Evolution is Back In New Mexico Schools After Uproar from Scientific Community

A microraptor photographed at The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Microraptor was a bird-like dinosaur, demonstrating the evolutionary relationship between non-avians and avians. You can easily see the imprints of feathers in the fossil. Kristin Hugo

Advocates of science literacy, rejoice—evolution and climate change are returning to New Mexico's education standards.

On Tuesday, New Mexico's Public Education Department announced that they would be using uncensored Next Generation Science Standards for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math. Previously, they had proposed an altered version of the standards that removed or toned down science facts that some find controversial.

The Public Education Department had proposed plans to use an altered version of standards of the Standards, which many states and DC use. New Mexico's scrubbed version eliminated or weakened references to evolution, climate change, and the age of the earth.

Historically, scientific certainties have gained political weight when the facts could affect beliefs, ethics, and legislation. For example, those in favor of supporting oil and gas industries may be averse to teaching students about the existence and causes of climate change. Some followers of certain religions believe in young-earth creationism, or the idea that God created the earth as it is today just a few thousand years ago, and wouldn't want their kids to be taught about scientific approaches to the age of the earth and how life evolved on it.

New scientific knowledge has often met a chilly reception. Since the times of Galileo, there has been public resistance to new knowledge about the earth. The Scopes Monkey Trial, the subject of the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, focused on whether or not it was right to teach the science of evolution to public school kids when so many people at the time found it antithetical to their religion.

Such hesitation doesn't sit well with the modern scientific community, and they made it known yesterday during a public hearing yesterday. According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, more than 200 people turned out to protest the changes to the standards, including representatives from the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Science Teachers Association. Two democratic senators from New Mexico even called the altered standards an "ideologically scrubbed curriculum" on a Medium post.

The protestors gave several reasons for their opposition to the censored standards. In addition to the inaccuracy of teaching science that doesn't include evolution, they found that nixing references to potentially-upsetting facts is an exercise in corruption, according to The Santa Fe New Mexican. They were also concerned that children who graduate New Mexico schools won't be able to compete in the STEM job market, because employers will know that their science education has been compromised.