13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

Summary: What happened to curricular standards? And why the heck are Creationists biology teachers?

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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My jaw hit the floor with a painful thud when I saw the headlines surrounding a Science article published Friday. A full 13% of surveyed US biology teachers were actively promoting Creationism, while the majority of the 900 surveyed taught evolution either ineffectively or in such a wishy-washy manner as to send students mixed messages and fail to teach a core tennet within modern biology.

Believe what you want. I don't care. That's entirely your business. But when your business is also to teach biology, then you had better not only be teaching to your state's standards but also be teaching a concept critical to our understanding of virtually every aspect of biology, human and otherwise. To know that less than one third of the biology teachers surveyed actually managed to teach the subject effectively is like hearing that only a small percentage of elementary teachers cover fraction manipulation well. Oh, wait...

There are plenty of school committee members and parents out there screaming for intelligent design to at least be taught, if not full-on Adam=Dust, Eve=Adam's rib, and Adam+Eve=Human Race, as a compromise between what we know of science and their Christian beliefs. However, by not teaching students directly and clearly about what we know of evolution and natural selection (and we know quite a little bit, thank you very much, Charles Darwin, and the generations of biologists who came after you), we rob them of a fundamental understanding of life and prevent them from learning the foundation for most biological sciences.

I'm not here to argue fundamentalist doctrines versus science. I'm here to argue for the education of our children in a manner consistent with massive bodies of knowledge and real, validated, widely accepted scientific facts and principals.

My wife would disagree adamantly with me. She's an Adam-and-Eve sort of girl and I don't hold that against her. Our minister takes a more flexible approach and I like hearing what he has to say most weekends. My mom was the first to introduce me to the idea that "maybe God guided evolution...After all, 6 days of God's time could be millions of years in ours." Yes, I still remember that conversation.

But guess what? Not one of those three people is, should be, or ever will teach biology. One of the first things we teach our students (in science and elsewhere) is the difference between fact and opinion, belief and theory, rigorous research and pseudoscience. We don't call it pseudoscience in the third grade. But the average third grader should be able to tell you a little bit about the scientific method.

And the average high schooler should be able to tell you in detail about the roles of natural selection and random mutations in various ecosystems and in the evolution of species. Here's what Science had to say about this:

Just over 5 years ago, the scientific community turned its attention to a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Eleven parents sued their Dover, Pennsylvania, school board to overturn a policy explicitly legitimizing intelligent design creationism. The case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, followed a familiar script: Local citizens wanted their religious values validated by the science curriculum; prominent academics testified to the scientific consensus on evolution; and creationists lost decisively. Intelligent design was not science, held the court, but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause...Many scientists cheered the decision...We suggest that the cheering was premature and the victory incomplete.

The teaching of evolution infringes on nobody's rights. We have overwhelming scientific evidence in its favor. Parents and religious leaders can find their own ways to reconcile or refute the evidence based on their beliefs. However, teaching Creationism in our public schools not only violates the US Constitution, but infringes on a student's right to learn objective, research-based, state-of-the-art science from state-of-the-art teachers in state-of-the-art schools.

This is 2011 and their counterparts around the world with whom they will be competing in a few short years are decidedly not learning Creationism in their biology classes.

Topic: Tech Industry

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • evolution is only a theory

    I am not sure if you are aware, Chris, that evolution is yet to be proved. Scientists cannot agree on the certainty of evolution.

    Teching about Adam and Eve - well, if it is true, why not? I certainly do not want my kid to be taught a lie, just because it sounds more reliable than the crazy truth.
    zhoro35
    • You are aware that there is TONS of evidence of evolution

      @zhoro35 while there is ZERO evidence of creationism?

      One theory is based on measurable facts, while the other is base of tall tails of superstition created by religious bureaucrats trying to control the masses with fear.
      wackoae
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @wackoae Bull shit! The Bacterial Flagellum is an organism that disproves Evolution by Darwin's own claim...

        Darwin admitted that if such a complex organism did exist his theory would be blown apart.

        Also, it isn't creationism as the moronic author referred to it, it is Intelligent Design which says there was intelligence behind the design of Creation and that it was not all an accident...

        The theory of ID never once pins itself to Adam and Eve!
        slickjim
      • @Petter Perry. Actually, Bacterial Flagellum is data that helps Evolution.

        @Petter Perry

        Just the opposite. There are have been multiple findings of Bacterial Flagellum and different components. The amazing thing is, they have been able to piece together the "evolution" and generation of Bacterial Flagellum from simple to complex.

        The amazing thing that the whakos don't get is that a trait can change its function while getting more complex. A simple Bacterial Flagellum might only act as a simple "stinger" while a more complex one might include a protein to induce rotation. Now it is a propeller.

