Just when the snickering and bad internet jokes about the Kansas Board of Education were beginning to die down, along come the two leading contenders for the Presidency to demonstrate that they, at least, haven’t evolved. Or perhaps a more…
Just when the snickering and bad internet jokes about the Kansas Board of Education were beginning to die down, along come the two leading contenders for the Presidency to demonstrate that they, at least, haven’t evolved. Or perhaps a more charitable interpretation would be that, in their case, natural selection has simply favored the pandering skills necessary to political survival.
According to Alejandro Caberera, a Gore aide, "The vice-president favors the teaching of evolution in the public schools, [but] localities should be free to decide to teach creationism as well." Bush spokeperson Mindy Tucker says Bush "believes both creationism and evolution should be taught. He believes it is a question for the states and local school boards to decide."
Presumably, local boards can also decide that the earth does not circle the sun, or that the atomic theory of matter is too speculative to endorse. (After all, have you ever actually seen a subatomic particle?)
Apologists for creationism emphasize that evolution is just a theory. What they fail–or refuse–to understand is that all science is "just" theory. That is what makes it science. Science is the process of constructing hypotheses to explain the physical world, then challenging those hypotheses to see if they hold up. When a theory is no longer a theory subject to modification as new evidence emerges, it is no longer science.
Evolution is the central organizing principle of the biological sciences. As Stephen Jay Gould recently noted, eliminating evolution from biology instruction is like teaching chemistry without the periodic table, or American History without Lincoln. "We should cringe in embarrassment" says Gould "that at the dawn of a new, technological millennium, a jurisdiction in our heartland has opted to suppress one of the greatest triumphs of human discovery." Perhaps he should talk to our Presidential candidates.
Many of the same people who want to displace science with religious dogma also believe that women should be submissive to men, that gay citizens do not deserve equal rights, that all "unChristian" and sexually explicit communications should be censored, and that the public schools should impart their own highly selective reading of American constitutional history. Do Bush and Gore believe we should teach those doctrines along with creationism, if locally elected school boards endorse them?
Neither Bush nor Gore appears to have learned the most basic lesson of the Bill of Rights: Certain matters are not subject to popular vote. If every resident of Kansas converted to Islam tomorrow, it would not justify teaching Islamic religious beliefs to Kansas schoolchildren. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to believe anything they wish, about creation or anything else. The Establishment Clause of that same Amendment prohibits them from using the power of government to impose their beliefs on others.
When the Kansas Board of Education makes a laughingstock of Kansas, that is one thing. When the two top contenders for the Presidency make a laughingstock of America, it is no longer a laughing matter.