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The Atlanta Science Tavern Message Board The Atlanta Science Tavern Discussion Forum › Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Scien

Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Science Curriculum

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Larry P.
user 4021477
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 2
Just to reinforce what seems to be the majority opinion here: a person is NOT being close-minded if they insist that what is taught in science classes should be limited to those ideas for which there is evidence. Evolution and creationism are not co-equal beliefs, because one is supported by facts, and the other is not. It should not even be necessary for teachers to worry about such things because, as Christopher Hitchens said, “What is argued without evidence should be rejected without evidence.”

Students may even learn something from the schools’ refusal to accept fuzzy thinking. When they are adults, they may not come to believe in homeopathy, quack cancer cures, and other dangerous things.

Finally, I commend Marc for being willing to schedule a meeting about this important, but potentially touchy subject.
Roswell, GA
Post #: 50
Yes, Marc does indeed deserve praise for this and for his own, astute, commentary.
Carlos M.
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 1
As a geneticist and cancer biologist, I totally agree with Marc's post. I would go beyond it, since as a practicing scientist, I have literally seen evolution working in the lab. Our understanding of evolution explains the phenomenon of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, and why we need a new flu vaccine every year. We use our understanding of evolution to select for favorable traits when we breed animals and crops, and this was part of the basis that inspired Darwin's genius. Evolution explains biology, and without it, biology is just a collection of observations, not a true understanding of what is happening. But now, our molecular understanding of genomes is so detailed, and our ability to sequence them so incredible, that it allows us to pull back the curtain of time, and see how species are related. From this comes the tree of life, and the profound insight that all of life on this Earth is related.
The evidence for evolution is so overwhelming, that to not teach it, and in effect to attempt to undermine it with flawed logic, is not only wrong, but is a lie.
A former member
Post #: 24
All of that is interesting (kind of), Deb, but what does it have to do with taking scientific instruction out of valuable classtime and substituting creationism for it?

Are children not exposed to the, um, fanciful beliefs of religion at the churchs and other places of worship that they attend? Are they not, in fact, inculcated with these elaborate beliefs by their parents? Can they not expose themselves to these 'elegant' beliefs simply by turning on the tee vee?

And, if not, whose fault is that?

Why should the state make room for an idea that is promoted by the more close-minded members of a particular religion?
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 5
Pardon my overly verbose replies. I sometimes hit reply when I'm just thinking out loud silly me. I am not for teaching creationism in schools as truth or even a possible truth. But should schools act like religions don't exist? Not explain why they exist? Pretend humans are not capable of self deception? Science includes psychology too. Cult like following of a political leader is a form of religious fanaticism. Many of the most adamant anti religious zealots are just religious fanatics under a political label. Scary, crazy, happens all the time though.

Believing your ideas are infallible and should not be questioned is proof you are stuck. Science would never progress if it didn't question so called proven facts. Children should not be preached to, even the gospel of science.

Why don't more kids go into science in this country? Creation theory is not taught in public schools now is it? My son went to a non religious private school, having amazing, intelligent discussions, no topic off limits, including religion. He also went to a public school, where his physics teacher asked him, "Quark? What is quark?" Worried kids might learn creationism in public schools? That's the least of public schools problems, a red herring to hide the real issue, poor public school science education. Which is how this discussion started....
A former member
Post #: 2
I had anticipated an enthusiastic debate regarding one of my favorite topics and enigmas. It was my hope that this group would provide thoughtful, lively, respectful discussion and would want students to contemplate such issues in the same manner. I believe that students should be prepared to think openly and freely when confronted by these questions and benefit from the knowledge of positions taken by the "right", the "left" and the "middle".

Alas, it appears that I have disqualified my right to be taken seriously when I neglected to revise my Meetup "handle" (Midtown Conservative) from a past Meetup group formed to address Property Taxes vs City of Atlanta Dysfunction.

Having never read the Bible (nor the Koran), nor having been raised in a home of faith...I am not qualified to address burning bushes, talking snakes nor virgin pregnancies...Aliens, Fairies and Monsters are also above my pay grade....but perhaps having worked as a principal research scientist for over 30 years at Georgia Tech in Medicinal Chemistry probably at least gives me an excuse for mulling over such mysteries which still persist.

I am going to make another attempt to explain my position and thoughts.

The issue has never been evolution versus creationism. The issue has never been that evolution is not a well-established scientific principle which should be taught in all schools, including private religious schools. The issue is what is absolutely true about evolution and what is conjecture waiting to be proven. Again, evolution is simply change in the genetic makeup of living things. For example, within a species, there can be a very large diversity of genetic traits. Natural selection is the pressure on this population that rewards the best adapted with the opportunely to live, breed and pass their genes to the next generation. There can be no doubt that this happens, sometimes very rapidly as in the case of some bacteria. The big HOWEVER is, where does this diversity come from? In my opinion, random events, mutations, gene swapping, etc. are all good conjectures, but have not been proven to be able to account for the results we see in life on earth. Would someone please comment on this critical point! If random events, mutations, etc. cannot account for the most critical part of evolution, are we not doing students a disservice by not commenting on this all important point!

