What Leftists Really Mean by Science Education

I’m tired of hearing about stupid America. Americans might be stupid, but not for any of the reasons cited by liberals. Leftists like to bemoan the dismal state of “science education,” but their only real gripes are the existence of “climate deniers” and creationists. Meanwhile, they have no concern for the actual standards of education in general, or science education in particular, and they continue to pump billions of dollars into an autocratic educational system that has proven effective at none of its stated goals.

In the US, literacy in all subjects has suffered extraordinary declension since the advent of “free” public schools. This is undeniable. So America isn’t stupid because of a few creationists. It’s easy to blame religious people and conservatives, of course. They certainly exhibit some of the most obnoxious behavior in ’Merika™. But let’s look at the real problem here.

For one, stupid conservatives are generally products of the liberal education system. Ideologically consistent conservatives don’t send their kids to government schools. Which means that if anyone is to blame for the dismal state of education, it’s leftists and big government elitists. The flat fact is that private and home schooling are cheaper and more effective than public school. Even in science education.

But there is a big difference between science education and science indoctrination. Science education needs to be about the process and methods of science more so than about the philosophical assertions made by scientists. And this is where things get really sticky. I’ll have to start by quoting from one of the aforementioned bemoaners, Jonathon Gatehouse:

Last week, [South Carolina’s] education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.

 

Charles Darwin’s signature discovery—first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since—long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.

 

The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

There are so many problems with this manipulative drivel. Let’s begin with the too-broadly labeled “evolution.” Natural selection is not the same as “evolution.” Like many Darwinist believers, Gatehouse pretends like the truth of natural selection is a sufficient condition for the truth of “evolutionary theory.” The word “evolution” is a catchall, improperly defined and bounded. Natural selection is a very simple and obvious process that no creation scientist would ever think to deny—it means that the members of a population that survive are the only ones that pass on their traits, and their children are more likely to survive in their parents’ environment since they, naturally, have their parents’ “survival-favoring” traits. No brainer. Natural selection does not generally produce new species, and it has never produced a new family (or kind) of animal. Even the most diehard proponents of “evolution” understand this. Just listen to this quote from the Darwinists over at the Discovery Channel:

But natural selection doesn’t lead to the development of a new species. In most cases, the process simply allows a species to better adapt to its environment by changing the genetic make up from one generation to the next.

In fact, long before Darwin, Christians understood the necessity of a theory like natural selection to explain how migration, breeding, and environment could produce such rapid speciation after Creation—and especially after Noah’s Flood. We didn’t know the mechanism until Gregor Mendel (who, by the way, was an Augustinian friar) founded the science of genetics. But, then again, neither did Darwin. Contrary  to Gatehouse’s implication, and the erroneous understanding of only the most science-ignorant Christians, natural selection is in no way incompatible with a literal reading of Genesis and six-day Creationism.

Because a variation of species is not a variation of kind. All of Darwin’s finches were still finches at the end of the day. Maybe even different species of finches, if you want to be generous. But they certainly weren’t in a different class, order, or family column. All inter-breeding only ever narrows the available genetic material. It can’t expand it. There has not been even a single instance where natural selection has been shown to increase or augment the available genetic material. Natural selection has produced thousands and thousands of new, and ever more exclusive, species. But it has never and can never produce a new kind. Which means natural selection is entirely inadequate to explain the existence of all life on earth.

Gatehouse, like so many of his cronies, commits a classic fallacy (of composition). It runs like this:

  1. Natural selection is a necessary part of evolutionary theory.
  2. Natural selection is true.
  3. Therefore, evolutionary theory is true.

Not so fast. Natural selection does not prove evolutionary theory. Animals adapt to their environments over the course of their generations because the ones that can’t survive in their environments aren’t alive to breed, but that doesn’t prove that inanimate matter gave birth mysteriously to self-replicating organisms that eventually “evolved” into humans. In other words, it doesn’t prove that natural selection is adequate to explain the origin/existence, and not just the continuation, of all living things.

Natural selection is science. It’s observable, repeatable, and in the present. Macro-evolution, also known as “evolutionary theory,” is not science. It’s speculation on science, also known as “philosophy” or “religion.” As such, it has no more place in science education than creation theory does. It is a philosophical foundation for interpreting science. It is not science in itself. Gatehouse should know this. But, as he so aptly points out, science education just isn’t what it used to be.

But it’s not just on the issue of evolution that Gatehouse’s gripes are off-base. His whole argument falls to pieces once you really start considering it. Consider his dig at the anti-vaccination crowd. Did you know that over half of the deaths from measles last year were in India? It’s true that the average citizens of India don’t have vaccines. But you know what else they don’t have? Clean water, good food, underground sewage systems, space to stretch their legs … you know, pretty much all the things they would need to resist disease. Again, his argument is fallacious (post hoc ergo propter hoc). Just because vaccines are available in all industrial countries and industrial countries tend to have a lower incidence of disease, that doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccines themselves are alone, or even primarily, responsible. Good hygiene and good nutrition are arguably much more important for the termination of disease.

I find it ironic that a person decrying the stupidity of America should be so prone to informal fallacy. Forget science education. We apparently have major problems in logic and critical thinking as well.

And don’t even get me started on Gatehouse’s comments on global warming, climate change, climate disruption, whatever. This is just another classic case where science is whoring itself out to ideologues and politicians. A rise in global temperature has been detected over the past few years. So what? The really important issues attending that are: Are our measurements accurate? Is this a unique occurrence in history? And are we the one’s causing it? Environmentalists answer yes to all three questions. But the science and logic don’t support that conclusion necessarily. You could also get the evidence to answer no to those questions. And if that’s what the federally-funded institutions of “Science” were telling you to do, I guarantee that’s what you’d do.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Gatehouse’s real beef is not with the state of education, per se. He’s right about the fact that America is stupid. But he, and Bill Nye, are wrong in the substance of their criticism. It’s not about teaching the right things. It’s about teaching the right way. In all of education, actually, a shift needs to be made away from teaching what to learn to teaching how to learn. Whether you teach him evolution or creation, a child is well-educated if and only if he fully comprehends how to retain the knowledge he has, acquire new knowledge, and integrate his new knowledge with the old in a cohesive and consistent system of understanding. This is how to learn. Not what to learn.

But our civil government refuses to let go of the reigns of power. They don’t want kids exploring ideas for themselves. They don’t want people creating cohesive systems of understanding. People who can think critically are dangerous to the system. So in some sense, the government education system is doing its job. It’s making it easier for the civil government to control us. Big Brother wants to tell us all exactly what to believe.

Ironically, Gatehouse’s real gripe is not one of education; it’s one of belief. Gatehouse is Canadian. He trusts his civil government, and doesn’t understand why “arguments from authority” don’t work on people from the States. He hates that stubborn Americans just won’t believe what the government tells them to. But that is and has always been the best part of America. May it prosper long after Black Friday and pink flamingo lawn ornaments have gone the way of the Dodo.