Teach evolution at your peril

Untamed Teacher carries one more story about the dangers of trying to teach evolution to students who are not particularly interested, in a school where administrators don’t know much about science. Cynics will write it off as an inexperienced teacher in a difficult school — but that’s precisely where we need to be teaching the most serious material most often. (Tip of the old scrub brush to Education Notes Online.)

The Balloon Man notes a story in the Los Angeles Times about a much more experienced, and patient, teacher, whose lesson biology is heckled by religious students bent on disrupting the instruction.

How would Jesus heckle a teacher? Which parable covers being obnoxious?

Update: Open Parachute ponders whether the behaviors exhibited by the churchy adults in the news report below, constitute child abuse:

Can you imagine the reaction were a group of scientists to arrive at Ken Ham’s creation museum and lead a “science tour” of the place? Dollars to doughnuts Ham would come out looking a lot like Joe Stalin on the issue of allowing free discussion in his place.

Resource:  Why study evolution?  Read the benefits of such study in one of the permanent posts of this blog.

11 Responses to Teach evolution at your peril

  1. th ray says:

    In re Bnonn

    I just can’t grasp the Christian concept of an absolute right–or duty–to preach and proseletyze in public. Does one think that one’s beliefs somehow acquire truth value simply because one repeats them loudly and often?

    Science concerns itself with propositions that are demonstrably true whether one believes in them or not. Education is concerned with promoting and these propositions, and exposing them to critical analysis.

    Why would one–except in the interest of promoting ignorance–seek to disrupt an educational activity with a know-nothing diatribe? If one is an intellectually honest seeker of truth, one can form one’s own educational forum, right?

    It’s transparent that the religious agenda is not about truth.



  2. cburell says:

    I asked my principal and assistant principal if they would approve of teaching Intelligent Design in HS biology. The asst. principal said he had no problem with it.

    That’s how bad things get when your administrators can’t tell science from charlatanism.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Evolution is no more an oddity to scripture than gravity, especially with regard to planetary motions, or nuclear physics with regard to the Sun and stars. Sure, there is biblical warrant for taking false teachers to task. That warrant does not include heckling, IMHO, doesn’t include heckling of instruction that isn’t religiously related, doesn’t include heckling of experts not in error. Let the kids be bold. Let them be bold as described in 1 Peter.

    You’re entitled to your own naive and bizarre notions. I suspect that had those kids been arguing against germ theory of disease, as Christian Scientist kids might, you’d not have the same good feelings toward them. Your views are affected by your sharing the scientific error the kids did. That’s not the way we’ve made the schools to work and work well in this nation. What the kids did was disruptive, and such views are a major stumbling block in trying to get U.S. kids to the same level of scientific achievement as the Czech Republic, whom we used to rank above. Those kids were part of what David P. Gardner called “the rising tide of mediocrity.” I can understand why you wouldn’t want to get involved in that discussion. As a nation, however, we can’t avoid it.

    Drop by anytime.


  4. Ed, I was commenting specifically on your question about the biblical precedent for “heckling”. As I said, there is clear precedent for refuting error in a public forum, and for taking false teachers to task. Not obnoxiously (the point of citing 1 Peter 3:15 was the “with gentleness and respect” part); but certainly firmly and boldly. Now, the kinds of errors in the examples I cited were obviously not scientific, since science was not an established discipline in biblical times. But even if it was, I still wouldn’t expect to see the apostles refuting scientific notions, since evolution is something of an oddity in science as regards its congruence with Scripture.

    Furthermore, I didn’t comment on whether I believe creationism to be true or evolution to be false. I was commenting specifically on whether there is biblical warrant for taking false teachers to task. Obviously these kids thought that what they were being taught was false, and while perhaps they were somewhat immature in their approach (and thus somewhat obnoxious), they’re kids! If adults acted that way I would be less inclined to show any approval for their behavior; but I am impressed that school-age students would stand up to a teacher for the sake of their faith. Again, I’m not condoning their being obnoxious about it; I am condoning their boldness.

    As regards the rest of your post, I have a policy of not getting involved in extended debates on other people’s blogs; and this would be an extended debate. I find most of your exegesis to be both naive and bizarre, but let’s leave it at that.



  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Bnonn, you’re assuming that evolution is somehow at odds with scripture. IMHO, it’s only at odds with scripture badly interpreted.

    There are six or eight creation stories in the Bible, depending on the translation you use. All of them conflict with the others. None of them is explicit on the methods of creation God uses. Nowhere in scripture is there a claim that the Earth is very young. Nowhere is there a claim that we can determine the age of the Earth in any fashion, let alone by counting “begats” in some verses. Creationism is based on such faulty readings of scripture. (What else do they get dead wrong?)

    In each case you cite above, the Disciples are correcting scriptural error. In no case do they dispute a claim of science, particularly a claim based on observation of nature. We get modern science from the Christian idea that God is the creator, and that the creation of God does not lie. By observing nature, Christians have held for more than 2,000 years, we can learn about God’s creation, and perhaps about the methods of God.

