Teaching Creationism in Schools
The issue of teaching creationism in the public schools has long been debated. Over the years many different arguments have been made. First creationists tried to have the teaching of evolution outlawed. This issue went to the Supreme Court in 1968, where in _Epperson v. Arkansas_ the high court ruled against banning the teaching of evolution. Soon after this decision creationists began to call for ‘equal time’, or the equal treatment of creation theory and evolution theory. When this attempt also failed creationists turned to ‘creation science’ (Grunes 465). Today the major argument for the teaching of creationism in public schools is that creationism is a scientific theory and thus should be taught alongside evolution. The combatants against creationism being taught in public schools are those who believe creation science is bad science and those who believe it violates the separation of church and state. Supporters of creation science are organizations that are collectively refered to as the New Christian Right, such as the Institute for Creation Research. On the other hand, those who oppose creation science are usually scientists, educators, and civil liberties organizations (Grunes 466).
The majority of those people who desire for creationism to be taught in the public schools cite that it is scientific. They push for the teaching of creation science which is defined as “scientific evidence for creation and the inferences from that evidence” (Tatina 275). The inferences from that evidence are “sudden creation of the universe from nothing, recent formulation of the earth, creation of man and other biological kinds, a worldwide flood”, and “the insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of living kinds from a single organism” (Grunes 470). These creation scientists, as they are called, want the teaching of the two scientific theories, evolution and creation science, to be taught side by side. In 1992 a Vermont school district passed a resolution stating that “creation be presented as a viable theory on an equal status with the various theories of evolution” (Scott 12). The main desire is that creation be given the same time as evolution to be presented as a possible theory on the beginnings of this universe.
Many people feel that creation science is only an attempt to side step the religious issue. Since religious beliefs cannot be taught in public schools the creationists “repackaged the Bible as science” (10). This statement causes one to consider if the Bible is a scientific book. Many creationists would agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and not a scientific book. Yet, creation scientists want us to believe that the Bible is scientific.
By comparing creation science to evolution, creation scientists attempt to logically show creation is a science. They draw parallels which attempt to put creation science at the same level as evolution. The definitions of creation science and evolution science in the Arkansas law demonstrate this attempted parallel. The law states, “Creation-science means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those scientific evidences” and, “Evolution-science means the scientific evidences for evolution and inferences from those scientific evidences” (Ruse 292-93).
There are also those who believe creationism should not be taught because it is bad science. Scientists who have studied the claims of scientific creationism state that it “misstates evolutionary theory, presents erroneous data, and reveals a gross misunderstanding of the nature of science” (Scott 10). For example, creation scientists often use quotes that look as if to challenge evolution, but they are often taken out of context and these quotes from scientific literature actually are questioning the ‘how’ of evolution (Ruse 289). In _Scientific Creationism_ a quote by Theodosius Dobzhansky is used which makes the reader believe he is questioning evolution (Morris 6). Theodosius Dobzhansky is one of the greatest supporters of evolution. Ruse writes that “philosophically and methodologically the creationists do not act like scientists, and that substantively the creationist’s contentions are without scientific merit” (Ruse 290). Ruse also states that “science must be explanatory, testable, and tentative” (301). Some believe that creation science is “a jumble of half-truths” (In the 17). In the _Epperson v. Arkansas_ decision the argument that creationism is scientific was rejected because of the fact that it did not satisfy the criteria of a science and did not employ scientific methodology (Grunes 471).
Many fear the effects of allowing this bad science to be taught. Theodosius Dobzhansky, a notable geneticist, says, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” these students will learn nonsensical biology, a “pile of sundry facts” unconnected by an organizing theory (Scott 13). In his article Scott says, “That teachers have to sneak good science into the classroom is regrettable” (13).
Ruse says that science must be testable. Creation scientists concede that it is impossible to prove the earths origins scientifically, by the fact that the essence of the scientific method is experimental observation and repeatability. Creation cannot be proved because it is not taking place now, and it is also not possible to create a scientific experiment which describes the creation process. Creation scientists also say that evolution cannot be proved because it functions too slowly to be measured, therefore it cannot be proved by empirical science (Morris 4-5). In an attempt to discredit creation science Ruse may have also discredited evolution.
A final view in the creation debate is that creation is religion thus it should not be taught in public schools. Those who are against the mandate of creation science being given equal time use the law to support them. Courts have ruled that by mandating the teaching of creation science, the religious doctrine is required to be taught, which has no secular purpose (Grunes 475). The First Amendment of the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is interpreted as saying that the government is required to demonstrate a secular legislative purpose, not to advance or inhibit any religion, and to prevent the government’s regulations on an individual’s religious beliefs (467-68). In another Supreme Court decision in 1987, _Edwards v. Aguillard_, creation was labeled a religious idea. Therefore its teaching represents a state advocacy of that religion, which violates the establishment clause in the First Amendment (Scott 10).
Those organizations who advocate creation science are viewed as trying to cover up religion as science (Grunes 470). Their purpose is seen as trying to advance religion, not protecting or promoting student’s academic freedom. It is believed that a theory involving the supernatural intervention of a Creator is religion, not science (Ruse 301). Ruse stated in his testimony, “As someone trained in the philosophy of religion, in my opinion creation science is religion” (306). Parents trust that their students classroom will not be used to advance the religious views of others which may conflict with their own (Grunes 477). By allowing the teaching of creation, this trust between educational institution and parent is lost.
While creation science is viewed as religion, some also view evolution as religion. Creationists feel that evolutionary theory is a major element of secular humanism and that the teaching of it hinders the creationist’s religious freedom (Grunes 467). They argue that the teaching of evolution also violates the Establishment Clause on the basis that it advances the religion of secular humanism (468). The Institute for Creation Research believes that “a nontheistic religion of secular evolutionary humanism has become, for all potential purposes, the official state religion promoted in the public schools” (Morris iii).
This issue may never end up being resolved. States have passed laws pertaining to the teaching of creation, but these laws have ended up being ruled illegal by the federal courts. The real issue may not be if creationism is scientific, or if it is religious. It may be whether the law, and those who enforce the law, will ever allow anything other than the evolution theory to be taught in the public schools.
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Tatina, Robert. “South Dakoda High School Biology Teachers & the
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