The Wednesday Post (21/07/2010)

ResearchBlogging.orgI found a story kicking around the blogosphere this week that’s really got me irritated. According to a new study a bunch of American HIGH SCHOOL BIOLOGY TEACHERS were surveyed and asked to indicate their personal beliefs regarding evolution and the origin of human beings. The results of the survey were then presented in a fancy graphic by another group (go check it out, its depressing but shiny), the only purpose of which seems to be to deaden the impact of the astounding results.

High School Biology Teachers' Personal Beliefs Concerning Human Origins, Compared with a Representative Sample of the General Public, Spring 2007 (Berkman et al., 2010)

Whilst the biology teachers answered the survey from a more scientific stand point than the general public 63% of respondants indicated creationism or intelligent design compared to 78% from the general public.

These are not just teachers, nor are they science teachers. The survey respondents were HIGH SCHOOL BIOLOGY TEACHERS and the majority don’t believe in evolution as science explains it and proves it as the basis for all life on Earth.

Because this has been picked up by a couple of others (here and here), I know that some people are as pissed about this as I am but why isn’t there an outcry about this?

I wonder whether Australia is in the same boat. I sure hope not…

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Berkman MB, Pacheco JS, & Plutzer E (2008). Evolution and creationism in America's classrooms: a national portrait. PLoS biology, 6 (5) PMID: 18494560

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20 Comments

Filed under James' Corner

20 responses to “The Wednesday Post (21/07/2010)

  1. In my 9th grade biology class in the south, my teacher refused to teach us evolution. In fact, throughout high school, evolution was never mentioned. I am really disappointed to hear about this study to learn there are others that are being denied the full truth. I can not comprehend how a person can believe in god and teach biology. These are two things that do not go hand in hand.

    Now, six years later, I am a biology student, athiest and learning everything that I was denied while growing up.

    • Whilst I am an atheist also I am not against teaching creationism as long as its not in the science classroom. That ‘fancy graphic’ i mentioned in the first paragraph has a series of maps showing the curriculum requirement for teaching evolution in each state in the US as well as the ‘estimated hours’ spent teaching evolution across each state. It just piles on the terror.

      • Kathryn

        I agree with you there that creationism should not be taught in a science classroom. I remember my teacher said she was supposed to teach evolution to us, but she wasn’t going to do it, I believe this was around the year 1999 or 2000.

    • sol

      Believing in god =/= creationism, and it seems fairly closed minded to say that god and biology cant coexist. I know a few fairly religious people with PhDs in biology related disciplines. Im personally not religious, but I’d never pretend to understand the universe so completely to claim that there is no such thing as (a) god. That would hardly be scientific either.

      • @Sol
        I’d say in fact that its terribly un-scientific to believe in god, particularly as a biologist. I also know many people with PhDs across all areas of science who would consider themselves very religious but the ones I’ve spoken about it (for the most part) believe in a non-interventionist god who initiated the big bang and had no further part. For me thats a cop out but for them its the only way to reconcile the science they know with the faith they keep.
        “I’d never pretend to understand the universe”
        Neither would I but as a scientist I look forward to dissecting, questioning and testing it rather than being told it is how it is and thats that.

      • sol

        It’s more that god/metaphysical things are outside of the bounds of science. The existence of a god is inherently untestable. This isn’t to take anything away from the insanity in the data you present at the top. It’s just that saying that religion/spirituality should have no bearing on science is fine, but that’s a two way street.

  2. I think that biology teachers that knowingly refuse to teach their students the basic tenets of biology should be fired for incompetence. If a math teacher decided that she didn’t believe in calculus, and so just stopped her lessons after covering trigonometry, we’d quickly conclude that she is not fit to be teaching anybody anything. If a political science teacher refused to teach about the holocaust and the history of the Nazi movement in Germany, there would be a public outcry. Why is this not be the case in the analogous situation involving biology teachers?

