Dover High School Administrators: Dimwits

Below is the text of the statement by Dover High School Administrators.

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

Well it isn’t as bad as it could be. At least they make the tautological statement that a theory is just a theory instead of saying evolution is a theory (i.e., evolution is a fact, the theory of evolution is “just” a theory). Of course, this is true of all theories. The statement that theory is just a theory is like saying, rain is just rain. It is an obvious truism that contains almost no information.

There are gaps in a great many theories. All theories have controversies. These two facts do not render theories false, meaningless nor does it mean that alternatives are to be considered on equal footing. Such views underscore either an empty-headed understanding of science or it is a sign of dishonesty.

Further, neither neo-Darwinian evolution or Intelligent design are theories on the origin of life. Neo-Darwinian evolution is a theory about the diveristy of life that we observe. Intelligent design on the other hand is a claim about how natural processes are not capable of explaining all the diversity of life that is observed. So neither is a theory about the origins of life.

Also, I think it is misleading to simply say that students should keep an open mind about any scientific theory in general. Science does not work that way. Theories are ranked according to how well the theories fit the data. If a theory does not fit the data as well as another theory why should we opt for the theory with less explanatory power?

The overall thrust of the statement is scientifically bad, and it is especially inappropriate for an introductory course in any subject.

FILED UNDER: Education, Religion, Science & Technology
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Literally Retarded says:

    Actually, ID is not a scientific theory at all. Since it (at least the version I am most familiar with) ascribes extra-natural causes to the effects that the current evolutionary theories can’t explain, it cannot be tested, and results cannot be replicated. For the same reason, it doesn’t lend itself to the scientific method, since anomolous results can be chalked up to the same extra-natural influence.

    The true value of teaching ID in a science class is in explaining the nature of a scientific theory
    and providing context for the development of well-know theories. Its weaknesses is the area of science are too glaring to ignore. ID assumes that we already know everything we can know scientifically, at least as far a evolution goes. That can’t possibly be true.

    That being said, I believe that our Creator wants us to test our minds – we need to push Knowledge forward. Consider the Theory of Relativity: most of it has been disproved, yet it remains an important step in the development of our understanding of the Universe. Was Einstein a heretic? Of course not. Will God condemn him for bing wrong? What a silly question.

  2. whatever says:

    Okay, we get the fact you don’t like it when stuff like this happens – the other dozen posts on this in the last month made it pretty clear.

  3. Say Anything says:

    What Darwin’s Theory Is Not
    This statement at Outside The Beltway made me think of a good point:

    Further, neither neo-Darwinian evolution or Intelligent design are theories on the origin of life. Neo-Darwinian evolution is a theory about the diveristy of life that we observe. …

  4. anjin-san says:

    I am not sure what you are upset about. Welcome to Bush’s America, where science is held in contempt and dogma is king. You supported the guy.

  5. Wizbang says:

    The Ego of Man
    I should start by saying that I mostly like all of James Joyner’s new guest posters over at OTB And so far, I’ve liked Steve Verdon. I’m sure many people find him (like me) often a tad caustic, but I…

  6. Vizzini says:

    Inconceivable! That’s what Joseph supposedly said when he heard Mary was pregnant. He repeated the line after he heard her theory about the immaculate conception.

    And I thought the Scopes trial ended all this nonsense.

    A true Zoroastrian knows that the earth was created in stages, with first the World of Thought, then the World of the Living, a counter creation by evil, then time was set in motion. I can’t actually call that an intelligent design, so shouldn’t that theory of life also be given equal ground? After all, it is the oldest and still widely practiced religion.

    Thus spake Zarathustra!

  7. Carpe Bonum says:

    The fishie war hits the blogosphere
    …don’t be afraid of religious people questioning science. Use your best science to discuss it. Point out where the other person’s argument diverges from good scientific method. Agree to disagree when it comes to matters of faith.

    Keep science cl…