As part of the Miss USA 2011 beauty contest, the contestants were interviewed on a variety of subjects. One question was about teaching of evolution: should evolution be taught in public schools? There is still a lot of debate about this matter around United States, especially in the Southern states, where conservative Christian views dominate.
There was a good variety of answers by the very pretty contestants and they speak in a clear and smart manner. Most of them, however, approached the problem with the idea that evolution is a belief or that a student's personal belief's should dictate what is taught at school.
Many of the contestants stress that they personally do not believe in evolution. Because it is a matter of belief, it should not be taught in classroom, or "both sides" should be presented so that children could make their own decisions about which is true.
While I find it worrying that these ladies confuse science with personal beliefs, let us think why they are in this contest in the first place. They are not competing to become science teachers. They are trying to convince the judges that they are not only good-looking but also gentle, friendly and good to present themselves, in a clear and positive manner. They probably aim to work in a profession related to publicity: as a model, actor, presenter.
In what they were expected to do, they did well. They presented themselves as caring, gentle and friendly. The question was presented as a challenge, not as an inquiry about their scientific and theological knowledge. They had no problem speaking their mind and answering the question and many of them extended a hand to "both sides".
At the same time, they present honest and dangerous misconceptions about what science and beliefs mean and what should be taught in the classroom in general. The theory of biological evolution is the prevailing scientific theory about the origin and development of species. There are no other significant theories, so if you want to present the children "the alternative" or "both sides", what should you tell them? Also, should the kids' own (or the parents') conceptions about the matter affect what they are taught?
At the same time, kids should be taught what a theory is and how science is done. They should understand that while there is a theory of evolution, it is not "just" a theory and while you can criticize it like any other theory, it prevails. Creationism, on the other hand, is a religious belief and while some of its claims could be assessed like other details, as a theory it should not be taught in a biology or physics class. Generally, I believe, that it is important to know that people have conflicting views about the origin of the world, but that is not a matter of physics or biology but sociology, philosophy and ethics.