Schools respond to proposed evolution teachings

Argen Duncan

Local school administrators aren’t taking a strong stance on a bill that would allow the teaching of controversial topics such as intelligent design in public schools.

State Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, has introduced a bill that would prevent the state from prohibiting teachers who are presenting a controversial scientific topic “from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic.”

The bill’s list of protected scientific topics include “biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, human cloning and other scientific topics that are often viewed by society as controversial.”

The bill’s opponents have said the bill promotes religion and would adulterate science education. Supporters have said teaching the strengths and weaknesses of a theory advances science and critical thinking.

Floyd Municipal Schools Superintendent Paul Benoit and Portales Municipal Schools Director of Instruction Priscilla Hernandez said their schools adhere to state standards and benchmarks, which call for the presentation of the basics of evolution.

Benoit said Floyd teachers present evolution as a concept but don’t spend a great deal of time on it. Floyd students would be allowed to choose to study either side of the issue for projects and research papers, he said.

“We wouldn’t discourage any study of evolution any more than we would discourage study of creationism among our students,” Benoit said.

Benoit declined to comment on the bill because he hadn’t read it, and Hernandez said she might comment after seeing its outcome.

Eastern New Mexico University Professor of Biology Manuel Varela teaches evolution as a portion of some of his courses.

“You can go home and believe or not believe in God, but you must believe in evolution,” he said.

Varela said there is hundreds of years of evidence for evolution, which he defined as DNA mutating from generation to generation.

He thinks evolution should be taught in science classes, and intelligent design or creationism in philosophy or religion classes.

A professing Christian, Varela said he believes God created and the creation evolved. He said it’s illogical to say one must believe in evolution and not God or God and not evolution.

“The way I see it, you can believe in both,” Varela said.