June 11, 2001

The Pennsylvania Controversy

Today the Pennsylvania state House Education Committee is holding hearings on proposed new science education standards governing (among other things) the teaching of evolution. For the most part the standards are conventional. Students are to learn about natural selection, mutation and recombination, fossil evidence, the progression from early hominids to modern humans, and so on. Nothing to upset Darwinists in that. But there are two specific provisions to which Darwinist science educators are fiercely opposed.

First, teachers and students are supposed to Analyze evidence of fossil records, similarities in body structures, embryological studies and DNA studies that support or do not support the theory of evolution. Second, they are to Analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution. Either of these might open the way for critical thinking about evolution, rather that the desired passive acceptance of whatever is in the textbooks. After all, an intrepid Pennsylvania high school student named Joe Baker has been publicizing the textbook errors described by Jonathan Wells in his book Icons of Evolution. [See the Wedge Weekly Update for May 7, 2001.] Much of the public is suspicious of the expansive claims that are made for the creative power of natural selection, and the scientific materialists are pulling out all the stops to make sure that those suspicions are never given a fair hearing. Evidence against the claim that natural selection has enormous creative power? New scientific facts creating some impact that requires analysis? To the Darwinian mentality, even the slightest opening to skeptical analysis amounts to creationism, and Darwinists think that must mean reading Genesis to the students instead of talking about scientific evidence. Here is Michael Behes attempt to inject some common sense into the debate over the standards, explaining scientific and constitutional principles which would have universal support if we were really talking about science education rather than protecting philosophical materialism:

As a professor of biology at a leading Pennsylvania university, I strongly support the proposed changes in the Pennsylvania Department of Education science and technology education standards. In particular, it is quite appropriate that students should be taught to "Analyze ... studies that support or do not support the theory of evolution." No theory is immune to critical evaluation, not even the theory of Darwinian evolution. As a professional scientist in the field it is my opinion that there is considerable evidence that points away from natural selection as an explanation for many features of life.

Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that virtually all textbooks used to teach evolution to biology students in public schools have contained serious errors of fact. Should students not be encouraged to examine such textbook claims critically? Must Pennsylvania students unquestioningly accept what their science textbooks present, even if texts contain material professional scientists know to be wrong or seriously misleading? If so, for what other subject are students encouraged to blandly accept textbook assertions? History? Political science? Economics? I for one do not want students to accept anything uncritically, even the most dominant theory in a subject.

I realize that you are receiving much mail opposed to the proposed changes, from people concerned that the revised standards are a "smokescreen for creationism." In my opinion that is patently untrue. But even if it were true, opposing critical thinking in science class is a dangerous, emotional overreaction that threatens to throw the baby out with the bath water. One simply must not discourage students from asking questions simply because they might ask the "wrong" questions, or draw the "wrong" conclusions. Science can tolerate wrong thinking; it can't tolerate putting limits on thinking.

Michael J. Behe
Professor of Biological Sciences
Lehigh university

On the Road

I spent the first part of last week in Washington D.C., meeting with Senators, Representatives and their staffs, and giving a public lecture at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Thursday and Friday I lectured in the Chicago area, first for a large church in Oak Brook and then for a conference sponsored by Chuck Colsons Wilberforce Forum. Lectures on Intelligent Design by me and by other Wedge authors continue to draw large and enthusiastic crowds, whether they are given at churches or at universities. Whether educational authorities allow the schools to teach about the controversy or not, public recognition that there is something seriously wrong with Darwinian orthodoxy is going to keep on growing. While the educators stonewall, our job is to continue building the community of people who understand the difference between a science that tests its theories against the evidence, and a pseudoscience that protects its key doctrines by imposing philosophical rules and erecting legal barriers to freedom of thought. I will be speaking several times at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousiville, KY June 25-27, for the Conference on "Equipping for Ministry in Today's University Culture." The Seminary is charging $30 to register, and academic credit can be arranged. June 29-30 I will be speaking with several other Wedge authors in Kansas City at The Kansas Intelligent Design Network Conference. I look forward to visiting with old and new friends at both locations.

Copyright 2001 Phillip E. Johnson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 6.11.01