Krauss on why it’s dumb to make “teach both sides” arguments for evolution

From Big Think we have physicist Lawrence Krauss showing why the “teach both sides” argument for evolution—and science in general—is fallacious. This argument is now being inserted into school standards by religionists who have lost repeated court battles trying to get creationism and intelligent design taught explicitly in public schools. Their new tactic is to pass school standards allowing or urging teachers to present evidence for alternative views and “critical evidence for and against” theories like evolution and anthropogenic global warming.

Since those resolutions seem innocuous—after all, what’s wrong with encouraging critical thinking in kids?— we need to remember why they’re there, and what the argument is against teaching “criticisms” of theories that are not flawed. Krauss’s 3.5-minute talk, which characterizes the teaching of creationism as “child abuse” (well, at the least it’s lying to children), highlights the problems with the teach-both-sides argument.

I would add that if you’re going to use the “teach all sides” argument, then medical schools should devote considerable time to spiritual healing, modern history to Holocaust denialism, and psychology courses to ESP and psychic phenomena.

Sometimes alternative theories are just bunk. As Krauss says, “If you think about, allowing the notion that the Earth is 6,000 years to old to be promulgated in schools is like teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error that is.”

The Big Think notes this:

This video was created before the 2016 campaign for president began, and Marco Rubio (whom he mentions in the video) has since dropped out; but the fact is, a large crop of the 2016 candidates from one political party holds to this idea of teaching ignorance in the classroom instead of actual science. 

One quibble: At 2:35 he says, “Evolution is the basis of modern biology, and in fact if a lot of people don’t believe it, we have to do a better job teaching it.”  Well, besides using “believe” rather than “accept”, what Krauss doesn’t note is that the reason a lot of people don’t accept evolution is not a failure of teaching, but the prevalence of religion. If America were a country of atheists, we’d have a lot more people who accept evolution.  The most effective (though not the least laborious) way of getting people to accept evolution is not to teach it better, but to diminish the hold of religion on America.

h/t: Nicole Reggia

68 Comments

  1. Sastra
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I would add that if you’re going to use the “teach all sides” argument, then medical schools should devote considerable time to spiritual healing, modern history to Holocaust denialism, and psychology courses to ESP and psychic phenomena.

    Already happening on an increasing scale; not happening, though under current administration not completely out of the question; did happen, and a fervent minority in the field trying to make it happen again.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      In my view, any introductory psych course worth its salt ought to spend a fair amount of time on parapsychology and the failure of its research program, just as introductory astronomy courses cover the overthrow of geocentrism by Copernicus.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        I agree, just as an intro course in evolution ought to unpack the fallacies of creationism. Calling for this as a general tactic in public education, though, is dangerous, since “unpack the fallacies” can do that subtle little shift into “teach the controversy.”

        Back in the 70’s, one of my psych professors promoted parapsychology as an intriguing new field which was about to take off big time.

        • jaxkayaker
          Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:16 am | Permalink

          Agreed that it’s important to not only teach what the currently accepted consensus view of scientists is, but why the alternatives, such as creationism, were ultimately rejected and what the evidence against them was. Unfortunately, in a general course, whether high school biology or a non-biology-majors course at the college level, or even a general intro biology majors course, there just isn’t sufficient time to cover all the correct concepts, much less cover the incorrect concepts and why they’re incorrect.

  2. Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    “[W]hat Krauss doesn’t note is that the reason a lot of people don’t accept evolution is not a failure of teaching, but the prevalence of religion.”

    Right on. When I fell out with my fundie sister a few years ago over evolution/Creationism, she reminded me that I was the deluded one, that she had taken her BA magna cum laude and aced her biology class at SUNY Stonybrook, having regurgitated all the nonsense the prof had foisted off on her, knowing all the while how wrong he was. Education can only rarely break though that rigid carapace of religious faith.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I had a student like that. She got an A+ in my class, and was fastidiously correct and even nuanced in her written answers to test questions about evolution. But at the end she told me that although she could accept microevolution, she could not accept macroevolution.
      Could not.

  3. Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I’m always happy to “teach the controversy” in class. I use this video to help. The only times I’ve had complaints are from religiou sfolk who say that it makes them seem ridiculous. Well, I cant help that. Please feel free to share.

