Thursday, November 17, 2005

Teaching Evolution in Mexico

The November 4 issue of Science features this interesting essay by Antonio Lazcano, a biology professor from Mexico. He points out that evolutionary theory has been warmly accepted by Mexican culture, despite the strong Catholic tradition of that country. He writes:

I am always amused when I am asked by my American colleagues about the problems and pressures they imagine I face in Mexico because of my interest in life's beginnings. However, pressure to include creationism in public pedagogical and research settings has been primarily a phenomenon in the United States. Only twice during my 30 years of teaching about evolutionary biology and research into the origins of life, have I encountered religious-based opposition to my work. In both cases, it came from evangelical zealots from the United States preaching in Mexico. One of the little recognized U.S. imports into Mexico is a small flow of creationists, who, through religion, are trying to impose their fundamentalist beliefs and hinder the teaching of Darwinian evolution in all levels of schooling.

Lezcano goes on to mention that evolution is a central feature of the science education of Mexican children:

The study of the origin of life and other issues of evolutionary biology run deep in Mexican culture. This shows up in many ways, including Diego Rivera's cheerful mural paintings of Charles Darwin in public buildings and the popularity of Aleksandr Oparin's ideas about life emerging from a primordial soup. More than 70 editions of The Origins of Life, one of Oparin's earliest books, have been published here and read by generation after generation of high-school students since it was first translated in 1937. Perhaps even more important is the nationwide exposure for many decades of Mexico's schoolchildren to evolutionary ideas included in the textbooks published by the Mexican Secretary of Public Education, which are provided free to all students. The lessons based on these materials are a preamble to in-depth teaching of evolution in secondary (middle school) and high schools.

Also interesting was this comment:

In yet another sign that Mexico's educators and students embrace Darwinism, my associates and I are often invited to speak in public and private schools, including those run by Catholic nuns and priests, to talk about the origin and evolution of life. The list of venues includes a conference at the oldest Mexican Catholic seminary. Many of the students and professors at the seminary may have seen evolution as the unfolding of a divine plan, but they also saw no doctrinal conflict between their own personal faith and Darwin's scientific ideas. They even found hilarious the idea of teaching creationism based on biblical literalism.

The whole article is worth reading. Powerful, organized creationism really is an American phenomenon. The rest of the world is right to laugh at us for it.


At 11:28 AM, Anonymous j-perro said...

Si, es muy interasante! Viva Senor Darwin!

At 10:13 AM, Blogger MissPrism said...

The UK, too, is starting to import creationism.
My American collagues are often surprised to hear that Darwin's grave is in Westminster Abbey and there is also a monument to Darwin at what was his local church.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Don Sheffler said...

"...evolutionary theory has been warmly accepted by Mexican culture, despite the strong Catholic tradition of that country."

My take is that Catholicism worldwide accepts evolutionary theory in general, so I don't believe the situation in Mexico should be a surprise.

Creation Science and ID are the products of strict fundamentalist anti-Catholic sectors of Christianity. If you think fundies are severe in attacking evolution, you should hear them talk about the Catholic Church. :-)

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