by Judge Darrell D. White (Retired)
Debate over the Louisiana Science Education Act (SB 733) calls to mind UC, Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson's Wall Street Journal op-ed observation,
"A Chinese paleontologist lectures around the world saying that recent fossil finds in his country are inconsistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution. His reason: The major animal groups appear abruptly in the rocks over a relatively short time, rather than evolving gradually from a common ancestor as Darwin's theory predicts. When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments: 'In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.'"
Evaluating evidence is critical in the search for truth--in science as in all areas of life. And while science textbooks speak often of "evidence", no helpful definition is provided. As a lawyer and retired trial judge, I find that scientific criticisms of Darwinâ€™s views would clearly be admissible in a court of law.
"Relevant evidence" under Louisiana Code of Evidence Article 401 "... means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action [lawsuit] more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."Moreover, if an attorney fails to disclose to a court evidence that is directly contrary to legal authority cited, unethical conduct results! (Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3--"Candor toward the Tribunal")
Darwin himself acknowledged the need for critical thinking in Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. He wrote,
"a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question..."And then Darwin devoted three of the book's fifteen chapters to criticizing his own theory! How can the science textbooks justify withholding all the facts from students?
Congress announced a standard for "quality" science education in the No Child Left Behind Act declaring,
"where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."In 2006, Ouachita Parish School Board unanimously adopted a science curriculum policy that addresses these goals and is a worthy example.
Having reviewed all BESE-approved science textbooks, I can verify that the goal of teaching students to distinguish between observational and historical science is poorly done with the current slate of textbooks. And, as a concerned parent and grandparent, I commend Senator Nevers for his Louisiana Science Education Act legislation. Our children and their teachers deserve enactment of SB 733.
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