Sunday, September 22, 2013

Creationism vs. The Constitution


           Creation science, or creationism, has been a hot button issue around certain areas of the United States for decades. Creationists believe in an alternative theory to the development of evolution – specifically that the Bible gives a literal account of the creation of the universe and all living things.  Social conservatives, who believe in this theory of evolution, continually attempt to have this taught in public schools.


            A common controversy in Texas is how much of a role it receives within the textbooks that the state condones for use.  Every few years, Texas reviews the material within textbooks they use in public schools.  Each time this happens the debate about whether to include creationism, among other alternative theories of evolution, comes up.  Many scientists, as well as parents, take issue with the idea of creationism being taught in public schools. Their problem, however, is that many of the people appointed to review the textbooks have no background in science, and more than a few believe in creationism.  The approved books will be placed in classrooms beginning in the 2014-2015 school year and will not be reviewed again for at least eight years, making people nervous about the lasting impact such information may have. 
          
           The main issue in this debate is whether supporting creationism is supporting a religious belief.  Creationism is based on biblical premises, but it is also offering an alternative theory to evolution – one that proponents say is just as much a guess at our origins as Darwinian evolution is.  The courts have been tangling with creationism in schools for decades.  In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not allow for states to require teaching and learning to be tied to any religious sects, and that the state has no appropriate interest in protecting any or all religions from views that may offend them.  Then, in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled on Edwards v. Aguillard, establishing the current view of the court on creationism and furthering their previous ruling.  Repealing a Louisiana law that required creation science be taught in public schools in addition to evolution, the Court declared that the law was made to advance a particular religious belief and therefore was in violation of the First Amendment.  Because of this, Texas cannot mandate coverage of creationism, but they can push to have evolution questioned, and leave open the possibilities of alternative explanations, suggesting creationism as one of those.

            Should creationism be included in Texas’ instructional materials for kindergarten through twelfth grade as an alternative explanation?  Should creationism and other alternative theories even be allowed?  These other theories are minority views, so does the Constitution protect them? Mainstream America has decided that the scientific community came up with a fully acceptable and logical explanation of evolution.  Social conservatives disagree – they believe that there is not enough evidence to support evolutionary theory and that children should at least be exposed to multiple theories and decide for themselves which they find more appealing. 

            While there are many good arguments brought up by creationists, such as letting the kids decide for themselves, I am not persuaded.  I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision that creationism is a religious principal and therefore cannot be supported in Texas’ public school textbooks.  Allowing for creationism to be taught in public schools means giving preference to a religious principal that is in essence based off of western religions.  By using the “let children choose” argument, other evolutionary theories would also have to be allowed in textbooks.  Who draws the line on what can be considered valid evolutionary theory to be taught?  This opens the “slippery slope” argument.  As long as the courts maintain the view they have now, complete separation of religion, creationist theory, and law on this matter, no other groups have a claim to put their versions of evolution into the textbooks.

            Public schools should continue to teach children Darwinian evolution.  If parents wish for their kids to learn alternative theories, they should either enroll them in an afterschool religious program or teach them at home.

            What are your opinions on alternative theories of evolution being edited into textbooks?  Should kids be taught multiple theories of evolution in public school or would that be supporting a specific religious belief?

11 comments:

Nicole D said...

I agree with you in saying the only evolution should be taught in public schools. My reason is that although proponents of creationism suggest that it is "as good a guess as evolution," evolution is not simply a guess. It has such broad support because of the fact that there is scientific evidence that supports the theory. Creationism does not have a logical, scientific basis, and therefore cannot be interpreted as secular. It is essentially one religion's idea of what their creator dictated. Teaching this in the public schools is the same thing as teaching religion. The court has set the precedent that this is unconstitutional and a form of establishment of religion. Therefore, although it is perfectly reasonable for people of that religion to choose to believe in creationism, public schools are not the appropriate place to be teaching this idea.

Mike Spear said...

I enjoyed your post and agree with your logic. I happen to support the teaching of evolution in public schools. I feel that this is not an issue of what is more accurate, instead I believe that Creationism is based on one's religious belief and therefore has no place in the public school classroom. With that being said, I feel public schools must restrain from adding it to the curriculum in order to preserve the "no establishment" clause that our Founding Fathers created. The state must maintain a neutral stance regardless of the overwhelming ideologies that may exist in Texas.

Brandt Hardin said...

Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

Benjamin S said...

