Anti-evolution 'equals' apartheid

2012-03-12 10:16

Cape Town - If people oppose evolution as a science, they are expressing support for discrimination, an author and science educator has said.

"My baseline statement is: If you are against evolution, you are pro-apartheid. If you still think the South African population is divided up into races, not ecotypes, races and they are different from one another based on racial characteristics... you are ignoring evolution totally," Dr Jurie van den Heever, a palaeontologist at Stellenbosch University told News24.

He was responding to news that teachers at some schools refused to teach evolution in life science classes as prescribed by the department of education in its policy documentation.

Van den Heever also conducts programmes at the university where teachers are educated and given skills to present lessons on evolution.

He said that the stance against evolution is a legacy of apartheid policy that sought to classify people into specific groups.

Background

"I'm an Afrikaner and I come from the Dutch Reformed background and I tried to unravel this whole thing. Evolution was outlawed from the school curriculum under the auspices of the Christelike Nasionale Onderwys.

"Today, we still have lots of people and specifically teachers with baggage - that kind of baggage - throwing a shadow on evolution."

According to the department of education Caps (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) document for life sciences, learners at school are to be taught about the history of life on Earth in grade 10, culminating in human evolution in grade 12.

However, the document also recommends two weeks for learners to be taught about alternatives to evolution, including creationism and intelligent design.

The document specifies "different cultural and religious expalanations for the origin and development of life on Earth" (sic).

Van den Heever said that the legacy of the past when politics informed the religious belief system and it has continued to have an influence in education.

"The Dutch Reformed Church developed into a Volkskerk, in other words, the Volkskerk is informed by the politics of the day. The church does not inform the politics... it became an inverted situation because of political connotations.

"In the various churches, people still view evolution with some suspicion," he added.

The South African constitution guarantees freedom of religion and permits observance of religious services at state institutions, on condition that attendance is "free and voluntary".

Constitution

"Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions, provided that those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities; they are conducted on an equitable basis; and attendance at them is free and voluntary," says section 15 of the Bill of Rights.

Van den Heever doesn't believe that schools are deliberately contravening the teaching of evolution, but warned that they may, through their omission, be in conflict with the constitution.

"Schools that are not complying with the department of education and not teaching evolution or teaching a specific kind of religion in maths or biology class are actually contravening the grondwet [constitution].

"I don't think that the schools actually refuse to teach it [evolution], I think it has to do probably with individual teachers or individual headmasters because the school can't do it."


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