Evolution controversy transcends the classroom

Scientists have discovered a new opponent in the debate over teaching evolutionary theory as fact in high school classrooms – other scientists.

In a forum held in the Science Complex on Monday, Richard Kamber, professor of philosophy, and Robert Kaita, Princeton University physicist, hosted a discussion on the controversy surrounding high school teachers being prevented from presenting scientific data that contravenes Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“It is controversial because in the other sciences there is no significant number of people pushing for supernatural alternative explanations rather than physical ones,” Kamber said.

According to Kamber, the distinction between a religious and scientific argument against evolution is when a person raises a supernatural argument rather than a scientifically proven one.

The discussion took an inevitable turn toward religion, and most audience members agreed with the discussion leaders that religion should not be represented in a biology classroom.

“Faith can be a wonderful thing, but I don’t think it has a place in science,” Kamber said.

According to Kaita, scientists can hold biases just like anyone else.

“Belief in a supernatural entity can color your scientific views,” Kaita said.

“Most scientists think evolution is doing a wonderful job,” Kamber said, explaining why an alternative scientific theory has not been developed yet.

“Darwin established a fundamental methodology,” Kaita said. According to Kaita, the theory is constantly being refined, with old problems being solved or thrown away only after being proven wrong through scientific scrutiny.

The holes in the theory of evolution don’t invalidate it, Kamber said. Rather, they are part of any scientific theory, to be proven true or false as more information is gathered.

“On the college level the idea of academic freedom would be less of an issue than at a high school level. There is a lot you have to consider in a high school biology curriculum – is everything being competently covered?” Kaita said.

According to Kaita, while high school students may be capable of understanding the controversy surrounding evolution, the emphasis of their curriculum is spread out among a variety of subjects, and it is more important to recieve a broad education than to debate evolution.

“High school students shouldn’t be shielded from controversy but the high school curriculum is introductory,” Kamber said.

According to Kamber, what is learned in high school is only a starting point for learning the whole theory. Only in college will students be fully prepared.