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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The State of Evolution in Canada

Denis Lamoureux, who teaches science and religion at the University of Alberta, calls on Canada's teachers to keep religious concepts out of biology classes in a story in this month's issue of the United Church Observer. "Teach the science as metaphysically free as possible," he says. "In other words, keep God out of it, keep the atheistic world view out of it.'"
The story, which looks at the public understanding of evolution in Canada, as well as its treatment in the country's education system, recounts a story in which the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council turned down a proposal from McGill University's Evolution Education Research Centre to study the effects of the popularization of "intelligent design." The reason: The council's review committee said it couldn't find "adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct." In defending the decision, members of the research council used words like "critical inquiry"—a phrase that mirrors the call for "critical thinking" often made by ID supporters in the United States. Still, it seems, Canadians strongly hope to avoid the extremism that has colored the evolution-creation debate in America. (Keep in mind that evolution is not a point of controversy or debate in the scientific community.) "The whole discussion has been so tremendously skewed by a whole lot of raving idiots,” the Rev. Paul Fayter, a United Church minister and professor of science and theology at York University, tells the magazine.
According to the National Center for Science Education (an American organization that's also highlighting this story on its Web site), the latest public opinion poll in Canada showed that 58 percent of people accept evolution and 22 percent think God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, while 20 percent of people aren't sure. In the United States, 50 percent of those who responded to a similar Gallup poll chose pro-evolution responses, while 44 percent thought "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." —Heather Wax