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Education Science

Louisiana, Intelligent Design, and Science Classes 989

rollcall writes "The Livingston, Louisiana public school district is considering introducing intelligent design into its science curriculum. During the board's meeting Thursday, several board members expressed an interest in the teaching of creationism. 'Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed "critical thinking and creationism" in science classes. Board Member David Tate quickly responded: "We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can't we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?" Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, "I don't have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom."'"
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Louisiana, Intelligent Design, and Science Classes

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  • Let them?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mc1138 ( 718275 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:17AM (#33029434) Homepage
    I still can't get over that he said "We let them teach evolution to our children..." as though this is some sort of compromise with liberals or something...
  • by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:21AM (#33029506) Homepage Journal
    Technically, evolution and creationism are separated by about 14 billion years. If your going to teach creationism, shouldn't that be in astronomy class? What does the fact that organisms have DNA which allows them to pass on traits to their offspring have to do with the creation of the universe?
  • Re:Let them?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:25AM (#33029552) Journal

    I still can't get over that he said "We let them teach evolution to our children..." as though this is some sort of compromise with liberals or something...

    I think they're having problems with the textbooks when they say "them." And it's not really a compromise as they pushed it into an either/or scenario. The logic of the comments in the article seemed to follow this sort of path: 1. We believe (note, not their constituents, them) in creationism so there should be a way for teachers to also teach that in the classroom 2. When children learn one thing from one adult an opposing thing from another adult, the child interprets this as confusion and sometimes exploit it to undermine authority and we already have a problem with that so 4. Only creationism or evolution should be taught to our students but 5. We probably shouldn't be deciding that at this meeting so (thank the flying spaghetti monster) we should form a committee to investigate it.

    So it sounds like the resolution was to form a committee to decide if evolution or creationism should be taught in the classroom. Should be entertaining and maybe even tragic.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:27AM (#33029588)
    Mark Twain also felt that instead of sending missionaries to Africa that we should be sending them to the South.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:28AM (#33029608)

    It's not even philosophy. It's demonstrably wrong, unless you essentially denying any factual evidence biologists, physicists, chemists, and geologists might bring up.

    I'll grant that it's religion, but it's bad religion.

  • The premise of intelligent design is that God wasn't able to create a universe in which everything happened automatically. instead, it argues that He created the universe, and then had to constantly meddle because He couldn't get the animals He wanted by following the physical laws that He, Himself, made. This is utterly against my religion's conception of God, in which He does not make such mistakes.

    My religion is, I think, a fairly popular one called 'Christianity', and I fail to see why whatever minority religious group is pushing 'intelligent design' should be able to teach Christian children that God is fallible and makes mistakes that He then has to correct.

    Surely a better compromise between our two religions would be to simply not talk about what God did or didn't do at all in public schools.

  • by steve buttgereit ( 644315 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:45AM (#33029860) Homepage

    I bet most of the people here that are all up in arms at the whole Intelligent Design in public schools thing, at least here in the US, are also many of the same people responsible that make this possible. These people are clamoring for ways to make democracy easier through increased ways to register to vote ('motor-voter',welfare office provided voter registration,etc) as well as increase the reach and scope of government sponsored school systems. Indeed, these people aren't upset that the schools are used to indoctrinate kids at all. What they're really upset about is that the kids in this case just aren't being indoctrinated with the correct social agenda.

    If you want majority rule to broadly define governments and their policies and you want those same governments to oversee the delivery of education, you shouldn't be surprised that your tax dollars may be spent on someone's agenda for society; be that Intelligent Design, GLBT acceptance, or some other agenda.

    For the record I do not accept Intelligent Design as scientifically valid and I wouldn't want my kids wasting their time with it; it's religious dogma. But more to the point I don't believe in an educational system which allows majority groups to control education such that they aren't schools, but centers of of mass indoctrination. I believe in private education systems that allow me to know what they teach the kids and make sure that my kids are being taught according to those principles I believe they need to think, survive and to become the intellectual superiors of their peers. I firmly believe that if you want your kids in a religious schools, Marxist schools, whatever, that's your prerogative; but that right ends with your own children and stops well short of mine.

