Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Pedagogical Malpractice

Nouse, the student newspaper of the University of York, has an interview with Steve Fuller who has become, as the article put it, an "apologist for intelligent design theory." Some bits and pieces:

Fuller is not motivated by any personal religious beliefs; he is motivated by a desire to improve the teaching of science which he thinks is impossible without a consideration of intelligent design theory. ...

As Fuller sees it, ID theorists seek to embark on an evidence-based inquiry. Like evolutionists, ID theorists look at evidence (DNA, fossils, skeletal structures etc) in order to come up with an explanation of how that evidence came about. The difference between the two theories is that ID theorists interpret some findings as revealing a level of complexity within organisms that can only be explained by positing the existence of a designer.

... [H]e made sure to make a distinction between ID and creationism, the latter of which, he thinks, is an attempt to justify a similar view but on purely religious grounds. He told me: "Creationists are basically teaching the bible as science. They have abandoned the scientific method."

Now, that's interesting. I wonder what part of ID is done differently than "creation science." In particular, what separated the methods of the IDers from the cdesign proponentsists, who wrote a creation science book, but so easily turned it into an ID book. Oh, wait a minute ... Fuller knows about that:

[Fuller said] that the textbook that the [Dover School Board] advocated was, "basically a warmed-over creationist textbook" with "just a couple of words changed." He was glad to see that particular textbook rejected ...

Doesn't he know that Of Pandas and People was touted for years as an ID "textbook" suitable for public schools by the Discovery Institute? In any case, what new methods have the IDers come up with since Of Pandas and People?

On the other hand, this part I can agree with:

Even if we reject the ID's scientific legitimacy Fuller wants to say that its teaching is still important as a means to understanding evolutionary theory. "My argument is that intelligent design has a strong historical track record and, in fact, it is the actual theory that Darwin opposed [...] At the very least you can make an argument for teaching intelligent design to understand what it was that Darwin was rejecting."

There's no doubt that, if done right, including ID in a class in the history and philosophy of biology would be an appropriate and even valuable practice. However, the creationists in Texas are already unashamedly trumpeting their ability to mangle the language of curricula in order to inject their religious beliefs into public school classes.

But Fuller can't resist diving off the deep end:

Fuller thinks that just as Darwin had a position to refute modern evolutionary biologists need one. Just as evolutionary theory has itself evolved so have arguments in opposition to it. Fuller worries that evolution, which is often seen as one of the defining theories of modern science, is actually being taught in a way that is quite unscientific. For Fuller consideration of a theory with respect to opposition is essential for scientific development. Evolution is no longer being taught scientifically, in Fuller's eyes, because opposing arguments are no longer being taught, or at least given proper emphasis, in the way that they should be.
So when, exactly, will we be bringing back the Ptolemaic geocentric system in opposition to the Copernican heliocentric theory of the solar system? Or is it that some ideas are so fully supported and so obviously right that we have no option of an opposing theory to teach?

Is it so difficult to imagine that our humanity was genetically engineered by advanced science from another solar system.Our scientists are now about to create life (see Genesis II Craig Ventner).The theory in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers, allows for both a sensible explanation for the original function of all the world religions and for the appearance of the Ufos over the millennia, especially since Hiroshima in 1945.Our scientists when they have succeeded in creating a single celled organism, will next create more complex organisms and through progression of design will perhaps, eventually create man.Then the buckle will be closed and those scientists will become as the gods of old .Further is it difficult to understand our ancestors mistaking these people for gods? I feel if this were the case, then it would be important to be taught both about evolution and the world religions in order to be able to understand this theory. I agree with Dr Fuller, it is not wise to be taught evolutionary theory alone.
Difficult to imagine? Obviously not.
Fuller never disappoints.
I'm just about to embark on an evidence-based inquiry. Uh, but first I have to repack my suitcase. Okay, now I have to make sure my door is locked. I'll be right along as soon as I write a note for the milkman. Oh, and I have to go the the bathroom first. Yes, I'm coming, just as soon as...

there is already enough 'opposition' within evolutionary theory (the importance of genetic drift, punctuated equilibrium, the rate of evolution etc.) to occupy much debate and learning experience.

And that is before you get started on evolutionary psychology or cognition.
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