I was one of those four hundred and actually got a nice reply from Mathews.
The issue of letting open discussion into the classroom is beyond
reproach, but the problem is that evolution/ID was never about opening
minds, on any side of the aisle.
Education is a means to kidnap the minds of small children and fix
them Jesuit style as young as possible. The current 'debate' is
between the two candidates with large enough market share to be in the
Ad Wars at all. None other need apply.
If open discussion is wanted, why not introduce Buddhist thought as an
introduction to the evolutionary psychologies of the ancient yogas
(hopefully without_ their_ propaganda.
Why not introduce the history of Higher Criticism, on the one hand,
and the _secular_ history of Darwin criticism (which the ID people
mostly ripped off, starting with Denton's Evolution: A theory in
They could even introduce Spinoza, as a way to mediate current
confused ideas about divinity, and bring a materialist touch to God
Top that off with Hegel's version of what he ripped off from Spinoza.
Hegel by the way resembles Dembski. How? Threatened by the austere
strictures of Kant against rational theology, a way had to be found to
counterattack and put Protestantism back in the picture with an
Absolute Science that would do to Newton what Dembski wants to do with
But then again, fairness would at this point require bringing that
dreadful anti-hegelian, Karl Marx. He should go over well in Ann
So let's be fair.
You know, if biologists were actually open they would have brought
some secular Darwin critiques into biology quite a while ago. A book
like Wesson's Beyond Natural Selection, or the Wistar institute
symposium, or Koestler, or Lovtrup, or Robert Reid. Failure to present
a self-critique has handed the football to the religious right wing,
who most certainly don't have any intention of granting anyone else
In fact Darwinian biology is unique in making intelligent students
completely stupid about evolution. Parrots with high IQ.
There is still time and plenty of opportunity to remedy this situation
and fight off the ID assault, but that would require intelligent
self-critique, and the paradigm is now too woefully hegemonic for
On Apr 9, 2005 1:44 PM, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Me
> By Jay Mathews
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Tuesday, April 5, 2005; 12:15 PM
> I was one of those blissfully nerdy kids who fell in love with dinosaurs in
> the fourth grade and never outgrew it. In adulthood, people like me go to
> natural history museums, see Steven Spielberg movies and read the essays of
> the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. That is usually enough to keep us
> But a couple of weeks ago I saw a chance to take my amateurish grasp of the
> history of life a bit further. I persuaded the editor of The Post's
> editorial pages to publish an op-ed piece of mine called "Who's Afraid of
> Intelligent Design?"
> My inspiration was a front-page story by The Post's Chicago bureau chief,
> Peter Slevin.
> He described the Intelligent Design movement, a group of apparently serious
> scientists who are doing research on what they see as flaws in standard
> evolutionary theory. They appear to think that some organisms are too
> complex to have been the result of random chance and natural selection, and
> they think they can prove it. I was surprised to learn that unlike the
> Creationists, the Bible fundamentalists who accept Genesis literally, the
> Intelligent Design (ID) folks agree with Darwin that the story of life is
> hundreds of millions of years long, and that chimpanzees and humans share an
> ancestor a few million years back. It is the earliest parts of the story,
> particularly the notion that life could emerge from non-living chemicals on
> an early, sterile earth, that the Intelligent Design folk think are on
> particularly shaky ground.
> As I read Slevin's story I thought: what an exciting science lesson! The ID
> researchers seemed to be grasping at gaps in the fossil record, rather than
> seeing the irresistible Darwinist logic of what scientists have discovered.
> But comparing their arguments to Darwin's was, I thought, a wonderful way to
> teach Darwin. I could not understand why important educators and scientists
> were spending money on lawyers to keep ID out of the classroom. In my op-ed
> I said we ought to let ID be explained to students so that they could
> understand how it defied the scientific method, just as the flaws of
> perpetual motion theory, I said, should be a part of a physics course and
> the fallacies of the Steady-State theory should be part of an astronomy
> For me and many other students, biology as it is usually taught, one
> complicated fact or term after another, is deadly dull. Introducing a little
> debate would excite teenagers, just as the attacks on conventional wisdom
> launched by my favorite high school history teacher, Al Ladendorff, always
> got me walking fast to that class so I wouldn't miss anything.
