Evolution Not Just a Theory

As the Republican Party moves ever more to the right, they become increasingly detached from mainstream reality. The myth-based ideological movement ultimately threatens economic and social dislocation within the United States.

Republican Logo

Republican Logo

Marco Rubio is one of the current group of potential Republicans challengers for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. At first glance, he appears to represent the ideal candidate. He is young, attractive, well-spoken, and that rarest of species, an Hispanic Republican. His parents were Cuban, and he has inherited their hatred of liberals, or as conservatives would have it, socialists.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, Creationist

He has also inherited their religious biases, including an anti-science approach that leads him toward Creationism. In 2008, during the Florida legislative session, an evolution compromise was approved by the Florida Board of Education in its approach to evolutionary theory.

The proposal is that they can add “The Scientific Theory of” before any invocation of the term “evolution”. Marco Rubio expressed his opinion that legislative action is needed to protect teachers right to academic freedoms, supposedly granted under the First Amendment Right to Free Speech. This will state that they should have the right to express their criticism of Darwinian Evolution.

This approach to the conservative battle with evolution has been tried before, with little success, in places like Dover, Pennsylvania. These educational battles go back at least to the famous “Scopes monkey trial” in which a teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating the Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools. John Scopes, represented by the colorful Clarence Darrow was defeated in court by Williams Jennings Bryan, one-time candidate for President.

Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow

Opponents of the proposed addition to the term evolution argued for an “Academic Freedom Proposal” that would allow teachers to “engage in a critical analysis of Darwinian evolution”. John Sullivan of the Florida Baptist Convention contended that the board should oppose the proposition on the grounds of its “silence about teaching scientific criticisms of evolution”.

Sullivan also said that both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian should be taught and that the standards should “honor and encourage the academic freedom of teachers and students on an issue of fundamental importance and ongoing scientific controversy.”

There is much wrong with this approach, but I would like to tackle the first, which is the idea of academic freedom. Firstly, academic freedom is generally granted to those that have achieved a sufficiently high standard of understanding that they canĀ  exercise their freedom to criticise within their field of expertise.

A theology professor has a great deal of latitude within the theology department, but none whatsoever within the biology department unless he is a tenured professor within that department. Teachers at a school level do not have the training, or the knowledge to teach ideas that are antithetical to their field. A biology teacher should not be expressing an opinion on the errors in evolutionary theory, unless they have sufficient evidence to the contrary.

A belief in a Creator is insufficient to challenge an accepted scientific theory. If a school teacher has evidence that would refute the theory of evolution, he or she is quite welcome to create a scientific treatise on the subject and submit it to the approriate periodical. In the absence of such evidence, their students are better served if they stick to the curriculum and teach the science.

Teachers do their students a disservice if they teach them opinion rather than accepted science. There is a time and a place for opinion, in philosophy class, or a study of Hamlet, or a religious studies class. There are many classes, especially at school level in which this is not appropriate.

Science classes, physics, mathematics, and geography are not the correct fora for such opinions. Students cannot argue about whether the Earth revolves around the Sun, whether gravity exists as a force, or whether Pythagorean mathematics is correct or not. Matter is composed of Atoms, which in turn are composed of quarks, and light comes in quanta.

It is conceivable that a student will, with a spark of brilliance come to question some aspect of accepted science, and that is a good thing for science, but only when it is based on sufficient evidence. All science is ultimately provisional, based on the knowledge that we now have, but that does not give us license to question it all.

As far as questioning evolutionary theory is concerned, if we are to question that particular scientific theory, which the overwhelming majority of scientists, in particular in the biological sciences, accept as the Grand Unifying Theory of all the biological Sciences, should we then question other scientific theories. Should we question Atomic Theory, Big Bang Theory, Continental Drift Theory, Gravitational Theory?

The problem with spending time questioning all the sciences, is that science will ultimately not be taught. Teachers have a limited amount of time to get through the curriculum, and they cannot waste time on pseudo-scientific notions of our physical world. Should we spend time debating the Bermuda Triangle, alien visitations, ghostly apparitions, or Tarot readings? perhaps we could throw in a little phrenology (reading the bumps on the head), or astrology for good measure.

Teachers should respect their students rights to complete the curriculum, graduate, and exercise their academic freedoms within the confines of academia, or outside it if they so desire. Placing obstacles in the way of students that need to get a good education in the sciences does society no good at all.

This nation desperately needs people well versed and educated in the sciences and technology. Wasting time on endless debates comparing mythology with the physical sciences is ultimately irrational and helps no-one.

I have never had occasion to sit in a church, or a religious studies class and have people debate the existence of the Creator. That does not mean that it does not happen, just that I have never seen it happen. The chances are fairly good that if you tried it in a church, you would be politely, or in certain churches, not so politely asked to leave, or just thrown out.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, the renowned Darwinist, has said that we should consider science and religion SEMA, or Separate Magisteria. One deals with the supernatural, and the other with the natural world, with neither having anything to do with each other.

Rubio claims that students should not have mocked, derided and undone what their parents teach them at home. He questions whether it is the public education system or parents that have the ultimate authority over what is taught to their children. I believe that they are two separate issues. Public education gives children a foundation that allows them to pursue a life and income level that they otherwise would not have.

Parents teach their childrenĀ  to speak, to interact with others, the basic lessons of life, like manners and deportment. There is significant overlap with what they are taught at school. The question is not who takes responsibility for education, it is how much do we teach students at school, and how much at home. Like many things it is not one or the other, but a combination that hopefully produces children with the skills needed to compete in the wider world.

Rubio does not want a public education system that teaches children that what they learn at home is wrong. That assumes, incorrectly, that what they learn at home is necessarily correct. It may be utterly invalid. Parents may or may not have the skills or education necessary to teach their children. If they are teaching their children that Creation mythology is correct and evolution is not, they are utterly incorrect.

It is not a debate. If they are teaching their children that the Sun revolves around the Earth each day, they are also wrong, not a little wrong, but utterly and completely.

Rubio continued and claimed that he did not want a system such as that in Cuba, run by the Communist Party, which encouraged children to turn in parents who criticised Castro. He claimed that he was not comparing the “evolution people” with Fidel Castro, while claiming that undermining the Church and family were key to maintaining Communist control in Cuba.

Comparing the teaching of evolution to Communist Party tactics is hyperbolic beyond belief. Is the teaching of atomic theory, or Continental Drift theory also a Communist Party tactic?

It appears to me, that it is more that the Church, in particular radical Evangelicals, that is using Scripture to undermine the teaching of Science. They plainly have as their agenda the destruction of any scientific thought that appears to contradict their ideology, or theology. If it goes against their biblical texts, it must be a conspiracy to undermine the status of the Church.

Rubio goes on to say that the Communists destroyed the family to impose their totalitarian doctrine. By extension, he claims that the teaching of evolution destroys families and imposes a totalitarian regime. All those paleontologists squatting in the dirt brushing sand away from a skeleton really do not look like Nazis or Communists to me. The only totalitarian doctrinaire thinking I can see is that imposed by the Church.

He goes on to say that the central question is whether the government brings up children, or parents do. The answer is really simple, they both do, they both have a part to play, as does society in general. Children learn many things from a variety of sources, including parents, government, cable TV, books, PBS, kindergarten and a myriad of places that we would not expect. It is not a black and white issue, it is an infinite shade not just of gray, but of the entire eletromagnetic spectrum.

Whatever is taught to children can be questioned by those children. I grew up a certain way and as I learn more about the world changed the way I think about many questions. That is part of life. If you are not learning, you are going nowhere. Rubio, and conservatives should know better.

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