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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Teaching Evolution in Public Schools

By August 16, 2012

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There are a lot of Christians out there who object to the teaching of evolution in public schools. They want the subject removed from school science texts because they believe that the subject undermines True Christianity. Other believers argue that there is no conflict between religion and evolution, so it should be taught. Few if any secularists think that the presence or absence of conflict with religion is relevant -- so long as it's science, it belongs in science classes.

Quite a few people fall for the "teach both sides" argument because it has the superficial sound of fairness about it. If there is disagreement, why not tell kids about both positions and let them make their own minds up. This might make sense if the disagreement in question were a matter of legitimate scientific debate, but there are no scientific grounds for disputing evolution -- there are only scientific disagreements about some of the details.

William Jennings Bryan At Scopes Trial
William Jennings Bryan At Scopes Trial
Photo: Hulton/Getty

It is also questionable how many kids would really be in a position to seriously weigh both sides and come to a sober, objective conclusion. It's far more likely that creationist parents would use the situation to further impress upon their children an anti-science and anti-rationalist perspective which fits with traditional superstition, but which is incompatible with modernity. Even worse, encouraging such ignorance and anti-intellectualism is touted as a "family value" in some circles.

June 5, 2008 at 10:50 am
(1) Tamar says:

Is there any proof of creationism? No, a book that was written thousands of years ago by our ancestors (some of which, worshiped the sun, sacrificed their children, believed the earth was flat etc etc) cannot be used as proof.

Is there proof of evolution, or even the idea that things evolve? Well, even if only personally, yes. Reading this article has continued to hardwire different portions of my brain. My reaction to certain social situations allows me to evolve socially. Experiments have been done that show species changing due to being introduced to a new locale.

Does the fact that (when you actually open your mind and take the time to reflect) you can see how you have evolved mean that there is no God and that there is no “creator” who started it all? No.

This is what I don’t understand. To me, evolution (at least as an explanation for how species can change, how we can continue to exist by making adjustments to ourselves as creatures) is a no-brainer. This is so easy to see as a concept, socially in humans, that I cannot understand why people rail against it.

I know that when I was growing up, we weren’t even allowed to learn about it. We were (more than just) encouraged to give it no thought.

How can you say it can’t be taught if you don’t even know what the theory really means?

Why stunt your child by not allowing them to see all the ideas that people have about how we got here?

Take some time each day to find out what your child is learning and use that time to help them sharpen their powers of reason.

Why stand against easily demonstrated “facts” like a troglodyte? Move forward and learn to think, learn to assimilate new ideas and at least try them on to see if you believe them before you reject them and restrict children from access to it. How egotistical, to not give a person the education to make decisions for themself.

June 5, 2008 at 3:59 pm
(2) Agersomnia says:

I don’t understand the big issue with people at the US…

Here we might look like an under-developed country, but nobody rejects evolution at schools, people don’t accuse and fire teachers for “wizardry”, and a gift diploma from an imaginary school called Hogwarts wouldn’t be considered religious propaganda.

Einstein said that the power in the hands of stupid people is fearsome, but that stupidity is what keeps the power from being used in the up to its best, and that helps the world from being overrun by the powerful.

Then I see that the world worried about the US goverment and how the power is in the hands of seriously ambitious and mentally handicaped men. What keeps the world at ease is also that the same stupidity keeps getting in the way of their ambitions.

June 6, 2008 at 12:22 am
(3) Mike1701 says:

If you include Judeo/Christian creationism as viable science, then you must include Flying Spaghetti Monsterism as well.

June 6, 2008 at 2:27 pm
(4) Darwin Finch says:

I’m genuinely shocked at the results of this poll… scary.

June 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm
(5) JJ says:

The results of the poll were horrifying. Soon we’ll hanging people for witchcraft or something.

Oh yeah, we did do that!

June 7, 2008 at 5:00 am
(6) Absinthe says:

Austin, it would be nice if the choices in some of the polls you offer weren’t so specific, or if there were more options. For example, someone might want to vote “no” in this poll for a reason other than that evolution “is just a theory and should not be pushed on impressionable children.”

June 7, 2008 at 8:10 am
(7) Austin Cline says:


I appreciate the problem, but given the limited number of slots I have to work with, I felt it was better to stick to just the most likely/popular options that I can think of. If people have other responses – and I assume they will – I hope that they will take the time to explain their perspective in the comments.

So, in a sense, you are encouraged to complain about the limited choices and tell me what you would have chosen if it had been there!

Also, in response to your other comment about editing: I don’t have any control over that. I’m not even sure if the software used by About.com allows for editing.

