I realized after my previous post about Academic Freedom legislation that I did not mention why it is that I care about the ability for teachers to “teach the controversy”.
I have been told by several research leaders that any attempt to change curriculum, or do anything with public schools, is a Bad Idea™. I understand where they are coming from. But let me tell you my personal story, and why it leads me to think that biological science itself needs the controversy to be taught.
When I graduated from high school, there were three things that interested me – theology, computer science, and chemistry. I had trouble choosing degrees, so I just decided to get a B.A. in theology and a B.S. in computer science. It was a hard choice, but I decided to drop chemistry.
Now, you see, biology was not on my radar screen. Why not? In a word, the problem was neo-Darwinism.
The problem wasn’t evolution, per se. I did not believe in evolution at the time, but that wouldn’t have prevented me from entering into biology. The problem was that I actually believed what they said about the nature of biological change. That is, that biological change occurs through random mutations and natural selection.
The two sides I knew of biology was either (a) memorizing names of organisms or their parts, and (b) waiting for and observing pointless (by definition!) changes in organisms.
So, basically, if I wanted to mess with something dynamic, I should choose a different branch of science.
Really, what is cooler than the non-Darwinian research? Bacteria which re-engineer their biochemistry to respond to specific threats? Tuning knobs in the genome? Genomes that plan for the future using targetted randomness? Untemplated genetic changes being thrown in to accomodate for stress? Systems which are made from a metaprogramming template and then refined through highly targetted mutations?
Now, of course, none of these things are going to be taught. Not because they aren’t believed by everyone in biology, but because they don’t support the standard neo-Darwinistic viewpoint. If they are taught, they won’t be taught as the awe-inspiring mechanisms they are, but rather as just another instance of random mutation and natural selection. That’s not only untrue, it’s also HIDEOUSLY BORING.
If you want to bore kids out of their mind and get them to major in something else besides the biological sciences, by all means don’t teach the controversy.