19 May 2006

Evolution in the cold

Today's Montreal Gazette brings some chilling news from Canada's subarctic:
A high-school science teacher vowed Friday to continue telling his Inuit students about Darwin's theory of evolution, despite complaints from parents in the northern Quebec community of Salluit.

Education officials from the Kativik School Board said the principal of Ikusik High School cannot ban the teaching of evolution, since it is part of the provincial physical-science curriculum.

Alexandre April, who teaches French and physical science to students in Grades 7 and 8, said he was told repeatedly by the principal to stop teaching evolution, for fear of hurting their students' religious beliefs.

The Pentecostal Church is active in Salluit, a community of just more than 1,100 people located beside Ungava Bay...
Consider that most Inuit have only been exposed to Christianity for less than a century. The CBC's version of the story tries to account for the rapid spread of this particular meme:
In traditional Inuit belief, a shaman is possessed by his "helping spirit," which is not dissimilar to Pentecostal beliefs, according to Louis Rousseau, professor in the department of science and religion at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

"That can be translated quite easily with the Pentecostal insistence on the experience of being taken over by the holy spirit," Rousseau said.

Rousseau said Pentecostal Christianity is the fastest-spreading Christian denomination in the world, and that with what he's seeing among the Inuit, it is likely to spread across the North just as quickly.
The story also notes that the teacher, a biologist by training, has handed in his resignation, effective at the end of the year.

[UPDATE, May 20: In a followup story, The Gazette reports that the principal of Ikusik High School gave April a written reprimand last month -- which explains the resignation -- and suggests that Canada might have its own Bible Belt in the North.
Molly Tayara, a member of the Salluit school's volunteer education committee, said she'd tell her four school-age children to walk out of a lesson on Darwin.

"The minister (of education) may have come from apes, but we're Inuit and we've always been human," she told The Gazette in a phone interview.

"Most of us rely on God's word. ... God made Adam and Eve and they weren't animals."

Well, technically, we're all animals. I wonder what happens when the Inuit of Salluit read about the recent discovery that humans and chimps interbred for quite a while before going their separate ways?]

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