We should expect confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments to include scaremongering about science education. This week’s fake news about a “petition” to VP-elect Mike Pence, demanding a moratorium on instruction about evolution, gives a hint of what may be to come. Atheist activists jumped on the petition as evidence of what the semi-mythic “Christian Right” has in store for the next four years. The petition’s creator, though, characterized it as “tongue-in-cheek.”
While Pence along with Trump’s HUD pick, Ben Carson, have commented in the past on questions of evolutionary origins and intelligent design, the focus is likely to be on Mr. Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. In The New Yorker, outspoken atheist cosmologist Lawrence Krauss has already sounded the alarm (“Donald Trump’s War on Science“).
As evidence against Mrs. DeVos, he cites her church membership and college majors (business administration and political science, rather than education). Krauss admits she has no record of saying anything at all about evolution, but her husband, Dick DeVos, in a run for governor of Michigan, had this to say:
I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design — that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory — that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less.
The structure of the sentence by itself tells you that it was a casual remark. Granting Mr. DeVos the benefit of the doubt, it wouldn’t be the first time that a political aspirant invoked ID in such a context without having researched what ID means or what its advocates say. Notably, Discovery Institute, the major force in supporting research on intelligent design, strongly opposes requiring ID in public schools, and always has opposed it. (See our Science Education Policy.)
Instead, we call for permitting teachers to challenge students with an approach to evolution that sharpens their critical skills, using mainstream scientific sources to examine the strengths and weaknesses of standard neo-Darwinian theory. Two states (Tennessee and Louisiana) and multiple school districts have adopted this policy of academic freedom, teaching about legitimate disagreements among mainstream scientists.
But when did a little thing like accuracy trouble a Darwin activist equipped with a media bullhorn? Krauss inveighs:
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