Monday, September 27, 2004

Knowledge via democracy

Pharyngula has been frothing at the mouth (quite justifiably) about the latest issue of Wired that covers the intelligent design controversies raging in the public school system. As he points out, the core strategy of the (un)ID folks is to create a debate and then use its existence to establish legitimacy: "see, we are disagreeing, as rational people will about a controversial topic".
The debate's two-on-two format, with its appearance of equal sides, played right into the ID strategy—create the impression that this very complicated issue could be seen from two entirely rational yet opposing views. "This is a controversial subject," Meyer told the audience. "When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects with the public-school science curriculum, the students should be permitted to learn about both perspectives. We call this the 'teach the controversy'
approach."[1]
What is saddest is comments like this coming from school board members:
Another board member, Deborah Owens-Fink, declares the issue already closed. "We've listened to experts on both sides of this for three years," she says. Ultimately, the question of what students should learn "is decided in a democracy, not by any one group of experts."
We know what happens to the value of pi when democracy decides knowledge...

Notes:
  1. Larry Kraus was interviewed in Scientific American about his experiences dealing with the school board mentioned above.
  2. I find it even more tragic that at a time when a grounding in biology appears to be key to having a part in the biotech revolution, these people want to gut the foundations of scientific education in this country.
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