Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Creationist's loop-hole for science classes in Minnesota

In a nutshell, Minnesota has decided to change their science standards so that middle and high school students during introductory science classes will be expected "to balance in their introduction to basic science, the idea that cells are what scientists say they are and the idea that cell theory may be wrong" or other such issues as comparing the basic structure of an atom, general principles of plate tectonics, or even the germ theory of disease (quoted from Greg Laden, see his blog here).

I would like to elaborate on just one of these for those of you that aren't completely familiar with these issues: Germ Theory (and yes it is a Theory just like gravity or evolution - Theory doesn't a mean wild guess, a hunch, or a random hypothesis, etc., and for a better discussion see here). For those of you that don't know, the germ theory is basically the idea that microorganisms (bacterium and viruses etc.) make us sick which was considerably controversial when originally proposed. Under these standards, junior high and high school students would be required to compare the idea of microorganisms making us sick or the basic structure of the atom to........what exactly? Other theories (such as sin makes us sick maybe, or evil spirits?) and discuss the merits and contradictory evidence and/or supporting evidence? Do we really expect students to grasp the idea of Atomic Theory, or that the basic structure of the atom isn't "really" correct and as a result discuss what the discovery of Quantum mechanics, energy levels, quantum leaps, and alternating spectral lines has done to "alter" the basic planetary model of the atom?

BUT when it comes to evolution, the general public who think they understand the issues have no problem stating that students should discuss the issues thoroughly before accepting them, even though most of the general public do not understand the basic principles of evolution any better than physics, or germ theory, or plate tectonics. Think about it, how many people really have a clue what genetic drift, mutation, recombination, independent assortment, gene flow, natural selection or even "what exactly is a species" (which is a very complicated issue actually): who can explain or even define these terms correctly? Yet, because there is a book (actually several versions) which is made of a collection of papers that are themselves copies of original writings that SOME people after 2000 years (have now interpreted these writings) have decided these papers provide the only true understanding of life on earth, origins, species, as well as time lines etc. and therefore our children should question (which assumes they have the ability and skill) such popular, well respected and most importantly well supported Theories of science.

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