  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:01AM (#33030158)

    Which is done with a null hypothesis. In my AP Bio or Chem classes in high school, and in the Bio classes I took in college, the key was always to "reject the null hypothesis", which while not necessarily the same thing as "proving the hypothesis" is often times functionally equivalent. Since we can't set a null hypothesis of "if God doesn't exist then, we shouldn't see X" in any meaningful way, then we can't say "since we didn't see X then we reject that God doesn't exist". I'm really not sure what's different between what I said and what you said, other than the typical Internet model of "you didn't use my exact terms so I assume you're a moron, and since I don't have to prove who I really am, then I don't mind being a jackass."

  • by sarhjinian ( 94086 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:03AM (#33030186)
    Other western nations have more government involvement in schools and don't see any of this nonsense. This is, if anything, the result of too little government involvement, especially at a high level: education, instead of being handled by professionals at a high level, is administered by local curtain twitchers with an agenda and little else.

    This is what happens when you let populism stomp all over everything, and it's going to get worse as opportunistic politicians try to wield populist ignorance for their own end.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:03AM (#33030188)

    This is exactly how the subject is covered at the Leeds City Museum in the UK.

    In a evolution based history display in the basement, which covers the early development of the planet, they have a book called Creation Stories (or similar) in which they list the various creation stories from around the planet.

    The idea is to show what people have believed about the origin of the planet through history (the Christian one is just one page amongst several) and to contrast it with the evolution based display they can see before them.

    The book is just one small area in a otherwise evolution based display and hopefully makes people realise the Christian story is just one of several stories and not something unique.

    BTW, this was several months ago. I don't know if it's still there.

  • by smurfsurf ( 892933 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:03AM (#33030198)

    I went to a high school in Germany that was funded and run by the catholic church. But for a school (and their diploma) to be officially recognised, the curriculum has to be accepted by a expert board in the ministry of education.

    So there was no teaching or mentioning of Creationism and the likes in biology. And even in religion classes, this was not a topic at all. No teacher and no parent would even entertain that notion. I was born in Poland and my parents are deeply religious and they would not think about that. The push to creationism in the US leaves me astonished and in disbelieve. It is mental.

    Aside: Although the catholic religion classes were mostly just that, you were not grated on your faith or being able to cite the bible at all. It was about interpretation, comparison of the books of the new testament etc. We even had a fairly objective study about other religions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism), their history, their believes and customs. And even as it is a catholic school, we had about 40% evangelical christians, who had their own religion classes, and a few muslims, whose parents choose the school for its education quality and good standing.

  • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:05AM (#33030222)

    > I went to a catholic school many years ago. They taught evolution with "enhancements". One was the de'Chardin theory that evolution was teleological, that is, goal-directed toward perfection. Is was their attempt to reconcile evolution and religion.

    Yes, but that is the catholic church. They may represent a pretty extreme view, but they are trying very hard to be consistent. The news article however is about evangelical churches, which typically care a lot more about impact than about consistency.

    Otherwise they would have noticed that creationisms has a massive religious problem. If god created the universe with all the traces of evolution, you have to wonder why god would do that. And the best way to find out is to study evolution - at least that is the obvious answer.

    The argument about de'Chardin is one that comes up, and I think it is a very interest one. The ingredients of evolution are goal-less, but the resulting system behaves "as if" it has a goal. Compare that to a creature that behaves "as if" sentient - and you can find very interesting philosophical questions.

  • Fine, do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:12AM (#33030338) Homepage Journal

    You know what? If someone wants to talk about Creationism in science class, I think that's just fine. All you need to do, is teach what science is first, and define what a theory is. You don't need to get into the whole "is this how life came about?" question with the kids, or ever explicitly say "this is bunk." Just talk about all the evidence that suggested each hypothesis and all the ideas for experiments (and which ones have been performed and which ones haven't) that people have come up with to confirm or falsify each one.

