The fact is, it is often not taught at all. And this is not just in the south-- it's everywhere. It has become so controversial, that teacher just choose to avoid the topic.
Even where evolution is taught, teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, said that evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it. But he avoids controversy, he said, by teaching it not as "a unit," but by introducing the concept here and there throughout the year. "I put out my little bits and pieces wherever I can," he said.And our problem is unique in the industrialized world. Although there is no credible scientific challenge to evolution (to deny evolution is to deny the existence of dinosaurs),
He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent."
"I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."
....But in a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."And why is evolution uniquely controversial in the US? Here is one theory,
And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.
These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent rejecting it and the rest undecided.
In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.
"In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.
Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.
Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious groups in the United States led to competition for congregants. This marketplace environment, he said, contributes to the politicization of issues like evolution among religious groups.The fact of the matter is, that the forces of Darkness are winning.
He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."
But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.
UPDATE: Some of you have emailed to point out some sloppy language on my part. I should have said that to believe in the Biblical story of creation is to deny the existence of dinosaurs.