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.

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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.


_Works Cited_
Grunes, Rodney A. “Creationism, the Courts, and the First
Amendment.” _Journal of Church and State_ 31.3 (Autumn
1989):465-86.


“In the beginning God created….” _The Economist_ 19 August
1989:17.


Morris, Henry M. Ph.D., ed. _Scientific Creationism_. San Diego:
Creation- Life Publishers, 1978.


Ruse, Michael, ed. _But Is It Science?_ Buffalo, New York:
Prometheus Books, 1988.


Scott, Eugenie C. “The Struggle for the Schools.” _Natural History_
103.7 (July 1994):10-13.


Tatina, Robert. “South Dakoda High School Biology Teachers & the
Teaching of Evolution & Creationism.” _The American Biology Teacher_
51.5 (May 1989):2750.


End of document

Teaching Creationism in Schools

The question as to whether or not creationism should be taught
in public schools is a very emotional and complex question. It can be
looked at from several different angles, its validity being one of
them. Despite the lack of evidence to support the fundamentalist idea
of creationism, that in itself is not enough to warrant its exclusion
from the curriculum of public schools in the United States. The
question is far more involved and complex.


One way to address the question is whether or not creationism,
in itself, is a valid idea to be taught in public schools. The answer
to this can be yes. Not only should a student in American public
schools learn and acquire knowledge in empirical sciences, and other
tangible facts both in history and other courses, but he should also
learn how to think and make decisions for himself. Unfortunately, as
it turns out, creationism is in direct conflict with the biological
theory of evolution. Many fundamentalist propose that creationism
should replace, or at least be offered as an alternative to Darwin’s
theory of evolution.

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This is not the right approach. Creationism, as exemplified in
the book of Genesis, should not be taught in a science course. Science
runs on a certain set of rules and principles being: (1) it is guided
by natural law, (2) it has to be explanatory by reference to natural
law, (3) its conclusions lack finality and therefore may be altered
or changed, (4) it is also testable against the empirical world, and
finally (5) it is falsefiable. These characteristics define the laws,
boundaries, and guidelines that science follows. In a science course,
all knowledge conveyed is shown, or has been shown in the past, to
exemplify a strict adherence to these qualities. Creationism,
unfortunately in the eyes of Christian fundamentalist, does not
exemplify any adherence whatsoever to these rules and guidelines of
science. Therefore, it should not be included in the science
curriculum in public schools, even as an alternative to evolution.


Another idea is that which is held by those who subscribe to
the idea of scientific creationism. Scientific creationism, as it
relates to this topic, states that God was the creator, and that
evolution is simply a means, developed by Him, of conservation. Due to
this definition of how scientific creationism relates to evolution, it
may be easier to accept by scientific criteria, despite the fact
that the origins are scientifically debatable.


The problem in scientific creationism, and what I see as a
reason for its exclusion from the science classroom in public schools,
is the fact that it looks as if, from the outside, the whole theory
that it rest on is simply a contortion of the traditional version of
creation described in Genesis, custom-made to fit in with Darwin’s
theory of evolution. R. M. Hare would probably say that scientific
creationism is simply a modification of the story of creation in
Genesis, to fit into the blik of the religious fundamentalist. A
blik, as Hare describes it, is a pre-set world view held by all
people, in which they draw from when forming certain opinions on any
particular subject. In the case of religious fundamentalist, whos
faith in the validity of the Book of Genesis is an essential part of
their blik, it becomes necessary for them to contort their literal
view of the Book of Genesis into a form that is scientifically
acceptable. For this reason, creation science still does not have a
place in the science classroom of public schools.


Another problem with scientific creationism is that it would
exclude the idea of a random beginning. No theory could ever be tested
to find origins because it would conflict with scientific creationism.
Scientific creationism would be, in essence, a lesson on science
halting efforts to find creation, if it is possible at all. It may,
however, be acceptable as a theory and not a solid law.


Now that it is clear that creationism, as well as scientific
creationism, does not fit into the guidelines on which science
operates, therefore making them unsuitable for teaching in science
classrooms in public schools, in what part of the public school
curriculum in the United States should they be taught? The story
provided in the Book of Genesis could conceivably fit into the
literary genre of mythology. It could not be considered as nonfiction,
due to the many contradictions it makes within itself, as well as in
the world of empirical knowledge. These contradictions are numerous
and would create a paper within themselves, therefore it should be
addressed elsewhere. The controversy here, despite the factual and
logical inadequacies of the Book of Genesis, is whether or not
creationism should be taught in public schools. Therefore, the story
of creation in the Bible is best suited to be taught as literature and
not scientific theory. Due to these facts, it is conceivable that it
can be taught in English courses in public schools in America. If
creationism is to be taught, this would be the proper realm of the
curriculum in which to discuss it.


Now that it can be agreed that it is suitable for creationism
to be taught in the English and literature classes of public schools,
we are faced with another controversy. The teaching of the creation
story in literature courses, while valid in itself, still faces the
problem of whether or not the government would violate any
constitutional rights by including this in any curriculum in public
schools. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from passing any laws
that show favor to any particular religion which, in effect, is a
fairly total separation of church and state. If Congress were to pass
a law demanding that the Christian version of creationism be taught,
even in literature classes in public schools which are supported by
the taxes of all Americans, it would directly violate the
constitutional rights of Hindus, Moslems, Buddhist, and scores of
other religions that flourish across the country, many of which have
their own stories of creation. Therefore, even with a suitable area of
curriculum in which to teach creationism, it still is in violation of
the Constitution.


The exact manner in which it would be taught, if it were even
remotely possible to teach it in public schools, would also be
debatable. Should it be taught as fact, as religious fundamentalist
would prefer? Or should it be taught as mythology or some other
fictional story, as it well may be addressed in an English class? This
may offend many religious fundamentalist. If it were taught as fact,
it may offend students who subscribe to other religious beliefs, whose
parents also pay taxes.


Since creationism has to many conflicting aspects, as well as
factual and logical inadequacies, and not to mention the fact that it
does not follow the guidelines of science, it should not be taught in
science classes in public schools. Scientific creationism, while
subscribing more to the guidelines of science, can be simply seen as a
contortion of the Book of Genesis to make it compatible with these
logical scientific guidelines. Until it logically fits into the mold
of a theory, it can not be accepted as a plausible alternative. Even
if the Book of Genesis happened to find a place in the English
curriculum of public schools, or an any other curriculum for that
matter, it would still violate the First Amendment of the Constitution
of the United States. Even if all these hurdles were overcome, it
would still be hotly debated by different religions as to which story
of creation to teach. For all of these reasons, it is impossible for
any version of creationism to be taught in public schools in the
United States.


As one can see, the question of whether or not creationism
should be taught in public schools is not so much a question of should
it be taught, as it is more of a question of can it be taught. Can the
Book of Genesis, or even a version of it be taught legally as part of
a standardized curriculum? The answer is no. Can Native American
versions of creation be taught? The answer is no. Can any idea of
creation, subscribed to by any religion be taught legally? The answer
is no. Should it be taught? Yes. Where then should it be taught
legally, if not in the public school system? Probably, the best
environment would be the home. The best teacher would probably be the
parents.

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