    When you get to creationism, treat it just like evolution, and without getting distracted by irrelevant issues like "do we believe this is what happened?" just talk about the how evidence and how each hypothesis can be falsified. Never even mention belief; stay in the realm of evidence.

    If you come at creationism from a science perspective, it will be so embarrassing that the religious nuts will be begging to ban the subject from science class.

    Because, you see, creationism isn't the real problem here. I bet there are all sorts of non-science things being taught in science classes, because science is usually taught as a "what's happening?" class rather than a "how do we know what's happening?" class. It's the teaching of science itself in America that is weak, not all the various "sciency-sounding" topics within it.

  • by wastedlife ( 1319259 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:19AM (#33030476) Homepage Journal

    Honest question. Does it really explain "why?", it seems creationism just moves things from "we do not know" to "we still do not know, but God does and he has a plan". Personally, I'd rather "believe"(for lack of a better term), based on all evidence presented to me, that there is no "why".

  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:20AM (#33030492)

    This may sound weird coming from someone who believes in Creationism, but I agree. Creationism is not a science but a belief, and should not be taught in Science Class.

    Teaching it in school, though, is a whole different issue, which is what I am for. My local district teaches religous courses as electives, and covers religions other than just Christianity. Its basically the best way that I know of to please everyone, Evolution is taught in science, Creationism is taught in religion, and offering the religion class says, "We understand that there are different viewpoints, and we are presenting them, in their proper light".

    In summery, offer religion based classes to students, but don't mistake beliefs as science. Shoot, you can go as far as to require religion based classes IF you cover different religions, and call it diversity sensitivity training (some people on Slashdot could probably benefit from diversity training). Then let kids make up their own minds. Teachers should not pressure a kid at any time by saying the other one is wrong, or by presenting their personal views.

    So keep creationism out of science, but do offer religious beliefs as a class outside of science.

  • by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:21AM (#33030518) Journal

    It's a commonly-held belief among the religious that children would behave if only they got religion. And for what it's worth, if every one were truly practicing Christians, we wouldn't need much in the way of law enforcement. But when even the preachers in the pulpits can't keep their own vices in check, I think the notion that pushing religion on students will fix discipline problems is totally misguided.

    As for creationism in the classroom, I want two things:

    1) A solid scientific critique of evolution. I have absolutely no problem with them calling it into question, but they MUST do so scientifically. If evolution is so wrong, it shouldn't be hard to provide evidence.

    2) Some sort of argument for creationism beyond "God did it" and the creation story of any given religious text.

    For the record, I'm a Southern Baptist.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:29AM (#33030678) Homepage

    It is very nice of them to have gone to the step of saying explicitly "creationism" not even "creation science" or "intelligent design." The history here is interesting. First the Supreme Court said no creationism in science classes, so then the creationists made up "creation science" which was claimed to be scientific. The whole "Earth created 6000 years ago, and a global flood 5000 years or so ago" made the courts not look kindly on that. See Epperson v. Arkansas [] and then later Edwards v. Aguilard []. By sheer coincidence, right after the Edwards decision, intelligence design showed up on the scene as a totally new, totally scientific idea. They claimed that this had nothing to do with creationism or creation science, even though the first textbook on the subject, Pandas and People, had a search and replace of "creation science" for "intelligent design" from an earlier draft. Some of these, didn't go so well, like the infamous "cdesign proponentsists" in one draft. [] Not too surprisingly, a federal court didn't buy into this claim and ruled that intelligent design was creation science which was creationism. []. These Louisiana creationists seem to have the standard problem of being not quite bright enough to pull off the attempted deception and so just use all the terms as synonyms for creationism. That means that if this just gets to a low level court, they will get hammered quickly.

