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Crime rates etc. have increased since evolution began to be taught

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Claim

Since evolution began to be taught in public schools, crime rates and other social ills have increased.

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Responses

  1. One could just as well say that "Since more Americans have joined churches, crime rates and other social ills have increased." Church membership increased from 25 percent to 65 percent between 1870 and 1990.[citation needed] The point is, while both statements could be technically correct, both are misleading and irrelevant, in that correlation does not mean causation.
  2. The two sources given for this claim actually cite early 1960s court decisions related to the teaching of religion, or prayer, in public schools, not the much earlier introduction of biological evolution into primary school textbooks. In any case, this is an example of a spurious correlation. Earlier events (the critical variables) resulted in the teaching of evolution in primary schools, and may also have resulted in a contemporaneous change in reported crime rates. Significant research using early 19th century sources would be required to determine if any such correlation was valid. Such research would have to include the caveat that the collection of complete and accurate crime statistics is a recent (mid-20th century) social priority.
  3. Crime has been with us far longer than the Theory of Evolution. The 19th and 20th centuries were marked by increased urbanization. This is a more plausible explanation for increases in crime than is the teaching of evolution.
  4. Crime statistics are better tracked now than they were a century or more ago. So, without careful study, it is not clear whether the actual incidence of crime has increased. The case of "social ills" is even more ambiguous. It depends what social ills one is concerned with, but likely with respect to some social ills we are better off than we were a century ago. In short, a correlation of crime rates or social ills to the teaching of evolution has not been demonstrated.
  5. Even if such a correlation existed, that would not mean that crime has increased as a result of the Theory of Evolution.
  6. Even if crime had increased as a result of the Theory of Evolution, it does not follow that evolution is therefore false. It may have beneficial or undesirable sociological effects, but those effects say nothing about the truth or falsity of the theory.
  7. During the large crime drop in the 1990's, there was no significant change in how widely evolution was taught. If there had been a correlation, then the teaching of evolution would have decreased as well.
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