Scientists Expelling Science

There is a lot of hoopla right now in the evolution and creation camps over the movie, Expelled. This is a case where Hollywood could make a comparatively low-budget movie and potentially capitalize on the volatile Creation-Evolution controversy. Wikipedia says that the movie had a budget of $3.5 million and Yahoo! movies shows that it has grossed $5.3 million so far. Wikipedia and expelledexposed.com both cite the many scientific inaccuracies and deceitful nature of the interviews presented in the movie, which are the subject of most of the blog postings. This post is a bit different.

I am an advocate of ID in schools, not as science, but as a religion or philosophy course. Now, as Dr. Francisco Ayala notes, "We don't teach alchemy along with chemistry. We don't teach witchcraft along with medicine. We don't teach astrology with astronomy." Why do I say that ID should be discussed (notice I did not say "taught") in schools? Because it is the culture of most students. (See also Where there's smoke).

To ignore that culture is irresponsible and disrespectful. It makes scientific teaching pompous and preachy. Scientists frequently say that this has nothing to do with religion and that all they are doing is presenting the data. This "just the facts, ma'am" teaching of science is where we are failing to teach students what science is really about.

Science should be presented as what we know and how we know it, and even more crucially, how can we build a hypothesis, test it, and analyze the results accurately. I'm sure this is the objective of every science teacher. But what drives this hypothesis building? Curiosity. How can that be fostered?

In every scientific journal article, there is a Discussion section that repeats the objectives of the study with a summarization of the results. These new conclusions are placed in historical context and offer perspectives, interpretations, implications, and areas for more inquiry. It is in the Discussion section where active readers can agree or disagree with the report, but either way, more questions can be asked. In this way, Science perpetuates Science. Get rid of the Discussion section and you lose the relevance of the study and kill inquiry.

When science becomes just about presenting the facts, it becomes taxonomic. (This type of presentation, ironically, is the science that I was taught in a Christian, young earth creationism classroom where I was presented biology without evolution).

Science should be taught with that Discussion section -- that it has the ability to cure disease, elucidate behavior, explain the stars, and challenge philosophies. Maintaining a fear that ID in a philosophy course will be a toehold for it to creep into the science classroom loses the forest for the trees.

6 comments:

AIGBusted said...

That's an interesting perspective. A Biology book that my college uses has a section that discusses the objections to evolution and why they are invalid.

Perhaps it would be a good idea for High School Science classes to discuss how scientists of yore believed in flood geology and why it was abandoned.

By the way, drop by my blog, I think you'll like it:

http://aigbusted.blogspot.com

Sincerely,
Ryan

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,

I.D. clearly does not belong in the science classroom. It is not science at all. But I like your idea of including the concepts in a philosophy or metaphysics setting. I.D. proponents (though almost entirely comprised of evangelical Christians) claim that the I.D. they want in the classroom is not explicitly sectarian, that the concept of intelligence could be any god or any transcendent source of purpose and design. So, if they are right, I.D. could be discussed as a "non-religious" concept. Or as an "all-religions" concept. Maybe the controversy would quiet down as we all agree that the idea of intelligent design is not implausible, should be at least mentioned, but that there is no way to submit such a proposition to any scientific verification processes.

Psiloiordinary said...

Well here in the UK we have religion classes in state schools, and religious assemblies and worship.

We have science classes were ID is not allowed - other than in discussions the kids might bring up - in which case the reasons it is not science are to be discussed and then the subject turned back to science.

We don't have anywhere near the controversy you poor folks have over the pond but then we are a much more secular state than the states, our establishment church be damned (so to speak).

I thought that ID was allowed in religious or ethical or philosophy classes over there. Or perhaps it differs from state to state?

Regards,

Psi

Tom said...

ID cannot be presented in the science classroom in the US. As a religion course, it would be difficult, too. The best bet would be a survey of "creation stories of the world" or "creation philosophies" where it was a comparative course.

Psiloiordinary said...

You mean, like creative writing?

Pete said...

Keep in mind when considering the box office results that the money is shared with the theater itself. A rule of thumb I used to use was it was split 50/50 between studio and theater. I believe it is a bit more complicated than that though, with the studio getting then lion's share of the money for the first few weeks and then gradually the theater takes in a higher and higher percent.