Should you teach something as fact if you disagree with it personally?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Cerek, Apr 25, 2011.

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  1. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    This is a topic that came up during the Pledge of Allegiance discussion.

    If scientists, research or your textbook lists something as fact, but you don't agree with it for personal or religious reasons, do you still have an obligation to teach it as presented in the material?

    This is not centered on one issue, although there is one that is the most obvious example. This could be any statement or idea listed and/or presented as a "fact" in the textbook.

    Do you have an obligation to put your personal beliefs aside and go along with the book? If not, what approach could you take to avoid promoting personal beliefs instead of presenting the data objectively?

    If you cover the material as presented, but then add "I don't completely agree with this information personally", is that acceptable or are you unfairly influencing the thinking process of your students?
     
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  3. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    D'OH!!!!

    The thread title should be "if you DISagree with it personally". Arrrgh. (shouldn't start new threads in the wee hours of the morning :eek: )

    Can a mod edit the title?
     
  4. husker_blitz

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    I'm very opinionated and will state my opinion in class when I feel it is appropriate to do so. If the information we have is presented as factual information, I present it as such. Obviously the most prominent area is evolution. When discussing that subject, I call the information as facts but I have also told students there are other theories out there. Most seem to understand.

    I don't think by stating your opinion on a subject necessarily influences the students. What it does allow for is discussion and shows the students that while facts are presented, interpretation can vary.
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Here's my "opinion" :) - Some things are facts, some things are opinions, and some things are theories. Theories is the key element here - theories are based in part in fact, or at least in logic, or at least consistent/not directly contradictory to fact. That the civil war happened - and what battles - are facts. Why the civil war happened is theory. That I think the civil war was good is opinion.

    In this regard, facts should be presented as facts. Theories can be presented, and other theories can be brought in. Opinions, I think, should be limited. I think the purpose of education is to help kids develop their own opinions. I do think that sharing "opinion" can be good, but present opposing theories - the point shouldn't be to teach kids your opinion or theory, but available ones, and to critically analyze those.

    2)
     
  6. Mathemagician

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    Let's take the fact of evolution.

    Anyone who "disagrees" with this fact has no business teaching, at least not science. Trying to say, "oh kids, remember, it's only a theory disgusts me to no end." Evolution is a theory like gravity is a theory, and we must present them as the facts that they are. We can mention, "oh, there are also some people believing in Supreme Beings, but this has not scientific evidence supporting it", and that is that. Facts belong in the classroom. A teacher who doesn't believe in facts is like a, well, I don't know, I'm too tired to make analogies.
     
  7. EdEd

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    I think the primary purpose of school isn't to teach "fact" only, but to teach thinking. The "fact" remains that there is a strong debate between evolution and creationism, and even if they aren't based on fact, it would be helpful for students to have the opportunity to think about those two topics. I'm NOT saying that schools should teach creationism, as creationism as a religious belief. However, I think it would be a great educational opportunity for students to consider the debate between evolution and creationism - not as a matter of comparing two "theories or facts," but considering the "debate" for what it is, and learning more broadly about fact, opinion, theory, and belief - and, how individuals and groups often substitute those things for each other.

    I actually think it may be a great time to reinforce what "science" means, and to bring in current events & philosophy of reason. That being said, I realize a high school science classroom may not have time for that, in which case I'd support teaching evolution as the currently scientifically accepted theory as to the development of our world, but briefly mention that others do have ideas that differ, but they aren't as much scientific as they are religious.
     
  8. MissCeliaB

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    I am very lucky in that I teach electives. One of my courses is based in a large part around using evidence to back up a theory or opinion. The other one is a literature elective, so we spend a lot of time talking about how there's more than one interpretation.

    When I taught elementary, I taught science as fact. To me, I've seen enough scientific evidence for anything in the curriculum to know that it is fact and back it up if parents complain. When I taught social studies, I went a little against the curriculum in some cases: Columbus did not discover America, the only important people in history were not all rich white men, etc. But, I did not teach anything that wasn't historical fact, or theory backed by published, peer-reviewed sources.

    As far as my personal opinions and beliefs, I do not share them with the students, though most of them can probably figure out where I stand about most things. I don't want to influence them beyond giving them the skills that they need to think critically about the world and come to their own conclusions.
     
