Friday, December 21, 2007


I have just found, and particularly the blog Pharyngula. Takedowns of fatuous creationist claims! The evolution of eyeballs! Pictures of octopuses! (Note: the plural is not, and will never be, octopi.) Diverging species of giraffes!
Giraffes sleep very little and mostly standing on their feet. They give birth while standing, with no apparent ill consequences to the newborn which, after falling from such a great height, gets up on its feet and is ready to walk and run with the herd within minutes.

Newborn giraffe! Freshly fallen.

I never technically learned evolution in high school--I knew the basics and veracity of it because my parents are intelligent and science-minded people, but I skipped taking biology on anti-dissection grounds. They probably evaded the topic anyway. But then in college I took one of those science classes for humanities students: "Dinosaurs, Mass Extinctions, and Other Headlines from the History of Life." I signed up only because I needed the science credit. But I was instantly, utterly enchanted. Giant sloths and beavers and elk, australopithecus afarensis, the reason human childbirth is so inordinately painful and human infants helpless for so long (it's the price we pay for big brains and walking upright)--wondrous, awe-inspiring knowledge. Far more extraordinary than guys walking on water or getting swallowed by whales.

My writing class reads this funny, marvelous (in the most literal sense of the word) Bill Bryson essay that captures that sense of amazement that we exist at all, as species and as individuals-- and every quarter there's a handful of students who openly hate it for its evolutionary implications. This bums me out deeply. I haven't yet figured out how to work with it in class discussion. Would my job be threatened if I showed them this awesome Nova special? (You can watch it online for free!) Probably not at the college, but if I were teaching high school, quite possibly.

The way that "intelligent design" advocates (and their counterparts, the so-called "young earth" believers) try to get into public schools is to set up a conflict. Because they can't prove intelligent design using any sort of credible or scientific method, they instead frame it as a controversy, worthy of acknowledgment. But it's not actually a controversy for anyone but them.

If, as they say, they truly want to encourage critical thinking in the classroom, they're setting their inventions up to scrutiny they can't actually survive.

And yet! In Texas, you will soon be able to get an online Master's Degree in Science Education--from the Institute for Creation Research.


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