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MSNBC does creditable review of students’ anxieties over evolution

Casey Luskin

This is my second post in 2 days praising media articles which get this issue right. Let there be no mistake: the Evolution News & Views blog is not a “media complaints desk.” It’s a place for objective analysis–and we just try to call the balls and the strikes as we see them!

MSNBC’s Current Magazine article by Victoria Bosch (“Monkey Business“), manages to objectively discuss the question of how doubters of Darwin are treated in college science classes. The article sensitively talks about how students who are skeptical of Darwinism cope with the issue.

It was also gratifying that Niall Shanks at Wichita State professes to require only that students simply understand–not fully endorse–Darwinian evolution. Not only is it good science policy to require that students understand evolution, but this policy should be agreeable to anyone, if, indeed, the standard is fairly applied.

Of course, it also would make sense for Dr. Shanks to give the anti-Darwinian scientific view a fair hearing. A one-sided approach to this subject only turns off many would-be scientists who know there is more to the issue than they’re being told. Failing to discuss the issues fairly only raises the intensity of their skepticism. As Allen Orr wrote in The New Yorker last summer, “a policy of limited scientific engagement has failed.”

In practice, allowing a robust debate on the scientific issues could only add to students’ enthusiasm for the course work. Why full disclosure about evolution wouldn’t be a desirable outcome in a country that doesn’t graduate enough scientists now is a mystery. Thus I agree with Shanks when he states:

Like it or lump it. If you’re going to prosper in this kind of environment, you’ve got to be biologically literate.

Perhaps current problems with the state of science in the U.S. are linked to the fact that the status quo forces students to swallow evolution uncritically, and neither interests them in science nor objectively informs them about the facts to become better critical thinkers.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.