One might argue, as I do in my physics class, that there are parallels 
between religion and science, in that scientists "believe" that certain 
scientific theories are "true".  When one is involved in research, one 
perhaps has "faith" that one's results are valid, and are consistent with 
the theory that is being invoked to explain the results.  This "faith" 
becomes stronger as more results appear, and the work can be reproduced in 
other labs.  And the "faith" crumbles (or should, at least) when careful 
experiments contradict.

A huge difference, however, that may be lost on some younger students, is 
that religious "theories" are nonfalsifiable, and are therefore not 
scientific and may not be appropriately compared with science.

I also mention astrology and homeopathy as examples of some of the 
antiscience nonsense out there that some people believe in.

BTW, most of my students are African, Middle-eastern, Asian, Eastern 
European, Caribbean and Hispanic, with all the expected religions: Catholic 
and Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish.  Unfortunately, most 
consider it impolite (or perhaps impolitic) to challenge the teacher, 
despite my efforts to encourage them to do so.

A couple of questions that sometimes provoke discussion are "Why is the sky 
blue?" and "Why is the sky dark at night?". Usually the answers are quite 

----Original Message Follows----
From: Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Science for the People Discussion List              
<[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: dealing with creationism and intelligent design
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2007 19:46:45 +0000

Frank, many thanks for this very interesting post. The paper in BioScience I
refer to in the IHT piece was by Steven Verhey, formerly at Washington
Central University, and he employed a pedagogic technique called engaging
prior belief. I forget now who the original guy was behind this approach but
Verhey cites him in the paper. I can dig it out if anyone is interested.

best, Michael

On 2/24/07, Frank Rosenthal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>  Michael:
>Thanks for this post and your article.   I do not teach classes in
>biology.  But your approach seems reasonable; and it does seem to be
>supported by the one study you cited.   I occasionally broach the subject 
>evolution in my environmental health science classes, as when I discuss the
>body's intricate defenses against airborne particles, which presumably
>evolved (although some might say were "created").   The evolution
>perspective is interesting because some aspects of the physiological 
>systems, which probably evolved to deal with infectious agents, may now be
>counterproductive when dealing with the nonviable particulates found in air
>pollution in our technological society.  Although I refer to the debate
>about evolution in passing, I do not belabor it, because I consider the
>subject peripheral to the course focus.
>My overall experience in teaching is that almost anything I can do to get
>students "involved" in a subject is beneficial, particularly if they are
>encouraged to come up with logical arguments to justify their position.
>And encouraging a debate about evolution seems like it could definitely be
>productive.  I think one just has to be careful to: 1) continue to uphold
>the value of scientific thinking and investigation (I think it's fine for
>the instructor to "weigh in" on this value) and 2) make sure that the 
>topic does not "overshadow" (e.g. in time and effort) one's overall
>educational objectives.
>All that being said, I think the conflict between evolution and belief in
>a supreme being is sometimes artificial.  Why can't evolution be part of
>God's plan?  The problem is that most "creationists" don't just want people
>to believe in God; they want people to believe in their God and their
>particular religious doctrine.
>In terms of the difference between high school and college students,
>obviously there can be great differences in "readiness to learn" even
>between students in the same class.  So I am not sure a big distinction
>between the two groups is warranted.  My guess is that both educational
>levels will benefit from this type of discussion.  However, probably a lot
>will depend on the teacher and how it is handled.
>Frank S. Rosenthal, Ph.D.
>Associate Professor
>Purdue University School of Health Sciences
>550 Stadium Mall Dr.
>West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA
>tel: 765-494-0812, fax: 765-496-1377,
>e-mail: [log in to unmask]
>   ------------------------------
>*From:* Science for the People Discussion List [mailto:
>[log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *Michael Balter
>*Sent:* Saturday, February 24, 2007 4:55 AM
>*To:* [log in to unmask]
>*Subject:* dealing with creationism and intelligent design
>Since I am relatively new to this list I don't know what sort of
>discussions have taken place here about these subjects, but I thought list
>members might be interested in seeing (or maybe not!) an opinion piece I
>wrote on this for the International Herald Tribune a few weeks ago. I have
>gotten a lot of grief for these views from more diehard Darwinians but 
>be very interested in knowing how a lefty crowd sees these things. I have 
>preconceptions about that. This article should be freely available at this
>link, but let me know if you have trouble accessing it as I also posted it
>on my Web site.
>Michael Balter
>Contributing Correspondent, Science
>[log in to unmask]


Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
[log in to unmask]

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