan. I don't teach religion in my class of any kind at any time. The point is to simply draw students attention to the fact that there is a diversity of views, not to endorse or explicate any particular view. I would regard the latter as more than a constitutional misstep: I would regard it as immoral. There is no unperceived irony on my part here, only a ham-fisted inability or unwillingness on the part of folk like 'ftk' to actually grasp what is being recommended.

if one side is prevented access by the first amendment, then so should the other side be denied access, for the same reason.

And both are. A creationist teacher can legally acknowledge that some religious beliefs are not compatible with evolution; as long as she or he doesn't endorse any particular conclusion, or doesn't misrepresent what people believe or what the scientific community claims, they are on solid constitutional ground. The problem with partisans is that they inevitably can't resist the urge to declare what they personally believe and implicitly make their beliefs part of the curriculum, whereas I tell my students up front they are free to believe what they want and the important thing is to understand the material well enough to make up their own minds about it.

If her position on the use of the word "theory" were in fact used, much of the dispute might evaporate. But her prejudicial use of culled clergy is inflammatory and uncalled for, to say the least.

Again, the 'culled' are not 'called' into the curriculum or the classroom, but in the community. Ftk is misrepresenting what Scott is saying here, Stan. If you don't believe me, go on the NCSE web site and look (in vain) for the recommendation that clergy be placed in the science classroom.

There is nothing prejudicial about this: would we deny creationists the right to have their Bible-thumping leadership access to school boards and other community forums? Of course not, because that is a right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment. And I'm a defender of the First Amendment. Their freedom of speech is just as important as my freedom of speech, but that freedom comes to an abrupt halt when an agent of government (which is what a public school teacher is) uses the bully pulpit of the classroom to push their personal beliefs, which amounts to a de facto establishment of religion by the state.

Remember, it is the state that determines the science standards for the public schools, not my church or ftk's church or Dr. Scott's private club pf non-belief.
Ftk accuses people like me and Dr. Scott of bias, but we are just teaching the science that the state says we are supposed to teach. Showing students that some believers have no problem with what we are supposed to teach is not an endorsement of their beliefs. It's a pedagogical strategy whose purpose is not to 'prove' evolution true (that's not the way science works, anyway) but to simply get people to consider the evidence on its merits without first running the gauntlet of belief.

By the way, it is not the case that only creationists bring misconceptions about evolution into the classroom. Students who come from secular backgrounds, or who have already been explicitly taught some version of theistic evolution, often carry the charming (but false) image of 'evolution = progress.' It's my task to contrast the evidence with that notion, as well. And, just as with students who've been raised to accept the doctrine of special creation, I need to take those students to a place where religion is, for the moment, off the table while still treating their beliefs with respect.

It's a balancing act, obviously. Many teachers don't have the skill set or the inclination to do that, and so they omit the impacts of religion entirely from the discussion. This not only leaves the students impoverished of context, with unanswered questions, but typically gives the student the impression that their teacher is afraid or hiding something. Which is, frankly, often the case!

BTW, Exhibit A that I know what I'm talking about where this approach is concerned is that despite being a very public advocate for evolution in a variety of forums, and despite spending more time on the topic than most of my colleagues, and despite having taught evolution to thousands of kids,I have never had a problem with either a student or a parent that couldn't be resolved with a five-minute phone conversation. Most years I typically have no problems. When I do, it's usually the case that the student misrepresents what is being done in the classroom to avoid consequences of not doing their work. It doesn't take too long to show the parent the truth of the situation, and in the process we typically have a very nice conversation that addresses the limits of what science and religion can say in different forums, and why it is important to address the concerns of people of faith in a respectful way. Which I always do.

Finally, as you should be able to tell, I have thought a great deal about how to best teach evolution, and I have very strong convictions about what I do, and why. It requires a special set of skills to do what I do, that many (perhaps most) high school biology teachers do not have. My recommendations are not for some kid just out of college, or for someone who doesn't have a broad understanding of the history of this topic or (especially) the law. But they do represent what I feel is best practice, not just scientifically, but legally and ethically.

Again, if I'm wrong, I challenge ftk or anyone else to come into my classroom, document what I'm doing and report me. Don't dismiss this as over-the-top rhetoric, Stan. I've had creationists in the community observe my classes. They weren't persuaded to embrace evolution, but they admitted that what I was doing was legal and ethically defensible, and they were frankly relieved to see how it was actually being taught.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

DISCLAIMER

Hey, everyone reading this: I've been going back-and-forth with ftk over at her site, and I realized somewhat belatedly that we were in a sense talking past each other, since her post referenced two separate sources.

One of those, found on the UCMP web site, references pedagogical strategies, but does not mention bringing clergy into the classroom. The other appeared in the now-defunct Science and Theology News, and the original does not appear to be on the web. What is clear from Googling it is that a large number of creationists have been quoting it, so they seem to feel it says something damning, as implied.

I'm going to dig up a copy of that original article and see if it does, in fact, recommend inviting clergy into the classroom...which I am opposed to, for obvious reasons. Until then, keep in mind the possibility that I might've sold ftk short. I don't think I did, but I think she deserves not to be tarred and feathered with the wrong brush.

Stan said...

Scott, It's abundantly clear to me that she is saying use liberal theology in the classroom to combat "fundamentalist" theology.

Eugenie said:
"After one such initial brainstorming session, one teacher presented students with a short quiz wherein they were asked, "Which statement was made by the Pope?" or "which statement was made by an Episcopal Bishop?" and given an "a, b, c" multiple choice selection. All the statements from theologians, of course, stressed the compatibility of theology with the science of evolution. This generated discussion about what evolution was versus what students thought it was. By making the students aware of the diversity of opinion towards evolution extant in Christian theology, the teacher helped them understand that they didn't have to make a choice between evolution and religious faith.

To me this looks like either an endorsement or a propaganda tool or both. She rails against the use of fundamentalist religion first as inappropriate and with no place in a science class, even as a debate format because students aren't mature enough intellectually, and the subject is too complex for students to comprehend. But then she turns it around in order to use - sorry but that is the correct term - liberal religion in the classroom.

Now if hypocrisy is defined as "doing that same thing which you condemned", how would this not be hypocrisy?

Even so, what's the big deal? She and the ACLU jackals are in control now, so what's the dif? Don't you suppose that she will withstand a little deconstruction on a blatantly anti-ev site?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Now if hypocrisy is defined as "doing that same thing which you condemned", how would this not be hypocrisy?

I'm puzzled that would fall for this line of reasoning. Creationists or ID enthusiasts typically want to change the standards about what is taught or (in the case of Kansas) about the the nature of science. They are attempting to substitute faith-based claims for science.

That's not what Dr. Scott is recommending, or what I do. We're providing a badly-needed bit of context to help our students process information that many of them have been told is against faith. As a practical matter, what we are doing is legal, whereas the promotion of 'creation science' or 'ID' as part of the science curriculum has been repeatedly judged by the courts to be illegal.

Further, it's not hypocritical because the theological positions are not made explicit. We are not teaching theology in the classroom. The biblical literalist is not going to get to talk about the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture, nor is the mainline Protestant or Catholic going to talk about different ways to render the Hebrew word 'yom'. The only thing we're really interested in establishing is that some believers have an issue with evolution, and others don't.

Perhaps if you looked at it from a different issue, you would get a better flavor. Obviously social science classes might discuss the abortion controversy, and many people of faith are opposed to abortion based on what their faith teaches them about where life begins. But you don't have to cite chapter and verse to make that point, nor is it pushing a particular theology to point out some believers aren't troubled by abortion because they interpret things differently. I don't need to explain the theological basis of that interpretation (in fact, that would probably be a poor use of instructional time), I simply have to present the fact that there are a diversity of views.

So it is with the case of divergent views of evolution. The only reason the pedagogical strategy is recommended is because those who complain get all the press, which leads to the idea, prevalent in the popular culture, that evolution is the enemy of faith.

I assume, for the record, that you think otherwise. Surely you must realize that the above misconception is a barrier to learning what the theory actually says and doesn't say? How can students trust their teacher to explain things fairly if they believe them to be anti-religious bigots, or if they have been taught that evolution is a lie and the work of the devil?

I mean, seriously, I have a tough job to do and I wouldn't add this extra layer of context if I didn't think it was important. I spend the entire year preparing for the evolution unit by emphasizing the nature of science and where it can and cannot speak. The accusation of hypocrisy is a bit much to take under the circumstances, frankly, especially from those who have never taught in the public schools, like ftk.

Stan said...