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      What incredible child abuse. I am sorry that it is only now that I begin to appreciate what Prof. Coyne and others are up against.

    • nicky
      Posted February 11, 2017 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      Well I always ‘do’ the controversy when the subject arises: is the Earth flat or largely spherical? Must be flat, if not, the ones at the bottom half would fall off, no? Note that the Bible also implies it is flat. It is a good starting point for evolutionary theory, an introduction into ‘controversies’.
      I found ‘child abuse’ always a bit over the top, but that video forces me to revise that notion.

    • Mike
      Posted February 11, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      That’s what it is plain an simple, child abuse, let’s not forget those beacons of learning ,the Flat Earthers,’ve said it many times Religion is in the main a force for evil.

      • Mike
        Posted February 11, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        It’s ruined my afternoon watching that Video,I get so angry.

    • darthgtb
      Posted February 11, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Helena, every time I see something like this I get puzzled on how could the USA become the prosperous science and technology power it is today. Before WWI it was just another country sitting there in America. It grew really fast for a former colony.

      For times I have thought on the possibility of moving to the USA because of increasing violence and corruption in my country, but I can’t raise my children in a place where religion beliefs are taught like if they were facts.

      That video you sent is scary. If I were in that audiences, I don’t think I would be able to stay quiet. I would find a way to put that men in jail! At first “abuse” sounds too much, but when you know about this kind of teachings, you understand why he used that word.

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Yes, Lawrence, please say it….religion, religion. That is the word you are looking for not better teaching. Otherwise very good and I think we have heard versions of this long ago from a fellow named Dawkins.

  5. tomh
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I would say another reason evolution isn’t accepted is that most people don’t encounter it in their education. The well-known survey of high school teachers shows that less than 30% of high school teachers straightforwardly teach the evidence for evolution, not to mention the 15% who out and out teach creationsism. About 60% avoid it altogether. Of course, the main reason it’s not taught is fear of the turmoil created by parents, which is rooted in religion. The survey is five years old but I doubt that anything has changed, and it will only get worse with the new regime.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I am guessing you are talking about the public school so if we include all the millions in religious, private and home schools it gets much worse.

      • tomh
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Well, public schools are the only ones where anything can be done. Religious schools can teach anything they want.

  6. Tamethyst
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Only beginning to comprehend the depth of the problem y’all have over there in the US. It’s not an Islamic revolution you are undergoing more the equivalent of what happened in Iran in 1979, but with “Christians” wanting the power returned to them.

    They’ll be appointing a Witch-finder General next.

  7. Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I for one am not willing to surrender the perfectly good English word “believe” to the religious. I believe (and accept) the truth of evolution. And I believe it for good reasons. What is wrong is not belief but belief in nonsensical ideas that defy logic and observation. “Believe in” which suggests faith or ideology is another matter.

  8. Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Given that religious indoctrination is endemic and given that many children begin school with multiple misconceptions about evolution, the question is whether teachers should make an effort to correct those misconceptions.

    The pedagogical debate is about the best strategy. Some people believe that students can be swayed to reject years of indoctrination by parents and pastors by simply presenting them with the correct information about science and evolution.

    All the studies show that this won’t work. In order to change someone’s viewpoint you have to also confront their misconceptions. That requires you to bring up the idea of special creation, intelligent design, and a young Earth, and show why they are wrong. It’s not sufficient to just present the correct scientific view and hope students will abandon their long-held beliefs.

    In order to teach critical thinking you have to address BOTH sides of the issue and treat them both with a bit of minimal respect even if the ultimate goal is to show that one side doesn’t stand up to critical thought.

    The pedagogical literature is very clear on this point. The studies have been done. The data has been collected and analyzed. If there’s a widespread controversy over certain ideas that are being taught in school then teachers must teach about that controversy in class.

    This applies to evolution, climate change, socialism, abortion, crime, racism, gay marriage, capital punishment, terrorism, politics, trickle-down economics, and a host of other issues. The problem in some countries is that teaching the controversy is going to piss off a lot of people who really don’t want their children to learn critical thinking.

