Miss USA Contestants on Teaching Evolution

By Sean Carroll | June 24, 2011 9:57 am

Now that Twitter and Facebook have been invented, I don’t usually put up blog posts that simply link to someone else’s posts. (Although I wonder if that policy is a mistake.) But this morning I put up a link to a post at Jerry Coyne’s blog, and it was almost immediately deleted from Facebook. (The Twitter entry was fine, of course.) I wouldn’t even have known, except that someone commented that it had been “flagged as inappropriate by Facebook users.”

Of course, Facebook being Facebook, I have no idea whether this is a nefarious conspiracy or simple incompetence. Probably both. In any event, you should go check out the post, which comments on this YouTube video.

It’s a compilation of the answers given by contestants in the Miss USA contest to a simple question: “Should evolution be taught in schools?” Miss California, Alyssa Campanella, who eventually won the contest, gave a strong pro-science answer that will bring a smile to your face. At least, if you are finished crying and throwing objects at your computer monitor after seeing some of the other answers. Due to the vagaries of alphabetical order, Miss Alabama comes first, and it’s not pretty.

For the most part, the contestants are interested in being good politicians and keeping everybody happy, not in staking out courageous stances in the science/religion debates. But that’s exactly what’s so depressing: here we are, in the most advanced country in the world (albeit in its waning years), and it’s considered controversial whether we should teach science to our children. The question wasn’t even “should we teach creationism,” which is actually a harder issue (although still very easy). It was just whether we should teach straightforward science at all. Very sad indeed.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society
  • Terry Emberson

    I hate that phrase “I think it’s good to teach both sides of the question.”

    So… I should teach them than when the world of fire and world of ice collided, the middle world was created and later the body of a giant was used to make the land that was later filled with people made out of tree trunks… and evolution.

  • Gizelle Janine

    God. There’s more than one reason I don’t even bother with watching those things.

    I’d have to agree with you, though. Science being taught in schools should never really be a question at all in any respect. It is, indeed a sad thing to even know the question is being asked.

    But…what else are you going to do? Questions are going to be asked, and there will always be a level of understanding on that basis.

    The Miss USA contest should be replaced with Vincent Price movies. Yesssssss.

  • panini

    What’s interesting about many answers is that they assume evolution isn’t taught at the moment, and someone is about to decide about its introduction in schools.

  • http://jonathan-peterson.com Jonathan Peterson

    I’m going to bet that no more than a couple contestants took AP biology (Miss Vermont actually seemed to actually know a bit about observed speciation – yay!).

    Sad to see how many give the “two sides” answer and even conflate evolution with big bang cosmology.

    Miss. California makes the fundamental mistake in using the word BELIEVE. Evolution, like other science, simply IS. The verb BELIEVE pretty well doesn’t belong in a science classroom.

    If you trip and don’t put your hands out, you’re going to smash your face on the ground whether or not you BELIEVE in gravity.

  • Michael

    Here’s the question for next year’s pageant: “Should we look to beauty contest entrants to inform us on educational policy?”

  • Kati

    Evolution and creationism–I’m not going to dignify creationism by giving it a capital C–have nothing to do with the other. Evolution is a well-established scientific LAW–since so many numbnuts get away calling creationism a scientific theory, I should be able to declare Evolution a scientific law–that has the OBJECTIVE backing of over 100 years of scientific inquiry; creationism is a religious something-or-other, up there was Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

    One has nothing to do with the other. Heck, I’m not even going to argue that they’re mutually exclusive since they’re not even in the same category of thought. To declare one exclusive to the other is to give permission for creationists to look for “flaws” in Evolution and use it to support their alternative “theory”, and I won’t buy into it.

  • Tom S

    Wow. Sad.
    Still… of all the answers, I am with Jonathan.. Ms Vermont came across most knowledgeable, even if she did not “win” this contest.

  • Kati

    @Michael. Re: Here’s the question for next year’s pageant: “Should we look to beauty contest entrants to inform us on educational policy?”

    Honestly, would it be any worse than have Congress inform educational policy?

  • http://math-frolic.blogspot.com Shecky R.

    ohhh like Wow, that is sooo gnarly depressing… and I don’t mean that in a happy way.

  • Jason Dick

    I kind of liked Jillian Wunderlich’s response (Indiana). I guess I felt like she was saying, “Why the hell are you asking me?”

