Olivia Judson makes (as usual) a compelling case for teaching evolution in the classroom. It bothers me greatly that this is even an issue, considering how poorly US students do on the world stage in math and science scores--deliberately handicapping them by allowing nonsense like ID and Creationism in the public schools is criminal in my mind.
Judson peppers her column with examples of ongoing evolution, as she often does (one of my favorite parts of her columns).
For instance, we are causing animals to evolve just by hunting them. The North Atlantic cod fishery has caused the evolution of cod that mature smaller and younger than they did 40 years ago. Fishing for grayling in Norwegian lakes has caused a similar pattern in these fish. Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)One state has been taking the lead in making sure that their students are prepared for those challenges--California. The University of California upset some religious types a few years ago when they told "Christian" schools that they wouldn't accept course credit in history and biology if they used textbooks that declared the Bible infallible and rejected evolution. Those folks sued, claiming religious discrimination. Well, yesterday, a federal judge told them to get bent.
Conversely, hunting animals to extinction may cause evolution in their former prey species. Experiments on guppies have shown that, without predators, these fish evolve more brightly colored scales, mature later, bunch together in shoals less and lose their ability to suddenly swim away from something. Such changes can happen in fewer than five generations. If you then reintroduce some predators, the population typically goes extinct.
Thus, a failure to consider the evolution of other species may result in a failure of our efforts to preserve them. And, perhaps, to preserve ourselves from diseases, pests and food shortages. In short, evolution is far from being a remote and abstract subject. A failure to teach it may leave us unprepared for the challenges ahead.
Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.The article goes on to mention that the UC system accepts credits from some schools that use texts that include "scientific discussions of creationism as well as evolution"--whatever the hell that is. How do you have a scientific discussion of a myth? Beats me.
Otero's ruling Friday, which focused on specific courses and texts, followed his decision in March that found no anti-religious bias in the university's system of reviewing high school classes. Now that the lawsuit has been dismissed, a group of Christian schools has appealed Otero's rulings to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
But it also beats the hell out of the claim by the plaintiffs that the UC system automatically refuses to give credit for any class that mentions something other than evolution. The UC system is wimping out a little here, I think, but they know what they're up against, and at least they're taking a stand--a stand against this kind of nonsense, mind you.
For example, in Friday's ruling, he upheld the university's rejection of a history course called Christianity's Influence on America. According to a UC professor on the course review committee, the primary text, published by Bob Jones University, "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events" and evaluates historical figures based on their religious motivations.Who are you going to believe? A collection of myths and fables that's a couple of thousand years old, that's been erratically copied and translated and was written exclusively by men in a male-dominated society, or your lying eyes? Forget all that observable evolution nonsense--that's just the Devil trying to fool you with facts.
Another rejected text, "Biology for Christian Schools," declares on the first page that "if (scientific) conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong," Otero said.
If it seems like I'm mocking these people, be assured, I am.
I'm not suggesting that these schools ought to be required to change their curricula--if they want to cripple their kids' educations and make them unsuitable for college outside Regents or Liberty or Bob Jones University, that's their business. I think they're doing their kids no favors, but I also think that parents who smoke around their kids are damaging them, and I'm not calling for a ban on that either. And these kids can, once they are adults, challenge their beliefs the way I did. It's never too late to begin to understand evolution (as opposed to believing in it).
But the university has a job to do, and part of that job includes weeding out those people aren't prepared. Kids who are being taught that if scientific conclusions clash with the Bible, the conclusions are wrong aren't prepared for a secular college education.
I feel for the kids. It's not their fault that their parents have allowed this to happen. And there's an argument to be made that these kids would benefit from being exposed to a different viewpoint. And if the university system had unlimited resources, I'd be all for letting them in. But it doesn't, and so the universities have to pick and choose--the most prepared get in, and those kids aren't prepared.