    Liberals and science supporters are aiding and abetting those parents by censoring any criticism of their beliefs and making the classroom a safe place for fundamental Christians. As a result, students are graduating from high school and college without ever hearing anyone challenge their silly beliefs.

    • tomh
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      “That requires you to bring up the idea of special creation, intelligent design, and a young Earth, and show why they are wrong.”

      That’s problematic in the US. The government (public schools) can’t get into the business of claiming religious beliefs are false. Schools are limited to explaining accepted science in a science classroom and not judging religious beliefs.

    • Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Of course, almost all those insisting we must “teach the controversy” are not doing so with the aim of quenching superstitious nonsense, but of actively promoting it.

      And, here in the states, any attempt within public education to directly address the insanity of the religious belief would run afoul of the First Amendment’s protection against state interference, pro or con, of religious expression.

      A science teacher has a duty to teach students about the facts of the history of the Earth, including the evolutionary origins and development of its species. In so doing, said teacher must state the Earth’s ~4.5BYA formation from the Solar System’s initial protostar disk of dust and debris…and we all know the rest of that story.

      Those facts undeniably contradict a certain popular faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard, and that’s just fine.

      But that same teacher can not address the faery tale directly, not even to explain why it’s a faery tale. Indeed, the teacher can’t even make tangential reference to the faery tale. For example, a multiple-guess test question that included Ussher’s current age of the Earth as a possible answer would be a pretty clear First Amendment violation.

      And if students bring up the faery tale themselves, the teacher has an obligation to continue to not directly address it and instead simply teach the science. A student who insists that the Earth is some 6K years old can be given a refresher course in dendrochronology and radioisotope decay and what-not, but the teacher can’t directly criticize or analyze the scriptural text. And, sooner rather than later, the teacher needs to direct the student to discuss religious beliefs in some other context, such as with family or spiritual advisers — and can we please continue with the lesson whose content you’ll soon be tested on?

      Incidentally, that even extends to statements about how many Christians have no problem with the science, for that’s directly endorsing one particular sectarian theological interpretation over another — and that’s exactly the class of dispute that directly prompted the First Amendment. The King and Pope had different interpretations of what the Bible said about divorce, remember? It’s also no different from the abortion question; can you imagine a teacher in class telling a student that lots of Christians have no problem with abortion, and the uproar that would ensue?

      I’m sure things are different in other countries, and perhaps the First is at least in part responsible for the predominance of superstition in America. But history has taught us that governments that meddle in religion tend to not stop at science education standards, which makes me think that, warts and all, the First Amendment is the far superior compromise.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        That is how I understand it in the States, certainly for primary and secondary public education. I expect one could do differently in private schools.
        I have a colleague who teaches an advanced university biology course in our Honors college, and I was surprised to learn he does not hold a lot back. He teaches full-on evolution versus Creationism/ID. I think he skirts the problem (barely) by not taking a definite stand on the matter. I don’t think I could do it.

      • veroxitatis
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Far superior to what?

    • rickflick
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      There is a difference between “teach the controversy” and “confront their misconceptions”. The former implies give both views equal weight. The latter places one side as in error. There is no contradiction in teaching evolution as fact and addressing failed alternatives.

      • Posted February 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        That makes teaching the history of human thought interesting. A lot of textbooks do include references to protoscience and prior views and so on. If one is not allowed to mention the various biblical views to criticize them, yet one *can* mention the Aristotlian idea that species [and the world as we know it) are eternal (for the same reason), that’s a bit odd. I understand the motivation, but …

      • nicky
        Posted February 11, 2017 at 12:39 am | Permalink

        That is exactly why we should give the Flat Earth ‘theory’ as of equal weight, they will come themselves to the conclusion that one view is wrong. So, on to the next step: the Earth as centre of the universe ‘theory’, and then the age of the Earth, etc.
        I do not contend it is a panacea, but it works in some cases.

        • rickflick
          Posted February 11, 2017 at 1:07 am | Permalink

          I see your point, but many students will come in with a sever bias. Giving equal weight in that case probably would not be very effective.

    • Kevin
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      In physics, there’s no need to discuss alternatives to cosmology or natural laws that could allow for creation myths or miracles.

