David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Evolution Debate Important

Brandon Sun, December 26, 2009 - David McConkey

Evolution? Creation? There have been interesting letters to the editor in response to my last column about the evolution / creation controversy.

Some letters countered that there is no controversy. But the opinions expressed in the letters (and in a local Internet discussion) show that the controversy is alive and well!
My suggestion that the evolution / creation debate should be taught in schools triggered some criticism.

Rev. Michael Skliros argued that the topic would be too difficult to teach. Instead, he recommended looking to the U.K., where schools teach a course about religion. Another letter writer, Lyndon Bournon, agreed.

I’m not sure that getting a religious studies course accepted here would be that easy, but I’m all for it.

We need to understand more about religions. They are becoming more important – and more diverse – all the time.  

As I wrote in a column earlier this year, the issue of religion involves big questions facing every citizen of our global village. Especially, how people relate to others with different religions is a key factor in whether the world will be at peace or war.

I applaud Brandon schools’ handing out a description of different religions to Grade 5 students.

The religions are the ten religions in Brandon’s Labyrinth of Peace.

These ten religions are: Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Earth Religions (Wicca), Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Native Religion, and Sikhism. Religious non-belief is another option.

In his letter, Skliros writes that “though broadly based on Christianity,” the U.K. religious studies course “teaches the precepts of all main religions.”

The U.K. course should be looked at in creating one here.

But religion is quite different in the U.K. than it is here in North America. Look at the controversy about evolution. As Skliros points out, the controversy hardly exists over there.

Teaching about religion in our schools should reflect our Canadian and North American experience. I have four suggestions:

First, include aboriginal religious tradition. It is already one of the ten Labyrinth faiths (Native Religion), but needs special mention as an important part of our heritage. And speaking of creation, First Nations creation beliefs should be considered along with others.

Second, include newer understandings of Christianity developed on this continent by, for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Regarding creation, Mormons locate the Garden of Eden right here in North America.

Third, include the United Church of Canada. This would give a Canadian religious voice to accepting equality for women, homosexuality, birth control, and access to abortion.

Fourth, include contemporary religious thinking. I notice more liberal outlooks now within traditional faiths. As well as more critiques of all religion.

This contemporary religious thinking is explored in a number of recent bestselling books.

And broadcast on the Sunday afternoon CBC radio program Tapestry.

And written about in the column by Rev. Michael Skliros on the Brandon Sun’s religion page.

Returning to evolution, letter to the editor writer (and Brandon Sun science columnist) Tony Dempsey makes a very interesting point. Going to school in Manitoba, he never received any instruction in evolution; nor did any of the people he canvassed.

Dempsey writes that Manitoba teachers, in order “to avoid their own mini-Scopes Monkey Trials, often just skip evolution altogether.”

His assertion has not been disputed by any teacher or school official.

So, having a science class debate about evolution and creation doesn’t let one side – or the other – in the school door, as several letter writers feared.

Having the debate actually lets both sides in. second

The evolution / creation controversy is similar to religious differences in general.

People think, “I know that what I believe in is the truth. But I can’t understand why others have beliefs that are ridiculous.”

That illustrates the big challenge for citizens everywhere. How can we better understand the growing diversity of religions? How can we respect the right of all either to practice a religion or have no religion?

This challenge recently arose locally over school Christmas concerts. One group’s cherished religious heritage can be deeply offensive to others.  

I hope that we can find a consensus here.

Evolution, religion, and other controversial issues should not be skipped over in our schools, nor in the public square.

Rather, they should be acknowledged and tackled as the important subjects that they are.

* * * *
See also:  

Letter to the editor in response to this column

The Evolving Nature of Belief

The Greatest Show on Earth

Book Looks at Islamic World

Rights and Religions

Role of Religion in War and Peace



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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Some Reviewed Books:

The War on Drugs:
A Failed Experiment

War on Drugs

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The Atheist Muslim:
A Journey from Religion to Reason


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Stranger Than We Can Imagine:
An Alternative History of the 20th Century


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Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now


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Islam and the Future of Tolerance:
A Dialogue

Islam Future

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Extraordinary Canadians:
Nellie McClung

Extraordinary Canadians Nellie Mcclung

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The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution

Greatest Show on Earth

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