June 7, 2008 at 9:16 am
(8) MAS2007 says:

Austin you should consider a poll on
health care worker training.
Should Medical practitioners be trained in science?

Yes, it is the basis of modern medicine.

Yes, but only if information about miracles and faith healing are also included.

No, science is just theories and should not be pushed on impressionable medical students.

Secondary question which Doctor would you pay to be seen by?
Would be interesting to see how poll results turn out.

Poll results seem to indicate some evolving is still needed i.e. 51%

June 8, 2008 at 2:54 pm
(9) Alžběta says:

In elementary school we were taught just evolution. By middle school, the teacher spent most of the time explaining evolution, and summed up creationism in a single sentence. But I guess that’s just Czech Republic for you, the atheists are a majority over here…

August 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm
(10) Sunshine Bob says:

Alžběta , teaching evolution and not creationism has nothing to do with a majority being atheist. Evolution is a SCIENTIFIC theory, creationism has absolutely nothing but faith in an ancient book supporting it.
In other words, creationism has nothing to do with science and belongs in religious studies, not biology

It a shame that the people voting “No – it is just a theory and should not be pushed on impressionable children.”, have no understanding of what a scientific theory is.

August 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm
(11) Matthew says:

Let’s teach both astronomy and astrology.

August 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm
(12) Sarah says:

Those poll results are BEYOND frightening!!! And this poll is being conducted on an atheist site (where many Xtians fear to tread, as many of them seem to think “the atheism” is contagious) – can you imagine the results if you stood outside your local supermarket and asked people the same questions?!

For the record, I’m a legally ordained Wiccan Priestess – I believe in a Creator, based on my own subjective, non-scientific experiences. I do NOT claim to KNOW that a Creator exists. My personal beliefs are good enough for me, and should have no bearing on anyone else. Wiccan belief doesn’t belong in politics, anyone else’s bedroom, nor the public square in an attempt to control others through shame. (Which is what public displays of religious beliefs are really about, Imho.) And I certainly don’t want ANY of our myths taught in science classes. While our myths may give us that “warm fuzzy feeling”, those myths are not going to help advance technology, medical science, nor our understanding of how the world actually works. We call them “myths”, “stories”, and “lore” because they are NOT facts, nor answers!


August 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm
(13) Sarah says:

I am sick to death of Xtian myths being mislabeled as facts. I’m sick of Xtians trying to force their myths on everyone else, and when we refuse to “accept” the myths, being told (rather condescendingly) how “sorry” they feel for us, and how they’ll “pray” for us. I’m sick of Xtians (and all “people of the book”) making the rest of us who believe in the possibility of a Creator look like idiots, as they go around claiming to KNOW one exists – one that is petty, bigoted, insecure, and downright immoral, at that! And I’m sick of these same fools claiming that there cannot be morality without a God. What a frightening thing to say! I mean, are they actually admitting that if science were to prove that a Creator does not exist, they would go on a rampaging, raping, and pillaging spree? That the only thing keeping them from harming others is their “fear of Jesus”?

If these Xtians want Creationism taught as a theory, then let’s have ALL creation myths taught as theories. We’ll have to extend the school day by at least 2 hours, as we Pagans have quite a few creation myths. And we’d have to include every other religion’s creation myths. Which would leave about 10 minutes per school year dedicated to the Xtian creation story, and would plunge the US educational system to right around the level of Mali’s – or maybe Ethiopia’s, if we want to be optimistic.

August 18, 2012 at 1:10 am
(14) Cousin Ricky says:

Those who say, “it’s just a theory,” reveal an ignorance of science so fundamental (no pun intended) that they are unqualified to say what should be included in science class.

August 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm
(15) vee moss says:

first of all, creation or evolution is science. Science is simply knowledge. In this case it is the knowledge of nature which is referred to as creation or evolution. However we see creation everyday, not creation. So why do we just teach science or teach both as a theory.
Anyway both science and philosphy begins with the basic question most children ask their parents,” How did we get here?” And as adults we ask.”why are we here?” Science is the product our curiosity. and philosphy is an expansion. Awarness, observation, studying equals theory, creation and evolution . The Bible says to asks creation Job 12:7-9). we ask creation through science. Darwin as the birds and came up with evolution.
Awareness: ECC 3:10-11
Observation: Romans 1:18-20
Studying : Job 12:7-9

August 21, 2012 at 6:05 am
(16) Austin Cline says:

first of all, creation or evolution is science. Science is simply knowledge.

