The teaching of evolution

Stuart G. Poss Stuart.Poss at USM.EDU
Fri Oct 8 09:06:51 CDT 1999

Ken Kinman wrote:

>      I think "deity-ordained change" is an important option in that "middle
> ground" I am so fond of exploring on various subjects.

One must understand that when confronting irreconcilable ideas, there is at
times no middle ground and to seek it is purely illusory.   Science is not
diplomacy, although most scientists will admit that at times diplomacy is
required to obtain resources to actually do it, as well as to get along at
times with others who also practice it.

Ken Kinman further wrote:

     It doesn't have to be creationism vs. evolution, if one empathisizes
with strongly held beliefs and allows enough latitude that they can bring
evolutionary ideas into their belief systems.

We must keep in mind that science has little or nothing to do with belief
systems, particularly with regard to metaphysical concepts that are beyond the
bounds of testability.  Divine intervention of whatever sort could always be
invoked as an explanation for anything or everything.  Not meaning to be
disrepectful to the faithful, this could always or at anytime apply to the
esthetic effects of good Italian pizza or other forms of inspiration or
beliefs, regardless of how strongly held.  Science is about constructing
systems of knowing how to appropriately choose among concepts or "beliefs" so
as to explain some measureable aspect of the natural world (reality), assuming
of course, that there is something that can be explained and measured.

It must be understood that evolution can not be taught as an alternative to
creationism, because evolution at least in the context discussed by scientists,
seeks scientific explanation.  Creationism, like Epicureanism, is not bounded
by the constraints of science and hence is uninformative with respect to
scientific explanation.  It is important that discussions in a scientific forum
not confuse the difference.   The problem with the elimination of the Darwinian
concept of evolution from the classroom is not about substituting one theory
for another to account for the diversity of life on earth.  It is about
removing science from the classroom.

One of the big problems with our school system is that it too often fails to
address the distinction between thinking in general and thinking
scientifically.  It is perhaps no wonder that when confronted with a relatively
complex theory, such as evolution, that requires a keen understanding of the
what constitutes scientific observation and hypothesis testing, students,
teachers, and school boards alike are so often confused.

Stuart G. Poss                       E-mail: Stuart.Poss at
Senior Research Scientist & Curator  Tel: (228)872-4238
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory       FAX: (228)872-4204
P.O. Box 7000
Ocean Springs, MS  39566-7000

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