John West: U.S. evolution education is “dumbed down”

Here’s a video clip from CNN on the “Academic Freedom” bills being supported in states around the U.S. by the Discovery Institute (DI), the major proponents of Intelligent Design. The clip is seven minutes long, with a reasonable 3-minute overview followed by a 4-minute interview with Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for evolution: how the marriage of science and religion will transform your life and our world.

The one thing in this clip that I find notable is this statement by John West of the Discovery Institute:

I think that the evolution education in this country is dumbed down.

I agree with that statement, and I think we can’t make significant progress in this controversy without major improvements in the teaching of Biology. The way to do this, of course, is not by mixing in a bunch of stuff that’s not natural science, as West would do, but rather to help kids learn how the natural sciences they’re studying actually do work.

This link should open the curricublog category archive with other posts on these “Academic Freedom” bills.


  1. Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you, Tony. ID is not science and should not be taught in science classes. I do, however, think that students, schools, and society as a whole would be greatly served by having worldview classes that show how mainstream Biology and other evolutionary sciences can be interpreted in ways that enrich a variety of religious and nonreligious perspectives.

    Thanks for posting the CNN clip!

  2. Kevin Currie
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I do like Mr. Dowd’s comments on the idea that many “conservative” theists will not likely accept evolutionary theory without being exposed to a more “sacred and inspired” view of the theory.

    First, though, I have to question whether or not it is precisely those theists that are literalist enough in their biblical interpretation.
    A 2007 Gallup poll, for instance, suggests that roughly 1 in 3 people surveyed believe in a literal Bible. I am not sure that those rebelling against evolution (which is accepted by the majority of Christians) are not the same ones who would not be convinced by evolution because it contradicts, literally, the creation story of Genesis (literally interpreted).

    And I agree with Dr. Whitson that even mentioning the “r” word in biology class would take a sticky situation and make it sticker (rather than having an assuaging effect). As a science teacher myself, I get very uneasy with the idea of even “going there” with students. A co-teacher of mine put it best when she said that doing so would side-trach students into an area that science is NOT SUPPOSED TO ENTER INTO. Students and teachers can have religious beliefs, but since science doesn’t deal with them, science class may be best not to deal with them either. (Dealing with the issue of whether evolution conflicts with religion quite simply takes us into philososphy, and has us speaking about what we tell students science isn’t supposed to speak about.)

    The only thing that might be done, as a circumlocutious way to get to the same point is to make sure that students are aware that many of evolution’s great thinkers were theists and christins. When we talk about Mendel, emphasize that he was a monk; when we talk about Darwin, also talk about Wallace (and mention that he was a theist). IF population genetics is talked about, throw Dobszansky into the mix.

    This seems to me a subtle way to bring the issue in without actually bringing it in in a way that might side-track the discussion and open a can of worms.

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  1. […] about science and religion in the public schools Michael Dowd has left a comment on my previous post that I think deserves to be shared. The comment was appropriate there, but it raises a problem […]

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