If I take your abortion argument to fit the same conditions as the evolution argument, it seems to me that it would go like this:

a) You (the student) have been taught that abortion is wrong.

b) Other Christians disagree, and accept abortion, so there is a diversity of opinion.

C) We teach that abortion is the best fit to the problems that exist. Because of b), you should accept c) which rejects a).

Now I suspect that you don't wish to do more than just present abortion as the best fit, so that:

d) students understand how it unifies society as a whole;

Still, it represents the necessity of rejecting a), in order to accomplish d) as a unifying principle.


Eugenie said:
"Evolution is a necessary part of the science curriculum. A biology or earth science course taught without the inclusion of evolution is an inferior course. Students who take these courses without being told that evolution unifies the data and concepts of the field are being cruelly short-changed. They will leave the course having being misled that science largely consists of the tedious memorization of lists of facts, rather than a tool we can use to help us understand the world of nature. This episodic, atomistic view of science is particularly regrettable: it turns students away from studying science, and perhaps worse yet, defeats our efforts to produce a scientifically literate society. {emphasis added)

Real science IS "episodic and atomistic". Forcing a unifying yet non-empirical vision on it is not science, it is speculation.

Do I disagree with teaching evolution? Absolutely not, so long as the caveats are also presented. Perhaps you do that and that explains your somewhat heated response here. And even Eugenie refers to the proper use of the term "theory", and explains that quite well in my estimation.

Still, my reading of Eugenie's paper reveals specific instructions to teachers for "defusing" religious issues, which involves, to my reading, subverting their home-taught beliefs, as I try to show above.

Sorry, but that's how I read it.

Stan said...

One more quickie. And again I am not a creationist nor a young earther, a flat earther, etc.

You said,
"They are attempting to substitute faith-based claims for science."

From my pespective it would be more accurate to say that "they are attempting to get their speculations presented along with science speculations".

This is the camel's nose under the tent that scientists can't accept, although they can and do accept speculations of evolution.

Starwind said...

What makes this truly ridiculous, of course, is that Luskin and the rest of the DI scholars are constantly preaching 'teach the controversy'. But, if we can't reference religious belief, then the 'controversy' depends upon...what? Arguments produced by conservative Christians, which the mainstream scientific community has concluded are without merit?

Scott, that is a hypocritical, intellectually dishonest statement.

You know perfectly well there are numerous aspects of neo-Darwinian theory which insufficiently explain macro-evolution. I have posted papers to you about very late dates for homo spaiens from molecular clocks, insufficent time for random chance to evolve life, inordinately advanced animal complexity being ultraconserved from earliest unexpressed gene segments, etc. There is also the irreducible complexity evidence advanced by Behe, and who is also a catholic like Miller (and don't even start with Miller's discredited rebutal of Behe's work in Dover, that may fly with uninformed judges but not with people familair with the science).

There is much scientific "controversy" you ought to be teaching. If you find your students and their parents indifferent to your "cause" it might be they're not interested in being pawns on your side of the chess board.

As I've exhorted you before, drop the religion angle(s) and teach pure science, including what is wrong with the bad science. If your students see it isn't all settled and there are areas where they could make important, paradigm-shifting contributions, they might become more attentive, even enthused.

But by dragging your confused religous ethics (and they are confused, as my post to you on the discrediting of Wellhausenism and the Documentary Hypothesis demonstrated) into the debate, attempting to counter what you perceive as Discovery Institute treachery, you merely become part of the problem, because the NCSE is equally (yes, equally) hypocritical (I've posted evidence of that to you before as well), and you become just another waterboy for them and part of the problem.

Onlookers (students, parents, community) can see the hypocrisy of substituting one agenda for another. Drop both, stick to pure science, including its failings to date, and become part of the solution. You might find people take you more seriously.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Scott, that is a hypocritical, intellectually dishonest statement.

No. It just reflects the fact that the main impetus behind ID advocates is religious, and that the main outfit pushing it is a public think tank consisting mostly of lawyers and politicians beholden to the Religious Right. Until that situation changes, ID is little more than a cat's paw for religion.

Are there non-religious arguments in behalf of ID? Sure, but they haven't passed muster with the scientific community. The contributions of ID enthusiasts to the scientific literature is vanishingly small, maybe five papers in the last ten years in two minor journals. None of the papers reported original research, but were instead either reviews (Meyer's article on Cambrian fossils) or theoretical work (as with Well's piece speculating on aspects of centriolar function). There are thousands of articles published each week, Starwind. Thousands, and most (I would estimate >95 percent) constitute original research. Until the ID research program does quite a bit better than that, there can be no justification for allowing even a toehold for ID as part of the formal high school curriculum.

Now, informally? I think that's a decision that the classroom teacher has to be comfortable with. It may surprise you to learn that I encourage students who have the interest to investigate alternatives to evolution as part of a culminative essay assignment. It's graded by a rubric, and I've had more than one creationist student earn an 'A' through this assignment. I'm completely OK with that. It allows them the opportunity to grapple with the data from a perspective with which their comfortable, and I cheerfully direct them to Johnson, Behe, the DI, the whole schmeer.

In other words, I find the charge of hypocrisy ludicrous, to put it mildly. I don't have a problem with creationist students and I'm comfortable with them attempting to make their case for such views in the above manner within the course. After all, they can not effectively grapple with the data without learning the evidence and the arguments, and again this is all that I as a teacher can hope for. It's not my job to tell them what to believe.

You know perfectly well there are numerous aspects of neo-Darwinian theory which insufficiently explain macro-evolution.

In a sense, that's true, in that the theory does not constitute a complete explanation for or prediction of all phenomena in the history of life's diversification.
No one claims otherwise, and I don't know why you would think that's a compelling argument. Plate tectonics doesn't explain all geology. Cosmology models don't at present explain all stellar phenomena.

I have posted papers to you about very late dates for homo spaiens from molecular clocks, insufficent time for random chance to evolve life, inordinately advanced animal complexity being ultraconserved from earliest unexpressed gene segments, etc.

Four points:

First, generally speaking, these are not arguments for ID or creationism; they are instead negative arguments against parts of the modern theory.

Secondly, this is not a legal proceeding, where the attorney can win by casting doubt on portions of the prosecution's case without presenting a more compelling explanation for the crime

Thirdly, naturalistic accounts of the various phenomena you refer to exist within evolutionary theory. They don't constitute stumpers for which we have no response. I might add that the authors of some of the papers you cite would not endorse the conclusions that you derive from their work, particularly the developmental biologists

Fourth, evolution by natural selection is not a theory about the origins of life, nor does it claim that the effects produced are due to random chance alone. I make these points very clear to students when I teach this. Neither the state standards or the widely-used text in my course teach otherwise. If high school students can get that point, why can't reasonably intelligent critics of evolution?

There is also the irreducible complexity evidence advanced by Behe

IC is an inference in search of evidence, rather than evidence. Naturalistic accounts of molecular evolution exist, but Behe doesn't find them plausible. He hasn't yet explained, however, why the rest of us should find them similarly implausible with an argument based on evidence. Perhaps in the future such evidence will appear, and at that point you might have something to hang your hat on.

If you find your students and their parents indifferent to your "cause" it might be they're not interested in being pawns on your side of the chess board.

Second-guessing me from afar with armchair psychology can't be a very satisfactory way to argue. I might just as well speculate about events in your personal history that would lead you to the views that you possess, and that would be equally valid.

If your students see it isn't all settled and there are areas where they could make important, paradigm-shifting contributions, they might become more attentive, even enthused.

Again, how would you from a distance know whether or not my students are enthused, or not? I might as well suggest that your family pet secretly harbors romantic feelings for a hat rack, without knowing whether you keep animals, or no.

Anyway, my students get plenty of context about the status of the various models that we work with. For example, I specifically identify abiogenesis itself, the Cambrian explosion and the advent of uniquely human consciousness as three specific areas that do not appear to be completely understood within the present model.

Drop both, stick to pure science, including its failings to date, and become part of the solution. You might find people take you more seriously.

Wow. More long-distance analysis, and a third non sequitur. Am I to infer now that you think that I am somehow needy? At the risk of responding in kind, isn't it possible that you're projecting your frustration with the scientific community and the educational establishment's refusal to take ID seriously?

And what is this solution of which you speak, the 'pure science'? How would such an adulterated Wissenschaft address the question of life's diversity? Would there be room for inference? Would a theory have to be 'proven' to be of use? What threshold of certainty would have to met, if not? And while we're on the topic, don't you think that threshold should be set by the scientific community as a whole, rather than say, individual teachers or interested spectators like yourself?

If you've actually got some answers on those points, we could have an interesting discussion. But please leave the armchair psychology about my motivations and mental state at the door, if you don't mind. Those aren't arguments that are worthy of your intellect.

