New in Go Girl: We are beginning monthly discussion topics, relating to current events, to keep our readers (and writers!) in the loop with news-worthy topics. We will begin by presenting the month’s topic (as seen below), and we encourage all of you to participate in the discussion. We want to hear what you think!
This month’s topic is regarding the teaching of creationism in U.S. schools. Whether you have a strong opinion on the subject, or simply want to learn more by getting involved, join in the discussion!
Few topics are surrounded with as much controversy and debate as the teaching of creationism in high and middle school science classrooms. The U.S. state of Indiana is in the process of pushing a bill that would ensure the teaching of creationism in science classrooms throughout the state. Indiana, unfortunately, is not the first or only state to encourage the incorporation of creationism into their academic syllabus.
I should preface my strong-opinion-laden text by informing you all that I have a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology – so evolutionary biology is something that I have a strong stance on. Before anyone starts touting me as a biased uninformed atheist nut-bag (you know who you are), I took throughout my many years of education, many religion courses as well – so I do know where the creationist theory comes from, who put it there, and what creationists have (or don’t have) to base their story on.
Firstly, let us all agree that there is nothing wrong with the teaching of the origins and base of modern religions. But let’s call a spade a spade – religion is not science, as much as science is not religion. I don’t come to your church to talk about the awesomeness that is an earthworm’s reproductive system, so don’t come to my science room and tell me that god created the earth in seven days. Science, or in this case more specifically, evolutionary biology, is based on factual evidence – namely fossil, comparative, and molecular/DNA evidence, in this case.
Creationists often claim that their evidence is two-fold: direct evidence (the Book of Genesis), and indirect evidence (all evidence that refutes evolution). You want to base a legitimate “scientific theory” on one book, really? Well in that case, I have this wonderful book that proves the existence of vampires: have you heard of Twilight?! Regarding their indirect evidence, by a creationist’s definition, the lack of transitional fossils refutes evolution: 1) what about the existence of fossils in the first place, 2) what about the fact that new fossils are being discovered constantly? While the fossil record and comparative science (the study of animal morphology and our physiological relation to one another) used to be large parts of the evolutionary theory’s fact-base, the advent of molecular research and genetics has come to support the theory magnificently.
While I could go on forever about the technical aspects of the subject matter at hand, let us get back to the current issue. Creationism in school? Fine, but place it in the correct context – a religion course. I encourage critical thinking in the young generation, and I trust that the evolutionary theory will continue to grow as more evidence is brought to light, but if you want to bring the Bible into a biology course, I’m bringing Tolkien into history class.
P.S. For those who claim that evolution is just a “theory”: in scientific milieus, the word “theory” is the same as the mathematical term “theorem”, it is regarded as fact, NOT mere conjecture.
I can appreciate the creation story as a story…full of archetypal meaning, providing potential for working through aspects of the inner life. That said, it can’t be taught as fact, as this really happened. We should always give students all perspectives, not either/or. And then let them draw their own conclusions. If we get out of either/or thinking, we draw from both. To me, evolution does have a spiritual aspect too….That there is this impulse of evolution that pushes us to become more…Check out Barbara Marx Hubbard’s work on Conscious Evolution.
Thanks for the topic Nathalie!
Here’s an article about how creationism should be taught as a social science or as history rather than as real science: http://blogs.nature.com/brianclegg/2009/03/08/maybe-we-should-teach-creationism-in-schools
I think I could agree with that. But then again, how could you prefer one creation story over another? There are so many!
Nathalie, for me the question of whether to teach creationism in schools has little to do with whether creationism is accurate or not. It’s a question of whether it has a place in a science class, as well as a question of whom the belief actually represents. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (I’d just say “Christian,” since we are, but most mainstream Christians tell us we’re not), I do in fact believe in a divine being who was the force behind the creation of the earth. And I don’t for an instant see that belief as at odds with anything I learn in a science class – I believe in a God who works with laws, be they laws of justice and mercy, or laws of science. And I also believe that I don’t understand everything – and that scientists don’t understand everything. I mean, the basis of the scientific method relies on a dramatically different understanding of “proof” than you find in everyday speech.
So, is there any reason to teach creationism in school, alongside evolutionary theory? I say no. No, because we can allow students and their families to reconcile what scientific evidence has to do with their faith, outside of school. No, because no lesson on creationism is even going to cover all the creation beliefs of the religious students present, so it won’t fulfill its purpose. And no, because it puts teachers in an unfair position. They weren’t trained to teach religious material, and they likely have a unique belief system themselves – how is religious freedom to require a teacher to teach something he or she doesn’t believe?
If it’s really essential to compromise in some way so as to assure parents that nobody is trying to brainwash kids out of believing in God, how about distributing a pamphlet at the start of the unit that states that the teacher is focusing on scientific evidence in this class, but that teachers in no way intend to negate personal beliefs, and maybe encourage kids to talk to their parents?
Beth, exactly my point! My beliefs about the creation are pretty mainstream as far as Christianity in the US (Adam and Eve and all that), but then again… no, they’re not. There are differences, and those differences matter quite a bit – when I have kids some day, they’d better not have a teacher who teaches original sin as fact or who tells them that Eve was wrong to eat the fruit. I think plenty of pro-creationist parents would be up in arms if their kids were taught creationism in school, but according to another religion or even just another sect.