The Associated Press has an article on the report from the National Academy of Sciences emphasizing the importance of teaching evolution. As is all too common these days, the AP opts for a shallow pair of “he-said, she-said” sound bites instead of digging into the actual support each side has to offer.
Josh Rosenau, a spokesman for the California-based National Center for Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution, said the new report is important because the debate over evolution in school is not going away.
Casey Luskin, program officer for the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports teaching students about the criticism of evolution, was critical of the document.
“Students should learn about the evidence for and against evolution,” he said.
I agree with Luskin: students should indeed learn about the evidence. Superstitious attempts to create bias against science, however, are not evidence against evolution.
Evolution is a fact, first of all. John Scalzi visited the Creation Museum–tens of millions of dollars spent trying to convince an unsuspecting public, via glitz and glitter, that evolution was wrong. And he took pictures.
Notice the diagram on the right showing various modern-day mammalian species evolving from common ancestors that were supposedly aboard the ark. New species arising through descent with modification from common ancestors, just like Darwin said. The people who are working the hardest to deny evolution, who are spending tens of millions of dollars trying to persuade people that new species do not arise by descent with modification from common ancestors, the creationists themselves, have to admit that new species arise and have arisen via Darwinian descent with modification from common ancestors.
Creationists have taken to making a distinction between “micro” evolution and “macro” evolution, as though one were possible and the other were not. But even if you make such distinctions, the “micro” evolution still includes the evolution of new species via descent with modifications from common ancestors. And that’s all evolution needs. Some scientists may make a distinction between micro vs. macro, in terms of the rate at which evolutionary changes occur, but that’s not the same distinction as the one creationists are making. And as long as evolution can produce new species out of common ancestors, evolution is still a fact. So there’s two ways in which creationists admit that evolution is true. If evolution didn’t happen, creationists wouldn’t need to create a special label to apply to the kind of evolution which does happen.
And yet, despite the fact that evolution is true, creationists still attempt to deny it. The latest attempt is Intelligent Design, which perpetuates previous creationist attempts at evolution denial even though leading members of the ID movement like Behe and Nelson concede that at least most modern species did arise over millions of years of descent with modifications from common ancestors.
So the evidence we ought to be teaching in public schools is this: evolution is a fact, and people who try to deny it and discredit it are doing so despite knowing that species do arise via descent with modification from common ancestors. That’s the whole truth of the matter, it’s simple enough for high school students to understand, and it tells them everything they really need to know about the “controversy.”
(Photo excerpt used under a Creative Commons license, with thanks to John Scalzi.)