WHY WON’T OHIO SCIENTISTS COMPROMISE ABOUT THE MODEL CURRICULUM?


Controversy once again reigns over the state science program, and members of Ohio Citizens for Science are being criticized for their unwillingness to compromise regarding the 10th Grade Biology lesson on Critical Analysis of Evolution.


During the public comment period at the January Board of Education meeting, Board member, Richard Baker said he was tired of hearing from "egotistical, arrogant, [and] paranoid" scientists. Later that month, in press interviews, Board member Deborah Owens-Fink referred to “whiny scientists who oppose even a protozoa of intelligent design.”


These labels are unfortunate. Scientists are, with few exceptions, the least arrogant people around. This is because we work with and study the natural world around us. Almost daily we are humbled by that contact.


But why won’t we compromise on this one lesson?


The reason lies in the nature of the scientific endeavor itself. Board members live in the world of politics where the rule is trade and compromise. Science, on the other hand, is about building consensus around a body of evidence, with the criterion being how well a theory/explanation stands up to repeated testing in laboratory experiments and field research. Our world, based on the laws of nature, reproducible observations, and testable hypotheses can admit no compromise. There is no compromise with gravity; there is no negotiation about the speed of light; and there is no dismissing of the observations – the facts – of evolution. Results, evidence, and observations rule. Good evidence takes the lead; poor evidence is removed from consideration.


The scientific method demands, and enforces, honesty and openness in the collection, interpretation, and presentation of data. Thus, when we discuss the content of a K-12 science lesson plan, we expect an open process where sound science, supported by solid evidence, is required. Whenever someone is engaged in spreading inaccuracies or misrepresenting the scientific endeavor - as in the critical analysis lesson plan - real scientists are obliged by their training and VALUES to come forward and demand that it be corrected. When scientists advocate for sound science in the state education standards and subsequent lesson plans, it is understandable that we will appear to be uncompromising because our topic permits no compromise. However, it is no more than we demand of ourselves and our peers.