Students Challenged to Study Evolution, Think for Themselves

As students step foot on campus for another school year, an intelligent design proponent has offered a few tips for the millions who will face the teaching of evolution in their science classrooms.

Tip number one, "never opt out of learning evolution," says Casey Luskin, co-founder of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, according to the Discovery Institute.

"In fact, learn about evolution every chance you get."

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Having attended public schools from kindergarten through his master's degree at the University of California, San Diego, Luskin was taught a "biased and one-sided origins" curriculum – basically, the neo-Darwinian theory.

There was virtually no debate or dialogue on the theory when he was learning it and "neo-Darwinian evolution was always taken as a given."

But Luskin does not regret having studied evolution as much as he did. He says the more evolutionary biology he took, the more he became convinced that the theory "was based upon unproven assumptions, contradictory methodologies, and supported weakly by the data."

So he encourages students not to be afraid to study evolution.

His advice comes as a new report reveals that the treatment of biological evolution in state science standards improved dramatically over the last decade. According to the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, 40 U.S. states – including the District of Columbia – received satisfactory grades for the treatment of evolution in their state science standards. Only 31 states had received such grades in Lawrence S. Lerner's 2000 study Good Science, Bad Science, conducted for the Fordham Foundation.

Meanwhile, five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia – received an "F" and another six states received the grade of "D."

Texas was recently in the national spotlight when the state board of education revised science standards in March to encourage students to "critique" and examine "all sides" of scientific theories.

Denouncing the inclusion of "creationist jargon" – language to justify the use of teaching material that casts doubt on the theory of evolution – in science standards, the NCSE report's authors, Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates, believe creationists have strategized to insert more "innocuous language" such as "critical analysis" and "strengths and weaknesses" into the standards.

Mead and Mates contend in their report, "It is simply not true that there are credible scientific alternatives to evolution, nor that evolutionary theory has 'weaknesses' that make it unlikely to be true, nor that scientific work has been done that casts doubt upon it. Students should be left in no doubt on this score."

Luskin thinks otherwise.

He challenges students to be critical in their thinking when approaching evolution and be proactive in learning about other credible scientific viewpoints that are likely censored by teachers.

"[Y]ou must be careful to always think for yourself," he cautions. "Everyone wants to be 'scientifically literate,' but the Darwin lobby pressures people by redefining 'scientific literacy' to mean 'acceptance of evolution' rather than 'an independent mind who understands science and forms its own informed opinions.'"

For Luskin, critical thinking and his own independent study led him to conclude that neo-Darwinian evolution was a set of questionable assumptions, and not facts.

He also discovered that there were "credible scientific views that dissent from neo-Darwinism" that were never disclosed to him.

"Yes, take courses advocating evolution. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can you truly make up your mind in an informed fashion."

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