January 29, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinists Alarmed at Teachers’ Caution Over Evolution

“Creationism” refuses to die in American high schools.  Two researchers at the University of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm in Science,1 with suggestions for what to do about it.  The only suggestion off the table was to have debates about the evidence; no, that was completely out of the question: the report was focused on “Defeating Creationism.”
    Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, professors of political science at U Penn, surveyed a “national representative probability sample” of 926 high school biology teachers about their teaching of evolution.  Only about 28% of the respondents consistently teach evolution “unabashedly”.  The rest are either bashful or unabashedly “creationist” when teaching the subject of origins, the survey found.2  13% of the teachers “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least 1 hour of class time presenting it in a positive light (an additional 5% of teachers report that they endorse creationism in passing or when answering student questions).”  This sounds like a very small amount of time to worry about in a semester-long course, but Berkman and Plutzer’s alarm was palpable: “The boldness and confidence of this minority should not be underestimated.
    Of greater concern, however, “the cautious 60%” who sit on the fence to avoid controversy.  Some of them avoid the topic, or just teach to the test, or teach various views to let the students make up their own minds.  Few of the fence-sitters are advocates of young-earth creationism, which Berkman and Plutzer said “would prevent them from becoming strong advocates for evolutionary biology.”  The authors worry that many students, who will take biology as their only science course, will fail to hear from these cautious teachers the “evidence that evolution has occurred,” and that instruction in evolution will be “absent, cursory, or fraught with misinformation” in American high schools.  They worry about a “cycle of ignorance” in many communities, especially the “socially conservative” communities, where more of the “creationist” and “cautious” teachers tend to reside.  The cycle must be broken to prevent a “systematic undermining of science.
    As a result, they advocated three things: (1) Academic scientists need to get more involved in testifying at court cases.  While “Creationism has lost every major U.S. federal court case for the past 40 years, and state curricular standards have improved,” they claimed, “supporters of evolution, scientific methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America’s classrooms” unless scientists get involved.  The Dover decision, though representative of academia’s feelings that “intelligent design Intelligent design was not science … but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.”  Many evolutionists cheered that decision; “We suggest that the cheering was premature and the victory incomplete,” they said.  More Dover decisions are needed: “federal courts have been shown to limit effectively the ability of state and local governments to endorse nonscientific alternatives to evolution.
    Second, they encouraged academic scientists to get more involved in constructing state science standards, although “further improvements in state standards may be difficult,” they asserted, “because public opinion has been remarkably immune to outreach and public science efforts over the past three decades.”  Third, they felt one of the most promising solutions was to get pre-service teachers to take an evolution course.  Not many teaching colleges provide instruction in evolution, they claimed.  Their survey found stronger support for evolution among teachers who had taken a course in it.  As a two-pronged approach, they encouraged courses in evolution for pre-service biology teachers, and outreach efforts like “webinars, guest speakers, and refresher courses” for both the upcoming teacher class and their instructors.  “Better understanding of the field should provide them with more confidence to teach evolution forthrightly, even in communities where public opinion is sympathetic to creationism.”  As a side benefit, this approach may also have the indirect effect of encouraging students who cannot accept evolution as a matter of faith to pursue other careers.”  In a nutshell,

Effective programs directed at preservice teachers can therefore both reduce the number of evolution deniers in the nation’s classrooms, increase the number who would gladly accept help in teaching evolution, and increase the number of cautious teachers who are nevertheless willing to embrace rigorous standards.  This would reduce the supply of teachers who are especially attractive to the most conservative school districts, weakening the cycle of ignorance.

PhysOrg and Science Daily, the stereo speakers of academic press releases, both summarized U Penn press release without any critique.  They saluted the party line: “Colleges and universities should mandate a dedicated undergraduate course in evolution for all prospective biology teachers, for example, and follow up with outreach refresher courses, so that more biology teachers embrace evolutionary biology.”  Jennifer Welsh at Live Science also echoed the authors’ concerns, but added the opinions of Randy Moore [U of Minnesota], who doubts that simply providing refresher courses in evolution would change things.  “If someone wants to learn about evolution, it’s not hard to.  It’s hardly a science education problem,” Moore countered.  “Scientists think if teachers just take a class they will accept it, but many simply reject it.

