Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kate's New and Hot (Week 5)

A new twist to the creationism vs. evolution debate...

Hey...I know it seems obscenely early to be posting my new and hot for next week, but I just got the new @Stanford newsletter, and I wanted to post this before anyone else snatched it up.

Anyways, there is an article on Stanford's news page that was published April 11th, but was prompted by a lecture that was given on the 4th (at 7pm on the day of our first class - did we talk about this? I can't remember) by Stanford President Emeritus Donald Kennedy. Kennedy has served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and was a member of Stanford's biological sciences faculty for 20 years before becoming president of the university in 1980. The full article can be found here.

The gist of his talk was this: high school students that learn creationism instead of evolution do not develop the necessary critical thinking skills needed to succeed in college. To watch a clip of the talk, click here. Kennedy argues that when students learn creationism, they don't learn about scientific processes and how to question them. He says "What the creationist alternative does to students is to intercept and deaden curiosity...If relationships or correlations can be simply allocated to the cleverness of a designer, there's very little incentive to think up an experiment or undertake an analysis." By passively learning creationism, students do not get the opportunity to apply the scientific method and analyze empirical data in order to draw conclusions. He argues that the teaching of creationism discourages original and independent thinking, by crediting everything to a higher power.

I think this is a really interesting argument, and I think I agree with it in the realm of science. However, I'm not sure that you can say that all students who are taught creationism are lacking the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in higher education. While I don't agree with teaching creationism alone (or at all really, but that's me) in secondary school, I think students can develop critical thinking skills in other ways and places. It's definitely a valid point that deserves further thought though.


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