> Well, the minute the op-ed appeared the e-mails started popping up on my
> computer, right under the coconut ape with a ball and bat that sits atop my
> IBM. At last count there were about 400 of them. Most said they had the
> unfortunate duty to tell me that I was an idiot.
> Daniel Kohn of Mountain View, Calif., said he was "extremely disheartened by
> the ignorance you displayed in your commentary on Intelligent Design."
> Christian Iffrig of Arlington said, "Like most imbecilic do-gooders, you
> think it's about creating a forum for intellectual discussion -- give and
> take. You think they'd accord the same respect for diverse opinions? They
> have no such intentions."
> Some readers were kinder, but equally convinced that I did not see the
> ramifications of what I was saying. Anthony Joern, professor of biology at
> Kansas State University, asked about "that poor high school teacher who must
> deal with the religious parents of the students who were subjected to such a
> debate. What happens if you do present a fair debate and religion loses?
> What does the teacher do in Kansas when the parents clamor for revenge?"
> Elizabeth Lutwak said, "I would like to agree with your approach. I think
> many science teachers and their students could handle, and would benefit,
> from such a debate. Yet the ulterior motives of these groups scare me. They
> are already scaring a fair number of science teachers into not teaching
> evolution at all, making the material a mere reading assignment."
> Jim Wilson of Louisville, Ky., said, "If I'm reading correctly then in order
> to make classrooms more 'fun' we should consider junk science or introduce
> false information. No we shouldn't. Would you encourage denying the
> Holocaust and giving that argument any credence just because it would get
> the students more involved? Just because you personally were bored by
> biology, I don't think we should 'jazz' it up to make it fun."
> "Your central point is cute and democratic," said Scott Hayes, "but not
> particularly useful to a science teacher who is struggling to help overcome
> amazing data which suggests that more than half the people in this country
> believe that human beings walked the planet when dinosaurs were alive."
> I anticipated those reactions. I surveyed many of the best biology teachers
> I knew before I wrote the piece. Not one of them thought my idea would work.
> I mentioned two of them in the op-ed. Based on that very negative reaction,
> I assumed that if the idea had any merit at all, it would only be in some
> future age, when our big-brained, metal-bodied descendants would celebrate
> my meager effort as an interesting example of early 21st century off-color
> humor. Or something like that.
> But instead, I was stunned to discover that many e-mailers (a generous
> estimate would be about 30 percent) agreed with me, and they had had the
> same idea long before I did. "I, like you, am a strong believer in Darwinism
> and, also like you, think that critical debate should be injected into the
> classroom whenever possible," said Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss, a Washington,
> D.C., senior research analyst who just earned a doctorate in political
> Brian Arneson, who works in the Chemical Education Group at the University
> of Texas, said, "Our entire school curriculum is devoid of intelligent
> debate, especially in science. Our students lack the basic ideas of what
> makes a credible claim and how to defend their position with experimentally
> derived evidence."
> "You are right," said Norman Ravitch of Savannah, Ga. "Nothing is taught in
> a more boring fashion than science. All is memorization. What you suggest,
> reading different theories, I did in college on my own in a biology class
> and it was wonderful."
> So I felt better. There were so many e-mails that I was forced to respond to
> each with very terse comments, but I was grateful for each one. I don't
> think I will be making any more attempts to offer my ill-informed views on
> evolution, but there is something I am curious about.
> I have received very few e-mails from actual high school biology teachers
> who have ever tried introducing the debate to their classes. I suspect some
> are doing this quietly to avoid the kind of religious eruption that readers
> told me was inevitable.
> Is there anyone out there trusting their high school students to handle
> these contradictions and using them to better explain how science works?
> Tell me about it. I still have a lot to learn.
Darwiniana: evolution blog