Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait

Here’s the portrait:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/20/creationism_in_hs.jpg

biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124

Our survey of biology teachers is the first nationally representative, scientific sample survey to examine evolution and creationism in the classroom. Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation’s biology teachers are creationist in orientation. Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light. The number of hours devoted to these alternative theories is typically low—but this nevertheless must surely convey to students that these theories should be accorded respect as scientific perspectives.

The majority of teachers, however, see evolution as central and essential to high school biology courses. Yet the amount of time devoted to evolutionary biology varies substantially from teacher to teacher, and a majority either avoid human evolution altogether or devote only one or two class periods to the topic. We showed that some of these differences were due to personal beliefs about human origins. However, an equally important factor is the science education the teacher received while in college. Additional variance is likely to be rooted in pressures—subtle or otherwise—emerging from parents and community leaders in each school’s community, in combination with teachers’ confidence in their ability to deal with such pressures [20] given their knowledge of evolution, as well as their personal beliefs.

These findings strongly suggest that victory in the courts is not enough for the scientific community to ensure that evolution is included in high school science courses. Nor is success in persuading states to adopt rigorous content standards consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations.

Hat tip to PZ:

scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/creationists_in_the_american_c.php

The problem is obvious. There is a significant shortage of biology teachers in the United States, due to relatively low pay compared to other fields such people could enter.

Consequently, only 40-80 percent of biology teachers actually have a degree in biology (varies a lot by state).

And not surprisingly, we see a significant number of biology teachers who don’t accept the central fact of biology.

The number accepting evolution seems a bit low. Gallup has been tracking American opinions on this for many years, and there is a slow increase in the number of people who accept evolution. The current survey has 52% accepting evolution, the great majority of them believing God is behind it.
gallup.com/poll/21814/Evolution-Creationism-Intelligent-Design.aspx

I do not know how would a libertarian would solve this, but somehow those fields need more prestige and extra money so people would be attracted to it.

If you are intelligent why teach biology, why not become involved in finance and try to manage your own hedge fund so you can do charitable acts?

I do not know how would a libertarian would solve this, but somehow those fields need more prestige and extra money so people would be attracted to it.

I know many people who retired early from well-paying jobs to take public school positions. I did. The science coordinator of my district did. And a lot of us have spouses who make pretty good money.

Still, not enough. I don’t know the answer.

If you are intelligent why teach biology, why not become involved in finance

I wasted my youth studying the citric acid cycle and watching animals.

I’ve accumulated enough to be comfortable, but probably not as much as I could have, if I had chosen another career.

and try to manage your own hedge fund so you can do charitable acts.

Hedge funds look like a bookie operation to me. But I’m probably oversimplifying.

Looks like another case of the general public knowing better than the liberal fanatics in academe and the public school system.

Biology shouldn’t even be taught in high school or grade school, that would reduce the number of teachers required by public schools and reduce the costs of public school.

Or better yet, just abolish the public school system, and let the home schooling industry and private school industry take over.
:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Looks like another case of the general public knowing better than the liberal fanatics in academe and the public school system.

You seem to be scared of liberals. They pop up in your imagination a lot.

Biology shouldn’t even be taught in high school or grade school, that would reduce the number of teachers required by public schools and reduce the costs of public school.

Better yet, don’t teach science at all. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about physics (radioisotope dating) geology (plate tectonics and age of the earth) and chemistry (DNA phylogenies).

Of course, it would be kinda hard to have all the comforts you take for granted, then.

Or better yet, just abolish the public school system, and let the home schooling industry and private school industry take over.

Sure, it worked great in Somalia, um? Have you taken a look at the conditions of nations that do that? Name me one you think we’d be better off emulating.

That seems a little hyperbolic to me. I hope you’re not teaching biology.

