On her campaign website Grand-Junction-area school board race, Barbara Evanson claims she wants to “ensure students learn to read, write, do math, and understand science and history.” But by “science” she apparently means religious dogma.
As Erik Maulbetsch reports for the Colorado Times Recorder, Evanson, speaking on a podcast, called for the teaching of creationism in tax-funded classrooms as part of the science curriculum.
In a response to the Colorado Times Recorder written with her husband Charles Evanson (a Christian pastor), Barbara doubled down on this position and offered a meandering, frankly scientifically illiterate discussion of the issues at hand.
No one objects to the teaching of creation myths as part of history, literature, and anthropology. Evanson does not wish to teach the Judeo-Christian creation story as one myth among countless others.
For such a presentation, one might turn to the two-volume encyclopedia, Creation Myths of the World, by literature professor David Leeming, or to a series of Crash Course videos based partly on Leeming’s work.
Instead, Evanson wishes to present her particular religious views — she quotes Genesis as her authority— to students as though they were on par with the findings of science.
Evanson’s apparent ignorance of history also disqualifies her as a competent candidate for school board. The Scopes trial of a century ago dealt with whether a state may prohibit the teaching of evolution in public schools. More recently (1987), the Supreme Court rightly ruled that public schools may not promote religion. Pew summarizes, “In Edwards v. Aguillard, the high court struck down a Louisiana law requiring that schools teach creation science whenever students learn about evolution. The court ruled that the law’s purpose was to promote religion and thus that it violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
As an indication of Evanson’s gross ignorance of the scientific issues at hand, consider this line from the rebuttal: “There is not one instance in primordial history …of one species turning into another species: for example, a dog turning into a lion or an ape turning into a human.”
No serious person thinks that evolution implies that a dog can turn into a lion or any such nonsense.
Instead, biologists recognize that one species sometimes evolves into another species when small genetic changes add up over vast spans of time. Google “evolutionary tree of life” to see visual representations of how all living things on Earth, past and present, are related. My family has especially enjoyed the PBS documentary “Your Inner Fish,” which explores aspects of the long evolution behind the human form.
Evanson claims “there is no tangible evidence” for biological evolution. Apparently, she has never stepped foot in a natural history museum, such as the Denver Museum of Natural History, Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, or Dinosaur Journey in Fruita (just down the street from Evanson).
Evanson’s position is ironic given the important fossil discoveries in Colorado, including detailed fossil evidence showing the evolution of mammals in the first million years or so following the asteroid collision that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs. (Modern birds indeed are dinosaurs, the descendants of prehistoric dinosaurs.) The Nova documentary “Rise of the Mammals” captures the important work of DMNS scientists in this area.
Thankfully, Colorado students have a long history of exploring Colorado’s evolutionary past. The first Stegosaurus fossils were discovered in Colorado. According to Colorado Central Magazine, “A teacher, Frederick Carl Kessler and his students at Cañon City High School . . . discovered the nearly complete Stegosaurus skeleton that became the state fossil and awes visitors in the Denver Museum of Science and Nature today.” In 1982, Gov. Richard Lamm, recognizing that “the Stegosaurus lived in Colorado 150 million years ago in the Mesozoic era during the Jurassic period,” and impressed that “the Stegosaurus has stimulated the interest of numerous Colorado school children,” declared the Stegosaurus the state fossil.
Here is another nutty line from the Evansons’ screed: “There has never been in human history the observance of a star being born, only dying.” Has Evanson never heard of NASA? A website following the Hubble telescope observes, “Hubble’s keen vision allowed astronomers to peer deep into gigantic, turbulent clouds of gas and dust where tens of thousands of stars are bursting to life.”
But enough. One could write a point-by-point refutation of the Evansons’ article (and perhaps I’ll do that elsewhere), but that would be tedious and about as useful as responding to flat earthers. For such minds, reason is beside the point.
Evanson claims that her position is about “freedom of education.” She and her husband write, “To deny teachers the right to teach, the students the right to learn, and for people to decide what they can and cannot believe and say is a direct, vulgar, and egregious, outright attack on the civil liberties and constitutional rights of those who choose to believe these ideas.” What malarky.
The Evansons are free to believe whatever faith-based nonsense they wish to believe. They are free to teach their children that nonsense.
They are not free to use public funds to promote their idiosyncratic, faith-based beliefs, and thereby violate the religious liberties of others. Not everyone shares the Evansons’ faith (And many Christians embrace the science of biological evolution.).
The Evansons close their rebuttal, “DON’T TREAD ON ME!” Yet they are the ones intent to do the treading.
The First Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion, yes, and it also prohibits the government “establishment of religion.” Freedom in that sense is a two-way street.