Part 1: The infusion of creationism
I was never taught evolution in school. Not once in my school career did I read the word 'evolution' in a textbook; not once did I hear it formally mentioned in any Biology lesson. Although it was taught in a few South African schools during the 1980s and 1990s, evolution did not feature in the official syllabus. After all, within apartheid's Christian National Education system, religiously controversial topics were often ignored.
But the creation account in Genesis, although not taught in Biology, was covered in Bible Study classes that were compulsory for all students at the time. It was also widely accepted by many of the teachers who taught me; I grew up in a relatively conservative town, and most of my teachers held conservative views. I still remember our Grade 7 Geography teacher telling us that the theory of continental drift could not be true because it contradicted Genesis. So as a child I believed in the seven day creation account, simply because that's the only account that I was ever exposed to.
The only time I remember evolution being discussed in school was during a Grade 12 Biology lesson in which the teacher declared her belief that microevolution occurred, but that macroevolution was impossible. She also went on to say that Darwin, on his deathbed, had whispered, with his last breath, that his theory was wrong and had been a mistake (this myth is known as the Lady Hope Story).
And we believed her. After all, she was an excellent teacher, and despite her stand regarding evolution, she encouraged me, and many other students, to excel in Biology as a subject. I'm grateful to her because she sparked my initial interest in the life sciences. As I think back now to that day in class, I find it a pity, for if she believed differently she would have done a sterling job at teaching the fundamentals of natural selection.
So I knew very little about evolution. All that I believed was some truth and plenty of myth: that Charles Darwin was the one who proposed the idea, that he said that we had descended from apes (another common myth), and as a result God could not exist. Evolution as a subject was seldom discussed, and as a result opinions were based largely on hearsay. As a result, evolution was grossly misunderstood.
And as with any subject that is not well understood and seldom talked about, evolution often induced fear in many people. Evolution, within the context of the particular environment I grew up in, was seen as a threat, an attempt to discredit the church and God.
And I was soon to become a victim of this fear . . .
Next post: The first sparks of realisation
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