Miss USA Contestants Are Idiots

This video perfectly encapsulates the sad state of science education in the U.S. (and the false but somehow growing notion that teaching science is a partisan endeavor).  Remember, these are college-educated women:

What's worse than this video?  The fact that of the 51 Miss USA contestants, only 2 - TWO - came out in favor of evolution.  What.  The.  Fuck.  (Watch the whole 15-min video with all the contestants here, if you dare.)

Anyway, some other interesting coverage of it here:
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go bang my head against a wall and wonder why I've decided to spend my life teaching evolution and other aspects of biological anthropology to college students.

UPDATEish (6/27/11) - Hilarious video hosted over at Jezebel called "Should Math Be Taught in Schools?"


Allen said…
Sigh...just don't bang your head so hard that you forget that you believe in evolution. ;0)
Lara Newell said…
WOW. There are no words.
I don't need to believe in evolution. It exists. No amount of banging my head will make me forget that.
SillyJaime said…
When someone says "I don't believe in *insert topic SUPPORTED BY FACTS HERE*" it makes me want to smash my fist into their stupid faces. Seriously. You don't need to BELIEVE in Evolution for it to be real; the facts SAY it is real. Saying you don't believe in something like Evolution that you can actually see and touch, that has proof of existence, is like saying you don't believe in mountains or coffee. Refusing to use your senses to reason makes you ignorant, and ignorant women should NOT be allowed to be role models for our children - no matter how beautiful they are on the outside.

I was just ranting about this video and my husband said that a lot of the women might say they don't 'believe' in Evolution just for the religious vote. That's just as wrong.
Jamie - A-yup.

I had a discussion with my friends on Facebook about whether the women think they're being "politically correct" to say they don't believe in evolution (what they likely mean is "I don't believe that man evolved from apes because I think God created us" which is actually only a small part of the larger concept of evolution). But I think that's even stupider. I could believe that a few of these women got to college without proper instruction in biology - the state of our public education, especially in the South, is pretty poor. The contestants who don't believe in evolution because they've never been taught and have never learned - they have an excuse and should be taught. But those who DO know about evolution and continue to frame science and science education as a partisan issue are horribly misguided and are actively encouraging others to blithely ignore biological reality in service of ever-changing culture. Anyone who thinks science is "liberal" or "un-American" is an ass-hat.
Oh yeah, and I am floored as to why "Should evolution be taught in school?" was even a question. I mean, didn't we as a nation answer that question in, like, the 1920s? Why pose it to Miss USA contestants? It's not up for debate or referendum.
SillyJaime said…
Amen. lolz. Even though it isn't really funny at all (except maybe the 'Amen' part).

And I hope I didn't come across as being anti-religious, because I'm not. I'm actually Catholic, born and raised. So I know that a person can be religious and believe in God or a god and at the same time know that Evolution is real.
While I don't adhere to any religion and tend to think they do more social harm than good (or perhaps equal amounts), yes, religion and evolution can coexist. However, it's up to the religious person to find that balance, it's not my job to teach it. Hell, the freaking Pope said in 2007 that the "debate" between creationism and evolution was an absurdity: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19956961/ns/world_news-europe/t/pope-creation-vs-evolution-clash-absurdity/. It really is the staunchly, proudly, willfully ignorant in this country who don't "believe" in evolution. And it's a question that I get asked all the time in Europe, especially by Catholic Italians: "Why are Americans so freaking stupid?"
Jordi Galbany said…
At least the winner seems to have different thoughts!

Jordi, yes, I am glad to see that at least the winner (Miss California) came out in favor of science education. The Gleaming Retort blog post I cited above suggested that perhaps she won because of her evolution answer rather than in spite of it. And I'm ok with that. In a field of otherwise talented women, crowning one who is both knowledgeable about science and is unafraid to admit it is the right thing to do.

