Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Didn't realize just how backward the local school board is

I don't usually watch the local news. I did happen to catch the news tonight before changing channels. The local high school is caught up in a controversy with school prayer. They are allowing a student led prayer at the school's graduation exercise, even though it's a violation of church and state. Well, that's not really surprising. The local government offices pray at meetings and allow open display of religious items, posters, etc. in offices. It's such a monoculture that they don't see anything wrong with it. That's not a fight worth fighting locally.

No, what bothered me was learning the Ouachita Parish school board has allowed the teaching of intelligent design in high school through the back door of "teaching the controversy". Teachers will be able to take up valuable school time teaching the one-sided argument that evolution is "just a theory" (in the English sense, not the scientific sense). The fact that there is no controversy in the scientific community and that evolution is a scientific fact is beside the point.

I knew we didn't live in an "enlightened" area, but I hadn't realized we were behind Kansas!

So, they'll "teach the controversy" from material provided by intelligent design groups and a local religious right lobby group. They won't hear, for instance, that for more than the last 20 years there has been an average of 100 scientific papers published describing actual, observed evolution, in the laboratory and in the field.

One of the arguments against evolution is that it "supposedly" happens in such long time periods that it's never been observed in real time. That's not true. A friend on an e-mail mailing list is a marine biologist in Australia. She told me about the number of papers detailing the observed creation of new species. Some of it is in the laboratory, but some of it is in the wild, too. The observations have been seen in plants, insects, and even higher life like fish. Basically, scientists have seen one species develop offspring that were able to reproduce with themselves, but which were unable to reproduce with their ancestors due to genetic variations.

That's just one thing that high school students won't here. They'll be led to believe that evolution is on shaky ground. Forget the fact that most of the arguments against evolution focus on Darwin's early work, which is about 150 years old. In physics, this would be the same as trying to argue that we're all surrounded by a colourless, odourless, tasteless ether in which light waves (and that was finally shot down when Einstein's special relativity came out about 100 years ago). In a scientific sense, evolution has been proven more strongly than almost any other theory extant. There's more proof of evolution than for gravity.

As you can see, this is a hot button for me...

With our help, and the help of Logan's uncle and aunt, we'll be at least be able to teach Logan the truth. At this point that's the best we can hope for, here in Darwin's waiting room known as Ouachita Parish...

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