Phi Beta Cons

No Dodging on Darwin

New York Times editor Bill Keller proposes that presidential candidates be asked, among other things, “What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?” This needn’t stump anyone who questions Darwin.

A candidate could say that the scientific community has formed a consensus about Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution, and so it should be taught where appropriate. But the questions about it should also be taught, and selections from the work of, say, David Berlinski could also be part of the lesson. It should be made clear to students that Darwinian evolution has absolutely no scientific answer to the origin of life, or any scientific explanation of man’s intelligence, creativity, autonomy, reflectiveness, free will, moral sense, self-consciousness, and so on — in other words everything that makes us human beyond our biological makeup. Students should be encouraged to recognize the vast difference between humanity on the one hand and our cousins, the other apes and primates, on the other, and to understand that the gap remains unexplained. And the teacher should be sure to mark the distinction between the hypotheses evolutionary biologists proffer to explain these things as opposed to actual scientific proof of them. 

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