    Creationism rejects that traditional Christian doctrine, again, to me, on very dubious grounds. In fact, I don’t think most creationists bother to cite grounds — there are none in scripture. Creationism taken to the lengths modern creationists take it ultimately deny God as the creator, though they sidle into that denial so gradually they’ll deny they deny.

    Matthew 23 is the denial of the false doctrines of the rigid legalists — ancient creationists, in other words. It’s an interesting example, but it shows Jesus asking the legalists to go with the spirit, and not with crabbed and forced interpretations of scripture. There is no denial of evolution in Matthew, nor in any other gospel, nor in any part of the Old Testament, by the way. While the methods of creationists are denounced, evolution is not. That should be a clue.

    In no case does Paul ever denounce science. In fact, in Romans 1:19-23, I think there is a heck of a case made against creationists. Creationists deny the effects and actions of DNA, RNA, genes and chromosomes — things “unseen” though in plain sight before us. We are warned in those Romans verses not to deny the evidence that is clearly there. Creationists almost always proclaim themselves “wise” when acting so foolishly. Were they aware of their actions, I think they’d shudder as I do when I seem them doing it, and I think of those verses.

    1 Peter 3:15 is an interesting example. It doesn’t describe heckling, but rather a discussion — exactly the sort of thing that those so-called Christians sought to avoid. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for your hope.” Had the instructor asked for a faith testimony, a faith testimony might be in order. Heckling with falsehoods is not what is described or called for. I think any fair reading would be that the kids in that Missouri classroom were giving at best a corrupted interpretation of 1 Peter 3:15; I would argue they were acting contrary to that specific gospel. ” . . . but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may put themselves to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” Those kids were doing evil, disrespecting their elders, disrespecting the God-given government and God-inspired education their community paid for — and they were wrong on the facts.

    It’s troubling to me that you’d defend such misbehavior — hooliganism — as somehow Christian.

    And finally, you assume that these children were correct. Creationists under oath in two federal trials have made it clear that creationism is religious doctrine based on scripture, and not science. They have testified consistently over 30 years that creationism is not based in science.

    So those kids were trying to replace science, the God-given information, with falsehood. They weren’t preventing falsehood — they were spreading falsehood.

    Bad religion, bad science, bad behavior. That’s not Christian. Shame on those kids.


  6. How would Jesus heckle a teacher? Which parable covers being obnoxious?

    Well, what about Matthew 23? What about Paul going into synagogues on the Sabbath and proclaiming the gospel (Acts 14; 17 etc)? Surely he interacted with the Jewish leaders. Surely he asked them pressing questions, and prevented them teaching their falsehood by proclaiming the truth over and against it.

    I’m not defending being obnoxious (1 Peter 3:15), but if Christians are to be after the likeness of God (Ephesians 4:24), and if Paul is an exemplar of this, then there seems to be plenty of biblical warrant for speaking out in a classroom, proclaiming the truth, and thus preventing falsehood being taught.



  7. Arthur Hunt says:

    Hi Ed,

    You do know, of course, that Ham’s museum employs armed guards. (This was perhaps the most unsettling aspect of my visit to his museum with Professor Steve Steve.) One of their purposes is likely to keep those annoying scientists at bay.

    PSS at Ham’s place –


  8. The USA, a leader in science, is actually so far behind other industrialised nations in teaching science. I live in a country where evolution is an accepted fact. The country I live in is also not very religious, and although most Japanese say they are Buddhist or Shintoist, they don’t really do anything about the religions in their lives, other than at New Years and Obon. But I’ve had discussions with people about evolution, and they all pretty much accept evolution. Could this have something to do with the fact that there’s a lack of Christianity here? I’ve known a Japanese Christian, and even she accepts evolution.

    What’s disturbing is that Louisiana’s governor is a big supporter of Intelligent Design, and he is a possible candidate for John McCain’s running mate for Vice President. Wow. Now that’s scary.


  9. […] rants about how his daughter cannot spell after graduating high school but somehow I think that if he read this over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub he might be more […]


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    I know of a fellow in Denver who used to lead creationist tours of the local natural history museum. He had gotten struck with creationism as he finished a masters program in biology — after which he couldn’t pass orals, or anything else. A great deal of bitterness.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon from a psychological point of view. Otherwise outstanding students suddenly clam up in class, or shout out that they don’t “believe that stuff.”

    If it didn’t have a known religious origin, we’d think it was drugs or something else equally dark and harmful.


  11. Kate says:

    My daughter goes through this every year teaching biology in college… even college biology majors, which I find incredible. One student actually asked her if not being “founded in Scripture” would hamper her in her dual geology/ biology major. She further went on to say that she believed the earth was 6,000 years old and did not believe in “that evolution nonsense.”

    I’m afraid this is getting more and more common.

    What’s also happening a lot is church groups going to museums to heckle gallery interpreters, some of whom are pointed out to the group as “agents of the devil” and ‘liars out to deceive them and steal their souls”.

    Often they are trying to provoke confrontation, and file complaints that they’re somehow being abused or mistreated on the basis of their religion.


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