[asa] No big bang over teaching evolution (New rules in South Carolina acceptable to all sides)

From: Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net>
Date: Mon May 07 2007 - 22:55:35 EDT

In case you missed it. ~ Janice

“Science and religion are two windows that people
look through, trying to understand the big
universe outside, trying to understand why we are
here. The two windows give different views, but
they look out at the same universe. Both views
are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave
out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.
Trouble arises when either science or religion
claims universal jurisdiction, when either
religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be
infallible. Religious creationists and scientific
materialists are equally dogmatic and
insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both
science and religion into disrepute. The media
exaggerate their numbers and importance. The
media rarely mention the fact that the great
majority of religious people belong to moderate
denominations that treat science with respect, or
the fact that the great majority of scientists
treat religion with respect so long as religion
does not claim jurisdiction over scientific
questions.” ~ physicist Freeman
Dyson <http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1829939/posts?page=4#4>4

No big bang over teaching evolution (New rules in
South Carolina acceptable to all sides)
The State ^ | May. 07, 2007 | BILL ROBINSON
Posted on 05/07/2007 9:52:03 PM EDT by Between the Lines
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1829939/posts [refresh browser]

Students, teachers flexible over new rules to explore life-origin theories.

Camden High biology teacher Mitzi Snipes
confronted this year’s controversial new rules
about teaching evolution head-on.

Snipes, a fourth-year teacher, told her students “to be open to new ideas.”

“I also let them know that each of them would
have a personal opinion based on their own
upbringing and moral and ethical values,” she said.

Her students did research and built Web pages
outlining “Darwin’s theory as well as
creationism. We talked about scientific inquiry
and the necessity for science to be based on fact
rather than personal values and beliefs.”

Snipes found “many students concluded that both
stances have merit and that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

Other teachers took a more measured approach when
lecturing students about the origins of life this
year the first year since policymakers rewrote
guidelines on how to teach evolution.

The new standards encourage teachers “to
investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

“I found myself hesitating a bit,” Gilbert High’s
Valerie Waites said. “I try to watch what I say
because I don’t want to offend anybody’s beliefs.”

Waites, who has taught for three decades,
considers herself a religious person capable of
separating personal beliefs from professional obligations.

“I have no problem balancing the two,” she said.

“I don’t say (to students), ‘What do you
believe?’ God created the world and is
all-powerful. I just believe evolution was His plan,” Waites said.


The phrase “critically analyze” sparks debate
between scientists and those who believe life’s
complexities cannot be explained by fossils, DNA, climate and the like.

High school biology teachers were caught in a
crossfire last year when state Sen. Mike Fair
campaigned to give educators flexibility in
discussing theories that challenge “natural
selection” and “survival of the fittest” credited to Charles Darwin.

Gilbert High students generally gave Waites high
marks for how she handled the topic.

“She was very flexible,” sophomore Edward Bell
said. “If someone had a question about something
that conflicted with what she was teaching, we
had a full discussion. She didn’t emphasize one (theory) over another.”

Cameron Burch, another Gilbert High sophomore,
said, “At first, I didn’t believe in evolution.
But it sort of caught on with me after seeing all
the evidence. It changed my mind. I was surprised.”

Burch and Bell did not recall any heated
discussion about alternatives to evolution during class.

Across the country, however, educators have
clashed with people who embrace a theory known as
“intelligent design,” an alternative view that
credits a larger intelligence perhaps a divine
hand with influencing the diversity of life.

Opponents caution that could open the door to
lessons with religious themes or overtones.

Fair, a Greenville R*publican, lobbied for
revisions to S.C.’s biology standards, backing
language that challenges students to scrutinize
how scientists arrive at conclusions about life’s
origins. Fair insisted he was not pushing
intelligent design and declined to be interviewed for this article.


Nassim Lewis, a biology teacher at Blythewood
High in Richland 2, said no students challenged
her about Darwin’s theories that are the
foundation of instruction about diversity of life.

“I’ve never had that happen,” the fourth-year
teacher said. “They are smart enough, as young
adults, to see the facts and understand them.

“They might not walk away from my class believing
one side or the other, but they at least became
educated about the scientific facts,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ district-level boss said he heard no
criticism about the performance of Richland 2
teachers. Ed Emmer said he got no feedback from
teachers relaying concerns or problems about
student reaction to evolution lessons.

Matthew Pearce, a Blythewood High senior, was
comfortable with how Lewis taught evolution.

“Some people do look at (evolution) differently
because of their religion, but I don’t have a
problem with what we’re learning. It’s all good,” Pearce said.

Kim Evans, a sophomore in the same class, found
evolution lessons interesting but did not abandon
what she learned about the origins of life in
church and at home. “It’s OK to believe both sides, I guess,” she said.


Dutch Fork High sophomore Amber Hutto said, “I
was very apprehensive about studying evolution.
It’s very controversial. I have my own religious
beliefs, and they don’t match (what was taught).

“I tried to keep an open mind,” Hutto said,
“because I know it’s something we have to study.”

Hilary Moore, also a sophomore at Dutch Fork High
in Lexington-Richland 5, said her biology teacher
told students “this is just an idea. It’s not
something we’re trying to preach.” The teacher,
Moore said, “let us debate (evolution), and there
were people on both sides. That’s just part of the class.”

“I’m very religious,” Moore said. “I’m able to separate my ideas and beliefs.”

Dan Publicover, another Dutch Fork High
sophomore, said students in his class “didn’t
seem to make a big deal about (evolution). I
believe God created everything. The scientific
evidence is pretty strong, but my religion tells
me differently. (The teacher) never forced evolution facts on us.”


Edna Jones of Hanahan High in Berkeley County
said, “I teach evolution the way I understand evolution.

“I don’t go out of my way to make a big deal of
it. It’s just another unit of science,” Jones said.

“A lot of students say, ‘God is responsible for
everything.’ I don’t say, ‘That’s not right or
wrong.’ I will tell them I don’t feel qualified
to discuss theology. I’m not trained in that
field,” said Jones, a teacher for 13 years.

Jones said she tells her students, “This is a
science class. Everything is based on data,
accumulating evidence, drawing conclusions, making predictions.

“Every now and then I get a student with very
strong issues about the subject, and some have
said they would leave the class. I just tell
them, ‘How are you going to argue (for) or
against something if you don’t know anything about it?’” Jones said.

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Received on Mon May 7 22:56:21 2007

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