Issue Report: Creationism vs evolution in schools

Should public schools teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes?

Many Christians believe that the earth and all living things on it were created by God in six days, the exact length of these “days” being disputed between the OEC and YEC schools of thought.The YEC Christians believe that each of the days of creation lasted 24 hours, whilst OEC Christians believe that each day lasted for millions of years. Both views are compatible with a belief in Biblical inerrancy as the Hebrew word used in Genesis for “day” could also refer to an unspecified length of time. The creationist side of this debate therefore will not discriminate between these viewpoints, those who wish to debate which of these views is more reasonable can do so at Debate: Age of the Earth. Both of these viewpoints are denied by the theory of evolution. Since the origins anvd development of life are an important part of the school science curriculum, the question of what schools and should not be allowed to teach is an important one. There are differences between the debate in Britain and in the USA. In Britain, schools must teach evolution as part of the National Curriculum, but are not barred from teaching creationism as well, and some religious schools, such as Emmanuel College in Gateshead, have done so, presenting creationism as fact and evolution as a matter of faith. In the USA, pressure has been put on school boards to enforce the teaching of creationism and evolution as equally controversial scientific theories (as in Ohio), or to remove evolution from the list of examination topics and therefore make it less likely to be taught (as in Kansas).NB This topic does not go into detail about the nature of the evidence used by evolutionists and creationists in support of their position; for this, I would recommend the web links and books given at the end – although I would also suggest that going into detail on this, and trading example and counterexample, will make for a poor debate, as the key questions about the legitimacy of creationism and evolution are about their respective approaches to scientific method rather than the evidence they employ.

Creationism as science: Does creationism qualify as science?

Teaching evolution exclusively is dangerous to science and reason.

To exclude a set of ideas a priori is to potentially exclude the truth. Thus, as a matter of principle, science should not be constrained to a single set of ideas. Creationists argue that both sides should be taught. Evolutionists, on the other hand, limit the scope of science to a narrow acceptance of just one theory. Thus, to teach evolution exclusively is to promote limitations on the power of scientific inquiry. To teach creationism along side evolutionism is to promote open scientific inquiry and critical thought.

Creationism is scientifically testable

Some creationists have argued that ‘creationism’ is a theory consistent with the scientific method. The hypothesis it adopts is that God created ‘the heaven and earth …’ some thousands of years ago, and that man did not “evolve” into his current state. Supporters of Creationism then cite supporting evidence for this theory.

Creationists claims to have discovered evidence for the biblical flood. It has pointed to the absence from the fossil record of intermediate forms between known species, and it is argued that certain species could not have evolved gradually because of their particular chemical or physical make-up. Organs such as the eye are cited as being ‘irreducibly complex’ (what is the use of half an eye?) and could not have evolved step-by-step as is suggested by Darwin and therefore must have been created. It is claimed that these discoveries and observations are pieces of evidence that support the creationist hypothesis and compose the creationism theory. It is argued that because creationists follow this theoretical approach, that it can subsequently be called a “science”.

Evolution is unobserved; it is an unproven theory

The term evolution can describe a number of things, some of which are directly observable while others are not. Evolutionists extrapolate evidence for observed evolution to be evidence for unobserved evolution. We have directly observed that random mutations invoke change and that nature sometimes selects for these mutations. Such mutations, however, are the result of the degregation of already existing information, not the development of new information. The development of new information via random mutation has not been observed. What has been observed is a very low ceiling for the number of mutations that the economy of life will allow before fitness costs become fatal. This is why bacteria have yet to grow arms, despite our direct observation of billions of generations.

The theory of evolution is not falsifiable

The fact that evolution is present is true, and that isn’t what many creationists who are well informed argue. Yes, evolution happens, but Darwin’s theory was simply that; a theory. Even he said that he wasn’t sure it was true. To the extent to which evolution occurs, no scientist can prove. If evolution was present, why is it no longer? Where are all of the half ape-human creatures? Why are humans now borne from other humans, and monkeys from monkeys. They may be the most similar mammal to humans, but that in no way proves that humans “evolved” from them. Yes, a plant or an environment may evolve over time. New species are formed, but that cannot in any way prove that for millions…no, billions of years evolution has created humans, and all other life forms. It’s just as “out there” as creationism is, but that is automatically pushed aside as not possible to many because it involves religious views. If a theory is going to be taught in schools, all other theories should be given equal credit in the classroom. It IS NOT a proven theory what they are teaching in schools, but it is taught as if it is the only option. That isn’t how it should be.

Teaching creationism is dangerous to science and reason

If a theory that does not follow the scientific method is taught in schools as “science”, science and reasoning will be undermined.

