Friday, February 29, 2008


Now There’s Yer Problem

There are some dribblings left over from the Florida flap that shows just how far the”debate” still has to go. There is, for example, this:

West Port High School science teacher Janice David said there shouldn't be a controversy about the theory of evolution and religious-based beliefs. Science and religion can live together harmoniously.

"The definition of theory is that it has not been proven," David said. "We really think it is the truth, but we can not prove it without a doubt."

Ummm, no! ... As a matter of fact, the word “theory,” as used in the concept “scientific theory,” does not have to do with any concept of proof beyond doubt.

A really well-supported scientific theory, such as common descent, has so much evidence on its side that any rational person exercising a modicum of objectivity will accept its over-all truth, despite the quibbles thrown up by creationists. As has often been said, evolution has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt ... just not beyond unreasonable doubt. But that still doesn’t have anything to do with the definition of “theory.” Perhaps Ms. David can learn along with her students when the new standards go into effect.

David said she tells her students that "there is no inherent conflict in fact-based science and fact-based beliefs."

Perhaps I should leave that straight line to PZ but I would like to know if Ms. David had ever heard of the term “oxymoron.”

"Evolution is a theory," she said.

In middle school, evolution is just a minuscule part of one life science chapter.

Hopefully, that’s a bit of educational malpractice that the new standards will force Ms. David and others of her ilk to correct, since they did not think to do so on their own.

Via Florida Citizens for Science.

Methinks perhaps science teachers should be required to take at least one course in the philosophy of science. If the teachers don't understand the meaning of the word "theory" - one of the most basic terms in their field - they certainly can't teach it to others. That's like expecting music teachers to teach music without being able to read the various clefs.
I feel somewhat sorry for teachers who teach science (often they are not "science teachers" because there is a great shortage of the real thing). Teachers get more of the blame than they probably deserve, given that parents have always been and should be the persons primarily responsible for the education of their children. Unfortunately, it's only going to be a vicious cycle if we allow most parents sole right to educate, since they are limited by their own failed educations.

But, yes, if I were king, it'd be 'philosophy all around!' ...
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