Too many teachers reject or ignore evolution

Something needs to be done about teachers who simply refuse to educate kids.

We're not talking the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric of the news media and Republican officials. We're talking about science teachers who refuse to teach science, specifically the scientific fact of evolution.

These problem teachers - who openly flout the law - aren't discussed by Fox News or right-wing politicians.

According to a recent article in Science magazine, by Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer, thousands of people employed as science teachers across the country actually teach their students "creation" myths - even though 40 years of court rulings have consistently upheld the principle that all kids deserve a real, scientific education. And, according to the courts, that doesn't mean creation myths, intelligent design "theories" or anything else but evolution.

Other mis-teachers teach intelligent design as a co-equal theory with evolution. Some other teachers, out of fear of controversy, simply avoid the subject altogether.

The teachers who teach real science deserve applause. Unfortunately, that means applauding only the 28 percent of biology teachers who, according to the article, "consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council. They unabashedly introduce evidence that evolution has occurred and craft lesson plans so that evolution is a theme that unifies disparate topics in biology."

An astounding 13 percent of teachers explicitly advocate intelligent design, the article says, and another 5 percent say they endorse that non-scientific notion when answering student questions. And they apparently have few qualms about it. According to the article, "29 percent of all other teachers report having been 'nervous at an open house event or meeting with parents'" about the subject, while the corresponding figure for creationists, or creationists in disguise - the supporters of "intelligent design" - is only 19 percent.

Then there are the "cautious" teachers, as the report calls them. These educators, who make up about 60 percent of the whole, do the best they can to skirt the issue. Some teach only molecular biology, others make a point of noting that they only teach evolution because the state requires it, and others expose students to both science and the variety of "competing theories."

As Berkman and Plutzer point out, these methods, especially the "competing theories" one, undermine real scientific understanding of the reason for the diversity of species and can also lead some students to believe in creationist thought. This means that a total of nearly 75 percent of biology teachers either specifically teach non-science or shy away from the subject of evolution and development of species.

The authors quote a teacher who says he wants students to make up their minds "based on their own beliefs and research. Not on what a textbook or on what a teacher says." While this sounds nice, Berkman and Plutzer point out the obvious: Can a student really be expected to possess "enough information to reject thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers?"

This lack of teaching of real science - either because of intimidation or because of creationist subversion of court rulings - hurts students overall. How can they be expected to understand the scientific method if they aren't taught it? Especially given that for about a quarter of all high school students, these biology classes are the only science classes they ever take?

Why should anyone care? The study's authors respond that when many young people are not provided "a sound science education," it is "problematic in a democracy dependent on meaningful citizen input on highly technical, but consequential, public policies."

Further, as the study points out, this illegal teaching helps to reproduce a socially reactionary culture. The authors say, "We ranked school districts from least to most socially conservative, and in the 15 percent most socially conservative school districts, nearly 4 in 10 teachers personally do not accept human evolution ... The next generation of adults is thus predisposed to share the anti-evolution views" of the preceding generation.

This hurts democracy and progress. Evolution is accepted by most major religious groups in our country: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic. Strengthening the anti-evolution camp strengthens the smattering of anti-evolution religious groups and extremist evangelicals, who also support the most backwards elements in national politics. These are also the same groups who will fight to keep "intelligent design" in the classroom.

The fight for real science education is the law of the land, as determined repeatedly by various court decisions. More importantly it is the fight for democracy and progress.

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  • to Human Ape: The Pope, Arch Bishop of Canterbury (Anglican church), and many other leaders of major (non evangelical) religions have stated that evolution is a fact. This proves that Catholics who refute evolution on religious bases do not know their own religion.

    To Mister K: many theories have been created for the origin of the universe (some have a higher power, some use physics, some use philosophy), after that, gravity comes into play and creates the planets, stars, black holes, wormholes, and other cool stuff in space. Then, multiple theories describe how life originated on the planet. however, all theories to be taken even the least bit seriously use natural selection and agree that there were dinosaurs. (there aren't any in either the first or second biblical creation myths)

    Posted by John, 07/27/2011 9:56pm (5 years ago)

  • I had a Jehovah Witness science teacher once, I'm kidding you not. Woman couldn't tell the difference between gravity and air resistance. That's what she taught us and that's how bad it can be.

    Posted by H., 06/25/2011 2:43pm (5 years ago)

  • "Human knowledge is the only sacred thing in out there. Our knowledge and mastery of technology is the ONLY thing that has allowed our species to survive its (relatively) short stay on this planet. We need to give proper due to our reason, logic, and creativity instead of any number of imaginary space magicians."

