Changes in how science is taught in Louisiana

As I flipped to the Metro State section of this morning’s paper (American Press, Thurs., June 12, 2008), I was surprised to discover “La. House supports changes to science teaching” written across the top. There is apparently a bill making its way toward daylight that “would let teachers change how they teach topics like evolution, cloning and global warming” in public schools. It appears that teachers will be allowed to supplement the science textbooks with additional materials. I presume that those additional materials can’t be just anything, but the write-up doesn’t say. It does, however, mention that “the state board would only step in if someone raised a question about whether the material was appropriate.” That caveat will no doubt justify the ACLU’s opening a regional office at the state department. (Incidentally, Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is quoted on the matter. Not surprisingly, he is opposed to the legislation. Yes, this is the same Barry Lynn who worked for the ACLU for seven years.) At any rate, the bill has already been approved by the House (94-3), and is now before the Senate. Please pray for the bill to pass!

Of course, there are dissenters. Roughly half-way through the piece, one finds this little gem: “Opponents say the proposal is a veiled attempt…to challenge well-established science teachings.” I think the bill is actually in the name of academic freedom, but that was an early casualty in the origins debate. So, the dissenters are worried that someone might question 21st century scientific orthodoxy–that is, evolution–and the media actually says so! (The editor must’ve been distracted when he approved that line) Of course this is an attempt to challenge a “well-established” (read, “widely held”) scientific position! Do you recall learning about phlogiston theory in school? Phlogiston theory, a now universally rejected attempt to explain combustion, was believed by scientists for roughly 100 years. It was “well-established” among scientists for quite a while…until it was challenged! That is how science works, isn’t it? Theories are continually challenged, modified when necessary, and refined for improvement.

So, good for Louisiana.

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4 Responses to Changes in how science is taught in Louisiana

  1. gem school says:

    […] changes to science teaching??? written across the top. There is apparently a bill making its wayhttp://summaphilosophiae.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/changes-in-how-science-is-taught-in-louisiana/Gem County School Funding Fox 12 IdahoA group of concerned residents are making waves in the gem […]

  2. Kenny says:

    Great post Keith. You’re right the ACLU will be a constant thorn in the LA public school’s side.

    As far as challenging scientific theories as a way of advancing science, are you familiar with Kuhn’s “Structures of Scientific Revolutions”? I had to read it in college and it really helped me in terms of understanding the philosophy of sceince.

    BTW I spent some time with your father-in-law in B’ham this past weekend. He’s an awesome guy.

  3. Keith says:

    Kenny,

    I’ll check out that book if I can find it. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Gary says:

    It was Kuhn’s book that led to the widespread use of the term “paradigm shift.” Kuhn argues that a community (specifically, the scientific community) will cling to an accepted explanation (paradigm) of given phenomena until compelling evidence forces the rejection of that explanation and its replacement with one that seems to better account for the evidence (a paradigm shift).

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