Question for Will on public education and evolution

Ted Davis (
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 15:51:35 -0400

Dear Will,

I echo Bill Hamilton's thanks to you for taking part in our discussions of
late. It's been fun, at least for my part, which has mainly been that of an
avid listener.

However I do want to follow up on one of your (typically) honest statements,
to wit:

"Evoutionists prefer these days not to ruffle the feathers of religious
folk, who are vastly more numerous and elect representatives who control the
funding for science. So evolution and religion are "compatible," as long as
the religion cnnot be distinguished from atheism."

I love that point, Will, for it feeds right into a lecture I've been giving
in various venues (such as the local Penn State campus, or Brooklyn College,
or the History of Science Society) and a very short version of which was
printed in a few popular places like the local newspaper. Here's my point,
and my question.

William Jennings Bryan, as you probably know, opposed the teaching of
evolution in publicly funded schools -- including universities as well as
lower schools -- because he believed (1) the teaching of evolution
undermines religious faith and is therefore inherently anti-religious, not
religiously neutral; and (2) publicly funded education ought to be
religiously neutral, so that (for example) Christianity should not be taught
in public schools. If you take (1) and (2) together, you get (3) evolution
should not be taught in public schools. I gather, Will, that since you
obviously believe (1) and not (3), that you don't agree with (2)?

Ted Davis