In The New York Times, reporter Amy Harmon wrote about a Florida ruling that requires state schools to teach evolutionary biology. Her lede began with the story of a high school teacher who attempted to instill evolution’s principles into his students:
David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen.
He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.
“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.”
In February, the Florida Department of Education modified its standards to explicitly require, for the first time, the state’s public schools to teach evolution, calling it “the organizing principle of life science.” Spurred in part by legal rulings against school districts seeking to favor religious versions of natural history, over a dozen other states have also given more emphasis in recent years to what has long been the scientific consensus: that all of the diverse life forms on Earth descended from a common ancestor, through a process of mutation and natural selection, over billions of years.
My problem with the story was not Harmon’s presentation of creationism. It accurately summarized creatonism’s tenets and the broader claim that science does not deal in ethics.
No, my problem with Harmon’s story was its presentation of evolution. It posits a scientific consensus on this idea. Is that true? I have my doubts. Three years ago, Michael Powell of The Washington Post wrote a fair minded and balanced story about Phillip Johnson, the father of the intelligent design movement.
Harmon’s story does not address those doubts. Instead, she treats evolutionary theory as a consensus opinion. Her story would have been better had it defined consensus and conceded that evolution is a bit of an article of faith.