Don't stifle the debate on Darwin's deficiencies

Don't stifle the debate on Darwin's deficiencies
By BILL FOSTER - St. Petersburg Times - 1/19/2008 - original
On Jan. 2, I spent my last day as a St. Petersburg city councilman. I was heralded by my colleagues and received a key to the city from the mayor. After almost 10 years of service, I was forced out of office due to term limits. Many nice things were said about me, and I received many cards and letters thanking me for my thoughtful years of service. By Jan. 12, area bloggers declared that I was "an idiot, a has-been, dangerous, a moron, unintelligent, a disappointment, ashamed, not mayor material, not human material, I shouldn't work, shouldn't have a job, shouldn't have friends, etc."

These were not happy people, and tar and feathers were the theme. In the span of 10 days, what could I have done to cause such a rapid descent from grace? Did I break the law? Did I cause harm to someone? Was I caught in an immoral act? None of the above.

I simply sent a letter to my local school board. As a concerned parent and citizen, am I not entitled to voice an opinion to the very body which I support as a taxpayer? True, I pointed out the deficiencies of Darwin's teachings. Much to the public's chagrin, I even used a few lines from Dr. James Kennedy as I made a connection between Darwin and Hitler. Mind you, I never said "no Darwin, no Hitler." What I did say was that the major assertions of Darwin contributed to the idea that certain people were superior (had greater social value) over others.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler expressed a warped view of religion and creationism by mentioning "the almighty creator" and the "sin of racial poisoning." One could say that Hitler twisted science and Darwinism to justify his abuse of religion. Darwinism appeared to support Hitler's disdain for the "unfit," so he twisted Darwinism to fit his case. Both ideologies devalue human life, and make the "fittest" superior over the weak. In my opinion, there is an undeniable correlation.

What is also undeniable is that there is growing dissent in the scientific community, and there are literally hundreds of leading experts in a multitude of scientific disciplines who are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."

Let me be clear - I do not want a public school teacher teaching religion in the public school. This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. In addition, faith and religion are not science, and therefore should not be taught in a science classroom. However, there are other school venues where a tolerance of alternative theories is appropriate, and where a dialogue on these theories should be allowed. Social studies comes to mind. Present the history of religious persecution which led to the founding of America. Allow a discussion on why our forefathers penned the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Present the fact that as we speak, there are millions of people who believe in Creationism and an Almighty God. Allow the kids to bring in their Torah, Bible and Koran, to express themselves about what they believe, and to permit some dialogue as to why their beliefs run directly counter to what they learned in science class.

Persecution or public shame for an opposing viewpoint is dangerous. Stifling debate is dangerous. Unchecked ideology, whether scientific, political or religious,is dangerous. This is America, people. Sure, I touched a nerve, but I appreciate healthy debate, and I truly respect opposing viewpoints.

Bill Foster is considering running for mayor of St. Petersburg in 2009.