Much has been made of late regarding the theory of evolution and how it’s taught in Texas public schools. For the next few months, the Texas State Board of Education will be considering changes to our children’s science curriculum.
The board chairman, a dentist named Don McLeroy, calls himself a Creationist and believes in a literal reading of the Bible. Cynthia Dunbar, a vocal board member, recently made news when she suggested that in the first six months of Barack Obama’s administration, terrorists with whom he sympathizes will bring down our nation.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust a biblical literalist, much less an admitted Creationist, to arrange my children’s sock drawer, much less teach, presume to choose who teaches, or decide what gets taught to my children in any public school setting, but particularly in science classrooms. And Mrs. Dunbar, who is so thoroughly brainwashed that she (according to her own web site) believes that her role on the board includes ferreting out nefarious “socialist” and “humanist” agendas, has absolutely no business proposing or voting on anyone’s intellectual future.
To date, a State Board of Education committee has recommended a “change” in our public school curriculum that allows for an examination of the “strengths and limitations” of the theory of evolution as part of the study of biology and other sciences. This is simply the first step toward allowing Christian Creationist operatives to insert their mythology into public school curricula – it has nothing to do with real science or the instruction thereof. But for the sake of argument, let’s settle this once and for all. Like most scientific theories, evolution is based on and bolstered by the scientific method.
Formulate a question. Research and observe. Form a hypothesis. Perform experiments. Collect and analyze data. Interpret data and draw conclusions. Reproduce and verify data. Publish the findings. The scientific method is universal and inviolate. Every serious branch of science has roots in it. Any conclusions arrived at by the scientific method are open to challenge. They can be tested, disputed, and/or refuted, if demonstrable, empirical evidence suggests a claim or theory is flawed or unsound.
The theory of evolution is the scientific heavyweight of explanations for humanity’s origins because it’s the most tested, supported, and applied theory that anyone anywhere has come up with on the subject. Evolutionary principles are the foundation of the studies of biology, botany, zoology, and other disciplines. Without them, you, I, and the esteemed members of our State Board of Education would still be having our blood drawn by leeches.
Creationist narratives for human evolution are based on faith instead of science, and only adherents of said faith see them as holding water – people who invariably claim their beliefs require no scientific evidence or demonstrable proofs. And there’s just one enormous, unavoidable problem with that: In any legitimate forum devoted to the origin of our species, the list of differing creation narratives from cultures around the world would, well, span the globe. Who decides who’s right?
The Bantu tribes of central Africa believe a god named Bumba regurgitated the sun, moon, stars, and human beings after a bad tummy ache. The Scandinavian creation narrative maintains that humans descended from frost giants that emerged from the dripping underarm sweat of an evil ogre named Ymir. Persian Zoroastrians held that the first humans grew out of a rhubarb plant. The ancient Chinese believed that the goddess Numa shaped humans out of mud from the Yellow River because she was lonely. The Japanese creation narrative suggests that a goddess named Izanami and a god named Izanagi created Earth’s first land mass by stirring the ocean with a jeweled spear until it curdled. The Inuit people believe the world was formed by a raven.
It doesn’t matter to me if we are descended from mud, dust, or rhubarb. Unless such claims can be reasonably traced, observed, tested, and verified, they don’t constitute “science” and therefore don’t belong in a science curriculum. I have no problem with my kids being taught Creationist narratives because each one contains clues to a people’s prehistoric oral traditions. It’s fascinating, profound stuff, but the tales fall under the heading of anthropology, not biology.
In fact, I’d like to see another creationist narrative examined: Could we teach our schoolchildren the strange story of how religious conservatives came to dominate the Texas State Texas Board of Education?
E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications.