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Science As Story Telling in Action:

Evolution
(and revolution?)

Thinking about science (and science education)

TraditionalRethought
  
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth


Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision based on observations and shared observations, stories and contrasting stories

Science as skepticism usable by and empowering anyone at any time about any thing for any purpose

Science: to see what has not yet been seen, to conceive what has not yet been conceived

Forms of Story Telling: Science, Authority, Belief

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?
  1. The earth is flat (Flat Earth Society)
  2. The earth is round
Because of ... Relevant observations: Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Are there others? Will there be? Which of the following two stories do you prefer?
  1. The sun goes around the earth
  2. The earth goes around the sun
Speaking of Which ...
Newtonian Gravity As an Organizing Principle and Its Implications
Scientific stories can unify disparate stories
Such stories in turn raise new questions
The solar system as an accident?
Because of ... Relevant observations Is one or the other story true? Have their been others? Are there others? Will there be?
Scientific stories are freqeuntly efforts to summarize the widest possible range of observations, always motivate new observations and hence new stories, should never be understood as "authoritative" or "believed in", do not compete with or invalidate other stories. Key issues about scientific stories
  • What observations do they summarize?
  • What new observations do they motivate?

Which of the following stories do you prefer?

  1. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of a previous and ongoing process of evolution consisting of random change and natural selection (differential reproductive success).
  2. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of repeated creative acts of a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  3. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of an initial creative act with a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  4. Other?
Because of ... Refs:

What story to account for existing life forms do you prefer? Why? Put your thoughts in the institute forum area to help others think about this too.


Clarifying the Issues

"The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection -- is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science. Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul ...

''All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator ...

To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems.''
Note that in this quotation the word ''finality'' is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, ''It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity ...

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of ''chance and necessity'' are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence." ... Christopher Schonborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna, New York Times, 7 July 2005

Science is NOT "ideology", does not make "claims", has not been "invented to avoid overwhelming evidence", has no commitment to "explain away", is not "an abdication of human intelligence" nor does it "refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems"

Science is not in the business of either "proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real" nor denying that claim. Nor is it "radically opposed" to "the truth of faith about creation". There is no "final" in science, and hence no conflict with other forms of story telling except insofar as such stories claim finality or priority.

Science is a tool to help one become better at thinking for oneself

at using observations to make one's own stories that motivate new observations that motivate new stories that one shares with others Science education should help people become better at thinking for themselves at ongoing, shared, exploration and creation Science is an ongoing process of story telling and story revision. There is no point in arguing by setting stories against stories, nor by questioning the "Truth" about particular stories. And there is no issue of "belief". The key questions about the story of evolution as "reducible to pure chance and necessity" are
  • What are the observations it summarizes?
  • What new observations does it motivate?
  • How useful is it?

Key Observations: Diversity

The classification problem ... find patterns in diversity?

Adding in additional observations

Is GOOD story

More recent observations

Implications for education and the classroom

"What to do...what to do??? ... Much of what I do instinctively, or unconsciously has to do with how I was handled at home and in school when I was growing up. I wasnt always given a choice. I did what I was told and that was that! Children should be seen and not heard! Im from the "old school generation" and thats how I run my classroom." ... Clete

"As a new teacher the conversations today were very ... interesting! When I think about the behavior of my students I firmly believed that they "will only do what I allow them". So in essence my theory on THEIR BEHAVIOR was rooted in MY BEHAVIOR. So I now am now questioning how my behavior determines their behavior" ... Tiffany

"Trying to change things that we have no control over can be the behavior that we must change. We need to make the students more accountable for their behavior" ... Judith

" Learning occurs within a structured environment where the players are free to play." ... Teresa

For students ....

For teachers ....

In what ways has our conversation altered your thinking about "evolution"? In what ways might this affect what you do in your own classroom? Put your thoughts in the institute forum area to help others think about this too.

Pease also remember to introduce yourself and your thoughts about K16 collaborations in the on line forum for tomorrow's minisymposium.

Post presentation notes
Important issues that emerged during presentation:
  • Stories, as summaries of observations, aren't necessarily completely invalidated by new less wrong stories summarizing more observations. Older stories may remain effective/useful as summaries of particular sets of observations (we still use the stories of the earth as flat and of the sun going around it in much of day to day life).
  • Whether one is interested in evolution as story in the broadest sense (all of life without a designer), it is essential to know that randomness plus natural selection is a real and important phenomenon in many contexts (eg antibiotic resistance and evolutionary algorithms in computation).
From SENCER institute discussion
  • There may be a "conspiracy" to oppose evolution and religion but if so both sides are "conspiratorial"
  • Science is not about "Truth" and should not put itself in the position of arguing with others about "Truth".


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