And lest anyone think that I disparage all pageant contestants, my freshman year of college, I lived in the "scholars" dorm, and one of my suitemates was a beauty pageant winner. She was very smart, talented, and always had curlers in her hair. I can't remember ever asking her views on evolution, but I'm pretty sure she was a bio major. There's a lot of money to be made in these pageants - especially college scholarships - and she used her pageant crowns to try to do good in her hometown (mentoring kids, etc.). It's a shame that so many of the Miss USA contestants bombed this prepared question.
Anonymous said…
The answers these women gave were not so bad, at least in the short clip you posted. Yes, they should not have used the word 'believe' but, instead, said that they did not agree with the conclusions associated with evolution. However, evolution, no matter how much evidence one can find in support of it, will always remain a theory, never to be proven as fact. Just because one does not agree with evolutionary conclusions does not make them uneducated or stupid. Similarly, acceptance of evolutionary conclusions does not make or show one to be smart or highly educated. In fact, the second contestant, I think, answered fairly well: though not at all eloquent, she stated that she thought it should be taught as a going scientific theory, but that religions should also be taught. Religious studies do not belong in a science class(except maybe if one is discussing aspects of myth or something in a scientific perspective), but they are important to understand and may offer an alternative perspective to science. I was educated with evolution taught in science classes and various religions discussed in social studies classes in secondary and pre-secondary schools. There always remains the possibility, however remote, that our present, modern understanding of evolution is wrong, slightly, half, mostly, or completely (though I highly doubt one could argue, ever, that it is COMPLETELY wrong given all that is associated). Science is dynamic. It is constantly changing with some ideas being supported, some altered, and some falsified everyday. So to say that our present understanding is fact, or should be treated as though it is, is no better than blindly following any religion.

By the way, I happen to find evolution fascinating and accept it as the best theory given our current scientific understanding and evidence available. I also hold myself to be agnostic. However, just like a religion, acceptance of evolution requires faith. Faith in the integrity and honesty of past and present scientists, faith in the conclusions we have made so far and build upon, and faith that all the areas of science that come together to make understanding evolution possible are accurate. Obviously, we are not perfectly accurate and do not have a full understanding of everything, thus our evolutionary conclusions are likely to have a different form a few decades from now and may not even be recognizable as the same theory. I think you were too harsh on these women simply because you do not share their view and vice versa. It seems that the issue still rages for the simple reason that those who accept evolution feel others are idiots(and do so vocally) while those who reject it do the same(again, very vocally, often with talk of fire and brimstone), but no one gets anywhere as it usually takes the form of an arrogant battle for proclaiming superior intelligence rather than the scientific and philosophical debate it truly is. Sorry to ramble.
@Anonymous - You misunderstand the scientific ideas of "fact" and "theory." Evolution is actually both. It is a scientific theory in that it helps us generate questions that we can answer using empirical evidence. And it's a fact because evolution as a biological process can be observed through genetic changes within a population over time. Wikipedia is pretty helpful on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact

The general public does not understand the subtleties of scientific terminology and for this, yes, I fault us as scientists. You know that gravity is a theory, right? Do you want to tell me you don't believe in gravity?

At any rate, simply because we cannot as humans see every single evolutionary step that took place in the last 5 million years to make us into the Homo sapiens we are today doesn't mean that evolution didn't happen. Science is indeed dynamic, and we're learning more about our hominin origins every day, but evolution as a scientific theory has held strong for over 150 years. And it's constantly being tested, so no one's blindly believing in it.

The real "question" of teaching evolution is school is actually, "What is the role of religion in understanding the origin of humans?" Most people, when presented with the facts of evolution, can see that it exists and occurs - all you have to do is point out MRSA and other bacteria and small organisms that have evolved to be antibiotic resistant. What people tend to have a problem with is the idea that humans evolved from apes - or from those very same single-celled organisms we now fight off with drugs. I can see where some people want to bring in religion, which evolved itself as a cultural way to make sense of the world. In that sense, I see why others may think my scientific views are a "religion" in that science is the way I make sense of my world.

However, the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming. Even the Pope (as I linked to above) has no problem with evolution, saying, "There is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such... Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Where does everything come from?’"

The Pope wants to take issue with the Big Bang and wants to see the hand of God in the creation of the world. But he finds no fault with evolution, even of humans. I know the Pope only speaks for Catholics, but I don't get why other religions (mostly denominations of Christianity in the US) can't come around to this view.

