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Jan 12 2012

Santorum did not have a good idea

Now and again, some well-meaning but clueless person gets it into their head that teaching creationism in the schools is a good idea — that the clash of ideas is a good pedagogical technique. There are cases where that would be true, but doing it in the public school classroom and hashing over a bad, discredited idea vs. good science is totally inappropriate. Reserve that technique for issues where there is substance on both sides.

But now Jay Mathews is trying to revivify this nonsense in the Washington Post, suggesting that Rick Santorum has a good idea with his plan to “teach the controversy”. He’s done it before, and gotten a predictable response.

Teaching all sides of the evolution issue is supported in opinion polls. But those against it feel more strongly. When I suggested in 2005 that high school biology teaching would be improved by allowing students to debate Darwinism vs. the intelligent design theory, I received more than 400 e-mails. Seventy percent of them said I was an idiot. Many added that I was a dangerous idiot.

Heed your email, Mathews. The majority were right. And your opinion column just reveals that you don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

I respectfully disagree. It is important to note that Santorum and I have different reasons for wanting high schools to allow discussion of intelligent design — the notion that some supernatural force (not necessarily God) brought life to earth. Santorum believes that God had a hand in it. But he wants to avoid injecting religion into schools, so he says classes need only examine the scientific possibility that Darwin was wrong to conclude that life evolved only because of natural processes.

I highlighted part of that paragraph, because it illustrates how wrong Mathews is. No, the Religious Right wants to inject religion into schools; that’s clearly been on their agenda from the very beginning. They want prayer, they want religion classes, and they want to expunge any scientific finding that contradicts the Bible. Santorum and his fellow travelers see intelligent design creationism as a Trojan horse to get god into the classroom.

After his failed exercise in reading Rick Santorum’s mind, an exercise that ignores the paper trail the Religious Right has left us, Mathews turns his magic powers on the minds at the Discovery Institute, and gets that wrong, too.

Advocates of intelligent design at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have influenced Santorum. They accept many Darwinist concepts, such as the notion that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. They see a weakness in Darwinian theory because of the lack of much evidence of natural precursors to the animal body types that emerged in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force.

Many scientists and teachers think the intelligent design folks are only pretending to have an allegiance to science. They seemed sincere to me. Some have doctorates in science. Even if they are fakes, their reliance on the fossil record rather the first book of the Bible qualifies them for a science class debate.

Mathews, look at your email again. You’re an idiot.

The Discovery Institute contains a diverse group of people; some are young earth creationists who completely deny common descent; some accept that the earth is old and that we can trace the derivation of humans from prior forms. What unites them is a categorical rejection of natural mechanisms of evolution; they don’t believe that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. Some of them believe that the ape genome was consciously ransacked by an intelligent designer to build a new species, us, with intent.

The absence of evidence of natural precursors you are babbling about is pure ID propaganda. It’s wrong. We don’t have fossils of these things, that is true, but you have to be thoroughly ignorant of modern biology to think that fossils are the primary source of information about our biological history. We analyze molecules, not bones. And the molecules tell us much about pre-Cambrian relationships.

GAPS? You’re proposing teaching “gaps” in our knowledge? OK, the right answer is to point to a specific question and say, “I don’t know”. It is not right to say “I don’t know, but I’m going to invent a magic ghost to fill in that gap, and I’m going to call him Jesus.”

Now Mathews claims to see “sincerity” in the intelligent design creationists, which is nice and charitable, but not credible. Philip Johnson has a doctorate, sure…he’s a lawyer, and he adopted this ID nonsense when he had a midlife crisis and also became a fundamentalist Christian. Bill Dembski has a doctorate in math, and also thinks ID is a modern version of the Logos gospel. Jonathan Wells has a doctorate in biology (amazing!), and also went into his graduate program at the behest of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, so that he could destroy Darwinism from within. They are sincere Christians. They are not sincere scientists.

I would like to see evidence that creationists rely on the fossil record. Mathews himself claims it’s about gaps; the Discovery Institute has not proposed that the way to advance their cause is by more intense study of paleontology.

So Mathews knows nothing about what the creationists actually argue. Does he know anything about biology? No, he does not.

I think Darwin was right, but boring.

It was hard for me to become interested in classroom explanations of natural selection when I was a student. Introducing a contrary theory like intelligent design and having students discuss its differences from Darwinism would enliven the class. It would also teach the scientific method. Did Darwin follow the rules of objective scientific inquiry? Does intelligent design?

Grrrr. BORING? You’re a goddamned ignorant moron, Mathews. Do not blame the instructional failures of your lousy teachers, or your inattentiveness in class, on Charles Darwin.

Right now, we have a wealth of wonderful material that can be taught in the classroom, and great texts to do it with. I highly recommend the books of Sean Carroll; I’m using his Making of the Fittest in our introductory biology classrooms right now, and it does a marvelous job of explaining the molecular evidence behind evolution. I’ve also used Endless Forms Most Beautiful in my developmental biology class — it’s great at summarizing evo-devo. We’ve also used Weiner’s Beak of the Finch as an example of modern population genetics; Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge for the intersection of paleontology and molecular biology; and Shubin’s Your Inner Fish for human evolution. These are real pedagogical tools and interesting scientific issues that can be and have been used routinely in good science classes, without resorting to contrived nonsense.

