February 27, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

How Science Reports the School Controversies Over Darwinism

In the Feb. 28 issue of Science,1 Constance Holden reports on the battles over Darwinism vs. creationism in schools across the United States.  The tone is one of military alarm.  Here is the score as Science sees it (emphasis, underlining and brackets ours):

  • Georgia school officials took a big step back from opening the door to creationism last week.  They provisionally restored evolution and some other key scientific concepts to the state’s proposed curriculum standards, after dropping them from earlier drafts.  But although science educators see it as a victory, the Georgia dispute is just one of several ongoing battles over the teaching of evolution in the nation’s schools. …
        On 19 February, the Georgia Board of Education approved proposed curriculum standards consistent with support of evolution after initially proposing standards that not only left out the word “evolution” but omitted major concepts in both physical and biological sciences.  The ensuing uproar (Science, 6 February, p. 759) drove State Superintendent Kathy Cox to restore the “e” word.  Scientists continued to press for restoration of key features such as plate tectonics and the age of Earth, however, and last week the board approved a version that contains most of the omitted material.  A final vote is set for June.
    [see 01/30/2004 entry.]
  • In Ohio, where ID promoters were beaten back 2 years ago, the state Board of Education this month voted 13-4 to approve a chapter called “Critical Analysis of Evolution” in the model teaching guide for 10th grade biology.  Critics have complained that the chapter relies heavily on a popular ID text, Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution, and refers students to Web sites that promote the concept.  A final vote is scheduled for next month.
  • The issue has also raised its head in neighboring Michigan, where Grand Blanc school officials are weighing proposals that would add both creationism and Bible study to the curriculum.  A petition asking for equal time for creationism and evolution was presented to the school board by a high school student who is also the daughter of a board member.
  • In Darby, Montana, a nasty dispute has broken out over a proposal by a local minister, Curtiss Brickley, to encourage teachers to look at evidence for and against various scientific theories, evolutionary theory in particular.  “We’ve been told that fights have actually broken out on the school grounds,” says Skip Evans of NCSE, which monitors the issue.
  • Missouri Representative Wayne Cooper has introduced a bill, HB911, that would require “equal treatment” for ID and evolution, starting in 2006, and would sack teachers who refuse.
  • An Alabama bill, SB336, would protect teachers from getting into trouble for teaching creationism.  “I think there is a tremendous ill balance in the classroom,” says the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Wendell Mitchell.
  • In Minnesota … the latest state science teaching standards may be weakened if the legislature chooses to include a minority report authored by ID supporters.  The current commissioner of education, Cheri Yecke, believes the decision on whether to teach creationism should be left up to local school districts.
    [see 01/22/2004 entry.]
  • And in Texas, a citizens’ group this week alleged that antievolution members of the state board of education have been ordering textbook publishers to correct “errors”, quotes in original] identified by creationist groups.  [See Constance Holden’s account of the Texas controversy, 11/15/2003 entry; also see 11/05/2003 entry.)

The article expresses the mood of alarm felt by evolution-only advocates:

  • The flurry of fights at both local and state levels reflects the pervasiveness of resistance to evolutionary theory, says biologist Randy Moore of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  “It’s relentless.  It comes up just about everywhere.  And it’s not going away,” he says.
  • Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in El Cerrito, California, believes that the timing is not a coincidence.  “It’s an election year,” she says, meaning that there is a heightened awareness of hot-button issues among both politicians and the public. …
    There’s a lot of support out there for this view, says Scott: “The ‘Teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution’ language appeals to the spirit of ‘fairness’ in American culture.”
  • Scientists should not underestimate the threat to science from such grassroots efforts, says Moore: “In every survey that I’ve seen data for, 15% to 20% of high school biology teachers teach creationism.  University faculty have no idea what is happening in high school classrooms across the country.”

The article includes a map that shows that “Proposals to encourage teaching creationism and ‘intelligent design’ have been advanced in 37 states since 2001.”

1Constance Holden, “CREATIONISM: Georgia Backs Off a Bit, But in Other States Battles Heat Up,” Science Volume 303, Number 5662, Issue of 27 Feb 2004, p. 1268.

It’s always interesting to watch the spin the Darwin Party Defenders put on this issue.  This article is not as bad as some, but the imagery is still not subtle.  Here are the tricks of their trade:

  • Portray creationists as religious zealots.  (Name Calling.)
  • Portray them as sneaky.  (Fear Mongering.)  All ID and creation material is readily available and out in the open in the marketplace of ideas.
  • Portray them as radical fringe groups with an agenda.  (Darwin Party members, of course, are always “mainstream” and have no agenda.)
  • Always put “ism” on “creation-ism” but use “evolution” without the suffix.  (Loaded Words.)
  • Conflate “evolution” with “science”; lump in age of the earth for good measure.  (Association.)
  • Use quotes to indicate doubt: intelligent design, fairness, equal treatment, errors.  ID proponents don’t want to present scientific criticisms; they want to present “scientific” criticisms.  (Suggestion.)
  • If all else fails, lie.  (See Big Lie and Half Truth).  Example: “The current battle lines are the result of a 1987 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that creationism is religion and can’t be taught in science class.”  False.  The decision banned equal-time laws; it explicitly stated that teachers had the freedom to present any scientific approach to origins, including creation.  (See Discovery Institute’s response to Darwinist claims in Ohio that teaching ID is illegal.)  “Since then, the antievolution movement has gathered adherents under the rubric of “intelligent design” (ID) [quotes in original].  Instead of going to court, ID supporters are trying to build grassroots support.”  Is that so bad?  Is persuasion based on evidence and logic no longer worthy activity?  Are courts supposed to be the referees in the marketplace of ideas about origins?  The perception is that this is a devious group of zealots trying to lay siege to the peace-loving inhabitants of scientific utopia.  “And their success, says Moore, is premised on the perception that, ‘on its face, ID is not linked with religion.’”  (Notice the hidden assumptions that religion and science are mutually exclusive, and that evolutionism is not religious.  These assumptions would make for lively debate.)

You cannot understand these kinds of reports without being alert to the gimmicks of misdirection and obfuscation used.  To Science and other Darwin Party organs, evolutionists are the citizens fighting off the intellectual barbarians.  They should read the account of how Darwin and his Four Musketeers (see 01/06/2004 entry) waged a subversive coup of the scientific institutions between 1859 and 1870 (see 01/15/2004 entry), letting in the Starving Storytellers (see 12/22/2003 entry).  With that history, a revolutionary war is overdue.  It’s time to kick the rascals out of their cushy ivory towers and put science back on a search for the Truth.

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