Richard said...

Hi Scott,
As I get ready for Easter I think of you. OK, yea, that's a bit creepy. My point is that we are a family about to celebrate Easter and at least two of us are now atheists. As we don't proselytize and are ok with praying before the meal, no major conflicts are expected. I have to wonder how what your family dynamics are. Whatever the case, have a good Easter!

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

And what is this solution of which you speak, the 'pure science'? How would such an adulterated Wissenschaft address the question of life's diversity? Would there be room for inference? Would a theory have to be 'proven' to be of use? What threshold of certainty would have to met, if not? And while we're on the topic, don't you think that threshold should be set by the scientific community as a whole, rather than say, individual teachers or interested spectators like yourself?

Such studied obtuseness deserves remark. The "solution" of which I speak is for you the "science educator" to stick to pure science and leave the polarizing political squabbles outside the classroom, but inside the classroom take the high road by teaching neo-darwinisms flaws and inadequacies so your students have a genuine opportunity to think for themselves about "the best theory we have". Instead of slinging mud at creationsist you could be setting an example by teaching both sides of neo-darwinism - it strengths and weaknesses.

There is educational "controversy" in the neo-darwinian science alone, without your political agenda. Teach the scientific controversies. Show your students what is actually behind the curtain. The papers I've previously posted to you, from peer reviewed mainstream journals authored by mainstream, evening leading scientists, merely demonstrate the wealth of material available to cover neo-darwinism's controversies as well.

The fact you can't or won't understand such a simple balance of scientific truths in lieu of your preferred poltical agenda just demonstrates how ingrained a government educator you are. Students need to be taught how to think, not merely regurgitate what the government wants them to think.

Reflect back on your blind defense of Sean Carrol and your assertions that his book "Making of the Fittest" has "plenty of evidence presented, with plenty of citations." And yet the truth was there were no cites in Carrol's book, but you blindly insisted there were (see October 19, 2007 5:31 PM). That is you in a microcosm, Scott. You often blindly assert some "truth" about neo-darwinism or the state of science, only to go mute when I cite a paper that refutes your position.

It is precisley that kind of blind, mistaken, agenda pushing, "science education" that is intellectually dishonest and hypocritical for you to pretend you have no choice but to follow where ever the NSCE, NEA, and PZ Myers, Ken Miller and Sean Carrol, yada yada yada lead you. You demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to think for yourself, and yes, I extrapolate that to how you teach, but not from an armchair so much as from what I see in your posts and how you interact with different people. If you wanted to bring in photocopies of a science paper about neo-darwinism turning to multiverse theory to bail itself out, hand it out and start a discussion about how it does or does not support neo-Darwinism, you are arguing here that your hands are tied by "mainstream science" from discussing mainstream science.

Good grief Scott, take a look at your agenda.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

"...to stick to pure science and leave the polarizing political squabbles outside the classroom, but inside the classroom take the high road by teaching neo-darwinisms flaws and inadequacies so your students have a genuine opportunity to think for themselves about "the best theory we have"."

I don't do either. It's not my place to politicize the classroom, either for or against some idea that's not in the state science standards. You have a pretty strange idea of what it is I actually do for a living, Starwind. You seem to think that I should feel free to 'go my own way' and ignore whatever the current best practice is for high school science education.

In this case, I'm defending pedagogical strategies whose intent is not, as some have incorrectly inferred, to indoctrinate, but merely to provide context. I have strong convictions about this practice, convictions that come from actually teaching the material and observing what works and what doesn't work. It amazes me that someone who doesn't know me and has never seen me teach would conclude that this strategy amounts to advancing religion, or exhibits bias. How could you possibly know that without seeing me teach?

(In this respect, I'm sorry to tell you that you resemble most laypeople, who tend to think they know something about how biology should be taught by virtue of what they recall about taking biology, a nigh-universal experience. Amusingly, I never encounter that presumption when describing physics or chemistry curriculua, only in biology.)

Anyway, what's the pedagogical goal here? Just this. Everyone admits that there is a cultural controversy. A teacher who ignores it, and pretends that there is no controversy, will lose credibility with their students. A teacher who departs from the standards to pursue their own agenda on either side of the controversy also loses credibility, and for good reason. I stick to the standards, as every good teacher should, because that is the only position which is defensible legally, morally and professionally.

Teach the scientific controversies. Show your students what is actually behind the curtain. The papers I've previously posted to you, from peer reviewed mainstream journals authored by mainstream, evening leading scientists, merely demonstrate the wealth of material available to cover neo-darwinism's controversies as well.

Typically, what you've done is present some finding that you think poses a challenge for evolution. Your cleverer in that respect than most creationists, I'll give you that. I'm just a high school teacher and it would be arrogant of me to pretend that I can simply snap my fingers and wish away every objection that you've collected over time. In fact, it would be arrogant for anyone in the scientific community to take that approach.

But the fact is, you haven't at any time presented positive evidence for an alternative model, merely interpretations of evidence that seem to falsify or contradict the predictions of evolution as you understand it.

And, as you should know, this isn't a courtroom proceeding. You can't introduce 'reasonable doubt' for evolution's role in a particular class of phenomena, and thereby gain 'conviction' for intelligent design or other fancies in general. There are doubtless mice who may evade the best mousetraps we have so far devised, but we're not going to dump the mousetraps we have until you build a better one.

So far, the ID advocates have failed to do that. That's why they aren't in the science standards. If you IDevotees would put as much energy into your research program as you put into mounting negative (but ultimately pointless) arguments against evolution, you'd probably be getting somewhere by now. Then you would start getting some traction where the standards are concerned.

Reflect back on your blind defense of Sean Carrol and your assertions that his book "Making of the Fittest" has "plenty of evidence presented, with plenty of citations." And yet the truth was there were no cites in Carrol's book, but you blindly insisted there were..

As I recall, my copy was loaned out so I couldn't check the assertion. I didn't recall your reply. I have my book back, I'll look at it tomorrow. As I recall, you were dismissive of Carroll's book as a popularization and didn't want to give its claims the time of day as a result.

You demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to think for yourself, and yes, I extrapolate that to how you teach

Ah, so you admit you're just guessing when you're trashing my pedagogy? Nice to know. I wonder how you would feel if I 'extrapolated' about how you treat your colleagues based upon our little exchanges, and offered some unsolicited advice about your (alleged) personality quirks?

I think just fine for myself, Starwind. For crying out loud, I'm a theist and a pretty through-going Darwinian in biology. You can't hold both positions without thinking for yourself, because no one's going to do your thinking for you.

Fact is, I support the general mission of the NCSE, but I don't agree with everything said or done by Eugenie Scott. I admire Ken Miller intensely, but I have serious reservations about his invocation of quantum phenomena in his book 'Finding Darwin's God'. And PZ Myers? Ha. We have many points of disagreement, not the least of which is the fact that in a few short hours I will gladly shout, 'Alleluia, He is risen!'

If you wanted to bring in photocopies of a science paper about neo-darwinism turning to multiverse theory to bail itself out...

Forgive my bluntness, but:

a. I don't teach neo-darwinism

b. I don't teach cosmology (at least, not in a biology class)

c. I don't teach speculative claims that haven't made their way into the science standards

So...

Why would you infer that I would waste a moment of time introducing Lee Smolin's highly speculative cosmology into a high school biology class? I mean, seriously, why would any high school biology do that? For that matter, why would any college-level biology instructor do that? It's off-topic in biology, and light-years away from being considered a core concept, even within cosmology. I'm completely baffled, and again I have to say you have some pretty strange ideas about how I teach and what should be taught. If I actually did some of the things you think I did, I'd be humiliated. And, frankly, if I did some of the stuff that you think I ought to be doing, I'd probably be litigated.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

It amazes me that someone who doesn't know me and has never seen me teach would conclude that this strategy amounts to advancing religion, or exhibits bias. How could you possibly know that without seeing me teach?

Here are your exact words from your original post:
Secondly, constitutionality aside, it is intellectually dishonest for any teacher to pretend that religious views have no bearing on how evolution should be taught! You can't understand evolution without knowing the context in which Darwin and Wallace produced their theory, and you can't understand why evolution is controversial in the culture today without having some familiarity with the role of religious belief.

But, if we can't reference religious belief, then the 'controversy' depends upon...what? Arguments produced by conservative Christians, which the mainstream scientific community has concluded are without merit? Giving 'equal time' to design in that context would expose me to a real constitutional challenge. On the other hand, teaching that there is no scientific controversy, but there is a religiously-motivated controversy in the popular culture, should be constitutionally-protected speech.


