Discovery Institute Still Undermining Science

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, America’s tiny but loud voice for Intelligent Design, is once again trotting out their thoroughly discredited argument that good science education requires that our public schools “teach the controversy.” America’s public schools should present the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution, as well as alternative explanations for our origins. They charge that academic freedom demands that teachers be encouraged, or perhaps even required to present both sides of any scientific controversy: “At Discovery Institute, we advocate teaching the controversy about evolution. That is for several reasons. Students should learn the full range of evidence on evolution. Teaching the controversy aids in developing critical thinking. And it trains students to think like scientists.”

The call to “teach the controversy,” despite its appeal to intuitions about fairness, rests on an abysmal confusion about both science and science pedagogy. It is, in fact, nothing more than a calculated political strategy to hide the real agenda of the anti-evolutionists — namely to get evolution out of the public schools.

For starters, the “controversies” they want to teach don’t even exist. In their minds the possibility that the earth is 10,000 years old is an open question, even though geologists settled that one in the 18th century. They still think that Adam and Eve were real people and Noah may have rescued all the animals in the ark — claims settled in the 19th century. But most of their energy is spent promoting the idea that Darwin’s theory of evolution is implausible nonsense or, at best, a controversial theory with widespread scientific dissent.

Evolution is a remarkable theory. Its complexity and breadth guarantee that there will be ongoing debates and controversies about the details and scientific journals are filled with these debates. But these debates are not about whether —> Read More