Evolution must be taught

A new study by the National Research Council featured in Science magazine last week highlighted the reluctance of U.S. public school biology teachers to thoroughly teach evolutionary theory and, for some, avoid teaching creationism.

Regardless of the possibly controversial nature of the topic, educational and political leaders in Florida and the U.S. must demand a higher educational standard towards teaching evolutionary theory that presents only empirical evidence and is absent of any one religion’s version of how life developed on Earth.

According to the report, 13 percent of biology teachers spend at least one hour of class time presenting creationism “in a positive light,” and “60 percent fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts and legitimize creationist arguments.” Meanwhile, only 28 percent of teachers follow the recommendations of the National Research Council, which request that evidence proving evolution theories be presented and that lesson plans link evolutionary theory with other sub-topics in biology.

The study concluded that the juxtaposition of the two theories, in addition to some instructors’ reluctance to address the topic at all, teaches elementary and high school students to question the authority of proven science.

Teachers cannot control what their students choose to accept as truth. However, it is their duty to provide them with an unbiased presentation of facts. The debate between evolutionists and creationists will never dissipate, but if all students are provided an accurate and unbiased portrayal of the facts of evolution – a theory that is widely accepted as fact in the scientific community – then they will have the tools necessary to create their own arguments that go beyond common rhetoric.

Any instructors who give a biased account of evolution or shy away from the subject completely do an immense disservice to their students, who will inevitably need a thorough understanding of the theory to progress in their studies.

“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,” the report states.

The whole point of the scientific process is to come to empirically based conclusions that cannot be debated.

Attempting to take steps back towards a time when the scientific process that supports evolutionary theory was absent and the world was left solely to wonderment when it came to the complexities of life, would be a disservice to not just the average student but the future ability of students and the U.S. to contribute to the international scientific community and progression of the human race.