I don't need to see you teach Scott, I can read what you post. If your own words condemn you then, be more precise.

And here again are my exact words in response to yours:

You know perfectly well there are numerous aspects of neo-Darwinian theory which insufficiently explain macro-evolution. I have posted papers to you about very late dates for homo spaiens from molecular clocks, insufficent time for random chance to evolve life, inordinately advanced animal complexity being ultraconserved from earliest unexpressed gene segments, etc. There is also the irreducible complexity evidence advanced by Behe, and who is also a catholic like Miller (and don't even start with Miller's discredited rebutal of Behe's work in Dover, that may fly with uninformed judges but not with people familair with the science).

There is much scientific "controversy" you ought to be teaching. If you find your students and their parents indifferent to your "cause" it might be they're not interested in being pawns on your side of the chess board.

As I've exhorted you before, drop the religion angle(s) and teach pure science, including what is wrong with the bad science.



Nowhere did I suggest you teach religion, did I. I in fact have exhorted you to rise above that fray, and that there is sufficient controversy in the science alone. Here, again is my follow up example, included in the context of a previous argument we had:

If you wanted to bring in photocopies of a science paper about neo-darwinism turning to multiverse theory to bail itself out, hand it out and start a discussion about how it does or does not support neo-Darwinism,

But your response is:

It amazes me that someone who doesn't know me and has never seen me teach would conclude that this strategy amounts to advancing religion, or exhibits bias. How could you possibly know that without seeing me teach?

I'm absolutely convinced you clearly see all I've suggested is that you a) avoid religion and b) teach the genuine scientific controversy
(it is after all only a "theory", right? Theories should explain controverting evidence, right?).

Typically, what you've done is present some finding that you think poses a challenge for evolution.

Well it certainly posed a challenge for you, didn't it.

But the fact is, you haven't at any time presented positive evidence for an alternative model, merely interpretations of evidence that seem to falsify or contradict the predictions of evolution as you understand it.

I never suggested that you teach an alternative model. I suggested you also teach what science knows is unexplained by the existing model (and gave one of numerous examples, and no it wasn't collected "over time" but published last year - it is current state of the art research by one the leaders in that field).

But you can't grind your axe on those suggestions can you. And so you distort my suggestion into advocacy for religion in the classroom or alternative theories.

As I recall, my copy was loaned out so I couldn't check the assertion.

Pity you weren't as forthcoming back then with your inability to check your facts as you now admit. But that again is you in microcosm Scott. Often in error but never in doubt.

I didn't recall your reply. I have my book back, I'll look at it tomorrow. As I recall, you were dismissive of Carroll's book as a popularization and didn't want to give its claims the time of day as a result.

You needn't "recall". My exact concerns are on the thread which I linked above. This is not as difficult as you make it.

Ah, so you admit you're just guessing when you're trashing my pedagogy? Nice to know. I wonder how you would feel if I 'extrapolated' about how you treat your colleagues based upon our little exchanges, and offered some unsolicited advice about your (alleged) personality quirks?

Informed extrapolation, based on the content of your own words posted by you, yes. If you feel compelled to similarly extrapolate from the facts of what I post about how I treat my colleagues, let's see what you've got.

c. I don't teach speculative claims that haven't made their way into the science standards

Just the speculative claims [countless "just so stories"] that have made their way into the science standards. And if the papers I suggested don't actually pose a challenge to evolution (or whatever your label du jour is), and they aren't ID or religion, and they are published mainstream peer-reviewed current science research, and they discuss the implications pro and con for evolution, then what again is your basis to precludes their being discussed in class?

Your exact words again were:

I stick to the standards, as every good teacher should, because that is the only position which is defensible legally, morally and professionally.

it is intellectually dishonest for any teacher to pretend that religious views have no bearing on how evolution should be taught! You can't understand evolution without knowing the context in which Darwin and Wallace produced their theory, and you can't understand why evolution is controversial in the culture today without having some familiarity with the role of religious belief.

And where in the standards to which you stick is the religious "context"? Why is it intellectually dishonest for you to ignore religious views but not intellectually dishonest for you to ignore Koonin's findings that the "central problem is the emergence of biological evolution, the inherent paradoxes of the origin of replication and translation systems, and the limitations of the RNA world ... How such a system could evolve, is a puzzle that defeats conventional evolutionary thinking."

Who again is being hypocritical?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Why is it intellectually dishonest for you to ignore religious views ?

Because it leads to ineffective pedagogy. Prior misconceptions from the popular culture, some religious, some not, constitute a barrier to students understanding the material. I need some religious context in order for students to understand what is being claimed, and what isn't. In other words, I do it to serve the standards I've been charged to teach. I'm not teaching religion, and I'm definitely not putting my views into the curriculum. The spin that you and others are putting on what is a pedagogical strategy is a caricature of what I do in the classroom.

"...but not intellectually dishonest for you to ignore Koonin's findings that the "central problem is the emergence of biological evolution, the inherent paradoxes of the origin of replication and translation systems, and the limitations of the RNA world ... How such a system could evolve, is a puzzle that defeats conventional evolutionary thinking."

Who again is being hypocritical?

First of all, bringing in detailed citations/findings from recently-published material is not the usual route for high school science content, and even if we brought something new in, you wouldn't base your curriculum on it. You wouldn't expect students to memorize it for a future test. It would just be an extra, food-for-thought type of deal.

On the other hand, the general topic of abiogenesis and the confidence we place in that claim typically finds its way into our curriculum, even though it is not in the standards in our state. I don't ignore this, neither does my textbook (Miller and Levine). You should be aware that abiogenesis is described in far more tentative terms than evolution and natural selection, and in a completely different chapter. Here, for example, are some quotes to give you the actual flavor (emphasis mine):

"If life comes only from life, then how did life on Earth first begin? This section presents the current scientific view of events on the early Earth. These hypotheses, however, are based on a relatively small amount of evidence. The gaps and uncertainties make it likely that scientific ideas about the origin of life will change."

"Scientists now know that Miller and Urey's original simulations of Earth's early atmosphere were not accurate."

"A stew of organic molecules is a long way from a living cell, and the leap from nonlife to life is the greatest gap in scientific hypotheses of Earth's early history."

"Another unanswered question in the evolution of cells is the origin of DNA and RNA.....Science cannot yet solve this puzzle....A series of experiments that simulated conditions of the early Earth have suggested that small sequences of RNA could have formed and replicated on their own....Future experiments are aimed at refining and retesting this hypothesis."

In other words, the claim of abiogenesis is presented much more tentatively than the claim that populations evolve, or that natural selection causes evolution, or that living things share common descent.

Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. My students are trained to understand that there is big difference in terms of predictive and explanatory power between a theory (strong) and a hypothesis (not so much). They are trained to understand that theories are not proven true, but accepted provisionally because of their usefulness in arranging and interpreting whole classes of facts. When I come to the abiogenesis material in about three weeks or so, I will make sure that they understand that it is a far more speculative claim than TENS, just like I do every year. That's not required of me by the standards, but (again) I think this is a case of where I provide CONTEXT in order to serve the standards. We have standards about the scientific method, for example, and I feel that it is important to show students how our method qualifies and limits the kind of claims we can make.

So, frankly, I don't see that I'm hypocritical. Evolution is a fact, and natural selection is a fact, and they are part of the standards. Evolutionary theory is not sufficient to explain all classes of facts, and abiogenesis does not enjoy the same ontological status as evolution itself, and these are facts which are not explicitly part of the standards, but which I feel I should draw students attention to in order that they will 'connect the dots' between that lesson and previous lessons. So, from my point of view I'm actually being consistent, and in a very intentional way.

Obviously, I think you misread my intent and unfairly judge my practice. You should ask yourself why this is the case. Let me suggest it is because here it is YOU that lack the context to properly evaluate me, because you haven't taught high school biology. Like a lot of laypeople, you consistently underestimate the role of the teacher, how we agonize over pacing and sequence, when to teach and reteach, and how to connect the curriculum in a meaningful way to our student's lives. Nothing could be less meaningful than to teach evolution in a 'just-the-facts' way that ignores how the idea is portrayed in the popular culture, or that fails to place speculative claims in their proper context. You've accused me of not being able to think for myself, and preaching dogma to my students. Starwind, I can't imagine a more inappropriate, or more boring way of teaching evolution---yet that is exactly the result that will be perceived if we take a 'Dragnet' approach to instruction. And, I have to tell you, as I type this to you, I feel reenergized with the excitement that comes from teaching biology's 'Big Idea.'

Now about Carroll's book.

I'm looking right at my copy.

