Dennis Venema is an associate professor in the biology department at Trinity Western University, a Christian university near Vancouver, British Columbia. Over at Biologos Venema has an article entitled The Sorrows and Joys of Teaching Evolution at an Evangelical Christian University in which he recounts his efforts to indoctrinate his students in Darwinian evolution. In the opening paragraphs of his article Venema describes one of his teaching methods:
After the “information dump” using the fruit fly examples, it’s time for a class discussion/application before the students drift off too much. Ok, here’s a slide that shows the chromosome structure of a group of organisms that other lines of evidence suggest are part of a group of related species. What do you observe? Do you think these species are related? If so, what explains the differences you observe?
What the students don’t know is that the slide shows human chromosomes, and those of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. Oblivious to this knowledge, they easily arrive at the correct answer: yes, the evidence is strong that these are quite recently diverged species, and that a chromosome fusion or fission event explains the differences in chromosome structure between them. When I tell them that every other species in this grouping has the higher chromosome number/structure, they correctly deduce that the species with the lower chromosome number should show evidence of a fusion event in the form of “telomere” sequences at the fusion point and an inactive “centromere” at the location suggested by comparison to the other, related genome.
As I look around the room, I see the students are satisfied. I cover some difficult material in this course, and the students are obviously pleased that this topic is so easy to handle. The lines of evidence are easy to follow, and it’s easy to predict and test one’s hypotheses. Then, only after they’ve seen the evidence at least once without the baggage that will inevitably come, I ask them if they know what two species they’ve just compared.
Venema apparently does not provide his students with any information regarding possible alternative hypotheses to explain that data. Indeed, he displays the usual smug self-satisfied complacency of the committed Darwinist who does not believe there is any other hypothesis.
Venema concludes: “I feel learning about evolution in a Christian liberal arts university is one of the very best places to do so, providing the institution treats the topics fairly.”
Does Venema treat the topic fairly?