An interesting question on evolution cropped up during the web interviews for the contestants of the recent Miss USA pageant. The event aired on network television June 19, 2011, but the interviews appeared on the pageant's YouTube channel several days earlier.
Pageant organizers asked the contestants, "Should evolution be taught in schools?" Of the 51 woman, 24 answered "yes," two said "no," 24 said both evolution and creation or "all perspectives" should be taught, and one chose not to answer.
The winner, Miss California Alyssa Campanella, was one of two contestants who said specifically that they "believe" in evolution.
"I was taught evolution in my high school growing up. And I do believe in it. I mean, I'm a huge science geek, so I like to believe in, like, the Big Bang theory and, you know, the evolution of humans, you know, throughout, you know, time," she said.1
In a guest post on the Discover blog of political journalist and author Chris Mooney, molecular biologist Jamie L. Vernon wrote, "Campanella's answer demonstrated that she possesses a respectable appreciation and understanding of science."2
Additionally, she favored the legalization of medical marijuana and said that she would agree to a "tasteful" nude photo shoot as long as it presented her body in a way in which she would be respected.2
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ms. Campanella's responses and her winning of the pageant, something interesting to note are the 26 responses that were either not in favor of teaching evolution or in favor of teaching it along with other scientific theories.
Oftentimes the respondents, including Ms. Campanella, spoke of evolution as a belief system. More often than not, the women supported presenting students with as much information as possible so that they could decide for themselves what would be best to "believe."
Just as many respondents who favored evolution had favored academic freedom, and many contestants acknowledged the faith required to accept evolution. As Dr. Vernon commented, the new Miss USA does indeed possess "a respectable appreciation and understanding of science," as demonstrated by her implicit acknowledgment that support for evolution is a matter of belief.
- Hughes, S. A. Miss USA 2011 contestants weigh in on evolution (Video). The Washington Post BlogPost. Posted on washingtonpost.com June 21, 2011, accessed June 23, 2011.
- Vernon, J. L. Miss USA 2011, "A Huge Science Geek." The Intersection, Discover Magazine. Posted on blogs.discovermagazine.com June 20, 2011, accessed June 23, 2011.
*Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on June 29, 2011.