Creationism in Bristol

“DarkSyde,” a participant in the The Daily Kos blog, has a lot to say about Bristol-area teacher Larry Booher, who has been asked to put a halt to teaching creationism in high school biology class. Booher, a highly popular teacher, apparently, has been giving students the option to read the book, Creation Battles Evolution, a voluntary, extra credit assignment.

The Daily Kos item strikes me two ways. On the one hand, creationism is not science and should not be taught in a biology class, even as voluntary extra credit. If a student inquires about creationism, I suppose, it would be OK for Booher to suggest a book. But the book should not be a formal part of the curriculum.

(A quick aside to fundamentalist readers who are bound to take issue with me: Evolution is not “just a theory” — it’s a body of science that is so well integrated into other scientific disciplines, from geology to astronomy, molecular biology to genetics, that to describe it as “unproven” is to say that the entire edifice of 21st century science is unproven. That’s not to say there aren’t major unsolved questions regarding how evolution works — just as there are major unsolved questions in astrophysics. But those unsolved questions don’t begin to dismantle the larger body of knowledge confirming the reality of evolution.)

On the other hand, DarkSyde does hyperventilate about the meaning of the Bristol incident. Says the Kos: “This sort of blatant disregard of the Constitution indicates that we are indeed headed – if not into an overt theocracy right now – into a climate which makes theocratic abuses by government officials (like public high school biology teachers) seem reasonable to the majority of folks in our country.”

Get over it, DarkSyde! Mr. Booher has been teaching creationism for 15 years. Was America a theocracy 15 years ago? And, oh, by the way, he’s been told to stop teaching creationism. Secular humanists are extirpating expressions of religion from the public schools, even in culturally conservative areas like Bristol, a whole lot faster than the fundamentalists can inject it back in. Speaking as a Darwinist, and not a religious person at all, I see no signs of “theocracy” at all. You guys are totally hallucinating.

(Thanks to blogger Jesse Stark for pointing out this story.)

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  1. Addison Avatar

    Looks like DailyKos needs to learn the difference between Abingdon and Roanoke…

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs


    While I largely agree with your post, the links I read were not clear as to whether Booher actually taught evolution and creationism or whether he just taught creationism and another teacher taught evolution. I’d like that fully clarified. I’d also like to know more about the curriculum at the school and whether AP biology was available.

    I think, if evolution is being taught, that granting extra credit for reading about creationism is perfectly ok. The things teachers offer for extra credit are extremely varied, with many being much less strenuous than a 500 page book. I’d prefer that kids know about the controversy. The key issue for me is: are students being taught enough evolutionary theory to successfully compete on standardized tests and in higher education classes.

    That Booher apparently has given up his approach tells us something, too.

  3. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    Daily Kos didn’t write that. That’s a diary entry by a member of the site.. there are hundreds of them every day, many of which garner a great deal more attention than this one-off diary entry, which has received, as of this writing, a grand total of four comments.

    It would be a great deal more accurate to write that “a guy who calls himself ‘DarkSyde’ has a lot to say about….” After all, I’m not sure you’d want my comments to be held up as an example of the blog entries on Bacon’s Rebellion, would you?

  4. So, Kos is to DarkSyde what Roanoke is to Washington County?

  5. criticallythinking Avatar

    Booher gave up his approach because he was told to do so or be fired. So I don’t think it is “telling”.

    The story, and the editorial, only provided information that he handed out a creation book for extra credit. I think that telling him he can’t give out a book is censorship. But unless he provided equivalent extra credit for those who wanted to study more about evolution from the evolutionary point of view, he shouldn’t have given extra credit at all — because that would be incentive which might force students to read the book.

    The letters to the editor suggest but don’t describe specifically that there were other aspects to this, including possible teaching during class of either “creation”, or maybe simply critical views of the evolution being taught.

    If he only provided skeptical views on the evolutionary specifics, that should be OK in science. While “evolution” as a nebulous theory is provable and useful, many of the specifics,especially as it relates to origins, are not. Especially in high school textbooks, where you probably could point out flaws in most of the science.

    A science teacher should not teach creation in a science class. It is at best history.

    I am a creationist, in case you are wondering, but I don’t speak for them.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Waldo, Thanks for the correction. Not being a Daily Kos reader, I just figured DarkSyde was a regular contributor. I’ll correct my original post.

  7. Shaun Kenney Avatar
    Shaun Kenney

    Evolutionary theory has it’s gaps as well. Granted, I’m not a strict creationist, but the fact of the matter is that we simply don’t know how we got here.

    I don’t see anything wrong with introducing either strict Darwinian evolutionary theory, intelligent design (which I believe to have many, many flaws), creationism, or any host of theories introduced in the classroom.

    What I do have a problem with is this emphasis that one theory is better than another based on ideological concerns. In a classroom, one would think that the students would be encouraged to critically assess what they are being taught, not force-fed what they should or should not believe.

