Matthew Linkletter, a Board of Directors member of Maine’s School Administrative District 59, has been trying to squelch science education in his district. How? By throwing creationist canards at his listeners and banking on their ignorance. Reports a local Kennebec newspaper,
Linkletter suggested during last week’s SAD 59 board meeting that the board discuss evolution, the “Big Bang Theory” and other studies he believes should be deleted from the curriculum. [...] Linkletter said he wants the best science for SAD 59 students, who should “be armed with the truth.” They should be able to explain the origins of life according to evolution if it is taught in the schools, he said.
“Nobody has the answer to the origins of life. It’s a philosophical question.”
OK, stop right there. First of all, the origin of life is not a “philosophical question,” but one which we can approach scientifically, and indeed have already learned a great deal about. Second, the open questions which remain about abiogenesis do not impair our ability to understand what has happened since then, in the later evolutionary history of life, any more than our limited knowledge of how humans discovered fire or invented writing affects historians’ ability to know about the American Revolution. Finally, the Big Bang is a theory like gravity is a theory — so go away now, won’t you, and try to brush up on your own science education before ruining other people’s?
Unfortunately, others are chiming in against the cause of knowledge and fact:
Roy Blevins is pastor of Linkletter’s church, the Church of the Open Bible in Athens. Blevins spoke in favor of SAD 59 Chairman Norman Luce’s suggestion, that a philosophy class might provide a better forum for the study of evolution.
“That’s a sane approach,” Blevins said. “The evolution concept is a theory, and not provable. If the science department at Madison High is simply teaching theory, then you ought to leave it in the science department.”
No, failing to understand what “proof” means in science and ignoring the mountainous bulk of evidence in favor of biological evolution — the evidence which makes all biology evolutionary biology — is not “a sane approach.” Evolution belongs in science class, and creationism belongs in whichever class discusses the history of human deception and bigotry.
UPDATE: Wesley Elsberry points out that thanks to the “No Child Left Behind” legislation, schools which don’t teach the material required by state standards will lose federal funding. The Maine standards tend to tiptoe around the E-word, but they do expect students to, for example, “Explain how the variation in structure and behavior of a population of organisms may influence the likelihood that some members of the species will have adaptations that allow them to survive in a changing environment,” and to understand how DNA sequences are used “in determining the degree of kinship among organisms and the identification of species.” Historically, Maine’s science standards have not stacked up very well, but if Linkletter and company get their way, even these meager criteria will not be fulfilled.
Also, the Teapot Atheist reminds us that the next school-board meeting where the issue will be raised is scheduled for “May 19th at 7 PM in the Administrative Center at 55 Weston Avenue in Madison, Maine.”
UPDATE (12 May): Mike O’Risal continues to cover the story, which has now hit the Associated Press newswire as well as Daily Kos. The AP has a good punchline from Madison Town Manager and former science teacher Norman Dean: “I thought we already had the monkey trial.”
UPDATE (13 May): The Waterville Morning Sentinel is now reporting as follows:
School Administrative District 59 directors will not vote on or even address revising the school curriculum on Monday, Superintendent Michael Gallagher said today.
During their April 29 meeting, the SAD 59 Board of Directors tabled discussions about revising the curriculum and about how the district teaches the theory of evolution.
Board member Matthew Linkletter of Athens last month suggested removing evolution from the science curriculum. Linkletter said that evolution is not proven, and thus should not be taught as science.
Gallagher said that the board has no specific timetable regarding discussion and an ultimate vote on a revising the curriculum. Such a vote might not happen during the current school year, he said.
I doubt the business is finished.