    But on the whole, it seemed that the most common response was “Both Sides!” To which I was viscerally reminded of this SMBC video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGArqoF0TpQ

  • http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/people/e.lim/ Eugene

    There’s got to be a prize for Miss Indiana’s response.

  • Andrew

    Is it just me, or do these answers seem to relflect a (terrifying) amalgamation of religious idiocy and postmodernist idiocy? Along with the obvious religious idiocy, there seems to be a theme that “everybody gets to choose their own reality.” A few contestants also seemed to think the question is culture-specific, as if the laws of nature depend on cultural, religious, or ethnic background. On the other hand, even though this is rather depressing, I doubt the opinions of these fine young scholars make much practical difference.

  • http://ckames.blogspot.com Charles Ames

    Several interesting ideas here:

    * Teach “both” — cosmological statements made by religion and by science are really just opinions on equal footing.

    * “Let the children decide for themselves” — both religious doctrine and scientific theories are opinions to be held or discarded, sort of like fashion, AND children are equipped by our educational institutions to choose between a commitment to observation-driven skepticism or faith-driven dogma.

    * “Religion should be taught in schools.” — religion is a single subject, like what you learn at church, and not an exclusively local custom with hundreds of variations.

    It seems clear that intellect has not been a heavily favored attribute in selecting for beauty pageants.

  • http://ckames.blogspot.com Charles Ames

    @Katie — actually you can declare that evolution and creationism are mutually exclusive — in the sense that they cannot both be held as truthy(*) ideas simultaneously in the same sane mind — precisely because they occupy different and incompatible categories of thought.

    * Science doesn’t really produce “truths”, only our best understandings to date; whereas ideas offered by religion(s) are presented exclusively as “the truth”. So we can’t even talk about the veracity of statements offered by science and religion in equivalent terms.

  • http://ckames.blogspot.com Charles Ames

    @Johnathan Peterson — “Believe” actually does belong in science classrooms, if for no other reason than to frame a discussion about what it means to reject ideas produced by science. If one “believes” in the *process* of science, and one “believes” in the integrity of certain experiments and the logic of related arguments, than one must accept the conclusions thereby reached. This comes more easily to some of us than others, of course :)

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Crushingly depressing. And ditto on “belief systems”, etc. “Belief” in evolution is inappropriate. No one who understands the meaning of theory “believes” anything taught in science class, and there isn’t a single contestant that I watched (I just couldn’t sit through it past Ms. Colorado) who gave a proper answer. Ms. California flunked as badly as the rest. Rather, I should say her teachers failed her as badly as any Ms. Wherever’s, because they clearly never taught any of these contestants what the hell science actually is.

  • Ben

    Hi Sean,

    Something different: You write “here we are, in the most advanced country in the world”. Do you really believe that? That is a pretty arrogant statement and, apart from that, also quite wrong. Just pick a few random indicators, say child mortality, life expectancy or the Math scores of pupils. According to the Human Development Index, the most advanced country in the world is Norway followed by Australia. In other respects, like the murder rate or the incarceration rate per capita, the US is indeed very ‘advanced’ compared to other industrialized countries, though this is probably not what you mean. I am somewhat disappointed to see someone as knowledgeable as you to buy (though probably unconsciously) into the ‘greatest country in the world’ fairy tale.

    Ben

  • George

    I think Miss New Mexico had the best response. She kept religion entirely out of her answer. Simply that it’s part of science so we should teach it.

  • Ijon Tichy

    Massachusetts, Vermont and New Mexico for the win!

  • http://sievemaria.com sievemaria

    Hard cold facts ? who could get anything done – you have to have faith. It is much easier to believe in Creationism then evolution. Anyway those girls all look/sound the same. No evolution there.

