Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Refried Great Northern Beans

The United Church Observer, the independent magazine affiliated with The United Church of Canada (which came forward to be a sponsor of the "Darwin" exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum when the usual corporate sponsors refused for fear of controversy) has a story disturbing to those of us who think of Canada as a haven of rationality -- and potential sanctuary -- to our north. It seems the situation concerning science education, when it comes to evolution, may not be all that much better than what we have in the US.

Consider these points from the story:

~ Evolution is in the curriculum as a single unit in a Grade 11 or 12 elective course, taken by a small portion of each graduating class, in every province but one, Quebec.

~ Private religious schools are allowed to teach creationism as an alternative to evolution in science class.

~ In 2000, Jim Fenwick, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, told the Victoria Times-Colonist that students arrive in his classroom knowing "basically zero" about evolution.

~ Leesa Blake, vice-president of the Science Teachers' Association of Ontario, says those who teach evolution feel "threatened" by parents or students to teach an alternative, or ill-equipped to handle the topic.
And, of course, there was the tale of Brian Alters being told by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the second-biggest grant-making institution in Canada, that it wouldn't fund Alters proposed study aimed at discovering what inroads ID had made in Canadian schools. The reason given was that Alters hadn't given "adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct." Nor was this just some sort of misunderstanding:

Instead of revoking the statement or acknowledging the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that ID is refried creationism, senior members of the research council continued to cast doubt on evolution in newspaper articles, defending their decision in the name of "challenging doctrine" and "critical inquiry," also implying that evolution is a theory in crisis, a claim commonly made by proponents of ID in the U.S.

C'mon you lot! We Americans are counting on you!

That just depresses the hell out of me.
In all fairness to our Canadian friends, Larry Moran has pointed out that the situation in Ontario, at least, is a little more complicated than the article makes out and not as bad as it might otherwise seem.
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