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PZ Myers Coming To Calgary

01/19/09

  12:33:48 am, by Nimble   , 647 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Religion, Science

PZ Myers Coming To Calgary

The indomitable and unapologetically controversial Paul (PZ) Myers of the Pharyngula blog is coming to the University of Calgary next Sunday afternoon, January 25th (date confirmed!) in the ICT building (see here for maps of the campus), room 102 as the guest of the Calgary branch of the Centre for Inquiry and the University of Calgary Freethought Association.

The topic for the talk is Evolution vs. Creationism in Public Schools.

Here is the poster for the event.

It might be easy to think that unlike south of the border, creationism is not much of a problem here in public schools. It is certainly easy to think that is the case in our larger cities. Yet just outside of town to either side of Calgary, we have some counterexamples, as in the case of the pilot program in Cochrane's Mitford Middle School. As per a CBC article:

Cochrane's Mitford Middle School will launch a Christian program this fall. Christian beliefs, including instruction on creationism in science class, will be taught to 50 or so elementary aged students as part of a two-year pilot project.

Bill Bell, Mitford's principal, said Christian beliefs will be woven through every subject in the new Christian program. Creationism will be taught in science class, he added. "The first teaching will be from a Christian point of view and then there will be an acknowledgement that there is another theory."

Utter garbage. That's not just Christian, that's literalist Christian. From their Statement of Faith:

The Bible is the inspired, only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God

Whenever you see inerrant in this context, you will often find denial of any conflicting modern knowledge at all costs.

There are apparently similar programs in some schools in Chestermere and the Elk Island, Pembina Hills and Red Deer Public school districts, but how literalist these programs are is a topic for further research.

Provincial testing is marked only on the provincial science program, so no marks will be given for creationist answers, so far as we know, but that's of little comfort.

Now granted, the students would otherwise end up in private Christian schools, but creationism excludes large tracts of Christianity and programs like this send a "you're not a REAL Christian" message.

Additionally, given that creationist materials of various flavours (e.g. Icons of Evolution, Answers in Genesis) often lie about evolutionary theory and what scientists believe, the materials used in these classes should be checked to be free of such deceptions. Much as I dislike creationism, teaching caricatured lies about what science says on top of that is particularly immoral.

One particularly worrisome thing is that evolutionary theory is part of the Biology 20 curriculum here. That's typically grade 11, and it's optional - minimal requirements for a diploma are one of the sciences to a 20 level, and that can be Chemistry or Physics.

The Mitford Middle School is grades 5-8, and covering creationism at a period when there's not a lick of evolution in the normal curriculum. Words fail me.

(Now, the regular curriculum in grade 7 does have mention of plant breeding in Plants for Food and Fibre, and geological time and change in Planet Earth, but that's about it. Biological diversity is covered in grade 9, introducing many concepts like heritability and species that can be used later for evolutionary discussion, but that's grade 9, and it still does not cover evolutionary theory. All I can see that would mix it up for the 'Christian curriculum' is geological time, if they are Young-Earthers of the Earth-is-6,000-to-10,000-years-old variety, which seems likely.)

PZ has popped north of the border on a few occasions. I am not sure whether an Alberta-local perspective is going to be expounded anywhere in this talk, but it sure to be an interesting talk nevertheless.

There is an admission charge to this event: $10 for the general public, $5 for students and free for "Friends of the Centre (CFI)".

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