In case you missed, it, Happy Darwin Day
Feb. 12 commemorates the birth of Charles Darwin and, by reflection, the fact of evolution and the theory of Natural Selection. We recognize on this day that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Yet, local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) proponents are eerily silent about this fundamental idea.
From Penn State: 60 percent of high school teachers completely avoid the subject of evolution and only 28 percent present evidence for evolution. Shamefully, 13 percent teach creationism in a favorable way. A well-educated population positively impacts the quality of life and failure to teach a fundamental concept in science creates people gullible to the appeals of anti-science charlatans.
Much of this hesitation is due to attacks upon science. An example is ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which modeled 10 anti-evolution bills introduced in states over the last year. Similar are appeals to deny adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. Why the push to defend ignorance? Beats me, but if you can sell self-imposed ignorance then we have the makings of an incurious “boobocracy” (H.L. Menken’s word), unable to question but desirable as consumers.
Those anti-evolution bills contain the catchphrase “... to help students develop critical thinking skills... “ However, as Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v Dover said “... ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM (Intelligent Design Movement) is not to encourage critical thought ...”
Teaching the fact of evolution inoculates children against anti-science and promotes a curiosity about natural history. It is the start of a baloney-detection tool kit that is more fundamental than critical thinking. After all, when “critical thinking” adopts the false notion that scientific views of our world are subject to debate rather than actual scientific skepticism, then “critical thinking” loses all value in promoting habits of scientific thought.
It is incumbent upon us to ensure that students appreciate factual science by encouraging the study of evolutionary biology within STEM disciplines. Celebrating evolution also demonstrates to teachers that engaging in proper instruction is not controversial and lessons can be filled with wonder.
After all, there is profound wonder in understanding the history of life of earth. As said by Darwin himself; “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” What an amazing perspective that we can celebrate on Darwin Day!
So, I am hoping that in 2015 we will have a full-throated celebration of Darwin Day.
About the author: Gerald Wilgus is retired from Pharmaceutical Quality Engineeringa, where he applied the principles of statistical design of experiments to test manufacturing processes for robustness and optimize product quality. His his training and research was in molecular genetics/cell biology. His avocation is Invertebrate paleontology; his substantial collection was donated to the Northwestern University Geology Department.
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