Century Marks

Century Marks

Creationism in the schools

The majority of public high school bio­logy teachers are not strong advocates of evolution in the classroom, according to a study conducted at Penn State. The study found that only 28 percent of high school biology teachers consistently follow the National Research Council recommendations, which call for introducing evidence that evolution is a reality and using evolution as a unifying theme in the curriculum. About 13 percent of teachers surveyed "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light." Sixty percent of the teachers try to avoid controversy. They aren't strong advocates of evolutionary biology nor are they explicit proponents of nonscientific alternatives. The researchers fear that this group may be more a hindrance to scientific literacy than the much smaller number who are creationists.

Parts for sale

Our bodies may be sacred, but given the worldwide demand for organs and other body parts, they are up for sale. A kidney can be purchased in India for $15,000 or in China for $62,000. Desperate people in poor countries like Pakistan, Indonesia or India sell their body parts for a pittance. Sometimes parts are stolen from the recently dead. And sometimes people are killed for their organs (Wired, February).

Dial-up confession

A new application for smart phones is being marketed to assist Catholics in making confession. Using the Ten Commandments, the application asks a number of questions to help Catholics identify their sins, as in "Have I wished evil upon another person?" or "Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?" When the questions for self-examination are completed, users get a checklist of their sins with a suggested prayer of penance, followed by an inspirational message. A Vatican spokes­person has warned that the application, while a means of preparing for going to confession, cannot take the place of a priest (AP).

Behind the statistics

A mantra of public school critics is that U.S. schools are failing and falling behind standards attained by countries like China. These claims are often made by private funders of education, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and often by those who promote the privatizing of schools. But some recent studies have shown that the problem is not public schools but poverty. American students rank first in reading and science and third in math when the sample is from schools where the poverty rate is less than 10 percent. Even in schools where poverty levels are between 10 and 25 percent, students still rank first in reading and science. The problem is that in 20 percent of schools in the U.S., poverty rates exceed 75 percent (Dissent, Winter).

Good out of bad

 Pastor Terry Jones's plan to burn the Qur'an in Gainesville, Florida, last fall sparked outrage around the world. But Jones's stunt ended up deepening interfaith ties in Gainesville. Dennis Schuman, a leader at P'Nai Or Jewish congregation, says Jones "probably did more to cement interfaith cooperation in Gainesville than any of the rest of us have accomplished in our entire ministerial careers." Larry Reimer, a United Church of Christ pastor in Gainesville, notes that an interfaith coalition was formed to plead with Jones not to burn the Qur'an, and as a result 25 religious communities agreed to share common readings at their worship services on September 11–12. A monthly interfaith clergy lunch continues to be held, and interfaith study groups have sprung up. Ties have been forged between Muslim and Christian congregations, and plans are being made for Jews, Christians and Muslims to jointly sponsor a House of Hope built with the help of Habitat for Humanity.