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Evolution law doesn't test well

MOST STUDENTS at this University would agree that more knowledge is better than less. After all, we are all pursuing a college education. But those in charge of public schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky seem to disagree. By voting last week to remove the word "evolution" from its curriculum guidelines, the Kentucky State Department of Education demonstrated that it prefers its students to be less knowledgeable.

Department officials explained that removing "evolution" from the curriculum was part of creating "sensitivity guidelines." These guidelines were designed to keep students from taking a position on subjects such as death, divorce, animal rights or the theory of evolution

The Kansas Board of Education passed a resolution in August, in a similar attempt to block the teaching of evolution without expressly prohibiting it.

Of course, these are not the first times the teaching of evolution has come under attack. Creationists have felt threatened by the concept of evolution since even before the infamous Scopes trial of 1925, and have vigorously fought against the spread of knowledge relating to evolution.

In the past, creationists attempted to discredit evolution, but this failed to keep evolution out of schools, as it was impossible to argue against the mountain of empirical evidence that supports evolution. Realizing the futility of rational argument, creationists instead moved to fight the truth by keeping it from being discussed and taught in the first place. Some local governments passed laws specifically prohibiting the teaching of evolution, but the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional in 1968's Epperson v. Arkansas.

As demonstrated in the recent cases in Kentucky and Kansas, opponents of evolution theory in the classroom have shifted their strategy once again. Evolution will not be prohibited subject matter, but it will be removed from the standardized tests that states use to evaluate students' level of achievement. And with increasing pressure to identify unsatisfactory teachers and schools through standards-of-learning tests, the curriculum guidelines could have an influence on what teachers decide to teach. Because instruction time is limited, teachers may be hesitant to spend it teaching a subject that is not on the standardized tests.

Creationists have adapted their strategy in order to survive in changing times. (Ironic how much this sounds like evolution, isn't it?)

But the strategy they have adopted is deplorable. While their new technique to prohibit the teaching of evolution is a bit subtler, it is no less contemptible.

Disagreeing with something is one thing, but using power to exclude ideas with which you disagree from discussion is quite another. Creationists lost the battle over evolution in schools when the Supreme Court prevented them from abusing the law to achieve their aims. Since they have seen that they cannot win the battle in a fair fight, they have resorted to setting up a slanted playing field.

Hopefully, it will not be long before a court case challenges the actions of the Kentucky and/or Kansas school boards. The courts must reaffirm their commitment to protecting evolution's place in our nation's public schools.

But it would be even better if creationists could get rid of their misconception that evolution theory exists primarily to challenge theology or that teaching evolution only means teaching that man descended from apes.

In the 140 years since Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species," evolution has become an advanced and useful scientific tool. Society has benefited tremendously in many ways from a greater understanding of evolution. Among other things, evolution theory has enhanced our understanding of and ability to treat AIDS, increased our knowledge of the causes of aging, and helped us comprehend how bacteria become antibiotic resistant.

Whether or not you believe God created "every living creature that moveth" on the fourth day and man on the fifth day is irrelevant. Reasonable people must realize that evolution is scientific, not philosophical, and that it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with religion.

"Too much is made of the conflict between science and religion," said Biology Prof. Laura Galloway, an evolutionary biologist and the instructor of Introduction to Evolution, in a personal interview. "It's like comparing apples and oranges. They're coming from two different places and fill two different roles in people's lives. It doesn't have to be one or the other." Galloway added, "We don't talk about whether or not we believe in gravity. It's just there, and we accept it because it is supported by science. Evolution is the same way - scientists understand that there isn't really a conflict about whether to believe in evolution."

It is long past time that these school authorities stop abusing their power in order to protect their archaic principles. Instead they should recognize that evolution is a legitimate scientific field that all students can benefit from studying - without jeopardizing anyone's faith.

(Bryan Maxwell is a second-year College student.)

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