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Controversies, scientific
    and otherwise
              Josh Rosenau
   National Center for Science Education
What is a scientific
 controversy?
CORE

Frontier
CORE

Frontier
CORE

Frontier

  Fringe
Are these controversies?
Are these controversies?
Gravity
Are these controversies?
Gravity
String theory
Are these controversies?
Gravity
String theory
Alchemy
Are these controversies?
Gravity
String theory
Alchemy
Group selection/kin selection
Are these controversies?
Gravity
String theory
Alchemy
Group selection/kin selection
Evolution
Are these controversies?
Gravity
String theory
Alchemy
Group selection/kin selection
Evolution
Global warming
Opinion               TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution   Vol.18 No.10 October 2003                         499




Evolution: what’s wrong with
‘teaching the controversy’
Eugenie C. Scott1 and Glenn Branch1
1
    National Center for Science Education, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709-0477 USA



A new slogan in the fight against evolution education in              biological evidence as they see why it matters to a big
the USA and elsewhere is ‘teach the controversy’.                    question’ [3]. The thought does not originate with the
Although there are scientific controversies about the                 ‘intelligent design’ movement, however. The Institute for
patterns and processes of evolution that are appropri-               Creation Research (ICR), the oldest major antievolutionist
ate topics for the science classroom, and there is a con-            organization in the USA, recommends that students and
tinuing social controversy in certain circles about the              teachers be ‘encouraged to discuss the scientific infor-
validity of evolution, it is scientifically inappropriate             mation that supports and questions evolution and its
and pedagogically irresponsible to teach that scientists             underlying assumptions, to promote the development of
seriously debate the validity of evolution.                          critical thinking skills’ (emphasis in original) [4]. The
                                                                     intent is not to have students investigate controversies
Antievolutionists swarmed out of the woodwork recently,              about patterns and processes within evolutionary theory,
as Ohio prepared to adopt new statewide science education            but to debate whether evolution occurred.
standards – guidelines that specify what scientific knowl-               Presenting all sides of a controversial issue appeals to
edge and abilities students in the state’s public schools are        popular values of fairness, openness and equality of
expected to acquire – that accorded a central place to               opportunity. It thus plays well with the public. But it is
evolution. The situation in Ohio is not unusual for the              important to examine any such appeal carefully, because it
USA. Although there is no serious dispute among
                                                   Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch,
                                                                     is easy to abuse the public’s willingness to be swayed by
scientists about the scientific credentials of evolutionary           such a call. Consider the following appeal: ‘students should
                                       TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 18(10):499-502
biology, a significant proportion of the American public              be encouraged to investigate the […] controversy the same
When to
“teach the controversy”
When to
   “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
When to
   “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
Primarily scientific
When to
    “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
Primarily scientific
Equal availability of information on all sides
When to
    “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
Primarily scientific
Equal availability of information on all sides
Equal quality of materials on all sides
When to
    “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
Primarily scientific
Equal availability of information on all sides
Equal quality of materials on all sides
Understandable by audience
When to
    “teach the controversy”
Of interest to audience
Primarily scientific
Equal availability of information on all sides
Equal quality of materials on all sides
Understandable by audience
Scientific equivalency of all sides
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
136 co-authors!




Plus 17 authors of
 4 other letters,
   all rebutting
   Nowak et al.      … 2 more pages!
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
Evo-Devo
Evo-Devo
Synthia
Evo-Devo
Synthia
Evo-Devo




           Evolving
            RNA
           enzymes
Synthia
Evo-Devo

                           Artificial biochemistry



           Evolving
            RNA
           enzymes
Darwin, 1837
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
So why do people call
evolution controversial?
Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee
Check the literature!

             Consensus statements
             from scientific bodies
Pubmed




Check the literature!

             Consensus statements
             from scientific bodies
Pubmed

Google Scholar



    Check the literature!

                 Consensus statements
                 from scientific bodies
Pubmed            Well-sourced

Google Scholar



    Check the literature!

                 Consensus statements
                 from scientific bodies
Pubmed           Well-sourced
                   Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar



    Check the literature!

                 Consensus statements
                 from scientific bodies
Pubmed            Well-sourced
                   Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar   (Check the references




    Check the literature!

                 Consensus statements
                 from scientific bodies
Pubmed            Well-sourced
                   Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar   (Check the references
                   and the Talk page)


    Check the literature!

