Sunday, November 24, 2013

One-sided Coin

Something that those who know me personally know, but might be a shock to those who don't is that I really, really detest poorly-taught evolution.

"But you're a literal six-day, young Earth Creationist."

That is correct. I'm also a dedicated Christian to boot, but I'm not writing today to debate either side, but rather to chastise both Public and Private Christian schools for their presentation of the material (and yes, I know there will be some generalisations, I accept that*).

Evolutionary theory as a whole has a number of flaws, but also a number of merits. One could argue the worldview established by Darwin's theory set in frantic motion much of modern biology, opening up the inner reaches of the cell, DNA, and biochemistry as it sought to find absolute, concrete evidence for this theory to stand on. For that, amongst other merits, I am grateful.

Unfortunately, as with any worldview, those merely following within its confines begin to develop rose-coloured glasses to its flaws and/or a fairly militant outlook towards other worldviews, drawing opposing worldviews into equally militant reactions. From this base, we have the whitewashed, evolution-only approach favoured by the public school system and the see/hear/speak no evil approach favoured by the private Christian school system.

Both are wrong.

As an ancient king once wrote, "The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him."

To this end, both the public and private Christian schools are in the wrong.

You teach evolution as though it is the scientific overarching explanation for everything relating to life - its origins and its progressions. You also teach evolution at the level of gross anatomy, the level Darwin speculated at in the 1800s. Additionally, you whitewash over the flaws in the theory with beautiful extensions of rhetoric.

Evolution is not a study of origins, but of development. Separated into its consummate parts, common descent and natural selection, it states that all life descended from a singular ancestor through successive changes and that all changes have been selected and enforced by environmental factors such that those most suited at that moment to the environment are most likely to survive and pass on their traits. Which stems into my next point: evolution, particularly the collection of changes to form new species, is far more complex than Darwin surmised. If gross anatomy was the most basic level of function in organisms, then gradual changes become extremely feasible - even if the cell was as simple as Darwin thought, a simple sac of fluid, but it's not. Evolution requires changes at the subcellular level - a level which, since the 1950s, has been rapidly expanding, presenting extremely complex systems and system controls. Such changes are often to complex to be changed by simple, single shifts. Additionally, the further scientists have contributed to the fossil record, the more those scientists have realized that the required transitional forms are still nowhere to be found.

Public schools, you need to be more complete in your presentation of evolution. I'm not saying hand  them a postgraduate-level course, but be frank about the theory's failings. Additionally, there's nothing wrong with allowing the airing of competitive, alternative theories. That's what science thrives on!

Private Christian:
You don't teach evolution at all. If it's mentioned, it's done so in passing, with sideways glances and disapproving tones, much like how the public forum presents intelligent design or creationism.

If you do not teach evolution, but rather Biblical creation presented with little scientific evidence or grounding, then you are sending your children to the front lines of a war armed with only slingshots. These children will be shortly overwhelmed and their worldviews overrun by that of mainstream society - evolution. They will be ill-equipped to hold to their own worldviews, to debate and reason their beliefs for themselves and for others. You will lose them.

Private Christian schools, you need to stop mispresenting evolution. It is not some evil syndicate out to steal your children, it is a theory and a world view, both of which need to be thoroughly taught so as to be intelligently engaged.

*On generalisations: I know there are generalisations, especially on the side of the private Christian schools (I attended public primary and high schools), but generalisations contain a nugget of truth; In this case, they are all cases I've heard from either being in the classes or helping kids in those classes with their homework.