In the US, today is Memorial Day, described by Wikipedia as a day “for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.”
As is often the case on holidays, there is an acute shortage of news about The Controversy between evolution and creationism. However, we found one item that might stimulate some discussion. It’s a long article from PhysOrg: ‘Teaching the controversy’ is the best way to defend science, as long as teachers understand the science. We’ll give you only a few excerpts:
Where science appears to conflict with various non-scientific positions, the public has pushed back and rejected the scientific. This is perhaps best represented by the recent spate of “teach the controversy” legislative efforts, primarily centered on evolutionary theory and the reality of anthropogenic climate change … .
So how can education adapt to help students and the general public develop a more realistic understanding of how science works? To my mind, teaching the controversy is a particularly attractive strategy, on the assumption that teachers have a strong grounding in the discipline they are teaching, something that many science degree programs do not achieve, as discussed below. For example, a common attack against evolutionary mechanisms relies on a failure to grasp the power of variation, arising from stochastic processes (mutation), coupled to the power of natural, social, and sexual selection.
To be in a position to “teach the controversy” effectively, it is critical that students understand how science works, specifically its progressive nature, exemplified through the process of generating and testing, and where necessary, rejecting, clearly formulated and predictive hypotheses – a process antithetical to a Creationist (religious) perspective … . At the same time, teachers need a working understanding of the disciplinary foundations of their subject, its core observations, and their implications. Unfortunately, many are called upon to teach subjects with which they may have only a passing familiarity. Moreover, even majors in a subject may emerge with a weak understanding of foundational concepts and their origins – they may be uncomfortable teaching what they have learned.
All of which is to say that we need to see science not as authoritarian, telling us who we are or what we should do, but as a tool to do what we think is best and why it might be difficult to achieve. We need to recognize how scientific observations inform but do not dictate our decisions. We need to embrace the tentative, but strict nature of the scientific enterprise which, while it cannot arrive at “Truth” can certainly identify non-sense.
Okay. We now declare this to be an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.
The comments are open, dear reader. Have at it!
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