Thursday, July 03, 2008

Teaching evolution in the classroom can be dangerous

Below is an article I wrote that was published in a local newspaper. It was written in support of Louisiana passing a Science Education Act giving teachers the academic freedom to introduce other relevant materials when teaching controversial subjects such as evolution, global warming, stem cell research, etc.

As you might expect there were a lot of the typical science vs religion, separation of church and state, sneaking Creationism into the classroom, and shell-game pro-evolution/pro-science articles mixing micro and macro evolution with no distinction articles published in addition to a very slanted Associated Press article that should have been put on the editorial page but was not. My article takes a different slant by simply saying that it is dangerous to our children's lives (and the world) if they are simply spoon fed one particular view and do not know how to think critically about all the evidence and be able to follow it wherever it leads. Predictably, teachers have already been warned of possible lawsuits if some student is offended by the presentation of alternate materials. So much for academic freedom!

In some way, Ben Stein's recent movie, No Intelligence Allowed, precipitated this legislation although the issue has been fermenting for quite a while. This is an excellent movie with a lot of gotcha's straight from the mouth of some of the high evolution priests - like Richard Dawkins admitting there might be something to Intelligent Design ... but the intelligent designer must have been aliens.

Here is the article:

Teaching evolution in the classroom can be dangerous. Why? Because some students may really get the message and apply it to their lives! Macro-evolution theory (bio diversity explained by undirected and purposeless natural causes) is an explanation of life and, if true, has very definite implications on how we should live our lives and view others.

Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, explained the logical result of evolution: "We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available (so thank your lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a 'higher' answer—but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating."

There’s no more desperate or universal human cry than for meaning and purpose, but, as Gould and many others have said, life has no ultimate meaning and purpose. You’re the accidental product of an undirected and totally natural evolutionary process. You get to invent your own purpose! When teachers, scientists, and other authority figures teach young, inquisitive, and idealistic students macro-evolution, don’t we expect them to trust what they’re being taught is true? Should we then be surprised when some learn the lesson all too well attempting to find their liberation in life’s ultimate meaninglessness?
Sprinkle that onto today’s youth, already assaulted by an unremitting stream of fast food, “have it your way,” consumption-driven, escapist, selfish, pleasure-soaked culture of death, and surprise, surprise, we get school violence, disrespect, suicide (after all, your meaningless life is worthless), teen pregnancies, and absent fathers. If the evolutionists are right, “Survival of the fittest” translates into “Do unto others before they do unto you!” Rather than crazy, maybe Klebold and Harris really proved to be the brightest students of all for their 1999 Columbine massacre.

This should matter to you. Ideas have consequences. Some ideas produce cures for cancer; others, slaughter millions. Men will seize any justification for the evil they are determined to do, and evolution is a very convenient excuse for the trivialization of human worth. The 20th century was the bloodiest of all centuries. Three regimes alone – Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung – murdered over 100,000,000 people pursuing their naturalistic philosophy. Adolf Hitler was greatly influenced by evolution. He, and the doctors, scientists, and academics who followed him transformed “survival of the fittest” into justification for eugenics – the extermination of those deemed weak, inferior, and unfit to live. Unfortunately, we forget the mind numbing concentration camp images of heaps and heaps of human bodies piled high like so much fire wood. Naturalistic philosophy can only shrug at the ease with which flawed beliefs led vast numbers of seemingly normal and rational people to do such horrific evil. This is not to imply that all evolutionists will become Nazis or Communists, but, when science rejects open and honest debate and does not disavow and correct misinterpretation, then a loaded pistol is left out in the open.

Macro-evolution theory is not solely to blame for the ills of our culture, but it has become the religion of the secular/naturalistic philosophies driving our cultural institutions - and all this by shutting down serious discussion of counter evidence and the inherent limitations of science’s natural-only assumptions. Young people need to be trained to honestly evaluate ideas and the forces and assumptions behind them. This is particularly important as some of today’s greatest issues are ethical ones – embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, human-animal cloning, etc. These decisions need to be made by an informed public and not a closed scientific community that answers only to the highest bidder. Studying life theories - macro-evolution, Intelligent Design, and even Creationism - presents a wonderful opportunity for teaching our youth how to follow all the evidence wherever it may lead in the pursuit of truth. Their lives and futures are at stake.


scripto said...

You may as well link chemistry, physics and religion to the genocides of the 20th century as evolutionary theory. Dehumanizing the "other" far predates Darwin and is independent of any type of justification. I really doubt that the Hutus had Darwin in mind when they were slaughtering the Tutsis.

At any rate, your objection on moral grounds speaks nothing to the truth of evolutionary theory. It is the best explanation for the evidence. It is as well established as any other commonly accepted scientific theory and it would be dishonest to teach creationism or intelligent design in a biology class.

Harold said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Here are my responses.

"You may as well link chemistry, physics and religion to the genocides of the 20th century as evolutionary theory."

I think the point is that man will grasp at any justification to do the evil that is in his heart and suport his lust for power and dominion. If life is meaningless (no one to answer to), then as one of Dostoevsky's characters says, "then all things are permitted."

"At any rate, your objection on moral grounds speaks nothing to the truth of evolutionary theory. It is the best explanation for the evidence."

I am after truth. But truth can only be arrived at by completely open and thorough investigation - considering all the evidence without false apriori assumptions ("natural" is all there is) and that is clearly lacking from the debate.

"It is the best explanation for the evidence."

Again, only if you apriori (before the evidence is in)exclude any possible consideration of the supernatural. Remember, naturalism even excludes the content of your thoughts -- chemical reactions cannot explain what you are thinking or that they have meaning at all. So, naturalism actually turns out to be a pretty small and confining box. Obviously, I do not believe macro evolution theory to be the best explanation for the origin and diversity of life. I think there is a much more reasonable answer than something coming from nothing.

"it would be dishonest to teach creationism or intelligent design in a biology class."

My intent is not to teach religion but to see that students are actually taught how to think and reason clearly based on consideration of all the evidence. I see nothing dishonest about seeking truth and considering and weighing all the evidence -- even in Biology class.