Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Go Ahead, Teach Creationism

From the Archives, Oct. 2002

As most frequent readers of this column have come to realize, I am
a staunch supporter of the teaching of evolution in school. They
also know that I have always opposed the teaching of so-called
creation science.

But I have recently gone through a change of heart and mind
regarding the evolution/creation controversy. Although I don't
actively support the teaching of creation in the science
classroom, I no longer actively oppose it, either.

What's that you say? I've given up my belief in evolution in favor
of Special Creation? No, not at all.

Evolution remains the most widely accepted and logical scientific
explanation of how we got here. And I am still firmly convinced
that creationism as a science is laughable. It's not science at
all. It's not even a very good religion.

So why the change of heart?

It was the recent decision by the Ohio State School Board that
finally made me crack. That board gave a thumbs-up for schools to
teach what is termed "intelligent design." It's really just
creationism in disguise. Although the panel did not vote to
mandate its teaching, as some conservative groups wanted, it
allowed each school district to determine whether or not to teach
it along side of evolution.

It occurred to me that this debate isn't going to go away as long
as the religious fanatics have a voice in the electoral process.
And since they will always have a voice - a rather loud one - the
debate will linger.

This controversy has led many, if not most, school systems to skim
over evolution in biology classes. Some schools skip that chapter
altogether. Others merely touch on it. Few high school students
are adequately educated in the concepts of evolutionary theory
these days.

I figure the only way that evolution will ever get a thorough
examination in the science classrooms of America is if we
acquiesce to the zealots and allow creationism to be taught with

The result is likely to be that more high school students will
graduate with the knowledge that evolution really happened and
that it can be used to make predictions in genetics, astronomy,
geology, and other sciences.

The reason I feel confident of this is that if both evolution and
creation are taught from a position of logical investigation, and
not from a position of dogma, then evolution will always win out.
There is no logic in creationism.

Teaching creationism as an alternative to evolution is something
akin to a track coach reading Aesop's "The Hare and the Tortoise"
and telling his runners that being tortoise-like is an alternative
tactic to winning track meets. It wouldn’t take long for students
to realize the futility of being a tortoise. If approached from an
evidentiary perspective, students will find it just as easy to
dismiss creationism.

Naturally, there will still be students who remain unconvinced of
evolution, despite the evidence and the logic behind it. But these
are the same students who would be unconvinced anyway. I am
confident that allowing creationism to be taught side-by-side with
evolution would be a great boon for science. It will not only
promote critical analysis of the theory of evolution, it will also
promote, in all fairness, critical analysis of creationism.

In such an analysis of the facts and evidence, most students will
quickly come to the conclusion that creationism really does
promote a myth. And anytime we can dispel a myth, it's a good

Just as astrology is discussed in most astronomy classes, if only
to provide a historical perspective, creationism can also be
discussed in biology classes along with evolution. It should
become clear to most students that creationism is to evolution
what astrology is to astronomy: merely a precursor to the accepted
reality – something that was believed before we knew better.

In an ideal world, creationism would never be allowed to
contaminate the science curriculum of any school – public or
private. But this isn’t an ideal world and sometimes a less-than-
ideal compromise is needed.

So, yes, I've changed my mind. Let loose the creationists in the
classroom. Just make them follow the same rules as science has to
follow. Then when they realize that most students will opt to
believe the evidence of science, they will be more than happy to
pull creationism from the curriculum themselves.

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