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Monday, October 03, 2005

Boston Globe columnist: Darwinian fundamentalism is against liberal spirit of inquiry

Jeff Jacoby weighs in at the Boston Globe on teaching about the intelligent design controversy:

How things have changed. When John Scopes went on trial in Tennessee in 1925, religious fundamentalists fought to keep evolution out of the classroom because it was at odds with a literal reading of the Biblical creation story. Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded - the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends.
My own view is that trying to legislate from the statehouse or the bench about what teachers should or shouldn’t say is always a bad idea. Whether we are talking about intelligent design, sex education, or global warming, students lose confidence in the education system when they realize that they are getting a package in school, and that they cannot really ask about the things they hear about in the real world.

I am glad that when I was a kid, teachers felt free to bring up all kinds of topics in science class, including "Was there really a worldwide flood?" "Was there really only one big continent at one time?" [At that time, this was a controversial idea.] "What would happen if the Russians bombed Canada?" "What would happen if the Americans bombed Canada?" "How would evolution change humans over a million years?" "Is the paranormal real or fake?"

How come we didn't all end up screwed up or brainwashed? Because in those days the teacher was expected to be a professional of good character, whose performance was evaluated by peers, not by people looking for something to sue the school board about. I regret that students cannot have that kind of education today.

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