From Big Think we have physicist Lawrence Krauss showing why the “teach both sides” argument for evolution—and science in general—is fallacious. This argument is now being inserted into school standards by religionists who have lost repeated court battles trying to get creationism and intelligent design taught explicitly in public schools. Their new tactic is to pass school standards allowing or urging teachers to present evidence for alternative views and “critical evidence for and against” theories like evolution and anthropogenic global warming.
Since those resolutions seem innocuous—after all, what’s wrong with encouraging critical thinking in kids?— we need to remember why they’re there, and what the argument is against teaching “criticisms” of theories that are not flawed. Krauss’s 3.5-minute talk, which characterizes the teaching of creationism as “child abuse” (well, at the least it’s lying to children), highlights the problems with the teach-both-sides argument.
I would add that if you’re going to use the “teach all sides” argument, then medical schools should devote considerable time to spiritual healing, modern history to Holocaust denialism, and psychology courses to ESP and psychic phenomena.
Sometimes alternative theories are just bunk. As Krauss says, “If you think about, allowing the notion that the Earth is 6,000 years to old to be promulgated in schools is like teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error that is.”
The Big Think notes this:
This video was created before the 2016 campaign for president began, and Marco Rubio (whom he mentions in the video) has since dropped out; but the fact is, a large crop of the 2016 candidates from one political party holds to this idea of teaching ignorance in the classroom instead of actual science.
One quibble: At 2:35 he says, “Evolution is the basis of modern biology, and in fact if a lot of people don’t believe it, we have to do a better job teaching it.” Well, besides using “believe” rather than “accept”, what Krauss doesn’t note is that the reason a lot of people don’t accept evolution is not a failure of teaching, but the prevalence of religion. If America were a country of atheists, we’d have a lot more people who accept evolution. The most effective (though not the least laborious) way of getting people to accept evolution is not to teach it better, but to diminish the hold of religion on America.
h/t: Nicole Reggia