Bringing Evolution vs. Creationism debate into high school classes a waste of valuable time

Mar 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Commentary, Featured Articles, Opinions

by Evan Pennington

The debate between evolution and religious creation is always fun for me to watch, perhaps because it typically leaves proponents on one side or the other with a rage-induced aneurism after choking on the bitter pill of defeat.

I fail to understand, however, why this debate repeatedly arises in our public high schools, spurred by our teachers, no less.

If you ask me, it’s a shame that the argument is even given consideration in public high schools to begin with.

Amidst the soggy clump of mail I retrieved from a severely over-crowded box after a Spring Break jaunt to Florida, I found a rather ornate invitation to a “Christian Creation Conference” right here in Springfield, which is supposed to take place later this month.

Fantastic. Here in the “buckle of the Bible Belt” as Springfield is sometimes lovingly penned, it seems that one can hardly go through the day without over-hearing (or being caught in) the argument for either creationism or the evolutionary theory.

Since and before the Scopes showdown of the 1920s, this debate has pervaded the press, the pulpit and the university without end.

Recently, this centuries-old cesspool of fury and literary styling has leaked into our courts system for it seems the 4.6 billionth time.

A lawsuit filed in the spring of 2008 against California high school teacher James Corbett was decided earlier this month. Corbett was sued by the parents of one of his students for “using his classroom as a ‘bully pulpit’ to express ‘derogatory, disparaging, and belittling’ views about religion and Christianity.”

The plaintiff student apparently recorded a series of Corbett’s classroom lectures as ammunition for the lawsuit, including one in which Corbett described the creationism story in the Christian Bible to be “religious, superstitious nonsense.”

The court dismissed both the plaintiff’s demands for damages and an injunction which would’ve prevented Corbett from expressing any disdain for religion in the classroom; however, it was upheld that any belittling of creationism by a teacher constituted an “improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. Apparently, both sides intend to appeal.

The argument over creationism vs. evolution being taught in public schools has drawn grievances from philosophers, scientists, parents, lawyers, preachers, teachers, and maybe even Texas, yet what the argument lacks these days is the perspective from the most novel crowd of all: the students.

I’m not suggesting that we ask students what they want to learn in school. Most would probably just say “nothing.” Let’s be honest with ourselves though—this argument stopped being about the well-being of our students a long time ago. Like any heated topic these days, what it’s really about is being right.

The creationist people are chomping at the bit for the opportunity to outsmart or humiliate the heathen evolutionists, while the evolution people are foaming at the mouth at the thought of students being told that anything but a Big Bang and four billion years of Einstein’s, Hawking’s, and Dawkin’s created the world and built the A-bomb.

Has anyone ever asked proponents on both sides, “Why does either argument belong in our public schools?” Any answer would surely have nothing to do with what is best for the students.

I mean, how exactly does evolutionary theory inform our current ninth-through-twelfth grade science curriculum?

Does it have any bearing whatsoever on chemistry? Physics? Baking soda volcanoes? By the same token, let’s face it, studying creationism likely leads into studying theology, which also has no place in public school.

As a future teacher, I’m all about prompting our students to think critically, but not over issues so trivial and useless when compared to the rest of the curriculum.

This guy Corbett, for example, was a European History teacher. European History, people. Is there not enough history to pass the day with? Must we resort instead to creationism vs. evolution? Please.

In summation, Corbett was being an ideological quack who used his classroom not as a “bully pulpit,” but rather as a soapbox on which to vent his frustrations about creationism. He apparently found this more suiting than teaching history and facilitating the learning of his students.

And this kid who recorded Corbett’s lectures so that mom and dad could swat the mean-old-teacher on the wrist with a nasty lawsuit? A quack if I ever saw one. He probably spent more time cooking up that little scheme with the tape recorder than he did on his homework.

Both sides plan to appeal. Both sides believe they’re right. Neither side really cares about what happens to our students. Let’s all just stick with what works, shall we? Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic rarely cheese anyone off, after all.

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10 comments
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  1. You asked:
    “I mean, how exactly does evolutionary theory inform our current ninth-through-twelfth grade science curriculum?”