  9. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I agree with the discussion on fact, theory, and opinion. When we discuss areas in science or social studies that offer more than one side, we really go deep and look at the two sides. I may say something like the common belief or theory is.... However, I really try to leave as much open for interpretation by the kids.
     
  10. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    The only problem with "facts" is that data can be (and has been) manipulated for many reasons. The recent controversy over global warming/climate change is a perfect example. I'm not disputing the fact that temperature and climate changes are occurring, but the prevailing emphasis was that this change was being caused by humans and their activities. That ignored (or at least downplayed) the fact that periods of extreme climate change had occurred many times in our past, long before mankind was prominent enough to have any type of effect on it. It was also revealed that many of the leading CC/GW scientists were deliberately manipulating or omitting data to support their own opinions or agendas.

    As for Evolution, I agree there is no denying it occurs within species, but I've yet to see irrefutable, scientific evidence that it crosses kingdoms to create entirely different species.

    I know Darwin found many different finches in the Galapogos and that each island had developed it's own species - meaning they could no longer breed with finches from the other islands. However, I also note that Darwin did NOT find (or at least didn't mention), spider monkeys on the fruit tree island, squirrels on the nut island or aardvarks or on the insect island.

    So, while the Theory of Evolution does explain changes among species very well, it still falls short (IMO) of providing a legitimate proof for common descent.

    If I were teaching science, I would teach the facts from the book, but might also draw this distinction during the discussion.
     
  11. Shanoo

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    I teach the curricular outcomes as set for by the department of education of my province (I believe they're called State standards in the US). However, our outcomes are usually worded in an open-ended way - student will be able to describe the theory of evolution and its impact on living things - for example (I just made that up...it's not one of our outcomes). It would never be something as concrete as "Teach students that humans evolved from..."

    I feel that, as a teacher, it's my job to teach the outcomes as written. If I had a problem with an outcome, I could certainly go to my Minister of Education and try to have it changed. If students were to ask me a question - what about creationism, for example - I would answer it as honestly as I could, letting the kids explore their opinions while leaving mine as out of the discussion as I could.
     
  12. HMM

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    Apr 25, 2011


    Within the general community, but not in the scientific community.
     
  13. silverspoon65

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    I think it depends on your subject area, too. I joke that I teach creationism, because I am an ENGLISH teacher, and we have read Native American stories about how the world began (and then I have them get in "tribes" and write their own) and we have talked about creation according to the Greeks and Romans when we study The Odyssey and mythology. I present them all as literature. Really, unless I am teaching grammar or MLA-style research, there are very few "facts" for me to teach, anyway.

    Now, I do not think this would be an appropriate discussion in a science classroom. That's where the facts should be dealt with. I'll deal with the stories in literature.
     
  14. TeacherApr

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    I don't have time to read all the responses but if it is something that HAS to be covered (i.e. state standards) then yes, a teacher needs to cover the topic. ETHICALLY we should NOT be voicing our opinions about anything! That is one of the many things I learned during college. A GOOD teacher allows students to form their OWN opinions.
     
  15. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    I teach what I believe are facts. If I am teaching something that I don't believe to be fact I will preface it with "some people believe this to be true." I will say that other people have different ideas/theories. If the students ask me personally (I don't do it while teaching the whole class) I will tell them what I think.
    I do share my opinions on some different things in the classroom. I don't see what is wrong with that and I don't take it to extremes.
    The comment about evolution being fact, there may be some components of evolutionary changes that could be true, but as for where the universe came from, not seen as fact.
    The age of earth and how some land formations were created is an area where I have trouble with teaching. I disagree with the numbers in the books, so I make sure to preface it with "thats what some people believe."
     
  16. LUCHopefulTeach

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    If it's a fact, you teach it and leave your personal opinion out. When you go home at night then you can talk to family members about your opinion. Let your students form their own opinions.

    A 7th grade teacher would place his opinion into lectures often and once he mentioned something about marriage heterosexual/homosexual. When a gay student in our class was bullied after this teacher's 'opinion' came out and the students used his opinion as ammo. This is a more extreme example but an example none the less.

    Edit: It's not professional to include your opinion or attempt to argue/debate/question facts or theories when you are supposed to be teaching them!
     
  17. porque_pig

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    :thumb:
     
  18. Cerek

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    What "facts" do you disagree with regarding these events?

    Do you dispute these facts based on conflicting data or personal beliefs?

    Why do you feel your facts/beliefs are more accurate/valid than those listed in the book?

