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“A little learning is a dangerous thing”

P.Z. provided this quote from St. Petersburg (Florida) mayoral candidate “Bill” Foster:

“Evolution gives our kids an excuse to believe in natural selection and survival of the fittest, which leads to a belief that they are superior over the weak,” Bill Foster wrote board members in a letter received this week. “This is a slippery slope.”

He continued: “One of the Columbine shooters wrote on his Web site, ‘You know what I love? Natural selection! It’s the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms.'”

Assuming that this quote is accurate, it’s a good argument for better evolution education. Natural selection does not get rid of “stupid and weak” organisms – it favours those who are better at leaving descendants. The boys from Columbine left no descendants, so they had low fitness. Killing other people is a good way to remove yourself from the gene pool. So if, as Foster says, “Evolution gives our kids an excuse to believe in natural selection and survival of the fittest, which leads to a belief that they are superior over the weak”, the way to solve that problem is to teach evolution. While there are a few exceptions (like Genghis Khan, probably), the “strong” are too busy waging war (and getting killed doing so) to leave too many descendants. “Strength” has nothing to do with fitness.

But you can only find that out if you study evolution.  And maybe a little history.

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