October 2012 Church & State | People & Events

Several members of the Kentucky legislature in August spent time during a public hearing bemoaning the fact that evolution is taught in public school biology courses.

The attacks on the scientific theory occurred Aug. 13 during a session of the legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education. Panel members were discussing a state testing program, which is tied to national educational standards, that was approved four years ago. Several lawmakers seemed surprised to hear that students are expected to know about evolution.

 “I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) said.

Rep. Ben Waide (R-Madisonville), decided to go one better. He seemed to want to kick out evolution altogether.

“The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science – Darwin made it up,” Waide said. “My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”

Asked to comment on the matter, Vincent Cassone, chairman of the University of Kentucky’s biology department, told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “The theory of evolution is the fundamental backbone of all biological research. There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised.”

Americans United pointed out that the Supreme Court struck down a Lou­i­siana law mandating “balanced treatment” between evolution and creationism in 1987, and a federal court in Pennsylvania struck down “intelligent design” creationism in 2005.

Kentucky seems to be becoming something of a creationist mecca these days. The state already hosts a Creation Museum and may soon have another. In late August, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that backers of a “Creation Science Hall of Fame,” which currently exists only online, are considering building a brick-and-mortar museum in Petersburg, near the Creation Museum.

Creationists also have plans to build a giant replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. That project, dubbed the “Ark Park,” has been controversial because it has received various forms of tax support. Backers have yet to break ground for the park, and fund-raising is not going as well as they expected.

Evolution again captured national headlines a few weeks later when Bill Nye, host of the popular PBS program “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” made a video imploring parents not to substitute religious doctrine for evolution in teaching their children.

A belief in creationism, Nye argues, will cause children to become “scientifically illiterate.” 

“I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with the world we observe, that’s fine,” Nye asserted. “But don’t make your kids do it. Because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.  We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems.”

Nye’s video was very popular online and went viral, thanks to social network sites like Facebook.