Boring? Jebus, Mathews, you aren’t competent to lecture us on how to teach biology if you think this entire field of science is uninteresting…so uninteresting that you want to introduce crackpots and wackaloons to liven it up. Hey, how about clowns, too? That would have perked you right up in your lackluster student days — sure, let’s just fill the science classroom with a whole fucking parade of clowns!

You know what classes students really find dry and boring, and complain about frequently? Math classes. I anxiously await the patented Jay Mathews solution to make math exciting — it will probably involve lying a lot, putting mathematical concepts on trial, and inventing out of whole cloth solutions to problems that have resisted actual mathematical efforts to answer. Maybe magic tricks? Perhaps he thinks this old S. Harris cartoon is a legitimate example of good math teaching style?

I teach at the college level, and I do discuss intelligent design creationism in the classroom. But first, I spend a couple of weeks discussing the scientific evidence for evolution intensively; I prepare the students with the background to analyze the questions legitimately. And then I don’t present creationism as something that has to be addressed scientifically, but as a social and political problem — and we go through a subset of their arguments and show how they neglect and contradict the scientific evidence that the students already know. It is most definitely not because we need creationism to make the science lively; it’s because creationism is a pain in the ass lie that the students should be prepared to cope with.

(Also on Sb)

95 comments

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  1. 1
    julietdefarge

    Surely the right-wing leadership must be aware of how far behind other countries the US is in math and science education, and the need for US corporations to hire technically skilled people. Is the purpose of wasting class time on mythology part of a plan to ensure that only the kids of the 1% get a good education and good jobs? What happens to everybody else? Back to subsistence farming, or line jobs in repatriated factories?

  2. 2
    chigau (違う)

    I’ve never understood how a “gap” in the evidence equates to a “gap” in the theory.

  3. 3
    raven

    “Teach the controversy” just means “teach creationism.”

    Creationists spend all their time babbling on about jesus, god, how Darwinists killed the Jews, and scientists are all evil commie atheists.

    All they say about evolution is that it is wrong. Takes about 10 seconds.

  4. 4
    Rey Fox

    All this time I’ve spent learning stuff when I could just get a columnist job with a major respected newspaper and be paid to be IGNORANT!

  5. 5
    d cwilson

    (not necessarily God)

    I call bullshit right there. I challenge anyone to find an intelligent design proponent who doesn’t believe that the designer is Yahweh. Oh sure, they pretend that when they speak about a designer, it could be aliens or the flying spagetti monster, but I doubt there is a single one whose personal belief is that the designer is not the Abrahamic god.

  6. 6
    Glen Davidson

    How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force.

    Get real, anything leaves open the possibility of any damned fiction you want to invent. So what? And, if there were any evidence for design the gaps wouldn’t matter, because you’d have evidence for design. You don’t.

    And it’s hardly from random chemical to Cambrian critters, either (many phyla quickly went extinct soon after, hardly what you’d expect of some great Designer). The broad expectations are met, bacteria and archaea, with eukaryotes appearing later, and then Ediacara. Even if the latter didn’t give rise to any Cambrian phyla (debated), it’s another “explosion” with no obvious design purpose whatsoever.

    Here’s the real quandary for the IDiots, Mathews: Why are all extant metazoa related? No design reason can be given, while it’s an evolutionary expectation, given the rapid rise of most phyla in the Cambrian.

    Even so, I don’t see any reason why the failure of ID couldn’t be contrasted with the successes in some hypothetically ideal situation. It’s the lack of such an ideal situation that keeps us from agreeing that it’s a good idea in practice, with something like 20% of elementary teachers already creationist, some teaching it.

    By the way, since creationism is taught in a enough cases, why can’t he come up with examples of where “teaching both” gave good results? It’s because creationism is taught only because of the religious push to privilege their own myths.

    Glen Davidson

  7. 7
    jnorris

    Please Mr Mathews, be the first, publish a Theory of Intelligent Design and the evidence for supporting it. I am sure the Discovery Institute will happily mail it to you.

    And thank you PZ for including my favorite science cartoon.

  8. 8
    raven

    I received more than 400 e-mails. Seventy percent of them said I was an idiot. Many added that I was a dangerous idiot.

    Jay Matthews is in fact, a dangerous idiot.

    Creationists can’t and won’t “teach the controversy”. They usually know absolutely nothing about evolution except it is an evil lie thought up by satan and demons.

    They spend all their time bashing Darwin, science, and the Theory of Evolution with their usual collection of lies and fallacies.

  9. 9
    d cwilson

    I’ve never understood how a “gap” in the evidence equates to a “gap” in the theory.

    It’s very simple: Science can’t answer every single question about the nature of the universe, therefore, Jesus.

    See how logical it is?

  10. 10
    azportsider

    “Hey, how about clowns, too?” Well, hell, PZ–he’s already got Santorum and the entire DI. How many more clowns will fit in that little car?

  11. 11
    Anthony K

    A journalist found school boring? You don’t say.

    I challenge anyone to find an intelligent design proponent who doesn’t believe that the designer is Yahweh.

    Harun Yahya thinks the designer was Allah.

    What do I win?

  12. 12
    petejohn

    Santorum believes that God had a hand in it. But he wants to avoid injecting religion into schools…

    I needed to read no more to realize this dolt has completely misunderstood the objectives of every single member of the Religious Wrong. Doesn’t want to inject religion into schools? Psshhh, please…

  13. 13
    raven

    Teach the controversy besides being thinly disguised creationism has other problems.

    1. There aren’t two sides to an issue necessarily. Sometimes there are dozens of sides to an issue. Which is the True Xian Sect. There are 42,000 claims to that title.

