Students need to learn about Darwinian evolution. But they also
deserve to hear countervailing scientific evidence - evidence that
is censored in many current textbooks.
Critical inquiry and freedom for credible dissent are vital to
good science. Sadly, when it comes to biology textbooks, American
high school students are learning that stubborn groupthink can
suppress responsible debate.
In recent weeks, the media have been buzzing over a decision by
the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to
adopt biology textbooks. A Fox News summary read "Louisiana
committee rejects calls to include debate over creationism in state-
approved biology textbooks...." There was one problem with the
story. Leading critics of evolution in Louisiana were not asking
that public schools debate creationism, or even that they teach
intelligent design. Rather, they wanted schools to simply teach the
scientific debate over Darwinian evolution.
The controversy began because the biology textbooks up for
adoption in Louisiana teach the neo-Darwinian model as settled fact,
giving students no opportunity to weigh the pros and cons and
consider evidence on both sides.
So much for critical thinking
One textbook under review ("Biology: Concepts and Connections")
offers this faux critical thinking exercise: "Write a paragraph
briefly describing the kinds of evidence for evolution." No
questions ask students to identify evidence that counters
evolutionary biology, because no such evidence is presented in the
text. If the modern version of Charles Darwin's theory is as solid
as most scientists say, textbooks shouldn't be afraid to teach
countervailing evidence as part of a comprehensive approach. Yet
students hear only the prevailing view.
Is this the best way to teach science? Earlier this year a paper
in the journal Science tried to answer that question, and found that
students learn science best when they are asked "to discriminate
between evidence that supports ... or does not support" a given
scientific concept. Unfortunately, the Darwin camp ignores these
pedagogical findings and singles out evolution as the only topic
where dissenting scientific viewpoints are not allowed.
Courts have uniformly found that creationism is a religious
viewpoint and thus illegal to teach in public school science
classes. By branding scientific views they dislike as "religion" or
"creationism," the Darwin lobby scares educators from presenting
contrary evidence or posing critical questions - a subtle but
effective form of censorship.
The media fall prey to this tactic, resulting in articles that
confuse those asking for scientific debate with those asking for the
teaching of religion. And Darwin's defenders come off looking like
heroes, not censors.
Those who love the First Amendment should be outraged. …