The citizens (reporting) brigade | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The citizens (reporting) brigade

Posted By on Wed, Jul 12, 2006 at 12:48 PM

Two Arkansas blog readers report some gubernatorial campaign action.

First, an anonymous contributor files these observations from a Mike Beebe campaign fundraiser last night:

Of interest to me tonight was how many crossover Repubs were there for Beebe, including Charlotte (Chuckie) Bradbury (Curt wasn't there), Brad Walker, Conway's Luke Gordy (who I'm assuming is Repub because I think he was a Huckabee appoiontee when he was on the state board of ed), Susan & Jay Brainard, et al.

And after the jump, Arkansas Governor's School instructor Jason Wiles (the McGill University researcher who wrote our recent cover story about evolution instruction in Arkansas), dissects comments on that subject made yesterday when Asa Hutchinson and Rudolph Giuliani spoke to Governor's School students.

FROM JASON WILES:

After their address to the students of the Arkansas Governor’s School, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson answered questions from the AGS students and faculty on topics ranging from homeland security to economics.  Among the various questions posed in this forum was one regarding the teaching of biological evolution in public schools. 

This topic is of particular interest in Arkansas, in part due to formal attempts to undermine evolution in the state's public schools.  These efforts go back as far as the Scopes era, and Arkansas has played an inglorious part in the national debate, as state laws undermining evolution education have repeatedly been struck down in the federal courts. (Epperson v. Arkansas, McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education)  Even given the fates of these laws, such anti-evolution bills have recently been introduced in Arkansas (House Bill 2548, House Bill 2607).  Local school districts have also played a role; for example, a warning label was for years affixed to biology textbooks in Beebe, where they were recently removed after the ACLU of Arkansas warned of the legal perils. Moreover, even in the absence of such formal pressure, there is a generalized climate of hostility to teaching evolution.

The question posed to Giuliani and Hutchinson referred to a commencement speech made at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine earlier this year by Michael Bloomberg.  In this address, the current NYC mayor spoke strongly in favor of teaching evolution in public school science classes saying, “It boggles the mind that nearly two centuries after Darwin, and 80 years after John Scopes was put on trial, the country is still debating the validity of evolution,” and adding, “This not only devalues science, it cheapens theology. As well as condemning these students to an inferior education, it ultimately hurts their professional opportunities.”

Given that Bloomberg ran on the Republican ticket with the former mayor’s endorsement, Giuliani was asked if he also supported Bloomberg’s strong stance in favor of evolution education.  In a rather long response incorporating ideas such as “academic freedom” and “freedom of religion”, Giuliani eventually articulated that “Darwin’s theories are a very accepted part of science,” and added “I am a Christian, and I can accommodate that to my beliefs…”

When given a chance to voice his own opinion on the issue, Mr. Hutchinson offered that “different viewpoints of science should be taught” and that this should be based on “both the majority views and minority views.” 

As for the “different viewpoints of science” that Mr. Hutchinson suggests should be taught, it would appear that there are none held within the scientific community with regard to “the validity of evolution” of which Mayor Bloomberg spoke.  According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences, an umbrella organization comprising nearly 200 professional societies with a total individual membership of over 250,000 scientists and science educators, “evolution is the only scientifically defensible explanation for the origin of life and development of species.”

While there may be questions about what Mr. Hutchinson may have meant by majority and minority views, he did say that “we ought to be hesitant about mandating from a legislative standpoint what should or should not be taught in terms of trying to describe from a legislative standpoint what science is.”   

I would agree with this statement.  Let us leave the content of natural science curricula to those who are trained in the sciences and science education and not to politicians.

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