There is no doubting Randy Moore’s evolution-education credentials.
A professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Professor Moore has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin award, and the National Association of Biology Teachers Evolution Education award.
Randy Moore, in short, has long been one of the most engaging and engaged voices in the campaign to get more evolution education into America’s schools.
And what is Moore’s most recent argument to make America’s schools more evolution-friendly?
In a remarkable article in the “evolutionary-creationist” BioLogos Forum, Moore and colleague Sehoya Cotner offered two recommendations for improving evolution education:
1.) Let Jesus teach it!
2.) Catch creationist kids young!
Here are their actual words:
“We know of no evidence that the availability of such solely science-focused workshops, seminars, and other forms of evolution-related education will significantly affect what creationism-based biology teachers teach. Since the impediments to better teaching of evolution are primarily the philosophical and religious views of biology teachers, programs that do not address the more personal, ‘non-science’ issues of science educators directly and effectively are likely to have little impact on what students learn in high-school biology classrooms. Instead, if further fact-based instruction in evolution is part of the answer, it is likely to be most effective with young children, who are developmentally primed to seek explanations for natural phenomena. However, evolution instruction is essentially absent prior to high-school biology; by high school, a student’s teleological demands have likely been met by supernatural explanations, creating a cycle of adults who know little about evolution and teach creationism-flavored biology.”
In other words, as Moore and Cotner convincingly demonstrate, simply assuming that the scientific evidence for evolution will convince creationist teachers has not worked, and will not work. They rely heavily on the research of Penn State political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer. Instead, evolution education needs to get away from the delusion that the scientific evidence alone will do the job. With adults, effective evolution education, as Moore and Cotner contend, must address “philosophical and religious” issues involved. This conclusion makes eminent sense. However, it brings us to an awkward realization: science education must range far beyond science education to be effective science education. Are creationist teachers to be taught that Jesus wants them to accept evolution? That seems to be Moore’s and Cotner’s implication, and it raises a host of thorny issues.
The second prong of their policy argument is equally radical. If “fact-based” evolution education is to work, Moore and Cotner argue, it must reach young students before their families’ influence has become decisive. In other words, effective evolution education must evangelize aggressively to counter the “supernatural explanations” offered young people by their parents and church leaders. Effective evolution education must seek to replace those family influences with the influence of scientific evidence.
Randy Moore has long been one of the smartest voices in the field of evolution education. And his logic in this article seems uncontrovertible. Yet it raises disturbing questions. Can evolution educators discuss “philosophical and religious” implications of evolutionary theory? Doesn’t that amount to sectarian religious education? In other words, if science educators try to teach that Jesus is not against evolution, isn’t that making a strictly religious argument?
And we need to ask tough questions about targeting young minds: Can a campaign to reach young creationist kids work? Is it the place of public education to target family culture and religion?