In Defense of Critical Thinking
Op-ed article sent to the Cincinnati Enquirer in
September, 2002 by Dr. Patrick Young
(it was not published)

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  Evolutionists and the news media are perpetrating the idea that intelligent design is some covert attempt to get religion into high school science class. While it is true that religion does not belong in science class, this subject is irrelevant to the debate going on between evolutionists and the proponents of intelligent design.

The debate is whether selective use of evidence in the presentation of evolution is a scientifically valid teaching method, or conversely should all the information be presented to provide a more accurate view of the theory. If evidence can be selectively used, any pathetic argument can sound convincing. This is why dissention from the normal scope of beliefs should always be admitted in the public arena. If one side is allowed full access while the other is squelched, foundations of debate are lost and our freedom is in jeopardy.

Appeals to authority should never be a foundational component of scientific teaching. Even the evolutionist Carl Sagan said, "appeals to authority are impermissible." Furthermore, the scientific elites have been mistaken in the past, such as back in the 1900’s when they concluded that the universe was steady state. The pressure to conform to this idea led Albert Einstein to place a fudge factor in his theory of relativity so it would match the so-called "proven fact" of a steady state universe. Years later Einstein said that using this fudge factor was the biggest blunder of his career. This is a prime example of blindly appealing to authority and not wavering from majority opinion. It also demonstrates the intense pressure to conform that even the "man of the millennium" would not contest. That same fierce pressure demanding that scientists yield to the perceived factual nature of evolution thrives today.

This type of blind acceptance to the dictates of authority is exactly the wrong kind of thinking that should be promoted in our educational system. Surveys show a significant majority of Ohioans reject the "evolution is fact" proposal before the State School Board. Should the doubts of Ohioan’s be treated as irrelevant because the scientific elites demand that only their voice be heard?

An open discussion of all the evidence is the reason behind the "teach the controversy" proposal. This calls for (1) teaching evidence for and against biological evolution, (2) permitting, but not requiring, teachers to discuss alternative theories, and (3) adopting a definition of science that considers all logical explanations for phenomena in nature. Teachers should be allowed to access all the information for and against evolution and allow students to form credible conclusions. This is what critical thinking is all about.

What has been lost in this over politicized attempt at censorship is the original reason for educating our children. Philip Johnson said, "democracy rests in the faith that ordinary people can be trusted with the powers of government if their educational system teaches them to think rationally." Certain aspects of education can be thought of as dictatorial so schedules flow smoothly. However, the key to learning is not to indoctrinate our children with one narrow philosophical view of a controversial subject just because the scientific elites believe it is fact.

Our educational system needs to graduate young people who can reason logically and determine answers to questions independently. Educational excellence is best achieved when controversial topics are presented along with their dissenting opinions and the data supporting both points of view. The goal is graduating critical thinkers, not robots who blindly follow someone in a position of authority.

Patrick Young, Ph.D.
Canal Winchester, Ohio 

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