  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Arkansas:
    “Personally, I was never taught evolution”
    But wait. It gets worse:
    Georgia:
    “I mean, we’re smarter than ever these days, so we can make our own choices”

  • Matt

    I just threw my computer out the window in frustration. Sean, I blame you…

  • Sean H

    i think it’s instructive to try a more positive and less “they’re all stupid” reading of all this. firstly — i found it very positive that there were a handful of informed and thoughtful replies. secondly — the conception of school as a place of development and debate rather than solely either indoctrination or fact- or skill-reproduction is not something to be taken for granted. it isn’t the case in much of the world now and it hasn’t been the case for much of history. i would take it as a very positive sign that this idea — against dogma (even if with misconceived notion of what counts as dogma) — is robustly in place and non-negotiable. thirdly — it’s not always easy to be articulate on the spot, even for us well-heeled scientific types. and i think it’s disingenuous to say that the women should have kept to science and not mentioned religion, because like it or not religion is the subtext of the question. my favorite comment therefore was from the woman who pointed out that many religious leaders have said (to various degrees) that there need not be a contradiction between religion and evolution. i felt that this is the sort of sensible statement that many of the other women were groping towards in a less articulate way.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    I’m not sure if anyone thinks these women are innately stupid. I certainly don’t. My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that contestants in the Miss USA pageant need to be high academic achievers to be in the running at the state level. According to Ms. Campanella’s personal web site, she was a 4.0 high school student, graduated a year early, and received a scholarship to New York’s prestigious Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. She might even be physicist material, for all I know. It’s safe to assume all of these women are easily “smart enough to know better”. And I don’t hold them responsible for their performance.

    But overall, the quality of the answers was appalling, and little less so from those who were quite open to teaching “belief” in evolution. I’m not one for harping on philosophy, but it’s quite clear that the great majority, if not all, of these women have not even a basic knowledge of the philosophy of science. A depressingly large number of them drew some kind of equivalency between evolution and the Judeo-Christian creation myth, as if they were simply alternate viewpoints rather than the products of completely different approaches to describing the natural world, and not comparable in any way. I’d love to think some percentage at least came off worse than they should have due to pressure to be “politically correct”. But they all seemed rather guileless to me, with answers too clumsy to have been rehearsed well.

    Which tells me that our high schools nationwide, at the very least, have really blown it with science education. Even the brightest students are not being given a good sense of how science tells us what it does (i.e. what makes it completely distinct from faith), even if they’re being taught what it tells us. I actually have always thought that Ms. USA was supposed to be not only an outstanding beauty, but also (if only to give the contest some feminist legitimacy in its dotage) highly talented in other ways, and at least well above-average in scholastics. So depressing indeed.

  • MM Thomas

    The solution to this and similar problems is to eliminate the public schools altogether. Society has no business dictating curricula to my children–that’s my job as a parent. The choice to have public schools is the source of the problem.

    First, I had to correct nearly everything my children were taught about evolution because the so-called science teachers didn’t understand evolutionary theory. Check out your local schools, they’re being run by morons who haven’t the least idea of their subjects. Worse yet, they have no curiousity about the world, being concerned only with benefits, their unions and what to do with their summer break.

    Second, you might sway public opinion to teach evolution for a generation or two, but if that opinion swings back, then you lost the battle. Education should never be left to public opinion.

    Third, along the lines of Sean’s thinking, we’ve lost all sense of teaching scientific or critical THINKING. Teachers today are the dictionaries from which all knowledge flows. They tell students they’re right because they are the teachers. How many times has your child come home with some alleged statement of fact, and you’ve asked, “How do you know that?” only to be told, “My teacher told me.”

    Fourth, along the lines of my comments above, are you really sure you want public school teachers teaching evolution? These people refuse to teach reading, grammar, math, and composition. So they must be prepared to teach evolution?

    The honest solution is to stop taxing everyone to pay for a public education system that has failed and to bury that system forever. Let’s see, how do American students rate within the world in their understanding of science or anything?

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Way OT, but there are examples in numerous other industrialized nations that could provide guidance for how to improve public education in the USA without dismantling it. In fact, I’m not aware of any nation that has superior scores on science tests to ours that lacks a public educational system. Many of them are robust democracies, so public opinion can, in practice, yield superior results compared to the American example. Certainly there’s need for reform, but if the rest of the world provides any relevant examples, it may very well be that a public education system is necessary to get the widespread science literacy needed to make it function sustainably. If public education can’t work in the USA, we would be a remarkable aberration.

    But I can’t dispute the assertion that it’s functioning sub-optimally here.