                 Consensus statements
                 from scientific bodies
Pubmed                    Well-sourced
                           Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar           (Check the references
                           and the Talk page)


    Check the literature!
Credible science blogs   Consensus statements
                         from scientific bodies
Pubmed                    Well-sourced
                           Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar           (Check the references
                           and the Talk page)


    Check the literature!
Credible science blogs   Consensus statements
(Who do they link, and   from scientific bodies
Pubmed                    Well-sourced
                           Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar           (Check the references
                           and the Talk page)


    Check the literature!
Credible science blogs   Consensus statements
(Who do they link, and   from scientific bodies
what do people linking
Pubmed                    Well-sourced
                           Wikipedia entries
Google Scholar           (Check the references
                           and the Talk page)


    Check the literature!
Credible science blogs   Consensus statements
(Who do they link, and   from scientific bodies
what do people linking
    to them say?)
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
Scientific Organizations
Brief of Amici Curiae by 56 Scientific Organizations in Selman v. Cobb County
                    Alabama Academy of Science (1981)
                    Alabama Academy of Science (1994)
                American Anthropological Association (1980)
                American Anthropological Association (2000)
        American Association for the Advancement of Science (1923)
        American Association for the Advancement of Science (1972)
        American Association for the Advancement of Science (1982)
        American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002)
                 AAAS Commission on Science Education
             American Association of Physical Anthropologists
                   American Astronomical Society (1982)
                   American Astronomical Society (2000)
                   American Astronomical Society (2005)
                     American Chemical Society (1981)
                     American Chemical Society (2005)
                       American Geological Institute
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
http://ncse.com/voices
Federation of American Societies for
       Experimental Biology
“While there may be some disagreement about
the details of evolution, it is not a controversial
     theory among scientists. Rather, there is
      overwhelming scientific consensus that
      evolution is a valid explanation for the
   development of species. Although students
 should be encouraged to think critically about
 all ideas, introducing false controversy
  into science classes will ultimately
         impair science education.”
Columbia Journalism Review, 2005
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
What can we do?
Make political
controversy
  political
Resist false balance
Controversies, scientific and otherwise
Opinions don’t differ on
the shape of the Earth.
Shift to a real debate
 (Neutralism vs. adaptationism,
 not evolution vs. creationism)
http://ncse.com
http://facebook.com/evolution.ncse
       http://twitter.com/ncse

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Controversies, scientific and otherwise

