Teach the Controversy
June 17, 2008
I mentioned on my other blog that I've gotten back into teaching after a 10-year hiatus, and I'm loving every minute of it. At the moment, I'm teaching a class on journal writing at the College of New Rochelle's South Bronx campus, and though I haven't taught this class before in any shape or form (which makes it a lot of prep work) I'm having a great time with it. I haven't had a group of people in a class that I've enjoyed so much since I taught honors science writing at MSU, one of my alma maters. My students absolutely rock; they're bright, motivated, funny, not afraid to talk back and challenge me. And they are so eager that they teach each other (and me) as much as I teach them. I'm high after every class, just from their energy.
But I digress. In the years since I've been away, especially from teaching science writing, the Creationists have started using a new tactic to get their bogus "science" taught in place of evolution which they call "Teach the Controversy." This is so wrong on so many levels, the main one being that there is no controversy. Evolutionary biology, while termed a theory (which is what scientists, in their caution, call a fully developed and tested set of ideas; and what else would you call that?), as an overarching paradigm is fact. Details are still being worked out, and disagreements about those details break out, but that doesn't mean there's any question about the theory's validity or truth. That's how science works; it's based on argument. There is something like a marketplace of ideas: the more testable facts, the better the argument, the more firmly it becomes an accepted part of the body of scientific knowledge. Intelligent Design, which is the latest thinly disguised Christian evangelical conversion tool, does not hold water, not even in the courts.
I'm not entirely opposed to the idea that there is a Creator out there somewhere. "How" S/He made it happen is less important to me than "if." I think evolution is a completely workable tool for developing life. Just because the human metaphor for making things involves factories and exacting, get-it-right-the-first-time craftsmanship doesn't mean it's the only way to accomplish that goal, especially when it comes to life. Evolution may, in fact, be the most efficient way of producing intelligent life. What looks entirely random and without structure to us, from inside the system, may actually be just be so extremely complex that we can't, at present, fathom it. It may be one of those things that we have to wait until the Post-Human to really grok.
What's all this leading to? T-shirts. I was highly amused to run across Wear Science's Teach the Controversy designs on one of my favorite science blogs, Deep Sea News. I was so amused, in fact, that I bought myself a sun-yellow messenger bag with this design on it in blue. The one above, with a devil burying all those dinosaur bones, refers to the age of the earth problem and those pesky fossils of creatures that no longer exist that keep turning up. Young Earth creationists have been known to claim that God put them there as fossils when he created the earth. As I've said before, I think that's a pretty cruel and petty God to go obfuscating himself like that. Evolution is so much neater. But we all know the sun revolves around the earth. Right?
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