1.  Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer, “Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom,” Science, 28 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6016 pp. 404-405, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198902.
2.  Note: the survey article conflates creationism with intelligent design with the conglomerate term “intelligent design creationism”; see IntelligentDesign.org for comparison and contrast of the two views.

Pardon, boys, your elitism is showing….
    This paper reads like directive from a 1930s Supreme Soviet Minister of Education to the KGB, giving them orders for ensuring the populace are getting properly indoctrinated and are being shielded from counterrevolutionary propaganda.  To understand why, read the 01/26/2011 entry again.  Everyone knows that communist ideology in Stalin’s Russia was a house of cards, a self-perpetuating code of self-reinforcing dogmas that nobody believed.  The rulers and teachers interpreted everything in terms of the class struggle, social Darwinism, bourgeoisie and proletariat, the inevitable worldwide communist utopia, etc. whether it matched reality or not.  The official doctrines claimed to be based on science and reason (as opposed to superstition and ignorance), but by the time of the Great Terror, only the ignorant believed the Party line any more, and those profiting from the regime spoke the ideological lingo like code to maintain their power.  It would be a fun project (and not that hard to do) for a trained Baloney Detector to cast the Berkman and Plutzer article in 1930s communist jargon.  Comrade Dogmakov to Igor Rigorovich: “Your orders are to seek out and destroy the remaining nests of counterrevolutionary insurgencies, do you understand?”
    Let them worry.  They are an imploding regime of self-contradiction.  They have denounced superstition by creating another – Evolution by Mistake (aka Stuff Happens) – and they don’t want any competition against their idols, Tinker Bell and the Bearded Buddha.  Like communists, they originally moaned sheepishly in the Victorian age about the need to allow alternatives to the design argument of Paley.  Like communists, they worked surreptitiously via the X-Club, grabbing control of journals and publishers, arranging the burial of the Bearded Buddha in Westminster Abbey for its propaganda value, creating an appearance of progress and a new day of enlightenment, infiltrating the schools and churches.  And like the communists, once they had power, they turned it into a dictatorship.  They seized control of the scientific institutions, the media, the courts, the law.  Here in America, a constitutional republic, they gnash their teeth at government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as exemplified by community school boards who hold hearings with citizens rather than carry out the orders of the Darwin Party elites.  Does anyone really believe that Berkman and Plutzer wouldn’t crave the opportunity to outlaw creationism and lock up any “Darwin deniers” in jail if they could?  This article was nothing about evidence, debate, and seeking the truth.  It was all about strategizing to “defeat” their ideological enemies.  Do the DODO dogma! (Darwin only, Darwin only) is their battle cry.
    A vast majority of Americans feel it only fair that if the evidence for evolution is taught, the evidence opposing it should also be taught.  “But does a 15-year-old student really have enough information to reject thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers?” Berkman and Plutzer cried (see exaggeration, glittering generalities and big lie in the Baloney Detector; those “thousands of papers” are about microevolution; they never establish that bacteria become philosophers by an unguided, purposeless process).  They say, we can’t teach the controversy to weak skulls full of mush.  “This approach tells students that well-established concepts like common ancestry can be debated in the same way we debate personal opinions.”  My goodness; of course not.  Everybody knows that Stuff Happens.  It’s intuitively obvious.  It’s not personal opinion; random mutation (stuff happens) and natural selection (stuff happens) is science.  You can’t have debates about science, and confuse impressionable teenagers with convincing design arguments.  It might inspire them to invent things or look at biology with the eyes of design engineers (12/10/2010).  Hydrogen forbid.
    The Darwin Party thrives on power, and maintains its power through indoctrination.  They have already lost, for by acting that way, they have denied their founder’s principles.  He said of his own theory, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question” (Introduction, Origin of Species).  Darwin believed in teaching the controversy.  By acting in opposition to official Party policy, his disciples are guilty of counterrevolutionary propaganda.  We hereby put Berkman and Plutzer under citizen’s arrest (09/30/2007 commentary) and sentence them to the goo-logos (01/16/2011).

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