Teaching of Evolution Remains Under Attack

Despite the high profile victory for keeping creationism out of science classes in the Dover case, there are ongoing battles around the country to defend science. South Carolinians for Science Education reports on one victory as the State Board of Education reversed a December vote which would have led to dropping the use of a text teaching evolution. However the news isn’t as good in Florida where a former St. Petersburg City Council member and candidate for Mayor has repeated Tom DeLay’s theory linking the teaching of evolution to the Columbine shootings.

There is also controversy on a state wide level in Florida, where the word evolution is not used in science classes. One biology teacher defended the teaching of evolution explaining, “It’s very hard to teach good biological science without mentioning evolution. It’s one of the basic underpinnings of modern biological science.” He should explain this to Florida Governor Charlie Crist who, like many conservatives, confuses the scientific meaning of theory with its use in common language. Crist is quoted as saying:

I think the way it’s been handled historically in Florida is probably appropriate. It’s been introduced and discussed in terms of being a theory. I don’t know if there’s a need for a change in that. But I’ll leave the decision to the board.

I’ve frequently seen accounts of teachers having difficulty with teaching evolution regardless of the law due to pressure from religious groups. A teacher described these problems in an op-ed in FortBendNow:

I taught sixth grade in Texas for three years 2001-2004. During that time, I was absolutely warned to not begin to say the word “evolution” or we would have every preacher in the district, as well as the media, breathing down our necks, and then there would truly be no teaching or learning. Sadly, I needed the position, so I played the “hide the issue and hide the learning” game.

Every time I tell this story, usually at a dinner party, people look at me like I am reliving some ancient past. I remind them that this policy ruled only two years ago – and in their progressive community. Like many issues that are easier to disbelieve than to address, people inevitably choose disbelief.

It is more difficult for me to choose disbelief, but over time, even I can begin to question my experience. So several weeks ago, I decided to test the continued use of this policy. I interviewed with a high school in Fort Bend and asked if I could use current events in the English classroom to explore why real evolution education is often an inoculation against racism and eugenic posturing. The interviewer quickly replied, “We do not challenge the sensitive “beliefs” of our student community.”

These problems have extended beyond the public schools as last fall I reported on a community college instructor who was fired for calling the story of Adam and Eve a “fairy tale.” Even Bill Nye, the Science Guy has come under attack by the religious right for being an “evolution huckster.”

Several organizations involved in the teaching of science in the United States and Europe have issued statements favoring the teaching of evolution and not creationism in the schools. These include the Association for Science Education, the California Academy of Sciences, the UK government (whose statement explains the scientific meaning of theory), and the Council on Europe.

We also must not forget that two Republican candidates still in the race, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, both deny evolution. Mike Huckabee has advocated teaching intelligent design in the schools, while Ron Paul simply does not believe in public schools. A panel of scientists recently warned how we are “doomed” should Huckabee be elected.

For those interested in reading more about evolution, an updated version of Science, Education, and Creationism, a book from the National Academy of Sciences, is available for free download in pdf format here.

(Cross posted at The Carpetbagger Report)

Update: There is tremendous amount of material available on line regarding evolution which debunks the nonsense promoted by supporters of intelligent design/creationism. On of the people commenting at The Carpetbagger Report pointed out yet one more excellent article from Stephen Jay Gould on Evolution as Fact and Theory.

Be Sociable, Share!

1 Comment

  1. 1
    Half Yankee Half Brit says:

    Just a nice analogy to anyone that comes across one of the name-callers that says “it’s just a THEORY…”. Because confusing the scientific term and the layman definition is what they use to fog the issue, because they know that anything that opens people’s minds to the truth will mean they lose.

    Evolution’s just a THEORY …and gravity’s just a LAW. Doesn’t mean that every petty thief, public drunk and jaywalker can jump to the moon on a pogo stick, does it!?!

Leave a comment