Saturday, August 26, 2006

I don't even know what to say about this

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Educators Question Absence of Evolution From List of Majors Eligible for New Grants

Like a gap in the fossil record, evolutionary biology is missing from a list of majors that the U.S. Department of Education has deemed eligible for a new federal grant program designed to reward students majoring in engineering, mathematics, science, or certain foreign languages.

That absence apparently indicates that students in the evolutionary sciences do not qualify for the grants, and some observers are wondering whether the omission was deliberate.

The question arises at a time when evolution has become a political hot potato at all levels of education. While the theory of evolution has overwhelming support from scientists, some conservative Christian groups argue for alternative explanations of the origins of life, including "intelligent design," which holds that an intelligent agent guided the creation of life.

Even President Bush has weighed in, advocating teaching "both sides of the debate."

The awards in question -- known as Smart Grants, for the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent program -- were created by Congress this year, with strong support from the president. The grants are worth up to $4,000 and are awarded in addition to Pell grants.

Recipients must be college juniors or seniors enrolled in one of the technical fields of study that the Department of Education has deemed eligible for funds. Many different topics, as varied as astronomy and Arabic, qualify.

But evolutionary biology is absent.

The department has an index of classification numbers -- referred to as "CIP codes," for the Classification of Instructional Programs -- for all academic areas of instruction.

Under that classification scheme, there is a heading for "Ecology, Evolution, Systematics and Population Biology," under which 10 biological fields are defined. For instance, ecology is 26.1301, and evolutionary biology is 26.1303.

But on a list that defines majors eligible for the grants, issued by the department in May, one of those 10 is missing. On that list, the classification numbers rise in order from 26.1301 to 26.1309 -- with the exception of a blank line where 26.1303, or evolutionary biology, would fall.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University and an outspoken defender of evolutionary sciences, noted the subject's absence from the list in a letter to the department.

"I'm not making any accusations," Mr. Krauss said in an interview on Monday. "I'm concerned it's not there."

Mr. Krauss said he sent the letter to the department when he learned of the absence, which he called "a serious omission."

He also asked for more openness in determining what majors qualify for Smart grants: "It would make sense to consult directly with organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and other professional scientific organizations asking for input."

Barmak Nassirian, an associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, also wrote to the department about the omission.

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Nassirian said the absence of evolutionary biology was disconcerting. "I'm hoping it's inadvertent and unintentional."

Officials from the Department of Education who could comment on the matter were not available, but a spokeswoman said she suspected that the absence of evolutionary biology was a "clerical consolidation of some kind," and that evolution might fall under other topics.

Indeed, the word "evolution" is not entirely absent from the registry of eligible majors. It is still listed as a subtopic under other fields eligible for Smart grants. For instance, paleontology and genetics, both of which draw on evolutionary theories, list "evolution" as a potential area of focus for students in those subjects. There is also an "other" category, under which studies of evolution might fall.

Still, the absence is conspicuous: the only major with evolution in its title was one of only three among the physical sciences that appears to have been deleted from the list. For unknown reasons, "behavioral sciences" and "exercise psychology" are also absent.

Stephen Burd contributed to this article.

First, I should thank my good buddy Tom for ruining my day with this link. Second, though you all know I can go from zero to rant in seconds, I'm not going to do so in this post. I couldn't sleep tonight, though, without at least addressing President Bush's ridiculous assertion that we should teach both sides of some fictitious "debate."


THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT THE VALIDITY OF THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION AMONG ACTUAL BIOLOGISTS. Full stop. This "debate" is a lie trumped up by people who don't understand what the word "theory" means in the context of science and who cling so desperately to their Sunday School stories that they're willing to deny any evidence you place in front of them and, most heinously, they're anxious to keep that evidence from not just their own children but MINE. They have no business mucking with science instruction in the name of their personal superstitions. They should be ASHAMED of themselves.

By the way, the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs are sending videos about humanism and naturalism to high schools. Click the banner below for info:

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At 9:30 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

The thing I have never quite gotten is why evolution and Christianity cannot co-exist. Metaphor is alive and well in the Bible. If people are going to rant about the earth being created in six days and create public policy around this idea, then they need to quit eating at the Catfish Parlour.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Sonja said...

I recently wrote a post concerning this in my blog.


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