Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Article excerpt

Kansas on My Mind. Last summer I took a sabbatical from The Hastings Center's Humans and Nature Program to do some primary fieldwork. I went fishing, spending my time amidst family and mountains, rivers and streams, native western trout and world-traveling Atlantic salmon. In off moments, I read Ernst Mayr and Isaiah Berlin, yoking together evolutionary biology and the history of moral and philosophical ideas. I know of no better way to rekindle the soul and philosophical imagination than rubbing together Mayr, Berlin, and primary reality (namely, rivers, mountains, and wild fish).

My natural bliss was suddenly jolted by rumblings from the plains of Kansas. The Kansas Board of Education, in their cynical wisdom, would allow Kansas' schools to drop Darwinian biology from their curriculum. There would be no reference to evolution on state examinations. This move was meant both to skirt constitutional blockades and unleash local creationists and fundamentalists on neighbor school administrators and teachers.

My "humans and nature" blood boiled. Here was a cardinal act of moral and civic irresponsibility. In the name of religion and morality, the board would seriously undermine the spiritual dimensions of students' lives. Imagine its effect on me: without the grand story of the historical evolution of all life from a single original source via genetic and behavioral variation and natural selection--the fundament of our interconnection and solidarity with all life past, present, and future (a fundamental worldly fact with interwoven scientific, aesthetic, moral, and religious dimensions, a full range of human values)--what depths of meaning would mountains, rivers, fish, my wife's and my nurturing our five daughters have for me? …

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