If Mexico Can Teach Evolution, Why Can’t the U.S.?

Here’s a letter from the journal Nature from a Mexican author about creationism:

In Mexico, there is no creationist movement and the teaching of evolution is encouraged. The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México has developed high-school programmes based around sequence comparison and phylogenetic reconstruction techniques, as well as the origin of life, early cell evolution and evo-devo issues. There are good reasons for this. First, as every practising scientist knows, understanding evolutionary processes is enriched by an eclectic attitude towards traditional palaeontology and comparative anatomy. Second, an evolutionary perspective is valuable as a teaching tool that provides a unifying framework for bringing together apparently disparate fields from the life sciences.
It is difficult to accept Moore’s implication that the origin of life has no place in the evolution syllabus. If not there, where? There are risks in leaving this issue unattended, as shown by the infamous 2004 statement by Dover High School in Pennsylvania that “Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view … The school leaves the discussion of Origins of Life to individual students and their families.”
Equally disturbing is Moore’s questioning of the scientific maturity of origin-of-life studies, which he describes as “far from sound evolutionary theory”. How life appeared is not known, but a better understanding of the prebiotic environment and the recognition of the RNA world as an early evolutionary stage have provided important insights. As molecular phylogeny cannot be extended to an evolutionary period before the emergence of ribosome-mediated protein biosynthesis, it cannot provide direct information about the first living systems.
The inclusion of evolutionary theory in school curricula should teach students how to find the right answers and how to pose the proper questions.

I agree with the author about the origin of life: at some point, we’re going to have to confront that issue head on. The way to do that is by emphasizing the scientific method. As I’ve said in a different context, if you want cures for disease, then you’ve got to take all that primate evolution stuff too. By the same token, if you want the scientific method for certain things, you don’t get to turn it off when it’s theologically inconvenient.

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11 Responses to If Mexico Can Teach Evolution, Why Can’t the U.S.?

  1. Ericb says:

    Two words: Protestant Fundamentalism. That’s what pretty much drives the creationist movement in the US and since Mexico is overwhelminly Catholic they don’t have any problems from it.

  2. James F says:

    I’d like to know how Mexico and Canada would have scored in the acceptance of evolution poll cited in Science. Of course, that would mean that the United States would have fallen from 33 out of 34 to 35 out of 36. Thank you, Turkey!

    The reason is elementary: the Discovery Institute and other ID proponents leave out the Triune God, Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, Richard Dawkins can make the case for aliens seeding the earth.
    The Quest for Right, a series of 7 textbooks created for the public schools, represents the ultimate marriage between an in-depth knowledge of biblical phenomena and natural and physical sciences. The several volumes have accomplished that which, heretofore, was deemed impossible: to level the playing field between those who desire a return to physical science in the classroom and those who embrace the theory of evolution. The Quest for Right turns the tide by providing an authoritative and enlightening scientific explanation of natural phenomena which will ultimately dethrone the unprofitable Darwinian view.
    “I am amazed at the breadth of the investigation – scientific history, biblical studies, geology, biology, geography, astronomy, chemistry, paleontology, and so forth – and find the style of writing to be quite lucid and aimed clearly at a general, lay audience.” ― Mark Roberts, former Editor of Biblical Reference Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
    The Quest for Right series of books, based on physical science, the old science of cause and effect, has effectively dismantled the quantum additions to the true architecture of the atom. Gone are the nonexistent particles once thought to be complementary to the electron and proton (examples: neutrons, neutrinos, photons, mesons, quarks, Z’s, bosons, etc.) and a host of other pseudo particles.
    To the curious, scientists sought to explain Atomic theory by introducing fantastic particles that supposedly came tumbling out of the impact between two particles, when in fact, the supposed finds were simply particulate debris. There are only two elementary particles which make up the whole of the universe: the proton and electron. All other particles were added via quantum magic and mathematical elucidation in an attempt to explain earthly phenomena without God.
    Introducing the scheme of coincidence, which by definition, “is the systematic ploy of obstructionists who, in lieu of any divine intervention, state that any coincidental grouping or chance union of electrons and protons (and neutrons), regardless of the configuration, always produces a chemical element. This is the mischievous tenet of electron interpretation which states that all physical, chemical, and biological processes result from a change in the electron structure of the atom which, in turn, may be deciphered through the orderly application of mathematics, as outlined in quantum mechanics. A few of the supporting theories are: degrading stars, neutron stars, black holes, extraterrestrial water, antimatter, the absolute dating systems, and the big bang, the explosion of a singularity infinitely smaller than the dot of an i from which space, time, and the massive stellar bodies supposedly sprang into being.
    The Quest for Right is not only better at explaining natural phenomena, but also may be verified through testing. As a consequence, the material in the several volumes will not violate the so-called constitutional separation of church and state. Physical science, the old science of cause and effect, will have a long-term sustainability, replacing irresponsible doctrines based on whim. Teachers and students will rejoice in the simplicity of earthly phenomena when entertained by the new discipline.
    The Quest for Right. http://questforright.com