    There are dozens of creation myths and variations.

    2. Sometimes the two or more sides to an issue are just wrong. Flat earth or round earth. This was a controversy for a long time.

    All those dozens of creation myths are just wrong.

  14. 14
    Gregory Greenwood

    So, Matthews thinks that the best way to ‘liven up’ a scientific field is by introducing lies, propaganda and theistic delusions into science education as if they amount to scientific theories? And all because he finds biology ‘boring’?

    Leaving aside the crass anti-intellectualism of a man who blames an entire scientific field for his lack of interest and apptitude, I wonder how ‘boring’ Matthews would find evolutionary theory if he realised how important it is to things that he might care about, like modern medicine. How would he feel if, when sickly or injured, he had no way of knowing whether his physician actually understood the core concepts underpinning their profession, or had rejected the entire kit and kaboodle in favour of unevidenced Bronze Age mythology?

    It is the kind of thing that might matter to a chap when the Doc starts picking out chemicals to pump into your body or starts perusing the available selection of razor sharp surgical instruments that they are going to use to slice you open and start poking about among your vital organs…

    … Or is that just me?

  15. 15
    Ing

    Copy paste this as the title of any story about Santorum.

  16. 16
    pensnest

    Evolution is boring?

    Wot a pillock.

  17. 17
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    I’ve wondered, if these people trust kids so much to figure out which is right, why not just trust the professionals (scientists)?

    And even with presenting ID with evolution, would they be fine if everyone leaving the classroom understood how the theory of evolution explains the fact that species evolve – which would happen with a semi-competent teacher?

    I’m guessing the answers are:
    1 – Elitists!!1!Eleven!1
    2 – No, you must not understand, evolution isn’t a perfect theory, but “GODDIDIT!” is perfect, so your answer is wrong!

  18. 18
    otrame

    What do I win?

    Another internet to add to you vast collection. (Where do you put them all?)

  19. 19
    Rey Fox

    I mean, what ever happened to these guys flaming out after their high school party days? When did we start paying them to be worthless bums? In a real meritocracy, he’d be out digging ditches.

    Hmm, did I just say “real meritocracy”? I gotta stop doing that.

    I challenge anyone to find an intelligent design proponent who doesn’t believe that the designer is Yahweh.

    Well, there’s the Raelians and other assorted panspermiacs. Unless you don’t count them because it just pushes the species creation back a few thousand light years.

  20. 20
    d cwilson

    Harun Yahya thinks the designer was Allah.

    Nope. Remember, Muslims believe that Allah is simply the same entity the Israelites called Yahweh or El.

  21. 21
    Ing

    I don’t get the claim that Darwin was borring.

    Devout and for his time liberal xian planning to be a priest manages to befriend a ultra orthodox captian of a ship to hire him as a naturalist for a last hurrah, going on a voyage across the world seeing primative people, barberous slavers, indian rebellions, fantastical creatures, volcanos and earthquakes and finds physical and emotional evidence that challenges his entire philosophy. There are civilized savages that choose to abandon society to a life of primative tribalism, acts of phenominal cruelty against the weak, and with the ships captain, a staunch creatonist and slave trade apologist acting as a strong foil. These two men go on a voyage one leaving with his orthodoxy shattered and challenging the foundations of chfistendom the other retreating further and further into dogma. This is an epic story

  22. 22
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    So a man with only a passing aquaintance with Religious nutjobs, absolutely no knowledge of even fundamental biology (it’s not called Darwinism sweety) and who’s last dealing with the school system was in high school thinks he has all the answers to teaching biology?

    I think not.

    In fact I think Jay Matthews’ separation from Rick Santorum will be found to be considerably less than 6 degrees.

  23. 23
    d cwilson

    If he’s worried about biology class being too boring, then injecting intelligence design is just about the worst thing one could do to “enliven” the discussion.

    Johnny: How did the flagellum evolve?

    Teacher: Goddidit!

    Johnny: What about blood clotting?

    Teacher: Goddidit!

    Johnny: What do you think of the “mirror test” that seems to indicate that elephants are self-aware?

    Teacher: Goddidit!

    Johnny: I heard that we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees.

    Teacher: Goddidit!

    Johnny: I found this website with a list of over 1000 fossils that show evidence of transition forms.

    Teacher: Goddidit!

  24. 24
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    See d cwilson, being able to say Goddidit! lets you finish up early and get out on the playground much quicker.

    See! Less boring!

  25. 25
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    The position of Jay Mathews is a small victory for ID. Keep throwing up enough irrelevant flak about “Darwinism”, “humans evolving from apes”, “not inject religion” and other catch phrases and some people who do not know better think that they can see a convincing argument.

    Even without all of this ID bullshit, how can one be blind to the fact that Santorum-For-Brains is all about injecting religion into everything.

  26. 26
    Glen Davidson

    You can be quite sure that, if ID and evolution were taught properly, those howling the loudest against it (and invoking the first amendment, too) would be the creationists. They couldn’t bear having their religious beliefs subjected to scientific scrutiny and failing so miserably, as they do.

    The courts would probably side with them as well, recognizing that public money can’t be spent either supporting or trashing religion, as any honest evaluation of ID would turn out to be.

    Glen Davidson

  27. 27
    raven

    How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force.

    What gap in knowledge. That gap exists only in Jay Matthews mind along with a huge number of other gaps. Another name for those gaps is ignorance. Matthews really is an idiot.

