Although it’s been almost 100 years since the end of the Scopes Monkey Trial, the issues surrounding teaching evolution in public schools is still rearing its head.
No, it’s not taking place in Georgia, where Congressman Paul Broun used the bully pulpit as chairman of the House of Representatives science and technology committee to denounce evolution as “lies from the pits of Hell.”
It came up last week in the Ontario Legislature, during the debate over the recent changes to Ontario’s sexual education curriculum (previously addressed in last week’s Et Cetera). In a riposte to Education Minister Liz Sandals’ assertions that some in the Progressive Conservative party would ban the teaching of evolution in school, Tory MPP Rick Nicholls shouted, “That’s not a bad idea,” leading to rolled eyes from fellow Tories and incensed (and somewhat bemused) reactions from New Democrats and Liberals. In response, a federal MP from Alberta also announced his lack of belief in evolution.
Americans have struggled with the topic for some time, with the concept of evolution being legally protected in U.S. textbooks after the Epperson v. Arkansas decision of 1968, and in 2005 the pseudoscientific concept of intelligent design was largely drummed out of U.S. schools.
This is not an issue that has gained much headway in Canada. The opinions of federal MPs are thankfully irrelevant due to the fact that the federal government has no say over educational policy.
The PC party is in the throes of a leadership race, where one candidate, Monte McNaughton has made his position clear (he is against changes to sex ed in schools – although he has not elucidated his opinion on evolution), with others being mushy on the issue.
Would the Progressive Conservatives ban the teaching of a concept that has been backed up with so much science that even the Roman Catholic Church, which did not officially vindicate Galileo until 1992, accepts it? Or would the Biblical theory of life creation be the only accepted theory in the science curriculum?
Thomas Jefferson’s concept of a wall between church and state has come under attack in the United States but still holds true in Canada. It should be expanded to include a wall between church and school (publicly-funded Catholic schools aside, which should be taken private altogether).
Ontario is in desperate need of an opposition party that can present a fiscally conservative alternative to the Liberal record, and such “bozo eruptions” only ensure a Liberal government in perpetuity. It needs to clarify its position, not only on the issue of evolution, but its stance on social issues in general.
Social conservatism does not appeal to most Ontarians – it has been repudiated repeatedly at the ballot box. The “theory” of evolution is scientific fact – and, frankly, is compatible with the concept of a higher power, which many theologians have come to accept.
So, as the PC Party moves towards its leadership convention, it needs to finally decide what kind of party it wants to be.