When a biologist teaches creationism

When a biologist teaches creationism

When a biologist teaches creationism

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 27 2010 8:00 AM

When a biologist teaches creationism

[This post has been updated at the bottom.]

A while back, a young blogger named Jaden wrote about his college biology teacher who used the opportunity of his class to teach creationism and abstinence:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


He started off his discussion by saying that there are two ideas (not theories, but ideas) of how life became how it is on Earth. He closed the classroom’s door. Once the door was closed, he glossed over the scientific explanation very quickly (less than 20 seconds), then explained Creationism for about five minutes (5000 year old Earth, no evolution, etc). He then said that accepted scientific thought is the first, and that’s what the school wants him to teach, “…but we all know which one is right.” WHOA! [...] After he finished his Creationism lecture, he opened the classroom door again.

Yegads. That post was from April 23. Now that classes are over and grades finalized, on May 21 Jaden gave details. He did what I would've: approached the Dean of Science and told her the biology teacher was a crackpot.

What happened?

[The Dean] acted like I was being unreasonable. She said two things that really sit poorly with me. She told me that he is completely entitled to share his opinions in class. Then, she said eluded to the fact that I’m being intolerant of his beliefs and need to show more respect for him.



First, this is not public high school, so the teacher can, if he so pleases, teach that Thor created the Universe by cracking an ostrich egg in two and then dancing around nude on one foot while swinging a lawn mower blade around his head (being careful not to nick his winged helm, of course). He can do that, but should he do that there should be repercussions. Just as there should be if he teaches creationism, a provably wrong idea that goes counter to everything a science class represents.

But clearly the Dean disagrees. Here's what Jaden learned:

What I took away from this meeting with Dr. Williams was that my school didn’t care about science content in its science classes.

He's right.

[UPDATE: At this point in the original post, I wrote that the accreditation of this college should be investigated. That was really unfair of me, and I apologize for saying it. I wrote that as a note to myself at first, and didn't mean to leave it in as stated, but somehow that's what happened. It's unfair; any college can get one or two people teaching who sneak in their own brand of nuttiness -- I have stories about this myself -- and calling into question the department and the college itself was unnecessary. I still think the teacher was totally wrong, and the Dean shouldn't have reacted as she did... but then, clearly sometimes reactions are hard to judge before they happen.]