Creationism is usually considered a religious term, but at least formally, it is related to the origin of life and not evolution. So far not one person has commented on the origin of life issue. What should schools teach about the origin of life? On this most fundamental of all issues, “where did we come from”, should we only discuss the scientific theories? As far as I know, all known human societies have had this question on their mind and have advanced their explanations. Should none of this be mentioned? On the science side, the important knowledge that has been gained should be studied in all schools, but the most important part is usually not studied and never emphasized. What is the most important part? It is what we do not know, what we cannot explain, and how incredibly far we are from a scientific (natural) explanation of the origin of life! Is creation a natural or supernatural event? These are awe inspiring things to discuss with students as this may someday shake the very foundations of science or prove the unbelievable power of science and of the human mind to explain. In fact we do not know which way it will go – right now a scientific explanation of life is a matter of faith, not certainty.
A former member
Post #: 14
Midtown, you appear to be out of the loop with regard to a plethora of new scientific and genetic evidence for speciation. Please review the site: http://www.talkorigin...­ to get up to date.

I'm at a loss for why you don't think that allelic frequency change is not enough to explain the diversity you see given an old Earth scenario. The evidence is overwhelming. There are many more expects of evolution that you haven't mentioned that promote evolution. There are at least 30 different mechanisms. This is how I know that you have not been keeping up with the literature.

I do agree that if there are gaps in our knowledge, we should share those, but the alleged difficulties you have mentioned, simply do not exist.

Lastly, as far as non-scientific explanations for man's origins, there is nothing wrong with that being discussed in a comparative cultures, social studies or history class. However, it's not science and is thus, not a competing theory to be mentioned in a science classroom.
Roswell, GA
Post #: 51
I think "creationism" is a religious expression, as is "supernatural" in this context. As Reggie says, there is absolutely no reason why educators should not discuss these terms with those they are supposed to be educating, but why would you do that in a science class? It's a bit like discussing political opinions in an economics class....could be very interesting if covered in an equitable fashion, would absorb a lot of time and energy, but would not achieve the desired goal of that class. Moreover economics teachers are not necessarily the best teachers of political philosophy. Just as science teachers are not necessarily the best teachers of comparative religion and certainly not the best teachers of supernatural studies!
A former member
Post #: 25're a racist?
Alan V.
user 10689691
Marietta, GA
Post #: 2
Well, exactly. Further, the statement that no evidence to the contrary has come up is inaccurate. Fossils of species thought to have been sequential links in human evolution have been discovered to be contemporaries. (see­. Amusingly, the revision proposed is simply (in the article) that there are "offshoots" to the evolutionalry tree. I wonder, if the scientific community were open to such heresy, if more evidence and consequent theories might be brought to light...

This discussion and meeting would be much better framed as "Is There an Assault on Public Education and Science", and let people give their opinion; if there is an assault where does it come from? I think that there is clearly an assault and it comes equally from the right and left.

To Mark Merlin, I think your statement "Be that as it may, science stands apart in many respects from those other fields of study, at least at the level of the K-12 curriculum, and that is that there are not two sides to teach about subjects like the theory of evolution by natural selection. The science was long-ago decided and the consensus is not only strong, but the body of supporting evidence and detailed theory grows stronger with each passing day.", is totally off target. OF COURSE there are two sides! Evolution is simply change and natural selection is the driving force, but where does the diversity and variability come from? Given enough diversity, change will always happen when there is ANY driving force. Given that diversity is the real issue, I have never heard any scientist explain this diversity except by random events and random mutations. Sounds good, right - given enough time random events will produce anything you want to explain. But is it true? Or more importantly has it been proven to be true? The real answer is that that it has not been proven. Maybe this should be repeated - the mechanism of random mutations has not been proven to be able to produce the incredible variety of living systems.

To take this a step further, what about the origin of life? The theory of evolution by natural selection has no bearing on this issue at all! Life started from a point of zero complexity so evolution was impossible. If you look at the field of the origin of life by natural events, you will find that every major (and minor) scientist (and nonscientist) who has studied this has concluded that there is no adequate explanation. In fact there is not even a plausible conjecture as to the origin of life by natural events. The production of a few simple organic molecules, either in space or on earth explains almost nothing about this process. Let make it real simple - the origin of life by natural cause HAS NOT BEEN EXPLAINED AT ALL!

The “Right” might want to make this a religious issue, but the “Left” does not want to discuss it AT ALL! (e.g., “there are not two sides to teach”).

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