Hello again and thank you for your question.
An interesting starting point for an inquiry into why scientists and
science teachers might believe they have a professional and ethical
obligation to teach Darwin?s theory is the anti-evolution website
Answers in Genesis:
As detailed on that page, although Darwin's Origin of the Species was
published in 1859, and soon thereafter was incorporated in American
secondary education, what modern historians call the ?anti-evolution
crusade? did not begin until the 1920s.
"Why then was there no outcry [before the 1920s] against the new,
exalted status of evolution by the Christians of America? It was
because the topic of evolution was almost exclusively limited to
secondary schools (high schools), and a mere 3.8 percent of Americans
between 14 and 17 years of age attended school in 1890. That began to
change as the twentieth century progressed, with the number of high
school students doubling every decade up to 1920."
So although it's 230 years since the American Revolution and 217 years
since the Bill of Rights, the idea that the average citizen needs any
education beyond age 14 has been generally accepted only in the last
80 to 100 years. The Answers in Genesis people might not agree, but I
think it's fair to say that the professional and ethical obligation to
teach Darwin's theory is just a part of the idea that the average
citizen deserves to be educated beyond the 3 R's (Reading, 'riting and
That's echoed in the recent experience of Darwin in the Dock:
"The Dover biology teachers refused to read the statement [referring
students to the availability of a Creationist book called 'Of Pandas
and People']. In a letter to the board, they argued that "central to
the teaching act and our ethical obligation is the solemn
responsibility to teach the truth." Each of them believed "that if I
as the classroom teacher read the required statement, my students will
inevitably and understandably believe that intelligent design is a
valid scientific theory, perhaps on par with the theory of evolution.
That is not true. To refer the students to 'Of Pandas and People,' as
if it were a scientific resource, breaches my ethical obligation to
provide them with scientific knowledge that is supported by recognized
scientific proof or theory."
And if you can assume that having an educated public is a good thing,
then you must want their education to help them take a rational view
of the world. That doesn't mean a scientist needs to argue for
Atheism, or even be an Atheist, but surely education must help a
student see the world as it is.
Let's let Darwin speak for himself at this point:
"With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always
painful to me.--I am bewildered.--I had no intention to write
atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, &
as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of
us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade
myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly
created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding
within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play
with mice. Not believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that
the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be
contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of
man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am
inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with
the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we
may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me .... But the
more I think the more bewildered I become; as indeed I have probably
shown by this letter."
Charles Darwin, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 8, 1860
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 303.
So as to the "Why" of your question, it's because educators and
scientists have a moral obligation to put us in Darwin's shoes - -
show us the world as it is, and encourage us to exercise our brains to
see what we can learn from what we see.
As to empiricism, Wikipedia tells us "Empiricism comes from the Greek
word ???????????, a noun meaning a "test" or "trial". The -pir- is
ultimately related to the -per- of the Latin words experientia and
experimentum, both of which mean "experiment," and from which our
words "experiment" and "experience" come."
Which I take to be the heart of the scientific method.
"Empiricism usually uses inductive reasoning based on observation to
suggest theories to explain those observations"
From empiricism, then, the trail leads to inductive reasoning,
reliable belief, amd normative ethical approaches, all of which have
technical meanings that overlap to a great degree. I won't copy and
paste it all here, but consider the following:
Rationalism vs. Empiricism
Varieties of Empiricism David Matheson Robert Stainton
An Introduction to Science
Scientific Thinking and the Scientific Method
Philosophical Interlude: Philosophy and the Scientific Method
Please read through these references, and let me know (via request for
Clarification) if you think I've adequately answered your question. I
would appreciate it if you would hold off on rating my answer until I
have a chance to respond.
Search terms used:
darwin education "secondary school" ~ethical
empiricism "inductive reasoning
empiricism "reliable belief
empiricism "reliable belief" darwin
Thanks again for bringing us your question.
Google Answers Researcher
Clarification of Answer by
03 Mar 2006 08:03 PST
Thank you for the kind words.
As to Darwin's Theory, the following is taken from a tutorial at
Scientists at the beginning of the 1800s knew of some kinds of
fossils, and they were very aware of homologous structures (for
example that you'll find a humerus, radius, ulna, and carpals in the
forearms not only of humans, but in bats, penguins and alligators),
and vestigial structures (for example remains of pelvis and limbs in
the skeleton of a snake). Many scientists suspected that some kind of
evolution had given rise to living things around them. However, they
had no unifying theory to explain how evolution might have occurred.
The central question was: if evolution occurred, by what means did it
occur? In 1838 Darwin read a book called Essay on the Principle of
Population by a British economist, Thomas Malthus (1776-1834). Malthus
stated that a human population growing unchecked would double every 25
years. Resources such as food, air and water cannot increase at the
same rate, Malthus argued. Thus human beings are involved in an
intense "struggle for existence," competing for the limited resources.
This idea helped Darwin uncover the mechanism he needed.
Combining the idea of competition with his other observations, Darwin
explained how evolution could occur. First, he stated that variation
exists among individuals of a species. Second, he stated that scarcity
of resources in a burgeoning population would lead to competition
between individuals of the same species because all use the same
limited resources. Such competition would lead to the death of some
individuals, while others would survive. From this reasoning Darwin
concluded that individuals having advantageous variations are more
likely to survive and reproduce than those without the advantageous
Darwin coined the term natural selection to describe the process by
which organisms with favorable variations survive and reproduce at a
higher rate. An inherited variation that increases an organism's
chance of survival in a particular environment is called an
adaptation. Over many generations, an adaptation could spread
throughout the entire species. In this way, according to Darwin,
evolution by natural selection would occur.
As an example Darwin noted that the ptarmigan turns white in winter.
This color change, he inferred, helped protect it from predators,
which would have a hard time spotting the bird in snow. Ptarmigans
that didn't change color in winter would be spotted easily and eaten.
In this way, Darwin implied, ptarmigans that turned white in winter
would be more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass this adaptation
to future generations.