Being a biology major, I have strong opinion on the teaching of creationism in school. Evolution has thousands of articles and concrete evidence as support. A theory starts as a hypothesis that has to be tested and supported with evidence. Then it can be refuted. However, Creationists propose a hypothesis and cannot support it with scientific evidence. Creationism is not a theory, it is a belief. Putting it into scientific textbooks would be a violation of the 1st amendment under the establishment clause.

Maggie S. said...

I agree with the above respondent's that Creationism has no place in public schools. Teaching evolution is not prizing secularism over religiosity--it is teaching scientifically proven facts just as public schools teach proven methods of solving an algebraic equation. Subjects like english and philosophy might be open to alternate theories, but science is no such subject. Science should deal with facts proven by testing hypotheses over time, and evolution has gone through that scientific process. Creationism has not experience the critique and modification that evolution has-it is an unchanged theory unable to change in light of new evidence. The public schools should be a place for public education of public facts, and not an environment for working out one's private beliefs. Whether one chooses to believe in evolution is his or her business; to learn that this is what science says is acceptable just like we teach proven ideas in other classes, and what the student chooses to believe when they go home, and how that might shape his or her worldview is a private matter. There are many outlets for that type of religious education in a variety of places outside the public school system.

Liz L. said...

Personally, I have no problem with it being taught. However, it is not science; it is religion. Because public schools are seen as secular government institutions, religion, and in this case creationism, should not be taught. In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that statutes forbidding the teaching of evolution is unconstitutional. In 1987, the Supreme Court (in a case involving a Louisiana statute) also ruled that teaching creationism violated the First Amendment and served no secular purpose. Evolution is a theory (not a law) and does not require faith, while creationism requires faith. Thus, public schools should not teach matters of faith, as it is not their purpose.

Yessica M said...

Part of me wants to say that it would be okay to offer a creationism alternative to evolution, but then again it just wouldn’t be right. When I was in high school I remember that my teachers would teach us a specific theory and most of the time they would also teach us an opposing theory in which we were left to decided between both, and at times compare and contrast both theories. As I was reading this post, I was thinking maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. BUT, I had completely dismissed the fact that the school board would then have to choose one of the many religious creationism theories. That alone suggests that one religion would be chosen above the others. So I agree with everyone else that schools should continue teaching the Darwinian evolution. As Tyler mentioned, if parents do wish to have their children know about these alternative theories, they have the option to enroll them in after school religious programs. It is not the duty for public schools to teach students any alternative theories associated with religion; Texas is better off teaching evolution strictly upon science.

Terry B said...

I would have to agree with the majority on evolution only being taught in high school. I believe evolution should be taught because of the proof of evolution existence. I believe evolution has more significant science background than Creationism. This theory of evolution is more accepted in society than creationism. That's my reasoning, if we take this to the Constitution it would violate its rules. Just as atheism and Scientology is a religion Creationism should be considered a religion. If Creationism is being treated as a religion it violates the Constitution and Establishment Clause of combining church and government.

Dan W said...

For the record, I believe creationism has no place in public schools. However, someone ought to at least outline some arguments for the other side, so I suppose that someone will be me. The key to this argument is the method in which Creationism is taught. Clearly it is unreasonable to teach it in public school as divine truth but is there any harm in acknowledging it as a theory? It's legitimacy will not be debated but rather the teacher ought to be able to say that many people, especially Americans, believe in creationism and outline the main tenants of the belief. The teacher ought to mention that creationism lacks the same credibility and scientific basis as evolution, but it is a prominent theory that deserves to be recognized.

Brantley Gasaway said...

And let me help you out, Dan, for the sake of argument.

In his comment just above, Terry said that atheism is a religion. If so--and if evolutionary theory is atheistic--then teaching it to the exclusion of other theories would represent an unconstitutional form of establishment. It would privilege secular atheism over other rival forms of metaphysical/religious traditions.

Dylan Smith said...

I will argue in favor of Creationism being taught as well. My argument follows the same lines as both Professor Gasaway's and Dan's. If creationism mentioned as just a theory, and if claims of evolution, along with its support, are present, then I think there is no harm in introducing creationism (sorry for all the commas). In accordance with the Professor, what is secular? Everyone is saying that creationism has no place in public schools. If thats the case, whose says a God free evolutionary approach should be allowed? Is it not favoring no religion to religion? When, along what lines did we decided to teach what is taught? Is our nation advancing all the time, and aren't laws and regulations changing with the ebb and flow of our nation? The above argument cannot be made to deny creationism the right to be taught in schools.