The Dog That Didn’t Bark

Heading for the beach? Be sure to take along some classic beach reading: Chapter Three of our Teaching Evolution in a Creation Nation!NCSE TECN excerpt

The National Center for Science Education has posted an excerpt from our book on its website. I hope this brings in some new readers.

Now all you cheapskates out there can get a taste of our book without plunking down twenty bucks to read the whole thing.

In this chapter, I make my case that the crucial period in our twentieth-century battles over creationism and evolution education was not the 1920s with its Scopes Trial, or the 1960s with its flood of young-earth creationist activism. Rather, if we really want to understand the creation/evolution debate, we have to understand what happened on both sides between 1930 and 1960, when the battle moved out of the headlines.

At least, that’s the argument I try to make in this chapter. It’s no surprise to SAGLRROILYBYGTH, but I firmly believe that both sides in our current creation/evolution debate will benefit from understanding a little bit more about each other and about the history of their disagreement. And now, thanks to the National Center for Science Education, maybe a few more science geeks and teachers will check out our book.

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Teaching Evolution in a Creation Nation

What do we want out of America’s schoolchildren? . . . out of America’s creationists? I’m tickled pink to announce that my co-author Harvey Siegel and I have just sent in our final manuscript for our new book, Teaching Evolution in a Creation Nation. In this volume, we tackle these difficult questions head-on.

As we’ve explored in these pages, Harvey and I review the historical and philosophical issues involved in America’s long culture-war battle over evolution and creationism. Historically, I argue, creationism (in most of its religiously inspired variants) has worked like other forms of religious and cultural dissent. Philosophically, Harvey reviews the tricky definition of science, as well as the most common objections to evolution education.

In essence, we argue that the best way to understand creationism is as a form of educational dissent. By defining creationism that way, we can see some directions in which classroom policy should go.Jack chick Evolution

Most important, we argue that the proper aims of public-school evolution education should be to inculcate a knowledge and understanding of evolution. No creationist-friendly variants should be allowed in science classes as science. But dissenting students must be allowed and even encouraged to maintain their dissent. We can’t insist that students believe this or that about evolution. Not in public schools, anyway. We must insist, however, that students know and understand that evolution is the best scientific explanation of the ways life came to be on this planet.

Among the tricky questions raised by our book are these:

  1. Is “belief” an inherent part of good evolution education? That is, should children in public schools be encouraged not only to know and understand certain facts about evolution, but to believe that evolution is really the best way to understand the roots of our species’ existence?
  2. Does it water down evolution education to allow dissenters to maintain their dissent, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence?
  3. From creationists’ perspectives, is it too much to agree that mainstream evolution science really is the best science? Will creationists agree that their ideas are more religiously inspired belief than legitimate scientific dissent?
  4. Can teachers in the real world walk this line between teaching facts about evolution and teaching belief in evolution?

There’s one important question that is less difficult: When will this baby hit the bookstores? Our editor at the University of Chicago Press tells us our baby will be like a real baby: it needs to gestate for at least nine months before it’s ready to get slapped around.

And I’m confident it will attract plenty of slappers.