Anti-Evolution Politics Hurt Science Education

The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has posted a new essay following up on the organization’s January report giving low marks to science curriculum standards in most states, including Texas. Dr. Paul R. Gross, an emeritus professor of life sciences at the University of Virginia, writes for Fordham’s Education Gadfly e-newsletter that weak coverage of evolution is a product both of religious objections and politics.

“A focused combination of politics with religion, in pursuit of (or opposed to) governmental action, is vastly more effective than either one alone.

By themselves … religious anti-evolutionists would wield scant power over state decisions. Real power comes by politicizing the arguments and switching them from scripture to more stylish notions: ‘scientific alternatives,’ ‘critical thinking,’ or—most commonly—’strengths and weaknesses of [Darwin’s] theory.’ When these are pressed by politicians dissing ‘Darwinism,’ a downgrading of science is underway.”

Gross writes that increasing efforts in state legislatures to politicize and undermine the teaching of evolution have serious consequences for science even if proposed anti-evolution measures don’t pass:

“(T)hey can still have real effect on classroom teaching, on textbook content and selection, as well as on the curriculum as taught. All this political activity and the sense of popular support that it engenders can easily discourage teachers from teaching evolution, or from giving it proper emphasis—if only by signaling that it’s a highly controversial subject. Teachers, understandably, fear controversy and potential attack by parents. Meanwhile, for this and many other reasons, science performance of our children against their overseas peers remains average to poor.

The common anti-evolution claims are no more than talking points, less cogent even than the talking points of politics. The primary scientific literature has disposed of them all, as any serious reader can discover. Their real purpose is simply to cast doubt on evolution as a shaper of life forms. But there is no reasonable doubt that Earth is four billion years old and that life’s diversity emerged over eons in steps, usually small, driven by such (evolutionary) mechanisms as genetic change and natural selection.”

Remember this when creationists on the Texas State Board of Education (and in the Texas Legislature) argue — as they have repeatedly — that they aren’t trying to promote their religious views in science classrooms. That’s because they know the courts would slap them down. No, the goal of evolution deniers is to undermine confidence in science itself, thus opening the door to “alternative” concepts that have no basis in science (“intelligent design”). That’s really what Don McLeroy was trying to do when he demanded that “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” during the debate over new science standards for Texas schools  in 2009.

But that kind of ignorance is undermining the education of millions of schoolchildren.

Click here to help elect a new State Board of Education in Texas this year.

12 thoughts on “Anti-Evolution Politics Hurt Science Education

  1. Evolution defined just menas change. Certainly we can see change. God is certianly the instrument of the evolution in the history of the world.

    What the problem evolution has it that is trying to promote BIG BANG and other theories that make very little sense and cannot be proven.

  2. RtRev. I am not aware of evolution having anything to do with the Big Bang, global warming, or why Al Gore wears polyester. If I remember correctly, the various parts of the universe are moving outwards into space (whatever that is) in all directions like shrapnel from something that exploded. I do not think anyone knows what exploded or why? Evolution does not have an answer for those questions—nor should it. Evolution is simply about genetic and biological changes in existing life forms over time. It happens.

    The Bible says that got rested on the 7th day. It does not say that he went into permanent retirement and took a 15 billion year vacation. Maybe he got up Sunday morning and went back to work in his studio?

    Now, one of my local neighbors would like to speak:

    “Naw!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Heezuns wuz dunn. Ituz all over and done wit on at air Saardie. Then ituns wuz jist lock me. Hit nevuh changes. Hi do ah know theeyus? Cuz ah half akcayus ta spatial spurtchal nolidge cuz ah reeds the Bobble liturl like wit spatial ah-h-h-h-h-hs gibn ta may bah the Lowud.”

    Well, he’s right on that last part!!!

    Now for a commercial. From one Christian to all you people who are and are not, Crossan explains why the SBOE right wing crazies and right wing crazy wannabies are dangerous:

  3. RtRev, what we’re trying to do supporting education is to prevent our children from winding up as ignorant as you or as arrogant as me; a happy medium like Madam Zanzabar.