      Teachers do not have to ever disprove myths. This would, I think, be a waste of time for the students who do not believe in the myths.

      The only way to get rid of intelligent design is to get rid of religion, and unfortunately (or fortunately), that lies outside of the classroom.

      • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        I take it you’re a physicist: take the perennial problem of how a body in circular motion escapes on a tangent, not “curvily”. Would you help your students see that the latter is false?

    • eric
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Some people believe that students can be swayed to reject years of indoctrination by parents and pastors by simply presenting them with the correct information about science and evolution.

      All the studies show that this won’t work. In order to change someone’s viewpoint you have to also confront their misconceptions.

      Well, I guess there’s three broad explanations for the trend of higher education = less religiosity.

      1. PhD’s are less religious because PhD. advisors and Ph.D. programs directly confront believers on their religious misconceptions. I have no evidence that most advisors or programs actually do this. In fact my anectdotal experience has been that this is a subject advisors rarely ever touch on with their grad students, unless the student is going to push it.

      2. Self-selection: all else being equal, highly religious people tend not to pursue PhD’s as much as the non-religious. Probably true in part. Probably doesn’t explain all of the difference.

      3. Self-reflection: many PhD. students take the critical thinking skills they were formally taught to apply to other problems, and independently and on their own initiative apply those skills to their own beliefs…and come away changed.

      Now, I guess I have to disagree with you Prof. Moran, because if you’re saying #3 never works and #1 is our only option (#2 not really being a strategy we can pursue, it just kind of happens), I would say that I think #3 is actually the bulk of what happens and I’ve never actually seen #1 be responsible for any academia-related deconversion, ever.

  9. Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink
    • Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      whut? tried to add a kitty cat with keyboard strokes, instead of “sub” for subscribe ( )and wp deleted it!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        WP hates you.

        It hates me.

        It hates *everybody*.

        It’s a malevolent equal-opportunity first-amendment-respecting assassin.

        😦

        cr

        (and sub)

  10. Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I respectfully disagree with both you and Krauss. Creationism, which has far more versions than the one Krauss cites, is well-known to be in conflict with evolution. The very fact that Krauss has to spend time refuting it bears witness to this. This is in contrast to the flat-earth or other “theories” that no one subscribes to and no one wastes any time refuting.

    Creationism need not be “taught,” but prohibiting any mention of it creates the impression that it carries more weight than it does, that it is heretical rather than merely false, and that scientists are for some reason afraid of bringing it up at all. If it can be refuted as readily as Krauss claims, then doing so should not consume much class time, but would serve the purpose of acknowledging awareness of it and providing students with the tools for refuting it when they encounter it outside of class.

    Similarly, I’d contend that Holocaust denialism is an important, albeit despicable, historical phenomenon. Including and readily refuting it in a modern history class is far better than hoping it will go away by pretending that it doesn’t exist. I think the same is true of creationism.

    • Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      As I addressed in my reply to Dr. Moran, in the States, religion is explicitly a no-man’s-land as far as public education goes. Even religious studies classes are carefully restricted to documenting religious beliefs and practices without consideration of their merits.

      If I remember right, Larry is from the strange and enchanting land of Canuckistan or one of those other far-off places where people talk funny, eh, and eat weird food, such as donuts or cheese-covered Freedom fries. Maybe you are, too…

      …but, here, in the land of Resident Drumpfenfurher, the First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing or criticizing religious beliefs.

      At least, it does on paper…and maybe not for much longer, if Señor Smallinpants and his puppetmasters have their way….

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted February 10, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m not from Canuckistan, but I am from Portlandia, which has its own well-advertised weirdness. I admit I hadn’t read your reply to Dr. Moran before posting my comment and would have addressed it if I had. You’re clearly both well-informed and articulate, but I think you’re overstating the implications of court rulings about First Amendment in this context. I cite from Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987, which ruled that a Louisiana statute requiring creationism to be taught alongside evolution was unconstitutional.

        “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone that its decision forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. 449 U.S., at 42, 101 S.Ct., at 194. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”

        As I read this it seems to be saying that treating creationism as a “scientific theory” allows for refuting it as such without making any judgment about it as a religious tenet (assuming, of course, that the teacher can refrain from referring to it as a “faery tale”), and therefore without violating the First Amendment.