I accept the theory of evolution as being well supported by evidence, though I don’t know all the particulars of how God used it in regards to humans. “Central fact” is a bit of an overstatement though. Biology existed for many years before the theory of evolution was accepted as “fact,” and most of Biology does not require a hard-fast belief of evolution in order to be studied.

My biology teacher taught human evolution…not a lot of controversy involved that I can remember. My son’s biology teacher taught evolution as well. He handled the discussion of creationism and intelligent design on a single day…for about 10-15 minutes. Personally, I liked his approach, but I notice there is a lot of fear on the part of some to have ID or creationism even mentioned in school - seems strange to me.

Barbarian observes:
The problem is obvious. There is a significant shortage of biology teachers in the United States, due to relatively low pay compared to other fields such people could enter.

Consequently, only 40-80 percent of biology teachers actually have a degree in biology (varies a lot by state).

And not surprisingly, we see a significant number of biology teachers who don’t accept the central fact of biology.

That seems a little hyperbolic to me.

"Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution."
Theodosius Dobzhansky, a world class biologist and a devout Christian.

If you don’t understand this, you don’t understand biology.

I hope you’re not teaching biology.

Off and on for the past 40 years. You’re not a biologist, are you? Guess how I know.

I accept the theory of evolution as being well supported by evidence, though I don’t know all the particulars of how God used it in regards to humans. “Central fact” is a bit of an overstatement though.

Nope. It’s a fact.

Biology existed for many years before the theory of evolution was accepted as “fact,” and most of Biology does not require a hard-fast belief of evolution in order to be studied.

I can’t think of a discipline in biology that isn’t formed by evolutionary theory. Of course, it’s possible to design airplanes and not believe in Bernoulli’s theory. But that will get you into trouble in some cases. As will doing biology without evolutionary theory.

Chemistry existed many years before electrons were a fact, but nothing in chemistry makes any sense except in the light of electrons.

My biology teacher taught human evolution…not a lot of controversy involved that I can remember. My son’s biology teacher taught evolution as well. He handled the discussion of creationism and intelligent design on a single day…for about 10-15 minutes. Personally, I liked his approach, but I notice there is a lot of fear on the part of some to have ID or creationism even mentioned in school

My class discussed it. We discussed the reasons why religions like creationism or ID can’t be part of science. I also pointed out that some IDers are now trying to shed the religious beliefs, and make it a science, much as alchemy eventually led to chemistry. But they haven’t done it yet. I also tell them from the start that if they do have a religious objection to anything in science, they don’t have to accept it. They just have to know what scientists think. That’s all that is required. I tell them that they can write “I don’t believe this.” on any paper with no consequences. Every now and then, one does. No problem.

Good for you. :thumbsup: That is basically what my son’s biology teacher did, and as I said, I like that approach. He is an atheist, though his words, as conveyed by my son, didn’t sound quite as arrogant as yours. With regards to ID, he just said that some scientists believe that there is evidence of a creator seen in nature, but their theories are not well developed and won’t be discussed in detail in the classroom.

He encouraged students to read it separately, if they have interest in ID, and he would be glad to discuss it with them after hours, by appointment…but only after they read the material (he wasn’t interested in discussing creationism with someone who hadn’t read up on the actual theories/proofs of IDers).

And, you are correct, I am not a biologist. I am a salesman, as my profile clearly states. If you intend on dismissing any comment from anyone who is not a biologist, so be it. It really doesn’t matter to me. However, I would disagree with your “world class biologist” in that you can easily study cells, classification of species, etc. without relying on evolution. Therefore, I would not say that evolution is ***the ***central fact, as you incorrectly state. Personally, I would place more importance on DNA than evolution. But you are the “expert,” so I defer to your incredibly overdeveloped sense of omniscience when it comes to scientific matters. :rolleyes:

