Creationism: Should We Teach It In Public Schools?

Published on by JP Honor

 

Creationism is a well-known, and widely believed, theory of how the world came into existence. Why then, does the public educational system leave this theory out in the cold while the theory of evolution warms its toes by the proverbial fire? I cannot sit here and tell you for sure what happened at the dawn of time, in fact no one can. I could tell you what I think it was like, how the bible says it was, or reintegrate what I was taught in science class about the big bang and the theory of evolution. But honestly, and let’s get this out of the way before we go any further, no one on this earth can tell us exactly what happened when life appeared on earth, because no one was there. That is really the key to this whole argument; neither side has, as of yet, been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Granted, the theory of evolution has procured some very convincing evidence, while all the creationists have is the bible to support their claims. Still, who is to say that the bible is fact or fiction? I am not going to get into a lengthy discussion on the subject, but I feel that I should point out the fact that the bible has been re-written many times over, in several different languages, and by many different cultures. Therefore, we do not really know how the original text of the bible read; we only know man’s interpretation of it. Personally, I do not believe that the bible is a book of fiction, but I do think that all of the different interpretations have changed many of the original words and meanings of the book. Even so, as with the dawn of time, no one alive on earth was there so no one can really be sure. So, is it not possible then that the theory of evolution and creationism could both be correct? The whole point is that we do not know, but we are all itching to find out.

In researching the subject of creationism, I have found that the argument over teaching it in public schools is a very complex, and touchy subject. I have to admit that at first I was totally in support of teaching creationism in schools. The way I saw it was that if it is out there, students should know about it. In addition, to promote critical thinking, you need different ideas and concepts to consider. So why not give this idea to students and let them decide for themselves? Well, as I started to hear more of the argument from both sides of the fence, everything seemed to become very cloudy. For one thing, as an article in The Times (UK) explains, “… creationism has its own spectrum that begins at the relatively enlightened theory of intelligent design and ends with the Terry Pratchett style firmament inhabited by the flat-earthers.” (The Times (UK)) Therefore, we are not only telling students that it could be creationism that began humankind, but it may also have been intelligent design or another of ‘mans’ explanations to the beginning of life. This new way of seeing things did not change my personal beliefs, but I was beginning to doubt whether creationism did indeed have a place in the public education system.

 Another point to this argument that does not sit well with me is that looking at creationism from a scientific standpoint just does not make sense. The theory of creationism is rooted in religion. On the other hand, the theory of evolution is rooted is science. Until religion can procure tangible, physical evidence, or form hypothesis that are researchable and testable, it will never be able to mesh with the scientific community. However, this is not in the nature of religion. If you know anything about religion, you know that it is a system of faith. The underlying basis of religion is to believe in that which you cannot see, feel, touch, or prove. Science, on the other hand, basis its findings on research and tangible evidence that is physical in nature. So, do I think we should teach creationism in science class as an alternative to the theory of evolution? No, I do not. Yet that is just what many of the people rooting for creationism in the classroom are after.

 So, if we are not going to teach creationism in science class, where will we teach it? The logical place would be in a religion class. After all, religious studies are in a class all their own. However, churches and private schools have been the ones teaching these classes so far. We are certainly not going to teach a whole class based solely around creationism, and I cannot imagine public schools introducing a religion class into the curriculum. Therefore, I believe that if we are going to allow creationism into the public school system, one place where it might fit is in the history class. A good point to make here is that the history of the world includes the beginning of life on earth. I am not saying that we should refer to the bible as a historical reference, but that the idea of creationism is something that students should at least have the opportunity to ponder. Another reason why I think that creationism fits into the history class is that we study many different cultures in history. Religion has and probably always will be a very large part of most cultures. So, how can we study different historical cultures without acknowledging their religions? This is also, where I disagree with the separation of church and state. In my opinion, the church and the state themselves are worthy subjects for students to learn about and study and that all knowledge should be available to all students.