    Have you conducted your own research into these events to disprove the facts stated in the book?

    By prefacing it with "thats what some people believe", I agree you are demeaning their beliefs while promoting your own, whether intentionally or not. That might be more acceptable at the middle school and high school level (although it would still be questionable), but 4th graders haven't developed the level of critical thinking required to distinguish the difference you are pointing out. They still take whatever the teacher says as absolute fact.

    You also have to be careful of unintended consequences. If you imply one part of the book is wrong (because you don't agree with the numbers), then what is to say the rest of the book is correct? What about the parts you do agree with? Can't a student offer the same argument as you..."I don't agree with those numbers or that idea". If you feel YOU have the right to question the book based on your personal beliefs or values, then you open the door for the students to do the same.
     
  19. Rockguykev

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    <<ETHICALLY we should NOT be voicing our opinions about anything! >>

    You realize that is an opinion statement, right? Did you just violate your own ethics? Also, since you learned this in college, how do you feel about the professor who presented it to you given that it was an opinion?

    I would argue that a big problem with education today is that too many teachers do not voice their opinion. Our children are not taught to make up their own minds when we do this. They are taught that there is some authority (the state, the textbook, etc.) that has already stated the information therefore so it shall be.
     
  20. husker_blitz

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    I highly disagree with this statement. We are also suppose to foster critical thinking in our students and a lot of times that includes voicing opinions. It's fact that the US dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, but whether or not we should have is up for individual debate. We should be showing our kids many difference opinions, even our own, to help them form their own. Obviously we should not push our opinions on to them, but we shouldn't shield them from it completely either. It's just as important for students to learn how to discuss issues with various opinions in an open and respectful manner. Otherwise just get rid of teachers and let computers teach our kids from here on out.
     
  21. LUCHopefulTeach

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    Where's the line then?

    If you're able to express your opinions about facts or theories then when is it too much? If you're not teaching facts or theories that you disagree with then aren't you shortchanging your students?

    We should be allowing students to form their own opinions. Not influencing them with our opinions!
     
  22. husker_blitz

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    It's too much when the teacher's opinion takes precedence over the students. But that is not what I'm referring to here. A lot of times I will toss my opinion out there on a topic and let the kids dissect it themselves. It fosters debate and thinking. We are actually helping students to form their own opinions by looking at the facts of the events and determining the hows and whys, dissecting that opinion so they can form their own opinions from those results.

    I don't think anyone is talking about Nazi-mode when a teacher gives their opinion. Also, doesn't teaching theories also involve some level of opinion?
     
  23. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I fully support promotion of critical thinking. It's one of the reasons I think I would enjoy teaching social studies, because it allows for that much more than math.

    I also love a healthy discussion with opposing views (in case nobody figured that out yet ;) ) and I have promoted this in different classes as a substitute when appropriate comments or topics came up.

    However, I still refrain from voicing my OWN opinions. Why? Because - even at the high school level - we are still talking about kids that have not fully formed their identity yet and still look to authority figures for certain support or justifications. That can lead to situations like LUCHopefulTeach mentioned, where students on one side use the teacher's opinion as ammunition against the other side, rather than forming their own opinions independently.

    As the authority figure in the room, I believe it is unprofessional to voice my own opinion during a debate/discussion, just as I feel it is unprofessional for a minister to say who he/she plans to vote for or a psychaitrist tells his/her patient their opinion on a subject (rather than objective observation).

    During such discussions I've been involved with, I ask much the same questions I ask here; "Why do you feel this issue is right or wrong? What are you basing this viewpoint on? What information or data can you provide to support your view?" etc.

    I do not say "Well *I* think this is right". If I'm asked, I usually say "My opinion is my own. I'm interested in YOUR opinion and how you support it. The discussion is for YOU and your classmates, not for me. I'm merely here to mediate and monitor the discussion."
     
  24. John Lee

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    I like the way you presented that, but... it brings up the issue of what IS fact. In science, IMO, it's much more cut & dried. But in social studies, it's all subjective. So I think you are doing a disservice, to not express opposing "theories" as distinct possibilities. I would actually consider it an obligation to express other viewpoints, to illustrate to students that so much of social studies is about perspective.
     
