by Vanessa Wamsley
A 10th-grader perches on the edge of her chair as her biology teacher lectures on evolution. She listens intently. The years she’s spent in Sunday school and church services have prepared her for this very moment. Her hand shoots up, and the teacher calls her name. Breathless, she asks a question.
“How do you know evolution really happened? Were you there?”
Terry Wortman was my science teacher from my sophomore through senior years, and he is still teaching in my hometown, at Hayes Center Public High School in Hayes Center, Nebraska. He still occasionally hears the question I asked 16 years ago, and he has a standard response. “I don’t want to interfere with a kid’s belief system,” he says. “But I tell them, ‘I’m going to teach you the science. I’m going to tell you what all respected science says.’ ”
That’s pretty close to what he told me all those years ago. He said that he didn’t need to witness evolution to know it occurred; fossil evidence shows us that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes. But the evidence he described in class couldn’t get past the religious block in my mind.
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