Monday, March 14, 2005

Evolution in The Post

Of course this web site is focused on one narrow issue in one little county in the little state of Maryland, USA. We work here to show support for the MCPS Board of Education's new sex-education curriculum, which is soon to be piloted in the schools, and which is under attack from extremist groups.

But we are fully aware that our little county's fight is part of a bigger conflict that goes on all across America, and not just over sex-education but other topics as well. One that very well parallels our specific battle is the fuss over the teaching of evolution in the schools. In the broad perspective, this widening battle is sometimes referred to as "the culture war."

So here ya go, from the front page of this morning's Washington Post:
WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator.

The growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology. But 80 years after the Scopes "monkey" trial -- in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching evolution -- it is the anti-evolutionary scientists and Christian activists who say they are the ones being persecuted, by a liberal establishment.

They are acting now because they feel emboldened by the country's conservative currents and by President Bush, who angered many scientists and teachers by declaring that the jury is still out on evolution. Sharing strong convictions, deep pockets and impressive political credentials -- if not always the same goals -- the activists are building a sizable network. Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens

There is really no controversy about evolution in the scientific community. It is clear that organisms adapt over generations through the process of differential reproduction due to fitness. The process is clear and unambiguous at the level of the species or population, and the mechanism is well understood, the functions of genetic patterns on the chromosomes that are inherited from parents with the occasional mutation. It's just too well understood, there really is no question about it.

And y'know, I am tempted to go on and on here, but will stop myself. Suffice it to say, there are adults in America who insist that the story of Noah's ark is literally true, and that every animal alive today is actually descended from the ones that rode with Noah. And that God literally made the world in a week. And those people are pressuring the public schools to teach their beliefs, at least some version of them. They are highly motivated and have a lot of money.

It is imperative for America to pull itself out of the dreamworld of religious myth and into the sunlight of verifiable fact, and this will require a gigantic reinventory of the place of myth in our culture, and a method for reconciling disputes between faith and fact. We must not allow the abandonment of faith, but our future requires us to grant priority to the well-supported fact. I am sure it can be done.

Click on the link to this story. It's a kind of long one, but well-researched, well-balanced. The "intelligent design" folks get their say. Maybe you'll agree with them that the public schools should teach kids what the majority of Americans believe, rather than what science has found.


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