No, it’s not. Modern science is the study of the world around us with the use of particular tools and methods.

So why do we just teach science or teach both as a theory.

Because evolution is science; creationism is religion.

August 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm
(17) OZAtheist says:

Nice rant Sarah, you really got that off your chest. Mind you I agree with all you have said – apart from your Wiccan beliefs of course. As long as you keep these beliefs to yourself I have no issue with it however. I assume you are careful when you are out and about, and don’t fly to low on that broomstick of yours.

Here in the land of OZ where church going, Bible thumping, Christians are rather thin on the ground, there is another group that I find irritating. They are the self depreciating ones who consider themselves not as good as the church goers, and define themselves as belonging to the church they were originally baptized in. They get married, and buried by the church, and display excessive deference when in the presence of a preacher on these occasions – apologizing for their lack of routine attendance. I feel pity, and a little contempt, for these weak people, who have so little going on between their ears.

August 19, 2012 at 10:43 am
(18) Rosie3 says:

Creationist view of how life came about on earth is entirely based on religious belief in their bible. Let them teach their views in their SUNDAY Schools. The bible and its myths do not belong in mainstream education as it provide no platform to build one’s knowledge. It is a closed and finite system which does not allow for additon of new facts which contradict the bible as a whole. If creationist insist on it being taught in mainstream schools, then it belongs in the literature classes along with other works of fiction and pagan myths.

August 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm
(19) God Isn't says:

Because of Missouri’s new “right to pray” law, students are going to be allowed to opt out of lessons and assignments that “violate” their religious beliefs. I can just see some kids opting out of math class on the day that pi is covered.

August 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm
(20) Borsia says:

Obviously we have a lot of xtian infiltrators trying to skew today’s poll.
I’m sure there are many who follow the forum and vote when they see a chance to make their side look better.

My first problem is the statements that evolution is a theory rather than a fact. Granted that the entire chain from complex animals, such as ourselves, down to algae hold many points of theory. But in many areas, such as those that Darwin first saw with birds, tortoises and a huge number of other animals, evolution is proven fact.

The day creationists can show a proven fact rather than mythological fancy they will have a point to argue for inclusion in public education. Until then they are just fables and have no place in education.

On the surface I have no problem with classes about religion, what it is how it came to be the various incantations etc. But when I was in school we had just such a class.
The teacher, however, was xtian and what he tried to teach was that xtian religions are somehow based in reality and fact while all the others are just misguided fallacies with false gods etc.
It wasn’t long before the bible showed up on his desk and it’s fables started entering the curriculum stated as facts, with nothing from any other religion.
In no time at all the bible somehow became a legitimate history book.
I of course started shooting down each of his myths and as one might expect received a D- for the class. I went to the Dean & Principal and filed a complaint demanding that the class be removed from the school and that the teacher be reprimanded. My grade was changed to a B and nothing else changed.
The bottom line is that since xtians aren’t capable of teaching an unbiased class about the concepts of religion without injecting their faith the classes shouldn’t be allowed.

August 21, 2012 at 5:07 am
(21) Grandpa In The East says:

Yeah, Cuz.

The 28% only attended school. They never learned to think. They never learned to learn.

They should forfeit their deplomas if they received them.


August 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm
(22) Sarah says:

@ OZAtheist: Yes, I am extremely careful when I am “out and about”. If you saw me, you’d never know I held “non-mainstream” beliefs. My family and Coven are both eclectic, unlike some Wiccans who follow set “rules” based on their traditions, sometimes to the point of absurdity. I once had a Gardnerian tell me (rather heatedly) that “NO! The blue candle goes THERE!” – which is when I walked out. If a Creator exists, I don’t think It cares where the blue candle is placed…or if a candle is even present.

I usually don’t mention my beliefs online, (I get mistaken for an atheist all the time, which is fine by me) but here, I don’t want to feel I’m “lying by omission”. I hold too much respect for Austin, and this newsletter/forum in general, to do that. As for proselytizing, not only is that forbidden, it serves no function. A Creator that would reject a non-believer is nothing short of evil, for reasons too numerous to list.

I became legally ordained so I could perform legally binding marriages for same-sex couples of any faith, as there are many clerics who refuse to do so. And I pretty much just use my broomstick to sweep the kitchen floor before mopping :)

The only thing I ask of atheists is should the religious right come into power, and you see a short woman tied to a stake in the middle of a fire, you think, “Oh, that’s a Wiccan; someone with no interest in “saving/converting” me, but enjoys sharing copious amounts of food and beer at any holiday she feels like celebrating.” and untie me. Quickly.

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