Evolution and religion in Arkansas
By Trinitey Hayward
Teaching high school students about evolution is treated as optional in my home state of Arkansas. When my 10th-grade science teacher made learning about it required in his class, some of my religious peers dug into Common Core standards to justify that they should not have to write an essay about Charles Darwin’s discovery. Despite his best efforts to make noncommittal statements, it became obvious that our teacher was an atheist. My peers, who had liked our teacher until this point, began to despise him.
More important than their hatred of the views he tried to hide was their hatred toward one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time: evolution. Those who believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old say that evolution is “just a theory.” These people place absolute faith in the uneducated writing found in a book thousands of years ago, but refuse to have faith in almost every scientist on the planet who agree that evolution is a reality. When a large portion of Americans disregard a repeatedly confirmed scientific theory, it has an impact on how quickly the field can progress. Public opinion does affect how easily scientists can study a topic.
When Charles Darwin did finally publish his research, a storm of religious leaders immediately dismissed his conclusions because his findings did not support the story of creation in Genesis. Religious people stopped at nothing to allow only their views to be mainstream. Arkansas passed a law that banned teaching evolution in schools because they feared it would make Christianity less credible. Luckily, a Supreme Court ruling made this unconstitutional. Local and state legislatures around the country even tried to conjure a scientific alternative to evolution, which was thinly veiled creationism.
These actions are direct attacks against science and logic. Public schools have been mandated by the state government. Since there is supposed to be a separation of church and state, schools should also be secular institutions. Many Southern states invoke this separation when they feel their religion is being oppressed in school, but this principle suddenly does not exist when their religion is overstepping its bounds. Separation of church and state is inherently a double-edged sword, to protect people of any and all religious groups. “In Science I Trust” because this type of hypocrisy has surrounded me for my whole life living in the Bible Belt. As an atheist in Arkansas, I have watched and been dumbfounded as ideas backed by years of science get thrown away because it does not fit with my friends’ and family’s views. I trust in science because it does not require faith — it only needs objectivity.
Trinitey, 18, is from Harrison, Ark., and attends the University of Arkansas. “My major is in finance because I would love to spend my time helping the disadvantaged better their financial situations,” Trinitey writes. “I have not been allowed to attend protests due to my parents’ rules, but I plan on attending protests while living on campus.”