Pennsylvania State University political scientists recently published a report in the journal Science titled "Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom."
They cited the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, in which a federal court decided that intelligent design "was not science...but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause."1
"Many scientists cheered the decision....We suggest that the cheering was premature and the victory incomplete," they wrote.1
The researchers developed and conducted a survey—which they dubbed the "National Survey of High School Biology Teachers," despite not having official federal support—of 926 U.S. high school biology instructors between March and May in 2007. They found that only about 28 percent of the teachers surveyed advocated the teaching of evolutionary biology in classrooms, while 13 percent advocated creation science.
"The data reveal a pervasive reluctance of teachers to forthrightly explain evolutionary biology," they reported. "The data further expose a cycle of ignorance in which community antievolution attitudes are perpetuated by teaching that reinforces local community sentiment."1
Their summary quoted a Minnesota teacher's answer: "I don't teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang Theory in my [E]arth [S]cience classes....We do not have time to do something that is at best poor science."1
Sixty percent of the teachers surveyed supported the position that neither evolution nor creation should be taught. "Our data show that these teachers understandably want to avoid controversy. Often they have not taken a course in evolution and they lack confidence in their ability to defend it."1
The study's authors also wrote:
[A] sizable number of teachers expose their students to all positions—scientific or not. Students should make up their own minds, explained a Pennsylvania teacher, 'based on their own beliefs and research. Not on what a textbook or on what a teacher says.' Many of these teachers might have great confidence in their students' ability to learn by exploration. But does a 15-year-old student really have enough information to reject thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers? This approach tells students that well-established concepts like common ancestry can be debated in the same way we debate personal opinions.1
In other words, unless students hold the same opinions on science as these researchers, they do not have "enough information" to draw their own conclusions from scientific evidence and grow into thinking adults.
The "problem" most likely is not that students and their teachers need to be taught more evolution, since this survey's results show over twice as many biology teachers advocating teaching evolution in their classrooms as those advocating creation science. A recent assessment of American students conducted by the Department of Education also reveals a significant emphasis on evolution in the classroom.2
But it seems that despite undermining the will of the people by going through the court systems, the supporters of evolution-only teaching can do little to mitigate how poorly the actual theory explains the raw scientific data.3 And as the Minnesota teacher mentioned, teaching "poor science" is a waste of time and resources in any classroom.
- Berkman, M. B. and E. Plutzer. 2011. Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom. Science. 331 (6016): 404-405.
- Dao, C. Test Scores Suggest American Students Struggle to Think Critically in Science. ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 2, 2011, accessed March 2, 2011.
- The Institute for Creation Research's website contains many articles on the life sciences that analyze how a plethora of scientific discoveries refute the theory of evolution. See Evidence for Creation: The Life Sciences.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on March 7, 2011.