Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes

  1. This article caught my eye. I'm concerned. If I had a child in a school where evolution was NOT being taught because of fear from the local church congregations, I'd be very concerned. It is scaring me that religion in this country has gained so much power and influence that basic science is not being taught in certain schools of this country.

    Here's another concern: The widening rift between christian denominations in this country. I can talk at length about this concern. Here's one point. I have no problem with the entire concept of evolution starting from the Big Bang theory, actually. I believe that we are not alone in this seemingly infinate universe. I believe that the concept of evolution exists not only here but on other worlds within this universe that contains life of some kind. I am fascinated by the very atoms that make up our own bodies. The other day I watched a television show on the Science Channel which discussed the very atoms that make up all living creatures. Basically what was said is that our atoms originated from stars of long ago that once existed but have since "expired" in their usual fashion. . . with a miny "big bang" of sorts. What was left of those stars is what now makes all of the element of our current Sun and its planets within our solar system. . . including us! Put in other words, we are "Star Children" ( - Sorry, couldn't resist the pun! ) This all makes sense to me. In fact it fasinates me. And, by the way, I'm very, very involved with the church I attend. And having participated in talks about science with my fellow congregation members, I know that I am not alone in experiencing this fascination. And we all seem to agree that, in our minds, this reinforces our belief in the "Creator of All Things"; science reinforces our belief in God.

    Sadly, this is not the case for other christian denominations. I would feel alien attending a christian denomination that would actively fight against proven scientific concepts like evolution, geology and physics. I guess I am not a "scriptural literalist". My faith and belief of the "Creator of All Things" grows in part by scripture and in part by life's experience. And to me, "life's experience" includes science. And I am not alone with how I have grown to understand my Christian God.

    Anyhow. . . I am most concerned that children in some communities are being denied basic science. What a loss.

    _________________________________

    Click Here for the Article

    February 1, 2005

    Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes

    By CORNELIA DEAN

    Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.

    "She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."

    Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology classes, stories like the one Dr. Frandsen tells are more common.

    In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.

    Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.

    "The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.

    Dr. Frandsen, former chairman of the committee on science and public policy of the Alabama Academy of Science, said in an interview that this fear made it impossible to say precisely how many teachers avoid the topic.

    "You're not going to hear about it," he said. "And for political reasons nobody will do a survey among randomly selected public school children and parents to ask just what is being taught in science classes."

    But he said he believed the practice of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many people adhere to fundamentalist faiths.

    "You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over," Dr. Frandsen said.

    Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she heard "all the time" from teachers who did not teach evolution "because it's just too much trouble."

    "Or their principals tell them, 'We just don't have time to teach everything so let's leave out the things that will cause us problems,' " she said.

    Sometimes, Dr. Scott said, parents will ask that their children be allowed to "opt out" of any discussion of evolution and principals lean on teachers to agree.

    Even where evolution is taught, teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, said that evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it. But he avoids controversy, he said, by teaching it not as "a unit," but by introducing the concept here and there throughout the year. "I put out my little bits and pieces wherever I can," he said.

    He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent."

    "I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."

    In this, he is typical of many science teachers, according to a report by the Fordham Foundation, which studies educational issues and backs programs like charter schools and vouchers.

    Some teachers avoid the subject altogether, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a physicist and historian of science, wrote in the report. Others give it very short shrift or discuss it without using "the E word," relying instead on what Dr. Lerner characterized as incorrect or misleading phrases, like "change over time."

    Dr. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist who heads the National Science Teachers Association, said many members of his organization "fly under the radar" of fundamentalists by introducing evolution as controversial, which scientifically it is not, or by noting that many people do not accept it, caveats not normally offered for other parts of the science curriculum.

    Dr. Wheeler said the science teachers' organization hears "constantly" from science teachers who want the organization's backing. "What they are asking for is 'Can you support me?' " he said, and the help they seek "is more political; it's not pedagogical."

    There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science. But in 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.

    In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.

    "In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.

    Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.

