February 29, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution 101: Pro-Evolution Educational Website Opens

Berkeley has a new website for educators and students named Understanding Evolution.  For students, it presents topics on (1) Nature of Science, (2) Evolution 101, (3) Evidence, (4) Relevance of Evolution, (5) Misconceptions, and (6) History of Evolutionary Thought.  For teachers, there is additional material on (6) Teaching Evolution, (7) Overcoming Roadblocks, (8) Potential Pitfalls, (9) Readings and Resources.

This website is nicely designed and easy to use.  It was probably written in response to what Darwin Party defenders like Eugenie Scott lamented about the anti-evolution websites that some teachers are using (see 02/27/2004 entry).  The typical arguments and just-so stories are all here, simplified and easily digested without much thought, along with preventive medicine to anesthetize uncooperative students.  Some of the answers are really lame (see origin of life, for instance; it sidesteps the issue, tells big lies with glittering generalities and illustrates it with cartoon humor).  This website won’t teach students much about evolution, but it could provide a good practice pad for baloney detecting.
    The Darwin Party does not want students to know the best arguments for intelligent design or best evidences for creation.  They want to construct a straw man to quell the opposition, and via selective evidence, present a sanitized, non-threatening version of evolution.  The opposition wants students to thoroughly understand both sides.  Like Phillip Johnson often remarks, he wants students to learn more evolution than the schools are teaching them.  That includes the many deep and serious problems and controversies involved in all aspects of the belief system.
    The best proposal would be to allow students to compare and contrast this site with some of the best anti-evolution websites (see 02/13/2004 entry, for instance, and take your pick from creationism connection).  It may be too late, however.  A leading creationist professor (with a PhD from Harvard who studied under Stephen Jay Gould) recently remarked that, in his experience, today’s students are so clueless about history and science that teaching either view would be unlikely to produce any effect other than a glazed stare.  Young people have no knowledge of the issues involved in the Scopes Trial or any number of other subjects related to creation vs. evolution.  He said the only topic they can speak on with any interest is the latest movie.  Perhaps the dumbing down of America has made the “Understanding Evolution” website an exercise in futility for the masses.  We hope any students reading Creation-Evolution Headlines are glorious exceptions.

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Categories: Education

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