Bradstreet, a Republican from Gaylord, has put forward House Bill 4946, which would mandate that creationism be taught alongside evolution in Michigan‘s public schools. Bradstreet thus joined a long line of opponents of the advancement of knowledge in general and the teaching of evolution more particularly.
The most famous instance in this long history happened almost 80 years ago in the fair city of Dayton, Tennessee. In the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial,“ the state tried John Scopes for the crime of teaching evolution in his public school classroom. It didn‘t matter that Scopes was teaching what then was almost universally accepted science. And it didn‘t matter the alternative curriculum -- the biblical Genesis story -- was a blatant violation of the separation of church and state when taught in the public schools. What mattered was that the forces that hounded Scopes were determined to use compulsory education as an instrument for their own views of religion and as a bulwark against progress in general.
The forces arrayed against Scopes won the case, but were exposed to such ridicule through the trial that they lost the war -- in the years following 1925, real science (rather than the wishful thinking of the faithful) gradually gained a foothold in school curricula. But, it some ways surprisingly little has changed since the Scopes trial of 1925.
Today, anti-evolutionary forces are on the warpath, but rather than asking for schools to teach Genesis, they now ask only for “fairness“ and to cast as much doubt as they can on evolution. “Thousands of scientists,“ we are told, believe in the new creationism, now called “intelligent design.“ But the “scientific establishment,“ including everyone from the National Academy of Sciences to university biology departments to academic journals to high school curricula refuse to listen!
And, we are told, the supporters of evolution itself are a deeply divided camp. Evolution, it is said, is a dead theory and it is time to let in some other views.
But who are these “thousands of scientists“? Do they study in fields that are relevant to evolution? Are they the products of reputable science departments at universities? Have they made a particular and unimpassioned study of the development of life on this planet? In almost all cases the answers to at least one of these questions is a resounding NO.
The fact of the matter is, almost all scientists who have made a serious study the theory of evolution and the evidence behind it believe Darwin‘s theory to be *the* explanation for the development of life on this planet.
As for disputes within the camp of evolutionists -- those are real; they are hotly contested and they have nothing to do with the fundamental truth of evolutionary theory. The disputes between famous biologists like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins are about how evolution works, about which mechanism ought to be emphasized and about where evolutionary thinking can be applied. But Gould and Dawkins, who apparently despised one another, agreed on at least on this evolution has happened and is happening largely as Darwin explained it, and that it is an incredibly powerful theory for explaining the world around us.
Commentators who complain that science is prejudiced against “intelligent design“ are correct. Science is prejudiced against all theories which don‘t fit the facts and are forwarded for reasons other than an attempt to account for the facts. Science isn‘t an encounter session where “all voices get heard.“ Scientists take and use ideas that help them explain things in the real world, they shun and cast aside those that don‘t. Intelligent design falls into the latter category.
As Bradstreet‘s proposal gets kicked around in the coming months (if it gets that far) we are bound to hear proclamations that evolution is “dead“ or is “just a theory“ (like gravity and relativity) or is deeply questionable. These proclamations reveal very little knowledge of Darwin or science in general, but a deep appreciation of the wisdom of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda genius.
When you are losing an argument, the “Big Lie,“ even when it is almost transparently a falsehood, is often an extremely effective weapon. Hopefully it will not be so against our school systems.
Oran Kelley is a Traverse City writer with a strong interest in the topics of evolution and sociobiology.