What’s wrong with teaching critical thinking or “controversies” with regard to evolution?
Nothing is wrong with teaching critical thinking. Students need to learn how to reexamine their ideas in light of observations and accepted scientific concepts. Scientific knowledge itself is the result of the critical thinking applied by generations of scientists to questions about the natural world. Scientific knowledge must be subjected to continued reexamination and skepticism for human knowledge to continue to advance.
But critical thinking does not mean that all criticisms are equally valid. Critical thinking has to be based on rules of reason and evidence. Discussion of critical thinking or controversies does not mean giving equal weight to ideas that lack essential supporting evidence. The ideas offered by intelligent design creationists are not the products of scientific reasoning. Discussing these ideas in science classes would not be appropriate given their lack of scientific support.
Recent calls to introduce “critical analysis” into science classes disguise a broader agenda. Other attempts to introduce creationist ideas into science employ such phrases as “teach the controversy” or “present arguments for and against evolution.” Many such calls are directed specifically at attacking the teaching of evolution or other topics that some people consider as controversial. In this way, they are intended to introduce creationist ideas into science classes, even though scientists have thoroughly refuted these ideas. Indeed, the application of critical thinking to the science curriculum would argue against including these ideas in science classes because they do not meet scientific standards.
There is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution. In this sense the intelligent design movement’s call to “teach the controversy” is unwarranted. Of course, there remain many interesting questions about evolution, such as the evolutionary origin of sex or different mechanisms of speciation, and discussion of these questions is fully warranted in science classes. However, arguments that attempt to confuse students by suggesting that there are fundamental weaknesses in the science of evolution are unwarranted based on the overwhelming evidence that supports the theory. Creationist ideas lie outside of the realm of science, and introducing them in science courses has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts.
What are common ideas regarding creationism?
“Creationism” is a very broad term. In the most general sense, it refers to views that reject scientific explanations of certain features of the natural world (whether in biology, geology, or other sciences) and instead posit direct intervention (sometimes called “special creation”) in these features by some transcendent being or power. Some creationists believe that the universe and Earth are only