Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An In-Class Discussion Activity on the Nature of Science and Intelligent Design

This is a fascinating report. Brian Thomas from the Dept. of Physics of Washburn University describes a class for elementary education majors dealing with the issue on whether Intelligent Design should be considered as a science and should be taught in science classes.

The nature and process of science is a foundational topic in a course entitled “Physical Science for Elementary Educators” which I team-teach with a colleague in chemistry at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. I have developed and used in class a guided discussion activity intended to help the students think about the issues surrounding the status of ID as science and whether it should be included in state public school science standards.

Something like this is highly appropriate, especially in a state where he is in (Kansas) that had been the battleground for the ID proponents. It is imperative that if these students are to go into the classrooms as teachers, that they themselves are clear on how things are defined, regardless of on which side of the issue they are on.

However, and this again connects back to my skepticism of how the general public make their decisions, it is disheartening to read the result of this exercise at the end, even when there is a unanimous consensus that ID isn't science.

Most students recognized that ID is not properly defined as science and should not be taught in science classrooms. However, there was a definite portion of the class (about 25%) that would certainly support such inclusion. Interestingly, this group seemed to see no contradiction between stating that ID is not science, but at the same time stating that it should be taught in science classrooms. This is a discouraging finding, since it indicates that arguments against ID being science, even if successful, may not effectively counteract all pressure to nevertheless include ID in science classrooms. Perhaps a more stark confrontation with such inconsistency would force a change in viewpoint, but this was not the point of the exercise, and may not be successful in any case, given the deep-seated nature of convictions that likely underlie such statements.

That's discouraging, and implies that for many people, it is acceptable to make that kind of irrational or inconsistent decisions.

My pessimism continues....


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