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Creationism: Does it belong in Indiana’s Public School System?

Indiana legislators are moving forward on a bill that would allow the teaching of Creationism in the public school system. The GOP-sponsored bill has passed out of the Indiana Senate Education Committee, thus sparking controversy nation-wide about the teaching of Creationism –and Evolution.

Two prevalent ideas about the origin of life are that of Creationism and Evolution. Creationism is based upon creation science, which uses religion and science to prove the origin of human life by God through a literal interpretation of Genesis in the Holy Bible. Evolution uses a strictly scientific basis to describe the origin of human life, and is considered a scientific theory. Evolution proposes that small changes happen in the genes of an organism, and overtime, an accumulation of these changes produces a substantial difference resulting in the emergence of a new species.

The debate here is whether or not Creationism should be taught in the public school system, and if this would violate students’ freedoms explicitly stated in the United States Constitution. The First and Fourteenth Amendments give religious liberty to all, and protect individuals from discrimination based on their privately held religious beliefs. Thus, would teaching Creationism, a fundamentally religious concept, be unconstitutional?

If parents want their children to learn about Creationism, why not send their kids to private, religious schools? Answer: private school tuition. Along with many other factors that Creationists have brought to light.

There are many valid arguments made by Creationists as to why creation science should be taught side-by-side with Evolution in the classroom. Creationists argue that Creationism should be taught in the public school system to maintain objectivity for students and to allow them to come to their own educated conclusions. Both should be presented as valid options, and should be discussed with balanced time. They may claim that since Evolution and Creationism deal with the origins, they are not observable events that can be tested with the scientific method. No humans were there to observe how humans came to be and how matter was created. As a result, both should be regarded as scientific models within which students can predict and coordinate the observed facts. These scientific models cannot be proven or tested true, only compared.

Creationist scientists claim that the public schools can present both [Evolution and Creationism] in a way as to not violate the Constitution’s protection against an establishment of religion, because it would use scientific evidence to make its claim for creation science.

However, when one looks into the true characteristics of science, one can observe that creation science fails by legal and academic standards. A theory is “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain a phenomenon.” A hypothesis is “a mere assumption or guess.” In other words, a theory holds more scientific weight than a hypothesis. Evolution therefore is not just a mere guess, but is backed up scientific data that supports it.

The case McLean vs. the Arkansas Board of Education, 1987, dealt in part with the essential characteristics of science, as defined by the scientific community. Science “has to be guided by natural law; has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; is testable against the empirical world; its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word; and it is falsifiable.”

Creation science is the science used by Creationists to explain the origin of human life, and it fails by these standards. It embraces a concept of creation based on a supernatural intervention, not guided by the natural laws of science. Thus, creation science is not testable and is not falsifiable. Creation science is confident in the literal interpretation of Genesis, and is absolute with this notion and is not subject to revision.

Legal precedent also supports the notion that Creationism is inherently religious. In the case of McLean vs. the Arkansas Board of Education, Federal District Judge William R. Overton ruled that the Arkansas Creation Science law was a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In his ruling, Judge Overton said that, “No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of movement, of which the public schools are most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.”

It’s important to note that teachers need not to present Evolution as a way to discredit the notion of a god of any kind; they would present this theory based on scientific fact, not religious fact. If a teacher’s religious views directly conflict with that of creation science, it can have on affect on him or her as well. Some teachers may feel that creation science is academically unsound. If a teacher considered creation science academically unsound, it could dissuade that teacher from ever bringing up Evolution in discussion for fear of giving creation science balanced time (if implemented).

This would in turn have consequences for students; especially those who would plan to further their education in college. Topics in science such carbon-dating in chemistry, the age of the earth in geology, and the relationship among living things in modern biology are based upon the theory of Evolution. Depriving students of this fundamental part of their scientific education in high school is depriving them of their overall education. This would especially have an effect in the pre-professional and pre-health programs in the health sciences.

The general rule currently is for Evolution to only be taught as a scientific fact in the classroom, while Creationism is not to be taught that way. This rule should continue to be implemented. The Supreme Court has ruled it “unconstitutional to restrict an educator’s right to teach Evolution.” Creationism should not be taught in public schools, due to the violation of the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause.

Evolution is based upon scientific evidence whereas Creationism relies on evidence from the Bible. Evolution is a scientific theory, and creation science has a religious basis. Evolution does not have to offend any religious individual since it uses empirical evidence to make its claims. Creationism may be brought up in the classroom as a comparative method as to how some humans believe life began, but it should not be taught as a theory. This is to protect an individual regardless of his or her religious affiliation. Teaching Creationism would be using U.S. tax dollars and government administrations to foist religion inferences upon students within a public school system.

And Indiana needs to keep all that in mind.

-Allie Greiwe

4 thoughts on “Creationism: Does it belong in Indiana’s Public School System?

  1. Evolution is not just a scientific theory. Evolution promotes a belief in Atheism which is a religion. A school system cannot use the First Amendment to favor one religious belief over another.
    “Evolution does not offend any religious individual since it does not use empirical evidence to make its claims.”
    Evolution is very offensive to many religious beliefs because it presumes there is no God.

    • Middelagedhousewife:

      I appreciate your comment.
      Evolution is not considered a form of organized religion – it’s based on science, whereas creation science is based on empirical facts generally not accepted in the scientific community (please see definitions of theory and hypothesis as well as the cases I have cited in my post).
      This is not to say that it does not challenge some religious beliefs. I do not advocate promoting Atheism in the classroom, either, for that is taking a religious stand; which is my whole problem with this legislation in the first place.
      Evolution does not exactly presume there is no God or form of god, either; in fact, many clergy members, scholars and scientists have reconciled the concepts of Evolution and Intelligent Design.
      For example, Pope John Paul II shocked a large part of the Christian world by announcing that Evolution and Christianity are compatible. For further reading/reference on this subject, I would suggest Michael Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” which ties together both concepts. Also, William Paley’s “Watchmaker” analogy might be of interest to you.

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