Teaching Evolution in Public Schools
© by Chris Watson
Persuasive Speech I Gave in Spring 1997 about the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools
A. America is about to enter the twenty-first century, and international economic competition will probably become more intense.
B. A well-educated citizenry is important, but some American parents want to legislate against programs that teach their children how to think for themselves, how to reason critically from evidence, and how to understand the world they live in.
C. Believe it or not, here in A.D., there are many American parents who want their children only taught a version of science from 2000 B.C., with all its flaws and errors, and who refuse to consider letting our children learn anything else.
I. Problem and Cause.
Many local school boards across the country have been lobbied heavily to stop teaching evolution in public school science classrooms, mainly because some right wing religious groups show an appalling ignorance of what science is and what it is not. Some groups of fundamentalist Christians claim there is a massive anti-God conspiracy in the scientific world.
A. Yet these “Scientific Creationists” make no effort to publish in established scientific journals, not because of prejudice against them, but because no scientific case can be made for the theories they advance.
1. This was what Judge William R. Overton ruled in a court battle in the Supreme Court of Arkansas in .
2. When the creationists had their day in court, they literally had nothing to offer. It happened again in , when the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana state law that mandated giving equal time to the Creationist view in science classrooms.
B. Having lost in the scientific forum, and having lost in the courtroom, the leaders of the Creationist movement changed their strategy.
1. Now they encourage their followers to lobby at the local school board level.
2. School board members are extremely vulnerable to such tactics, especially if those members have little or no training in science or critical thinking skills.
I have a solution:
A. If you have a child in the public school system, or even if you don't but you want American children to be well educated, ask your local school to show you their science textbooks and have them explain how they present the topic of evolution.
B. If they argue dogmatically either for it or against it, or if they ignore it completely, then they may not be teaching children how to think clearly and reason from evidence.
C. You should attend the school board meetings that are open to the public and voice your concerns.
D. When school board members or their helpers knock on your door during elections, ask them their position on this view. For those who want legally enforced ignorance, vote them out of office.
III. Science and Religion.
Now I will show why this is needed.
A. There are two problems with the creationist viewpoint.
1. First, most of their claims cannot be tested, and are therefore beyond the realm of science.
2. Second, those peripheral claims which can be tested have been proven false, and are therefore not science but religious beliefs.
B. Yet the creationists refuse to accept the evidence and continue lobbying for “equal time” in the classroom.
1. But consider this, two opposing scientific theories only deserve equal time if both explain the evidence equally well.
2. Why give “equal time” to one creation myth in a science classroom, without considering those of other cultures, such as Native American, African, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Chinese, to name a few. By the time all these are considered, you no longer have time to teach science.
3. Their beliefs do deserve coverage in public schools, yes, but they properly belong in a religion, philosophy, or sociology classroom, NOT a science classroom.
C. Science and religion deal with separate areas of human experience. Conflict only arises when people try to apply science to religion or religion to science. The best example I know to illustrate this difference is a debate I witnessed at a Christian Life Center in Solano County some years ago.
1. An audience member asked the scientists that if enough evidence were presented to you against evolution, would you change your minds? Of course, the scientists all said yes.
2. The Creationists were then asked if any amount of evidence could ever convince them to change their minds about special creation, and they all answered no, absolutely not.
D. To quote Ashley Montagu from the introduction to Science and Creationism, “…science begins where bigotry and absolute certainty end. The scientist believes in proof without certainty, the bigot in certainty without proof.”
IV. Fact and Theory.
Those of you who returned my questionnaire all claim to know the scientific distinction between a fact and a theory. To put it briefly, theories explain facts. What some people may not realize is that Darwin accomplished two things when he published On the Origin of Species. He pointed out the FACT of evolution, then proposed his THEORY of natural selection to explain this fact.