    Isn't it ironic then that it's our 'sacred' 'mastery of technology' that's going to destroy our planet and all the other species on it too. Some mastery!

    Posted by Joeline, 03/09/2011 4:57pm (5 years ago)

  • It is precisely the kind of BS that these teachers are throwing around that added considerable weight to my decision to leave religion behind me.

    When you have to lie, prevaricate, or delude yourself in order to maintain a belief... I simply don't have time to listen to your point of view. It is de facto flawed, and therefor an invalid basis up which I should live my life.

    If your faith cannot withstand facts in evidence - I really feel no pity for you, and you need to stay out of the way.

    Human knowledge is the only sacred thing in out there. Our knowledge and mastery of technology is the ONLY thing that has allowed our species to survive its (relatively) short stay on this planet. We need to give proper due to our reason, logic, and creativity instead of any number of imaginary space magicians.

    Posted by Forrest, 02/24/2011 5:09pm (5 years ago)

  • You wouldn't say that man's domestication of canines and the creation of a separate species (dogs) is not observable? I think that "observable" is a pretty generous term and doesn't necessarily mean that one single person witnesses it within their lifetime with their very own eyeballs.

    Posted by Jose Jacobo, 02/14/2011 2:49pm (5 years ago)

  • Oh oh! You printed my comments! I wasn't expecting you to do that. I apologize for the hasty remarks.

    Posted by Mister.K., 02/13/2011 5:06pm (5 years ago)

  • Who said evolution is "observable"? Are you guys out of your mind or are you intentionally deceiving yourself?

    Evolution by definition happens over a period of time, sometimes millions of years. By looking at a fossil here and a fossil there, you can't seriously claim that it is an observable phenomenon.

    And it is absolutely not demonstrable.

    Which makes it: not observable and not demonstrable.

    I don't expect you to print these comments but the least I expect is that you lose sleep considering you are not being honest about listening to all sides of a debate.

    Posted by Mister.K., 02/12/2011 9:09pm (5 years ago)

  • Evolution is not science. At best it is a philosophy mainly driven by the select opinions of a powerful few, who are rich and/or well placed in the academic and political circles, and at worst it is atheistic propaganda.

    In any case, a vote against evolution is not a vote for creationism. As soon as a person points out the ridiculous flaws inherent to the "Theory" of evolution, someone from the Darwinist camp immediately pounces on him/her and yells "Creationist!!!", like it is a crime to be a creationist in the first place.

    Unless we completely understand how this universe came into being, without a shred of doubt, we need to continually explore all angles, leaving no stone unturned. We can't accept bull twaddle wrapped up as science and that goes for any theory, including creationism and evolution.

    Keep an open mind. Don't jump to conclusions and formulate "theories", "laws" and "facts" just to gain a little name and fame. You are doing the future generations a big disservice if you do so. Not to mention, being intellectually dishonest.

    There are hundreds of great sites that show how seriously flawed the "theory" of evolution is. For instance, Google for "science against evolution" and see what I am talking about.

    Posted by Mister.K., 02/12/2011 9:04pm (5 years ago)

  • "Evolution is accepted by most major religious groups in our country: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic."

    I don't think so. For example, when Muslims throw out magical creationism they usually throw out Islam with it.

    In America there's millions of evolution deniers and they're all Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims. Apparently they didn't get your memo.

    The Christians who accept evolution virtually always pollute it with supernatural magic.

    "The fight for real science education" has to include a fight against the religious indoctrination that makes it impossible for students to think.

    darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

    Posted by Human Ape, 02/12/2011 4:01pm (5 years ago)

  • This is a very disturbing article to me both as the parent of a ten-year old who needs to be learning and understanding science and as a believing and practicing Christian concerned over the complete distortion of genuine Christian belief that is behind this "creationist" and "intelligent design" nonsense. It would be out of place to go into the question here, but suffice it to say that this "creationist" ideology is not only bad science but absurdly bad theology and, among other things, a completely cockeyed view of what the Bible really says (and I have a Ph.D. in religion and bible, by the way). This shows the effect of an ideological power grab by the extreme right that every rational person of any political or religious persuasion should fight. I'm going to renew my membership in the National Center for Science Education ( and I urge others to do the same.

    Posted by Hank Millstein, 02/11/2011 1:30pm (5 years ago)

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