Carroll doesn't cite in a standard APA/MLA kind of way. But he does provide hundreds of sources, beginning on pg. 307-328, listed by chapter, many highly specific to particular claims and observations. Is there a specific or general claim made in his book that you don't feel was well-sourced? If so, what is it?

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

I need some religious context in order for students to understand what is being claimed, and what isn't. In other words, I do it to serve the standards I've been charged to teach. I'm not teaching religion, and I'm definitely not putting my views into the curriculum.

In other words, the claim of abiogenesis is presented much more tentatively than the claim that populations evolve, or that natural selection causes evolution, or that living things share common descent.

Evolution is a fact, and natural selection is a fact, and they are part of the standards. Evolutionary theory is not sufficient to explain all classes of facts,

The hypocrisy is you arrogate for yourself the authority (under a self-interpreted standard) to teach the falsity of some religious views while simulatenously denying that religious views have any warrant being discussed in your class.

You assert it's ok for you to discredit some religious views but is not ok for others to argue the "discrediting science" itself has serious flaws, at which point you claim religion has no place in your science class room or science standards (even though you opened that door), the very same standards you bend to discuss religious views to suit your own teaching.

You always equivocate with "evolution and natural selection is fact" when you're discussing micro-evolution or speciation, and to my knowledge there are no religious viewpoints that dispute speciation. But you then extrapolate "evolution" to include "macro evolution" for which the scientific evidence is not a fact, but regardless you rely on that disputed and controversial science to discredit religious viewpoints in your class while accusing those who dispute macroevolutionary science of having a religious agenda, as if you never discuss religous viewpoints in the classroom.

Your hypocrisy which you refuse to see is how you rely on the disputed controversial science for macro-evolution as if it were fact to discredit religious viewpoints in your classroom claiming such refutation of religious views are within the standard as you interpret it, but then you cameoflage your reliance on the disputed macro-evolutionary science with arguments for the undisputed micro-evolutionary science and then disingenuously claim religious zealots are trying to deny evolution and natural selection and violate your standards.

First of all, bringing in detailed citations/findings from recently-published material is not the usual route for high school science content, and even if we brought something new in, you wouldn't base your curriculum on it. You wouldn't expect students to memorize it for a future test. It would just be an extra, food-for-thought type of deal.

Even just "extra, food-for-thought" if it honestly presented the deficiencies of the "best theory we have" would be a major improvement. Students get a view of the leading edge of research, the genuine controversies, all in the context of legitimate science, and that there might be some validity to some "creationist" views - they'll see the depth and complexity of the issues and that goes a long way to defuse claims of educators bashing Creationism for the sake of Darwinism. Anyone who then argues for more "creationist science" exposes their true agenda. But likewise, a refusal to explore the genuine deficiencies of macro-evolutionary science while simulataneously discrediting "creation" exposes their agenda as well.

I'm not arguing you teach creationism. I'm arguing it is hypocritical to teach unproven macro-evolution as fact without the counterbalancing scientific evidence that TENS or neo-Darwinism can't explain, and that if both are taught honestly, the chief complaint of "creationists" is defused, as well as any charge of hypocrisy.

That is why I argue you should teach the "pure science" and avoid religious contexts. In so doing, when some student asks "But the Bible says we didn't evolve from apes", the non-religious purely scientific yet honest answer can be "Well, let's look at the evidence pro and con - what do the chromosomes show, what don't the molecular clocks show, is most DNA really junk and how much time is needed for RM & NS to evolve whole new genera and did the universe exist that long... etc". It will be left unanswered, as it should be until science actally has irrefutable answers.

Carroll doesn't cite in a standard APA/MLA kind of way. But he does provide hundreds of sources, beginning on pg. 307-328, listed by chapter, many highly specific to particular claims and observations. Is there a specific or general claim made in his book that you don't feel was well-sourced? If so, what is it?

September 8, 2007 1:29 PM wherein I wrote:
It is precisely that goal-post shift from the specifics of Nematostella vectensis to Carroll's broad generalizations (such as with "immortal genes") that sweeps the issue from view. Had the issue been the broad context Carroll popularizes, you might have a point. But the issue was and still remains how "modern evolution theory" explains the mechanisms by which Nematostella vectensis 'evolved' several hundred million years in advance unexpressed, highly conserved and orthologous, complex genes expressed in humans and other modern bilaterians. So far, it was not "immortal genes" nor natural selection (as these neither create new traits nor operate on existing unexpressed traits), nor seemingly chance contingency (as the unexpressed complexity and orthology with recent bilaterians is so high). When Carroll addresses the specifics raised earlier above (and repeated again below re., pg. 88) for example, then you'll have a point citing him.

The problem with Carrol's book and your recommendation of it, neither of which have changed one iota, is the near impossiblity of using a general popularization to get specific science research on a particular claim. Reread the thread for yourself as to claims you and I debated and your repeated assertions that Carrols book had the answers. Fine. You now have his book, so cite Carrols answers and the science literature with page numbers that provides the related background. The whole point of cites is for the author to substantiate his claims, and not put the burden of figuring out where the substantiation might be found on the reader.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

The hypocrisy is you arrogate for yourself the authority (under a self-interpreted standard) to teach the falsity of some religious views while simulatenously denying that religious views have any warrant being discussed in your class.

Don't you even read what I write? At no time do I say anything about the truth or falsehood of any religious views! That's illegal under the Constitution, a violation of my ethics as a scientist (we're not supposed to make pronouncements on the non-falsifiable) and....to top it all off....DEEPLY offensive to me. If it happened to me, or my kid, or in any classroom at my school site, you can be sure that I would be among the first to express my concern. For crying out loud, Starwind, I belong to the local Interfaith Alliance which exists in part to defend the First Amendment.

So, the truth or falsehood of the viewpoint isn't even on the table for discussion! All I'm doing is presenting the FACT that there are a variety of religious views. If a student wants to be a creationist, I'm completely OK with that and I will go out of my way to make sure they understand it does not affect their grade, or how I regard them as people. See, once again you're seeing what you want to see, not what's there, and again I would like to believe you do this largely because you don't know understand the context in which content is delivered in a high school science classroom. Sheesh.

You assert it's ok for you to discredit some religious views but is not ok for others to argue the "discrediting science" itself has serious flaws, at which point you claim religion has no place in your science class room or science standards (even though you opened that door), the very same standards you bend to discuss religious views to suit your own teaching.

Again, I don't discredit anyone's views, nor do we DISCUSS them. We don't have time to discuss the views, nor is it the right forum, and it's potentially illegal to go there.

..to my knowledge there are no religious viewpoints that dispute speciation.

Well, there are, just as there are viewpoints that dispute the age of the Earth and the Earth's shape. They are becoming minority viewpoints, though, even within fundamentalist circles.

But likewise, a refusal to explore the genuine deficiencies of macro-evolutionary science

Starwind, there are observations in physics not explained by gravitational theory, or by the Standard Model. There are observations in geology not explained by plate tectonics. There are observations in astronomy not explained by the Big Bang. In each case, there are a lot more observations that are well-explained within the domain of each reigning model. That's why they are the reigning models. So it is with evolution. That's why it's in the standards, and that's why more exotic things like abiogenesis or ID are not.

While I might mention in passing that there are some things that aren't well accounted for, such as abiogenesis, or that there is a controversy in the culture about ID that hasn't yet been accepted in the scientific community (yet!)I'm not going to give 'equal time' for it. For one thing, I have a limited amount of time to teach the standards on evolution and ecology. There are about two dozen of them, and I have to connect-the-dots between those standards and the rest. For another thing, the 'equal time' doesn't exist in the standards. Since the courts have repeatedly judged that attempts to mandate such things violate the Establishment Clause, do you really think it's wise for me to try to give 'equal time'? I mean, I'm a evolutionary biologist but I bend over backwards to address this stuff in order to help my students, but if I push it any more than I do, I'll have problems. See, I actually know what the law is, and I do what I can do within the law to teach the course the way I think it should be taught. But there's a limit to what any teacher can legally do in the classroom, regardless of their private sympathies. Again, your picture of the public school environment is at odds with the reality.

In so doing, when some student asks "But the Bible says we didn't evolve from apes",

And the correct way to answer that is to say something like the following: "The Bible doesn't mention evolution or apes, and of course it's not a science textbook. But many Christians do reject evolution, or parts of evolution, because of the way they interpret the Bible. Other Christians interpret the Bible differently. This is a science class, so we can't talk about the Bible here, but I would encourage you to discuss this with other adults, like your parents or your minister. And, remember, if you have doubts or questions about evolution, you're not the only one. My job in this class is not to tell you what to believe, but to help understand evolution as a scientific model."

