May 20, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Teachers Squeamish About Evolution

It may be the only game in town, but evolution-only education isn’t turning biology professors into cheerleaders for Darwin.

My job is to give you the facts about the theory of evolution, not make you believe it. That’s a predominant attitude among college biology professors in Arizona, according to a study announced by PhysOrg.

In a first-of-its kind study, scientists from ASU [Arizona State University] School of Life Sciences have found that a majority of professors teaching biology in Arizona universities do not believe that helping students accept the theory of evolution is an instructional goal. In fact, a majority of study participants say their only goal is to help students understand evolution.

The findings surprised Sara Brownell, a researcher of science education, who led the study. Her position is that evolution needs to be accepted as well as understood.

“Evolution is one of the key concepts in understanding biology,” said Sara Brownell, senior author of the study and assistant professor with the school. “My own view is, ‘Why would we want to teach evolution, if we don’t want our students to accept it? We teach them that cells have membranes and we expect them to accept that. Why should evolution be any different?’ Yet instructors in our study don’t see it that way. For most of them, evolution is separated—first, in understanding and second, in accepting the concept.”

The article suggests that the professors are hesitant about pushing acceptance of evolution because of students’ religious beliefs. Over 50% of students describe themselves as religious, the article says. But since most mainline denominations take a theistic evolutionary position, why should that be problematic? Elizabeth Barnes, Brownell’s co-author, is mystified, too.

“While evolution is the basis of biology, evolution and religious beliefs do not have to be in conflict. Science answers questions about the natural world, about things we can test. Science does not have a test for whether God exists or had a role in planning how life unfolded.

Yet the majority of professors perceive some kind of barrier exists between science and religion. They worry that sounding pushy that evolution must be accepted because it is true would upset the students. Are they misinformed? Or do they know things by experience that the study authors don’t? Barnes and Brownell want to expand this study to the nation at large.

It’s interesting that 80 years of indoctrination since the Scopes Monkey Trial have not succeeded in making the workers on Animal Farm obey the pigs. The pigs have succeeded in mandating a DODO policy with their DOPE, but they can’t seem to get the teachers and professors to push the DOPE with enthusiasm. It’s like they’re saying, ‘We have to give you this stuff, but it’s up to you if you want to smoke it.’

There are exceptions, of course (and maybe Arizona is an exception). We hear all the time about Darwin bigots forcing their views in the classroom, trying to embarrass or punish anyone who disagrees. On ID the Future, Dr Cornelius Hunter, a biochemist and teacher and author of books on evolution, describes his experiment taking an online course on evolution via Coursera. His professor, a well-known evolutionary biologist, trotted out the same old Darwin icons as proof of evolution, and insinuated the macroevolution is a simple extrapolation of microevolution. Part 2 is here.

In another interesting episode of ID the Future (a re-posting of an earlier interview), Fred Foote describes the making of his film Alleged. Foote, a lawyer by training, was alarmed by the distortions and lies in Inherit the Wind, the classic film about the Scopes Trial. He produced his film to set the record straight in a new, entertaining story that brings to light some of the darker truths about 1925 academia, including their support for eugenics and their bias in the media. In the interview, Foote shares good insights into 1925 and 2016, among them his suspicion for why evolutionists and their accomplices in the media told lies then and continue to tell lies today. Why did they portray the Scopes Trial as a struggle by truth-loving scientists against backward Bible-thumpers? In Foote’s view, they believe they have a bigger truth to promote: the advance of secular science against ignorance. This justifies fibbing on the smaller stuff in order to obtain the greater good (in their eyes). Ideology, in other words, rationalizes doing whatever it takes.

Alleged is a well-done, entertaining movie (see trailer at Evolution News & Views). It’s not preachy or doctrinaire, and opens up views of life in 1925 Tennessee and what the monkey trial was like. It has a strong cast featuring Brian Dennehy as Darrow and the late Senator Fred Thompson as William Jennings Bryan. We recommend hearing the interview and getting the DVD to share. Advocate its use as a balance whenever Inherit the Wind comes to your town.

For details on how Inherit the Wind distorted the facts of the trial, see TheMonkeyTrial.com.

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