Fallacies and Education
Another creationist fallacy is the claim that there are no intermediate fossils showing the process of evolution. Gaps in the fossil record certainly exist; however, they do not negate the theory of evolution. All a scientific theory needs to be consistent with reality is the presence of confirmatory evidence and the absence of disproving evidence (that is why scientific conclusions are always tentative). Not a single fossil ever found disproves the theory of evolution, and all of them confirm it. However, this does not mean we have (or will ever have) the complete sequence of all transitional forms among organisms. The point is, we have several, and they are exactly what the theory predicts.
Perhaps one of the most pernicious attitudes of creationists is that education must be a democratic activity. When I say to creationists (and even to some of my friends and colleagues) that education is and cannot be democratic, I sense that I hit a sore spot. By undemocratic I mean that education is not about teaching alternative opinions for the sake of variety or representation. It is about teaching the best of what we currently know. The fact that what we now know may turn out to be wrong is just the nature of things. We will change what is taught if and when we will know better.
It is interesting to me that American parents do not seem to think twice before questioning what teachers teach their children, as if they knew better. Since teachers are (supposedly) trained for that specific job, it would be like advising a brain surgeon on how to cut your brain if you have no degree in medicine. I doubt that many people would run that risk! But the idea of “equal teaching” somehow strongly appeals to the American ideal of fairness. After all, what is wrong with teaching alternative theories, if they are out there? The problem is that such practice is very much unfair to our children, unless the two theories are genuine alternatives being considered by the scientific community.
We do not teach creation science (an oxymoron, by the way) for the same reason that we do not teach that the Earth could be round or flat, or that our planet may be traveling around the Sun or vice versa, or that characters may be inherited through the genes or by modifications effected by a direct intervention of the environment (Lamarckism). We do not teach all these things (or creationism) because we know better. Teaching them would be a great disservice to our children.
In the next lesson we will take a look at some common mistakes made by scientists and educators, as well as some strategies to improve science education and ameliorate the evolution – creation controversy.