Creationism is not scientifically testable

The creationist account is an explanation that is not based on empirical evidence. It is not, nor claimed to be by those that uphold it, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses. The creationist account requires a belief founded on faith and is not a ‘working hypothesis’ testable using observation or experiment. ‘Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science’ – National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism [1] Furthermore, all scientific theories are necessarily unproven – that’s what ‘theory’ means. A hypothesis is an assumption that is not taken as “truth”, but as speculation. Evidence is used to test a hypothesis with the goal of demonstrating that it is likely true or unlikely true. If the evidence demonstrates that a hypothesis is likely false, then it is scrapped, and a new hypothesis is formed. This is the strict process of the scientific method. Critics of creation argue that creationism takes the Genesis account (actually there are two Genesis accounts, in Gen 1.1-2.3 and Gen 2.4-3.24) as necessarily true in every particular, and then bends the historical evidence to fit that so-called ‘hypothesis’. Because creationism attempts to advance an unalterable hypothesis or doctrine, it does not follow the basic principles of science, which stem from doubt, hypothesizing, and re-hypothesizing on to accepted theory. Because creationism fails to follow this basic scientific, theoretical approach, logically it is argued that it should not be called a “science”.

Evolution is an observable fact

While creationists often attempt to describe evolution as merely a theory, this is not exactly the case. Observations that evolution does occur in nature makes the process of evolution fact. The only part of evolution that is “theory” is the explanation as to “why” it occurs. But the “why” has nothing to do with the simple fact that it does occur, a fact that leaves no room for creationism.

Upholding Christianity: Is creationism important to Christianity?

Teaching creationism's truth is necessary in upholding the truth of the Bible.

There is a great deal at stake in the claim that God did not create the world in seven days: the Bible says that he did; if he did not, then the Bible is wrong. If the Bible is wrong on this, we cannot trust it on anything else and the entire Christian faith can be viewed as a lie. Atheists claim it is not appropriate to teach creationism as a ‘truth’ and evolution should be taught as a theory. However, those churches that fail to uphold the faith in creationism and even accept the theory of evolution are compromising their faith.

If we are descended from animals then the unique relationship between man and god is undermined.

here is nothing to separate us from the beasts, and no moral basis for feeling ‘special’ and acting differently from them.

Our opponents claim in the column opposite that the Bible says that the Sun revolves around the Earth and that the Earth is square- it says nothing of the sort.

Anyone interested in debating these things further should go to Debate: Biblical inerrancy or Debate: Creationism vs Theistic Evolutionism, as it is not really relevant to whether or not Creationism should be taught in schools.

It is not 'appropriate' to teach creationism as a means for upholding the bible.

This pre-supposes that the bible should be upheld in a literal sense. Many Christians object to this. More importantly, governments should not be in the business of upholding the Bible.

Allowing creationism in schools would violate the separation of church and state

A separation of Church and state necessitates that public schools not be a forum for upholding the validity or truth of certain faiths. This does not necessarily mean that Christian faith and “creationism” should not be taught as subjects of interest in public schools.

Evolution has no implications for morality: it describes what has happened, making no judgement about whether what has happened is good:

Non-religious ethicists are perfectly capable of making moral judgements, and they regularly do so.

Creationism makes a false historical/scientific claim that is detached from the broader precepts of belief in God.

The belief that God creates and sustains the world is not the same as the belief that God created the world in seven days a few thousand years ago. The former is a theological position which implies the goodness and sovereignty of God, and his continuing involvement with his creation, not a scientific claim. The latter is an empirically testable claim which has been empirically tested and found to be false. We should not allow schools to teach our children things that are just plain wrong, and known to be wrong. This is distinct from allowing the teaching of religion, which is culturally and historically significant and which involves beliefs which are in principle distinct from science.

Evolution makes no judgment about the existence of God or Jesus.

It only tries to explain the process by which species develop from other species. This is insufficient, and gives cause to teaching the potential for something greater (God) in schools.

The Bible is simply wrong if a literal interpretation is taken

On this question, the Bible just is wrong, and if you insist on holding a literalistic approach to Scripture then the implications you claim do indeed follow. However, there is no theological need to do this. The Roman Catholic and the Anglican churches, for example, have accepted the truth of evolution and they still hold what is a recognisably and distinctively Christian faith. If the authors of the Bible meant their creation stories to be taken literally then their claims are open to scientific test. It is widely held that they wrote stories designed to account for the world as they knew it, and by todays standards these could not be held up as scientific accounts.

Also, the opinion that “if the bible is wrong about god creating the world in 7 days we cannot trust anything in the bible” is an invalid arguement. As many things in the christian bible have been proven false, such as the former belief that the solar system revolved around the earth and the idea that the earth is square. Saying that if the bible is wrong about one thing, the entire belief is wrong is both ignorant and stupid.

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