Creationists are willing to tie themselves into knots to defend their rancid “Biblical literalism.” Many of them are actually educated in science, but they consider evolutionary biology to be a “corruption” of science, and have adopted a corruption of the Bible to replace it.
Some parts of the country are worse than others. One would imagine that teaching evolution in the Bible Belt would be one of the worst, and if a new essay published in Orion but reprinted by Slate is anything close to universal, it’s certainly close to it.
The essay begins with the author noting that they were originally reluctant to take the job when it was offered — teaching “three sections of nonmajors biology classes, with 300 students per section, and as many as 1,800 students each year” wasn’t high on the “want to do” list. But after learning that renowned biologist E.O. Wilson taught nonmajors at Harvard, the author changed their minds.
This, however, brought about a whole different sent of challenges:
I realized early on that many instructors teach introductory biology classes incorrectly. Too often evolution is the last section to be taught, an autonomous unit at the end of the semester. I quickly came to the conclusion that, since evolution is the foundation upon which all biology rests, it should be taught at the beginning of a course, and as a recurring theme throughout the semester. My basic biology for nonmajors became evolution for nonmajors. It didn’t take long before I started to hear from a vocal minority of students who strongly objected: “I am very offended by your lectures on evolution! Those who believe in creation are not ignorant of science! You had no right to try and force evolution on us. Your job was to teach it as a theory and not as a fact that all smart people believe in!!” And: “Evolution is not a proven fact. It should not be taught as if it is. It cannot be observed in any quantitative form and, therefore, isn’t really science.”
The author notes that, “we live in a nation where public acceptance of evolution is the second lowest of 34 developed countries, just ahead of Turkey. Roughly half of Americans reject some aspect of evolution, believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs.” A local pastor that they’ve never met wrote an article in a publication called the University Christian that charged the author of the piece with “teaching evolution and ignoring creationism” and “teaching it as a non-Christian, alternative religion.”
I’ve seen stories on Facebook about a good Christian attending a college class, and when the instructor teaches something about evolution, the good Christian stands up and puts the Commie-Jew ACLU-loving hippie liberal professor in his place by disproving evolution with Bible quotes.
Jack Chick has an entire chick tract with this theme.
That’s not how it plays out in real life, though. As the author notes, many creationists have extremely thin skin and can’t stand a challenge to their faith. They often exhibit violent outbursts and then stalk out of the room like toddlers.
Occasionally, however, the author does reach students. And that can make it all worthwhile.
You can read the essay here.