This story about the struggles of a high school biology teacher in Florida is depressing. David Campbell, the teacher, is a hero — but it’s the kind of hero sent off to suffer and fail in a misplaced struggle, who dutifully falls in battle, a victim of bad leadership and poor strategy. It’s the same old tactics the educational bureaucracy has been pushing for 50 years or more: tip-toe gently about the subject of religion, never challenge the idiocy students bring into the classroom with them, always strain to allow them to accommodate science to their personal superstitions…which means pretending that science doesn’t directly contradict their cherished myths. It doesn’t work and has never worked, and the problem gets worse and worse every year.
Throughout the story, the teacher is striving to be respectful to religion (he’s an Anglican himself) while the students are being arrogant dumbasses who refuse to listen to this evolution stuff. There is a villain here, but the article doesn’t point a finger directly, nor does David Campbell place the blame: but the willfully anti-science students are victims of church and dogma. It’s gotten so bad that it’s not just parents and students who are opposing good science education, it’s some of the teachers themselves. One of Campbell’s fellow biology teachers is busily inculcating students with stupidity, too.
Animals do adapt to their environments, Ms. Yancey tells her students, but evolution alone can hardly account for the appearance of wholly different life forms. She leaves it up to them to draw their own conclusions. But when pressed, she tells them, “I think God did it.”
Mr. Campbell was well aware of her opinion. “I don’t think we have this great massive change over time where we go from fish to amphibians, from monkeys to man,” she once told him. “We see lizards with different-shaped tails, we don’t see blizzards—the lizard bird.”
That that woman is a public school science teacher is an indictment of the educational system in this country. We can tell right away what has made her stupid, though: I think God did it. She’s been infected with religion.
The kids are no better. Their brains have been poisoned with the lies of faith.
At 16, Bryce, whose parents had made sure he read the Bible for an hour each Sunday as a child, no longer went to church. But he did make it to the predawn meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a national Christian sports organization whose mission statement defines the Bible as the “authoritative Word of God.” Life had been dark after his father died a year ago, he told the group, but things had been going better recently, and he attributed that to God’s help.
When the subject of evolution came up at a recent fellowship meeting, several of the students rolled their eyes.
“I think a big reason evolutionists believe what they believe is they don’t want to have to be ruled by God,” said Josh Rou, 17.
“Evolution is telling you that you’re like an animal,” Bryce agreed. “That’s why people stand strong with Christianity, because it teaches people to lead a good life and not do wrong.”
Isn’t that charming? Students attend meetings before school that explicitly undermine their instruction in science class. Kids get indoctrinated into the self-serving lies of religion — religion most definitely does not teach people to not do wrong, or it is awfully incompetent at doing that. And it teaches arrogance.
The last question on the test Mr. Campbell passed out a week later asked students to explain two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection.
“I refuse to answer,” Bryce wrote. “I don’t believe in this.”
Tough, kid. Then you flunk science. It really is that simple — if you can’t even regurgitate an answer given in class, then you don’t get to pass…and your bogus faith is not a legitimate excuse.
And I’m sorry, but Campbell blows it, too.
“Can anybody think of a question science can’t answer?”
“Is there a God?” shot back a boy near the window.
“Good,” said Mr. Campbell, an Anglican who attends church most Sundays. “Can’t test it. Can’t prove it, can’t disprove it. It’s not a question for science.”
I despise that chicken-hearted answer. There are two reasonable ways to address that. One is to accept the usual open-ended, undefined vagueness of the god entity and point out that the reason it can’t be answered is that it is a bad question — it’s not even wrong. Science doesn’t answer it, but then no discipline can, because it’s a garbage question like “what color are invisible elephants?” If that’s what window-boy intends with his petty little gotcha, he deserves to have the inanity of his idea disparaged.
The other approach is to pin the question down. What god? What actions has it taken in the natural world? How does it influence us specifically? Then you can tackle that god with science by testing the purported effects it has. A potentially falsifiable or verifiable god is a legitimate target of scientific investigation…of course, that kind of god seems to vanish as soon as it is scrutinized, and its advocates rapidly fall back on the not-even-wrong version of a deity. Either way, though, gods are refuted.
Here’s the real message of the NY Times story, though. There are good science teachers striving to get legitimate, credible biology taught…and at every turn they are undermined by a culture of unwarranted deference to religion, by an unchallenged church that actively disinforms kids from an early age, by families brought up in faith-based ignorance that perpetuates an anti-reality delusion. That’s the dark evil gnawing at the heart of the American public.
It’s an effective evil, too, since most people cower before it and fear to declare it the bane of public education. Even many who don’t believe are reluctant to call it out — it will antagonize the believers, they say, they won’t accept the all-important proximate message of science if we alienate them from their precious myths and superstitions. So we continue this game of science proponents edging delicately around the central issue while the advocates of religion feel no constraint at all, and attack reason by hammering our children with unrepentant, unapologetic lunacy.
Isn’t it obvious yet that a policy of temerity does not work? If we’re ever going to win, we have to fight back directly at the root cause of bad science and bad education: religion.