Oops, Evolution!

Ok, having just commented on religious holidays, it’s time to move on to creationism. Apparently it is my day to live dangerously. 🙂 All the caveats of my prior post apply, especially that I mean no offence and that my motives are purely academic. 😉

To leave creationism and evolutionism completely out of school discussions is a powerful null curriculum.

Personally, I think elements of our society have taken both sides of this controversy to untenable extremes. Science is about hypotheses and the constantly evolving understanding of the universe. The exploration and discovery of nature (of which evolution is a part) is an unending process. Discussing the evolution of evolutionary theory is a fascinating and wonderful exploration of sciences at its best (and most dramatic). Yet, some of the evolutionists make Evolution into its own kind of religion, a dogma. On the other hand, religion is about faith. Faith is believing things that can’t be proven. That’s fine. But things that can’t be proven can’t be taught as fact in a secular curriculum. Having said that, creationism does have its place in the discussion of nature. It is a powerful social meme and we have a rich social history of the tension between the two poles. In fact, it is a brilliant teaching opportunity, ripe with nuance and knowledge.

My very favorite part of the story is that the science text John Scopes used to teach evolution (Hunter, 1914) contained a number of ‘scientific’ conclusions about the relative inferiority of various ‘races’, which it also defined, and the ‘benefits’ of eugenics. Really, it’s breathtaking the number of wonderful lessons this controversy contains. By teaching this story, we can teach the distinction between faith and knowledge. We can teach the nature of ‘knowing’. We can teach the evolution of science. We can teach how culture interacts with science. We can teach knowledge and the nature of living a faith-based life. It is an enormous loss to society that we mostly choose to include this in the null curriculum. Doing so is a kind of de facto censorship and it serves and honors no one.

As with religious holidays, in a school environment I would tread lightly. But, unlike religion as a whole or religious holidays as extension of religion, this controversy has its roots in tangibles that can be examined and discussed. As in all things, there is room for like minded individuals to disagree at the end of the discussion. But those from either extreme who seek to close the conversation are violating one of the core principals of liberal, democratic society dating back 2,500 years.

To me the discussion should not be if it is taught but how it is taught.


Hunter, G. (1914). A civic biology: presented in problems. New York, NY: American Book Co.

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