Whether or not I would say this in front of the class or one-on-one with the student depends on the student. It's important not to put them on the spot, and I would try to praise them for thinking more deeply about the implications of the idea, which essentially would encourage others to think more deeply. Notice that my reply is designed to be in compliance with the standards, religiously neutral and respectful. It's not the sort of thing that appears in a science textbook, but a lot of times the way you handle questions is more important than whether or not you answer them. It's OK for students to know that teachers don't have all the answers, and it's very good modeling of scientific ethics to do that, too.

Fine. You now have his book, so cite Carrols answers and the science literature with page numbers that provides the related background. The whole point of cites is for the author to substantiate his claims, and not put the burden of figuring out where the substantiation might be found on the reader.

I'm going to go ya one better if I can. I'm going to get ahold of Carroll personally and ask if he has a more detailed bibliography available, less user-friendly for the average guy on the street but more apt for my purposes. I'll get back to you on that.

BTW, I appreciate your doggedness, even though I don't share your views, obviously. Keep holding my feet to the fire. Thinking about best practice, as I just did, is probably very good for me. I hope that sharing my thoughts about it will prove helpful for you, as well.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

Don't you even read what I write? At no time do I say anything about the truth or falsehood of any religious views!

Indeed I read what you write. Here they are, yet again....

However, it does not violate the Constitution to point out to students that there is a diversity of religious views regarding evolution. I use the episode from the PBS series 'Evolution' entitled 'What About God?' to make that point. It is especially telling to show students that one of the authors of their text (Ken Miller) is an observant Catholic.

Secondly, constitutionality aside, it is intellectually dishonest for any teacher to pretend that religious views have no bearing on how evolution should be taught! You can't understand evolution without knowing the context in which Darwin and Wallace produced their theory, and you can't understand why evolution is controversial in the culture today without having some familiarity with the role of religious belief.

But, if we can't reference religious belief, then the 'controversy' depends upon...what? ... On the other hand, teaching that there is no scientific controversy, but there is a religiously-motivated controversy in the popular culture, should be constitutionally-protected speech.

I need some religious context in order for students to understand what is being claimed, and what isn't. In other words, I do it to serve the standards I've been charged to teach. I'm not teaching religion, and I'm definitely not putting my views into the curriculum.


What is one to make of your own words, except that in fact you introduce religious viewpoints into class? You may not declare one to be false and another true, or put your own personal views into play, but "giving air time" to Miller's theistic evolution while ignoring Michael Behe's ID affirms viewpoints and judgements that are best left (given the constraints on you in class) to non-school venues.

So, the truth or falsehood of the viewpoint isn't even on the table for discussion! All I'm doing is presenting the FACT that there are a variety of religious views.

And the problem with doing that, is that a) you don't do it fairly and b) it opens to door to "equal time" accusations from differing religious viewpoints, not to mention that even within Christianity there is a great deal of dispute over theistic evolution, versus old/young earth creationism, versus ID, versus ... etc. You are not qualified to properly (nor do I expect you to) put those in their proper biblical and science contexts and the science classroom is no place to try. A great many people object to PBS or other similar treatments of these subjects, let alone the more rigorous bible viewpoints of Protestants v more liberal Catholics, for example. The programs you mentioned are not balanced (not in the opinions of biblically and scientifically versed parents and/or taxpayers) and you don't help by offering up such program material and any ad-hoc commentary.

If a student wants to be a creationist, I'm completely OK with that and I will go out of my way to make sure they understand it does not affect their grade, or how I regard them as people.

That problem never occurred to me in highscool (university, yes). The problem is not you discriminating against such students via their grades, rather the problem is you not being able (or willing) to do justice to their creationsist views, but illadvisedly attempting to do justice to Ken Miller's. And when someone accuses you of offending Islamic sensibilities with discussions of reproduction or Muhammad descending from an ape, then what?

See, once again you're seeing what you want to see, not what's there, and again I would like to believe you do this largely because you don't know understand the context in which content is delivered in a high school science classroom. Sheesh.

What I see, as I've repeatedly quoted, is the context that you have painted with your own words, and I have endeavored (doggedly) to make it clear to you why that [what you have described] creates more problems than it solves, and it is biased (which leads to hypocrisy) in ways you don't comprehend because you don't introduce anything that offends your particular biased view of scripture and theology. But then you are not a fundamentalist, or creationist, or ID-ist and not surprisingly you find a Catholic viewpoint (who often are about as far from a fundamentalist or creationist as you'll find) like Miller's of theistic evolution relatively palatable, especially when it is one of your 'heros' making the "theistic" case for evolution.

And yet,

Again, I don't discredit anyone's views, nor do we DISCUSS them. We don't have time to discuss the views, nor is it the right forum, and it's potentially illegal to go there.

I use the episode from the PBS series 'Evolution' entitled 'What About God?' to make that point. It is especially telling to show students that one of the authors of their text (Ken Miller) is an observant Catholic.

One of these things are not the same.

Starwind, there are observations in physics not explained by gravitational theory, or by the Standard Model. There are observations in geology not explained by plate tectonics. There are observations in astronomy not explained by the Big Bang. In each case, there are a lot more observations that are well-explained within the domain of each reigning model. That's why they are the reigning models. So it is with evolution. That's why it's in the standards, and that's why more exotic things like abiogenesis or ID are not.

But unlike evolution, the other models have a great deal of controversial science being published and discussed openly and honestly and don't have militant atheist's campaigning against competing views, and aside from age of the earth arguments have very little impact on society whereas neo-Darwinism's materialistic, survival of the fittest, we're all meat puppets anyway, rhetoric is deliberately inflammatory and one of the reasons most parents prefer home or private schooling when they can get it.

and with that run-on sentence, I'm headed for bed.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

What is one to make of your own words, except that in fact you introduce religious viewpoints into class? You may not declare one to be false and another true, or put your own personal views into play, but "giving air time" to Miller's theistic evolution while ignoring Michael Behe's ID affirms viewpoints and judgements that are best left (given the constraints on you in class) to non-school venues.

I thought ID wasn't religion. Didn't you read the script?

And the problem with doing that, is that a) you don't do it fairly

How do you know that?

b) it opens to door to "equal time" accusations from differing religious viewpoints

Well, yes and no, only to the extent that a variety of students may have a diversity of responses or questions stemming from their different faith traditions, and they might ask those questions. That's OK. I'm never going to give any student a hard time for asking questions. But again, as a classroom teacher I'm going to lead students away from any sort of detailed discussion/debate of religious views, as it doesn't belong in a science classroom and it has the potential to poison the well.

On the other hand, regardless of what questions students ask, I'm not obligated to present an exhaustive survey of possible views. The point is to focus on the religious/ philosphical context out of which Darwin's thought sprang (Paley's 'Watchmaker' argument, special creation, the scala naturae, etc.) and out of which the creation/evolution controversy was nurtured in the 20th century (Biblical literalism). It's a historical fact that Darwin was raised in a Christian culture, and that the chief opposition to his thought in the West has come from Christians. That's the historical and social context, and we don't privilege those beliefs by alluding to them as a source of controversy. We're just telling the students how we got to this point in the culture. That's it.

The problem is not you discriminating against such students via their grades, rather the problem is you not being able (or willing) to do justice to their creationsist views, but illadvisedly attempting to do justice to Ken Miller's.

Miller's religious views are not explicated. He's identified as a Catholic and in the film he says he has pretty orthodox, conventional views and leaves it at that. I don't attempt to explain Catholicism, I can assure you! Because, for one thing, that explanation doesn't belong in a science class, and for another, I'm not Catholic, so I wouldn't take it for granted that I could do his views justice.

The programs you mentioned are not balanced (not in the opinions of biblically and scientifically versed parents and/or taxpayers) and you don't help by offering up such program material and any ad-hoc commentary.

???

The sense of fairness to which you appeal does not exist in science, and the programs I show are mainstream science in alignment with state and national standards. If you don't like what's in the textbooks and what is widely accepted by the scientific community and the educational establishment, change it or opt out. Don't come wagging your tax bill at me. You are not entitled to special treatment simply because your cherished beliefs may put you at odds with the consensus in a particular discipline. Atheists and Nazis pay taxes, too. Do you think that because they do, that a science class should take up the question of God's existence, or that a history curriculum should include a Holocaust denier in the name of 'balance'?

why that [what you have described] creates more problems than it solves

How would you know whether it creates more problems than it solves, unless you've taught high school biology for several years? You are really taking the grand prize for speculative chutzpah!