        Cool. no?

        Bet you are too weak in your faith to learn as well. Might explain your love of Windows.
        Bruizer
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @bruizer you cannot take multiple varieties of Bacteria and claim they evolved from each other... That's not realistic and outlines another flaw in the theory... To take away pieces of the flagellum removes the function that it previously had regardless of the proteins perform a different function... Thus it is irreversibly complex (seriously, just because a chair and a car might have nuts and bolts does not make them evolutionary products even if the car has a seat).<br><br>Dawkins was asked to show evidence of just one such example of such an evolutionary product and he made the person conducting the interview shut off the recorder then later came back and skirted the issue saying, it doesn't work like that, the things around us now are our cousins and yet we supposedly evolved from Monkeys so, why do we still have Monkeys? Speaking of which, where is the missing link. <br><br>And you're a Mac fan because you like it when authoritarian types tell you what to believe. Now go think with your collective...<br><br>As for Windows, I use it because all my software works in it and did not directly port to Linux or Mac but I use Linux as well for other tests and such.
        slickjim
      • @Petter Perry. That is exactly what you do.

        <i>"take multiple varieties of Bacteria and claim they evolved from each other..."</i>

        That is exactly what you do. That is the basis of evolutionary theory. To take different species and show a related trend of change.

        <i>"To take away pieces of the flagellum removes the function that it previously had regardless of the proteins perform a different function..."</i>

        Again, that is exactly right. But taking away the original function does not change the fact that they different function can prove useful for survival. In short, the concept of "irreducible complexity" is based on the fact that no intermediate function can be useful. That has been proven to be 100% incorrect. By the vary nature of science, Behe's work has been soundly dis-proved.

        What Behe, and his worshipers like you fail to realize, is that it is perfectly acceptable to repurpose a unit, like the Flagellum, to do something else that is beneficial to survival. This was demonstrated exceptionally well in the Dover case and is one of the reasons the Judge, a highly conservative Bush appointe, ruled in favor of science and intelligence.

        So again, posting Behe and evidence that Evolution is "flawed" shows complete lack of thought or research into the debate. His conclusions have been firmly debunked as junk science in the greatest way.
        Bruizer
      • Science and evolution are inherently flawed, and can never be accurate

        @wackoae,

        There is no definitive proof of evolution, and the lack of transitional species around us and in fossils, outright disproves the theory. As for proof that God exists, if you look at the cross section of things and efforts produced by man, animals, plants and micro-organisms, you see the pattern that for things increasingly sophisticated to be established, you need increasing amounts of intelligence and capacity to muster resources in order to make them happen. Now the reasonable thing is to believe that this pattern which we see, exists everywhere and extends to all things. This would mean that there is intelligence behind the establishment of all things, and only beings consistent with the description of God, could have created our universe - because it requires beings having the requisite intelligence and resources in order to do so.

        Instead of accepting the above line of reasoning, atheists frantically promote the idea that our universe arose without the hand of intelligence, and can provide no evidence for their claim.

        Now all systems of explanations where you don't exhaustively know their underpinnings are belief systems. That would make all systems of explanations, including science and evolution belief systems as well. Also any lack of understanding of all things, or a misalignment with such understanding, virtually guarantees your understanding of things in this world to be overall wrong. Given that man's understanding of things fit the above description, it follows that science, evolution, and all other efforts by man to understand our universe, can only be deficient. Therefore science and evolution are not accurate, and can never be, and the only chance man has to know the truth about his world, is if such a being consistent with the omniscient God exists, and man is aligned with Him.

        Therefore it is a misnomer to say that science gets at the truth of our existence. Science is only capable of creating inherently flawed models of our world. The models may be useful, but they are anything but accurate. The only shot man has at knowing the truth about his existence, is if a good, omniscient God exists, and if man's understanding is aligned with His.
        P. Douglas
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @wackoae <br>There are no 'measurable facts' that can stack up against the bible.<br>The evolution theory should be banned in public schools as an anti christian ploy promoted by brain washing liberals.<br>Let's hope that the next conservative congress and president will see to it, once and for all!<br>These liberals should tout their monkey ancestors only in their basement, not in public places!
        Linux Geek
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @wackoae ...except for one unavoidable fact: information can only be subtracted from the genome. Never added.<br><br>Ever.

