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Evolution Indoctrination on the MCAT: Doubting Darwin an “extremely dangerous idea”

Casey Luskin

I recently wrote about evolution indoctrination on a test given to measure science knowledge and intelligence in high school students. One of my friends, who is no religious fundamentalist but is a smart young pre-med student who is a skeptic of Darwinism, is presently studying hard to take the medical school entrance examination: the MCAT. Like most MCAT takers, he is studying by taking practice tests with real questions from actual MCAT tests given in the past. The MCAT has a section that tests reading comprehension skills: you read a passage, and then you answer questions about the passage. You don’t have to agree with the passages to answer the questions; you just have to be able to accurately explain what the passages are saying. My friend had the following to say about these questions:

The MCAT is supposed to not have controversial or charged topics in these questions. They wouldn’t have you answer a question about abortion or anything like that. It’s just supposed to be a way to evaluate how you process information, and they don’t want to influence your reasoning by making you answer emotionally charged questions.

But are the MCAT writers able to refrain from injecting controversial statements about evolution into their test questions? Apparently not. The MCAT writers felt it is important to slip in some evolution indoctrination in the reading comprehension section of the test, as one MCAT reading comprehension passage reads as follows:

Creationism is not science and doesn’t belong in the science classroom. However, a frank discussion of creationism with students is also important. To avoid it may suggest that perhaps there is something there, lurking in the irrationality.

The late Carl Sagan, one of the staunchest advocates of rationality and reason in the increasingly irrational and superstitious world in which we live, has defended the importance of good science teaching by saying, “In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, [science] may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.” … Creation science, despite the apparent oxymoron, is a phrase that has been widely used by creationists to add legitimacy to their claims by stating that creationism is a scientific theory just as much as evolution. … This extremely dangerous idea has been at the forefront of battles waged by so-called “creation-scientists” since the early 1970s…

So here we have a passage on the MCAT that endorses Carl Sagan’s anti-religious materialism, claiming that doubting evolution brings “darkness” and “superstitio[n],” and then calling creationism “irrationality” and an “extremely dangerous idea.” Now I agree with this passage that creationism is not science, but these kinds of passages don’t belong on standardized tests that are supposed to objectively measure reading comprehension skills.

Of course, you don’t have to agree with the statements to answer the reading comprehension questions correctly. But that’s not the point: the wording used is extremely emotionally charged, and as my pre-med friend said: “It’s just supposed to be a way to evaluate how you process information, and they don’t want to influence your reasoning by making you answer emotionally charged questions.” My friend, who himself is not a fundamentalist but is highly skeptical of Darwinism, then made a revealing comment about this passage: “This passage was distracting while I was taking the test. It was distracting because it’s about an emotionally controversial topic, and I don’t agree with everything they said. This crosses the line.”

In the end, both my friend and I would agree with the MCAT writers that creationism is not science. But why are we talking about this controversial topic on a standardized test? Keep in mind that these Carl Sagan-endorsing MCAT writers likely believe (wrongly) that intelligent design (ID) is no different from creationism. With biology faculty telling students that ID is simply warmed-over creationism, and with the MCAT reinforcing the view that creationism is “irrationality” and an “extremely dangerous idea,” and that doubting evolution leads to “superstition” and “darkness,” the Darwinian education establishment has a nice one-two-punch to indoctrinate pre-med students in favor of evolution.

Thankfully, if my friend is any indication, some pre-med students are smart enough to see through the rhetoric.


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.