I mean, if you're right, I should have all sorts of problems and complaints. But I don't. In my experience, it's the teachers who don't cover the material in depth, or who don't provide context, or who attempt to completely exclude any mention of religion---they are the ones who have the problems with disruptive students, with parents complaining to the principal and so forth. Not me! I've yet to have any meaningful problems, while many of my otherwise-competent colleagues all have horror stories. Obviously, I wouldn't continue to do what I do if I didn't think it made my teaching more effective. What else you got?

and it is biased (which leads to hypocrisy) in ways you don't comprehend because you don't introduce anything that offends your particular biased view of scripture and theology.

Generally speaking, accusations of bias, hypocrisy and non-comprehension are not going to be persuasive.

And you are clueless if you think that what I teach doesn't routinely trouble, challenge or even offend me. The natural world is filled with cruelty and suffering. We biologists are all students of theodicy. Darwin didn't invent the problem of Evil, but he certainly heightened our awareness of it. If anguish and sorrow at this state of affairs constitutes a bias, count me guilty as charged, but don't imagine for a moment that I avoid unpleasantness. The natural world is what it is.

One of these things are not the same.

Neither of these things privileges,nor explicates a theological position.

the other models have a great deal of controversial science being published and discussed openly and honestly

Evolutionary biology has its controversies as well, as to the units and modes of selection, as to where selection is involved and isn't, as to when TENS is clearly sufficient and as to where it isn't even necessary. There are arguments about which species concept to employ, and what are the best ways to measure diversity, and what are the best speciation models. The union of evo/devo and molecular biology is producing fireworks, new challenges, new research programs. We scientists like this state of affairs. We don't attempt to suppress it! These frontiers are where, ultimately, we want aspiring scientists to go---but in a high school level class, it is more appropriate to focus on the core which is well-established.

neo-Darwinism's

I don't teach it. Not in the standards. No privileged belief systems, even those of PZ Myers!

materialistic,

Don't teach this either. Don't believe it, not in the standards, this is a metaphysical stance, not a scientific claim

survival of the fittest

I teach my students that this is a true but tautologous gloss for part of Darwin's theory, that fitness is situation-dependent, and that it has been used to advance an unscientific idea ('social Darwinism'). Fitness doesn't mean what people like Henry Ford thought it did, and the natural world is filled with examples of cooperation as well as competition.

So, we're all meat puppets anyway,

Not in the standards, not in my curriculum. A epistemological claim that challenges our identity and the meaning of our existence, rather than science. Certainly not what I privately believe, nor the way that I or other students behave when we interact with each other.
And, I would maintain, not what we would expect from evolution.

Starwind said...

I thought ID wasn't religion. Didn't you read the script?

I assume this is hyperbole. The evidence, such as Behe's, is clearly scientific. The Designer, OTOH, depending on whom you read could be God or, as per Richard Dawkins, space aliens. The point was to teach Behe's scientific evidence that TENS wasn't explaining. My other point as been, and remains, to forego all religious discussion.

How do you know that? [presenting the FACT that there are a variety of religious views a) you don't do it fairly]

Because I can see the unfair treatment you give creationist and ID viewpoints, I see your own unbiblical (Wellhausinsm) theology, and I see your bias towards theistic evolution.

That's OK. I'm never going to give any student a hard time for asking questions. But again, as a classroom teacher I'm going to lead students away from any sort of detailed discussion/debate of religious views, as it doesn't belong in a science classroom and it has the potential to poison the well.

You are blindly overlooking the problem is not their asking questions, the problem is your biased answers, and blindly biased the way I read your responses here.

Miller's religious views are not explicated. He's identified as a Catholic and in the film he says he has pretty orthodox, conventional views and leaves it at that.

Miller's evolution views are explicated and implicitly given the Catholic seal of approval. It is precisely his Catholic background on this subject you wish students to appreciate, so you can imply the arguement "see, maybe God did create evolution". And I suspect if you weren't so blind to the issue there might other aspects of Miller's theistic evolution woven in that you'd detect, if you knew what to look for and were inclined to be critical of Miller and/or PBS.

You are not entitled to special treatment simply because your cherished beliefs may put you at odds with the consensus in a particular discipline.

I'm not asking for special treatment as a taxpayer. I'm pointing out that as a taxpayer I have a dog in this hunt as to how my tax dollars get spent in public education, moreso in my community as regards the children I know and care about.

Neither of these things privileges,nor explicates a theological position.

Scott, the point was you don't get to claim that you don't even DISCUSS religous views in class and simultaneously claim to show a PBS movie portraying a Catholic's view of evolution (implicitly theistic) and titled "What about God". I wouldn't trust you to know a theological position if it bit you.

Generally speaking, accusations of bias, hypocrisy and non-comprehension are not going to be persuasive.

Nor is blind ignorance of your own words a defense.

I'm done. If you were ever going to get the point you would have by now.

re Carrols cites, if it's as easy as forwarding an email fine, but if you find you're having to write explanations or read articles and books just find uncited references to what Carrol referred, then don't bother on my account. It's a tertiary priorty to me at this point.

Starwind said...

I thought ID wasn't religion. Didn't you read the script?

I assume this is hyperbole. The evidence, such as Behe's, is clearly scientific. The Designer, OTOH, depending on whom you read could be God or, as per Richard Dawkins, space aliens. The point was to teach Behe's scientific evidence that TENS wasn't explaining. My other point as been, and remains, to forego all religious discussion.

How do you know that? [presenting the FACT that there are a variety of religious views a) you don't do it fairly]

Because I can see the unfair treatment you give creationist and ID viewpoints, I see your own unbiblical (Wellhausinsm) theology, and I see your bias towards theistic evolution.

That's OK. I'm never going to give any student a hard time for asking questions. But again, as a classroom teacher I'm going to lead students away from any sort of detailed discussion/debate of religious views, as it doesn't belong in a science classroom and it has the potential to poison the well.

You are blindly overlooking the problem is not their asking questions, the problem is your biased answers, and blindly biased the way I read your responses here.

Miller's religious views are not explicated. He's identified as a Catholic and in the film he says he has pretty orthodox, conventional views and leaves it at that.

Miller's evolution views are explicated and implicitly given the Catholic seal of approval. It is precisely his Catholic background on this subject you wish students to appreciate, so you can imply the arguement "see, maybe God did create evolution". And I suspect if you weren't so blind to the issue there might other aspects of Miller's theistic evolution woven in that you'd detect, if you knew what to look for and were inclined to be critical of Miller and/or PBS.

You are not entitled to special treatment simply because your cherished beliefs may put you at odds with the consensus in a particular discipline.

I'm not asking for special treatment as a taxpayer. I'm pointing out that as a taxpayer I have a dog in this hunt as to how my tax dollars get spent in public education, moreso in my community as regards the children I know and care about.

Neither of these things privileges,nor explicates a theological position.

Scott, the point was you don't get to claim that you don't even DISCUSS religous views in class and simultaneously claim to show a PBS movie portraying a Catholic's view of evolution (implicitly theistic) and titled "What about God". I wouldn't trust you to know a theological position if it bit you.

Generally speaking, accusations of bias, hypocrisy and non-comprehension are not going to be persuasive.

Nor is blind ignorance of your own words a defense.

I'm done. If you were ever going to get the point you would have by now.

re Carrols cites, if it's as easy as forwarding an email fine, but if you find you're having to write explanations or read articles and books just find uncited references to what Carrol referred, then don't bother on my account. It's a tertiary priorty to me at this point.

Starwind said...

Sorry for the double post. Feel free to delete one of them.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Miller's evolution views are explicated and implicitly given the Catholic seal of approval. It is precisely his Catholic background on this subject you wish students to appreciate, so you can imply the arguement "see, maybe God did create evolution".

Nonsense. Bruce Chapman and Michael Behe are both observant Catholics and DI supporters, and what a Catholic believes is unlikely to be persuasive in and of itself to a kid from an evangelical background. The video doesn't privilege any particular theology, and neither do I.

Because I can see the unfair treatment you give creationist and ID viewpoints, I see your own unbiblical (Wellhausinsm) theology, and I see your bias towards theistic evolution.

Ha. I'm apparently guilty of some heresty of import to you, one that I don't even recognize (Wellhausinism?) You, on the other hand, need a new set of tea leaves to make your 'extrapolations.' I don't consider myself a theistic evolutionist, I don't know why you would. Theistic evolution is not a scientific position, nor do I find it necessary to affirm as part of my faith. My position as a theist is no different from a creationist: I say that 'God did it'. I hold Genesis to be 'true' in a very real sense, but not in any way that can be proved or disproved; for that reason alone, my understanding isn't science and shouldn't be expected to dovetail neatly with the facts at our disposal about the natural world. It certainly does not belong in the science classroom! Conversely, I accept that evolution occurs but I do not expect that the explanatory web within its domain will be of much use in the realm of faith. At no time do I ever invoke evolution as part of my Christian understanding; rather, it poses a challenge to my Christian understanding to the extent that it undercuts the argument for design and makes the problem of evil more keenly felt.

