The United States is experiencing an anti-science resurgence not seen since the 1920s. This spring the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill supporting creationism to be taught in science classes. Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are on record for denying climate change and doubting evolution.
Bachmann suggests “putting all science on the table and then letting students decide,” while Perry believes teachers should “teach both creationism and evolution.” […]
That approach is not science. It does not differentiate between knowledge derived at through the scientific method from that of the Socratic method (discovering truth, not through experimentation, but debate).
By telling students that they can “believe in evolution” if they so choose, teachers reduce a scientific theory to mere opinion. Not teaching this difference encourages students to think that scientific theories can be debated in the same way people debate politics or sports.
Science must be debated, but unlike personal or political opinions, scientific theories must be debated on the veracity of data and the results a theory predicts: results that conform to rigorous, measurable standards. Theories are accepted only after data generated from exhaustive, repetitive, controlled experimentation suggests that a particular hypothesis is the most likely candidate to explain the phenomenon in question.
Therefore it is not only incorrect but also unethical to suggest that scientific theories are mere opinions to “believe in” based on personal or faith-based preferences. For example, should a teacher suggest that heliocentric theory (a sun centered solar system) is false because it conflicts with the Biblical account of Joshua halting the movement of the sun?
Moreover, should superceded theories have equal time with consensus theories? Should teachers give equal time to flat earth theory or suggest the miasma theory of disease (the idea that disease is caused by bad air) is as effective at explaining illness as germ theory? What of the alleged merits of astrology?
The above theories have a place in education but should rather be used as examples of how science works to root out untruths and discard false ideas. […]