A few weeks ago, I was wondering about the attitudes to the teaching of evolution here in South Africa – it’s now in the curriculum, but in a form which sounds disturbingly familiar to those of us who have encountered the weasel words of the Discovery Institute and their clones. Such fears are well-founded if this account of the opinions expressed at a recent teacher’s conference is anything to go by:
At a recent conference on teacher training, a teacher said: “I am disappointed about the fact that evolution attacks God’s creation. It also mixes Genesis with idol worshippers of Babylon, which were never there when God created planet Earth.”
Another said he thought the topic should be voluntary because he didn’t think it suitable for people who believe in God. “I am totally against evolution,” another teacher said.
I’m not sure what the mangled English in the first quote even means (Charles Darwin was a Babylonian idol worshipper? Who knew?), but the attitude expressed by all of them is fairly clear, and there’s not even a token attempt to pretend that it’s anything other than (misplaced) pious outrage. Bear in mind that these comments are coming not from parents or school board members, but from the teachers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the race issue to deal with: evolution is not just against God, it’s a tool of dehumanising Western imperialism.
Matters came to a head after snippets of a video, Tiny Humans: Finding Hobbits in Flores, was shown. The video traces the origin of tiny prehistoric humans somewhere on an Indonesian island. They are depicted as short and dark-skinned people. This offended some black teachers. They said that evolution was a racist theory. It “terribly undermines black people, everything bad gets a black colour. It means blacks were apes,” they said.
Heartfelt thanks – of the arse-kicking or shoe-puking variety – are of course due to Jim Watson for so eloquently smoothing the path for anyone trying to debunk this perception. Anyone who thinks that ‘great scientists’ should be given the freedom to let their own prejudices masquerade as ‘facts’ in the name of ‘freedom of expression': that’s your rebuttal, right there.
Oh, well, at least the South African government is going to stand up to the malcontents, and make it clear to them that they want actual science taught in science classes. Right? Hah. The following is brought to you by Penny Vinjevold, deputy director general for further education and training:
No child would be compelled to “adopt” or “defend the viewpoint or any way subscribe to evolution”. So there could be no reason for parents to take legal action, Vinjevold said.
The department took into account the fact that different theories offered a variety of explanations on the origin of human beings. Evolution was one of such explanations and learners were not expected to believe it, but to see it as one school of thought, she said.
Given all this, I’m starting to think that South African schoolchildren would be better off if they weren’t taught about evolution; they’re about to be caught between the clashing rocks of creationist straw-men, and the treacherous whirlpool of post-modernist bulls**t, and the chances of them actually coming out the other side with any sort of understanding of science, or evidence-based reasoning, seem rather slim.