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For the most part, public education in the US is a disaster. Where the blame lies will be forever debated, but to claim otherwise is to sleep undisturbed in a fantasy world with "stark wake-up calls" all around. In a country that is arguably one of the most advanced in the world in many respects, having scores in math (31st), reading (17th), and science (23rd) near the bottom just isn't defensible. (China holds first place in all three.)

And, no - contrary to union claims, spending is not the issue. Except for Switzerland, the US spends more on education per students aged 6 - 15 than any other. To add insult to injury, "Nearly all OECD governments spend more... on education" than China. Ergo, throwing more money at schools will not solve the problem.

Flying Spaghetti Monster touched by his noodly appendagePerhaps one of the key issues is what we're teaching - faith in education (and we don't mean trust that educators will eventually figure it out).

Intelligent design (a type of creationism) is claimed to be "a scientific theory which holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and are not the result of an undirected, chance-based process such as Darwinian evolution." In other words, intelligent design is a hypothesis based on religious tenets that an intelligent being - God - designed life with a purpose.

There are many who think that intelligent design should be taught in public schools, including multiple Republican presidential candidates. Texas Governor Rick Perry just stated that "in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution," which is likely an accurate statement. However, in 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard "that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion."

If teachers in Texas (or other states) are teaching creationism, are they breaking the law? What constitutes a science? Do you think intelligent design is a science? Does intelligent design have to be a science to be taught in public schools? Should children learn both intellectual design and evolution in public schools? Is teaching creationism negatively impacting science aptitude?

Here are other scientific questions to ask small children: When you walk around, does the earth look flat or round? When you look at the sun in the morning and evening, does it look like the sun is moving around the earth or that the earth is moving around the sun at approximately 67,000 mph?

...Governor Perry is correct in saying that evolution is controversial. But the "controversy" is religious and political, not scientific. Perry and other anti-evolutionists should be asked questions like:

(1) How do scientists describe the theory of evolution by natural selection?

(2) How do scientists distinguish a hypothesis from a theory?

(3) As a scientific theory, how is creationism falsifiable?

An educated person should understand the rudiments of the scientific method. Creationism should no more be taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution by natural selection than should the "stork theory" be taught as an alternative to reproduction. Creationism is an alternative to Zeus or Krishna, not to Darwin.

Only 38 percent of Americans say they believe in evolution, and far too many politicians are either among the other 62 percent or pander to them. This, to me, is evidence that democracy works best when we have an informed electorate. I agree with Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." However, science is not and should not become democratic. If 100 million people believe a wrong thing, it is still a wrong thing.

I'm even uncomfortable with the way the poll question was phrased. Evolution is not a belief; it is confirmed through scientific investigation. We don't take polls asking people if they "believe" in gravity, though the theory of evolution is better understood by scientists than is the theory of gravity.

Some religions may feel threatened by evolution not only because it flatly contradicts a biblical worldview, but also because we now understand that the first creatures who can be called human inherited their DNA from creatures who could not be called human. The first mammals got their DNA from their reptilian ancestors. And so it goes back to the first single-celled organism. I leave it for religious people to decide where a "soul" enters this picture (and whether they want to believe in DNA).

Science is not democratic


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Aug 25, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=630

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