A couple weeks ago I was alerted to a newspaper article from the Brunswick Beacon, serving the Brunswick County next door to me in beautiful coastal North Carolina. The school commissioners there seemed to feel that evolution was “the biggest lie that’s ever been perpetrated on mankind.” Indeed, Chairman Bill Sue is “tired of my taxpayers’ dollars going to pay the price to teach our kids a lie in the schools.”
I’ve watched for years how Intelligent Design and Creationism sprouts up around the country but was never close to it really make a difference. Now that it has happened in my own backyard, I’m doing everything I can to put my fingers where my mouth has been (huh??). So I wrote a letter to the editor of this fine local newspaper. I do not know if it will get published or ignored, but I sent it in today. My letter was originally 660 words, but they only accepted responses of 250 words so I cut it down. I am posting the original and bolding the parts that made it into the trimmed down cut.
Kathryn Jacewicz’s April 19 story on Brunswick County Commissioners’ attempt to wedge creationism into the educational fabric of the public school system is very troubling for the parents and students of Brunswick County. Such a proposal severely threatens students’ future marketability as professionals in science and technology.
I am unclear where Chairman Bill Sue gets his information that “every theory that has ever been the basis of evolution has been disproven”. Certainly not from the reservoir of talented evolutionary biologists across the river at UNC-Wilmington, nor the entire cadre of scientists in the state-funded UNC and NC State systems – both of which substantially contribute to the federally-funded National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham. Despite living in a state with one of the highest number of resources for the study and understanding of evolution, Brunswick County commissioners prefer to ignore these for a religious agenda they would like to impose on each of it’s constituents.
The predictive power contained in the theory of evolution by means of natural selection is a vast and awe-inspiring power. Evolution is very much an applied science in addition to a theoretical science. Using principles from over 150 years of evolutionary study scientists and engineers have developed novel antibacterial compounds, improved crop yields and nutritional quality, predicted the next years viral strains for vaccine development, and solved perplexing crimes among the many other benefits that society reaps. The products of evolution are likely used by the commissioners every day and may have even saved their lives.
Their conspiratorial assertions that an entire scientific community can lie about evolution for well over a century is disturbing. While imperfect, science has a self-regulating system with high standards and integrity called peer review. One may argue that peer review contains the biases of the reviewers, but review doesn’t end with publication of a result. Science builds upon itself and when one its building blocks is weak, it gets replaced with something stronger. Intelligent design/creationism (IDC) seeks to throw a wedge into weak structural blocks, but the truth is there aren’t any weak elements for this wedge to pry apart.
Science provides a unified framework for discovery based on falsifiability, experimentation and repetition to ensure a result is not a fluke. Each of which are lacking in any IDC argument. As noted in the landmark ruling by Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District*, IDC is not science, relies of flawed and illogical statements and “violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation”.
The lies in this story appear to be coming from Chairman Sue and commissioner Scott Phillips, which are damaging mostly to their reputations, but are reflective of the same lies espoused by members of the Dover Area School Board. Judge Jones wrote in his opinion: “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.” Sound familiar?
The real tragedy if their sectarian religious agenda is carried out is the harm to students of Brunswick County when they attempt to compete for college entrances, scholarships and jobs in science an technology – fields of study predicted to maintain very high economic potential in the coming years. Much like the beginning of a nasty infection, this agenda must be treated immediately before it overcomes the Brunswick educational system and cripples its good citizens. I urge their constituents to reconsider Chairman Sue’s and commissioner Phillips’ qualifications and ideals, and reflect on the importance a quality science education will have on the children’s future. To paraphrase Judge Jones in his decision: the students, parents, and teachers of the Brunswick County School District deserve better than to be dragged into a legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
Sincerely, Kevin A. Zelnio
* Information, ruling and Judge Jones’ opinion of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District case available at http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller.htm.