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Unnatural selection

Posted By Julie Foster On 03/03/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Two Northwest educators continue to battle school board members,
colleagues and the ACLU over whether or not they have the right to
criticize the theory of evolution in their classrooms.

Roger DeHart, a Washington high school teacher, has been teaching
evolution to his ninth- and tenth-grade students since he was hired by
the Burlington-Edison School District in
1987. Because of controversy surrounding evolution, DeHart believed it
intellectually honest to present scientific criticism of the theory to
his students.

For 10 years, DeHart never received any complaint until a summer
student filed one in 1997. The district superintendent interviewed
several other pupils to investigate the legitimacy of the complaint and
found no illegal teaching to be taking place — Supreme Court cases have
set a precedent that creationism not be taught in public schools. But
the Washington State chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union involved itself in March 1998 and filed a
complaint against the biology teacher.

The ensuing legal battle would result in DeHart having to clear all
of his curricula with the school board’s curriculum committee — an
arrangement DeHart says is unprecedented.

As a result, what once was a classroom where lively debate ensued
over the scientific evidences of evolution versus intelligent design has
now become a near-one-sided lecture in which Darwin’s conclusions may be
questioned, but his theory must have the last word.

DeHart believes the best way to teach is to discuss existing
controversy.

“We were talking strictly about scientific discovery and what the
current research is finding,” DeHart said in a WorldNetDaily interview.

For example, DeHart asked his students, “Do molecules have in them
the ability to create life?”

“There’s no empirical evidence that says they can,” said DeHart.
“Students need to know that. They need to know what’s happening in
current science.”

The veteran teacher is suspicious of the scientific community’s
apparent reverence for Darwinism.

“If something in science suddenly becomes so sacrosanct that you
can’t question it, then it ceases to be science,” he said. “And I
really think that’s what’s become of Darwinism.”

Similarly, community college instructor Kevin Haley in Oregon has
been criticized by other faculty for questioning human evolution.
Haley, who has been teaching biology for non-majors for more than three
years, told WorldNetDaily new biology textbooks read like “sales
pitches” for the theory, rather than presenting a discussion of facts.

Evolution is a mandated curriculum in public colleges, and Haley says
he teaches the subject thoroughly, including “the parts that are true
and the parts that are not.”

Students perform first-hand experiments using vegetables, which show
evolution holds true with certain limitations, according to Haley.
Broccoli is extrapolated from a mustard seed through “selective
breeding” — reproducing specimens containing specific characteristics
until a desired specimen results.

Haley’s classes find Brussel sprouts to share the genetic pattern of
cabbage, as do cauliflower and broccoli. Through the experiments, they
learn that “evolution” can happen quickly and can be observed. But
animal life is not as simple, teaches Haley.

The instructor explained scientists must use the same, single
assumption when attempting to explain the world around them.

“The rule of science says to explain everything through the context
of natural law,” said Haley, who noted his belief that resulting
explanations are not necessarily correct.

“That [rule] is an agreement in the scientific community, but it
doesn’t mean it’s true.”

He noted one textbook’s statement in reference to the similarity of
animal-human skeletal structure.

“The book says ‘God wouldn’t do something like that’” unless
evolution were true. “When a science book talks about God, I point out
the departure [from the rule],” he said.

Pointing out the scientific community’s hypocrisy had landed Haley in
the spotlight just as his tenure approaches, which, if granted, would
make firing Haley much more difficult for college administrators.

English major Rebecca Bradford filed a complaint against Haley,
saying she felt shortchanged by his class despite his skill as a
teacher. She said Haley subtly undermines the theory of evolution by
downplaying information that supports it and emphasizing information
that challenges it.

“He picks the text apart,” Bradford told the Oregonian newspaper. “He
says, ‘Where do these authors get their license to say that we
evolved?’ He claims he wants students to be critical thinkers, but he
does not give the other side,” she said.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for
Science Education,
believes educators are
trying surreptitiously to teach creationism.

“The most recent strategy is, if they can’t teach creation science,
they teach evidence against evolution,” said Scott, whose organization’s
mission is “to defend the teaching of evolution against sectarian
attack,” according to the group’s website.

