In a recent Newsmax segment, host Rob Schmitt claimed that vaccines “kind of [go] against nature,” and that some diseases are “supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people.” Then, perhaps most aptly, Rob Shmitt states, “(…)that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
Here are some fun reactions to the segment:
Modern medicine, electricity, treated water, weather resistant buildings; the list of things that improve human well-being and quality of life that are also “against nature” is endless. And jokes aside, this kind of dangerous misrepresentation once again exemplifies the importance of teaching evolution and biological processes early and often in our schools.
We know that evolution is often missing from classroom instruction because some view it as “controversial.” But the COVID-19 crisis should be an opportunity to elevate evolution- along with its other scandalous companions, i.e. climate change- to the rightful and essential place in education, discourse, and everyday life.
The infusion of evolution into major concepts has been recommended by every National Center for Science Education reform effort. Imagine- helping all students become scientifically prepared citizens regardless of their profession, so that all people in all walks of life are armed with the scientific thinking skills needed for evidence-based understanding and decision making. In the meantime, polls like this indicate that a significant portion of Americans believe the government is using COVID-19 vaccines to plant microchips. As Carl Sagan noted in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows about science and technology.”
It’s important to note that in the last 30 years, evolutionary biologists and sociologists have demonstrated that the survival of our species depends not only on our capacity to detect environmental or social threats, but also on our ability to respond with highly coordinated, cooperative action. This is foundational to an effective response in the face of a pandemic.
A while back, the Evolution Institute hosted a webinar with Dr. Amanda Glaze in which she discussed her research on learning and teaching evolution in the South. She points to the fact that students in the south are 84% less likely to receive meaningful instruction in evolution, and ten times more likely to receive no instruction at all regarding evolution.
“I always start my presentations by telling everyone, my name is Dr. Amanda Glaze, I don’t believe in evolution, and neither should you. And that is because evolution does not exist as something for us to believe in.”
What’s great about her approach is that she looks to new pathways of research connected to her own southern roots as a storyteller to understand the issue. She collected stories that people tell about their own experiences with evolution in school and in church, with parents and with peers, etc.
Dr. Glaze ultimately argues that simply looking at whether someone accepts or rejects evolution is a gross oversimplification of the issue, and that we must be willing to stop, listen, and understand where people are coming from if we really want change.
It’s a presentation worth revisiting, particularly now in light of evolution misinformation being used to push the anti-vaccine agenda amidst a global pandemic. You can watch the full webinar here.