    Dr. Gerald D. Skoog, a former dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University and a former president of the science teachers' organization, said that in some classrooms, the teaching of evolution was hampered by the beliefs of the teachers themselves, who are creationists or supporters of the teaching of creationism.

    "Data from various studies in various states over an extended period of time indicate that about one-third of biology teachers support the teaching of creationism or 'intelligent design,' " Dr. Skoog said.

    Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. Skoog said.

    Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."

    While plenty of scientists reject religion - the eminent evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it to a disease - many others do not. In fact, when a researcher from the University of Georgia surveyed scientists' attitudes toward religion several years ago, he found their positions virtually unchanged from an identical survey in the early years of the 20th century. About 40 percent of scientists said not just that they believed in God, but in a God who communicates with people and to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

    Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious groups in the United States led to competition for congregants. This marketplace environment, he said, contributes to the politicization of issues like evolution among religious groups.

    He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."

    But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.

    "They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about this."
    Last edit by Ted on Feb 3, '05
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  2. 45 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    another very good reason to homeschool, my friend. No church or religious organization (or secular movement either) will dictate what I believe my kids MUST learn. I agree with you, however. This is very disturbing.
  4. by   URO-RN
    Evolution is alive and well in classrooms. It is good to read that others pov's on how the world came to be are being presented.
  5. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I believe BIBLICAL creation theories/teaching should be reserved for Church School, never in the PS system. And that the THEORY of evolution should be presented as JUST THAT, THEORY. Thought-provoking dialogue should be encouraged, as well.
  6. by   URO-RN
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    I believe BIBLICAL creation theories/teaching should be reserved for Church School, never in the PS system. And that the THEORY of evolution should be presented as JUST THAT, THEORY. Thought-provoking dialogue should be encouraged, as well.
    Agree w/ 1/2 your post.:chuckle The latter 1/2.
    Thinking. Something that is often discouraged in our ps system.
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    I think both creationism and evolution should be taught in school, but only in the historical and theoretical context, just like world history or civics or any other core subject is supposed to be taught. Let the kids hear both sides of the argument so they can make up their own minds........it's called critical thinking.
  8. by   fergus51
    I don't think creationism should be taught in a science class since there is no scientific basis for that theory. Fits in with history class or religious studies, but not biology.
  9. by   URO-RN
    Quote from fergus51
    I don't think creationism should be taught in a science class since there is no scientific basis for that theory. Fits in with history class or religious studies, but not biology.
    "No one" has ever seen evolution happen. If it were a real process, it should still be occuring today and there should be millions of "transitional" forms living all around us. Yet this is not the case. What we see are instead is an array of distinct "kinds" of plants and animals with many varieties within "each kind", but with very clear and apparently, unbridgeable gaps between kinds. A good example for a "variety" of "distinct kinds would be dogs. There are German Shepard's, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, and
    so on and so on, but all are dogs and will always be dogs. The evidence clearly demonstrates macro-evolution didn't, isn't and won't ever happen.
    So, does it "move to slow for us to physically see it?". Well, if we've been evolving for millions of years, as the theory proclaims, and given that evolution is a slow process that affects the many thousands of species, there should certainly be some around us today in the transitional process(lizards w/partial wings etc...) Not there.
    Last edit by Jo Anne on Feb 3, '05
  10. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from Jo Anne
    "No one" has ever seen evolution happen. If it were a real process, it should still be occuring today and there should be millions of "transitional" forms living all around us.
    You've got to be joking. Evolution occurs over generations. Noone can be around to "see it happen". Just because someone wasn't around to see the Himalaya's rise out of the ground doesn't mean plate tectonics wasn't responsible for it!

    Quote from Jo Anne
    Yet this is not the case. What we see are instead is an array of distinct "kinds" of plants and animals with many varieties within "each kind", but with very clear and apparently, unbridgeable gaps between kinds.
    Which explains why a lot of the genetic material is common between different animals, right?

    Quote from Jo Anne
    A good example for a "variety" of "distinct kinds would be dogs. There are German Shepard's, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, and so on and so on, but all are dogs and will always be dogs.
    Nobody ever denied that. That doesn't disprove natural selection and evolution.