    Unfortunately, given the current right-wing makeup of the Supreme Court, it isn't implausible that an appeal to the Supreme Court will get everything overturned and will end up with creationism in public schools again. The original Edwards case was a 7-2 decision (Scalia's dissent is deeply wrong but worth reading). The current court might very well rule differently. And Obama's appointments don't help matters much. Sotomayor doesn't have much of a good record on First Amendment issues with almost no record at all on Establishment issues, and we've got close to nothing on Kagan.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:38AM (#33030820)
    It's funny, but my first realization that there was a serious conflict between science and the Biblical literalism came in Sunday School. I was listening to my Sunday School teacher talk about Adam and Eve and suddenly it hit me. I asked her "What about the dinosaurs?" and she nervously answered something like "Well, if it's not in the Bible, it didn't happen." That was the day I realized that religion was a crock. Even a little kid can smell bullshit when it's piled *that* high.
  • by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:43AM (#33030904)

    Obviously there was nothing or is nothing to stop the Lord from using evolution as a tool in creating this universe. What the illiterate right wind desires is to teach that the Bible is an absolute source. And that is absurd. I am a Christian and value the Bible as much as anyone can. However the under educated simply don't get it. They lack language skills. The Holy Bible is an inspired work. It is certainly at the very top of literature. That does not mean that it is a perfect work. Leonardo was inspired but if he had it to do over again ever painting that he created would be a bit different. Dwayne Wade is inspired when he plays his best basketball. Inspired does not equal perfect.
                      So we are left with some right wing Christians who wish to disguise an argument about the absolute perfection of the Word taking an idiotic position. On the other side of the argument we have a science community that is all too aware that given an inch the ignorant will leap to gain a mile and therefore the notion that God would by definition have the ability to design and use evolution must be avoided, in their minds, at all costs.
                      And make no mistake. The miserable right has a few loonies who can break out with violent acts over these nonsense type of arguments.

  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:43AM (#33030908)

    This is not the precise very of evolution...

    Uhm, not to put words in your mouth,* but I think you were aiming for something such as "This is the antithesis of the standard position, which is that Evolution proceeds inexorably towards a local optimum, rather than towards some abstract concept of perfection."

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is an interesting philosopher, and notable scientifically for his involvement as an anthropologist in the discovery of Peking man. Some people tried to blame him for the Piltdown man hoax, although that looks increasingly like a real stretch, motivated by "He's a Catholic priest, of course he's guilty" sort of 'reasoning'. Now that you've mentioned him, that will probably come up if it''s not addressed. Still, it's worth noting that the Roman Catholic church delayed publication of his writings by quite a few years. While he's popular with US Catholics and some in the European church, there are also some prominent Catholics who would still put his works on the proscribed list.

    *but with phrases such as that, I'm afraid you need someone to build a new six lane interchange between your frontal lobes and Brocas region. You seem to be thinking quite intelligently, but it's getting a bit garbled in the 'writing it down' part - is English, by any chance, a second language for you? :-)

  • by Warshadow ( 132109 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:45AM (#33030958)

    Ironically, in the area of Louisiana I lived in the parochial schools were the best schools in the area. They also only taught actual science in science class. They kept religious things in classes about religion.

    I had non-christian friends who sent their children to the private parochial schools in the area because the education there was so much better. I'm not sure if their children were forced to stomach the classes on loving Geebus though.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:52AM (#33031088)

    Do Jungians disrupt classes taught about Freud?

    I'm in your corner on this, but I do note that sometimes naked aggression and disruption (threatened or actual) by true believers is sometimes an effective way to get science (or, at minimum, standard scientific references) changed.

    To wit: []

    The removal of homosexuality from the DSM* was in response to a majority vote of the APA**. The original APA vote was called at a time of significant social change and was taken with unconventional speed that circumvented normal channels for consideration of the issues because of explicit threats from gay rights groups to disrupt APA conventions and research.