My background- brought up unquestioningly evolutionist, BA in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology undergrad. I am now a creationist(not ID) I have chosen by faith to not question the Genesis account. During my years in academic settings, I have seen many times over the fallibility of scientific research. One can visibly observe evolution; but to extrapolate that to declare it as the origin of species makes it a theory, not a fact. A GOD as wonderful and powerful as ours, Who gives us life,miracles and a resurrected Savior, can surely create the world the way it was described in Genesis; so why worry ourselves trying to prove otherwise? This bound-to -be fruitless search hasn’t meaningfully enhanced our ability to perform genetic engineering, etc. What bothers me the most is the unquestioning faith my colleagues have in this theory, and research in general. The best way to approach scientific matters is to question EVERYTHING- you learn more. The scorn I receive for my faith in the Bible, both silent and verbal,I count as a blessing. May GOD richly bless you. Sincerely, Paul

Hi pbmd,

This is my basic argument against “The Barbarian.” I don’t have a particular problem with current textbooks and curricula. Evolution theory is a very convenient device to tie together the classification of species. However, to claim it is “the central fact of biology” is such a gross overstatement, it is amazing to me that someone who claims to be a scientist could say such a thing.

The only place where I see evolution as a “central fact” to its study would be physical anthropology. Clearly, if you are going to study the origin of species from a scientific standpoint, it makes sense that you would accept evolution theory as a “central fact.” All of the other disciplines - physiology, botany, zoology, etc. can easily be studied in-depth without accepting evolution as “fact” at all. Can one really argue that a geneticist would be lost without evolution? Or a doctor? Or a zoologist? It is silly to suggest such a thing. That is why I see stating it as a “central fact of biology” is overstatement.

I’d say the “central dogma of molecular biology” (yes I know “dogma” take that up with Crick) is more critical than accepting the evolution as the central fact of biology. That relation to biology is more like the electron and E&M concepts are to chemistry. Evolution is more like accepting the Big Bang. The exact way things have unfolded are subject to far more possible unknown variables.

As far as practicality, understanding concepts of classical and modern physics; how chemicals react; and the the central dogma of molecular biology are far more central with regard to usefulness. Understanding things like the Big Bang, the origin of matter, evolution very helpful, but not as essential practicality. Though the conjecture is very important in trying to gain a greater understanding of the physical world.

And, you are correct, I am not a biologist. I am a salesman, as my profile clearly states. If you intend on dismissing any comment from anyone who is not a biologist, so be it.

Rather, I would be dismissive of anyone who does not understand biology. Dobzhansky has few peers in any science. Do you understand why someone who actually knows the science has more credibility in it than you do?

It really doesn’t matter to me. However, I would disagree with your “world class biologist” in that you can easily study cells,

Cell biology depends on evolutionary theory to explain the origin of the Citric acid cycle, and so on.

classification of species,

The nested hierarchy of taxa makes no sense whatever, but in light of common descent. Nothing that does not have such descent can be so arranged.

Therefore, I would not say that evolution is the central fact, as you incorrectly state.

Perhaps you’d be amused if a biologist tried to tell you how to sell things. Unless he’d had some training and experience in sales, you’d be justified in feeling so, wouldn’t you?

Personally, I would place more importance on DNA than evolution. But you are the “expert,” so I defer to your incredibly overdeveloped sense of omniscience when it comes to scientific matters.

There’s no need to get snotty about it. Since you don’t know much about biology, but feel entitled to “correct” those who do, I’d say that would certainly border on a “sense of omniscience”, wouldn’t it?

At very least, it would be “arrogant.”

My background- brought up unquestioningly evolutionist, BA in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology undergrad. I am now a creationist(not ID) I have chosen by faith to not question the Genesis account.

If you are a YE creationist, you have rejected the Genesis account, which is opposed to the YE doctrine of “life ex nihilo.” There are some creationist faiths that are not opposed to Genesis, of course.

During my years in academic settings, I have seen many times over the fallibility of scientific research. One can visibly observe evolution; but to extrapolate that to declare it as the origin of species makes it a theory, not a fact.