  • Claire

    The sorry state of science education in gradeschool in America must have something to do with these girls’ confusion. I remember being taught the “five step scientific method” as a rote list of things I had to memorize and reproduce on tests. When you reproduced the concept but not broken into the exact five steps, or in exactly the correct order, you got a low grade since work was graded on a “rubric” with 20 points for each category (so breaking them into 3 steps with the correct content gave you a 60% automatically). The confusion about what it means for something to be an acceptable “theory” must result from the fact that, unfortunately, the way science is taught by rote exactly resembles the way you learn in religious school — by blindly accepting ideas that need to be reproduced on a test. Many children do not learn about science as a means of establishing ideas through evidence and critical thinking.

    Incidentally, I think we also have to be careful about trying to teach science to children too early, before they can critically analyze ideas themselves. The point is not to “know” evolution so that you can reproduce on a standardized test (this seems to almost fall into some measure of literacy), but to understand why it is well supported even if this means you must attain this “literacy” a little later in your educational development.

  • Ray S

    What irritates me about the ‘teach both views and let the kids decide’ is the totally unjustified assumption that the kids are competent to evaluate the issue.

    Growing up (many) years ago, evolution was taught and the few students who were seriously religious functioned in a rather schizoid manner – the part of their lives involving religion was kept completely separate from the rest of their lives. They didn’t give any thought to the conflict until they were later challenged to act in the public world in accordance with their private, religious views. Some dropped the religious view, some became vociferous fundamentalist and some just kept being schizoid.

    People believe whatever makes them comfortable.

  • Jackson

    @MM Thomas First off, good job using anecdotal evidence to argue your point and I counter with an anecdote of my own: I live in a very conservative area yet all five biology teachers I had in secondary school (and an Environmental Science teacher) explained evolution correctly. So I guess Public School teachers aren’t morons.

    Second, so sense you have abolished public schools (who are legally obligated to teach the scientific consensus) all the parents who are creationists will push that on their kids, and since most parents in America no longer have a solid grasp of anything their kids are taught after Elementary school, none of these students will learn anything that they need.

    Also, so what happens to all the students with neglectful/abusive parents? Will they even learn to read? How about instead of insulting your kid’s teachers, maybe talk to them civilly and voice your concerns? Maybe these teachers have been verbally abused by small-minded overly zealous parents, and if they thought they could get away with teaching it they would?

    Yes around only 20% of high school teachers teach evolution, and that is a tragedy and we must fix it. However, cutting most children in America’s access to education won’t help, it will destroy this country. Those of us who understand and accept science need to voice our concern, and fix the problems, pay attention to your state congress and if a pro-creation bill rears its ugly head contact your representative and get other’s to contact them as well. Yes it can be hard and frustrating, but that is what happens when you live in a diverse republic.

    I guess though screaming loudly and insulting people is a lot easier than trying to create a positive change in the world.

  • Bill

    The amount of arrogance in this blog post and its comments is astounding. Many of you seem legitimately offended over the subject matter, and blindly oppose views that contradict yours. How can you be so ignorant in the name of science? How can you be so horribly biased?

    You need to embrace and consider alternatives at every turn, not shut them out. I was personally taught several different theories in High School and I feel more enlightened as a result.

    Scientists were laughed at when they proposed the Earth Revolved around the sun, and when they suggested the Earth was round. If “Scientific fact” remained as-is, we would still be teaching those wrong ideas in schools today. I’m thankful our scientific fore-fathers didn’t carry such a nasty closed-minded attitude, or we would still be banging rocks together to make fire.

    I must admit, I’m kind of leaning towards unsubscribing from this RSS feed and leaving with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m ashamed to be an Atheist science-lover at this moment.

  • John

    Bill, I think that you need to consider the following. If you step off a cliff, you will fall, due to gravity. It’s as established a scientific fact as can be. I think that you are reacting to the above comments as being arrogant because the commenters regard evolution as having been established just as firmly.

    There are of course still interesting scientific questions about evolution, just as there are still interesting scientific questions about gravity. But no (real) scientist seriously questions that life evolved on earth according to natural selection any more than they question whether you will fall off that cliff.

    What is appalling (and the comments above to this effect may also feed your perception of arrogance) is that evolution by natural selection is not taught with the same level of certitude as gravity in our schools. The sole reason this is not done is religion. We’ve done a great disservice to generations of students as a result.