    • Because the church is okay with calculus, now. They also seemed to be okay with Nazis as well, but perhaps that’s a different story…
      Biology breaks open the religious texts and challenges its foundations, most religious people struggle with that.
      Perhaps the religions of the world will come to accept evolution in the future as they now accept that the Earth is not the center of the Universe.

      • An easy way to pull comments:
        Well. I’m not surprised by this survey, as either a Christian or a scientist.
        Evolution is a theory, and has its failings (though scientists are often hesitant to acknowledge this.)
        The bible is a theological book, not an instructional guide to creating the whole universe. How literally you take the book is a contenscious issue, and is in part determined by how convinced you are of the science. Science certainly hasn’t empirically disproved the existance of God.
        Should evolutionary theory be taught? Certainly. It’s good science, and the bible encourages people to explore the natural world. It’s why we have this natural urge to ask; why?

  3. Jillian

    What I find weird is my father was taught biology in high school by nuns. It was fine to teach then; why is it suddenly controversial now?

    • From what I know about members of my own family’s education it depended on the school. Nuns that took a fundamental interpretation of the Bible would teach differently to nuns who took a more progressive interpretation. I guess thats the same as now. I also think America and Australia are very different places and I would really like to see a similar survey conducted here.

  4. @ Lumpage
    I hope you don’t think I deliberately wrote about a contentious issue to prompt comments, I wrote about this because it upsets me that some biology teachers are teaching religion in science classrooms and other biology teachers are being prohibited from allocating resources to teaching science and instead have to give equal airing to so called ‘intelligent design’. By the same reasoning they should allocate equal time to all alternate evolutionary theories such as Lamarkism.

    Also I would say ‘evolution’ and ‘natural selection’ are now as theoretical as the ‘theory of electromagnetism’ as described by Ampere and Maxwell.

    • I would never suggest such things James! 😛

      I agree wholeheartedly. Religion is not a science, and evolution should be taught unimpeded in science. If anything though we should be teaching skepticism, as the cult of Darwinism has many unquestioning followers.

      “Also I would say ‘evolution’ and ‘natural selection’ are now as theoretical as the ‘theory of electromagnetism’ as described by Ampere and Maxwell.” Well you would say that 😛

      I’m clearly not taking this is seriously as you though.

      “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.” -Hawking

  5. Simon

    I love the Judge’s comments on the actions of the Dover school board………

    “breath-taking inanity” and an “utter waste of monetary and personal resources”

    Sounds like a pretty good summation of creationism!

  6. @ Sol
    Sorry I didn’t reply way up there, the button seems to be MIA for some reason.
    In any case…
    I respectfully have to disagree. I think it comes down to how you view the world. I think everything can be reduced to a testable hypothesis. You hypothesise that God exists? Good. Its on you to get the data to prove it.
    I believe that scientifically principles and standards can be applied to test religion because I believe all things can be tested scientifically and at present there is no data to suggest the presence of god/s. Its all so boringly scientific down here 🙂

    * Also the ‘you’ I referred to was not you specifically just easiest to phrase my thoughts that way.

  7. I guess Australia is not immune after all, check out the video at the bottom…
    http://www.youngausskeptics.com/2010/07/creationism-at-my-school/

    • Uwe

      Just read and listened to the link, wtf. Religion will cast the human race back 2000 years in our thinking and understanding of the world with people like the guy in the video. Unfortunately the rise of extreme religious groups seems to be on the increase. I hate the think what will happen if we elect the mad Monk Abbott in August creationism will probably become compulsory. I have and continue to support the views of Richard Dawkins his views are also extreme but lunacy like in this link can only be meet with extreme counter measures.

  8. Uwe

    I have a big issue with understanding what he is saying but I think he sort of indicates that if the earth is real old say more than 6000 years then evil must have been put there by God and since we know God is good (cough) then obviously the earth can’t be older than say 6000 years. Does that clear it up for you or for anyone. Perhaps I am more confused than I thought.

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