When Worlds Collide
Over the past few months, as long-time readers of the 'Kog will know, I have developed an aversion to the mixing of science and religion. In particular, the often-rancorous debates that have taken place in the past on this site attest to the willingness of all of my compadres to defend the Theory of Evolution.
I have also become acutely aware of the injustices perpetrated by the dominant, primarily European culture on the Aboriginal populations past and present. I am staunchly in favour of letting First Nations peoples maintain and grow their own traditional belief systems.
Then, something like this happens. Evolution is being booted out of schools in one district because it comflicts with traditional Inuit beliefs. The objection to the contradiction of traditional beliefs in public schools, and the subsequent 'ban' on the teaching of evolution, led to a complaint by a teacher, and now has resulted in an investigation by the Quebec Government.
I apologize in advance to those I will most likely offend.
I have to side with Charlie D. on this one. An Aboriginal system of beliefs is the same as any other system of beliefs, in that it helps people make sense of the world. It is the introduction of supernatural elements to explain cause and effect relationships. (Among other things - it obviously brings comfort to some, and provides the easily-ignored Ten Suggestions to some groups, which could serve as a model for moral behaviour.)
Now, before anyone builds the effigy for burning (make me a bit thinner, would you? Thanks), I do not mean to imply a literal commonality or comparability with the substance or content of Aboriginal beliefs and, say, Catholicism. The Function of spiritual beliefs, however, is always the same. I don't care what you believe, just keep your pamphlets to yourself unless you enjoy a skeptic in your midst.
And, as deeply personal parts of some people's lives, these religious/spiritual beliefs have no place in the classroom, particularly the science classroom. In the 21st century, we shouldn't even be having this conversation (monologue, really) in the first place.
Aboriginal children are already at a distinct disadvantage scholastically, and they need the tools necessary to contribute tangibly to their communities. One of the crucial tools is science. Spirituality could be taught in schools, but under the heading of spirituality, not as a replacement for things you disagree with. I have no problem with spirituality, but denying that evolution is the mechanism through which species change over time and adapt to their surroundings because you don't like the idea is folly, and will ultimately damage those children you are professing to 'protect'. If anyone should understand how creatures adapt to particular conditions through a process of natural selection, it should be the people who live in the North!
Evolution is not a threat to anyone's way of life or spirituality. In fact, they are not even on the same playing field, nor should they be. They are literally worlds apart. Science is not a threat, it is a tool. Religion is not the ultimate answer, it is a comfort. Both can live, but they can only live apart.
Kevvyd brings this to my attention:
"It is not the Inuit community groups that have the problem with his teaching evolution - it's the Pentacosts. As of the day he was interviewed, he had no complaints from Inuit traditionalists."
Thanks for that - I don't want to accuse the wrong people, but this wasn't clear in either of the original articles. Sorry for the error.