  • TedL

    This is a good probing question about someone’s values. The question was “Should evolution be taught in schools?” Bible study schools, technical schools, grade schools, high schools, private religious schools, seminaries? The questions doesn’t say, probably because it’s the poise in the response that’s important. Yes, many of the answers were inane. But the questions is just plain stupid with no chance to qualify. Did we all assume this was meant as public schools? Do we really think evolution should be taught in art school, trade schools, and religious study schools? It is really hard for me to agree that someone at Bob Jones University should be taught evolution.

    We’re all judging these silly contestants based on how we heard the question, which probably differs from how the contestants (under some pressure) interpreted them. Now if they asked whether evolution should be taught in a science class and that generated the responses in the compilation then I think we could get our knickers in a righteous twist.

    I may watch this again because they are all so stunning….

    Thanks again for a great post Sean!

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    “in the most advanced country in the world”

    In what sense?

    Yes, the US will turn up at the top in some things simply because of the large population. Unless that is “advanced” per se, one definitely has to talk about some measure of advancedness (however one defines it) per unit population size. Does the US still come up tops anywhere? If so, where?

    I can think of a couple of dozen countries which, though not perfect, are certainly more advanced in the US, with “advanced” meaning that I would prefer to live there.

    As Oscar Wilde said, the US is the only country which went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in-between.

  • Dave

    Bah. Before evolution is taught in schools, the philosophy of science should be. Then at least kids would understand that our current theory of evolution is an application of Occam’s Razor to a bunch of theories that could explain the way that humans came into being, that it is a theory (and what a theory is), that it is just a model (and what a model is), and that it is incomplete.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    And (#34) that, as scientific explanations go, it is much, much, much better than creationism, which is the “alternative” in these conversations.

  • Steve Turrentine

    @33 RE: Wilde quote
    Mr. Helbig neglects to mention that Wilde died well over 100 yrs. ago & therefore obviously wouldn’t know what’s going on now. He also conveniently forgets that if it weren’t for the U.S. there’d be no civilization in Europe either, due to the activities of certain Germans approx. 40 yrs. after Wilde’s death … (g)

  • Ben

    @Steve Turrentine:
    True, but these ‘activities’ happened themselves over 60 years ago. And what does this have to do with Sean’s statement anyway? He wrote “here we are, in the most advanced country in the world” and not “60 years ago, we were…”.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    37. makes the correct reply to 36. Another reply to 36. is that all serious historians agree that the primary reason for the success of Hitler was the Treaty of Versailles, which literally imposed reparations on the children’s children’s children (and Germany didn’t even start the first World War, they just lost).

  • Evan

    “The question wasn’t even “should we teach creationism,” which is actually a harder issue (although still very easy).”

    ^This is exactly how I feel. I’m not mad at silly pageant contestants, many of whom probably come from the most conservative fringes of society. I’m frustrated that some pageant organizer thought that evolution, not creationism, was the more controversial and school-inappropriate concept.

    I also wonder how answers would have been different if the question had been phrased the other way, particularly given pageant girls’ desire to be nice and inclusive. Would we at least have gotten one “No creationism” response if it was phrased differently?

  • Dave

    @35: And what the meaning of the word “better” means the way you use, i.e., most probable given some prior expectation (in this case, the prior is that any phenomena that man has yet to observe is unlikely – a higher power, etc).

    They should also know that if you chose some sort of other prior – like an equal chance of there being a higher power or not (which is perhaps more reasonable, since we cannot directly observe it, and non-observations are should not be weighted heavily, ala the bayesian solution to the black ravens paradox) – then alternative theories, like the universe being created 100 years ago and made to look like it was created 15 billion years ago – are perhaps “better”.

    Induction is all kind of subjective, you see. That’s why reasonable people can disagree on things like this – and why people that dismiss other people’s beliefs out of hand as illogical or irrational are, in fact, themselves being irrational.

  • shams

    Very sad indeed.

    A lot of things about America are sad today. Unfortunately anglosaxon protestant objectivism and randian free market economics have turned out to be a poison pill for America.

    They are stupider

    America has extreme high incidence of creationism and AGW denialism for the same reason. The negative correlation of religiosity with cognitive ability.

