Re: Question for Will on public education and evolution

William B. Provine (
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 22:34:21 +0100

Dear Ted,

For years I have argued that religious points of view (those represented by
students in the class) should be part of all biology classes. Each one tries to
explain or reject evolution in nature. I have also argued that evolution is the
greatest engine of atheism ever invented. Ergo, if the evolutionists insist that
religious points of view are not allowed in the biology classroom, then
evolution should not be allowed either. I have suggested to all wanting to have
religious points of view in biology classes (where they can all be fleshed out)
arguing strongly for elimination of the teaching of naturalistic evolution along
with the discussion of religious views. This might force the evolutionists to
come around and let all points of view be expressed in the classroom, rather
than have evolution cast aside.

So your point is ever so well taken.

Ted Davis wrote:

> 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