August 28, 2012

Devolution: While the rest of America moves on, Kentucky continues to debate evolution versus intelligent design

Cartoon illustration by Michael Layman/The Louisville Cardinal

By Aaron Williams–

The Kentucky Grand Ole’ Party made headlines a few weeks ago when they, particularly Representative Ben Waide and Senators David Givens and Mike Wilson, expressed outrage that high school biology exams would test Kentucky students’ basic understanding of the theory of evolution.

The “controversial” test material comes as a result of a Republican state legislature vote in 2009 to hold the state of Kentucky’s testing system for high school students accountable with national education standards, primarily for ACT scoring purposes.

Representative Waide of Madisonville, KY contends that there is no scientific evidence to support evolution as fact. Mr. Waide might be surprised to learn that scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Anthropological Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Chemical Society all support the teaching of evolution as scientific fact, and consider it more scientifically credible than creationism or intelligent design.

In a statement on evolution and creationism, the American Anthropological Association explains, “As is the case with other scholars, our goals in teaching evolution are to instruct, not to indoctrinate. Anthropologists seek to inculcate a critical understanding of how scientists and other scholars think and work, so that our students will be able to employ anthropological reasoning and methods in their own thinking and research. All students, regardless of religious belief, as a matter of scientific literacy should understand basic principles of anthropology and other sciences relevant to evolution.”

A few years back, National Geographic Magazine ran a cover story entitled, “Was Darwin Wrong?” The conclusion was the very first sentence of the article, “No. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.”

The evolution-creationism non-debate continues to rage in our society as if creationists and proponents of intelligent design had objective, peer-reviewed and scientifically tested evidence to support their claims as scientific truth. They do not. If creationists or proponents of intelligent design had evidence, that had withstood scrutiny, proving Genesis 1:1 other than Genesis 1:1, they would be parading it down streets and in lecture halls across America’s universities.

They do not. Instead they, like Kentucky’s lawmakers, insist that evolution is “only a theory,” apparently ignorant that gravity is also “only a theory.” Somehow I don’t imagine the state legislature worries about floating off the face of the Earth on a daily basis.

Claims like Waide’s that evolution is something that Darwin made up and has never stood up to scientific scrutiny are simply embarrassing to Kentuckians who think rationally about the world and their place in it. It is another blow in a series of black eyes for the bluegrass state, the home of the Creation Museum and Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ministry that claims the Earth is merely 6,000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Ham’s next project is a massive 500-foot by 75-foot replica of Noah’s Ark that is receiving $43 million dollar tax break under Democratic governor Steve BeShear. That same budget cut $50 million from K-12 school funding, according to a Kentucky.com article. The Ark tourist attraction is reported to feature humans riding large dinosaurs on saddleback.

If we want Kentucky students to excel in their college classrooms and represent our state nationally, they must be prepared. Part of that preparation is the teaching of evolution, the basis of all modern biology. Outcries that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in a public school are only fair and valid if we then concede that all religious beliefs about universal origins should be taught in school. Of course we all know that the same people advocating creationism teaching in public schools would be horrified if their child were subjected to Hindu or Muslim creation stories. Judeo-Christian creationism is the only form of creationism that evangelicals want taught.

Religious beliefs are an important part of many people’s culture and there is a time and a place for them. That place, however, is not the classroom. Public school is not Sunday school. If we want our state to stop being the brunt of so many national jokes and stereotypes, Kentucky lawmakers need to let church and state remain separate. Let the preachers preach and let the teachers teach.

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *