Sunday, December 03, 2006


Blue Bayou

There has been reaction from faculty at the University of Louisiana at Monroe to the decision of the Ouachita Parish Louisiana School Board to issue a policy permitting teachers to address "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

Signed by Ricky Fiorillo, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Chris R. Gissendanner, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, Loren Hayes, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and Anna Hill, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology, the statement makes the point that:

[P]arish biology teachers should not be able to teach evolution and the so-called "evolution controversy" in any manner they choose.

The school board decision does not set any specific curricular requirements of what should be taught and how it should be taught.

In fact, some teachers have even been supplied with non-scientific, erroneous information that they are now free to use in their classroom.

This policy clearly sets the foundation for the incorporation of non-scientific explanations such as creationism and intelligent design into the biology curriculum.

These concepts fall outside the realm of scientific inquiry and thus have no place in a science classroom. There is no scientific "controversy" regarding evolutionary theory.
The real reason not to have such a policy is the best interests of the students:

Providing students with accurate information and the tools to pursue questions important to their lives is the real role of an educator. Educators should not create controversies nor should they create misinformation to support these controversies. Such actions only deny the students of Ouachita Parish the right to an honest education.

Now, more than ever, our students need to have an understanding of evolutionary principles.

Such an understanding will enable us to predict and respond to the emergence of rapidly evolving and virulent microorganisms.

An understanding of evolutionary principles is also critical to sound environmental policy which in turn, affects the quality of human life. Thus, it is critical that our area biology teachers educate our students with accurate information about evolution.
Religion is no justification for misleading students in this way:

A common misconception is that a focus of science is to refute the existence of God. Many scientists with belief systems rooted in Christianity and other religions reconcile the coexistence of God and evolution.

We do not advocate the abandonment of discussion of alternative, non-scientific explanations for our existence.

Specifically, we do not debate the legitimacy of discussing alternative religious or metaphysical perspectives in the appropriate classrooms, such as religion and philosophy classes. Our area teachers should be teaching appropriate science just as our area religion and philosophy teachers should be teaching appropriately in their respective disciplines.
Calling for a civil discussion of the issue, they conclude:

[W]e hope that the OPSB will reconsider its position on the teaching of evolution.

Only then will area students be presented an accurate view of evolution in the biology curriculum. We believe that this goal can be accomplished without compromising students' own faith-based ideologies.
One can only hope that good sense like this prevails.

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