Folks on the political left seem to be less interested in arguing about actual public policies and more concerned with establishing some kind of unworthy mind on the part of their adversaries. We’ve had the faux contraception wars and now we’ll re-litigate the Darwin controversy for the umpteenth time. Thus, we have a smirky British journalist asking Scott Walker about evolution (with which his office has virtually nothing to do) while the governor conducts a trade mission.
But let us take the issue seriously. To the extent that evolution has been some kind of real controversy, it has been so primarily over its treatment in the schools. William Jennings Bryan, the former Democrat senator, secretary of state, and failed presidential candidate, pushed to keep Darwin out of the classroom. His reasoning was laudable. He thought that the ideas of natural selection and the survival of the fittest would have negative consequences for human society.
Should evolution be taught in schools? I think the answer is that it really should be simply because it is by far the dominant theory. What is the point of protecting your child from the dominant theory when they will come face to face with it in college or later on via any variety of possible encounters? Avoiding evolution just creates a stronger front of attack somewhere further down the line.
What would be better? Stop fighting and let science take its course. Maybe the theory will undergo a substantial shift and maybe it won’t. Know what you believe and why you believe it. Teach the theory and do so fairly. If you are concerned about communicating social, philosophical, and religious implications that don’t necessarily follow, then go ahead and mark out that territory. As you educate children in science, educate them also in the limitations of science. That is simply responsible.
But the way things are right now, we are too often just giving the enemies of the faith the felt pen they use for drawing gross caricatures. Don’t avoid evolution. Walk right past it, taking time to give it plenty of eye contact and respect.