By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Unnatural selection: As a general rule, Buzz tries to stay away from the evolution vs. creationism debate. We also try to avoid getting into heated talks with people on buses who are convinced aliens are beaming messages through their fillings, and for much the same reason. If you sincerely believe in tooth-communicating aliens, a logical discussion of science and reality probably isn't going to change your mind. Ditto for people who think Barney Rubble was real.
That's why we say God (heh) bless those fine people at the Texas Freedom Network, who fight the good fight so lazy (we prefer the term "easily frustrated") people such as Buzz don't have to. The network is a nonpartisan group that keeps an eye on the religious right's effect on state government and politics. This weekend, they're helping promote Evolution Sunday, a nationwide event in which clergy in the United States and other countries speak out on the issue of evolution and the fact that teaching sound science does not contradict religious faith.
This year's Evolution Sunday is particularly important in Texas, says Dan Quinn, communications director for the Texas Freedom Network, since this state is likely to be the next big battleground in the fight over whether evolution should be taught in public schools. The Texas State Board of Education is preparing to review the science curriculum this year, and the outlook for evolution is not good. Late last year, the Texas Education Agency's science curriculum director was forced from her job for merely forwarding an e-mail message announcing a speech by a critic of "intelligent design," aka "creation science" or, if you prefer, "nonsense."
Quinn says the anti-evolutionists, who sadly include some members on the state board, prefer to frame the debate as one of "people of faith" vs. "people of no faith." "The issue at hand is not trying to persuade people whose minds are already made up," Quinn says. By enlisting clergy to speak on behalf of science education, Evolution Sunday hopes to demonstrate that there's no inherent conflict between sound science and faith, and to point out the existence of a large group of religiously minded people who don't necessarily believe that early man munched on brontosaurus burgers. Finding those moderates and encouraging them to speak up could help decide whether 21st-century Texas schoolchildren end up getting a 19th-century science education, Quinn says.
"Texas cannot afford to become a laughingstock about whether we're going to teach our kids sound science," Quinn says.