Post-Thanksgiving reading list

So I’m clearly slacking by aggregating links yet again. I’ll try to change that later this week by writing something substantive. But until then, here are some more links to enjoy:

  1. Michael Hendricks offers great advice to young scientists.
  2. Adam Laats highlights the growth of creationism in Brazil
  3. …and suggests a Dan Kahan-esque way out for parents who don’t want their children to learn evolution. My personal instincts hew even more to the libertarian side (i.e. no real need to teach evolution). But I appreciate his point nonetheless.
  4. Laura Helmuth at Slate shreds James Watson. I’ll have more to say (I promise!) shortly. But for now, think about the money quote:
    “It is a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works for him to think that his expertise at one level of analysis—a molecular level—predicts anything at a higher level of analysis. The structure of DNA does not predict the workings of a cell, which does not predict the shape of a body, which does not predict the characteristics of a culture.”


  1. Children who are denied instruction regarding evolutionary theory are denied the organizational framework of biology. IOW learning evolutionary theory makes the subject easier to grasp, certain exceptional people notwithstanding.

    There’s no need for Creationists to “accept” or “believe” evolutionary theory. They merely need to understand it. They can use qualifiers such as “biologists contend that evolutionary processes …” as a means of distancing themselves from acceptance of this framework of ideas.

    It’s important that Creationists understand that atheism *cannot* be promoted in the public schools. Should an atheist teacher do so, whether or not it involves teaching evolutionary theory, that teacher is committing an unconstitutional act, and the school district should address that matter accordingly.

    1. Thanks Robert. I hear what you’re saying. I would only humbly submit that there can be legitimate disagreement on what the learning goals of biology should be. Why should “Understanding” biology even be the goal? Why not say the purpose of high school biology is for students to use science in their everyday life? I can provide a host of peer-reviewed research papers where experts in science education make arguments along these lines.

      My point isn’t necessarily that ev. should not be taught. Only that their can be legitimate disagreement on this point. And thus we should perhaps not be that confident that there is one (and only one) way to teach biology, and that approach absolutely must include a unit on evolution.

      1. Praj, you asked why understanding biology should even be the goal.

        Let’s take it a step further. Why study biology in public school? Why study science there? Heck, why bother with public school at all?

        That’s how your question strikes me. “Students to use science in their everyday life” strikes me as not applying scientific thinking at all. It seems you’re all about using applied science, as opposed to endorsing an understanding of how science arrives at its conclusions in the first place.

        Now, perhaps you do value teaching how science arrives at its conclusions in the first place, in the public school science curricula. If so, then it makes sense to teach evolutionary theory in biology, as that provides the framework to answering many biological questions. Evolutionary theory provides a way of understanding how biologists arrive at their conclusions.

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