In a recent seminar given by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), she brought up the point that when she is asked “Do you believe in evolution?”, she says no. She then enjoyed the moment as a hushed confusion came over the audience. Everyone assumed that the purpose of her visit was to promote evolution as a central organizing system in biological education. Of course, that is her mission, but evolution is not a “belief” system. It is an explanation for the phenomenon that we observe in biological sciences. She went on to explain that she “accepts” evolution as an explanation for what we as scientists and educators observe.
Science education does not exist to challenge religious beliefs. Science originates from the knowledge that understanding of problems leads to the ability to solve problems. The most common and visible examples are advances in medical science. Most new pharmaceuticals as well as many medical procedures are tested on animals before they are tested on human. Appropriate interpretation of animal ( pre-clinical ) studies is based upon the similarity of that particular species with humans.
Although evolution is referred to as a “theory”, that does not mean it is not yet accepted by scientists. Theory is a term used in science to mean “comprehensive explanation”. Within science, there is no debate about evolution, scientists involved in evolutionary studies only seek to fill in small details into a greater picture which has been clear for generations.
A thorough understanding of the role of each species in the biosphere is becoming increasingly important due to emerging issues such as climate change. Students in high school now will have to evaluate evidence presented by scientists themselves in order to determine if a particular environmental issue deserves their attention as voters.
Every student in high school has a right to an education that will open up as many doors in their future as possible. A full understanding of biological science at the secondary level is not only necessary for those students who plan to continue at a university in biology or pre-med, it is necessary for students who plan to take technical or certification courses in health sciences such as nursing, physical therapy, and environmental sciences. High School is much early to close the door on medical and health science careers, because students may at a later time decide that they are interested in such careers. Technical careers such as nursing seem to be career paths that are almost always open.
Throughout the students life, he will be confronted with decisions that concern their own health. Good decision making comes from a good and complete understanding of biological principles, and the organizing principle always comes down to evolution. For the most part, we know about the function of our own bodies because of studies on animals.
Science cannot explain everything. For things that science cannot explain, faith is there to provide what may be needed assistance. But by definition, things that cannot be explained are not science, and thus they rarely become issues in the secondary science classroom.