As we report on page 30 of the May issue of eSchool News, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) wowed the 16,000 attendees at its national conference in Dallas last month with a brand-new resource for its members: SciGuides.
The association presented a “science toolbox” for teachers. It gives educators a way to quickly locate science content on the web. This is a worthy and worthwhile extension of the good work traditionally done by NSTA. The only concern the debut of the SciGuides raised for me was the total absence of any mention of evolution.
We asked the NSTA leadership about that, and we were assured nothing nefarious was afoot. Gerry Wheeler, the group’s executive director, promised there would be a SciGuide on the subject in due course. He pointed out that NSTA already is firmly on the record regarding evolution.
Is it ever! Here are the opening paragraphs of NSTA’s position statement:
“The National Science Teachers Association strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education frameworks and curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they need. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.
“NSTA also recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public’s misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy. In addition, teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, ‘creation science,’ and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.”
Although unfounded in this case, worrying when a major education organization issues a science resource without a mention of evolution is not paranoia. Just ask the operators of the IMAX theaters around the country.
“The fight over evolution has reached the big, big screen,” wrote Cornelia Dean in a recent issue of the New York Times. “Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject–or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth–fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.”
Says Dean: “People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including ‘Cosmic Voyage,’ which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; ‘Galápagos,’ about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and ‘Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,’ an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.”
James Cameron, a producer of “Volcanoes,” told Dean he was “surprised and somewhat offended” that people were sensitive to the references to evolution in the film. “It seems to be a new phenomenon,” he said, “obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science.”
When I wrote about the evolution controversy not long ago, it inspired several readers to send angry “cancel my subscription” messages.
Well, now that they’re gone … I can let you in on this news: Geneticists working at Purdue University have announced they’ve discovered a “self-correcting plant”–a phenomenon of the mustard-like arabidopsis to be exact. Some specimens reportedly carry a corrected version of a gene that is defective in both parents–as though an accurate copy had been present (in the plant’s RNA, scientists suspect) and had overridden the defective inherited version.
This finding could undermine evolutionary theory, some observers say. The theory posits that mutation is one of the mechanisms that enables a species to adapt. If this discovery in the gardens of Purdue turns out to undermine evolutionary theory, so be it. The theory will adapt or be superseded by a new one. For genuine scientists, new knowledge must be embraced and examined–not feared and repressed. That, at the end of the day, is how you do science.
All well and good. Now, if those hardworking geneticists could just discover some “self-correcting” kids who could come to our schools free of the defects of their parents, wouldn’t that be a miracle!