Saturday, December 15, 2007

Teaching Evolution Under Attack in Texas

It seems the teaching of evolution will be up for review in Texas. This has been prompted by the following, according to The Dallas Morning News: "Former science director Chris Comer says she resigned from the Texas Education Agency to avoid being fired after officials told her she had improperly endorsed evolution. She had forwarded an e-mail announcing a speech by a prominent scholar on evolution, which the state requires schools to teach." The TEA "in disciplinary paperwork {...} stressed that she needed to remain neutral in what was becoming a tense period leading up to the first review of the science curriculum in a decade." Why should she remain neutral when it comes to teaching facts?

Yes, evolution is a fact. It happens. It has been proven to happen. However, there are various theories of evolution, including but not restricted to Darwin's theory of natural selection, Darwin's theory of sexual selection (he in fact had two theories of evolution), and the theory of punctuated equilibrium. What is at issue are the mechanisms by which evolution occurs. It is likely that there are many mechanisms, as biological systems are highly complex.

There are some who may suggest that we don't necessarily have to teach evolution in biology. After all, many argue, it's "only a theory." Well, let me ask you this: how on earth would we teach most of our sciences, both hard and soft, without theory? Could we teach physics without Newtonian theory? Or quantum theory? Or the theory of relativity? Could we teach chemistry without teaching atomic theory? Could we teach economics without the theory of supply and demand? Or game theory? Could we teach psychology without Freudian, Jungian, Piagetian, or various other theories? And where would modern science be without information theory, complexity theory, systems theory, emergence theory, dissipative structures theory, the theory of self-organization? Just theory? It would be impossible to understand anything without theories. Theories are how we organize and make sense of a pile of facts and information. Without theories, there can be no science at all. The various theories of evolution are the theories that make sense of biology. Without them, there is no science of biology.

When religious people attack evolution, all they are doing is saying that their beliefs cannot stand up to the ideas inherent in biology. This is a sad state of affairs. But their lack of faith, their inability to continue to believe in Christianity in face of what biology shows does not mean they should undermine the teaching of biology -- but it does mean they have to seriously review their own faith and beliefs. If their faith is so weak that it cannot stand up to the facts of nature and the universe, then they have no faith to speak of anyway. They are lukewarm Christians and, as it says in Revelations, God spits out lukewarm Christians. And why shouldn't He, since those who claim to be His followers refuse to believe in nature as God created it in the name of God? Jesus had a name for such people: hypocrites!
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