See, my views on evolution are nuanced, and they aren't an explicit part of my faith. You're making an argument against a caricature of my faith, just as you're railing against a caricature of my pedagogy. You get it wrong in both respects, and at least in the latter case, wrong in multiple ways. I don't teach the way you think I do. You don't appear to understand the psychological dynamic at work in teaching, either. You are, in that respect, typical of many laypeople who have an unrealistic view of the classroom but are always willing to chime in with your imagined expertise. Bible scholarship and cherry-picking of the scientific literature for talking points doesn't make you an expert on how to teach, what to teach, or what can be legally be taught, any more than excellence in any other non-teaching activity.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

Bruce Chapman and Michael Behe are both observant Catholics and DI supporters, and what a Catholic believes is unlikely to be persuasive in and of itself to a kid from an evangelical background. The video doesn't privilege any particular theology, and neither do I.

But that doesn't stop you from making the point ad infinitum that Miller is Catholic, does it. Which again is the hypocrisy to which you remain blind. You myopically insist you don't even DISCUSS religion in class at same time showing a religious movie and branding Miller's (the co-author of your text) evolutionary views with the Catholic imprimatur.

Regardless if Miller was Lutheran, you'd say "Ken Miller, noted evolutionist, and a Lutheran BTW,...." or if he was evangelical you'd say "Ken Miller, noted evolutionist, and an Evangelical BTW, ...." (or words to that effect) simply to imply the arguement "see, maybe God did create evolution, because some ___________ (fill in the religion blank) evolutionists think so". The quality or nuance of the theology doesn't matter to you, rather it is the appearance of religious credibility. It doesn't matter that the evangelical kid may not be persuaded because you're not proseletyzing Catholicism with evolution, you're proseletizing evolution with Catholicism. Your motive in constantly bringing up Miller's Catholicism is to lend religious credibility to his evolutionary views.

It's one thing for you to proseletize evolution. I may disagree with your evidence and coverage of the science, but I can accept that you will try present a positive case for evolution (micro and macro). What is inexcusable is your hypocritical use of religion in class to buttress the acceptability of your evolutionary proseletizing while accusing others of having a religious agenda who disagree with your science!

Ha. I'm apparently guilty of some heresty of import to you, one that I don't even recognize (Wellhausinism?) You, on the other hand, need a new set of tea leaves to make your 'extrapolations.' I don't consider myself a theistic evolutionist, I don't know why you would. Theistic evolution is not a scientific position, nor do I find it necessary to affirm as part of my faith.

No, of course you don't recognize Wellhausenism, nor apparently did you read the link I posted to you a while back about it (which you said you'd consider), nor do you have a clue how Wellhausen influenced interpretation of biblical texts, interpretations that, though discredited, remain evident in your statements about your personal disbeliefs in creation.

And I didn't say you were a theistic evolutionist, I said you were biased towards it (as opposed to the alternatives), but then again those are all theological nuances that apparently go well over your head and further dissection (again) would be pointless. As I said earlier, you wouldn't know for what for to look in critiqing Miller's or PBS's presumptions. All that matters to you is that he's a visible evolutionist and any recognizable flavor of Christian, in Miller's case specifically a Catholic, will suffice your hypocritical purposes.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Your motive in constantly bringing up Miller's Catholicism is to lend religious credibility to his evolutionary views.

I don't bring it up constantly. I bring it up once. What is my motive in acknowledging that Biblical literalists reject evolution, and showing Ken Ham do his thing in the same video? Does that lend religious credibility to their anti-evolutionary views?

Of course not, and your weird take that a PBS documentary about evolution is a 'religious video' doesn't lend any religious credibility to your argument, either.

What is inexcusable is your hypocritical use of religion in class to buttress the acceptability of your evolutionary proseletizing while accusing others of having a religious agenda who disagree with your science!

How can anyone doubt that your primary agenda is religious, the way you go on and on about a pedagogical strategy that takes up what, five minutes out of the 20+ hours I spend on the evolution unit? How can anyone doubt that your primary agenda is religious, when you describe what I do as proselytizing? How can anyone doubt that your primary agenda is religious, when you keep bringing up my theological views, and what you find heretical about them?

I submit the person with the religious ax to grind is you, Starwind. I've put up with a lot of personal criticism from someone who has never seen me teach, and appears predisposed to judge me. I think you are overdue for a taste of your own extrapolation. Here's the deal: you're frustrated, because your side keeps fumbling badly. You and your fellow creationists have not been successful in persuading the scientific community to adopt your views to this point. And, as I'm sure you know, that situation's not likely to change any time in the near future. With that door unlikely to open, many of your fellow travelers have turned to lawyers and politicians. That strategy hasn't worked out so well, either. These days, you guys can't apparently get what you would consider a fair hearing from a Bush-appointed Republican judge.

The only arena in which you have an advantage these days is in the pews, where you can not only wage a war of science factoids in absentia, but you can also suggest evolution's culpability in the ills of the culture, and by extension, it's threat to home and hearth and one's salvation. You can stomach a through-going evolutionist in the classroom as long as they ignore the role of religion, because they can be portrayed as tools of darkness, pawns of a materialist conspiracy, lost souls who lead others astray. That sort of teacher is a pretty target, but no real threat to the power base which feeds the cottage industry of creationism in the churches.

But a guy like me, who is unapologetically Christian and tells students the simple truth that some believers reject evolution and others don't, why, I've got to be denounced in the strongest possible terms. What I do is inexcusable to your side because the things I do---in fact, my very existence---contradicts the implied claim that one can not be a Christian and accept evolution. And, when you can't make your case on legal or pedagogical grounds, you whip up the old bludgeons of character assassination and heresy.

Anyway, that's my armchair analysis. Not every bit of it may apply to you personally, but as a thumbnail sketch of what's wrong with the creationist critique of science education, I think it's pretty accurate.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

Of course not, and your weird take that a PBS documentary about evolution is a 'religious video' doesn't lend any religious credibility to your argument, either.

No where did I describe the documentary as a "religious video", did I. That is your mischaracterization, isn't it. Nor am I looking for religious credibility to my argument. My argument has been and remains that all religious background, however relevant you personally deem it, should be avoided in government science classrooms. My further argument has been and remains that your insistence on including some religious background in your science class while you simultaneously criticize the religious agenda of others who disagree with your science is hypocritical.

You can either:
a) actually refrain from any DISCUSSion of religion in your evolution science class
b) or, refrain from accusing people who dispute your evolutionary science as having a religious agenda
c) or, proudly wear the hypocrit label.

Irrefutably, I have exhorted you to refrain from including any religious discussion in your classes, and I repeatedly cited your own descriptions of religious content that you purported to introduce in class.

Irrefutably, I have exhorted you instead to teach the evidentiary science that macro-evolution does not explain, and I gave purely scientific examples of what you might consider.

Irrefutably, I explained how I thought those two shifts would defuse the 'creationist' arguments and expose any subsequent criticism as being religious agenda (as opposed to science education).

How can anyone doubt that your primary agenda is religious, the way you go on and on about a pedagogical strategy that takes up what, five minutes out of the 20+ hours I spend on the evolution unit?

Anyone, Scott? Or just you flailing about now? That you would characterize the above as a "primary religious agenda" defies all reason.

No, I don't agree with your theology. I've never made a secret of that. But then no where have I argued that my theology should be substituted in class for yours or anyone's theology. Rather I've argued all theology (that would include mine, wouldn't it) should be excised from class, haven't I.

If you call that a 'primary religious agenda', you have demonstrated you are unfit to teach anyone how to think at all about anything.

If you don't like the exposure your arguments and views have gotten here, think again about how you formed them and your illfounded hypocritial irrational accusations, attempting to deflect attention and scrutiny away from you.

All you had to do from the onset was say, "Hmmmmm, perhaps my showing a PBS video about God and evolution in class minimally appears as hypocritical as what I criticise in DI" (or words to that effect, ostensibly demonstrating that you did honestly see the issue from someone elses perspective that perhaps you had overlooked).

I don't like being this uncharitable, but you leave little latitude.

Starwind said...

Correction:

No where did I describe the documentary as a "religious video", did I. That is your mischaracterization, isn't it.

I indeed did just (in my previous post) carelessly mischaracterize the video as a "religious movie".

It obviously is a mix of religion and evolution, not purely either.