    * - DSM == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, essentially, the trade bible that defines what is and isn't a mental disorder.

    ** - APA == American Psychiatric Association, the publishers of and folks responsible for the content of the DSM.

    So, the Jungians may not see any point in bullying the Freudians, but the homosexuals certainly profited from bullying the psychiatrists. Sometimes, aggression works. I'd call the actions of this particular Louisiana school board pretty aggressive. Whether or not they work, we won't know for a long time.

  • by darkpixel2k ( 623900 ) <> on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33031180) Homepage

    I have no problem with them teaching the kids about any belief system they want in reglious education classes (and they even clearly labeled it a belief as quoted in TFS), but teaching about beliefs in a Science class is simply moronic.

    I fail to see why.
    If God does exist, and he created the universe, science would be the method us humans use to test, document, and explain the universe.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:00PM (#33031248) Journal

    You're both wrong, it has nothing to do with government involvement at all. Democrat or Liberal, Evolution or Creation Science, both are going to be pushed into school by either the government or the local community chairman. For a Nation strongly founded with "In God we trust" engrained into the fabric of their society, it's very difficult to push this kind of stuff out of schools.

    Other Western Nations don't see this kind of nonsense because they have seperated religion and state moreso than America. Every other political debate you see on TV ends up using the term "God Fearing Americans" or something like that. Trust me, its not your government that's the problem, its the foundation of American society that has somehow equated the success of the United States to it's belief in God. Let's face it, if its a democratic society (and I mean that in the sense of Democracy, not democrats being in power, you guys should look into changing that ambiguity) - than essentially if there were more people who were against this kind of teaching in schools that would affect the government. Also if the government weren't involved, than it would be the school systems, which if I exclude private schools, I believe is also full of elected representatives - so the power is still in the people.

    This is a problem from the ground up, not the top down.

  • Not going far enough (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:17PM (#33031550) Homepage Journal
    I think you have the right idea, but you aren't making the curriculum offensive enough: I advocate the teaching of infernal Design. Everything is identical to intelligent design, word for word, except that the creator is Satan as described in the Bible. Any argument that the religious nut jobs can make for teaching this theory, I can use. Should they get intelligent design taught in schools, I could pretty much get infernal design equal classroom time, since it is identical save for who the creator is, and I am pretty sure that the idea of legally forcing satanism to get equal classroom time with Christianity will cause them to abandon their efforts.
  • by AGMW ( 594303 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:33PM (#33031936) Homepage

    I think they should be allowed to teach "Intelligent Design" after they explain where their hypothesized Intelligent Designer was intelligently designed --their entire point, after all, is the claim that the complexity of life and intelligence is beyond the abilities of evolution to accomplish. Therefore, since their proposed Intelligent Designer is by-definition intelligent and complex....

    I know this post is anonymous but it's pretty much spot on ...
    if I had some mod points I'd mod it in the morning, I'd mod it in the evening, all over this land. I'd mod it about danger, I'd mod it about a warning, but it being about Louisiana I doubt they need the modding about the love between the brothers and sisters ...

  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:17PM (#33033950)

    As an atheist who attended a religiously affiliated school that taught creationism K-12 and on weekends I have a much better solution.

    Mandate teaching those little bastards every religious idea they will probably come across and give Christianity no preferential or differential treatment. "Evolution might be wrong. Here are some alternate popular theories: There was this ice giant and he.... or there was a divine being who came down and sculpted men out of mud and then breathed on them. Or they are the manifestation of a divine being's dream. Or..."

    Do that for about a day and wait for the outrage as parents demand that the school stop teaching their impressionable little children that the world was created from a yak.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:27PM (#33034150)
    you do know you are referencing the 'common sense and wisdom of the people' of those who thought the world was a flat disk because it was easier than trying to comprehend a sphere and the implications of gravity to pull everyone to that same sphere...

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson