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Israel will be Introducing Evolution into the Classroom

Israel will be Introducing Evolution into the Classroom

In Israel, the study of evolution was once confined to high school students who had to opt into courses such as Advanced Biology in order to learn it. However, the Ministry of Education has announced a shift in their curriculum. Those in middle school, ages 13-15, will now be taught evolution as part of their standard education.

It wasn’t that the theory of evolution was banned before, but it depended on a teacher’s choice. If they felt they could explain the subject properly, they were welcome to introduce it into science class. That said, very few felt they had the capacity to manage discussions on evolution and religion well, and so very few teenagers studied the basics.

This new curriculum has been hailed by scientists, calling it a step forward for Israel, despite a few caveats in this new program. The infamous diagram showing man descending from apes will not be included. It has yet to be announced whether these curriculum changes will also apply to private schools that focus on religious education.

So far, the reaction from the religious right has been mixed. While some within the ultra-Orthodoxy have called it a “mistake,” plenty have shown support of this measure, claiming that a full and complete education shouldn’t be something to fear. Classic rabbinical teachings state the Earth was created 6,000 years ago, and Adam and Eve were made out of clay. Yet, a large majority of Israelis see evolution as part of a continuum, and not at all incompatible with their faith.

For some liberal Israelis this move comes as a relief, as religious tensions have been at an all time high. In the past few years, the influence of ultra-Orthodox groups have grown, and they’ve wasted no time imposing their specific set of beliefs on Israeli society. In 2013, under ever increasing pressure, the Education Ministry asked that all reference to female anatomy, sexual reproduction and  STIs be pulled from science books or covered up with stickers.

Other moves have infuriated Israeli women, who were long used to serving in the army, and serving in the country’s government. So when the ultra-Orthodoxy asked that women be pulled from advertisements, tried to institute segregated seating on public buses, and even tried to impose separate pedestrian walkways for women, women’s rights advocates held demonstrations and protests.

Although the ultra-Orthodoxy only makes up 10% of the total population of Israel, many of them are militant activists who are ready to use terms like ‘religious freedom’ to impose their views on the rest of the country. Stories of women in Jerusalem being assailed with rocks and spit for dressing immodestly have become a common form of harassment. In the town of Beit Shemesh, an 8-year-old girl was spit on by an adult man for showing too much skin as she walked to school.

To appease the religious right, certain towns have dedicated enclaves to the ultra-Orthodoxy where they often impose their own version of the Torah on residents. Private schools have also been created so that families who ascribe to these beliefs can ensure their child’s education falls in line with their religion.

So if this mandate to teach evolution is extended to the private schools as well (which the Ministry of Education can, technically speaking, do), what will the reaction be? Some within the ministry are bracing themselves in case of an especially virulent push back.

Within the next school year, the evolution curriculum will come into effect.  Professor Nava Ben-Zvi of the Israeli Science Advisory Committee, seems ready for any backlash, stating that there was no need for “resistance” and religiously they wouldn’t be “fighting the links…but science is science and the time has come to incorporate the study into the curriculum.”

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76 comments

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8:46AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

At last some much needed logic applied-Hallelujah!

4:34PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Oh, finally.

6:12PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

thanks

4:10PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Thank you

6:21AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

"A body of descriptions of knowledge is usually only called a theory if it has fulfilled these criteria:

It makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics).
It is well-supported by many independent strands of evidence, rather than a single foundation. This ensures that it is probably a good approximation, if not completely correct.
It is consistent with pre-existing theories and other experimental results. (Its predictions may differ slightly from pre-existing theories in cases where they are more accurate than before.)
It can be adapted and modified to account for new evidence as it is discovered, thus increasing its predictive capability over time.
It is among the most parsimonious explanations, sparing in proposed entities or explanations.

The first three criteria are the most important. Theories considered scientific meet at least most of the criteria, but ideally all of them. This is true of such established theories as special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, evolution, etc."

That should clear it up for you if you still think my terminology is wrong or sloppy. Theories are the most solid and well-supported explanation we have, but they are not infallible. They are our BEST CURRENT UNDERSTANDING of something. Your attacks continue to be unwarranted and erroneous.

6:20AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Sorry, Simon... I appreciate that you're feeling defensive because you leapt down my throat and accused me of being a creationist when I was clearly supporting the teaching of evolution in schools, but my terminology is not wrong. You're grasping at straws to redeem yourself.

I don't care that you think my posts are poorly written. Even if they are, I'm not the one who started accusing another poster of being something they're obviously not, yet YOU are still attempting to patronise me. I never denied that evolution is a fact, but here you are insisting it to me again.

However, theory is still the correct word to describe our current (and subject to improvement) understanding of how it works.

"A body of descriptions of knowledge is usually only called a theory if it has fulfilled these criteria:

It makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics).
It is well-supported by many independent strands of evidence, rather than a single foundation. This ensures that it is probably a good approximation, if not completely correct.
It is consistent with pre-existing theories and other experimental results. (Its predictions may differ slightly from pre-existing theories in cases where they are more accurate than before.)
It can be adapted and modified to account for new evidence as it is discovered, thus increasing its predictive capability over time.
It is among the most parsimonious explanations, spa

5:14AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Alex P. - I read your post, I thought it was badly written and offering wriggle-room to the hard of thinking. Your subsequent post attacking me is much better - but you still have a problem of differentiation and use of sloppy language. Sorry but your terminology is incorrect and, if you are serious about science and being an atheist and all your other positions, you need to recognise that creationism, intelligent design and all that nonsense rely on sloppy use of terminology to set up their Aunt Sallys.

Evolution is a fact. There is no theoretical element to the fact of evolution: the theory is all about mechanisms and how change is effected.

1:32AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

thank you for sharing

7:09PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Wonders will never cease.

5:58AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

thank you for posting

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