Part of the work I do involves developing educational materials (mostly textbooks) for various countries. This week, a project came in for a country in the UAE. A Muslim country, so we have to be sensitive to cultural difference. In practical terms, that means no pictures of pigs and dogs, modest clothing for girls, women with hair covered. Oh, and – in the maths – you can’t use gambling examples (dice, card games) to teach probability. Oh, and – in the science – to quote the publisher, “we need to remove all references to the concept of evolution”.
When I asked for more detail on this little detail, I was told, “just take out anything that talks about evolution. We were created.”
It’s easy enough, on a superficial level. You just avoid mentioning Darwin, you neglect to explain principles of natural selection. But if you take it to its logical conclusion, you end up with very sketchy science.
Do kids learn that each adaptation that helps a plant or animal survive in its habitat was a special little prezzie from god? (If you’re a bacterium or virus species, every day is Christmas it seems, as these guys get truckloads of adaptations by the week.) What about cell fission? Is it even allowed if we don’t join cells in holy matrimony? Sorry, I’m being facetious. But where do you draw the line? Do they learn about genetics? What about mutations during meiosis? Also just part of god’s daily admin?
What happens when these kids get to university one day? Do they need a crisis of faith in order to study science? I’m baffled.
I haven’t seen the project yet, so I’m intrigued to see how far it goes. And my role doesn’t involve generating content (thank, um, god). But I am wondering how the countries of the middle east ever intend to produce educated scientists and doctors when the “concept” of evolution is taboo.