    The modern theory of evolution is the most confirmed theory in all of science and has nothing to do with cosmology. The “Big Bang” has also been confirmed through multiple lines of observation such that the age of the universe is known to an astounding precision, all things considered: 13.75 ± 0.11 billion years.

    Of course, we all know you’re just jacking us around, RtRev, but I wish you’d get some better material. Granted it’s a slow night but seriously, dude, if you’re going to be a Poe put some effort into it. Thx.

  4. Could it be that the chief problem with fundamentalists over evolution, big bang and other elements of science comes from arrogance and laziness in the fundamentalist?

    As a Christian, I know that humility is a far better attitude than one of “knowing it all.” But to hear some fundamentalists talk about the Bible, you’d think they already know it all with regard to scripture. Their way is the right way and everyone else (including other Christians) are wrong. Not very humble!

    There’s a timeline in Genesis compatible with those of science and it takes humility and hard work to find it. Ask the fundamentalist if they know about this new Genesis timeline. (http://www.GenesisCode.Net)

    Could it be that the Bible wasn’t meant to be taken literally in every respect? Could the biblical literalist be using faulty logic to protect a wrong (bad) interpretation of scripture? Could it be that the universe really is 13.7 billion years old?

    Example: The ages of the early patriarchs seem outrageously long. Could they represent something else? Genesis 5:2 offers a clue to a solution.

    God’s reality (the universe in which we live) also offers clues. Scientists are great with reality. They’re batting nearly 1000. To disrespect science is to court delusion. That doesn’t mean everything science does is right, but to hear a fundamentalist, “creation scientist” talk about it you’d think scientists were batting closer to 150.

    Science tells us that humanity has been around for at least 200,000 years and the universe for 13.7 billion. So, the timeline in Genesis is far too short! The age of Methuselah is far too little! Check out Genesis 5:2. The solution starts there. And humanity may be closer to 10,436,142 years old. A code in Genesis points in this direction. That’s certainly more scientifically defensible than an age of 6016 years.

    Science wins. God wins (more humble Christians). But even scientists have to realize that humility is good for everyone. A scientists can’t discover anything new if they’re not also humble (don’t think they know it all).

  5. Certainly we see change, I have no problem with evolution being taught.

    I do not believe in jumping species. Man did not decend from apes.

  6. RtRev doesn’t believe in kangaroos. Figures.

    Man is an ape. Man and apes descended from a common ancestor that was neither a man nor an ape. This is not conjecture, speculation or a theory. This is an observed, scientific conclusion supported by multiple different lines of tangible, repeatable and measurable evidence.

    Do you like bananas, Rev? Of course you do! Case closed.

    Oh, and RtRev, quit using the word “we” as in “we see this” or “we understand that.” You are not a member of educated society so quit pretending.

    If you are not aware of the current state of scientific knowledge then you are ignorance and a little study will fix that. If you are unable to understand scientific conclusions even after studying then you are stupid and you’ll have to make do with your abilities. However, if you don’t understand science and don’t want to learn then you are willfully ignorant, a drag on society and a disgrace to humanity.

    And this applies to creationists in general.

  7. We humans are apes, Rev. Our ancestors were the ancestors of the other apes that we have nearly exterminated, too.
    No species ever have to “jump” to give rise to other species. That’s just how life on earth works: change takes time.

  8. Doc Bill & Coragyps: I wish you folks could be on the SBOE. You guys have nailed it. The important point you present >> “We ARE apes, we didn’t descend from them.” Understanding and studying evolution, science and biology is a lot of hard work, and evidence for the points you bring forward is growing exponentially. I suggest to y’all that the notion that humans are “related,” ever so distantly to other primates is just too gol dern offensive to the delicate sensibilities of the “fundies.” I’m voting for Rebecca Osborne for District 10, SBOE. Come one Texas, we can do much better.

  9. My Christian fundamentalist uncle once made a profound statement to me. He said, “Well, if evolution really did happen and we are descended from some ancient ape, then all the apes living today are our relatives—and if we kill them—then it is murder.”

    Now, if you think of the evolution of all species collectivelly for the last 600 million years, there may be a message in there that we all really need to hear about the value of life and a true pro-life position.