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Darwinism and popular culture: A tour of the textbooks

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Sometimes, when discussing the much misunderstood Scopes Trial, I have referred to the textbook from which Scopes was teaching, Hunter’s Civic Biology, which seems to have been an amalgam of civics and biology, with a dose of eugenics thrown in, and smug assertions about “highest” or “lowest”. Bad idea. Enough already with total subject confusion, ecological misunderstanding, and useless social conflict. Here’s an interesting site where Ron Ladouceur gives us a tour of exotic textbooks of our storied past.

I am glad my own biology teachers focused on the cell theory of life, the germ theory of disease, and the life and times of the endangered ribbon snake (= ecology).

There is only so much students will take away when they graduate (if they do) , and you want it to be something they can make sense of in dealing with their own life and environment.

One odd little point about the Scopes trial, when you think about it, was that he was alleged to have taught evolution using Hunter's Civic Biology because that had been the approved textbook in Tennessee for many years. When the Butler Act was passed, you had the potentially absurd situation that science teachers in Tennessee were required by the State to teach the contents of a textbook part of which at least the State had just declared illegal. Seversky
I often wonder why, when folks on our side cite the Scopes trial, frequently (it seems) it's discussed in a way that lends credibility to the popular understanding of the Scopes trial as some sort of legitimate event. Now with all due respect to Denyse O'Leary (and that's a LOT of respect, by the way) I sense a little bit of the same thing. So I wonder what I'm missing or if I'm just reading way too much into things. Much of my own understanding of the Scopes trial comes from Marvin Olasky's book "Monkey Business" which basically exposes the entire trial (considered from the defense OR the prosecution side) as little more than a stunt; that Scopes later denied ever having taught evolution at all, that, as an Algebra teacher, he had only subbed for the science teacher on a single day which was something like a full year prior to when the ACLU recruited Scopes as their fall guy. Now it's not as though I've done any independent research to verify the contents of Olasky's book, so maybe much of the content is not widely accepted. It's certainly not widely known, I can tell you that. So I guess my question is, why do we even mention the Scopes trial at all? It seems to have accomplished precisely nothing no matter which side you're on. It just seems like every time we mention the Scopes trial without pointing out these rather embarrassing facts (assuming they are facts) we are missing opportunities to correct the record. Does that make sense? TRoutMac
BTW, for the sake of balanced education. In regards to the Al Gore's movie being used in schools all across America- here is a film by Lord Monckton which is his personal response to Gore's inconvenient lie. And his film is excellent. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5206383248165214524# You can also see two recent interviews from him here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7tMY3ou0Yo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14w66PcXDVw Frost122585
I agree with you O'leary. I think they need to focus more on objectivity than speculation. But as far as useful useful information- schools need to teach early classes regarding economics and investing- because that is one of the most useful subjects that students will have to deal with their entire lives. Albeit there is the obvious concern that if we let the schools teach economics it will probably result in a horror show of communist ideology posing as economic fact. But I agree there needs to be a focus on more useful and factual fundamental knowledge as opposed to speculative theories, presented as fact, forwarded by political agendas for the sake of instantiating political doctrines. Frost122585
As a sometime textbook editor with an excellent reputation, I would say that we must be clear, who are the final users? The students. Most will not go into science. They need to take away something that helps them. What? Especially in the grades before they can legally drop out of school, a basic understanding of how life works today, especially in their own environment, should be the priority. If people want to study Darwinism, they can do it in a philosophy of science course either at a U or at adult night school. O'Leary
In the video, Lindzen sort of argues for a "fine tuning " of the environment- which he says the climate hysterics don't recognize. That is, global warming zealots presume that the environment does not have built in mechanisms that regulate the effects of increased co2- and this is one reason why they come up with all of their dooms day scenarios. This sounds a lot like the oversimplification of the junk DNA hypothesis, and the still lingering naive appreciation of complexity at the cellular level. Basically he is saying the models are linear, and over simplified because the advocates of gw are more interested to propagating the theory than doing the real science- and that "being concerned", or an advocate for the Earth's environment does not make you a good scientist. And this is a lot like the mainstream evolutionary sceince, where hand waving and a just so story equates into a scientific consensus. Lindzen says one reason why this is happening is because this kind of science simply MAKES scientist's LIVES EASIER. I would also add, teachers, politicians, and people interested in capitalizing on this with new businesses as well- are vastly more interested in the theory being true than false. Frost122585
I think what needs to be looked at even more than Darwinian philosophy twisted into biology, is the claimed science regarding global warming being propagated because why Darwinism is largely described as a theory, global warming is treated as some kind of fact. I wonder if in those text books covering gw if they ever give fair representation to the arguments from the minority dissenters? In my experience, not really. Exemplified by the research done by people like MIT's Richard Lindzen http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS-cLp1PEGQ Frost122585

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