“Here in the North there is no such thing as monkeys.”

OK, Canadians, ‘fess up. I know you guys are so danged nice and polite…this is just an attempt to make your Southern neighbor feel less uniquely stupid, isn’t it? You put up some obliging Québécois Inuit Pentecostals to pretend to be as dumb as a Kansas preacher, didn’t you?

“If the town complains and says no, the committee can ask the principal or the director of teachers to approach the teacher and say, ‘Look, this is not the subject to be taught here in this town, or in this place, because we know we have been humans from the beginning, ‘” said Molly Tayara.

“I don’t personally accept my children being taught that they came from some species from Africa somewhere.

“Here in the North there is no such thing as monkeys.”

(via Josh)


  1. says

    the linked article says that the people of the town are inuit, so calling them “quebecois” obscures the issue here. vast swaths of northern quebec are inhabited by native peoples from what i recalled, and when quebec almost seceded these groups threatened to secede from quebec, showing how “quebecois” they feel.

    anyway, i had to say point that out, since i followed the link ready to laugh at some frenchies….

  2. Paul W. says

    Now I’m curious. Anybody know where these particular people think people did come from?

    My understanding is that some Native Canadians’ myths actually say that humans came from—of all things—non-human animals. (Which were transformed by some deity or other.)

    So I’m wondering if the problem is about coming from nonhuman animals, or the mechanismms of evolution, or if it’s mmostly African apes they object to.

  3. steve s says

    “Here in the North there is no such thing as monkeys.”

    Out here in the perimeter there are no stars…

  4. djlactin says


    The traditional account of the Inuit people is that the trickster in the form of Raven created the world. When the waters forced the ground up from the deep Raven stabbed it with his beak and fixed it into place. This first land was just big enough for a single house occupied by a single family: a man, his wife and their son, Raven who had fixed the land. The father had a bladder hanging over his bed. After much pleading by Raven the father allowed the boy to play with it. While playing Raven damaged the bladder and light appeared. The father not wanting to have light always shining took the bladder from the boy before he could damage it further. This struggle is the origin of day and night”

    bottom line: the inuit believe that humans are as old as the earth.

    let’s be clear here: this is no fundamentalist christian denial in the face of evidence.

  5. Ginger Yellow says

    It’s Inuit denial in the face of the evidence. Christianity hasn’t got a monopoly on stupid

  6. Caledonian says

    Do they also insist schools teach that whales and seals came from a girl’s severed finger joints, or that the sun isn’t a ball of hydrogen and helium plasma but is instead a punctured bladder?

    I suspect that someone’s trying to reverse the catastrophic destruction of Inuit culture by eliminiating what is perceived as a major competitor: the rest of the modern world.

  7. _Arthur says

    As a Québécois, I recently discovered Pharyngula and Panda’s Thumb at the time of the Dover Affair (splendid job, bravo).

    I was blissfully unaware of the whole Creationism debate, I always thought it was a few cranks. Strangely enough, I credit the (then) Catholic stranglehold on Québec education system for teaching straight science. I never realized until recently how non-meddlesome the catholic church was, science-wise.

    The power of the church has completely waned since the 70’s, it is now unable to replace old priests, all its seminaries are empty.

    And yes, the Cree and Inuit approach to the teaching of Biology is entirely their own, they have their own culture and society, within or rather apart of Québec society.


  8. aiabx says

    The “problem” here is that native cultures are being wiped out by the modern world, and the difficulty is balancing the preservation of traditional ways as opposed to making people into museum objects. Clearly, someone has decided that these kids are going to be kept to the old ways whether they like it or not.

  9. nil says

    It’s not a simple story. Yes it’s Inuits and not Québécois, but opposition to evolution is more coming from pentecostal Christianity than traditional inuit religion.

    And then Québec has left considerable autonomy to the Cree and Inuit school board, and teachers from the South are walking on eggshells not to offend.

    For people who read french, the original article from Québec-Science gives more detail here

  10. Jason Spaceman says

    Pentecostalism might have something to do with it. According to this CBC story the Pentecostal church is prominent in many Inuit communities, which could explain the opposition to evolution.

  11. Caledonian says

    That article is awful — it represents some poorly-defined version of Lamarckian evolution as Darwin’s theory.

  12. says

    Re Pentecostalism as the source: yeah, very probably. My parents have spent some time in the Arctic, and around three years ago reported a fairly standard ‘attack the high school Biology teacher with creationist BS’ effort underway in one of the settlements–believe it was in Broughton Island–and it was their very clear understanding that it was coming from a local fundamentalist church.

    That’s one infectious, nasty little virus, that one.

  13. Joe Shelby says

    PZ: I quoted you from the last time Canadian ignorance showed itself (“We’re sorry, Canada, we didn’t know it was contagious”).

    Though this event, if it was expected by that committee that rejected that study, might explain what happened back then.

  14. says

    And re putting up some local schmuck ‘to pretend to be as dumb as a Kansas preacher’: didn’t Pentacostalism start in Kansas? Charles Parham, anyone?

    Dammit. No, we didn’t put anyone up. But It Came From Kansas. And now it’s here. (Cue squealing string section, 50s monster movie titles…)

  15. renniem says

    Personally, I blame Nafta.

