Creationist to lead Brazilian higher education agency

January 29, 2020 • 1:00 pm

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