    We actually do know a huge amount about evolution and find out more every day. That Matthews is too dumb to bother to read anything about it isn’t proof of anything except that he is stupid and lazy.

  28. 28
    andusay

    I look at this wonderful, scathing response and can’t help but ask… What does Jay Matthews think of this? Does he read it? Is he at all interested in such responses? Does he even wish to learn anything (or is it too boring?)?

    Some day I would really like to see some sort of response by the target of these reviews. Something to show that they at least have some awareness of the reaction to their screeds. I know there was one time where this actually happened here. but once is just too rare.

    Common, Jay, how do you answer all of this?

  29. 29
    raven

    Now Mathews claims to see “sincerity” in the intelligent design creationists, which is nice and charitable, but not credible.

    They aren’t sincere at all. Creationists are wild eyed religious fanatics intent on taking over our society and destroying it.

    They say so themselves. The DI is a xian Dominionist front funded by theocratic wannabees.

  30. 30
    raven

    Common, Jay, how do you answer all of this?

    Jay Matthews seems to be a not too bright and obscure journalist. Probably he just says shocking things for attention.

    Next up, advocating the death penalty for possessing marijuana brownies. Followed by Darth Cheney, a saint for our time. Finishing up with Obama, Kenyan born Moslem terrorist or the antichrist?

  31. 31
    w00dview

    Boring?

    Whales evolving from hoofed mammals and birds being derived dinosaurs is more incredible and awe inspiring to me because the evidence for such claims is so convincing. Whereas ID is braindead nonsense that just replaces “Goddidit!” with “Designerdidit”! How can any curious child be satisfied with that gobbledegook as an answer?

    Evolution is the total opposite of boring. It explains the bewildering complexity and diversity of the natural world and challenges the preconception of man as God’s precious little snowflake. It is enlightening and humbling. ID is a pimped out version of creationism which fundies like because it tells them what they want to hear; that they are the chosen ones and that they are the centre of the universe. It is a vacuous and vain ideology that is purely toxic to rational thinking.

  32. 32
    truthspeaker

    So he went to the trouble to talk to people at the Discovery Institute, but he’s never heard of the Wedge document?

    Remember when journalists would actually research what they were writing about?

  33. 33
    RFW

    Creationism is not a side of the evolution issue.

    It’s a side of the separation of church and state issue.

    The real sides to the evolution issue are entirely within the scientific field: how did life arise, how did the first metazoan come into existence, is multicellular life common or rare throughout the universe: questions like those, where the current answers depend on informed speculation and the scientific community is by no means of one mind.

    Teach the evolution-creationism conflict in civics classes, not science classes.

  34. 34
    Active Margin

    What controversy is he wanting to teach? Is it that Santorum isn’t as crazy as one might think if you ignore the evidence? Or is it that ID isn’t as crazy as one might think if you ignore the evidence?

    Both are absurd, but I can’t figure out which he’s actually getting at. Both perhaps?

  35. 35
    Sastra

    You know what classes students really find dry and boring, and complain about frequently? Math classes. I anxiously await the patented Jay Mathews solution to make math exciting — it will probably involve lying a lot, putting mathematical concepts on trial, and inventing out of whole cloth solutions to problems that have resisted actual mathematical efforts to answer.

    Perhaps he would suggest a more ecumenical approach, one which respects the diversity of the student body:

    Instead of having “answers” on a math test, they should just call them “impressions,” and if you got a different “impression,” so what, can’t we all be brothers? –Jack Handey

    dcwilson #5 wrote:

    I challenge anyone to find an intelligent design proponent who doesn’t believe that the designer is Yahweh. Oh sure, they pretend that when they speak about a designer, it could be aliens or the flying spagetti monster, but I doubt there is a single one whose personal belief is that the designer is not the Abrahamic god.

    I’ll accept the challenge. Here’s one: Ken Wilber.

    Really, that’s easy. New Agers/neopagans often consider themselves scientifically savvy, proposing new and improved versions of quantum physics (consciousness is a fundamental component of reality!) and evolution (spiritual progress guided by a holistic creative principle of consciousness!) Hindus don’t care for evolution either. They will sneer at Biblical creationists and then come up with their own woo-and-consciousness infused version of vitalist creation. Intelligent Design is easily adapted and co-opted.

  36. 36
    peterh

    What is truly boring is hearing the same old, tired, multiply-falsified clutchings-at-straws, fairy stories & wishful thinking. If “teach the controversy” were correctly and objectively pursued, the IDjits would shoot themselves in both feet halfway through the opening paragraph.

  37. 37
    robro

    I wonder what Jaime Escalante would say to Matthews’ proposal?

  38. 38
    mikee

    How about we add numerology to Mathis classes to liven it up? Or alchemy to chemistry, perhaps astrology along side astronomy.

    The only value I can see for teaching creationism is if it idone by someone with a very strong background in evolution and if it is used to show how creationism demonstrates anti scientific concepts such as cherry picking. To teach it as a possible alternative to evolution would be the same as teaching alchemy, astrology or numerology.

  39. 39
    Anthony K

    Nope. Remember, Muslims believe that Allah is simply the same entity the Israelites called Yahweh or El.

    Damn you, d cwilson. I knew you’d use this to weasel out of awarding me the accolades I so richly deserve. But you are technically correct—the best kind of correct.

    But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mathews. Siding with the poor, maligned know-nothing crackpots is a staple of journalism.

    (Read the comments. magic_tcup isn’t bad, but Rrhain’s reply to Charles is QFT-worthy.)