    Answer: (from here: http://ncse.com/evolution/why-teach-evolution)

    “First, it is the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences. It has formed the basis of productive and active research for over 140 years and continues to do so. This is why evolution is universally accepted among professional biology researchers.

    The second reason is that science education standards emphasize learning the process of science and especially scientific inquiry. The first step in this process is to develop testable questions that can be answered by scientific investigation. These questions are guided by scientific theories and their answers continue to show the value of biological evolution as a theory for forming useful, answerable questions in biology.”

  2. Evan writes: “I mean, how exactly does evolutionary theory inform our current ninth-through-twelfth grade science curriculum?
    Does it have any bearing whatsoever on chemistry? Physics? Baking soda volcanoes? By the same token, let’s face it, studying creationism likely leads into studying theology, which also has no place in public school.
    As a future teacher, I’m all about prompting our students to think critically, but not over issues so trivial and useless when compared to the rest of the curriculum.”

    Evolution is the basis for biology. As such, it certainly has a bearing on chemistry, and vice versa.

    Even those people who never take a class in biology have a stake in ensuring that biology is taught accurately, since it leads to medical advances. Do you get flu shots? Those who develop the vaccines rely on an understanding of evolution to develop each year’s new batch. Do you or your loved ones take any medicines? Those are tested using protocols that rely on evolution. Many treatments or cures for diseases found using animal models that depend directly on the evolutionary relationship between humans and other animals. I find such medical advances to be neither trivial nor useless.

    Creationism is not quite as relatively benign as merely diverting the misled into theological studies. Creationism is anti-science, contradicting not only biology, but physics, chemistry, paleontology, archaeology, geology, bioinformatics, and a host of other sciences. Most high school students grow up and vote, and those indoctrinated into creationism who never shake free of its shackles end up voting for politicians who actively try to eliminate or discourage the teaching of evolution and other aspects of science that violate their religious dogmas (such as eliminating references to the Earth’s age of 4 1/2 billion years and the universe’s age of nearly 13 billion years from Physics and Earth Science textbooks). The United States enjoys several economic advantages due to its leadership in the sciences and applied science, including medicine, but creationism undermines science education.

    If you want to help eliminate the benefits of science in the U.S, keep treating the foundation of biology as “trivial and useless”.

  3. “I mean, how exactly does evolutionary theory inform our current ninth-through-twelfth grade science curriculum?

    Er… what?

    Are you serious? Evolution is the fundamental Theory of Biology. Not to mention fields like medicine and biochemistry.

    Good grief…

  4. If one reads the leaders in the field of evolutionary biology, one comes to realize that the field is in a state of confusion and always has been. See the books Reinventing Darwin by Niles Eldredge and One Long Argument by Ernst Mayr. Mayr in the end decides that Darwinism is a research program. For a lay treatment of evolution that also goes in the politics of it, see my book The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold. My book documents the fact that both Mayr and Stephen Gould wished that they could talk to Darwin about religion. Gould, by the way, for thirty years sang Handel’s Messiah and other Christian works as a member of the Boston Cecelia chorus.

  5. It is a misconception that there is an evolution vs. creationism debate. Creationism is a religious perception. There are those who want creationism taught in science class as a valid scientific theory. Some of them have even created a idea called Intelligent Design in order to have creationism included in the science curriculum. The courts have ruled Creationism and its new incarnation Intelligent Design can’t be taught in the science classroom. However, “the evolution people” have suggested that creation can be taught in a class such as in Religious Studies.

    There are many creation stories. One various for each sect of a religious belief. This is something that those who argue about the non-existent “evolution-vs-creation debate.”

    It is a misconception to portray that “the evolution people are foaming at the mouth.” As, stated before creationism isn’t science. It is unfair to teach students something as science when it isn’t. We don’t know what students are going to be, and it is unfair to all students to use valuable teaching time to present a topic that doesn’t improve them the understanding of the subjects. Should teachers teach Spanish grammar during English class? The answer is an obvious no. Other countries teach science only in science class, and these are the students that our students are competing against.

    When creations were first used to wage war was when science and technology was used to kill people. That was after the first rock was using to kill a person. That was when the first arrow was used to kill an enemy. That was when the first stone knife was used to stab an adversary. That was when fireworks were first used with a canon in warfare. No one denies that the use of science for war lead to the creation of the atomic bomb and nuclear weapons. This fact is actually taught in socials studies, history and politics.

