Friday, May 06, 2005

High school student weighs in

A Kansas high school blogger observes as the Kansas school board endlessly debates evolution:
When you're having a scientific debate, a 'balanced picture' is not based on a referendum of the opinions of the general populace. It's not based on the opinions of church leaders. Science is not decided by referendum, it's decided by scientists, and to try and make it into a public referendum issue is idiotic and medieval.

It's good that a few students know enough to see through this charade. There are stories of other students getting confused by the whole process. That's a crying shame. There's a reason we don't just dump all of science on schoolkids. They need to be introduced to big ideas slowly.

My advisor likes to say (in a statistical context) that "Truth is the intersection of multiple independent lies." The idea is that nothing is perfect, but if the error is random, each new lie will have different part of the truth.

In teaching, we don't tell the students everything, because there's a lot of background they need to appreciate and internalize. Learning to tell good ideas from bad is not easy, and that's what IDolators are asking them to do. Just as it's a reporter's job to separate the spin from the truth, it's a teacher's job to be a gatekeeper to our kids' minds.

The confusion expressed by Christie Caffey is a disaster, and it's exactly what so many of us were worried about. She's 15 years old, and took an interest. She went to the hearings,

carefully took notes on each speaker's position. The ninth-grader from Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence had recently studied evolution in her biology class and came here to learn more about the debate.

Afterward, she was curious and confused.

"I came here thinking that I understood evolution, that I understood the facts," Christine said. "But now, I don't know what to think. Who's right? Is the science that I'm learning really true?"

That sentiment infuriates scientists, a group of whom had gathered nearby. They insisted that though evolution should be open to criticism, the classroom was not the place for critiques based on religion.

"If you want to know about science, ask a scientist. If you want to know about faith, ask a minister," said Robert Hagen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Kansas. "If I were to go into that hearing and tell them why the 'science' of intelligent design is wrong, I'd have to get into such detail that most people would just glaze over."
I also find Kathy Martin's comment bizarre:
We can't ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science.

Take that Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson! Your "science" is no match for Kathy Martin's imagination. Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Independence, 3rd president, remember him?) sent Lewis and Clark out West on a mission of scientific discovery. He was a published scientist, and was Christian only in the broadest sense. Indeed, many Muslims considered Jesus to be more divine that Jefferson did. Do I have to remind you that Ben Franklin was among the great scientific discoverers of the day?