Sunday, February 11, 2007

HASTI Speaker Encourages Evolution Education

Each year during the first part of February the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., HASTI, holds its convention in downtown Indianapolis. I attended almost every year, and even presented one year, during my first round as a science teacher back in the 1980s.

During the 14 years or so I was out of teaching, that’s one thing I really missed. So for the past three years, being a science teacher once more, I have been pleased to be able to attend the HASTI convention again.

Science teachers from all grade levels get to hone their skills by picking up materials and ideas from the onslaught of presenters, demonstrations, and keynote speakers. I was particularly impressed with this year’s keynote address presented by Dr. Brian Alters who is regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on evolution education.

He was a key witness for the plaintiffs in the landmark Dover, Pa. Case in 2005 in which a federal judge firmly established that Intelligent Design is not a real science and, therefore, cannot be taught as such in science classes at public schools.

During his presentation he drove home the point that a large percentage of Christians, regardless of their denominations, believe that the earth and life on it were created divinely, even though the official doctrine of most mainstream Christian denominations actually support the teaching of evolution in schools.

For example, if you are a Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Disciple of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jew, Muslim, or a member of the United Church of Christ, regardless of what you or your pastor believe, your church’s official doctrine either actively supports the theory of evolution or does not oppose it or its teaching.

Alters pointed out that the reason a majority of Christians have a problem with evolution is due to the well-funded and well-orchestrated public campaign of the ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Christians, such as most Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Pentecostal churches. Television evangelists are also leading voices in the battle to hide real scientific discovery from the nation’s children.

The real losers, of course, are the children. They have been brainwashed and turned against science because of the negative publicity associated with the topic of evolution.

People wrongly believe that scientists are locked in a debate about the theory. The reality is that, to all but a tiny minority of scientists and researchers, evolution has occurred and is not even open to debate. It is widely accepted and used everyday to make predictions about genetics experiments, fossil finds, and many other scientific endeavors.

The only debate is in the eyes of the public, thanks primarily to news headlines that are just misleading enough to sell newspapers and magazines. But how many people read only the headlines and not the entire articles? Most.

It was amazing to me to find out how well-organized the anti-evolution groups have become over the years. They not only sell millions of books and DVDs, they are building museums and education centers for the express purpose of teaching kids about the evils of evolution.

If students are lucky, they might get a week’s worth of real evolution education sometime during high school. At the same time, many of them are taught from the time they are able to walk that we all came from Adam and Eve and that God created the universe in six days.

They are also taught about Santa Claus, but they stop believing in that myth by the time they’re in the fourth grade or so. Unfortunately, they continue believing the biblical myths forever, or until they are old enough to see through the hype.

Fortunately, there are a few people like Alters who go around the country and encourage science teachers not to be afraid of irate parents or knuckle under to pervasive religious pressures and to do what they are hired to do: teach evolution. Amen.

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