There’s a great article by Amy Harmon in The New York Times today about trying to teach evolution to students, many of whom have been raised to believe in Creationism.
Here’s a typical conversation between teacher David Campbell and Christian student Bryce Haas:
The morning after [Campbell’s] Mickey Mouse gambit, he bounced a pink rubber Spalding ball on the classroom’s hard linoleum floor.
“Gravity,” he said. “I can do this until the end of the semester, and I can only assume that it will work the same way each time.”
He looked around the room. “Bryce, what is it called when natural laws are suspended — what do you call it when water changes into wine?”
“Miracle?” Bryce supplied.
Mr. Campbell nodded. The ball hit the floor again.
“Science explores nature by testing and gathering data,” he said. “It can’t tell you what’s right and wrong. It doesn’t address ethics. But it is not anti-religion. Science and religion just ask different questions.”
He grabbed the ball and held it still.
“Can anybody think of a question science can’t answer?”
“Is there a God?” shot back a boy near the window.
“Good,” said Mr. Campbell, an Anglican who attends church most Sundays. “Can’t test it. Can’t prove it, can’t disprove it. It’s not a question for science.”
Bryce raised his hand.
“But there is scientific proof that there is a God,” he said. “Over in Turkey there’s a piece of wood from Noah’s ark that came out of a glacier.”Mr. Campbell chose his words carefully.
“If I could prove, tomorrow, that that chunk of wood is not from the ark, is not even 500 years old and not even from the right kind of tree — would that damage your religious faith at all?”
Bryce thought for a moment.
“No,” he said.
The room was unusually quiet.
“Faith is not based on science,” Mr. Campbell said. “And science is not based on faith. I don’t expect you to ‘believe’ the scientific explanation of evolution that we’re going to talk about over the next few weeks.”
“But I do,” he added, “expect you to understand it.”
The last question on the test Mr. Campbell passed out a week later asked students to explain two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection.
“I refuse to answer,” Bryce wrote. “I don’t believe in this.”
The last section of the piece, by the way, is fantastic.
What really stands out is how well this science teacher understands evolution. He doesn’t shy away from students’ questions. He knows his stuff.
The problem isn’t always students who are taught to oppose what their science teachers teach. Often, it’s that the teachers are unwilling or unable to teach the material in the first place.
If the teachers know what they’re talking about, it makes it much more difficult for students to find any rational reason to oppose them.
The way to combat ignorance is to just face it head on.