    As shown every topic is taught in the correct subject, and this should be no difference with creationism. However, the courts have ruled that since creationism is a specific religious view that it can’t be taught in school.

    As, stated by others evolution is the foundation of modern biology. Over the past 150 year research and discoveries have been made that have shown that the theory of the evolution is correct. “Neither side really cares about what happens to our students.” Is just wrong, and just another creationist argument.

  6. If scientists “foam at the mouth” it is only because people are constantly putting words in their mouths, mis-quoting, mis-categorizing, innocently or cynically using science, or popular notions derived from science, for their own political ends.

    Take the comment from Eugugene Windchy above.

    He says the field is “in confusion” because there is ongoing debate.

    What nonsense! Debate is healthy in science. It means the field is flourishing. It means more data is being collected and the theory is being refined.

    Unlike religion, science does not claim a definitive answer for all time. What it claims is theories capable of predicting outcomes. If it finds new data, it needs to adjust theory.

    Gould et al. are not proving Darwinian theory “wrong” in total, they are showing clearer and clearer details of how these mechanisms work, how they interact with other factors, and how science works by building upon previous knowledge.

    Creationists should stick to faith and scripture for their source material, and leave the fossils and flagelli to the scientists. The scientists are happy enough to keep their hands off the bible.

  7. There can not be an honest presentation of Genesis when the university (and other institutions) refuses to invite someone that will convey the truth about what is written. The university has not invited anyone that is qualified to speak on the subject of what Genesis is saying to mankind.

    Before casting judgment on what you think (or have heard) creationism is about, first get the school to invite the one and only Genesis expert to the facility. Otherwise, all you are hearing is false propaganda. The “Observations of Moses” presentation is 62 minutes, and the audience can ask questions for up to 30 minutes.

    Herman Cummings
    PO Box 1745
    Fortson GA 31808
    Ephraim7@aol.com

  8. In the article, Evan Pennington wrote:
    “As a future teacher, I’m all about prompting our students to think critically …”

    Critical thinking in students can be promoted by teaching students Cutting-Edge Science, such as:

    – Matter from explosions does not condense to form objects like galaxies.

    – Molecules-to-man evolutionism violates the Law of Biogenesis: Life does not come from non-life.

    – The specific complexity of genetic information in the genome does not increase spontaneously. Therefore, there is no natural process whereby reptiles can turn into birds, land mammals into whales, or chimpanzees into human beings.

    – All organisms are irreducibly complex. Therefore, in order for any kind of organism to exist, all of the essential parts of that organism must be fully functioning from the beginning of its existence.

    For more info,
    Google:
    Creation Doctrine What Does Cutting-Edge Science Teach about Origins?
    http://www.kolbecenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=83:creation-doctrine&catid=19:creation-doctrine&Itemid=81

  9. “Joseph” is doing exactly what I talked about above.
    *He is trying to use science to prove aspects of his religious beliefs.
    *He is either lying (cynical) or mis-informed (ignorant)

    No wonder scientists foam at the mouth! When people use statements like “organisms are irreducibly complex,” they hear words that sound a lot like science, but is, in fact, nonsense.

    And the Lord blessed all the test tubes and beakers and even the electron microscopes and yea he blessed them all and blessed were they and unto carbon dating he gave his blessing also and the Bakelites and the Tupperwares were glad.

  10. Irreducibly complex? According to the term then a hydrogen atom is irreducibly complex as any part missing it wouldn’t exist. From that tenet everything in the universe is irreducibly complex including a snow flake or a rain drop. It is a false concept which has no place in science or philosophy. Science evolved (came) out of philosophy as an object way of determining the laws of the natural word. A process to determine how things happened and the establishment of broad rules to explain the natural mechanisms of the world. This include to explain why objects fall, why animals fly, how sound travels, and how organisms grow. Irreducibly complex doesn’t posses any rules to explain how an object can be so complex that it can be reduced to a simpler object. Every object that has been presented as being defined as being irreducibly complex has been reduced to another object that is “irreducibly complex.” Which is a overview of how easy it is to disprove of the entire concept, this doesn’t even address the reason why “irreducibly complex” isn’t a scientific theory.