Monday, January 07, 2008

If We Stop Teaching Evolution In U.S. Schools, Will School Shootings End?

[Originally posted at on October 6, 2006]

Obviously, the answer to the question in the title is no. But that is precisely what a survivor of the Columbine shootings of 1999 seemed to imply in his appearance on John Kasich's Fox News program.

The student in question is Mark Taylor, who survived the Columbine shootings by playing dead after he was shot. I just had the misfortune of hearing him say on Fox News that if we keep teaching students that human beings descend from monkeys, instead of teaching them the value of life, these killings will continue. (Coincidentally, it is precisely statements like these that make one wonder about the accuracy of the theory of evolution. Could monkeys descend from humans instead?)

Unbelievable as it may be for those who get their science-trumping knowledge directly from the Bible, evolution is not a novel and wacky theory taught exclusively in U.S. schools. If Jesus had performed a miracle by deductive reasoning, perhaps people like Mark Taylor might be able to digest these data: while evolution is taught pretty much everywhere in the industrialized world, the number of deaths by firearm among kids younger than 15 in the United States is 12 times higher than the corresponding number in 25 other industrialized countries--combined!

In fairness to Taylor, he might just have been trying to eclipse the stupidity of his host's premise, that this nation's youth has become so desensitized to violence (in the form of the usual suspects, videogames and tv programs,) that school shootings are just a natural consequence. Once again, by the power of deductive reasoning, the fact that video games and TV programs justify the violence we have witnessed in U.S. schools of late does not stand, since violent video games and TV programs are not an exclusive prerogative of the United States. The argument does not stand even when the crime committed follows the pattern of a video game or a TV show, because the same TV show or video game viewed by teens in another country does not necessarily lead to the same display of violence.

While it may be comforting to people like Mark Taylor, John Kasich, and his gullible viewers, to find a convenient scapegoat for these events, whether it is the theory of evolution, or the negative effects of a particular form of entertainment on a person, the answer to America's school violence obviously lies elsewhere. Perhaps we can begin our search by focusing our attention on the one factor that separates the United States from the rest of the industrialized world, the one factor that can by itself explain the much higher number of deaths by firearms in this country than anywhere in the rest of the world. It's not the theory of evolution, nor a game of Doom nor a DVD of Saw. It is best summarized by this ad (I just googled it up): "Don’t buy a gun out of fear or contempt or hatred. Buy a gun because you live in a country where you can... Buy a gun for America."

So: how long are we going to allow the untenable platitudes of people like Brian Rohrbough, Mark Taylor, and John Kasich to continue polluting the discourse on gun violence in our schools?

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