In a packed session at the end of the first day of the AHA Conference, Steve Newton and Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education presented a compelling analysis of the history of Creationism in Schools in the United States, and argued forcefully that Humanists must get involved at all levels to prevent young people falling prey to nonsense taught in the name of science.
As an educator I am fully on board with their project, and think it crucially important. However, I want to stress the value of allowing scientific ideas and theories to be challenged by students and teachers in an appropriate way. Much of the discussion during the session centered around the problematic nature of teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. But I suggest that Humanists should support the rigorous examinations of arguments and counter-arguments using scientific evidence, and that support for this idea is central to good science teaching.
There is, perhaps, nothing more scientific than considering the possibility you are wrong, and analyzing the evidence for and against a proposition, and attempting to disprove a theory is the very heart of the scientific method. Young people may well benefit from investigating the weaknesses in current scientific theories, whether evolution or otherwise, and they may entertain some pretty wild ideas when putting those theories to the test.
We mustn’t, in the name of protecting science from religious extremism or pseudoscience, stop students questioning.