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Evolution… and not evolution March 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Science.

Good piece here in Slate.com this week from a lecturer, James J. Krupa, in the University of Kentucky who teaches evolution. it’s an amazing insight into just how difficult in some parts of the United States it is to teach that area of science (Krupa notes that the US is 34th lowest of ‘advanced’ states in terms of public acceptance of evolution, just ahead of Turkey). He notes that ‘rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about evolution in human biology’.

I can’t but wonder what effect that has more broadly, in terms of pushing people from science, in terms of closing minds. It’s just disastrous on so may different levels. He also notes the ‘combative’ nature of some of those opposed to evolution… walk-outs, shouting in the middle of classes, and so on.

What’s particularly troubling is – and Krupa notes this, that most ‘mainstream’ Christian religions (and it is Christians who are overwhelmingly the problem here) accept evolution. Yet as Krupa notes that ‘One student explained that as a devout Catholic he had no choice but to reject evolution. He accused me of fabricating the pope’s statements. When I explained that he could go to the Vatican website for verification or call the Vatican to talk to a scientist, he insisted that there was no such information available from the Vatican. He then pointed his finger at me and said the only way he would believe me is if then–Pope John Paul II came to my class to confirm these quotes face-to-face. The student then stomped out, again slamming the auditorium door behind him’.

Clearly, so, this isn’t just about formal religious dogma, but about something much more. Identity, a means of conforming and not conforming simultaneously. Community, of sorts. Dissent. Fear and perhaps antagonism to modernity, or parts of it.

This I love:

Some students take offense very easily. During one lecture, a student asked a question I’ve heard many times: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” My response was and is always the same: We didn’t evolve from monkeys. Humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. One ancestral population evolved in one direction toward modern-day monkeys, while another evolved toward humans. The explanation clicked for most students, but not all, so I tried another. I asked the students to consider this: Catholics are the oldest Christian denomination, so if Protestants evolved from Catholics, why are there still Catholics? Some students laughed, some found it a clarifying example, and others were clearly offended. Two days later, a student walked down to the lectern after class and informed me that I was wrong about Catholics. He said Baptists were the first Christians and that this is clearly explained in the Bible. His mother told him so. I asked where this was explained in the Bible. He glared at me and said, “John the Baptist, duh!” and then walked away.


1. sonofstan - March 29, 2015

It’s a depressing symptom of the information age that the ability to discern what counts as actual knowledge seems harder and harder to disentangle from the great sewer of ‘everybody knows’ internet crap.

I had a conversation with a student this week, not by any means stupid, who looked at me wonderingly when I disagreed with him over whether 9/11 was ‘an inside job’. I’d bet more of my students believe that, or believe Jay-Z is privy to the secrets of the lluminati than believe in God.


2. Gabriel Bonnar - March 29, 2015

“Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T S Eliot


3. Alibaba - March 29, 2015

“For anyone who wishes a clear, well-written explanation of evolution by one of the foremost scientists working on the subject, ‘Why Evolution is True’ should be your choice.”

This is according to E.O. Wilson, the eminent scientist mentioned in the Slate article above.

This book is the best read I’ve come across. Its author is Jerry A Coyne who states:

‘The battle for evolution seems never-ending. And the battle is part of a wider war, a war between rationality and superstition. What is at stake is nothing less than science itself and all the benefits it offers to society’.


4. CL - March 29, 2015

“The decision, since reversed, by Ireland’s minister for science, Conor Lenihan, to speak at the launch of a book that condemns evolution as a hoax is a damning and depressing indictment of Irish politics.”


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