So, yes, I would say that anyone who - when presented with incontrovertible scientific evidence - doesn't "believe" in evolution is clearly not open to learning. They are sticking their fingers in their ears and throwing tantrums because the way the world works isn't the way they thought it did.
Anonymous said…
I 'believe in' (If that is the terminology one wants to use here) evolution and was not arguing against it. In fact, I find it difficult to argue against it. I simply think that you are being too harsh on these women for not 'believing in' evolution. It may be a well supported theory, but, as with all science, it can never be proven, thus it is ridiculous to think that it can not be off or wrong. It should be in schools as it is the best scientific theory we have right now. However, I do not feel that it is necessarily the only theory with merit or believability. It is what I 'believe,' but I don't think one has to 'believe' it to be considered logical, intelligent, etc. I do agree they are idiots for saying it should not be in schools.

As for you facts/theory comment, I think I have a good (Or good enough) grasp of the ideas there. That is why I stated that it was the conclusions people may take issue with. No one can argue that extinct creatures did exist(among the other stuff associated, like antibiotic resistance, etc.), but the implications may be interpreted multiple ways. I personally agree with the evolutionary interpretation; however, I would not go so far as to declare it the only one to consider or only possibly valid one, though that may just be the agnostic in me, which may be a philosophical stance you do not share.
If I had to categorize myself, I'd say I'm agnostic too. I don't believe in a magical creator, but it's such a non-issue to me that I don't care to take a stand as an atheist.

On the subject of man's evolution, though, I will go so far as to say there's only one theory with merit, only one theory backed up by decades of facts, and the only thing that should be taught in schools.

But we seem to mostly agree. I just rankle at using the word "believe" to talk about evolution (or any science for that matter). I've looked critically at some of the evidence myself, and I've learned some more from scientists who know far more than I do - and those actions push science beyond belief. Evidence can be tested, tests can be replicated, and the constancy of it all means evolution is no longer a matter of belief.

I'm not at all convinced that the Miss USA contestants bothered to read up on evolution, look at the evidence for themselves, and craft an appropriate response. And anyone who hasn't done those things but still feels entitled to talk about the "issue" of teaching evolution in school is, well, ignorant.
Anonymous said…
I would most certainly agree with that last statement!!! Perhaps my view will change to be a bit more like yours when I know more about evolution(not just human, but all life in general), which should hopefully be soon.
I just found a little required reading for the Miss USA contestants. An awesome comic that explains in just a few panels many of the mechanisms of evolution, in non-jargony language:

Anonymous said…
Oh I loved that! That should be given to all high school bio students and probably all college students, too. I found that one of my biggest pet pevs, aside from people thinking I study dinosaurs and thinking archaeology is not part of anthropology(and they are not even European, so they have no excuse!), is when people say humans evolved from chimps. That comic deals with that issue simply and quickly.
Frances said…
As an interested student of anthropology and evolution, this is kind of an interesting cultural story too.

On May 5th I had a ticket to see Donald Johansen and Richard Leakey at the AMNH in NYC. I crossed the border from Canada at the Rainbow Bridge and was answering the questions from the U.S. Customs man: Where are you going? What are you planning to do? When I told him I was planning to go to the talk about Evolution he said, "Oh, you believe in evolution?" I was taken aback by that as it had been some time since I'd been asked that question. You don't want to piss off the border guards, so I meekly answered "yes" with a little laugh. As I drove away I had to shake my head. The word "believe" was what stuck in my mind completely. There are definitely people in Canada who don't understand the concept of evolution, but I think the idea of "believing" in evolution is primarily American. No offense.
Frances, I am seriously jealous that you saw the Johansen-Leakey showdown live! That is some uber-geek cred. :) And yes, I suspect that "belief" in evolution is primarily an American phenomenon -- although since we broadcast our culture around the world, it's probably seeped into other people's discourse too. Would be an interesting sociolinguistic study!
Frances said…
It was a good day to be the geek that I am -- I was overwhelmed to be in the same room as the "rock stars of my world" as I told my non-anthropological friends :)

BTW, I love the U.S. (as most Canadians do) and I would live at the AMNH if I could.
Did you know that AMNH has a PhD program? One of my former osteology students was in the first cohort of graduate students. She claims she has a key to the museum, and yet has not (to my knowledge) held a wild party in it. I'm disappointed in her. ;)

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