Perhaps it's fitting that, as the school year gets underway, students have been presented with a vivid example of the dangers of ignorance.
Republican members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education complained volubly in Frankfort Monday because Kentucky students will have to have a sound understanding of — gasp! — biological evolution in order to meet the national standards pushed in 2009 by the Republican Senate.
Accordingly, new science guidelines being rolled out this fall in Kentucky schools require students to study the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest articulated by Charles Darwin almost 200 years ago.
"Essentially the theory of evolution is not science — Darwin made it up," moaned Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville.
Well, no and no.
Evolution is a scientific theory, developed and supported by careful observation and classification, tested, vetted and refined by scientists for more than 150 years. Evolution "is the finest scientific theory ever devised," said Vincent Cassone, chairman of the University of Kentucky biology department.
As far as Darwin just making it up, "there is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity," said Cassone, who served on the committee that developed the science standards.
It is unlikely that the pleas by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, and others that creationism or other unscientific, faith-based beliefs about the origins of the universe and its species should be taught along with evolution will gain enough traction to change Kentucky's standards.
Parents will always be free to teach their children as they see fit in their homes. But religious beliefs cannot be substituted for, or equated with, scientific understanding in public schools. At least, not if we want our children to compete on a national level.