Summarized by Eric Bunker
Evolution Taught the Mormon Way
Associated Press 4Oct99 B6
By Hannah Wolfson: Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Since August, when the Kansas Board of Education
adopted new testing standards that play down the scientific importance of
evolution, including the theory that humans descended from apes and other
lower species, Utah has had a particular interest in how and what is taught
in the schools to children about evolutionary theory.
In Utah, the state with the highest concentration of any one religious
denomination, the issue isn't at all clear-cut. Regardless of how it
washing out, critics, and advocates alike say the decision could bring more
religion into the classroom.
Utah State standards require public school biology students to learn
evolution according to the recommendations of the National Association of
Science Teachers. However, in practice, the teaching of it in Utah's mostly
Mormon classrooms may be very different.
"In Utah, teachers are cautious, mostly because of they don't feel
comfortable teaching something they don't believe in themselves," said
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative
organization pushing to allow more religious thought into public schools.
Adding, "And those who do believe evolution understand the culture and know
they could have hostility coming down all around them."
In American Fork, students at the private Ensign Elementary School ask about
evolution, the teacher just goes to the Book of Genesis and the Book of
Mormon. Otherwise, science students don't spend much time studying Darwin's
theory. However, that is not a common experience for most students in Utah.
Duane Jeffery, a zoology professor at Brigham Young University, said college
level Biology 100 teachers usually explain the Church's position on the
subject before teaching the science. It might be simpler to skip over
evolution, he said, but because this theory pervades the language and
culture of secular science so much, teaching biology without Darwin's theory
is like teaching chemistry without the periodic table.
"It's much better that students learn this within the context of faith,
rather than seeing it used as a hammer against religion," said Jeffery, who
frames the science by telling students that God works through natural law.
Church leaders rely on the First Presidency statement issued in 1931: "Leave
biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the
salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify
our calling in the realm of the Church."
Brett Moulding, science education specialist for the Utah State Office of
Education. says, "I'll occasionally have calls into our office, (on
evolutionary theory). We always go back to what is science and what we
believe and what we know based on evidence."
Brian Bates, a co-founder of the Ensign School, said, "I think people have
to realize that a religious person need not be threatened by error, they
just need to know the truth. We don't fully understand God's work and are
trying to explain the processes of our world. There's probably some truth
in there, (evolutionary theory) and there's probably some error in there,