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Is it Really That Important to Teach Evolution?


It may be considered some kind of scientific heresy even to ask such a stupid question. After all, "evolution is the cornerstone of biology". And "nothing make sense in biology except in the light of evolution". Famous quotes by famous people whose names I cannot remember. On the popular PBS television show "Evolution" the last episode had two biology teachers stating that if they were not allowed to teach evolution they could not continue to teach. They would not be willing to do that type of "dis-service" to their students.

In the movie "Flock of Dodo's" school board members in Kansas are criticized for even questioning evolution. It would be safe to say that the vast majority of scientists alive today would wholeheartedly endorse the teaching of evolution in our public schools. And so would I. Evolution is accepted by almost all scientists and therefore should be taught in science classes. Evolution is the most well documented and thoroughly researched "scientific" idea on how life came about. But is accepting the theory of evolution really all that important after all?


It will be obvious to anyone reading this paper that I do not accept evolution as it is currently being taught. But another question comes to mind even if the current model of evolution were proved to be true. Is accepting the theory evolution really necessary to understand biology? Articles continually appear in magazines, news reports and op-ed pieces bemoaning the poor education of American students. One of the causes that is often mentioned is that students do not accept evolution as the basis of life on earth. But is accepting evolution really all that important? Is evolution really the "cornerstone" of biology?

The word biology literally means the "study of life". Is it necessary to understand, and accept, evolution in order to study life? When I taught science I often had guest speakers come in to give the students some real perspective on why they were in school in the first place. One of my speakers was an anesthesiologist from our local hospital. I asked him to talk about his education and his career. He knew that we were currently studying mitosis (cell replication). When he came in to speak he talked about chromosomes and genes. After class I talked to him and found out that he had studied for several hours trying to remember how chromosomes functioned. It would be hard to understand evolution without knowing about chromosomes. Apparently being an anesthesiologist, which requires a tremendous amount of education, does not require an understanding of evolution.

My wife had to go in for knee surgery one day. The orthopedic surgeon was very intelligent. He also did a great job during the surgery. But he never once mentioned the evolution of the knee from a common ancestor. Apparently being an a orthopedic surgeon, which requires a tremendous amount of education, does not require an understanding of evolution.

My nephew has a "lazy" eye. He has had eye surgery and a lot of physical therapy. The ophthalmologist never mentioned the evolution of the vertebrate eye by small incremental steps from an ancient ancestor due to random chance mutations. All he did was perform a very delicate surgery on a five year old boy. Apparently being an ophthalmologist, which requires a tremendous amount of education, does not require an understanding of evolution.

And how about: veterinarian, podiatrist, RN, dendrologist, marine biologist, ornithologist, botanist, X-ray technician, and the list goes on and on. All these people can perform their tasks without ever hearing or using the word evolution. The fact is, the only scientists that need to know or understand evolution are evolutionary biologists. I don't think that the proportion of scientists who are actually evolutionary biologists is all that great. Everyone else can get along just fine whether they believe we got here by evolution, God or a cabbage patch. Evolution has nothing to do with what most scientists do or what they need to know in order to do their job.

"Evolution is the cornerstone of biology." and "Nothing make sense in biology except in the light of evolution." Sounds good. Sounds scientific. But it is just not true.

Intelligent Design

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