Thursday, August 24, 2006

Teach it. Fund it. Learn it. Or die.

E. coli
Given the broader Jurisdynamics Network's interest in evolution and its reception by the public, it seems eminently appropriate to note the New York Times' and Concurring Opinions' coverage of the Department of Education's apparent attempt to eliminate evolutionary biology from the list of fields suitable for study by recipients of a federal grant for low-income college students. The DoE calls the omission of category 26.1303 accidental.

Here's how the crucial passage in the DoE's list reports eligible subjects within the broader category, "26.13 Ecology, Evolution, Systematics and Population":
26.1301 Ecology
26.1302 Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography

26.1304 Aquatic Biology/Limnology
26.1305 Environmental Biology
26.1306 Population Biology
26.1307 Conservation Biology
26.1308 Systematic Biology/Biological Systematics
26.1309 Epidemiology
26.1399 Ecology, Evolution, Systematics and Population Biology, Other
Yes, this fair and balanced presentation of the document in question shows a blank line where category 26.1303 should appear. We report. You decide.

As for me, I've decided. This administration has demonstrated no restraint in playing politics with science. It deserves no presumption of good faith on matters of this sort. Evolutionary biology has become a special whipping boy for one of this administration's most rabid constituencies, so much so that pandering to antievolutionist sentiment has reached the highest judicial levels.

Perhaps it is apt, therefore, to remind this audience as well as this scientifically benighted administration and the public at large: Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.

I offer one final footnote. Deven Desai's otherwise excellent post at Concurring Opinions fell into the usual pattern of illustrating public disputes over evolution with a depiction of nonhuman primates. Let's try something different here. The graphic accompanying this post provides a hint on why it might be worth teaching, financing, and learning evolutionary biology. Never mind human origins. How about emphasizing human survival as a tactically astute change of pace?

Editor's note: This item is a cross-post from Jurisdynamics.

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