I think it’s fair to say that most people want a high standard of education for students, but what that means when it comes to evolution can be troubling. According to the Huffington Post there’s a battle going on in Texas over biology textbooks, and they asked Bill Nye “The Science Guy” to comment.
(photo by Ed Schipul)
“This textbook business is, to my way of thinking, a very serious matter, because of the economic impact,” Nye told the Huffington Post in an email. “Everyone should take a moment and think what it will mean to raise a generation of students who might believe that it is reasonable to think for a moment that the Earth might be 10,000 years old.” He went on to say that “It’s an outrageous notion. It’s not a benign idea. It’s inane or silly. These students will not accept the process of science, which will stifle or suppress innovation.” Nye thinks that companies won’t be able to find competent engineers with new ideas that are capable of creating new products. He says, “It’s not a religious issue, as such. It’s the future of the United States’ economy that’s at stake.”
These are outrageous comments coming from someone supposedly competent in the realm of science. We’re not talking about “dumbing down” students, as has been happening for years in schools. I don’t think Nye understands the issue here because he thinks that the teaching of creation will make students stupid. On the contrary, if there’s any “dumbing down”, it’s happening as a result of telling students what to think and how to think; that evolution equals truth; and that there’s no other alternative. Somehow this narrow view of thinking is supposed to encourage innovation? I think not!
Both Nye and the HuffPost have a number of things wrong in the story. The HuffPost stated that the Texas Board of Education doesn’t believe evolution should be taught in public schools in Texas. But when I read their previous article it said no such thing. The article claimed that textbook publishers were encouraged to “add sections about creationism, and remove information about climate change and evolution.” But that doesn’t mean that evolution won’t be discussed. In the article panelist Karen Beathard went on to say, “I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.” And Raymond Bohlin (Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology) said in a phone interview, “When it came to particular topics [the textbooks] didn’t analyze, they didn’t evaluate … They [just said] this is the way it is, end of discussion… I’m just looking for evolution to be presented honestly and not be given a materialistic slant that’s not warranted by the evidence.”
Based on these comments, they’re NOT suggesting that evolution shouldn’t be taught in public schools, or that only creationism would be taught, or that we should dumb down our students. That’s how the HuffPost and Nye wish to portray this, but they’re clearly wrong, and it sounds to me like they’re trying to win the argument by creating fear, smearing their opponents, and by presenting misinformation to their readers who will accept their assertions without question and then act upon them politically. They seem to be okay with indoctrinating students- as long as they’re the ones doing the indoctrinating. But when others attempt to present an honest critique of science- somehow that’s considered “inane or silly”. If anyone is stifling or suppressing innovation, it’s those who only allow one-dimensional thinking, rather than allowing students to think for themselves and think critically. Would you rather have students be told what to think, or would it be in their best interest to have all the data presented to them so that they could make an informed decision? I think we’ll have better educated and creative students if they’re allowed to examine all the evidence and make up their own minds.
Further, thinking that the world is less than 10,000 years old has not stifled innovation as Nye has asserted. There are plenty of creationist scientists and engineers who’ve come up with great ideas and innovations, such as Dr. Raymond Damadian, pioneer of the MRI- one of the greatest diagnostic breakthroughs ever. If Nye were correct, then we shouldn’t have such great scientists. But the fact that such creation scientists do exist is proof that Nye is very wrong.
I agree with Raymond Bohlin that evolution should be presented honestly and without a materialistic slant not warranted by the evidence. I also agree that science supporting a young earth should be presented as well. If science is interested in supporting truth in any way, then students should be given the opportunity to study all the various aspects- the age of the earth, the origin of the universe, and biology, for example, and they should be able to study and critique them without being hindered by political correctness.
I’d suggest that it’s Nye who is doing more to suppress ideas and innovation by insisting upon indoctrination, while the Texas School Board is doing more to promote ideas, innovation and creative thinking by supporting academic and intellectual freedom.
The only concern I have with teaching creation science in classrooms is that teachers who don’t believe in it won’t give it justice; they’ll probably react the way Nye did, which could prove to be unhelpful. If science supporting a young universe is presented, then there will need to be additional support for students so that they can access all the information needed in order to reach an informed conclusion.