    After all, why should stupidity be exempt from being freely traded.

  16. says

    Its not just science education that’s being effected. I’ve heard talk in the past that the rise of fundamentalist Christian sects in some aboriginal communities has been causing tension between members. On the one hand you have people trying to resurrect traditional spirituality, while on the other you have people being indoctrinated into forms of conservative Christianity that tend to consider non-Christian religions as a product of Satan.

  17. Babbler says

    I read this in the The Gazette a few days ago. It is sad, since the spread of evolution denial (and moreover, the spread of evangelical Christianity) will retard the progress of a peoples to long held back.

    Interesting factoid: According to this article, certain traditions in traditional Inuit religion are similar to Pentecostalist concepts, thus making them more prone its seductions.

  18. says

    Although if you read the articles, you’ll see that the response from the ministry of education is “Okay, we’ll look into being sensitive, but evolution is in the course guidelines, and you are required to teach it.”

  19. JamesNicoll says

    “That article is awful — it represents some poorly-defined version of Lamarckian evolution as Darwin’s theory.”

    Is that the side-bar with the word “notion” used in reference to the TOE? I suspect it’s the product of some misguided attempt to be even-handed by some undereducated chucklehead at the CBC. I heard Alexandre April (the teacher who first complained about this) being interveiwed on the Current (on CBC radio) and had to leave the room when the interviewer, Rafe Mair, cheerfully asked “why not just teach both as theories, then?”

  20. says

    FWIW, Rafe Mair is a product of private, right-wing talk radio in British Columbia, so his cheerful anti-science stance is no surprise. The CBC is usually branded as ‘left wing’ up here, but they pander to the right with guest hosts like Rafe and Deborah Grey (an ex-reform MP) on the daily morning show.

  21. Theo Bromine says

    “For lack of the proper verb — the girl in plaid said “is” instead of “are” — Molly Tayara lost the points.”

    To be fair, English is probably Molly Tayara’s 2nd or 3rd language (which may also be the case for the student in LA to which this is presumably an allusion).

    2 things bother me about this story:

    1) There seems to be a sense among the umm…Politically Correct that the “establishment” should be sensitive to Inuit culture, but the only creation myth that I have seen raised in opposition to evolution is standard fundy YEC.

    2) I heard an interview with the teacher at the centre of the controversy (http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/media/200605/20060519thecurrent_sec1.ram)
    in which the host said “why doesn’t the school (or don’t schools in general) teach both creationism and evolution as theories?” Grrrr.

  22. JamesNicoll says

    “I read this in the The Gazette a few days ago. It is sad, since the spread of evolution denial (and moreover, the spread of evangelical Christianity) will retard the progress of a peoples to long held back.”

    If by held back, you mean mistreated by the colonial authorities, I can’t disagree (After all, the only reason there are people on Ellesmere is because we used natives as property flags) but if you mean “historically technologically backward”, I’d argue that that’s a fairly recent development.

    What I mean is, until the Old World made contact after 1500, the Inuit held their own in the New World, displacing the Dorset Culture (aside from one remnant that died out in the early years of the 20th century) and prevailing where the Norse could not, and part of that success was their tool-kit, which was well suited for life in a marginal environment.

  23. says

    PhaWRONGula (Ratty) says:

    Says Molly T, from Cana-duh, the North is monkey-free:
    We’ve human been since God decreed, and thus will always be.
    And every Christian Northerner should proudly venture forth,
    And preach it to the heathens: there’s no monkeys in the Noarth…

  24. says

    nil is correct. This story was covered by the Montreal paper. The Inuit in question seem to be fundamentalist christians of a certain sort.

    Babbler: I’ve got a close Inuit friend and I can’t see anything in the traditional Inuit religion that resembles any form of Christianity that I’m aware of, other than the usual (metaphysical) idealism and stuff common to religions generally.

    JamesNicoll: Are you sure about Ellesmere? I had always read that people did live there, but only around the edges, close to the water. (As is true of virtually everywhere the Inuit were.)

  25. JamesNicoll says

    “JamesNicoll: Are you sure about Ellesmere?”

    I am always sure. The question is “am I right”?

    I may have been too sweeping: Grise Ford was settled in the 1950s by the Canadian government to demonstrate our sovereignity in the region.

  26. El Juno says

    Well, fundamentalist Christians or not, I’ve found there to be a strong strain of certain forms of denial (though I’m not QUITE sure what to call it…) among at least some Indians, though the theory they object to specifically is the Bering Strait land bridge one, which was apparently made up by the white man so that he didn’t have to feel bad about stealing Indian land (because if the Indians came here, as well, they had no better claim than the Europeans, or something).

    I’ve had it strongly implied to me by at least one of my relatives that the fact that I ‘believe in that bullshit’ is proof of the corrupting influence of one or all of the following…

    1. Having a white mother
    2. Being blond (when it comes to passing socitially, I lucked out on the recessive genes lotto)
    3. Growing up away from the tribe/not in Oklahoma/in New England.

  27. El Juno says

    s/socitially/societally. I swear to God, my spelling’s gone to Hell lately.

  28. says

    I keep trying to believe that, contrary to what Einstein said, human stupidity is finite. Then PZ shows me someone adding 1 to it.