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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Evolution 

The NYT has an article today describing how science teachers in the Fundamentalist Belt are short-changing the teaching of evolution, because they don't want trouble from students and parents who disagree with it.

Since few things get me going the way ignorance can, this article got my attention. And the more I read, the more incredulous I became.

I understand people's right to disagree on matters of opinion. But facts are another matter, and there's no scientific room for argument when it comes to evolution. It's testable--and verifiable--scientific fact.

An Ohio biology teacher in the article says that

...evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it.
And for that reason, it is an absolutely vital part of learning biology.

If we as Americans value science as part of an education, then we should teach science. Undiluted science--without consideration for the writings of a desert nomad from thousands of years ago.

And if a particular parent considers Genesis to be the real deal, and wants his child's "education" to be unencumbred by wild "theories" like evolution, then fine. But while we're at it, let's label all of mathematics a "theory" too. After all, it's a human invention that doesn't come directly from the Bible. I'm pretty sure that the English language wasn't mentioned in the Old Testament either, so it could also be the devil's dirty work. Better brush up on your ancient Greek.

Having said all of that and firmly established where I stand (i.e. on the only rational side there is), this simply shocks me:

[I]n a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.

These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent rejecting it and the rest undecided.
It sounds like we have a long way to go before we become a nation of rational thinkers who accept basic facts.

However, if I'm ever charged with a crime, I want fundamentalists on my jury. They just might argue that the forensic evidence against me was planted by God in order to throw off the police investigators.

Alright, if you've read this far, I'll reward you with some evolution humor. Enjoy.
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