The goal of any education is to learn new things in an attempt to solve the riddle that is life. Kenneth Miller, a textbook author and biologist at Brown University, said it best that, “…the purpose of really good education is not to make you believe something, but to let you see what the best minds in the field have done, and give you the tools with which you can understand it, accept it, reject it, or maybe go on and make discoveries of your own.” (Miller) With every generation, society gains new knowledge and insights into our world through learning. If this is not true, how have we managed to advance ourselves as far as we have? We were not satisfied with merely surviving; we wanted to make our lives easier so we invented the wheel, weapons for hunting and so on. We learn, we think, we learn some more and we evolve. Look at Christopher Columbus, people laughed at him when he said the world was round even though it is a fact that the world is round. However, until people saw it for themselves, they would not believe it to be true. I think that is one reason why there is so much controversy over the topic of teaching creationism in schools. You cannot compare creationism to math or spelling, these are confirmable subjects. For the most part, whether a person believes in creationism or not depends on their religious beliefs. Moreover, creationism is a theory with no solid proof, unlike the theory of evolution.

When I first began to delve into my research my opinion of the theory of evolution was, like many other people that it is just a theory. However, the more I listened to experts on the subject the more I came to see that there is conceivable evidence to suggest that it is not ‘just a theory’. Let us take the fossil record for instance. I have heard claims that there has been a very small amount of fossils found which show a transitory stage between one species and the next. Arguments against the theory of evolution claim that the few fossils found which illustrate these traits are not enough to prove the theory to be a fact. In his radio interview, Dr. Miller states that”…not one, not two, not three, but four or five transitional forms have been discovered in that particular sequence going from fish to amphibians.” He goes on to say that,” …the fossil record, far from being the problem for evolution that you think it is, is in fact some of the most powerful evidence for it.” (Miller) I think that with further research scientist may be, in time, able to prove the theory of evolution. In contrast, I do not believe that the supporters of creationism will be able to say that anytime soon. This makes statements, such as the one made by Jimmy Hobbs of the Brunswick County school board, so repugnant. At a board meeting in 2008, Jimmy said that, “The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.” (Ribeiro) In my opinion, his statement is the most ignorant of anything I have heard from either side of the argument. Personally, I take offense to that statement. I believe in evolution and aspects of creationism, but I do not think that makes me an atheist. In fact, a pastor named Martin from South Dakota who called into the NPR radio show stated that,” I am a member of the United Church of Christ. However, personally, I believe in evolutionary growth, the evolutionary theories.” (Miller) Jimmy Hobbs’s statement at the school board meeting just goes to prove how some people’s ignorance can skew the whole point of the original topic. As far as I can tell, there is no reason to have bibles in schools; this is why we have churches. Moreover, why did he refer to having bibles in school anyway, when the argument is about teaching creationism in school? I am relatively sure that it is possible to teach about creationism without studying the bible, or at least without studying the whole bible. Besides, there is more than one version of the bible, and more than one version of creationism. Therefore, in order to educate students properly on the subject of creationism we would have to examine every facet and description of it. The more I have studied these two topics and the arguments between them, the more I realize that in order to make an effective argument for either side, you need to research both sides’ of the story.

As it turns out, none of the research I have done on this subject has changed my mind about whether or not we should teach creationism in public schools. I still feel that students should have the opportunity to learn about, not only the theory of evolution, but creationism as well. When it comes right down to it, this is not really an argument of science versus religion. About a year ago, at the National Library of Scotland, there was a debate over this very subject. One of the speakers, Alex McLellan of reasonwhy.org stated that, “The belief that there is no creator is not a scientific conclusion, it is a philosophical position, and every time a science teacher states that the universe is ultimately the result of unguided forces they subtlety remove their white coat and put on a tweed jacket.” (Seraph Media)  This statement perfectly encompasses why we should teach creationism in public schools. Saying that one believes in creationism is not necessarily saying that they do not believe in the theory of evolution. It is possible to believe both to be true. I do not think that the educated supporters of creationism are attempting to replace the theory of evolution; they simply believe that students should have the opportunity to contemplate both sides of the subject and decide for themselves. Schools are a place for students not only to learn new things, but also to question, debate, and discuss their ideas. Creationism is not the idea of a limited few and students should have the right to discuss and debate openly this and any other idea which proves worthy in the eyes of many.

 

Works Cited

Miller, Kenneth. God vs. Science: Keeping Creationism out of School Joe Palca. 13 June 2008.

Ribeiro, Ana. "Brunswick County, N.C., school board to consider creationism teaching." Star-News. Wilmington: Star-News, 17 September 2008.

Seraph Media. "Should Schools Teach Creationism." 2009. vimeo. 14 November 2009 <http://www.vimeo.com/3267934>.

The Times (UK). "You need to understand your opponents' arguments ." The Times. The Times (United Kingdom), 12 September 2008.

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