Young Earth Creationism in Public Schools

Posted on May 1, 2015 by

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Creationism. It’s a simple concept, but is it the correct concept? And more importantly, should publicly funded schools be teaching its students such an idea? This has been a subject of debate as early as the late 19th century, after evolution’s initial theorization by Charles Darwin. Ever since this controversial theory became common knowledge, especially among the scientific community, a series of court cases, protesting, lobbying, and the like have brought us to the point where we are today. Over the last 50 years, the media has had significant coverage on this issue, citing arguments from both sides. Such arguments coming from creationists include: the lack of empirical evidence for evolution and the legitimacy for creationism, the violation of the first amendment citing freedom of religion and speech, popular demand for the teaching of creationism, and the education of historical concepts.

A common argument for the teaching of creationism in public schools is that evolution holds no more, if not less, evidence over creationism. In 2013, the Texas Board of Eduction had a lively debate on the teaching of both subjects in schools[1]. In the article (listed below) a self proclaimed “Darwin Skeptic” is quoted on evolution, saying the school textbook “gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.”. However, a quote like this clearly comes from a blatant misunderstanding of evolution. Scientists the world over are close to unanimous in the legitimacy of evolution through various forms of research, from complex carbon dating of fossils, to the predictions and later discoveries of new species based on their environments. The common misconception that a “theory” is merely an idea is often confused with the term “hypothesis”. Theories, like the theory of gravity, heliocentrism, and evolution by natural selection are hypothesis that have been tested countless times to the point of earning the label of scientific fact.

The interpretation of the First Amendment in the US Bill of Rights has presided over many debates in our country’s history, and the teaching of creationism in public schools is no exception. Recently, a high school in Lagrange, Georgia fell under scrutiny by an atheist group over the controversial invitation to a biblical creation leader to serve as a guest speaker on critical thinking[2]. The irony in such a debate? Both sides are citing the freedom of religion and speech in the First Amendment. The atheist group argues that such a speaker imposes on the separation of church and state, while the school argues that the restriction of hosting the speaker imposes on freedom of religion and speech. While both parties are partially correct, the simple fact of the matter is that, while one is free to practice any religion, the government cannot impose a religion the people. And a government-funded school bringing a pro creationism speaker to discuss creationist ideas, a religious idea by nature, is essentially imposing religious beliefs on the students in the audience.

Democracy is a powerful thing. It’s an ideal that shaped our country and most Americans will agree in saying it is one of our society’s primordial values. This begs the question: if the majority of a population is for the teaching of young earth creationism in public schools, should that majority decision be granted? This is a strong argument coming from pro creationists. A Gallup poll conducted in May 2014 suggests 42% of Americans believe God created humans in present form, while the ideas that humanity evolved with God guiding and without God guiding stand at 31% and 19% respectively, with 8% not having an opinion[3]. However, several statistical biases must be taken into account: misinterpretation of the question, the response of passionate subjects only, and the complete misunderstanding of the topic as a whole to name a few. When it comes to education, the only opinions taken into account should be of the people in the field. Another poll conducted by Penn State University showed that 1 in 8 high school biology teachers taught creationism as a valid alternative to Darwinian evolution[4]. And although that is still shockingly high, 7 of 8 knew that religious history should be left out of scientific classes.

History is a delicate subject. It can and does take years of constant research and discovery of artifacts to uncover the subtlest of our civilization’s history. A multitude of secondary sources backed up by primary sources are needed to validate a historical figure. The origin of species is even more complex. Thankfully, we live in the day and age where technology useful in uncovering life past is apparent. The idea of creationism is important to teach students not as an understanding of the origin of species, but to give an understanding of the history of human thought. In fact, many UK public schools are debating the very idea[5][6], that creationism is better served to be taught in history, religious, philosophy, and even astronomy class. By today’s standards, leave proven science to science class.

Citations

[1]  Rich, Motoko. “Texas Education Board Flags Biology Textbook Over Evolution Concerns.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 May 2015.

[2] Clark, Heather. “Atheists Seek Investigation Into Christian’s ‘Presence’ in Debate Class to Speak on Critical Thinking.” Christian News Network. N.p., 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

[3] Gallup. “Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design.” Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design. Gallup, 11 May 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.

[4] Rich, Motoko. “Creationists on Texas Panel for Biology Textbooks.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 May 2015.

[5] Pritchard, Jeremy. “Should We Teach Creationism in Schools? Yes, in History Class.” Should We Teach Creationism in Schools? Yes, in History Class. The Conversation, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.

[6] Foreman, Tom. “What I Learned Moderating the Creation/evolution Debate.” CNN Belief Blog RSS. CNN, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.

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