Devil's Advocate in the Evolution Wars

Devil's Advocate in the Evolution Wars September 3, 2011

There’s a new blog wading into the evolution wars, the aptly named I Love You but You’re Going to Hell. The author is a history professor at SUNY Binghamton who focuses on American education, so he’s well positioned to talk about how the evolution debate has played out in the classroom.

The goal of the blog appears to be playing double devil’s advocate, trying to explain both sides to each other. While he is an evolutionist, as an educator he’s dealt with both camps.

The pro-evolution stuff we already know, but the underpinnings of the creationist stuff could be interesting. In his first post about creationism he talks about how the shift in American education after the Sputnik scare brought the teaching of evolution more strongly into the classroom through new textbooks.

And why should we care about textbooks? Because this shift from textbooks that usually downplayed evolutionary ideas to textbooks that made evolutionary thinking one of their guiding principles was the most obvious educational marker of the breakdown in moral values that plagued America in the late twentieth century. It doesn’t take any conspiratorial thinking to notice the correlation between the increase in evolutionary education and the utter collapse of public morality.

If you’re like me, a part of your brain is screaming “correlation does not equal causation,” but that’s beside the point. The point is that this is an article of faith among millions of Americans. You can show that there never really was a golden age of public morality, that the radical 60s were caused by other factors or that the change was not that great, but none of that will have any impact. The belief that evolution causes the downfall of society will remain.

One of the reasons that creationists will cheerfully spout bad scientific arguments is that science really isn’t the point. But then how do you get around the science had have a discussion about the underlying problem? And how do you convince them that the teaching of evolution in the classroom is not the reason that kids are so uppity these days?

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