        This means only one thing. The entire code had to be complete from the beginning because once assembled it has to have all the information needed and can only deteriorate from there.
        I12BPhil
      • They're both just theories - no one was there

        I'm sure that the most of the threads on this post will be flammable... but. I am a Christian, and a teacher, and I fail to see why both can't be taught as separate possible ways for discussing how life came to be. In fact, if science is about looking at *all* the hypothesises out there, and then using testing and evidence to decide, then why are we doing our students a disservice by only promoting ONE of the possible methods. Yes, evolution has some 'evidence' to support it, but similar levels of 'evidence' to support Intelligent Design (I use '' to demonstrate that there are questionable elements to both sets of evidence). Surely, if we expect our children to be discerning adults (and, for example, not just buy an iPad because everyone else is) then surely we should be trusting them to make a judgment?
        richardschwarz
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @wackoae It is amazing how fast you ID folks can come out in defense; what? not confident. Also, Peter Perry -- I am not aware that "recorders" existed during Darwin's time!!!!
        gally66@...
      • You don't teach Algebra in a Sociology class...

        You don't teach Algebra in a Sociology class, why would you teach religion in a science class?

        Creationism/Intelligent Design have no place in a science classroom, they're different subjects. If you want to learn about Intelligent Design, learn it in a religious studies or some other elective course.

        Science operates on the principle of discovery and falsifiability through the scientific process. When developing a scientific theory (keep in context, this is not a "theory" as in conjecture or a guess, scientific theory has a specific meaning) it is not a measurement of right and wrong, it's a measurement of probability.

        Falsifiability is perhaps one of the most important aspects of testing a scientific theory. If the results are not what you expected, it is important that someone can demonstrate [i]why[/i] the results were not as expected.

        Evolution is supported by evidence. Measuring radioactive decay in organic and inorganic minerals tell us how old things are. Fossils demonstrate a clear path of species changing. Direct observation of controlled experiments have demonstrated the evolutionary process in effect.

        Also, it is important to understand that [i]The Origin of Species[/i] does not refer to the creation of life itself, which is what creationism/intelligent design to try to explain. The phrase "species" is in reference to specation, or the development of diversity. The origins of life on our planet is a different topic of discussion.

        Intelligent Design is impossible to test and is not falsifiable, that is why it is not a scientific theory. In the words of physicist Wolfgang Pauli, it's not even wrong.
        olePigeon
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        Yeah... I say what richardschwarz is saying.
        At the end of the day both are two differing BELIEFS.
        While each have their own sources of "evidence", it's ultimately up to us "end-users" to decide on our own what we feel the best choice is.
        As for the teachers, I agree that they need to teach what their respective states REQUIRE (not "want" or "prefer") them to. End of story.
        jmwells21
      • @richardschwarz - It isn't about belief...

        [i]"I am a Christian, and a teacher, and I fail to see why both can't be taught as separate possible ways for discussing how life came to be."[/i]

        Evolutionary Theory is derived via scientific method, so it should be taught in a science classroom. Intelligent Design is derived by conjecture and hearsay, so it should be taught in a religious studies, philosophy, or other elective.

        No one is saying you can't teach your religion in a classroom (frankly, it's up to the State), it just doesn't belong in a science class. I hope you understand the important difference.

        [i]"In fact, if science is about looking at *all* the hypothesises out there, and then using testing and evidence to decide, then why are we doing our students a disservice by only promoting ONE of the possible methods."[/i]

        Correct, however, you can not test Intelligent Design. The foundation of Intelligent Design is an untestable, unknown variable. This isn't philosophy, it's science.

        [i]"Yes, evolution has some 'evidence' to support it, but similar levels of 'evidence' to support Intelligent Design (I use '' to demonstrate that there are questionable elements to both sets of evidence)."[/i]

        I don't mean this as to offend you, but you're completely off the mark; and I mean by orders of magnitude wrong.

        It is also important to note that all major objections to evolutionary theory made by intelligent design proponents have been [i]demonstrated[/i] to be false. Intelligent Design lends zero credibility to itself and does not stand up to the rigors of scientific theory.

        Simply put, there is [i]zero[/i] evidence that supports Intelligent Design.

        [i]"Surely, if we expect our children to be discerning adults (and, for example, not just buy an iPad because everyone else is) then surely we should be trusting them to make a judgment?"[/i]

        We have grown adults that can not discern the difference between scientific theory and conjecture. Adults that take talking points they read on the internet and assume it is fact, somehow comparing them to over a hundred years of scientific scrutiny.