        • veroxitatis
          Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          Probably the words of the Judge in that case were obiter. Regardless, they make no sense. Creationism cannot be taught as a “scientific theory” for the simple reAson that as a theory it is not falsifiable and indeed has no hypotheses which cam be subjected to scientific methodology.

          • Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            Cretinism and its red-headed stepchild, Idiot Design, have both been found by courts to be religious doctrines. Maybe that needle could be threaded…but a public school biology teacher who launched an assault on either would be sure to get instant blowback from Christians claiming it an assault on their religion, and I just don’t see the tactical nor strategic advantage in such.

            Besides, school science education is limited and stretched enough as it is. Why waste time debunking every idiot idea out there?

            Do astronomers need to spend time explaining why there aren’t four pillars holding up the metallic dome of the sky, as is the case with Biblical cosmology? Do animal husbandry classes need to waste time breeding livestock in front of poles to see if they make striped offspring? How hard should a geologist try to convince students that the Grand Canyon can’t be carved with a mere 40 days of heavy rainfall? Should he also debunk the idea that Paul Bunyan actually carved it when he carelessly trailed his axe behind him?

            If an astronomy student can pass a test on the historical development and modern measurement of the Hubble Constant, something that absolutely deserves pride of place in any general astronomy course, and yet hold to Biblical cosmology for whatever reason, then absolutely nothing you can even remotely reasonably do in a classroom or other civil setting is going to get through to that student.

            Fortunately, damned few people are that willfully idiotic, such that we as a society don’t need to waste our time worrying about them.

            Rather, our problem stems from the fact that, within rounding, nobody in the general American public today can tell you how we know the distance to the stars and galaxies — so is it any wonder that they’ll believe any damned fool thing their shamans might tell them?

            Cheers,

            b&

            • veroxitatis
              Posted February 10, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

              Great post.

            • Posted February 11, 2017 at 12:56 am | Permalink

              “Why waste time debunking every idiot idea out there?”

              I believe I made this very point when I referred to “the flat-earth or other ‘theories’ that no one subscribes to and no one wastes any time refuting.” When it comes to creationism, however, roughly 42 percent of Americans are “idiots” or, if you prefer, “deplorables.” This is hardly “damned few people,” and we recently had a hard lesson in what can happen when we don’t “waste our time worrying about them.”

            • nicky
              Posted February 11, 2017 at 2:04 am | Permalink

              “Do astronomers need to spend time explaining why there aren’t four pillars holding up the metallic dome of the sky, as is the case with Biblical cosmology? Do animal husbandry classes need to waste time breeding livestock in front of poles to see if they make striped offspring?”
              Yes, they should, and also learn why. It would enhance critical thinking, develop their ‘baloney detectors’, which is highly beneficial. At least as important as to learn how to, say, solve an integral calculus, do a Fourier analysis or read a financial statement.

              • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

                In my view, things are tricky because one doesn’t want to “bash religion” but one also wants to know where one’s “students are coming from” to know their misconceptions, prior beliefs, etc. to target effectively.

    • Kevin
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Even admitting that people believe creation myths is not relevant, not in school.

      Until religious people lose their faith they will not necessarily lose their justification to believe in nonsense.

      So long as heaven is a piece of their reality, no amount of science education directed at refuting their dogma will have any effect.

      Best advice to teachers: be a good role model, be a good person, and teach critical thinking skills.

    • eric
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      prohibiting any mention of it creates the impression that it carries more weight than it does

      We don’t prohibit it. The US public school system allows for its study in bible-as-lit classes. Or comparative religion classes. Or even electives built around ‘creationism in history’ if you really wanted to build such a thing.

      But we don’t cover the origins of the civil war in chemistry class because it’s not chemistry. We don’t cover how to solve differential equations in history class because it’s not history. And we don’t cover Christian origin stories in biology because it’s not biology.