  25. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    This is so hard. I agree with both of you. I do think you should be teaching students the curriculum, but also to be critical thinkers. I also think that it is very important that students have role models who make intelligent decisions, to see people who think politics are important and who maybe have differing views than other people in their life. For that reason, I don't shy away from direct political questions that my students ask. I don't think there is a line, only a huge gray area. I do think that "line" is more distinct if you are teaching a fact-based subject area, like science and math. Social studies brings up many theories and opinions based in fact, and there is very little fact in literature at all.

    Sometimes I think it is hard for my students to know what I really believe, because if we are discussing a controversial topic in my classroom, I almost ALWAYS play devil's advocate against the popular side, which might vary period to period.
     
  26. husker_blitz

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    @John Lee...you must have been typing your response while I was posting mine.

    But again, I'm not talking about a Nazi approach where the teacher's opinion or viewpoint is the only one allowed. In my first post in this topic, I also mentioned voicing my opinion when appropriate, which means it's not all the time.
     
  27. LUCHopefulTeach

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    I'm not 'talking' in any way shape or form about a Nazi approach.

    No intention to thread hijack but I also find your description very offensive to someone who is 100% German like myself. :eek: There are many other terms or words you could have used to get your point across.
     
  28. husker_blitz

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    Perhaps, but I'm full German on both sides as well. However, I think most will understand my use of the term.
     
  29. LUCHopefulTeach

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    Wow- because you're full German on both sides makes it okay to use hateful words. :spitwater:

    My parents were both born in Germany and experienced extreme prejudice when they immigrated to America. To me saying Nazi so casually like you just did is like saying hateful comments about any other race or culture. You wouldn't dare sit here and say something hateful about Africans or Latinos.

    Your use of the term is inappropriate whether you're German or not.
     
  30. catnfiddle

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    I offer A Tale of Two Cities as one of my class' independent novel selections. The fact that I cannot stand most of Dickens' writing is kept to myself. That being said, I DO mention that Dickens was paid by the word and tended to go into intense description for pages at a time.

    As for tossing the term "Nazi" about, we're coming very close to invoking Godwin's Law. :peace:
     
  31. husker_blitz

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    Okay, before we jump off the deep end here a few 'facts': The Nazis were a political party, not a race nor a culture. Secondly, the Nazi party was well known to suppress outside opinions, which conveys my meaning of the use of the term. You make it sound like stating that the former Soviet Union was communist is now hurtful to current Russian descendants or any other political group. I don't buy that.

    In any event, my intent was not to raise the ire of you. It was merely to illustrate my view on the subject presented in this thread.
     
  32. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    To be fair, this does seem to be an appropriate use of the word "nazi".

    From Merriam Webster:

    Na·zi
    noun \ˈnät-sē, ˈnat-\
    Definition of NAZI
    1
    : a member of a German fascist party controlling Germany from 1933 to 1945 under Adolf Hitler
    2
    often not capitalized a : one who espouses the beliefs and policies of the German Nazis : fascist
    b : one who is likened to a German Nazi : a harshly domineering, dictatorial, or intolerant person


    But I agree, we should move away from the nazi talk and back to the original topic.
     
  33. RyanS

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    I don't offer opinions as much as I do opposing facts.

    Since I teach biology, I am required to teach evolution. There have been some bold metaphysical claims made in this thread regarding evolution/creationism, but that's a different discussion. For example, when I teach evolution I simply tell my students that evolution is any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next. This is a true definition of evolution and one that anybody can agree with regardless of metaphysical presuppositions.

    I happen to be creationist myself, but I do not discuss this with my students. Rather, I point out certain facts such as the empirical evidence that fails to demonstrate a single mutation that actually adds information to a genome. I spend about two days including information scientists have gathered on evolution and the number of problems with evolution (protons-to-people evolution that is, not the definition used above). Unfortunately, there is far too much equivocation associated with the term "evolution."

    Long story short, I leave my opinions at home unless specifically asked by students.
     
  34. EdEd

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    Three big points here:

    1) First, I think it's very important to present opinions, but not necessarily your own. I don't see it as unethical to voice an opinion from time to time, but most lessons should be presented neutrally. I think the best teacher will constantly be advocating views from different perspectives - playing devil's advocate if you will. There's a fine line between presenting opinions to challenge students' critical thinking, and presenting one's own opinion because the teacher thinks its important.

    2) Statements such as "I don't believe these facts" are inherently contradictory. Facts aren't to believe or not to believe - they aren't a matter of opinion. They are eligible to be disproven, or called false, but that is the difference between facts and opinions. When someone states that they don't "agree" with facts in a textbook, that doesn't make sense. You can't "agree" or "disagree" with facts - you can have counterevidence, and you can interpret the facts differently.

