The socially conservative base of the Republican party has never been fond of secular education, and Republican presidential candidates are once again courting their socially conservative base by attacking evolution.
This was seen last week at a New Hampshire speaking event when Gov. Rick Perry responded to a child’s question about evolution with a somewhat embarrassing answer.
“It’s a theory that’s out there,” Perry said. “It’s got some gaps in it.”
Unfortunately, Perry is not the only politician making such statements. During the Republican Leadership Conference this June, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) reiterated her support for intelligent design.
“What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide,” she said.
“I think it’s a good idea for a government not to come down on one side of a scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.”
The problem is, there is not reasonable doubt on both sides. The scientific community is overwhelmingly supportive of the theory of evolution. The handful of objecting scientists are clearly of the mad variety.
The gaps that Perry referred to in his answer are the most common criticisms of evolution — alleged gaps in the fossil record. Since so few organisms are likely to leave fossils, much less fully intact ones, some transitional forms have not yet been discovered. Scientists do not expect that fossils will be found of all organisms that have lived on Earth. Evolution is observable in traits over generations and in alleles. There are no gaps in this so-called theory. Evolution is a fact.
Some believe that evolution was a deity’s instrument in creation, but there is no observable scientific evidence that this is the case. Candidates speak of reasonable doubt on both sides, when in actuality there is overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution, and no scientific evidence at all to support divine intervention.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution is fairly explicit about the establishment of a state religion. Thomas Jefferson elaborated on this in a letter written to the Danbury Baptist association in 1802.
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State,” Jefferson wrote.
How may a public institution preferentially treat any specific creation narrative over proven observable science in our schools? To do so would be establishing a national religion.
Asking our schools to teach a specific narrative on our origins would require that all origin narratives be taught. Why would we take class time for such a purpose when US students rank below average in math and science globally?
There are many religious theories about the origins of our planet and the human species. None are backed by scientific evidence. Faith is a deeply personal matter.
If one wishes to teach their child Judeo-Christian creationism, intelligent design, or that we all live on the back of a giant turtle, they are welcome to do so in their home. One does not, however, have the right to demand that their neighbor’s child be taught the same.
To insist that one’s own unverified beliefs are right for everyone is, by definition, bigoted. To maintain that evolution is unproven is willful ignorance in the face of fact.
Bachmann and Perry can hold their breath until the sky turns orange — but that will not make it true.
We do our children a great disservice by teaching them that 2 + 2 doesn’t have to equal 4 if someone yells loud enough that it doesn’t. If our next generation is going to compete globally, we must heed the words of the defense attorney in the infamous Scope’s Monkey Trial.
“We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States,” Clarence Darrow said.
Darrow’s words are as true today as they were in 1925.