Comments on evolution and education

Ted Davis (
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 08:49:30 -0500

Some time ago I posted comments on evolution and public education that I
will briefly restate here, to clarify my own views relative to those of Al
Plantinga and others.

(1) I agree that it is a very bad idea to ban the teaching of evolution or
even to encourage schools not to teach it. I think evolution is a
legitimate theory, parts of which may be true, and should be taught as
science in our schools.

(2) I do not think that evolution should be taught, however, without
significant attention to the various interpretations it may be given within
different worldviews. Implication: this takes time from teachers who want
to teach "only" science, but I think we should encourage this, unless we
believe (as I do not) that science is isolated from social, religious, and
philosophical concerns.

(3) I believe it is UNJUST (here is where I agree mostly with Al) for
parents to be required to educate their children to a certain age, but then
for them not to have control over what their children are being taught about
evolution (or any of several other issues). Al puts this very effectively
(IMO) in contract language, which I find appropriate.

(4) Thus, I conclude that we need to expand the definition of what counts
as publicly supported education, to include various religious schools and
other alternatives to the current system. Not to do so, IMO, constitutes a
form of tyranny: we require parents to pay for education (through taxes),
require their children to attend to a certain age, but don't allow them to
pick the type of indoctrination unless they are wealthy enough to send their
children to private schools or prepared to educate them at home (and this,
too, involves considerable expense).

An interesting--and relevant--irony appears when we consider the policy of
many states (Pennsylvania is one) and federal agencies relative to
post-secondary education. Here we allow, even encourage, students to choose
their institutions, which can be either public or private (including
religious colleges like Messiah), when it comes to spending public dollars
in the form of state scholarships or federal loans/grants. And this is as
it should be. But we provide this type of choice, ironically, ONLY for
students who do NOT have to choose at all, that is, to students who have
past the legally mandated age for education. Why in the world don't we do
this for children who MUST attend school? The answer, I believe, lies in
the political power of the NEA and its allies, such as the current
president, who ought to back up his commitment to religious freedom with a
commitment to choice in pre-college education.

Ted Davis