  40. 40
    Heliantus

    In a previous post (“That does look like vaguely religious, doesn’t it”), PZ was asking this:

    Next thing you know, these religious gomers will try to argue that creationism is a secular, scientific theory. No one is going to be fooled by that, are they?

    The answer didn’t take long to arrive. Enter Jay Mathews:

    Santorum believes that God had a hand in it. But he wants to avoid injecting religion into schools

    [um, maybe PZ was rhetorical. Or less naive than me. Or able to foresee the future.]

  41. 41
    John Hinkle

    PZ:

    And your [Mathews'] opinion column just reveals that you don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

    As Calvin once said, “Why bother learning when ignorance is instantaneous?”

  42. 42
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    I’d never heard of Mathews before. I couldn’t find anything about him on Sourcewatch, but Wikipedia says he’s the author of multiple books on education. One of them appears to be a puff piece on The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which is the U.S.’s largest network of charter schools. (The book’s title, Work Hard, Be Nice, is vomitous on its own.)

    There’s more criticism of KIPP at Wikipedia. Mathews himself is up front about his pro-KIPP bias. In that piece, he addresses a study that is critical of KIPP; his tone smacks of, “Gosh, they’re just so negative!

  43. 43
    Sastra

    Heliantus #40 wrote:

    um, maybe PZ was rhetorical.

    PZ was being sarcastic. The “scientific creationists” and ID-iots have been insisting that “creationism is a secular, scientific theory” for years — and fooling nobody but themselves and those who want to be fooled.

  44. 44
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    [um, maybe PZ was rhetorical. Or less naive than me. Or able to foresee the future.]

    None of these. PZ is commenting about a pattern that has been on going for decades.

  45. 45
    Russell

    Teach the controversy: if God created the denizens of the Discovery Institute in his own image, why do they evidence descent from spontaneous generation in slime?

  46. 46
    Gregory Greenwood

    Santorum’s good but hated education idea

    It takes a particular type of oblivious moron to write a title like that.

    I don’t know whether to laugh uncontrollably at the very suggestion that Mr Frothy had a good idea (or indeed anything approaching a coherent thought) in his head, especially with regard to science education, or weep for the state of modern political journalism, or rage against yet another idiot all too eager to help lay the ground work that will allow xian dominionists like Santorum to shoehorn their delusions into science classes.

  47. 47
    nonsense

    Math classes can study Alice in Wonderland. It was written as a critique of modern math for being too complex and seemingly crazy, and by one of the creationist go-tos to boot.

  48. 48
    Ing

    It was written as a critique of modern math for being too complex and seemingly crazy, and by one of the creationist go-tos to boot.

    Are you confusing Lewis Carrol with C.S. Lewis?

  49. 49
    Alverant

    Wouldn’t “Teaching all sides of the evolution issue” include teaching the viewpoints of other religions? Instead he goes right on to say “both” as if there are just two sides.

  50. 50
    Ing

    Flanders: We need to teach the alternatives to Darwinian evolution!
    Skinner:…Lamarkian Evolution?

  51. 51
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Wouldn’t “Teaching all sides of the evolution issue” include teaching the viewpoints of other religions? Instead he goes right on to say “both” as if there are just two sides.

    You are aware of the origin of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  52. 52
    dannysichel

    There are controversies on all kinds of issues.

    Some people think Jay Mathews has already been paid for his work this week, for instance, and that he shouldn’t be paid again. Mr Mathews may disagree, and that’s his right, but there’s plenty of evidence that says he’s already been paid, so we should devote equal time to that argument. And really, he’s got a hidden agenda – he wants to be paid twice, which is a sin.

    Jay Mathews has already been paid for all the writing he’s going to do this year, in fact. That’s my theory, and I believe the Washington Post will agree with me that he shouldn’t be paid twice for this work. Sure, there’s things like “accounting” and “bookkeeping” that indicate otherwise, but those are boring and hard to understand. I feel, in my heart, that Jay Mathews has been paid well in advance for his columns — paid, and overpaid. I, and we all, have faith that the Washington Post does not need him, and the Washington Post should respect our theory by letting him go.

  53. 53
    don1

    If you find any field of knowledge boring you should remove yourself from the conversation. Because you are not worth engaging with.

  54. 54
    feralboy12

    Santorum believes that God had a hand in it. But he wants to avoid injecting religion into schools

    Of course not. Injections aren’t necessary when you give the kids implants early enough.
    Amazing–Santorum tells everybody how he wants things to be, and dumbasses like this don’t believe him. Mathews would do well in ID class; he’s already learned to reject clear evidence like a master.

  55. 55
    Azuma Hazuki

    The irony of all of this, the delicious, bittersweet irony, is that evolution is a fact. If there is a God, even if it’s Yahweh, that God did things by evolution. And these people deny it.

    With their whole lives, with the sum total of their crusty little hearts and creaking tennisball-sized brains and flabby gelatine souls, they throw themselves into full-on denial of the reality their God created. They pick up their Bibles and walk into their God’s house and slap Him in the face with the books and tell Him “No, You didn’t do what You did; You did what I say You did.”

    And we’re the blasphemers?

  56. 56
    qwerty

    More from the article:
    “In recent years Santorum and the Discovery Institute have shifted their emphasis, saying intelligent design is a worthy high school topic but shouldn’t be pushed right now for fear of hindering its scientific development. They don’t want to make more enemies. ”

    *gagging* No, the godbots lost in Kitzmiller v. Dover and they’re still figuring out what to do next.

