Why We Need to Teach Evolution

Olivia Judson has a simple but effective op-ed in The New York Times about why evolution must be taught in Biology classes (and not Intelligent Design/Creationism):

In these arguments [of evolution versus ID/Creationism], evolution is treated as an abstract subject that deals with the age of the earth or how fish first flopped onto land. It’s discussed as though it were an optional, quaint and largely irrelevant part of biology. And a common consequence of the arguments is that evolution gets dropped from the curriculum entirely.

This is a travesty.

It is also dangerous.

Evolution should be taught — indeed, it should be central to beginning biology classes — for at least three reasons.

Check out the full piece for her reasons.

It’s amazing we still have arguments over whether or not to teach evolution. Or that teachers question whether they should teach it. Or that teachers don’t know enough about the subject to teach it. It all hurts our students. Teaching them that there is an accepted or debated alternative just makes the problem worse.

It’d be nice to have a school year without worrying about how the Christian Right plans to dumb down education in this country.

  • http://calenotkale.com cale

    I find it amazing that this is an issue at all. The fact that any science teacher would think that their own beliefs rather than scientific method, theory and evidence should decide curricula begs the question: how did these people become teachers of science?

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    Nah, stop teaching evolution. In fact, stop teaching any of that science stuff at all. Science is based on theories after all. Actually so is Mathematics. Stop teaching maths too. And history. Languages too…and literacy.

    The only subject at school should be religion. I say religion but most of them are wrong so it should be Christianity… except there are too many flavours of Christianity and some of the heretical ones actually have the audacity to embrace science teaching.

    In a couple of generations you’ll see how America looks without education.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    The answer is that many didn’t. Not in the sense of having formal science training, it is really appalling how many high school teachers in this country are teaching science without having a degree in science education.

    I know my 10th grade biology teacher didn’t have a clue about any sort of science not related to sports (yep the stereotype of hiring the basketball coach to teach science has some truth to it). Thankfully that was the last year I took science at that school and ended up at one where my chemistry and physics teachers had a masters and a phD respectively. I never had to reeducate myself in those subjects like I did with biology. No labs of any sort, forget dissections. The guy barely knew the parts of the cell, let alone a coherent understanding of evolution. Maybe that’s why my 9th grade earth science teacher covered it quite well for us even though it wasn’t technically part of the standard curriculum for that year? She knew the disaster we were facing. What’s worse is this was in the so called ‘college prep’ class, I shudder to think the complete lack of education the students in the lower level biology classes got.

  • http://www.godtalkradio.com Jason

    Great read….

    And now onto why we need to teach Creationism…

    People will go to hell without it!

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  • TXatheist

    To all the Christians who help to get evolution taught and not ID I say thanks.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Has the ID “wedge” tactic worked? A number of atheists and humanists I’ve talked to about the teaching of evolution believe that ID should be taught as well, because “both sides” should be taught. The fact that ID is viewed as “the other side” means that their tactic has worked. In our media culture, there is a sense that whenever you talk about a subject, the opposition should get equal time. However, how is ID the only alternative to evolution?

  • http://maxhavok.blogspot.com/ Jason

    I can’t think of an atheist or humanist that thinks that ID should taught at well; any rational person sees that this “teach both sides” or “teach the controversy” garbage is ridiculous religious nonsense.

    Cale: “how did these people become teachers of science?”
    Oh come on, Kent Hovind has been teaching high school science for 15 years with a “PhD”, and judging by all of his videos, he has a good grasp on evol…. evolu…. evol…. damnit, my fingers can’t type sarcasm of that high of a caliber.

  • http://40yearoldatheist.com Mark

    It’s not surprising to me at all that this fight is still going on. Evolution is probably the biggest threat to a fundamentalist world view. Of course they are going to take every opportunity to fight it.

    We need to get over our surprise and find ways to make this go away once and for all from our classrooms.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    On August 13th, 2008 at 9:17 am, Mark Says:

    It’s not surprising to me at all that this fight is still going on. Evolution is probably the biggest threat to a fundamentalist world view.

    Let me correct that last sentence for you:

    Reality is the biggest threat to a fundamentalist world view.

  • Polly

    I don’t think teaching evolution as part of a biology class even needs discussing – it’s obvious. And ID/creationism has absolutely no place whatsoever in a science class.

    Now I’m going to veer off:

    BUT, at the high school level, most of those examples mentioned in the article would have been covered by one of my science teachers as “micro”-evolution.

    Yes, I know there’s no such distinction in real life. My point is that creationists allow for enough variation within species that would cover most practical applications in a science class without ever having to “resort” to evolution.

    I know this is heresy in atheist circles, but I’m not sure it would make much difference, either way, at the HS level. Those interested in science (the few, the weggied) would learn the many-faceted connections on their own without teacher assist. The rest aren’t really paying attention.

    None of this is to say that we shouldn’t fight, tooth and nail, for REAL education in our schools. I’m just pointing out that it probably isn’t the end of science in America if kids don’t get evolution in HS.

    But it wil be if they get indoctrination in ID. ID is proactively ANTI-intellectual.

    The mascot for ID should be a guy throwing up his hands. Or, maybe shrugging.

  • http://www.ehpcreative.com eric perkins

    Hell, I think it was Louisiana that actually banned evolution from the school system. I remember reading that they allow teachers to use “substitute materials” when talking about it. Freaking ridiculous. You said it best, “It’d be nice to have a school year without worrying about how the Christian Right plans to dumb down education in this country.”
    I absolutely agree. This needs to stop.

  • Jordan

    @Bjorn W:
    The Louisiana governor recently signed into state law their “academic freedom” bill, which will allow the teaching of “alternative materials” alongside evolutionary theory. The law will probably be contested in court at some point, but for now, yeah, the wedge tactics are sort of working. On the bright side, they’re several years behind schedule thanks to diligence on the part of freethinkers everytwhere.

  • cipher

    And now onto why we need to teach Creationism…

    People will go to hell without it!

    Damn it – I come here to get away from this shit.


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