    What I find to be most ironic here is that this time, it is the secularist mindset that is engaging in the same “squashing of dissent” they would accuse Christendom of doing 400 years earlier.

    Yet another case of ideology trumping scientific inquiry.

  8. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    Not being a Daily Kos reader, I just figured DarkSyde was a regular contributor.

    It really is a confusing system, Jim. I’ve been reading Daily Kos for the past few years, and I’m accustomed to the format — for anybody unfamiliar, diaries really can’t be discerned from stories.

    I don’t see anything wrong with introducing either strict Darwinian evolutionary theory, intelligent design (which I believe to have many, many flaws), creationism, or any host of theories introduced in the classroom.

    Shaun, I certainly hope you’d support teaching Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. It’s got at least as much merit as creationism (aka “intelligent design theory [sic]”), and has the benefit of being pirate-based.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    A test for whether something is scientific in nature or not, is the ability to prove the assertion wrong.

    Evolution stands as a sound scientific theory, because it *can* be proven to be incorrect. Factual information can arise to disprove evolution or cause the theory to be adjusted.

    There is NO test that can ever disprove creationism. It is therefore, not a scientific theory. And has no place in the scientific environment.

  10. Shaun Kenney Avatar
    Shaun Kenney

    A test for whether something is scientific in nature or not, is the ability to prove the assertion wrong.

    I wonder what David Hume would say about that. 🙂

    I always figured the test for something being “scientific” was it’s reliance upon a scientific method. . . science itself being a somewhat ambiguous term if you want to look at it in the light of proof/disproof.

    Rather than leaning on ancedotal or existential evidence, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that the test for scientific analysis is method, not results.

    This having been said, Darwinian evolution has been proven false time and time again. “Survival of the fittest” doesn’t take into account mass extinction events. Survival of the most prolific seems to be the better explanation, yet we still cling and preach on Darwinian evolution. Why? Because to yield would mean to give in to its critics (namely creationists).

    Scientific inquiry should be the focus. Stephen Weinberg in In Search of a Final Theory wrote a great chapter condemning philosophers such as Kant for influencing science, and in result allowing ideology room to interfere with how scientists interpreted their results. The discovery of the electron is a great example of how ideology interferes with scientific inquiry…

    The point of all this is to once again emphasize how ideological straightjackets restrict academic freedom. Does it happen on both sides? I don’t doubt it. But to exclude either evolution or creationism (or the many variants inbetween) for the sake of ideology is insane. Creationism has just as much right to be discussed as a scientific possibility as does Darwinian evolutionism, and rightly so.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    A test to disprove a theory IS part of the scientific method.

    Evolution has NEVER been proven false. Unless one was to say that the theory as it existed at one moment in time was proven false. The theory itself evolves.

    Just as we once thought that molecules, and then atoms were the smallest particles. The theories were proven incorrect. And were adjusted to encompass new information.

    One should be academically free to read a book on creationism. And in the end of it all, may turn out to be the way the world was created. It is still not a science, however, since it can NOT be judged through the scientific method.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s ridiculous. Just because you don’t have the tools to prove or disprove a hypothesis doesn’t mean that the hypothesis is false.

    If the same applies for evolution, the same applies for creationism, or any other theory for that matter.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    No one said that one had to “have the tools to prove or disprove” a hypothesis.

    Whether you like it or not, it is a fact that one step in the scientific method is that the theory CAN be disproven. Not that one DOES disprove it. It is possible that facts will arise in the future that will directly disprove any of the elements of the evolution theory.

    There is NO way to disprove creationism. Creationism is a belief and stems from faith.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Evolution is a theory just as creation is a theory. One of the basic laws of physics is that you can not “create” something from nothing. There had to something to create something. That is not meta physics it is hard physics.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    You clearly do not understand the difference between the word “theory” as used in science and the scientific method and the word “theory” as used in the humanities. They are two completely different concepts.

    For something to be a valid theory in the scientific community it must be CAPABLE of being disproven. Creationism can never be disproven because it is rooted in belief and in faith.

    It is certainly a valid explanation for the creation of the world, but it is NOT SCIENTIFIC in any way, shape, or form.

    Until you’ve gathered a bit more education on science and the scientific theory it is pointless to continue this discussion with you, because you clearly do not understand the basic terminology.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    To debate the meaning of “theory” in science or humanities is beside the point. Creation is just as valid as evolution. You sound like a liberal, can’t win an argument on the facts so you resort to personal attacks. Sad.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    It is ENTIRELY the point.

    Creationism is NOT SCIENTIFIC. It is a belief. It does NOT belong in a SCIENCE classroom.

    And no liberal would have ever said that creation was a valid explanation.

    You sound like a bible-thumper who needs a little education.

  18. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 10:48. I’m on your side of this debate. I agree that creationism does not belong in the curriculum of a science-based biology class (except, perhaps, as an illustration of the differences between scientific and non-scientific modes of thought). However, labeling someone a “bible thumper” does not make your argument any stronger. Stick to the arguments, please.

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