  • 1. Controversies, scientific and otherwise Josh Rosenau National Center for Science Education
  • 2. What is a scientific controversy?
  • 10. Are these controversies? Gravity String theory Alchemy Group selection/kin selection
  • 11. Are these controversies? Gravity String theory Alchemy Group selection/kin selection Evolution
  • 12. Are these controversies? Gravity String theory Alchemy Group selection/kin selection Evolution Global warming
  • 13. Opinion TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution Vol.18 No.10 October 2003 499 Evolution: what’s wrong with ‘teaching the controversy’ Eugenie C. Scott1 and Glenn Branch1 1 National Center for Science Education, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709-0477 USA A new slogan in the fight against evolution education in biological evidence as they see why it matters to a big the USA and elsewhere is ‘teach the controversy’. question’ [3]. The thought does not originate with the Although there are scientific controversies about the ‘intelligent design’ movement, however. The Institute for patterns and processes of evolution that are appropri- Creation Research (ICR), the oldest major antievolutionist ate topics for the science classroom, and there is a con- organization in the USA, recommends that students and tinuing social controversy in certain circles about the teachers be ‘encouraged to discuss the scientific infor- validity of evolution, it is scientifically inappropriate mation that supports and questions evolution and its and pedagogically irresponsible to teach that scientists underlying assumptions, to promote the development of seriously debate the validity of evolution. critical thinking skills’ (emphasis in original) [4]. The intent is not to have students investigate controversies Antievolutionists swarmed out of the woodwork recently, about patterns and processes within evolutionary theory, as Ohio prepared to adopt new statewide science education but to debate whether evolution occurred. standards – guidelines that specify what scientific knowl- Presenting all sides of a controversial issue appeals to edge and abilities students in the state’s public schools are popular values of fairness, openness and equality of expected to acquire – that accorded a central place to opportunity. It thus plays well with the public. But it is evolution. The situation in Ohio is not unusual for the important to examine any such appeal carefully, because it USA. Although there is no serious dispute among Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch, is easy to abuse the public’s willingness to be swayed by scientists about the scientific credentials of evolutionary such a call. Consider the following appeal: ‘students should TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 18(10):499-502 biology, a significant proportion of the American public be encouraged to investigate the […] controversy the same
  • 14. When to “teach the controversy”
  • 15. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience
  • 16. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience Primarily scientific
  • 17. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience Primarily scientific Equal availability of information on all sides
  • 18. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience Primarily scientific Equal availability of information on all sides Equal quality of materials on all sides
  • 19. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience Primarily scientific Equal availability of information on all sides Equal quality of materials on all sides Understandable by audience
  • 20. When to “teach the controversy” Of interest to audience Primarily scientific Equal availability of information on all sides Equal quality of materials on all sides Understandable by audience Scientific equivalency of all sides
  • 23. 136 co-authors! Plus 17 authors of 4 other letters, all rebutting Nowak et al. … 2 more pages!
  • 28. Synthia Evo-Devo Evolving RNA enzymes
  • 29. Synthia Evo-Devo Artificial biochemistry Evolving RNA enzymes
  • 32. So why do people call evolution controversial?
  • 36. Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 37. Pubmed Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 38. Pubmed Google Scholar Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 39. Pubmed Well-sourced Google Scholar Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 40. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 41. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 42. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references and the Talk page) Check the literature! Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 43. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references and the Talk page) Check the literature! Credible science blogs Consensus statements from scientific bodies
  • 44. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references and the Talk page) Check the literature! Credible science blogs Consensus statements (Who do they link, and from scientific bodies
  • 45. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references and the Talk page) Check the literature! Credible science blogs Consensus statements (Who do they link, and from scientific bodies what do people linking
  • 46. Pubmed Well-sourced Wikipedia entries Google Scholar (Check the references and the Talk page) Check the literature! Credible science blogs Consensus statements (Who do they link, and from scientific bodies what do people linking to them say?)
  • 48. Scientific Organizations Brief of Amici Curiae by 56 Scientific Organizations in Selman v. Cobb County Alabama Academy of Science (1981) Alabama Academy of Science (1994) American Anthropological Association (1980) American Anthropological Association (2000) American Association for the Advancement of Science (1923) American Association for the Advancement of Science (1972) American Association for the Advancement of Science (1982) American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002) AAAS Commission on Science Education American Association of Physical Anthropologists American Astronomical Society (1982) American Astronomical Society (2000) American Astronomical Society (2005) American Chemical Society (1981) American Chemical Society (2005) American Geological Institute
  • 52. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology “While there may be some disagreement about the details of evolution, it is not a controversial theory among scientists. Rather, there is overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is a valid explanation for the development of species. Although students should be encouraged to think critically about all ideas, introducing false controversy into science classes will ultimately impair science education.”
  • 55. What can we do?
  • 59. Opinions don’t differ on the shape of the Earth.
  • 60. Shift to a real debate (Neutralism vs. adaptationism, not evolution vs. creationism)

Editor's Notes

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  3. There is a useful way to From physicist James Trefil : A consumer’s Guide to Pseudoscience\nWhere does evol fit in this? It’s a core idea\n-Useful to help students understand this principle by teaching evol as being composed of three parts\n
  4. There is a useful way to From physicist James Trefil : A consumer’s Guide to Pseudoscience\nWhere does evol fit in this? It’s a core idea\n-Useful to help students understand this principle by teaching evol as being composed of three parts\n
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  64. (routine)\n-as of Feb 07, DI claimed >700 scientists on list\n
  65. (routine)\n-as of Feb 07, DI claimed >700 scientists on list\n
  66. (routine)\n-as of Feb 07, DI claimed >700 scientists on list\n
  67. (routine)\n-as of Feb 07, DI claimed >700 scientists on list\n
  68. (routine)\n-as of Feb 07, DI claimed >700 scientists on list\n
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  71. Dobzhansky was clear about the fundamental importance of evolution, but looking at NCSE's Voices for Evolution, it's clear that he was not alone.  That book collects statements … from hundreds of societies, including the AAAS and many other scientific societies\n
  72. from hundreds of societies, including the AAAS and many other scientific societies, but also societies of educators, civil libertarians, and religious leaders, emphasizing the importance of teaching evolution, and arguing against the teaching of religious attacks on evolution.  We always want more statements, so if your professional societies aren't represented in here, get cracking! … Further endorsement of Dobzhansky's maxim comes from a petition\n
  73. from hundreds of societies, including the AAAS and many other scientific societies, but also societies of educators, civil libertarians, and religious leaders, emphasizing the importance of teaching evolution, and arguing against the teaching of religious attacks on evolution.  We always want more statements, so if your professional societies aren't represented in here, get cracking! … Further endorsement of Dobzhansky's maxim comes from a petition\n
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  82. to follow Dobzhansky's maxim.\n