Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Sorry, kids, but you’re just too stupid


Teenagers, high school students, take note. The evolutionary establishment thinks you are just too stupid to grasp weaknesses and alternatives to the theory of evolution that gets peddled in all your high school biology textbooks (i.e., neo-Darwinism). For a sampler of just how intellectually challenged they think you are, go here and here. I especially like this last reference, which includes the following statement:

Another manifestation of the misdirection of the ID movement is the ludicrous notion that high schools are the appropriate venue for intricate debate about the finer points of evolutionary science. Any public school science teacher will tell you it’s already a minor miracle if a 16-year-old can accurately summarize The Origin of Species, or pinpoint the Galapagos Islands on an atlas. Raising questions about the cellular structure of the flagellum [note that the flagellum is actually a subcellular structure] is unlikely to exercise most students until grad school. The only reason for raising such questions before state education authorities is not to deepen the scientific understanding of teenagers but rather to sow deliberate confusion.

Okay, all you 16-year olds, here are some URLs your need to check out:

**Darwin’s Origin of Species online — go here.

**Summary of Darwin’s Origin of Species — go here.

**Locating the Galapagos Islands on a map — go here and here.

**Accessible account of the bacterial flagellum — go here.

Once you’ve looked at these, get back to me whether you’re still too stupid and confused.