  4. NoAstronomer says:

    Whoops! I think we need to tweak the spam filter settings.

  5. sng says:

    I recall reading a while ago that Canada was at about 50 percent Creationist just like us.

  6. mona says:

    Man, I would have loved to learn about the origin of life and evo-devo in tenth grade! (only about two years ago…) I remember wondering about the origin of life when it was mentioned (vaguely and briefly), and I could have gained a lot from a more detailed discussion. Most people could, I think. It’s not like it’s an obscure issue that can’t be understood until after years of university education.
    It seems, from my experience, that attributing the origin of life to the supernatural is considered a reasonable compromise position between creationism and evolution. Combined with the overall attitude that, if there are two conflicting positions, it’s automatically more reasonable to pick a position in the middle, there’s a lot of misunderstanding. My dad tried to tell me once that there is no scientific explanation for the origin of life, taking it as grounds to deny the whole theory of evolution. Another student claimed not to be a “hard core evolutionist,” meaning to deny that life could have began with a single cell.
    Taking into account that adolescence is often the age at which people develop their world-views, I think it’s pretty important to provide the best information available, and prevent these kind of misunderstandings.

  7. RBH says:

    Mona wrote

    It seems, from my experience, that attributing the origin of life to the supernatural is considered a reasonable compromise position between creationism and evolution.

    Yup, and a reasonable compromise between the flat-earthers and the round-earthers is to claim that the earth is shaped kind of like a chicken egg, but flat on just one side.

  8. Pandragon says:

    2007 Canada survey:
    Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years: 59%
    God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years: 22%
    Not sure: 19%

  9. island says:

    Mona wrote

    It seems, from my experience, that attributing the origin of life to the supernatural is considered a reasonable compromise position between creationism and evolution. Combined with the overall attitude that, if there are two conflicting positions, it’s automatically more reasonable to pick a position in the middle, there’s a lot of misunderstanding.

    Speaking of logical disconnects… a more reasonable position in the middle actually looks more like this, duh:
    But getting neodarwinians and creationists to reach a rational compromise that recogizes higher purpose in nature without god is a whole nother ideologically distorted battle of morons that can’t be won with any amount of logic or reason.

  10. Michael Schmidt says:

    I read this Nature letter yesterday and I had this thought: As Latin America becomes increasingly fundamentalist and less Catholic, there will be a wave of illegal immigration to the United States, as people attempt to escape the teaching of evolution. Therefore, the best way to curb illegal immigration is to increase the teaching of evolution in the U.S. to levels higher than those seen in Latin America!

  11. Skeptigirl says:

    Of course abiogenesis happened. There is overwhelming evidence: we are here. It may be an unsolved problem in evolution theory, but it is not so mysterious one needs gods and magic to explain it.
    There is a wealth of research going on in the abiogenesis field. It just isn’t in the forefront. You have to go looking.
    Of course, “The way to [get that fact across to students and everyone else] is by emphasizing the scientific method.” Haven’t we (in the rational Universe anyway) gotten beyond the gods and magic nonsense?

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