Today marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, famous for this theory of evolution. In celebration of Darwin’s birthday, people throughout the globe are celebrating Darwin Day, “a global celebration of science and reason”.
However, as most are aware, not all agree with Darwin’s theories and the teaching of evolution has continued to be a hotly debated issue in schools throughout the United States. According to a recent poll, 40% of Americans discredit evolution and instead cling to a belief in creationism. Scientists claim that there is no merit to these claims, and instead choose to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, which they claim has the scientific backing creationism lacks. As such, issues often arise as to which a teacher is permitted to present in their classroom.
In 2005, US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design (creationism re-designated as to avoid religious connotations) is not science and therefore cannot be taught in public schools. However, last year, Louisiana passed what they term an “academic freedom” law. This law protects the teachers’ freedom of speech by allowing them to “discuss the ‘scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses’ of issues such as evolution.” Recently, bills have been introduced in Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, and New Mexico; similar bills have already failed in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina.
As a pure freedom of speech issue, I wholeheartedly agree with states attempting to protect such rights by allowing for classroom debates of evolution and creationism/intelligent design. Unfortunately, this topic also broaches the topic of the separation of church and state and directly affects how children are being taught and molded. In private schools, it is expected that students will be exposed to the topic of religion. However, as the Pennsylvania Court ruled, religion cannot be taught in public schools, and intelligent design certainly seems to approach religious teaching.
By Louisiana wording their law allowing teachers to “discuss the ‘scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses’ of issues such as evolution”, the state seems to create an ideal solution as long as the subject of God or religion does not come into play. All scientific principles are open for debate in scientific terms, and evolution is certainly not immune from this debate. Such open communication in classrooms would allow for different viewpoints to be expressed and allow for the furthering of a scientific education. In such debates, people could truly celebrate science and reason, which is exactly what Darwin Day is suppose to further. Unfortunately, other states at this point have not agreed with this viewpoint.
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