Wednesday, February 2, 2011

13% of Biology Teachers Are Not Apolobiologizing for Their Beliefs:

It is currently 10:39pm on a Wednesday evening. Make that 10:40. Right now, as we speak, a teacher is mapping out his or her lesson plan for their next biology class, and intends on referencing creationism in a positive light . Indeed, 13% of American biology teachers speak vehemently in favor of the theory of creationism, while a surprisingly small portion of biology teachers (28%) spoke favorably of Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution. The rest of that pie belongs to teachers who undermine Charles Darwin's theories, or do not take a vehement stand for either theory. That is at least according to the findings of Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, who have recently published these findings in Science Magazine, and who have denounced this continued presence of creationism within the American educational system.
However, my growing interest in this story was not how 13% of teachers could actively be teaching Creationism, but in the 59% of teachers who were not inclined at all. It would seem to me that there is not too much space to fall between in terms of ones orientation as a believer in creationism or as a believer in Evolution, and the general gap in unity seems to be a result of something other than just the beliefs of the teachers. Eric Plutzer notes how some teachers simply side-step the issue of Evolution in class: "Our general sense is they lack the knowledge and confidence to go in there and teach evolution, which makes them risk-averse," ( This in itself is a concern, as many teachers may simply not be well educated enough on the topic to feel comfortable teaching it. Considering that the National Assessment of Educational Progress recently reported only 36 % of 4th, 8th, and 12th grader are "proficient or better" in the sciences (, it leaves open the fear that our teachers are not being properly trained to do the job they are paid to do.
posted by: Luke Brewer (1)


  1. When I took an evolution course last year, my two professors spent about half of a lecture talking about this same statistic and how it is interesting that so many scientists do not feel strongly one way or the other. They didn't elaborate as far as to explain why this trend is so one-sided. I guess I was fortunate to have a good biology teacher in high school because she made it clear that she believed in evolution and was able to explain it in a fairly unbiased way (if that makes any sense). I guess I would be labelled as one who supports Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

    Posted by Kevin McLaughlin

  2. If this article is referring to teachers in middle and high school, I am not surprised by this high percentage, especially in public schools. In places like these schools where teachers can be confronted about a controversial issue such as this, it may be crucial to avoid the subject in order to appease the parents of these students. While I understand this dilemma, I still believe that both options should be at least mentioned in the classroom so as to allow students to better understand what they are learning. I personally believe that evolution is indisputable, but this does not leave out the option for accepting evolution and believing in God. Many evolutionary scientists are religious in some way. I agree with Plutzer in that people should be able to talk about this issue in schools, but I can also see that in these times when more and more teachers are out of a job, it is necessary to keep controversy to a minimum.

    Posted by Marlena Grasso

  3. The thing I find most stunning about the statistic indicating that 28% of schoolteachers speaking favorably of evolution is that it is actually lower than the percentage of Americans who believe in Naturalistic evolution (30%). Science teachers have the responsibility to raise the public understanding of science, not sink down to its level.

    As the renowned biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky once said, 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', and he's absolutely right. The theory of evolution by natural selection underlies all aspects of the modern biological and biomedical sciences. Still, in my high school, we only started covering evolution late in our second semester of biology, well after we had gone over topics such as DNA, cellular metabolism, genetics, histology, and ecology. What we weren’t told was that essentially everything we had been learning about the entire school year was only discovered by scientists due to predictions made by the theory evolution. Instead being taught evolution in September and learning about biology as a singular, unified, hard science, we were haphazardly tossed a seemingly disjointed and incoherent set of facts. If that is what it is like to go public school in one of the least religious and well-educated states in the US, I can barely begin to imagine what it must be for kids in the Midwest and South.

  4. I agree with what Marlena said. Teachers avoid the subject of Evolution because of laziness or because of a lack of passion in the subject. I think that if these teachers did take the time out to discuss these topics it would inspire more students to be more interested in science. Teachers these days in high school are far too concerned with having kids memorizing facts. I think if teachers worked more to allow kids to have opinions the level of science proficiency would rise.

  5. I'm not surprised at these statistics. Divisive issues in this country can get extremely "hot", as in volatile and potentially dangerous. People are threatened and even murdered for taking sides in topics like evolution, abortion, and religion. Living in Massachusetts a hypothetical biology teacher may not feel much danger if he or she decides to teach evolution in a scientifically rigorous and accurate way, but consider if the same teacher were deep in the heart of a conservative state. Even if that teacher by some miracle could escape the regional "hivemind" beliefs and wanted to teach scientifically accurate evolution, they would still think twice about it simply because of how potentially enraged people around them could be. No one wants to needlessly risk their life, even for an important scientific issue. For more telling statistics, I would ask the same questions but in perhaps only the "blue" states. Or even better, rephrase the question to, "Do you *want* to be able to speak in favor of evolution in your classroom?"

    Posted by Derrick Xu

  6. While I agree that teachers may choose not to be inclined to evolution or religion due to outside pressures, I believe there is more to that decision. For some people, the choice of religion or evolution is simple, for others it can be a difficult choice. Many people had religious upbringings but were educated with knowledge of evolution. Since the poll taken was anonymously, teachers were likely being honest. The choice cannot always be a distinct or easy one to make. To be honest, I don't feel the personal opinions of a professional teacher should impact their ability to teach what they are supposed to. These kinds of articles never provide much true information, but just interesting facts or statistics. The evolution versus religion argument is a dead end road, so preference shouldn't matter.