    I agree with what Cerek said a few pages ago - that you can't chose to ignore facts or dispute facts without having done the research and knowing facts to dispute claims with. If someone questions a fact in a history book, they should have examined primary sources or otherwise be familiar with direct evidence that demonstrate that the facts presented are in fact not facts.

    3) Everyone's opinion is not equal. Just because you are alive and are a teacher does not give you the required knowledge and experience to dispute theories that many scientists have developed years exploring. In addition to teaching critical thinking, we should teach and model academic humility - a reverence for the scientific method, and a reverence for the time it takes to craft opinions that are worthwhile.

    One problem in our country is intellectual arrogance - everyone thinks they are an expert in everything. Take education - how many laypersons believe that they have the answer to how to fix our education system? How many teachers have the audacity to challenge mental health diagnoses ("I don't really think he has ADHD"), and how many doctors have the audacity to write "prescriptions" for special education testing? How many politicians have the arrogance of mind to believe they know how to mandate specific educational practices?

    I think that we should teach kids to first ask questions, and keep questioning until they develop understanding. We have to do this by modeling this behavior. Teachers who are preachers demonstrate that the well-educated adult spits opinion and declares fact, rather than being curious, reflecting on information, examining, considering alternative perspectives, and respecting the limitations of oneself.
     
  35. James81

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    This is why I'm glad I'll be teaching Math. There's very little there that I would ever have a problem personally with teaching as fact. It's all logic based and staightforward and based on proofs and stuff. :p

    As far as teaching something as fact...I think you may be asking the "wrong" (using that word loosely here) question.

    I think it's more important to teach your students how to think for themselves and to gather information for themselves than it is to "beat facts into their head" so to speak.

    In this sense, then, I tend to think that our job as teachers is to ask the right questions...questions that get our students thinking in different ways, rather than asserting anything as "fact" per se.

    I would much rather see a student, for instance, arriving at a theory on their own than I would be to see them just memorize it and spit it back to me.

    For example, if I give them the equation "y=mx+b" for the slope of a line, I think it's more important that they know *why* that is the equation of the line rather than to just memorize it.

    That's just my $0.02.
     
  36. EdEd

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    So you're that teacher that's going to require me to do proofs, eh? Oh, I despise you :). Just kidding, of course.
     
  37. TeacherApr

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    Didn't realize I was teaching students on here. give me a break. Quit taking things out of context for your own benefit.
     
  38. TeacherApr

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    ....and it's cut and "dry" not cut and "dried". Sorry pet peeve. 2nd time I've seen this online.
     
  39. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    "Cut and dried" is acceptable, per many sources.

    From http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/cutanddry.html :

    WRONG: CUT AND DRY
    RIGHT: CUT AND DRIED

    Many people mishear the standard expression meaning “set,” “not open to change,” as “cut and dry.” Although this form is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, it is definitely less common in sophisticated writing. The dominant modern usage is “cut and dried.” When used to modify a noun, it must be hyphenated: “cut-and-dried plan.”


    From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988):

    CUT AND DRIED - "There is a widely held belief that the common expression 'cut and dried' - meaning 'something already prepared' - came from 'jerky,' thin strips of sun-dried beef that once were staples of the cowboy's rations on long trail drives. Actually, this meaning of 'cut and dried' is older than the oldest cowboy by a few centuries. It goes back to the ancient practice of cutting wood and letting it dry out thoroughly before using it in a fire."
     
  40. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

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    Apr 25, 2011

    I really appreciate RyanS's last post. It really depends on the subject, I think, when it comes to inserting your own personal opinions on certain topics. Obviously it occurs a lot in English and the arts: interpretation is key. On the other end just because someone may disagree with something because of their religious beliefs doesn't mean they have the right or authority to tell their students in a science classroom setting.

    RyanS makes a good interjection: the lack in increase of alleles in genome population is a scientific flaw (maybe "hole" is a better term) in Darwinian evolution. I may disagree with his personal beliefs but he uses science to point out gaps in science. That is very different from someone claiming geological records aren't true, not because they have done any research or read any journals, but simply because it goes against their religion.
     
  41. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    Apr 25, 2011

    :confused:

    So you essentially do give your opinion that evolution is false since your 'fact' is not a fact.
     
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