  • Ron

    Should Math Be Taught in Schools?
    “Math is just a theory….” Teach the controversy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QBv2CFTSWU

  • Mike

    @30. Bill: “Scientists were laughed at when they proposed the Earth Revolved around the sun, and when they suggested the Earth was round. If “Scientific fact” remained as-is, we would still be teaching those wrong ideas in schools today. I’m thankful our scientific fore-fathers didn’t carry such a nasty closed-minded attitude, or we would still be banging rocks together to make fire.”

    Once the science of heliocentrism was proven, nobody was laughing at it (actually, it had more to do with religious leaders opposing it – sound familiar?). And, contrary to popular belief, it has been known for a long, long time that the earth was round. Do you have any examples of people laughing at that idea, or is that just a strawman?

    That you think that it was the scientific community that fought these ideas is odd, to say the least. And making a comparison with evolution through natural selection vs “creationism” is simply bizarre.

  • Dave

    @Ron: That’s a horrible analogy. Math is not a theory. Evolution is. They just both happen to be models.

    Math is taught primarily because it 1) is useful for getting through life and building more specific models for getting through life, and 2) it exercises critical thinking skills.

    Thanks for posting the video though! It really codifies how misguided your argument is!!

  • Federico

    Kansas hurts! Couldn’t go on. “It shouldn’t be taught because there are so many different views of it”. No words!

  • Federico

    By the way: the war on evolution isn’t just in the US. I happened to dial a catholic church radio in Spain trying to brain-wash the audience against evolution.
    It just doesn’t catch here, fortunately.

  • shams

    @Federico

    the war on evolution isn’t just in the US.

    The difference is that in America the flat-earthers have power. One of the two major political parties is wholly religious, white conservative christian.
    Its the electoral demographics of Distributed Jesusland™

  • bob

    Assume that one of the “contestants”, (snort) gave an answer that caused a paradigm shift in the thinking of educators and philosophers of science. A hugely profound, epiphany generating concept. It wouldn’t help her overcome a flat chest and kankles.

  • Michael

    Why should evolution be taught at schools? When I was at high school I distinctly remember my science teacher carefully skirting around the issue and saying stuff like ‘who knows whether life really evolved as stated or whether God was there guiding things along the way’. Some of you may be horrified at this and would strongly prefer that the teacher had told me that life evolved, and religion is stupid. But consider what would have happened if my teacher had taught me that. At the time I was very much under the influence of my strongly religious parents and I’m sure I would have rejected science as a danger to my faith. Instead I avoided a confrontation between my religious upbringing and my burgeoning exposure to scientific thought, and continued on to study science at university. This confrontation then happened several years later when I was much more able to think independantly of my parents influence and decide that all reasonable evidence pointed towards an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, and on which life has evolved.

    Perhaps the hatred and ignorance of science in America is partly fueled by the teaching of evolution in schools?

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    @49: The problem with that is that this argument can be used to justify anything. Also, your last sentence is probably wrong since in countries where evolution is taught in schools with no ifs, and or buts there is much less opposition to science than in God’s Own Country (which, as Pat Robertson recently informed us, is going down the drain anyway since the US has now “embraced” gay marriage).

  • Michael

    I’m not sure what ‘anything’ you refer to when you say my argument can be used to justify anything. About the only thing I can think of that the argument could also be used to justify is an avoidance of teaching around sexuality and tolerance of differing sexuality in high school. However my argument for the avoidance of evolution relies on the fact that there is no practical benefit to learning about evolution, whereas learning about sexuality can reduce unwanted pregnancy, reduce discrimination, sexual diseases etc.

  • Owen

    @Michael: Phillip’s point is this: If telling students nothing about evolution is the best way to educate them about evolution, why not tell them nothing about every subject? Why have schools at all?

    Your argument, as I understand it, is that you’re glad that no one tried to teach you evolution until you were prepared for the challenge to your existing beliefs. But in that argument, you’re acknowledging that you cannot educate people without challenging their beliefs. Having your beliefs challenged is healthy, and a vital part of any real education. However, there’s a big gap between ‘evolution happens’ and ‘religion is stupid’. The majority of Americans believe the first and not the second. We can, and should, teach evolution to every student without spitting on religion. Challenging a belief in literal creationism is not the same as challenging religion as a whole.

    We teach children about science because science produces great insights about how our world works. Understanding life on Earth is important, and you can’t fully understand life on Earth without understanding evolution. It is good to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STDs, but there is more to life than that.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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