God and Darwin

By RICK WORMWOOD  |  February 2, 2006

When I asked what she thought about Intelligent Design, she came right out and called it Creationism, and said, “It’s good to acknowledge that there are other opinions, but we talk about facts. It’s a fact that there is a fossil in this rock. How did it get there? I think as teachers we have a responsibility to student beliefs that fall outside the way in which science knows the world, but in the public classroom, where students don’t have that choice, questions about that need to be deferred to their religious leaders. You either teach them all, or you say go to your own religious leaders.”

Mrs. Raines also believes that someone who exclusively believed in Intelligent Design should take the time to understand what Darwin and Gould were getting on about. “Regardless of background you still owe it to yourself to understand this. If you have a really strong belief in Creationism and you want to fight that fight, then you need to understand how an evolutionist looks at it.”

Though its full embrace in her classroom came slowly, Mrs. Raines is there now, despite whatever her reputation might be among former students and colleagues. I don’t think that she was punning when she said, “It’s been an evolution for me in my teaching, but I’m at peace with how I teach it.” She should be at peace with it, and so should any of her would-be critics who have obviously not taken the time to understand the gradual process that she has endured. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she came to it. Here is a religious woman who worked her way to where she needed to be to fulfill her other role as public servant. What the hell could be wrong with that? In no way should she be ridiculed.

In fact, I talked to a few other biology teachers while preparing this story. While the problems and reservations they had with the theory of evolution were pretty much the same ones that Mrs. Raines had, they also universally agreed with her that Intelligent Design didn’t belong in Maine classes. This uniformity of opinion made me wonder why she had been singled out for attention, and I really think it was because she is an avowed Christian. What other reason could it be? Maybe my cousin Matthew is right, and I’m just Dan Rather’s message boy. Maybe cousin Donald will see this and then stop checking the Phoenix for my byline because he thinks I’ve lost my lefty edge, I don’t know, but while we’re all enduring the endless white noise that surrounds this subject, all the pontificating and sneering that both camps engage in, it would be useful to remember that Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, wasn’t just some dude with a bunch of pea plants, a keen eye for detail and a lot of time on his hands to study: he was all of those things and a monk to boot. He spent a ton of his time in prayer and contemplation, and probably had a tonsure haircut. Gregor Mendel didn’t just believe in God, he was all about believing in God, but luckily for us, Mendel didn’t find the sacred and the scientific mutually exclusive. Luckily for students at Yarmouth High School, Julie Raines doesn’t either.


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Rick Wormwood: rickwormwood@excite.com

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