Perhaps you don’t know what a theory is. Theories are considered to be facts in science. In common talk, theories are conjectures. In science they are well-tested ideas supported by evidence. In order for a hypothesis to be considered a theory, it has to be confirmed by evidence.

A GOD as wonderful and powerful as ours, Who gives us life,miracles and a resurrected Savior, can surely create the world the way it was described in Genesis;

He did. The difference between creationists and most Catholics, is that we also approve of the way He did it. Creationists are unwilling to grant God the power to produce a universe in which life grows and diversifies over time, as St. Augustine said.

A God that big and capable is perhaps scary. But that’s Who He is.

No, a scientific theory is not a scientific fact. A good scientific theory should be able to predict occurrence of what can be considered scientific facts. As an example, quantum theory can predict the observation of emitted electrons of the photoelectric effect. Unless someone comes up with a good argument that what is being observed is not electrons, but something else, that electrons are being emitted is a scientific fact.

Also since you used conjecture, and I just used it too, I better clarify. You’ve used it more true to form. What I meant was just to form a conclusion.

Perhaps one might say ‘tentative facts’?

All facts in science are tentative, pending new evidence. Theories are considered to be facts, in the sense that they have been verified by evidence.

Anyone who says it’s “merely a theory” with regard to science, does not understand what science is.

But it’s appropriate in things like law, were “legal theory” is more similar to the meaning jman507 is using.

Barbarian- to echo jman, I do know he difference between theory and fact. The theory of evolution is supposed to be considered axiomatic(not proven, but worthy of acceptance as to the way things occured). Unfortunately, people slavishly devote themselves to the belief that theories and axioms are facts. Again, to my more scientifically-minded fellow believers, release yourselves from the accepted norm.

Barbarian- to echo jman, I do know he difference between theory and fact. The theory of evolution is supposed to be considered axiomatic(not proven, but worthy of acceptance as to the way things occured).

That’s another misunderstanding. No theory in science is ever “proven.” Logical certainty cannot be obtained by the scientific method. An axiom is a sentence in first order logic that is assumed to be true without proof. It’s not at all part of science. There is an “axiom-like” statement in science; uniformitarianism, which says that the rules have always been the same since the beginning. So far, that’s held up perfectly.

Theories are somewhat like laws, but are stronger than laws. A law predicts certain things in certain circumstances. A theory does the same thing, but additionally explains why these things happen.

Perhaps an example would be useful: Kepler’s laws predict the motion of planets moving around the Sun. Newton’s theory of gravity shows why this happens and extends it to comets, stars, and even to an apple falling from a tree.

A theory is therefore a more useful fact than a law, since it can be used to extend our knowledge and be applied to cases beyond law.

Unfortunately, people slavishly devote themselves to the belief that theories and axioms are facts. Again, to my more scientifically-minded fellow believers, release yourselves from the accepted norm.

You’re asking scientists to abandon the scientific method. Given the rather spectacular success of the method, you’ll first need to come up with something that works better.

Evolution as a theory and evolution as a fact are not exactly meaning the same thing.

Also I don’t think it is exactly right to say that theory is stronger than law. A theory is more apt to be wrong, because it is trying to do much more than a law. That one can understand the strengths and limitations of an idea, to understand an idea in its context is what is important. Its a matter of understanding an idea with regard to its proper precision and accuracy.

As far as “Unfortunately, people slavishly devote themselves to the belief that theories and axioms are facts. Again, to my more scientifically-minded fellow believers, release yourselves from the accepted norm.”

For the most part, in science class your not actually doing science at least in any formal sense. That can give the impression that science is trying to pass down facts as if they are self-evident truths. I can see how one could think accepting facts is more or less accepting it as fact. For one a lot of people can be rather sloppy in their logic and use of basic ideas. (For example mixing the meanings of theory and scientific theory) Second, for a scientist everything should be tentative. Facts, theories, constants, and laws may have to be refined in light of new evidence. That is just a basic function of the scientific method.

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