In Origin of Species, Charles Darwin famously wrote, ”A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” One might think that modern proponents of Darwin’s ideas would endorse his approach to scientific thinking within evolution education, but it’s not so. The Texas State Board of Education recently received reviews of the proposed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) from six science reviewers.
Three of those reviewers–who are scientific skeptics of Darwinian evolution–support TEKS that would give students a strong grounding in critical thinking skills by asking them to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”
Three other reviewers, however, are Darwinists who oppose giving students that opportunity to use such critical thinking skills when learning about Darwin’s theory and other scientific theories. One immediately apparent difference between the two sets of reviewers is that the reviews that supported critical thinking skills were each over 25 pages long, but two of the three Darwinist reviewers submitted reviews that were under ten pages.
It seems that these reviewers have one main concern and one main agenda: to ensure that evolution is taught dogmatically in Texas.
As a first example, in his short 7-page review, University of Texas Austin evolutionary biologist David Hillis wrote that the TEKS language should be revised to read “analyze, review, and critique examples of scientific hypotheses as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.” This missing word here is the word “theories” because Hillis wants to remove the application of this standard to scientific “theories,” thereby forcing students to treat certain popular scientific theories–like Darwinian evolution–as unquestionable fact.
Hillis also implies that some students are too young to critique certain concepts, saying that “asking students in Grade 5 to analyze, review, and critique any modern scientific theory is absurd; how can any students in K‐ 12 be expected to evaluate the enormous body of evidence that leads to current scientific consensus?” But if we can teach students about scientific views that support the “consensus,” then doesn’t this mean students have the right to hear there are scientific views that question it? Also, does this imply that older students are mature enough to critique the “consensus” view? Apparently not–for as we saw even within high school, Hillis would not allow students to learn about the weaknesses of scientific “theories” that are the consensus view.
Hillis’ approach will stifle critical thinking and teach students how to conform and think as dogmatists, not skeptically-thinking scientists. More problems with the Darwinist TEKS reviewers will be discussed in future posts.