Opinion: Evolution shouldn’t be taught as a fact

Evolution+has+become+a+standardized+concept+in+California%27s+science+curriculum.

Erin Kee

Evolution has become a standardized concept in California's science curriculum.

Despite evolution’s widespread acceptance by the general public, evolution is not a fact; it has never been one, and shouldn’t be taught as one.

As students, we’re required to take biology, in which one of the fundamental principles taught is Charles Darwin’s scientific theory: evolution by natural selection. Throughout our middle school and high school years, evolution is a deeply covered topic regardless of its controversial nature. The numerous tests and quizzes on the subject require students to study the concept in-depth, whether they believe it or not.

Just as there is scientific evidence supporting evolution, there is also evidence challenging the theory. This filtered education leaves little room for people to come to their own conclusion on how life came about. Instead, it merely paints evolution as a fact.

“Since most textbooks today do not explicitly discuss the descent theory as an active theory, a large misrepresentation is being passed on to students. If this stems in part from saying that ‘evolution is a fact,’ then care must be taken to make sure precisely what is meant by ‘evolution is a fact,'” said Ralph W. Lewis, an American biologist in an issue of the Creation-Evolution Journal.

When I say that evolution is taught as a fact, I’m not saying that your textbook or your teacher is explicitly saying that evolution is a fact. Instead, the curriculum’s extensive focus on the subject results in students’ misconception that the theory is a fact. 

On top of that, a necessary step in the well known scientific method is observation. Evolution’s lack of ability to be observed makes the theory just as faith-based as ideas like intelligent design, the theory that life was designed by some smart entity and could not have happened by chance. Thus, if intelligent design can not be taught in public schools, at the very least, evolution shouldn’t be interpreted as if it’s factually correct.

I come from a Christian household and, because of my background, have been exposed to in-depth theological studies on creationism.

Although statistically, my identity as a Christian places me as part of the majority, all my life, I’ve felt like the minority, especially in a school setting. There’s a difference between being a “Christian” and being a Christian. I try to live my life authentically based on my beliefs in my faith. Being a Christian to me isn’t just because my parents are Christians or that I’ve grown up in the church; my faith is my own and is the lifestyle that I’ve chosen for myself.

This lifestyle that I choose, though it often makes me feel like a minority, is what I standby. I feel lucky that I’ve been exposed to multiple theories about life because it has allowed me to come to my own conclusion and my understanding of how life came about.

But these feelings are not just my own. Throughout American history, there have been many disputes between the teachings of science and religion in public schools: Edwards v. Aguillard, the Butler Act, the Scopes Monkey Trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, to name a few. 

Inherit the Wind, a movie based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, covers a legal case where a high school teacher violated the Butler Act by teaching evolution in the classroom. In the movie, there is a scene where Henry Drummond, the lawyer defending Bertram Cates, says, “I am trying to establish, Your Honor, that Howard- Colonel Brady- or Charles Darwin- or anyone in this courtroom- or you, sir- has the right to think![…] With all respect to the bench, I hold that the right to think is very much on trial! It is fearfully in danger in the proceedings of this court!” 

Though the times have changed, and the teaching of evolution is heavily implemented in the science curriculum, “the right to think” hasn’t changed. The now conventional practice of solely teaching evolution prevents students from learning about alternatives to evolutionism.

This, in turn, takes away the right to choose their beliefs when a single theory presents itself as a fact. Whatever we want to believe in, we shouldn’t be exclusively taught one belief on how life developed on Earth.

So, to the schools and teachers, don’t strip us of our “right to think.”