  57. 57
    Ing

    More of journalists mistakenly thinking they’re spokes persons.

  58. 58
    zeekthegeek

    Do you know a good resource to go to learn more about what’s being taught in Minnesota K-12 schools? I’m interested in supporting curriculums free of ID, or at least knowing what districts might be threatened by these kind of beliefs.

  59. 59
    Nick Gotts

    Seventy percent of them said I was an idiot. – Jay Mathews

    The other 30% were from idiots.

  60. 60
    jimmauch

    Asking whether a high school classroom should be arguing the merits of evolutution verses creation/ID is a no brainer. Studies have shown that for many high school teachers the only person less qualified to offer an opinion then themselves would be many of their students. This is no denegration of the many science teachers out there doing a great job but I am sure that they would agree that a student should be taught only that science that comes from the best in the profession. No science classroom should allow any debate to occur about whether the student have a choice as to whether they can get their information from the experts or Pastor Mike.

    If I’ m wrong about this I guess what I will do is enter a college biology class and tell the instructor that I think he is all wrong. Does anyone know when I can enter one of Professor PZ classes?

  61. 61
    zoniedude

    I already had an email exchange with Mathews around 10 years ago about math. He doesn’t grasp the idea of an average.

    But when I was in college the legislature required that alternatives to evolution be taught. I had a professor, who was a minister, who tried to mention creationism but I interrupted and said “If we are going to discuss ridiculous theories, why don’t we use Danikan’s that invaders from outerspace thought earth girls were easy?” That explains the Jesus story much better than creationism.

    As long as you don’t have to rely on evidence, the argument is open to anything, not just creationism, and if you want really creative discussion there is a lot more than just creationism. We didn’t have the flying spaghetti monster in my day but if it is likely that some diety built a watch, it probably required more than two hands.

  62. 62
    rivertam

    Regarding Matthews complaint that learning about evolution is boring, I completely disagree. When we learned about evolution in school instead of teaching us the entire unit our teacher taught us the first section then had us break off into groups, assigned each group a section of the chapter and had each group teach their section to the rest of the class. I got diversification and mass extinction. Best. subject. ever. I was luck enough because PZ had posted that video on diversification of fish in the congo which was a really good example for the class. THANK YOU PZ. If you ask me evolution was the most interesting subject we covered in biology.

  63. 63
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I am currently reading Robert Carroll’s The Rise of Amphibians: 365 Million Years of Evolution,” and the first two chapters cover abiogenesis and the evolution of single- and multi-celled life and it is fucking brilliant. Written in such manner that a reasonably well-informed historian can actually understand what the hell happened. Why the fuck can’t any of these reality-denying godbots actually pick up a fucking book and fucking read the fucking thing?

  64. 64
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Sorry for not closing the i.

  65. 65
    SteveV

    Now Mathews claims to see “sincerity” in the intelligent design creationists, which is nice and charitable, but not credible.

    It’s also irrelevant. Even if we conceed ‘sincerity’, they’re still wrong.
    If we don’t allow sincerty, then they’re wrong AND they’re lying.

    I’ve always considered ‘sincerity’ to be overated as a virtue, at least by comparision to being right.

  66. 66
    anchor

    Creationist science: “Oh, look. A GAP! Therefore, I’m right, my wacky idea has a place to live, it must obviously then also be correct, and everything else that science says about all that other evidence stuff lying inbetween the gaps is wrong!”

    An Education Columnist of The Washington Post: “Oh look! A CREATIONIST doing SCIENCE! Why can’t they play in the science classroom along with the other kids?

    An imbecile writes an article appearing in The Washington Post suggesting that this crap is sincere, legitimate and entirely appropriate to include into the science curriculum…because the real science of it bored the writer so as a kid, and he thinks it could use a little pizzazing up by encouraging students into thinking they’d be doing something instructive and important by comparing it to…CRAP?

    Jay Mathews, “An Education Columnist of the Washington Post” writing in The Education Page of the Washington Post suggests this? SERIOUSLY?

    Man, that’s shot-in-the-head-drop-dead stupid. How can anybody trust anything else that appears in the Washington Post? What, they have better writers, standards, expert advisors or better sources for any of the other topics they write opinion pieces or regular news on about? On politics, the economy, business, international affairs, other science fields, say? Hah.

    How would anyone know they don’t make shit up like Jay does? Maybe they’ve just got a little below standard in the Education Page. We can be sure everything else is up to snuff, no doubt.

    The profession of journalism is extinct over there. In other places the pretense hangs out too (does it ever) but this is another example of a place where the real thing once flourished and it was even renowned for something called excellence and integrity. Something else moved in to replace it. Its now a haunted house full of the ghosts of dead journalists and it stinks bad.

  67. 67
    angelakingdom

    “How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force”

    We find evidence to fill a “gap” and the creationists say two more have appeared either side – continues ad infinitum. No matter how much evidence is presented to these guys they’ll just ignore it – you can’t reason with the unreasonable.

  68. 68
    Anthony K

    In further ‘news’, the : New York Times asks readers if its job is to report the truth, as opposed to say, simply providing a free platform for campaigning politicians to lie.

    Don’t laugh! Reporting the truth might be fraught with perilous decisions on which facts to investigate and correct (unlike, say, deciding which news stories to cover):

    Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?

    The entire world is a Poe.

  69. 69
    patriciakirby

    Shorter Jay Mathews: “I think science is boring; let’s teach fantasy instead.”

