Saturday, February 18, 2006

No Room for Alternative Thinking

Here is an article about a professor at the University of Pittsburg who questions aspects of evolutionary theory:
A Pitt professor challenged a part of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in an article published in the scientific magazine The New Anatomist last week.

Jeffrey Schwartz — a Pitt professor in the department of anthropology and the department of history and philosophy of science — collaborated with Bruno Maresca, a professor of biochemistry at Italy’s University of Salerno, for the article, which refutes Darwin’s Theory of Evolution using modern knowledge about cell biology.

. . .

Schwartz refuted Darwin’s theory of gradual evolution in organisms with one that states that evolution occurs quickly and suddenly as the result of cell mutations.

“Darwinism’s presence in science is so overwhelming,” Schwartz said. “For the longest time, there was no room for alternative thinking among the scientific community.”

This has led Schwartz — who believes that this indoctrination has resulted in scientists who don’t know enough about the history of the theories they learned — to teach all different aspects of evolution to his students.

It was through exposure to influential scientists and their questioning views of Darwinism as a Columbia grad student that Schwartz became interested in exploring the issue.

. . .

“If you look at the fossil record, organisms didn’t gain new items like teeth and jaws gradually,” Schwartz said. “It’s not like fish developed bony teeth one piece at a time. It happened suddenly.”

I am not sure how his theory differs from punctuated equilibrium, but I thought his comments on the scientific culture were worth noting. What he says about the restrictions on alternative thinking meshes well with my last post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ohio Board of Ed: Just Say No To Critical Thinking

The Ohio Board of Education recently decided to get rid of science standards and a model lesson plan that allowed students to hear the scientific evidence for and against macroevolutionary theory. Now kids in Ohio will go back to hearing only the evidence for macroevolutionary theory. In other words, a great boost for obscurantism and dogmatism.

I have previously argued that it is ridiculous to claim that it is unconstitutional for kids to learn about the Cambrian Explosion fossils in science class. It is also bad public policy to deny them the opportunity to learn about these fossils and decide for themselves whether they pose any problems for Darwinism.

Here is a roundup of blog posts worth considering:

The initial post on this topic at the Evolution News blog is here. A post that gives lots of helpful background on the decision of the Board is here. A post on the testimony of a biologist who helped draft the model lesson plan is here.

An interesting post lamenting the fact the public school kids are not encouraged to think critically is here, and begins:
Ohio has decided its children should not think critically about science. See here. This twisted logic has profound implications for America’s ability to compete with societies whose scientists are encouraged to think outside the box.
The post contains interesting informal interviews with a private school student and a public school student. It is a very sad reflection on the state of our public schools, but it is encouraging to think that more and more kids are being challenged to think for themselves in alternative environments, including home schools.

This post discusses why so many in the scientific community are so passionate about stamping out any attempts to encourage critical analysis of macroevolutionary theory. I discussed similar themes here. In addition to the reasons given in these two posts, let's not forget that many scientists are also motivated by politics, by the fear of losing their investment in their careers, by raw emotion, and by numerous other factors other than scientific evidence.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ohio Poll: 3 to 1 Margin Supports Teaching the Controversy

This from the Evolution News blog:

By more than a 3-to-1 margin, Ohio residents strongly support public school teachers presenting both the evidence for evolution, as well as the evidence challenging the theory, according to a new poll by Zogby International released today.

“Ohioans want Darwin’s theory of evolution fully and completely presented, including the theory’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Robert Crowther, director of communications for Discovery Institute, which commissioned the Zogby poll. “The public is solidly behind the approach to teaching evolution that the Ohio state board of education has already adopted. Those attacking the school board for supporting teaching both the evidence for and against evolution don’t represent the views of the majority of Ohioans.”

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed with the following statement: Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it. Less than 20 percent supported the alternative statement: Biology teachers should teach only Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it.

As of this posting, the link to the full report does not work without a password, but you can see a summary here.