        Children are not adults, they are still learning. I find it despicable the adults who should know better are taking advantage of their position as board members and teachers so they can enforce their religious views and teach them as fact.
        olePigeon
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @linux geek There are no 'measurable facts' that can stack up against the bible.<br><br>Hmmm... Galileo was ex-communicated from the Church for promoting the idea of a sun-centered solar system that was contrary to the bible. Do you believe that the Earth is the center of the universe and that the Sun revolves around the earth? A heliocentric (sorry for the big scientific word, look it up if you have to) solar system was a revolutionary idea that unfortunately took centuries for the bible thumpers to accept. You may argue that we can't "prove" that the Earth revolves around the Sun because we haven't gone that far out into space to observe it, just as creationists want to argue that evolution cant be proven just because we cant see it (although we have seen it - read "Beak of the Finch"), the overwhelming evidence is there. Gregor Mendel was also criticized for his theories of genetics, yet they are now a cornerstone of genetic heredity. <br><br>Why isnt the bible used as a text for geology? For history? For astronomy? For physics? Because it was written over 2000 years ago, when the masses looked to their religious leaders for answers to those difficult questions. Why are we here? What are those blinking lights in the night sky? Why do some people have different skin color? Why do some people speak a different language? The bible was written to try to explain those things, and was based on knowledge available at the time, which wasn't much, scientifically.<br><br>Hopefully, it won't take 400 years for the creationists to come to their senses and accept evolution as a valid scientific principle. Just as a helio-centric solar systen is not a slap to the bible, neither is evolution a slap to the bible. Look to the bible for spirituality, for guidance as to how to be a good person, to learn forgiveness, not for the answers for everything else, wether it be evolution, genetics, or a heliocentric solar system.
        justjem@...
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @Bruizer that is not how it works... in the counter arguments by evolution supporters they stated that removing 15 proteins left them with something resembling Ecoli but the propeller functionality was removed thus the motor is not reversible.

        Going further, Ecoli exists today and Dawkins stated such evolutionary products do not exist at the same time...

        Basically, there are no links between species so you are left to speculate that said species evolved right? No thanks, Science has controls in place but the end result is very loose interpretation.

        Let's take eczema for example... A study showed a significant amount of Epileptics developed Eczema so the conclusion was that Eczema is a nervous system disorder... that may have some basis in fact but the data isn't there for more than a loose hypothesis. These same scenarios exist with Evolution.
        slickjim
      • WHAT created everything, hmm? ...

        @wackoae

        Even the THEORY of evolution doesn't explain who or what the ultimate creator of all of creation is.
        BlazingEagle
    • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

      @zhoro35

      "I am not sure if you are aware, Chris, that evolution is yet to be proved."

      You appear to be laboring under a number of very serious misconceptions when it comes to understanding what science is, and how it works:

      1. The word "theory" in the context of "scientific theory" does not mean "a guess" or "an idea". A scientific theory is a model of some aspect of reality. It is a model which is made up of facts, a model which is tested by comparing what the model says we should observe against what we actually *do* observe in reality.

      2. No scientific theory is ever proven true. Ever. They can't be, not even in principle. Instead, scientific theories are tested, repeatedly, and those which are tested and not shown to be false are considered to be true... *provisionally*, with the understanding that in the future some new observation or experimental outcome could show that theory to be false.

      3. Evolutionary theory is one of the best supported, most tested scientific theories we have. There is an astounding amount of evidence supporting it.

      4. Evolutionary theory has been tested and refined for over 150 years. There is no serious debate as to whether or not it is true that all life on this planet evolved from simple common ancestors. The fact that you can find some people who disbelieve this is no more significant than the fact that you can find people who believe the Apollo moon landings were faked. When it comes to the scientific community, there is no serious debate as to the validity of evolutionary theory. None. Anyone who tells you differently is telling you something that just isn't true.

      "Scientists cannot agree on the certainty of evolution."

      It's one of the most supported, most agreed upon theories in science. It's as close to "truth" as science gets or can get.

      "Teching about Adam and Eve - well, if it is true, why not?"

      It's not true. The evidence we get from genetics, fossils, and even geology contradict that Adam & Eve myth.

      You don't want us to teach false things to our children, do you?

      "I certainly do not want my kid to be taught a lie, just because it sounds more reliable than the crazy truth."

      Excellent! Then you, like me, support the teaching of modern evolutionary theory as a key subject of biology.
      MikeAlt
      • RE: 13% of US biology teachers advocate creationism: Welcome to 2011

        @MikeAlt Yep, and we are telling you it has been refuted but those pushing the Theory refuse to see it... See for yourself.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1iCjKWzeEE&feature=youtube_gdata_player
        slickjim
      • You do realize Michael Behe has been &quot;disproved&quot;

        @MikeAlt

        Even his "findings" on the complexities of single celled organisms have been disproven. What you miss is that you can take away pieces of a complex part and that part does not become useless. In fact, that more simple part can take on a different purpose. Repurposing as it were.

        What I love, is ID is simply Creationism pinned with a different name. There were even search and replace errors in the first book where Creationism was incorrectly replaced with Intelligent Design.

        ID is linked at the hip with Adam and Eve. Its primary text, Of Panda and People, has been shown to be so incredibly wrong and out of date (as in using 1930's based fossil data) as to be laughable.
        Bruizer