Religious beliefs don't belong in science classes
In the scientific community, there is no ax to grind. Free inquiry and the quest for knowledge are the firing pins. Of course, there are charlatans in the community, but they are easily spotted and disregarded, or worse.
Ultimately in science, there really are no "facts." Rather, there are theories that are under continual scrutiny and testing. Some theories, such as evolution, have been tested over time and will continue to be tested ("Fact is, this theory is under attack," Feb. 5).
"Intelligent design," on the other hand, is not testable or falsifiable. That is because it is grounded in belief.
The Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis have posed a hypothesis and are able to find only evidence that supports that. It cannot be falsifiable because, essentially, a supreme being dictated it.
While I can be empathetic to the emotions and fervor of these intelligent design proponents, it remains illegal to teach religion in science courses in public institutions.
Religion is a belief, and science is, well, science.
Religion belongs in the family setting, in churches and in Sunday schools. All people and all faiths should be unhindered in practicing their beliefs and passing them down to the next generation.
Those beliefs, however, do not belong in the public schools and especially in their science classrooms.
It is so much easier to believe than to think. And isn't it the main purpose of education to teach people how to think - how to use their brains and their intelligence to solve problems through logic and deductive reasoning?
Why, then, would we teach creationism, which requires only belief and no thought, in our schools?
As a scientist, I unequivocally state that evolution is a theory and not a fact. If someone comes along with a theory that better explains life on Earth than evolution, then, after thorough scientific scrutiny, peer review and all the other trappings of science, the textbooks will be rewritten. That's the beauty of science.
But if we take the reasoning behind the "teach creationism in schools" movement to another level, we would have priests and shamans explaining illness, earthquakes, droughts and other natural disasters as the works of God and then offering prayers and sacrifices to fix them.
We are an enlightened society, and we have progressed way beyond such archaic ways.
John V. Martin
Ignorance of science challenges teachers
I found on the front page yet another article on current attempts to include nonscientific ideas along with the theory of evolution in science curricula ("Fact is, this theory is under attack," Feb. 5).
The debate is not entirely limited to biology, either. Geology, astronomy, even physics and chemistry can be attacked using arguments put forth by religious fundamentalists.
The fact that people who are so ignorant about the basic nature of science and how it works have the power to determine what should be taught in science classes is at the very least disheartening. As a science teacher, I find it appalling.
And it is apparent that much of the general public does not understand that scientists' disagreements over certain specifics of a theory do not mean that the entire theory is discredited.
This controversy points out the need for science educators to spend more time teaching our students the history of science and how scientific knowledge is generated and refined.
Science education a key to our future
I was quite alarmed to learn that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed two Cecil County school board members who question the way evolutionary theory is taught ("Fact is, this theory is under attack," Feb. 5).
This is particularly troublesome because the life sciences are so important to Maryland's economic future that we cannot afford to provide an inferior science education.
We need state Senate confirmation of gubernatorial school board appointees in every county that has such appointments ("School board change pursued," Maryland, Feb. 6).
We need senators to ask nominees' views on teaching evolution, and vote against those who favor including pseudoscience in the curriculum.
And, most of all, we need biologists from our universities and biotechnology firms to get involved in this fight, before high school science education in Maryland is ruined.
Douglas E. McNeil
Politicians evade health care crisis
Overshadowed by President Bush's trumped-up claims that Social Security is going bankrupt is the report by Harvard University researchers that almost 50 percent of personal bankruptcies filed in the United States result from medical expenses ("Illness blamed for many bankruptcies," Feb. 2).
Although many of the people in the study had no medical insurance, most had insurance but found it woefully inadequate.
It is ironic that this report comes not long after the 10th anniversary of the defeat of President Bill Clinton's health plan.