The issue of teaching creationism in the public schools has
long been debated. Over the years many different arguments
have been made. First creationists tried to have the
teaching of evolution outlawed. This issue went to the
Supreme Court in 1968, where in _Epperson v. Arkansas_ the
high court ruled against banning the teaching of evolution.
Soon after this decision creationists began to call for
'equal time', or the equal treatment of creation theory and
evolution theory. When this attempt also failed
creationists turned to 'creation science' (Grunes 465).
Today the major argument for the teaching of creationism in
public schools is that creationism is a scientific theory
and thus should be taught alongside evolution. The
combatants against creationism being taught in public
schools are those who believe creation science is bad
science and those who believe it violates the separation of
church and state. Supporters of creation science are
organizations that are collectively refered to as the New
Christian Right, such as the Institute for Creation
Research. On the other hand, those who oppose creation
science are usually scientists, educators, and civil
liberties organizations (Grunes 466). The majority of those
people who desire for creationism to be taught in the
public schools cite that it is scientific. They push for
the teaching of creation science which is defined as
"scientific evidence for creation and the inferences from
that evidence" (Tatina 275). The inferences from that
evidence are "sudden creation of the universe from nothing,
recent formulation of the earth, creation of man and other
biological kinds, a worldwide flood", and "the
insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing
about development of living kinds from a single organism"
(Grunes 470). These creation scientists, as they are
called, want the teaching of the two scientific theories,
evolution and creation science, to be taught side by side.
In 1992 a Vermont school district passed a resolution
stating that "creation be presented as a viable theory on
an equal status with the various theories of evolution"
(Scott 12). The main desire is that creation be given the
same time as evolution to be presented as a possible theory
on the beginnings of this universe. Many people feel that
creation science is only an attempt to side step the
religious issue. Since religious beliefs cannot be taught
in public schools the creationists "repackaged the Bible as
science" (10). This statement causes one to consider if the
Bible is a scientific book. Many creationists would agree
that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and not a
scientific book. Yet, creation scientists want us to
believe that the Bible is scientific. By comparing creation
science to evolution, creation scientists attempt to
logically show creation is a science. They draw parallels
which attempt to put creation science at the same level as
evolution. The definitions of creation science and
evolution science in the Arkansas law demonstrate this
attempted parallel. The law states, "Creation-science means
the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from
those scientific evidences" and, "Evolution-science means
the scientific evidences for evolution and inferences from
those scientific evidences" (Ruse 292-93). There are also
those who believe creationism should not be taught because
it is bad science. Scientists who have studied the claims
of scientific creationism state that it "misstates
evolutionary theory, presents erroneous data, and reveals a
gross misunderstanding of the nature of science" (Scott
10). For example, creation scientists often use quotes that
look as if to challenge evolution, but they are often taken
out of context and these quotes from scientific literature
actually are questioning the 'how' of evolution (Ruse 289).
In _Scientific Creationism_ a quote by Theodosius
Dobzhansky is used which makes the reader believe he is
questioning evolution (Morris 6). Theodosius Dobzhansky is
one of the greatest supporters of evolution. Ruse writes
that "philosophically and methodologically the creationists
do not act like scientists, and that substantively the
creationist's contentions are without scientific merit"
(Ruse 290). Ruse also states that "science must be
explanatory, testable, and tentative" (301). Some believe
that creation science is "a jumble of half-truths" (In the
17). In the _Epperson v. Arkansas_ decision the argument
that creationism is scientific was rejected because of the
fact that it did not satisfy the criteria of a science and
did not employ scientific methodology (Grunes 471). Many
fear the effects of allowing this bad science to be taught.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, a notable geneticist, says, "Nothing
in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,"
these students will learn nonsensical biology, a "pile of
sundry facts" unconnected by an organizing theory (Scott
13). In his article Scott says, "That teachers have to
sneak good science into the classroom is regrettable" (13).
Ruse says that science must be testable. Creation
scientists concede that it is impossible to prove the
earths origins scientifically, by the fact that the essence
of the scientific method is experimental observation and
repeatability. Creation cannot be proved because it is not
taking place now, and it is also not possible to create a
scientific experiment which describes the creation process.
Creation scientists also say that evolution cannot be
proved because it functions too slowly to be measured,
therefore it cannot be proved by empirical science (Morris
4-5). In an attempt to discredit creation science Ruse may
have also discredited evolution. A final view in the
creation debate is that creation is religion thus it should
not be taught in public schools. Those who are against the
mandate of creation science being given equal time use the
law to support them. Courts have ruled that by mandating
the teaching of creation science, the religious doctrine is
required to be taught, which has no secular purpose (Grunes
475). The First Amendment of the Constitution states that
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is
interpreted as saying that the government is required to
demonstrate a secular legislative purpose, not to advance
or inhibit any religion, and to prevent the government's
regulations on an individual's religious beliefs (467-68).
In another Supreme Court decision in 1987, _Edwards v.
Aguillard_, creation was labeled a religious idea.
Therefore its teaching represents a state advocacy of that
religion, which violates the establishment clause in the
First Amendment (Scott 10). Those organizations who
advocate creation science are viewed as trying to cover up
religion as science (Grunes 470). Their purpose is seen as
trying to advance religion, not protecting or promoting
student's academic freedom. It is believed that a theory
involving the supernatural intervention of a Creator is
religion, not science (Ruse 301). Ruse stated in his
testimony, "As someone trained in the philosophy of
religion, in my opinion creation science is religion"
(306). Parents trust that their students classroom will not
be used to advance the religious views of others which may
conflict with their own (Grunes 477). By allowing the
teaching of creation, this trust between educational
institution and parent is lost. While creation science is
viewed as religion, some also view evolution as religion.
Creationists feel that evolutionary theory is a major
element of secular humanism and that the teaching of it
hinders the creationist's religious freedom (Grunes 467).
They argue that the teaching of evolution also violates the
Establishment Clause on the basis that it advances the
religion of secular humanism (468). The Institute for
Creation Research believes that "a nontheistic religion of
secular evolutionary humanism has become, for all potential
purposes, the official state religion promoted in the
public schools" (Morris iii). This issue may never end up
being resolved. States have passed laws pertaining to the
teaching of creation, but these laws have ended up being
ruled illegal by the federal courts. The real issue may not
be if creationism is scientific, or if it is religious. It
may be whether the law, and those who enforce the law, will
ever allow anything other than the evolution theory to be
taught in the public schools.
Grunes, Rodney A. "Creationism, the Courts, and the First
Amendment." _Journal of Church and State_ 31.3 (Autumn
"In the beginning God created...." _The Economist_ 19 August
Morris, Henry M. Ph.D., ed. _Scientific Creationism_. San
Creation- Life Publishers, 1978.
Ruse, Michael, ed. _But Is It Science?_ Buffalo, New York:
Prometheus Books, 1988.
Scott, Eugenie C. "The Struggle for the Schools." _Natural
103.7 (July 1994):10-13.
Tatina, Robert. "South Dakoda High School Biology Teachers
Teaching of Evolution & Creationism." _The American Biology
51.5 (May 1989):2750.
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