    Quote from Jo Anne
    The evidence clearly demonstrates macro-evolution didn't, isn't and won't ever happen.
    Has been proven over and over again in countless studies that it does happen and has happened and will continue to happen
  11. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from fergus51
    I don't think creationism should be taught in a science class since there is no scientific basis for that theory. Fits in with history class or religious studies, but not biology.
    Agreed.

    I have issues with this only if the school in question is a Public School.

    Private schools can do what they want.
  12. by   Spidey's mom
    How interesting - we are having the same debate in our local paper. I'll post today's letter below.


    February 3, 2005

    Where's evidence of evolution?

    Baran Galocy's "Speak Your Piece" (last Thursday) that evolution was based on scientific fact reveals Galocy's ignorance of science and of religion as well. As a member of the Geological Society of America for some 50 years, I address part of Galocy's letter.

    First, museums around the world do not show tangible proof of evolution in fossil records. Should Galocy visit the largest and best of our natural history museums, he will find that evolutionary displays such as the improvable evolution of the horse have been withdrawn and not replaced by other displays.

    Second, proof of age by Carbon-14 testing cannot be used to support evolution. Carbon-14 tests are used by geologists to indicate time in thousands of years and not millions of years, just enough time to support creation scientifically and oppose evolution.

    Third, I challenge evolutionists to show where, in the geological record of Shasta County, there is any evidence of evolution of any fossil animal or fossil plant.

    Darwin believed that later geological studies would confirm his postulate. The geologists haven't. Evolution is intellectual fraud.

    William Waisgerber
    Redding

    ***************

    Personally I think God is big enough to make the world any way he chooses. He could have made it in 7 literal 24 hour days or not.

    There actually IS alot of scientific evidence against evolution and for a created world.

    Now as to what should be taught - I like Deb's answer. Teach evolution as a theory.

    Or homeschool your kids and choose for yourself.

    steph
  13. by   URO-RN
    Quote from Roy Fokker
    You've got to be joking. Evolution occurs over generations. Noone can be around to "see it happen". Just because someone wasn't around to see the Himalaya's rise out of the ground doesn't mean plate tectonics wasn't responsible for it!

    Which explains why a lot of the genetic material is common between different animals, right?

    Nobody ever denied that. That doesn't disprove natural selection and evolution.

    Has been proven over and over again in countless studies that it does happen and has happened and will continue to happen


    Hi Roy! Guess what? I am having one of your favs, a mango shake. I am having it with some delicious Indian food. Are you jealous?.

    Anyway............

    Buddy!!!????

    Evolutionists used to advertise that the real evidence for evolution was in the fossil record of the past, but the fact is that the billions of known fossils do not include a single transformation form with transitional structures in the process of evolving. If evolution has ever happened, there would be billions of fossils covering the billions of years of their evolution as they promote, but instead, we don't find "one". Because of this, evolutionist today are very soft in their efforts to try and use the fossil record for evidence and those that still try are those out-of-touch with mainstream science and still reading high school geology books they wrote from the 1970's.


    After 200 years of fighting creationists, and still armed with no more evidence today than when they first started, many evolutionists, Stephen J. Gould for one, promote the idea of "puntuated equilibrium" as the answer for evolution and its lack of fossilized evidence. This "theory" argues that "transitions" were instantaneous d/t a cataclysmic event and because these changes were so instant, naturally there would be very little to no transitional evidence. How desperate can one possibly be? Statements like these no longer reflect good science, but rather Hollywood's version of science fiction.
    Last edit by Jo Anne on Feb 3, '05
  14. by   Spidey's mom
    I'm posting a reply from ICR (Institure for Creation Research) to Scientific American's article about creation science. Check out the entire site though too.

    http://www.icr.org/headlines/rennie.html

    Plus here is a list of questions:

    http://www.icr.org/pubs/btg-b/

    steph
    Last edit by Spidey's mom on Feb 3, '05

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