Recently, I have, stupidly, gotten into several online discussions with people about topics that we should not even be having discussions about. These are all hot button topics like global climate change, but the one that stands out in my mind is a recent exchange where I posted this picture:
I know that this would be provocative, and that is probably why I posted it. Statements like these make people think about their positions. On top of that, if they choose to respond, I like to tweak them to explain themselves. MOST people cannot explain why they feel some way about something. MOST people end up calling me names or saying that I am unreasonable, or a hater. Oh well.
I added this phrase to the picture: “I have had science teachers that have said this in class. I often wondered how exactly they could teach science.” I said this because of several ideas:
The concept of evolution, that things change over time and that in biology, living things have common ancestors, is one of the central grand ideas of science. Things change over time. Biological entities change over time and have ribbons of commonality going back to the rise of life is not debatable. Given enough time, living things change radically, slowly yes, but radically over the span of history . If you understand that concept about change over time, then you understand everything from how astronomy to biology works. If you teach science and do not understand change over time, then you simply are misunderstanding science.
You can SAY you are a good science teacher, but you are not.
Change over time causes galaxies to form, mountain to rise and fall, suns to form and explode, and living things to evolve. It is that simple. You can agree, you can disagree, but if you think to yourself that it does not happen then you are NOT a science teacher. Sorry.
Change over time and the interconnectedness of living things pretty much explains why EVERY LIVING THING ON THIS PLANET has DNA. You cannot scientifically explain it any other way based on our current understanding of science.
It is time to call science teachers out that don’t believe in what they are teaching.
Because if one does not understand a CENTRAL idea of science, then how can one say they understand science?
That is like a math teacher saying they are a great math teacher and not understanding multiplication, or an English teacher saying they they are great English teachers but not understanding verbs, or nouns. It simply is not possible.
Almost without exception, when pressed, these “science teachers” will say something like well, their belief is in the Christian Bible. Consider this which was posted as a response after a teacher explained to me that she was a “Good Science Teacher:
"…Well, that’s [what a theory is] not entirely true. There are even things in our science curriculum that state certain things are "theory"… but let me just say this. I have a firm testimony of the divinity of a Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ who created this Earth and all the inhabitants thereon, in Their own image. We did not evolve from apes.”
Faith trumps science.
Typically, these sometimes well meaning (we need to teach the truth as we see it, not as it really is) but totally misinformed “science teachers” have a fundamental misunderstanding of the term “Theory” as used in science. (Again, this is big red flag that if you do not understand what a scientific theory is as opposed to a “Theory” in the common use phraseology, then you are not a science teacher. )
I think she is a well meaning teacher. I don’t think she can be a good science teacher.
How can anyone say that they teach science well and NOT understand what a Scientific Theory is? There are lots of SCIENTIFIC THEORIES:
Theory of Relativity
and on and on…
I try to point out that a scientific theory is not the same as a non-science theory, but these “Science Teachers” simply do not or refuse to understand:
When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena.
Any scientific theory must be based on a careful and rational examination of the facts. In the scientific method, there is a clear distinction between facts, which can be observed and/or measured, and theories, which are scientists’ explanations and interpretations of the facts. Scientists can have various interpretations of the outcomes of experiments and observations, but the facts, which are the cornerstone of the scientific method, do not change. (source found with a simple Google search)
However, because most of the people understand THEORY in the non scientific arena, they simply cannot make the mental leap to the THEORY of science. If you want to understand the term Scientific Theory, you go to scientists or scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science whose definition of scientific theory is:
"A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact."
This teacher says that because something is not “in the Bible, she can’t believe it. Can you really teach and understand a topic if you fundamentally disagree with it?
To me at least, that is a form of educational malpractice. If one did not like Muslims, would one leave the Middle East (except Isreal of course) out of geography?) If one didn’t like Satan, would one not teach Dante’s Inferno? If a teacher didn’t like Barack Obama would they simply ignore his presidency?
Can you leave your faith at the door when you teach? In science, one has to.
The bible is full of bad science. Just recently, it was shown that a passage in the Bible about domesticated camels could not have been accurate because camels were not domesticated until thousands of years after the event in the bible was said to have taken place. The Bible says the earth is flat (several passages refer to the “four corners of the earth), that insects have 4 legs, that bats are birds, that the value of pi is 3 and that the earth had a roof over it. (Let’s face facts here: A book written thousands of years ago by illiterate sheepherders should not be used as a science textbook, or as a basis for scientific inquiry. )
Because of the understanding of evolution we have been able to fight disease, have better agriculture, eliminated polio, have better biofuels, been able to improve crime fighting, even been able to find your descendants with just a swab of your DNA.
Evolutionary SCIENTIFIC THEORY has been used to change the ideas of how businesses work, how technology changes and even to address how politics and societies change. To deny students exposure to that idea, that leads to so many other ideas, is again, educational malpractice in my opinion.
Imagine if every single one of the teachers of the inventors of those life saving improvements like antibiotics, or the polio vaccine, or stem cell breakthroughs thought that evolution and change over time were not “true?” (I actually remember a teacher of mine in high school telling the class that he didn’t believe a thing he was teaching but that he had to teach it anyway. He was teaching biology. When he said that, he lost every shred of credibility he had with me. His lack of faith in his topic was one reason I became a teacher. I remember rethinking to myself at the time that I could do a better job that that…)
Then we would simply not have these because some teacher thought they understood science better than scientists. Lives have been saved because of evolutionary SCIENTIFIC THEORY.
We are also seeing that attitude of “I don’t believe it therefore it does not exist” more and more today with ideas such as climate change. People with a religious or political agenda are dismissing the idea of climate change because it is cold where they live, or because they found a single scientist somewhere that disagreed with the vast majority of other scientists or because they saw a show on TV.
Sadly, these same people will complain when international test scores show our students falling behind in scientific thinking and reasoning skills. They will complain when we are told that our students cannot reason effectively, and then stand in awe as countries such as Korea and China move ahead both industrially and in creativity.
We need to start calling out these “science teachers” because frankly, they are not science teachers. They are preachers. And if they don’t teach something because they “don’t believe in it” then they are hurting our children and the future of the nation.
These EXACT SAME people that know little science or base their science knowledge in a 3000 year old Bedouin text rewritten hundreds or thousands of times (dare I say that the text has EVOLVED over time?) should not be teaching our children science. They should be in Sunday school, teaching there, because that is where their heart is, that is where their passion is , and that is where their basis for living is.
Leave science teaching to people that know and understand science.
Leave Sunday school for Sundays.