NCSE, which asks scientists and pro-evolution activists to “encourage
professional and community organizations (like the PTA) to give public
support to evolution education,” claims most Christian denominations
have accepted evolution as fact and says creationism “attempts to retain
a theology that has been abandoned by mainline Christianity.”

“Creationists ignore the basic premises of science,” says the group.
“For example, the public school edition of Henry Morris’ textbook,
“Scientific Creationism,” published by Creation-Life Publishers, states:
‘It is precisely because Biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative
and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will
give the same testimony as that of Scripture. There is not the slightest
possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible.’ This
principle directly contradicts the requirement that scientific
explanations must be modified when new facts are discovered.

“Similarly, the textbook “Earth Science for Christian Schools,”
published by Bob Jones University Press,
states: ‘For the Christian, earth science is a study of God’s creation.
As such, it is subject to God’s infallible Word, the Bible. The final
authority of the Christian is not man’s observation but God’s
revelation.’ Yet scientific explanations depend on human observation of
natural processes, not on supernatural revelation.

“These statements are objectionable from the scientific and religious
points of view. Who knows who has the correct interpretation of the
Bible? Many Christians accept the theory of evolution, but these
statements imply that the only true Christians are those who interpret
the Bible in exactly the same way as their authors do. They also imply
that the fundamental scientific procedure — human observation — is
wrong and useless when it contradicts the creationist interpretation of
the Bible. These and many other creationist statements unmask
creationism for what it is: not a science, but a narrow-minded religious
belief, immune to evidence or potential correction.

“Religious people who struggle with the creation/evolution
controversy need to understand that accepting evolution as science is
not antithetical to a religious view,” says the NCSE.

In the past, pro-evolution activists argued that creationism, and now
intelligent design, cannot be taught in public schools because such
teachings would be a violation of the separation of church and state.
However, the activists are now attempting to stop even criticism of
Darwin’s theory in educational environments.

“It may not be a matter of church-state separation, but it is
definitely a matter of professional competency,” said Scott, who told
“The Oregonian” any biologist who leads students to discount the theory
of evolution is doing a disservice to them.

But the college science department’s former chairman, Bruce
McClelland, wrote a letter recommending Haley be promoted from assistant
to associate instructor last month.

“I think he is doing a very good job,” said McClelland. “Students
are very interested in the subject. They perceive that he is interested
in them. He generates curiosity and stimulates their thinking. Those
are things that I think are not always there in a professor.”

Despite the recommendation, Haley was given written complaints Monday
that were filed by other faculty. Vice President of Instruction Bart
Queary gave the letters to Haley saying they represent a “serious and
persistent issue.”

“If this is such a ‘serious and persistent issue,’ why haven’t I
heard anything about it before now,” asks Haley.

Queary also told the professor he had complaints of his own, but did
not formalize them in writing. According to Haley, Queary suspects the
teacher of racism as a result of an educational video Haley showed in
class. The video relates an African folk tale explaining the origin of
the leopard’s spots as the fingerprints of an Ethiopian.

Haley says the complaint is unfounded since Danny Glover, a black
actor, narrated the tale.

Other complaints have now surfaced against the Oregon professor as
well. Queary said the college is investigating complaints from three
students and five women faculty members that Haley tends to belittle
women by questioning their intelligence.

Haley denies the charges and points to his record as evidence. He
taught for seven years at the College of St. Mary in Omaha, an all-girls school. While there, Haley was
selected by the pupils to receive the Student Senate award.

“They’ve been trying to get me for three years for teaching
creationism and couldn’t, so they then came up with this women thing,”
Haley said.

In spite of persistent opposition, Haley is trying to remain
positive, and he insists he is merely doing his job as a professor.

“Our project is just to be able to teach evolution just as we would
any other subject,” he said. “I’d like this institution to be a model
example of how to teach evolution correctly.”

“There’s a philosophy behind [evolution],” added Haley. “They only
reason we say life comes from non-life is because the naturalistic
philosophy demands it. That’s fine. The thing that must be understood,
though, is that it’s a philosophy. If the assumption is “no god,” and
you work within those parameters, you end up with evolution.”

“People need to know when they go to a science class, they will be
operating within science rules,” he concluded.


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