We review here the current political landscape and our own efforts to address the attempts to undermine science education in Wisconsin. To mount an effective response, expertise in evolutionary biology and in the history of the public controversy is useful but not essential. However, entering the fray requires a minimal tool kit of information. Here, we summarize some of the scientific and legal history of this issue and list a series of actions that scientists can take to help facilitate good science education and an improved atmosphere for the scientific enterprise nationally. Finally, we provide some model legislation that has been introduced in Wisconsin to strengthen the teaching of science.
Alan D. Attie, Elliot Sober, Ronald L. Numbers, Richard M. Amasino, Beth Cox, Terese Berceau, Thomas Powell, Michael M. Cox
Submitter: Michael R. Egnor | firstname.lastname@example.org
S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook. Stony Brook New York 11795
Published June 5, 2006
To the Editor:
The essay by Attie et al (‘Defending science education against design: a call to action’) is an odd 'call to action'. Scientists generally consider a ‘call to action’ to be a call for more vigorous discussion and research. Dr Attie’s ‘call to action’ is a call for censorship.
Dr. Attie assembles a philosopher, an historian, a lawyer, and a couple of politicians to coauthor an essay encouraging scientists to lobby for laws that censor criticism of Darwinism in schools. They assert that if you don’t accept Darwinism as an adequate explanation for biological complexity, you’re ‘anti-science’.
The authors’ preference for censorship, rather than debate, is understandable. Poorly thought-out arguments don’t hold up well in open debate. They devote a paragraph to testing (and claiming to refute) Mike Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity. The first sentence of their next paragraph is “ID makes no testable predictions.” They propose a law that mandates that public school students be taught material that ‘describes only natural processes’. That rules out the Big Bang, black holes, multiverses, and much of modern cosmology. Emergence of the universe ex- nihilo, physics in singularities, and the existence of countless other universes are by definition not 'natural processes'. Censor quantum mechanics as well. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about Schrodinger’s cat!
The authors' policies, if taken seriously, would exclude many of the most important advances in 20th century physics. The most interesting and fruitful science challenges dogma, and the most entrenched dogma in modern biology is Darwinism.
The authors express concern that discussion of Darwinism and intelligent design will cripple science education. Yet the United States leads the western world in science and in skepticism about Darwinism. The current American debate about the origin of biological complexity is clear evidence that free inquiry is quite compatible with leadership in science.
Science thrives in an atmosphere of free inquiry. Teach the controversy!
Michael Egnor, M.D.