Bybee blk: 4
9 December 2011
Teaching Evolution There is much controversy about whether or not evolution should be taught in public schools. Evolutionary theory is an essential part of the history of human existence on this planet. To gain an understanding of such a critical part of science, students must be given a complete picture of evolutionary biology beginning in high school or middle school. The topic is so important, its consideration must begin as early as our young people are able to grasp the basic concepts. This must necessarily extend to the public school science curriculum. While there is less controversy on this issue in countries of western Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the debate rages intensely in the Bible Belt areas of the United States where many of the fundamentalist Christian groups are based (“Beliefs of the US Public”, “Evolution Beliefs”). These groups object to teachings which in their view challenge the underpinnings of their religious philosophy. Other more progressive Christian groups have gradually reconciled their religious teachings with the modern ideas of evolutionary synthesis. Fundamentalist Christians have remained resistant to a pervasive scientific approach in the public schools since this has a tendency to undermine some areas of their beliefs, specifically those relating the literal interpretations of certain religious documents, such as the book of Genesis (Lundin). The three categories of belief about the origin of species can be summarized as follows:
• Naturalistic evolution: The Earth coalesced about 4.5 billion years ago, literally out of stardust -- the waste products of exploding supernovae. Within about 1 billion years, the first forms of elementary life came into existence. These single-celled animals evolved over billions of years producing an enormous variety of species, most of which are currently extinct. Either no God exists, or the God who exists took no part in this evolution.
• Theistic evolution: As for naturalistic evolution, except that God directed evolution and used it as a tool to produce the diversity of species currently present on Earth or now extinct.
• Creation science: God created the Earth, sun, moon, planets and other stars less than 10,000 years ago. He then created all of the plant and animal life. Finally, he fashioned Adam out of mud, and Eve out of a rib of Adam.
Few would argue with the notion that knowledge is power, especially when delivered across the impressionable years where public schools play a significant role in shaping the thinking of the next generation (Council of Europe). At the same time, ignorance of established scientific ideas will certainly hinder the intellectual progress of that generation. If, as a country, we were to make the decision to obliterate all mention of evolution and related topics from our public school education, the United States would quickly fall behind other countries in areas of genetic science, for example. An exploding area of research known as Genetic Anthropology focuses on studying the human genome rather than the fossilized remains of our ancestors to determine the timeline, migration patterns, and technological development of early humans and pre-humans. This