by Diann

"If evolution is true, then it has nothing to fear from some other theory being taught."
Tennessee State Senator David Fowler

I don't know which political party the gentleman in question belongs to -- it probably doesn't matter as neither party has a lip-lock on comments such as this -- but I hope he is able to carry his scientific acumen forward with my proposal to mandate the teaching of the Flat Earth theory of Geography in public schools on the same principle.

However, Senator Fowler was not able to get the proposal to mandate the teaching of Creationism in biology classes through the legislature of Tennessee, at least not this time, although the vote was close. Nor was he able to keep Evolution from being taught. Which is a shame, because I was all set to go with a Public Service Web Page ("tennessee.html") at no charge, elucidating a selection of Creation theories from around the world for Tennessee biology teachers to draw upon. The Hopi, for instance, have a very elaborate Creation history involving four successive worlds. For the Bushmen, the sun's shining was made possible by throwing him up into the sky. Originally, he'd been just a man, a man with a bright fiery armpit. One can go on. Science classrooms need the full gamut of Creation Theories for effective functioning.

While I was about it, I would have included my favorite geography theory -- the world is balanced on the back of four elephants, which are standing on the shell of an enormous turtle. And the turtle? It's standing on yet another turtle. Indeed, as the story goes, "It's turtles all the way down."

Most cultures and religions have their own Creation stories, and hard core scientific investigation needs to be done on all of them. Who better than politicians to formulate the outline and the direction of such scientific inquiries? It's not like they have much else to do. They're not capable of fixing the economy, because we all know that if you take a hundred economists and put them in a line, they'd all point in different directions. The same seems to be true for politicians, which is why we voters want to keep them away from the economy, which is fragile enough as it stands.

Of course, if we set biology teachers to exploring and teaching all sorts of Creation theories, this takes time. However, in the interest of political expediency and the like, does it really matter, say, if teachers have to cut short lectures on the Germ Theory of Disease in order to fit in teachings on Evolution (as theory) and the various Creationisms? We could settle on one "representative" Creationism theory, but which one is truly representative? Is it the one which the most people in a given area believe in? Can Truth be assayed by the numbers of its believers, especially since most of those adherents have less grounding in scientific method than, say, Senator Fowler? Most people believe antibiotics will cure viral infections, too. Which reminds me there's a whole list of medical theories going back to leeches and bloodletting, and even arsenic that we could teach and use, because current medical thought should have nothing to fear from those theories.

Don't get me wrong -- I dealt very well with a history teacher in a Catholic grade school who said to the class, "I don't know about you, but I ain't no monkey." I suspect one of the reasons I'm a scientist today has to do with the state of science teaching in Catholic schools when I was a child -- essentially non-existent. Once a week they trucked in a science teacher, unwrapped him, and let him play with us for an hour at a time before trucking him out again. Science, unlike other potential career opportunities, didn't get drummed out of my head through overexposure. Indeed, I consider myself lucky that I learned to read before I ever stepped into a classroom. (Lest one think I am ragging on Catholic schools, please note that the public school I briefly attended wasn't any better, but at least I left there before they could do science in on me.)

And so, when this history teacher told us the theory of evolution was false, I right up went out and read everything I could get my hands on about it. For myself. Before I was done, I could even spell Austrolopithicine, a skill since lost. What's more, I had a stronger foundation to discuss the pros and cons of elements of Evolutionary thought than did my history teacher. Not that I ever pressed the conversation with her.

I even survived a college Creationist anthropology teacher by regirgitating what he wanted to hear on a test, and then going on to "but on the other hand...", elucidating some relevant counterarguments. (He was an honest man, and I passed the exam.)

But these were two teachers who sincerely did not accept the concept of evolution, and nor was biology their area of study. To mandate that science teachers MUST teach something they most likely believe to be fraudulent pseudoscience would lead to no end of hypocrisy. From what I've seen of our educational system, there is already a sufficiency of that.

So, maybe after all one might suggest to Senator Fowler and his buddies that they return to discovering a purpose to political endeavor; leaving scientific theory to the scientists, religion to religious institutions (and private belief/disbelief), and the Bill of Rights alone. (Because next on the list, you just know it, is going to be public school prayer.)

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Last Updated: Friday, March 29, 1996