Why Your Neighbor Hates Evolution

Lansing Community College had an in-service day today with round-table discussions. Diane and I had volunteered to lead three such sessions, using the topic, “Why Does My Neighbor Hate Evolution?”

The first session had a small group entirely composed of people who saw antievolution as a problem, but the second and third sessions included self-proclaimed creationists or antievolutionists in the groups.

The reason explaining most of the phenomena of the title, Diane and I explained, was commitment to a particular religious doctrine that put it at odds with the findings of evolutionary science and various other disciplines. And within that, most cases are explained by adherence to young-earth creationism, saying that the earth must be 20,000 years old or less.

One of our participants was explicit in preferring a 6,000 age of the earth. That person also told us of a trip made to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky, saying that it was well done, fairly presented both sides, and made a good case for the young earth view. It took some restraint, but I didn’t call this person out directly on the whopper about AiG presenting evolutionary science fairly. After a later Gish Gallop, I made clear that in over twenty years of close examination of antievolution claims, I had yet to encounter one that stood up to scrutiny. I think that was taken badly, the person left the discussion at the first opportunity.

One thing that the first discussion delved into was how science teachers who embrace antievolution could motivate themselves to teach a curriculum including science which they personally doubted. This is a real issue; upwards of 30% of science teachers either teach creationism or would do so if they got the slightest hint from adminstrators that it might be OK to do so. After some discussion about curricula, standards, and accountability of information in the field being taught, the argument that seemed to resonate was that if one believes that the current status of some scientific concept is incorrect, then one still must do one’s best to teach it accurately and completely, the better to prepare students to analyze it and find the problems that one believes must be there. Inaccurate or incomplete presentations will contribute to extending the time an incorrect concept is retained. This argument has the advantage of offering the opportunity for a payoff even to avowed antievolutionist teachers for teaching to the curriculum. Back many years ago when I was casting about for opportunities to teach at the K-12 level, I got a job offer from a private fundamentalist Christian school that wanted someone to teach biology. (Unfortunately, the amount offered would have essentially been a pay cut from the job I had, as it would have entailed significant costs for commuting.) The principal interviewed me, and during that broached the topic of teaching evolution. Once he ascertained that I personally did not have an issue with that, he went on to discuss how he needed to have the students learn the concepts of evolutionary science, but also needed a teacher with discretion who could do so without setting off hordes of angry fundamentalist parents. Even within the ranks of those who see evolutionary science as flawed, there are those with the perspicacity to recognize that accurate and complete education is valuable and necessary. Bringing that recognition to others seems like a good goal.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Why Your Neighbor Hates Evolution

  • 2009/01/11 at 5:56 pm

    I’ve been using the “you really should know the theory you’re criticizing well” line of discussion with creationists during breaks in the Freshwater hearing. In at least one case it appears to be getting through, though others blow it off.

  • 2009/01/12 at 11:59 am

    I think that the argument may be slightly more effective among educators than in the general population.

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