      I also don’t think it’s good pedagogy to spend a lot of class time on creationism as an ‘anti’ example or talking about why it’s wrong. That is simply not needed to teach good science (IMO). My HS chem teacher probably gave that sort of ‘anti’ example, once during the whole year, for the plum pudding model of the atom, and he spent maybe 1-5 minutes on it. No more. The point being, you don’t need to teach much about the historically wrong ideas about chemistry to teach good chemistry, and likewise you don’t need to teach much about the historically wrong ideas about biology to teach good biology.

      • nicky
        Posted February 11, 2017 at 2:09 am | Permalink

        Phlogiston, teach them about phlogiston!

  11. Posted February 10, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Sadly, the Holocaust Deniers are just waiting until the last survivor has died off. And then they will redouble their claim that it didn’t happen.

  12. dabertini
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Evolution has a long way to go before being accepted as a fact. Religion is taught early in life and is constantly pounded into the young. When do we learn about evolution? Not until grade 11 here in Ontario, Canada. And then, as clearly made aware to us on this site, human evolution is not mentioned in the curriculum. What a travesty!! How can children know about dinosaurs but be ignorant of evolution?!! It is not taught poorly. It is just not being taught.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      My formal school education took place from 1951 – 1964. I do not recollect any information about evolution being imparted to me during that period. Subjects were compartmentalised. Performance at the 11+ (UK) dictated whether the student would study physics / chemistry or botany / zoology in secondary years 1 – 4. After that the sciences could be accorded a greater degree of specialism or could be dropped or to an extent combined (eg. chem / botany) I started with physics / chem. and dropped physics after year 4. Possibly those who studied biology had a course on evolution. I cannot remember anyone referring to it however.But certainly by age 16 or so I was reading about evolution privately and so also were some school friends.
      Of course there was some religious instruction (one class per week for years 1 – 4) but it consisted usually of quiet reading of the Bible or commentaries or moral instruction. There was also Morning Assembly (approx. 5 mins. A homily from the rector and desultory singing of half of a hymn! )I cannot recollect any discussion about evolution or creationism during these periods.

      Things were very different in the UK even that far back.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Well my education was similar (except it started in UK and finished in NZ). I got sent to Sunday School (which I didn’t like and eventually concluded I didn’t believe) but somehow – by a sort of osmosis – picked up the idea that evolution was a fact the same way gravity and the heliocentric solar system was.

        In fact the first time I came across the title of our host’s book WEIT it sounded a bit weak and unnecessarily defensive to me – ‘why evolution is true’? – gosh, who ever suggested it wasn’t? I guess at that time the fact that anyone might actually, literally, *believe* in the bible seemed quite strange to me. (In all my working life in NZ I only ever came across one person who was an ‘out’ Christian, and it still baffles me how an engineer – who should have a scientific bent – could be one. NZ has plenty of churches but I think most people who attend them do so for, um, cultural reasons. They don’t really believe God is personally watching them than they do in Santa).

        It just never occurred to me that a lot of people in any developed Western country would still believe in that old mediaeval mumbo-jumbo.

        cr

      • nicky
        Posted February 11, 2017 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        Come to think of it, my old beloved biology teacher, long dead now, actually did not teach about evolution either (nor ID, for all clarity). But she encouraged us to read Christian De Duve (I suspect now she knew him personally). Our courses were more into dissecting flowers and rabbits, the discovery of DNA and the anatomy of the eukaryotic cell. (The latter only came to make real sense with Nick Lane’s “Power,Sex and Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life”).

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted February 11, 2017 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        My education dates are similar, and my experience in Scotland was almost exactly the same as yours (and cr’s in NZ). Without any formal teaching, I grew up knowing broadly about evolution. Probably much of it was learned from some superb BBC documentaries. The biblical creation myth was always just that to me, and no-one pushed it at Sunday school. I’ve recently learned a huge amount about evolution from WEIT the book, and from this site. It’s sometimes difficult for those of us from more enlightened countries to appreciate the problems USians have with the Christian church.

