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Evolution and reason in schools inseparable

Evolution and reason in schools inseparable

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That Arizona's school chief should want to diminish/delete the teaching of evolution in our public schools betrays two misunderstandings.

First, Pope John Paul II acquitted Galileo in 1993 of charges of heresy for Galileo's dethronement of planet Earth as being at the center of the universe. Then in 1996 he announced that the teaching of evolution was consistent with Catholic theology.

Judaism, Islam and all Protestant churches, except those on the conservative fringes, have agreed that evolution is consistent with their theologies. Thus Ms. Douglas in insisting that her particular splinter of Protestantism be taught in tax-supported schools as science. Nope.

However, it may be taught in those private schools that choose to so indoctrinate their students. Clinging to a literal biblical view of the origin of humans does seem to provide certainty, but that appealing comfort is undermined by discovering that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 have two different creation stories. Which to choose? They cannot both be literally true.

Second, to call anything "just a theory" misunderstands what a theory is. The word, "theory," comes from the same root as the word theater, i.e., to view. Theories [think of them as eyeglasses] are ways to view the observable world, to make sense of what we experience ... to bring a sea of observations into focus and to understand their cause. Like eyeglasses, theories can and do change as new discoveries require a new view. In that way, no theory is ever "absolutely certain." New ideas [think epigenetics now] cause theories to change to explain new knowledge.

It is true that science within the last four centuries has progressively dethroned humans from living at the center of the entire universe on a planet created especially to meet our selfish needs, to one where chance and catastrophe have produced us in the last one-thousandth of a percent of Earth history. That may seem to mean that we are wretchedly only an afterthought. Yet in our last brief nanosecond of Earth history, using reason, we have drawn from within ourselves an extraordinary view of the grandeur and interconnectedness of life. That is what must be taught.




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