[...] (Posted 5/21/05).Science and religion mutually exclusive?, by Dave Mobley (Posted 5/21/05).Sorry, kids, but you’re just too stupid, by William Dembski (Posted 5/21/05).Science unlea [...] Resource Blog: TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2005
Ariel penned: "various forms of ID have survived fatwa after fatwa" ROFLMAO! Great phraseology. Many kudos! DaveScot
Having recently led a study and discussion group of 16-17 year olds, I can tell you that not only can they grasp what Darwinian evolution is about, they can easily understand the challenge posed by IC systems, like the flagellum. It took them all of about 15 minutes to see the problem. The idea that we dare not introduce controversy or the "finer points of evolutionary science" to high school students is ludicrous and insulting. Perhaps the writer is actually implying the high school biology teachers are inadequate purveyors of accurate scientific information in biology class. After all isn't it their job to take complex ideas and make them understandable to their students. If I were either a teenager or a biology teacher, I'd be highly insulted by this. DonaldM
Minlay, I would hold that perhaps your claims to discreditation are premature. As far as the abstract goes, kids do not need to read highly technical literature to understand the basics of a theory and its problems. To say that ID as an approach to biology has been discredited also strikes me as hollow. If by "discredited" we mean, "many scientists have rejected it as a live option," then fine. However, a small but growing minority are giving it credit, so perhaps it will be recredited, in that sense. If by "discredited" you mean, "soundly refuted as regards the merits of the case," then I disagree completely. It seems to me that undirected Darwinian evolution has been largely refuted (though yet to be rejected or discredited in the first sense), and that the various forms of ID have survived fatwa after fatwa, pronouncments of death made on philosophical/methodological rather than scientific grounds. So it seems we have a difference of opinion. ariel
"Any public school science teacher will tell you it’s already a minor miracle if a 16-year-old can accurately ..........pinpoint the Galapagos Islands on an atlas.". Maybe this tells us more about public schools than it does about the students. nostrowski
While I agree that arguing the merits of different origins theory would be interesting to a high school student, and might help them learn more than just studying one theory, I think the bigger issue is whether we want to be teaching students arguments that have been discredited within the scientific community. Personally, I think we'd be doing them a disservice by pretending that those types of arguments were scientifically valid. Shouldn't the first and foremost priority for a high school science class be to teach those students the best science available? I guess that opens up the bigger question, how do we know what the best science is? I think the only consistently reliable way to know is to examine the primary literature. And this is the tricky part, because the primarily literature is not very accessible to the lay reader. While getting "access" to these articles is getting easier and easier, with the internet and the increasing number of public journals, as biology grows it's getting harder and harder to understand those articles. If there are any high school students reading this, go to www.nature.com and check out the table of contents to the latest issue of [i]Nature[/i]. Those articles represent the raw, unfiltered, cutting edge of science. Do you think you could understand any of those articles? I could probably only understand a few of them per issue. Since Nature articles aren't free to the public, you might try looking at the Public Library of Science's Biology journal, [url=http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-toc&issn=1545-7885&volume=3&issue=5]PLoS Biology[/url]. Those articles are freely available, and on the cutting edge of biological research. Check out the abstract to this article, from the most recent issue. [quote][b]Evolutionary Origins of Genomic Repertoires in Bacteria[/b] Emmanuelle Lerat1, Vincent Daubin2, Howard Ochman2*, Nancy A. Moran1 [b]Explaining the diversity of gene repertoires has been a major problem in modern evolutionary biology[/b]. In eukaryotes, this diversity is believed to result mainly from gene duplication and loss, but in prokaryotes, lateral gene transfer (LGT) can also contribute substantially to genome contents. To determine the histories of gene inventories, we conducted an exhaustive analysis of gene phylogenies for all gene families in a widely sampled group, the γ-Proteobacteria. We show that, although these bacterial genomes display striking differences in gene repertoires, most gene families having representatives in several species have congruent histories. Other than the few vast multigene families, gene duplication has contributed relatively little to the contents of these genomes; instead, LGT, over time, provides most of the diversity in genomic repertoires. Most such acquired genes are lost, but the majority of those that persist in genomes are transmitted strictly vertically. Although our analyses are limited to the γ-Proteobacteria, these results resolve a long-standing paradox—i.e., the ability to make robust phylogenetic inferences in light of substantial LGT.[/quote] Now look at the problem that the authors are trying to answer (which I've boldfaced). Do you think you could read this article, and understand how their data addresses that issue? To truly understand this article, you'd not only have to read it, but you'd have to look at a large chunk of the 58 other articles that they cite. I think that's a lot to ask of a high school student. Heck, that's a lot to ask of a college senior. So I think it's a little unfair to claim that the scientific community thinks that high school students are stupid because they don't understand the primarily literature, which is what's needed to really understand why these alteratives to evolution have been discredited. minlay
Correction: Instead of "Origin of *the* Speices," it should read "On the Origin of Species," or just "Origin." Looks like I could've used some more critical exposure myself. ;) ariel
Chris, For the ad hominem issue, I agree that "stupid" (if an absolute generalization) wouldn't the best way to characterize the opposition's view of students. But in context, I don't see William doing that. Whether we say they are not ready to handle the issues, not bright enough for finer points of biological controversy, intellectually unprepared for nuanced concepts, or whatever, "too stupid" is a just pointed way of summing that up, in my opinion. He is stripping a euphemism, not being disengenuous. Your contention is that "many...students are simply unprepared for basic college level academic work, like reading primary sources in philosophy." I agree. But, from my perspective, this is why teaching the controversy has such a strong case. It is not that high school students would be unable to handle controversy, or differences of scientific opinion on a particular issue. It is that, on issues where the establishment has vested interest to keep controversy under wraps, the kids are often not given the opportunity. Why shouldn't high school students be getting critical exposure to primary sources of various disiciplines--science, philosophy, history, religion--so that they are better prepared for your college curriculum? The point is that they can step up to the challenge--that is, if they can handle summarizing Origin of the Species (a science classic), then they can understand the basics of the current controversy (which gives that scientific classic immediate relevance to the kids' lives). If one argued that they can't handle such critical exposure, the criticism that the kids are thought "too stupid" is justified. If one argued that they shouldn't recieve it, then I don't understand the reason for your "shock" at unprepared college students in the first place. ariel
Having been a high school student at one time I have to say that the best way to teach students science is to stop boring them. Win lose or draw the argument approach will stimulate student's minds far more than having to regurgitate some boring lecture on a test ever will. In fact it will make the boring lectures better because their will be a point to them in the minds of the students. jonejinx
I think the high school student, not having been brainwashed by the Church of Darwin clergy that reign at the university, is actually better prepared to discuss alternatives to the dogma by virtue of still having an open mind. DaveScot
In my Evolution class at Indiana University, during a small debate in discussion section, the pro-Darwinianists repeatedly stated high school students were not capable of different points of view about evolution. I couldn't believe it. These were 18 and 19 year olds saying this. The pro-show problems students thought the students could handle it. I would love to go into a high school and let them tell the students to their face they are too dumb to handle dissension. wes1ste
I find this post troubling. It seems to attempt to rally support for your position by trying to show that your opponent is calling the people you want on your side stupid. I've been teaching at the college level for a few years now and I am constantly surprised by how many of the students are simply unprepared for basic college level academic work, like reading primary sources in philosophy. So, although my evidence is anecdotal, it doesn’t strike me as outrageous to suggest that high school students might not be academically prepared to discuss the problem of demarcation. And, it strikes me as more than a little disingenuous on your part to say that those who make that claim are calling high school students stupid. Chris Blakley
DaveScot, You are exactly right. For this reason, it would have been more appropriate for National Geographic to have written "Was Darwin wrong? YES. The evidence for Lamarckian evolution is underwhelming." The_Intellectual_Ape
I could give those questions a go with the 16 year old students at my high school. I doubt they know much about the Origin and some might be able to find the Galapagos, but I'm confident that the majority would easily be able to learn and interact with that information---as well as questions about bacteria flagellum. Andrew Nichols
After corresponding with some high school science teachers it's a minor miracle if the teacher has actually read Origin of Species". I run into few people that even realize Darwin believed in the Lamarckian concept of heritable acquired characters. Chap 1 - Origin "But I am strongly inclined to suspect that the most frequent cause of variability may be attributed to the male and female reproductive elements having been affected prior to the act of conception. Several reasons make me believe in this; but the chief one is the remarkable effect which confinement or cultivation has on the functions of the reproductive system; this system appearing to be far more susceptible than any other part of the organization, to the action of any change in the conditions of life." Chap 5 - Origin "Effects of Use and Disuse From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be little doubt that use in our domestic animals strengthens and enlarges certain parts, and disuse diminishes them; and that such modifications are inherited." This is a shocker for almost all the Darwinian narrative apologists I've run into. If acquired characters were heritable I could just about believe the Darwinian narrative because heritable characters acquired through use are directed mutations, not random mutations. It still does nothing to explain biogenesis of course, which is the real stickler, but at least if one knows that Darwin was a Larmarckist it makes Darwin's theory, before Lamarckian inheritance was falsified, understandably convincing. DaveScot
I'm 16 (really) and after reading for a couple of minutes I've got a good idea about Darwin's main points in The Origin of Species and with the link I found out the location of the Galapagos in a matter of seconds. I already knew about the bacterial flagellum although the first time I saw it I was under the impression that it was basically a piece of string that provided movement. I'm pretty sure a lot of people my age can do the same. jasonng

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