  13. Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  14. Posted February 10, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I think if a young person is interested in science, (s)he will accept the evidence that it provides. But there are quite a number of young people who are just studying science to fulfill a requirement. They don’t care specifically what the truth is, they just want that “A” and let’s move on, thank you very much. If the Creationist explanation is simpler, requires less study and agrees with their preconceived (religious) world view, all the better from their perspective. Imagine if they could sit in a bio class and the teacher says: “Creation: god did it, test on Monday” as opposed to all the intricacies of natural selection…If you’re a person who really doesn’t give a rat’s about science, you might opt for the easier, more emotionally satisfying answer.
    These are the people we have to reach.

    • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      A lot of people wind up in biology classes because they want to be physicians, after all. Just like a lot of people take physics because they want to be engineers.

      Unfortunately, this “service course” model, where there’s little time for the method of science per se I think does sometimes yield Dunning-Kruger (and its special case: the referent of the Salem Hypothesis).

  15. ploubere
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I think the refutation of the both sides argument is simple: One doesn’t look at both sides of an argument, one looks at the evidence, and only considers explanations supported by the evidence.

    But then, this isn’t about logic, is it.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      How is one supposed to know whether an explanation is supported by evidence without considering it?

      I think what you mean is that one considers and rejects explanations that aren’t supported by the evidence.

      • tomh
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        “I think what you mean is that one considers and rejects explanations that aren’t supported by the evidence.”

        And how does one decide which explanations that aren’t supported by the evidence should be considered? There are innumerable explanations not supported by evidence. Just Christian Creationism would hardly suffice.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          If by “consider” you mean “cover in the classroom”, then sure; one must focus on the accepted explanations.

          In the broader sense, though, we can’t rule out an explanation without having given it at least cursory consideration. So to say that we consider only those explanations that pass evidential muster is putting the cart before the horse.

          • Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            “So to say that we consider only those explanations that pass evidential muster is putting the cart before the horse.”

            Or in this context it may be putting Descartes before the Force.

          • tomh
            Posted February 10, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            “So to say that we consider only those explanations that pass evidential muster is putting the cart before the horse.”

            Seriously? How in the world would you decide which speculations (explanations without evidence) you would present in high school biology class? It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted February 10, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

              Perhaps I’m not being clear. By “in the broader sense” I mean science in general, beyond the classroom.

      • eric
        Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        It would be nice if we had the time to have biology students consider every possible explanation and consider whether the evidence supports each one. Alas, we don’t live for 1,000 years and even if we did, we wouldn’t want people in High School biology classes for most of that time. Some bad ideas just don’t get introduced, considered, or discussed. There isn’t the pedagogical time to even teach all the stuff we accept as correct! So cutting out some of that good stuff to consider theories that were shown to be wrong hundreds of years ago is not, IMO, a good idea.

        Leave it on the cutting room floor. Let the bible-as-lit classes introduce it if they want.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted February 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          See my reply to tomh above.

        • nicky
          Posted February 11, 2017 at 3:59 am | Permalink

          I respectfully disagree. To discover why some kinds of explanations turn out to be incorrect is a great bonus for future dilemma’s. Trains the ‘baloney detector’ (just my modest opinion).

        • Posted February 11, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          The most important goal of education is to teach critical thinking. It’s far more important than just teaching facts.

          You should never pass up the opportunity to teach students how to think and reason. You should never, ever, sacrifice that opportunity just to teach more facts.

          The most golden of opportunities arises when students have misconceptions about a certain subject. Correcting those misconceptions by directly confronting them is the best way to get them questioning their own beliefs. That’s the first step on the road to critical thinking.

          “Teach the controversy” should be the goal of ever course. It should be the creationists (and religion) who fear that goal and scientists who embrace it.

          In America, believers should be constantly thanking the Founding Fathers for writing a Constitution that keeps religion out of schools and protects it from critical evaluation.

          • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            One might note that the “Texas Taliban” banned critical thinking classes!

  16. Tom
    Posted February 10, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t now the right time for those christian teachers and pastors who are not creationists to speak up in defence of reason?
    We hear a lot from only one very vocal section of the christian educational community but little from the rest.
    Creationists may think that they are the shock troops of christianity but are more likely to be its gravediggers.

  17. Jay
    Posted February 11, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The idea that such a notion is being pushed in your schools is mind boggling! Scientific ignorance is a worldwide disease that is destroying progression in every world aspect.
    How can we do more to lift the veil?


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