Balancing Evolution Fairness

A third antievolution theme present as far back as the 1925 Scopes trial and continuing today is the idea that if evolution is taught, then creationism in some form should also be taught, as a matter of fairness. The fairness theme has, however, had many manifestations through time, largely evolving in response to court decisions (see chapters 6, 10, and 11).

The fairness pillar reflects American cultural values of allowing all sides to be heard, and also a long-standing American democratic cultural tradition that assumes an individual citizen can come to a sound conclusion after hearing all the facts—and has the right to inform elected officials of his or her opinion. Indeed, for many local and even national issues, Americans do not defer to elected and appointed officials but vigorously debate decisions in town meetings, city council meetings, and school board meetings.

As a result, in the united States there are disputes at the local school board level over who—scientists, teachers, or members of the general public—should decide educational content. In the 1920s, the populist orator, politician, and lawyer William Jennings Bryan raged at the audacity of "experts" who would come to tell parents what to teach their children, when (as he thought) the proposed subject matter (evolution) was diametrically opposed to parental values (see chapter 4).

Many modern-day antievolutionists make this same point, arguing that conservative Christian students should not even be exposed to evolution if their religious beliefs disagree with evolution's implications. Educators and scientists counter that a student must understand evolution to be scientifically literate and insist that the science curriculum would be deficient if evolution were omitted. Efforts to ban the teaching of evolution failed, as a result of both rulings by the Supreme Court and the growth of evolution as a science (see chapters 2, 4, 5, and 10). Antievolutionists shifted their emphasis from banning evolution to having it "balanced" with the teaching of a form of creationism called creation science (see chapters 3 and 5). When this effort also failed, antievolutionists began to lobby school boards and state legislatures to balance evolution with the teaching of evidence against evolution, which in content proved identical to creation science.

The perceived incompatibility of evolution with religion (especially conservative Christian theology) is the most powerful motivator of antievolutionism for individuals. However, the fairness concept, because of its cultural appeal, may be even more effective, for it appeals broadly across many diverse religious orientations. Even those who are not creationists may see value in being fair to all sides, whether or not they believe that there is scientific validity to creationist views. Scientists and teachers argue, however, that to apply fairness to the science classroom is a misapplication of an otherwise worthy cultural value (see chapters 9, 11, and 12).

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment