If you want a taste of how and by whom evolutionary biology is being taught to college students, check this out. Prosanta Chakrabarty is an ichthyologist at Louisiana State University, and says of himself that he teaches “one of the largest evolutionary biology classes in the U.S.” Good for him, and I don’t doubt that’s true.
But this has got to be one of the dopiest, most simple-minded presentations of the subject that I’ve seen.
“It’s a Fact”
Professor Chakrabarty informs us:
[W]e’re taught to say “the theory of evolution.” There are actually many theories, and just like the process itself, the ones that best fit the data are the ones that survive to this day. The one we know best is Darwinian natural selection. That’s the process by which organisms that best fit an environment survive and get to reproduce, while those that are less fit slowly die off. And that’s it. Evolution is as simple as that, and it’s a fact. Evolution is a fact as much as the “theory of gravity.” You can prove it just as easily. You just need to look at your belly button that you share with other placental mammals, or your backbone that you share with other vertebrates, or your DNA that you share with all other life on earth. Those traits didn’t pop up in humans. They were passed down from different ancestors to all their descendants, not just us.
The sufficiency of Darwin’s theory of natural selection for explaining the history of life is “as simple as” the observation that animals that can’t survive in their environment, don’t survive. “It’s a fact” because you have a belly button, in common with other placental mammals.
By the same token, my car has four wheels, two axles, and runs on gasoline, like other gas-powered cars stretching back well over a century. Car models that no one wants to buy ultimately cease to be manufactured. It must be that the Ford Model T and the Volvo S70 and everything in between all “evolved” by unguided natural selection from a common ancestor. Remember, it’s a fact. Only the foolish religious fundamentalist would consider that engineering had anything to do with it.
A Long History
The comparison of evolution with gravity also has a long history, about as long as the history of automobiles. Maybe it evolved, too. See Granville Sewell, “Why Evolution is More Certain than Gravity.” Also, “I Believe in the Evolution of Life and the Evolution of Automobiles.”
Professor Chakrabarty speaks with what I take to be a weary, ill-concealed contempt for those don’t understand these matters. He teaches in the same state where the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed a little over ten years ago, and remains the law. If this is how evolution is taught to college students at LSU, imagine how it’s taught to many high school students.
Do you wonder, then, that educators, parents, and other residents of the state sought, under the LSEA, protection from retaliatory action for teachers who wish to add a bit of depth, some critical weighing of the evidence, to their instruction?