Teaching evolution: No theory left behind

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by David Chartrand,  2010


Dover, PA — If it survives a legal test, this school district of about 2,800 students could become the first in the nation to require that high school science teachers at least mention the "intelligent design" theory. This theory holds that human biology and evolution are so complex as to require the creative hand of an intelligent force.

   School boards across the country, and now the courts, are considering competing explanations about how life began. This will be no picnic. The list of available theories is long and entertaining.

   Evolution -- The theory that the universe as we know it was the result of a random series of biological chain reactions: What began as simple molecular matter gradually transmuted to plant life which evolved to invertebrates which evolved to fishes which evolved to amphibians which then evolved to apes and then to Cher.

   Creationism -- The belief that the world was created by the God of the Old Testament. As evidence, creationists cite the verse in Genesis where it clearly states, “And God created everything and God does not consider any of this up for discussion, so shut up.”

   Intelligent Design -- This argument, favored by the Dover, Pa., school board, holds that certain life forms, such as sauerkraut and the entire musical Jackson Family, could not have occurred by mere physical accident. Well, it’s enough to make you stop and think.

   The Cosmic Egg Theory -- Many civilizations believe that a primeval mother teal gave birth to the universe by laying a magical egg. Half the shell formed the earth, the other half formed the sky. We don’t even want to think about what happened to the yolk.

   The DaVinci Theory -- The basic principle here is that one can learn the truth about the world’s origin only by staring for hours at Leonardo’s painting of “The Last Supper” or by reading any book by author Dan Brown.

   Texanism -- This argument, which is virtually impossible to disprove, holds that we are all descended from member of the Bush family.

   The “Whole Shebang” Theory -- Local school boards in ancient Greece — a hotbed of wholly believable explanations about the universe — taught that the universe was formed after Kit, a menacing warrior god, hurled a thunderbolt at his archrival, Caboodle, who was half cat and half poodle. Today, the complete volume of theories about how life began is referred to as “the whole kit and caboodle.”

   Canine Theory -- The math is simple. If life began 60 million years ago but the first humans arrived only 2 million years ago, then it’s likely we are descended from dogs. A typical dog will bark 1,347,215 times during the night while other life forms are trying to sleep because it is trying to summon other dogs to help recapture control of the planet.

   What do I believe? I believe the world will end before humans agree on how it began. But as long as our courts and school boards are willing to hold rigorous public debate on each and every one of these theories, at least we’ll die laughing.