    I loved science and math. For me, the most tedious subjects were history and social studies. But unlike Mathews, I’m not proud of that fact.

  70. 70
    Koshka

    If you are finding science boring you are doing it wrong.

  71. 71
    Ing

    Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?

    All journalists fuck goats.

    Correct that fact

  72. 72
    alwayscurious

    Teach the controversy is a a terrible model:

    Do imaginary numbers REALLY exist? Let’s have a debate!

    Let’s not forget to teach the controversy over the proper use of punctuation!

    Round world theory demonstrably fails according to some. Surely students need to hear what flat-earth theory might contribute to understanding geography!

    I would feel sorry for people that had crappy biology classes that didn’t spend much time on evolution–certainly my biology classes in high school shied away from it. Or who had boring teachers that failed to engage the students.

    But I knew long before high school that I was capable of learning things besides the thin gruel taught in school [or church]. And that is a lesson Jay and countless other zombies apparently missed.

  73. 73
    Anthony K

    All journalists fuck goats.

    Correct that fact

    Sorry Ing. Your story has been cut in order to make room for the Sunshine Girl and hockey highlights.

  74. 74
    Ing

    @Brownian

    BUT CHIEF I’M READY FOR THE FRONT PAGE!

  75. 75
    David Marjanović

    Surely the right-wing leadership must be aware of how far behind other countries the US is in math and science education, and the need for US corporations to hire technically skilled people.

    The right-wing leadership isn’t aware of shit. That’s why it’s right-wing, duh.

    Stop misundreshtimatin’ the power of ignorance!

    and then Ediacara. Even if the latter didn’t give rise to any Cambrian phyla (debated)

    Some of it did; it’s no longer debated that Kimberella is a mollusk.

    In further ‘news’, the : New York Times asks readers if its job is to report the truth, as opposed to say, simply providing a free platform for campaigning politicians to lie.

    Comments closed. :-(

  76. 76
    petejohn

    Let’s not forget to teach the controversy over the proper use of punctuation!

    Ya know, when I was in grad school to pick up a Master of Arts in Ed., I was in a class where the English Ed. majors were arguing something very similar to that. One said “Who are we to tell a kid when to use a period if they’re in the process of trying to find their voice?” Another said that explaining the use of particular verb tenses was “potentially racist.” I was left with the awful impression that they were being told they really shouldn’t correct anything any student ever said. It was very weird to be sure. I gained a rather low opinion of those individuals from then on.

  77. 77
    bassmanpete

    the notion that some supernatural force (not necessarily God)

    Any sufficiently supernatural being is indistinguishable from god.

    With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke.

  78. 78
    paleobarbie

    “Some of it did; it’s no longer debated that Kimberella is a mollusk.”

    Kimberella — you SHALL go to the ball!

  79. 79
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    I wonder what Jaime Escalante would say to Matthews’ proposal?

    Funny you should ask. Jay Mathews’s biggest “contribution” to the discussion of education over the years has been his Challenge Index, in which he ranks schools by the ratio of AP or IB exams taken to graduating seniors. Not the number passed, mind you, but the number taken. He bases his ideas at least in part on Jaime Escalante’s experiences.

  80. 80
    DLC

    I’m surprised he didn’t just bleat out a gish gallop and leave it at that. I do have to say though, saying you need to teach silly bullshit because actual science is boring is kind of new. Perhaps we should also teach Intelligent Falling because well, you know, that whole 9.8 m/s^2 thing is dull and boring.
    Then we can teach the Juggalo-supported controversy “Magnets, how do they fuckin’ work?” alongside Maxwell’s theorems.

  81. 81
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    Let’s not forget to teach the controversy over the proper use of punctuation!

    Well, there’s more controversy in the use of punctuation (which, don’t forget, is a social convention, not a law of nature) then in evolution. For example, do you put a period inside quotation marks or outside? We yanquis are taught to always put it inside, but the Brits are (to my way of thinking) much more practical about it–essentially put it inside if it makes sense.

    One said “Who are we to tell a kid when to use a period if they’re in the process of trying to find their voice?” Another said that explaining the use of particular verb tenses was “potentially racist.”

    Sounds like they were taking some sound linguistic and pedagogic ideas a bit too far. That is, good writing usually starts with a free-writing stage in which the writer gets the ideas down on paper without worrying about mechanics, and only obsesses over things like spelling or punctuation in the final product. And that objectively speaking there’s nothing inferior about African American Vernacular English, so students shouldn’t be ashamed of speaking it, but for better or worse if they want to succeed in US society they should learn to speak “white”.

  82. 82
    suzysalaksartok

    To be honest, it wasn’t really until after i graduated that I started reading about creationism and stuff, that i actually learned about evolution.

    So in my case I actually learned about evolution from hearing the creationists arguments…although it helps that I was already an atheist, and people like AaronRa and PZ were the ones presenting it.

    So it would work if it was, “this is what’s wrong with creationism, and here’s how evolution explains it”, which we all know wouldn’t happen, it would be “here’s some made up failures of evolution, and here’s how we shovel in Jesus with no evidence.”

  83. 83
    Akira MacKenzie

    I think Darwin was right, but boring.

    It was hard for me to become interested in classroom explanations of natural selection when I was a student.

    To quote Michael J. Nelson from a recent Rifftrax short: “This is what you get when Muppets educate our children.”

