Science 21 August 2009:
Vol. 325. no. 5943, p. 945
I was always a mediocre student, especially in high school. I never really knew what I wanted to do, and nothing seemed to excite me. This changed in my senior year, when a creationist visited my biology class.
On that fateful day, all the science students were herded into the school auditorium, where we listened to a long and richly illustrated lecture describing literal creationism. We were informed that in an effort to “balance” our education, we would soon hear an equally long lecture on evolution. This, like many things I heard that day, turned out to be false. The evolution lecture never materialized. Remarkably, I graduated from senior biology having learned only about creationism.
School had finally gotten my full attention. I wanted to know what we were missing, and why. For the first time in my life, I willingly (eagerly even) picked up my textbook and studiously read it. With growing interest, I realized that evolution made an awful lot of sense, and that I was being hoodwinked by my biology class.
It’s hard to overestimate the appeal of rebelling against the system to a teenaged boy, and that day marked the beginning of my path to a career in evolutionary biology. We learned other things in science class that year, too—for example, that all actions have an opposite reaction. For at least one sulky teenager in the small town of Owen Sound, Ontario, it took a creationist to make him into an evolutionary biologist.
Patrick J. Keeling
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Botany Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.