Evolutionary Biology Major Dropped From DOE Approved List

The New York Times is reporting that the evolutionary biology major has been dropped from the U.S. Department of Education’s list of eligible majors for educational grants. So if you’re a low-income student applying for a Pell or other federal grant and you want to study evolutionary biology, the feds won’t pay for it. When contacted, a Department of Education spokesperson claimed that it was a “clerical error” and would be fixed right away. That was last Tuesday. I just checked out the official list (online PDF here) and there’s just a blank line at sub section 26.1303 where the major is supposed to be. The Times quoted Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University, who said: “Removing that one major is not going to make the nation stupid, but if this really was removed, specifically removed, then I see it as part of a pattern to put ideology over knowledge.” A new dark ages?

Update 9/1/2006: Kudos to the Department of Education for adding it back in…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09654032586064853495 Sheldon

    When I first saw this yesterday, I thought it was a possible hoax despite the story having referenced “the newspaper of record” i.e. NYT.

    And I am still suspicious. Are there actually undergraduate degree programs titled “Evolutionary Biology”. I suspect most BA degree programs are simply called “Biology”, although I could be wrong. Graduate programs are probably the exception, and I don’t think Pell grants are applicable to graduate school.

    Does the list of approved DOE degree programs have that level of specifity? Even if the DOE took the specific phrase “Evolutionary Biology” off its approved degree list, I can’t imagine any situation where somebody would be denied a Pell grant, because “Evolutionary Biology” would still be subsumed under the category “Biology”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    There actually are such programs. For example, at the University of Arizona there is an undergraduate major in ecology and evolutionary biology, which is distinct from a major in general biology.

    The list of degree programs is indeed that specific–I included a link to the DoE list in the summary at my blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09654032586064853495 Sheldon

    Jim,
    Thanks, I stand corrected. Although I didn’t go to the DOE list, I did finally go to the NYT article, (it didn’t work the first time), and I made my comment beforehand. After reading the article the story rings more true.

    It just seemed unreal that even a DOE bureaucrat or Bush appointee would go to such lengths to deny the validity of a degree in evolutionary biology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07061204821079275014 nosetotale

    If you prevent cloning, you sustain evolution. It appears that the dog has it’s own tail, firmly in it’s unyeilding jaws.


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