By Garrick Hoffman
Liberal Arts Major
If you subscribe to the separation of church and state, it’s likely you’ll be disappointed to learn that many – not some, but many – schools in America are essentially replacing textbooks with Bibles by implementing creationism into their curricula. And according to a January 2014 article on Slate.com, not only is there no need for the teachers to be surreptitious about teaching it, but “taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs.”
Creationism is the belief that Earth, life, and the universe are a product of divine creation. Within the lexicon of young Earth creationist (contrast from old Earth creationist) beliefs are: the universe is less than ten thousand years old (compared to the scientific consensus of over 14 billion); the Bible is to be taken literally; and the “theory” of evolution is and should be rejected. (Theory is quoted when we consider the late astronomy/science luminary Carl Sagan’s bold proclamation in his book Cosmos: “Evolution is fact, not theory.”)
Predominantly taught in public schools in southern states such as Tennessee, Louisiana, and even in many private schools in Florida, creationism is an integral component of school curricula, and in some cases, is replacing science in curricula altogether. In 2014, one public school in North Carolina was exposed and subsequently criticized “for allowing church-funded Bible classes to be taught to its elementary school students” in which “instructors of the class were presenting the story about how the earth was made in seven days [is] literal fact,” according to sociopolitical news website AddictingInfo.com.
So why is teaching creationism in public or private schools so bad?
Neil deGrasse Tyson, a renowned astrophysicist and the host of the Cosmos TV show reprise, says that the religious influence of science, or substituting it altogether, will create a “generation of people who will not understand what science is, and they will be intellectually crippled from contributing to what the centuries have demonstrated to be the most efficient engine of economic growth that has ever been devised, and that is innovations in science and technology.”
Furthermore, one of America’s most recognized scientists, Bill Nye, says, “The problem is we have adults who have very strong conservative views that are reluctant to let kids learn about evolution. …Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of biology; it is the main idea of life science; it is the fact of life.” Nye emphasizes the peril in curtailing critical thinking of the natural world if creationism were to be implemented in school curricula.
A study was recently conducted by a Beacon staffer over a month period to ask surveyors about their thoughts on creationism being taught in schools. The survey asked, “Should creationism be taught in schools?” Although the number of respondents was less than ideal, results were nonetheless generated, and the data is included in the corresponding graphic. Respondents were also given the opportunity to elaborate on their answer. This is what they had to say:
“Let the kids decide for themselves.”
“Separation of church and state/ public schools. Harder to say for private schools, but I would still say no.”
“Generally speaking there is fact to support science. Creationism is a fantasy at best but is the belief of some therefore should be mentioned.”
“Evolution. People disclaim the world’s smartest minds because an old book says everything was created in a week. If we let that type of ideology slip into schools, maybe a long time from now instead of creationism people will be pushing to learn about aliens and thetans and the great lord Tom Cruise.”
“If creationism is taught in schools, it should be done in a social science setting alongside other religious/cultural views of how Earth was formed and how people came to be on it (i.e. Native American theories, Ancient Greek theories, Toltec theories, etc.)”
“Creationism should be taught in church only as there is no rational basis behind it. Learning creationism will not help you get a job or get into college. It will likely do the opposite in fact.”
“I treat the Bible as a historical document.”
Ultimately, creationism in the science classroom is both inappropriate and irrelevant and has serious implications, unless it’s only introduced as a theory. However, religion being taught in religion or history classes isn’t by any stretch inappropriate or irrelevant; in fact, it can be incredibly informational and even important for understanding. Nonetheless, children – our most impressionable demographic – and teenagers should be exposed to authentic, empirical science in science classrooms, and creationism is neither here nor there for these kinds of lessons. Imagine scientists becoming church members solely to enforce their own agendas – something that religious members of education boards actively do.
Observing the stark parallels of the inanity of evolution skeptics and the inanity of climate change deniers, we can almost marvel at how bizarre it is to see scientific fact so controversial and divisive. To quote Neil deGrasse Tyson again:
“Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them.”