Dealing with creationism

by Chris Bertram on September 12, 2008

There’s much anger circulating around the blogosphere about “the comments of Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2008/sep/11/michael.reiss.creationism about how to deal with creationism and ID in school science classes. In fact, the whole thing could stand as an example of how on some issues (of which this is one) people only want to hear an unequivocal assertion of a party line and get unreasonably annoyed (and purport not to understand what they understand perfectly well) when someone says something nuanced or pragmatic.

Here’s the question Reiss asked:

bq. What should science teachers do when faced with students who are creationists?

To which he gave the answer that simply ignoring them is wrong and counterproductive. Rather, in his view, it is better pedagogical practice to engage with their doubts about evolution. He also adds that teachers have a duty to explain the scientific position but that they should not expect the doing so will displace creationist beliefs in students. His thought there is that explaining that evolutionary theory provides the best _scientific_ explanation is not necessarily going to cut ice with people who don’t accept the scientific way of looking at the world.

All reasonable enough, or so it seems to me. But then you get headlines like “Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4734767.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1 Of course, strictly speaking that’s true, since he advocated that teachers be open to the discussion of creationism with their students. But it gives the impression that he wanted creationism (and its ID variant) to be given house-room in the curriculum as “valid” alternative explanations of life. And that he didn’t say.

Incidentally, the Times also devoted “a leader to the controversy”:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article4735469.ece , comparing _inter alia_ Reiss to Sarah Palin:

bq. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, while not a creationist, has courted the support of those who want to teach biblical creationism alongside evolution in science classes by saying that schools should “let kids debate both sides”. Both Governor Palin’s populism and Professor Reiss’s well-meaning intervention are based on the same mistake – that it is acceptable to teach faith as if it were science.

Since Reiss’s clearly expressed view is that creationism is no part of the scientific world view, that is a gross distortion by their leader-writer who is clearly neither a careful nor a charitable reader.

Exit and Disloyalty

by Henry on September 12, 2008

Part of Alex Tabarrok’s “argument”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/09/why-libertarian.html for why libertarians should vote for Barack Obama:

The libertarian voice has not been listened to in Republican politics for a long time. The Republicans take the libertarian wing of the party for granted and with phony rhetoric and empty phrases have bought our support on the cheap. Thus – since voice has failed – it is time for exit. Remember that if a political party can count on you then you cannot count on it.

[click to continue…]

Just sayin’

by Eszter Hargittai on September 12, 2008

I’m reposting this “Fiscal Conservative” cartoon with permission from Steve Greenberg, Ventura County Star, California:

Fiscal conservatives

Bob Herbert’s recent column summed up a lot of my sentiments:

Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?

Or are some of us overreacting?