Thursday, March 02, 2006

Charter Schools Teaching Evolution

This morning, Red State Rabble reported a story on Dave Khaliqi, a biology teacher at the Colorado Springs Classical Academy, who "teaches the controversy" regarding evolution:

But some scientists, he also tells his students at The Classical Academy, believe organisms are too complex to have evolved without help from an intelligent designer.
For example, he says, 40 chemicals must work together as a system for blood to clot. If even one chemical is out of balance, blood may not clot - or it could clot at the wrong time and cause a stroke.

Of course, RSR points out that what Khaliqi really does is fail tell students the truth: that the blood in several species clots just fine, thank you, without the full compliment of blood clotting components their teacher thinks is "irreducibly complex". I'm sure he also doesn't mention that these same components of the clotting cascade share striking homologies, strongly suggesting they are modified duplicates of each other. Or that similar systems to the blood clotting cascade exist, but serve other functions and have nothing to do with blood clotting. Or that evolutionary biologists hypothesized over a decade ago that if blood clotting fibrogen evolved from a duplicated gene that had nothing to do with blood clotting, then we ought to find fibrogen-like genes in less complex animals that do not possess the clotting cascade of mammals. Or that just such non-clotting fibrogen genes have been found in invertebrates.

The article about Khaliqi's class lecture is timely - I just finished a similar lecture on "irreducible complexity" in my Anthropology class. Unlike Khaliqi, however, I walked the class through several examples of supposedly irreducibly complex systems that we now know can operate with fragments of the system in place, or whose components function differently in different contexts, or whose components share similarities with those in other species that do not function in the same way. It became clear to the majority of them that "irreducible complexity" is a concept that just can't be maintained with a closer look at the evidence. In fact, I referred to current efforts in evolutionary biology as demonstrating the continued reducibility of irreducible complexity.

Unfortunately Khaliqi's students are not being told the whole story. But that may not matter. According to the article, many of the students probably don't want to hear anything contradicting their biblical worldview anyway. Their attitude appears to be the academic equivalent of holding their hands over their ears and repeating "la, la, la" over and over again when addressed by someone not sharing their views:

Most students at the school are religious, said Katie Stephens, 15, who is in Khaliqi's class.
"The Classical Academy is kind of a circle of believers," Stephens said. "We have mostly people who believe in the same religion. We're all pretty much tight with each other, I guess."
She's skeptical of evolution.
Wendy Lade, 15, who sits next to Stephens in class, said, "I take everything the Bible says as truth."
The Bible says man was created in the image of God, Lade said. That rules out descent from apes.

Well, I'm awestruck by these 15 year-olds demonstrating such courage to question and learn. Frankly, most kindegarteners I know possess a greater sense of wonder than these two.

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