    Joking aside, this is the ultimate result of the “let’s make learning FUN” movement of the last 40 years. Rather than being concerned with the facts (i.e. “Drill and kill” as the post-mod naval gazers call it) we are more concerned whether or not our precious little Averys and Brittanys are not burdened with anything that might not entertain them. We are more concerned with the comfort and happiness (i.e. “fun”) than whether or not they are actually learning anything. Education, or rather “Edu-tainment,” becomes a bright shiny object with dangle in front of our children in lieu of teaching.

    Drill and kill” got us to the moon. The scientists and engineers who got us their came from schools where their happiness was not a consideration. They either did the work and passed, or they failed. Education isn’t supposed to be “fun.” It’s a matter of survival and all matters of survival need to be taken very seriously. In order to properly function you are required–yes, required–to know and understand a wide range of topics lest you want to end up begging for change on a corner. I really don’t fucking care whether or not learning them is “boring.”

    Edu-tainment only results in this tripe.

  84. 84
    birgerjohansson

    “Edu-tainment” worked for me in one case: The retelling of the history of the Mormons in South Park.
    — — — — — — —

    “Some of them believe that the ape genome was consciously ransacked by an intelligent designer to build a new species, us, with intent.”

    Enter Raelians. TheBlackMonolithDidit.

    In Sweden, copying stuff from the internet is referred to as the religion of diehard “copyists”. Maybe some of them got a time machine, bought lots of lab equipment and went back to Olduwai…
    The creator as a nerd who lives in his mom’s basement. Watch out, Santorum!

  85. 85
    geraldostdiek

    Two little things, real quick.

    “They are sincere Christians. They are not sincere scientists” is a false statement. We are not talking about sincere Christians, but cheating frauds. I see no evidence that any of the grifters who profit from the ID movement are sincere in any belief other than cold cash, raw power, and the dictum “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Some of the deluded saps who fall for their patter *might* be sincere christians (but this does not make them in any way sympathetic – re: Tertullian), but like most of the people who fall for such a con, it is their own veniality that causes their loss.

    And second: what is it with using the notion of ‘edu-tainment’ to set various subjects against each other? History was always as fascinating to me as Chemistry. Literature is as filled with complexity as the Biology that I went on to study and the philosophy of science that I now teach. And ALL of it is ‘entertaining’ – I have never been bored with any field of study (though I have had teachers who did their level best to make it boring) that has an actual object of study (which excludes theology). Education is not just a matter of stoic resolve for the betterment of *mankind*, it is also both personally fulfilling and fun.

  86. 86
    trondreitan

    “Jebus, Mathews, you aren’t competent to lecture us on how to teach biology if you think this entire field of science is uninteresting…so uninteresting that you want to introduce crackpots and wackaloons to liven it up. Hey, how about clowns, too?”
    No, the clowns should teach physics rather than biology classes, in particular the topic of fucking magnets. Well, all except Bill O’Reilly, who should teach gravity. (I’m not so good in English, but “should teach” means the same as “should be taught”, yes? No?)
    Also, some old tales about the stork delivering babies should liven up the sex-ed classes.

  87. 87
    XXIst Century (now on Daylight Time) Vole

    “Should teach” does not mean the same as “should be taught”.

    Bill O’Reilly should teach gravity = Bill O’Reilly should teach the subject of gravity to somebody.

    Bill O’Reilly should be taught gravity = somebody should teach Bill O’Reilly about the subject of gravity.

  88. 88
    Ing

    To quote Michael J. Nelson from a recent Rifftrax short: “This is what you get when Muppets educate our children.”

    I wouldn’t take MJN as an authority on anything with his track record.

    Daily Show educates people about the news better because people remember laughter.

    If something produces an emotional reaction it is remembered. The pure drill stuff produces people who can parrot back responses but aren’t aware of how to use it. IIRC this has been observed with students that come from countries that use such systems, they know the facts but aren’t trained on how to use them.

  89. 89
    Ing

    @Akira

    You’re also buying into the opponents narrative without it being clearly established or challenged. Always a mistake in such debates.

  90. 90
    Nick Gotts

    I feel I must express my profound relief that I was not (at least for most of the time) by people espousing Akira MacKenzie’s ludicrous nonsense; nor does my son appear to be suffering this fate. For the record, I have somehow gained a doctorate despite enjoying much of my education, and my son is doing very well in school.

  91. 91
    Nick Gotts

    Tsk: not taught by people…

  92. 92
    Anthony K

    Drill and kill” got us to the moon. The scientists and engineers who got us their came from schools where their happiness was not a consideration.

    I’m suspicious of any “It was so much better in the olden days/today’s generation is weak” argument* that’s not extensively backed up. Are you really worried that much about your lawn?

    Also, I must again profess annoyance with PZ’s use of ‘clowns’ as a pejorative. I’ll simply leave links to the Wikipedia article on clowns and Commedia dell’arte for those interested in educating themselves on the history and craft of clowns.

    *Unless the “olden days” you’re talking about is when we were foragers. I told everyone we never should have taken up agriculture, but nobody listened. Well, except for Jared Diamond.

  93. 93
    Ing

    Also if you want to go with Drill and Kill got us to the moon, XKCD has a response for you

    http://xkcd.com/984/

  94. 94
    TimKO,,.,,

    I thought maths was boring. Maybe my teachers could have made it more interesting by arguing that maths doesn’t exist.

  95. 95
    Akira MacKenzie

    Meh… Maybe you guys are right. I’m just pissed off. (A common state of mind for me these days.)

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