‘There Are Not Two Sides’: Atheists Seek to Stop Teacher from Presenting Alternative to Evolution

Science pdARROYO GRANDE, Calif. — Two prominent atheist organizations are urging an investigation into a Christian science teacher for teaching “both sides of the argument” surrounding evolution, as they believe that he should not be permitted to do so.

The Madison,Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Washington, D.C.-based Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) recently sent a letter to the Lucia Mar Unified School District to complain about the methods of Arroyo Grande High School teacher Brandon Pettenger.

The organizations state that they were contacted by a family who takes issue that Pettenger presents both evolution and creation, they believe that only one side should be taught to students and that religion should be left out of the classroom. The letter outlines that Pettenger showed his students the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate and had students provide summaries of creation beliefs from websites that disagree with evolutionary theory.

The family had contacted Pettenger to protest creation being taught in addition to evolution, but Pettenger responded that students should have the ability to make up their own minds about what they believe.

“I understand that you might be worried I am teaching religion in a public school science class, which is not the case,” he wrote. “There is debate within the scientific community about how to answer the question where did life come from. I feel it would be a disservice to my students not to present both sides of the argument.”

“We are investigating the main theories that are presented in this debate and the evidence used to support those claims,” Pettenger continued. “It is up to each student to decide for themselves which side they believe based on the evidence.”

But FFRF and RDFRS sent a letter to Superintendent Jim Hogeboom on Wednesday to ask that Pettenger be investigated and forced to stop teaching creation as an alternative.

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“We understand that Mr. Brandon Pettenger is attempting to ‘present both sides of the argument’ regarding evolution in his public school classroom,” the correspondence states. “Any attempt to teach that there is a controversy about evolution is similarly fraught with legal peril. Evolution is as much a fact as gravity. There are not two sides of the evolution argument for Pettenger to present.”

“[T]here is simply no controversy. There exists only scientific fact and evidence, and a religious belief that rebels against such evidence,” it continues. “One can, indeed must be taught in public schools. The other cannot.”

FFRF and RDFRS asked that Pettenger be disciplined if found to be speaking against evolution and stopped from doing so again in the future.

“If these allegations are founded, Pettenger must be directed to refrain from promoting religion or attacking evolution in the public school,” the letter stated. “At the very least, appropriate disciplinary action should be taken, and the results of your investigation placed in the teacher’s file.”

According to the San Luis Obispo New Times, school officials are looking into the matter, and while they declined to comment, Director of Secondary Education Hillery Dixon told the outlet that creation “should not be taught in any way.”

The outlet says that it obtained some of the lessons and presentations, which included a slide show that presented creation beliefs followed by “mainstream science” claims.


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