The theory of evolution and whether or not it should be taught to Brainerd School District students popped up during a board meeting Monday, Sept. 9.
Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Murtha and Craig Rezac, a faculty member with the Brainerd High School science department, gave an update on the biology curriculum taught to students.
Board President Sue Kern questioned the validity and practical benefits of teaching the theory of evolution to students.
“Darwin’s theory was done in the mid-1800s and it’s never been proven,” Kern said. “So I’m wondering why we’re still teaching it.”
Rezac said the theory of evolution has been well-documented in the intervening centuries, with numerous contributions to the understanding of the sciences. Evolution isn’t a one-time theory proposed by Charles Darwin, he noted, it’s a cornerstone of biology and one that applies at every step in the curriculum.
“The interesting thing about theories is that we have to find information to disprove it,” Rezac responded. “There hasn’t been any information found to disprove the theory of evolution. As we learn more about DNA, it only solidified it.
“It’s based on observation. It’s based on fact. If we ever find any evidence to disprove it, we would amend that because that’s what we can do with a theory,” he added. “But, there hasn’t been any evidence to disprove it presented at this time.”
“And with regard to Christian students — how do you do that?” Kern said. “They’re taught not to agree with that, so.”
Christianity — or, for that matter, all forms of belief — do not necessarily conflict with the theory of evolution, Rezac said. They apply to different areas of a person’s life and, he said, for many, religious belief and rigorous scientific theory coexist in harmony.
“This is science and science deals with facts. It doesn’t deal with belief,” Rezac said. “It doesn’t have to be a dilemma or a concern for someone to choose between Christianity and evolution — that’s not what this is about. You can actually embrace both. It’s my duty as a teacher to teach science and not teach religion. That’s the separation of church and state.”
Murtha noted that, in teaching evolution, the district is following education mandates set by the state of Minnesota.
“If we were to deviate from those standards,” Murtha said, “we would not be keeping our promise to the community that the standards are met.”