Creationist to lead Brazilian higher education agency

by Greg Mayer

Science Insider reports that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has appointed Benedito Aguiar, a creationist, as head of CAPES, an agency which oversees graduate training in Brazil and funds thousands of graduate students. According to Science Insider, he is

. . . an electrical engineer by training, previously served as the rector of Mackenzie Presbyterian University (MPU), a private religious school here. It advocates the teaching and study of intelligent design (ID), an outgrowth of biblical creationism that argues that life is too complex to have evolved by Darwinian evolution, and so required an intelligent designer.

And, he takes his creationism seriously:

Aguiar Neto was recently quoted in an MPU press release as saying that ID should be introduced into Brazil’s basic education curricula as “a counterpoint to the theory of evolution,” and so that creationism could be supported by “scientific arguments.” He made the comments prior to the second Congress on Intelligent Design, which was held at Mackenzie in October 2019. The event was organized by Discovery Mackenzie, a research center created by MPU in 2017 to mirror the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which also promotes ID.

Evangelical Christians are strong supporters of Bolsonaro, and this is the second active creationist he has appointed. (The other is the minister of family, women, and human rights.)

Evolutionary biologists in Brazil are protesting. Evolutionary biology has long been an active area of research in Brazil, going back at least to the era of scientific exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the country’s great biodiversity was documented. These discoveries, in turn, had an important influence on the biogeographic and systematic evidence for descent with modification. Beginning in 1943, Theodosius Dobzhansky began influencing and collaborating with Brazilian geneticists, helping to develop evolutionary genetics as an ongoing discipline in Brazil, and studies of biodiversity continue to be a strength. (One of the leaders in the latter, the herpetologist Paulo Vanzolini, whom I knew, was also one of Brazil’s greatest samba composers!)

h/t: Brian Leiter


  1. GBJames
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Sad times for Brazil, too.

  2. Mark R.
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Ban evolution, discriminate against the LGBT community and burn down the rain forests! Bolsonaro is a peach; I guess we’re not the only ones stuck with a religious tyrant. Though to be sure, Bolsonaro’s faith is probably real.

    • Posted January 31, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Hard to tell with fascists; they sometimes even invent their own versions of religion. (Hitler.)

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Saw the Oscar-nominated documentary about Brazil’s political situation,The Edge of Democracy, last weekend. Got themselves a real hot mess on their hands down there.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Poor Brazil! Makes Bolsonaro’s rain forest strategy even more poignant.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted January 30, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      It’s not only “poor Brazil”, it’s “poor world”. For people like Bolsonaro and Trump, the only good side of nature is to help to make cash.
      I say nature, but it seems to be true also of how they see most human beings.

  5. Posted January 29, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    The University where this guy was Rector has been a hotbed of right-wing advocacy. It was a center of support for the 1964 military coup in Brazil (one energetically supported by the U.S,, incidentally). That coup extinguished democracy in Brazil for a generation. This development in Mackenzie Presbyterian University resulted from a right-wing theologian becoming dominant in the IBP church. The church in Brazil is not affiliated with the Presbyterian churches in the U.S., but with an association of Reformed churches.

  6. eric
    Posted January 29, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    . . . an electrical engineer by training…

    I kinda feel bad for engineers every time the generalization is anecdotally supported.

  7. Posted January 29, 2020 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    This is a dark time for all countries ruled by Trump clones.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted January 30, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      I think Mr Bolsonaro’s evil ideas predate Mr Trump’s (although one can never be sure), publicly at least, so he can hardly be a ‘Trump clone’.
      I also think Mr Bolsonaro is worse than Mr Trump. and that is a reference.

  8. Dominic
    Posted January 30, 2020 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    This is terrible!

  9. Posted January 31, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    And this is the country who (in a misguided attempt to look science friendly) adopted a slogan of A. Comte on its flag!

  10. Gregory
    Posted February 1, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    “It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation.” – Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

    • Posted February 2, 2020 at 4:33 am | Permalink

      Yes, so Dobzhansky was a deist and believed in a nonexistent God. What’s your point? Just because one semi-religious scientist says this doesn’t make it true.

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