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February 10, 2014 | Posted By John Kaplan, PhD

I have written before on the subject of stupidity in government. In most cases I have focused on the federal government and, in particular, the parts of congress that make science policy including the funding and regulation of those agencies in the federal government which fund scientific research. However, the stupidity of government is not limited to the federal. Today I will discuss the stupidity governing several states regarding what is allowed to pass as scientific education. Unlike scientific research where most public financial support and policy oversight comes from the federal government, the public support for education and education policy comes primarily from the states. Chris Kirk writing in Slate has recently described the state-by-state distribution of publically funded education that includes the teaching of creationism in science curricula.

Perhaps the most egregious offenders are Louisiana and Tennessee. These are the two states that permit the teaching of creationism in public schools. Louisiana permits creationist education under the guise of the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 that permits the use of supplemental teaching materials to “allow students to understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner”. The law directs this exercise towards subjects including evolution and climate change. The law had input from the Discovery Institute, a creationist organization which also distributes the supplemental material. Tennessee’s more recent law permits the teaching of creationism under a clause that permits examination of scientific strengths and weaknesses of controversial theories.

Texas and Arkansas, like many states, provide public money to privately operated charter schools. This includes schools run by Responsive Education Systems. This system operates sixty-five campuses offering a creationist based curriculum.

Ten additional states provide funds via voucher systems to private schools teaching creationism. Collectively these three mechanisms provide public taxpayer funding to hundreds of schools for the teaching of creations.

I am not an expert on constitutional law (or any type of law) so I will not make arguments against this on the basis of the separation of church and state although I am quite confident such arguments could be made. I do consider myself, however, to be an expert on science and science education. I know what science is and I know what constitutes science education. The teaching of Old Testament based creationism as science offends any sense of credibility.  For those of you wishing more on this subject I invite you to listen to the debate on this subject between Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and Ken Ham the founder of the Creation Museum.

Enjoy it.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

3 comments | Topics: Education, Politics

Comments

Athene Aberdeen

Athene Aberdeen wrote on 02/11/14 7:57 AM

It is very interesting that there is disquiet among scientists in the teaching of creationist theories in the schools. I also felt disquiet when I discovered a fairly recent trend for by some writers to try to establish a new "science of morality".
John Stuart Mill in the mid nineteenth century did attempt to remake ethics in the model of the natural sciences. We know what hateful practices Social Darwinism contributed to in the century that followed. I wonder though if we are not wasting precious time by assuming the debate is simply between a scientific ethics and a"supernatural" ethics. It will be interesting to see how MRI scans will measure well-being, (contexts are important here) but it will never evolve to a new scientific morality.
Trevor Ray Slone

Trevor Ray Slone wrote on 02/13/14 6:11 AM

Hello John and thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I too agree that science classes should NOT teach creationism. I am however a creationist, but creationism in the strict form should most truly be left to the religion classroom, as I point out in my book (that is currently in the editorial phase) "Science vs. Religion: Is It Really That Simple?" Have a wonderful day.

Trevor Ray Slone
Paul Hoerbelt

Paul Hoerbelt wrote on 02/20/14 3:33 PM

Great post. As for the Nye vs. Ham debate, I wish that Bill Nye would have made his points more strongly and concisely, though. He fell a bit into Ham's traps and wasn't particularly forceful.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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