Here is an interview on the topic of teaching creationism in schools that I participated in this week for a teen’s school project.
What is your overall opinion on creationism being taught in public schools?
I think it’s important to really understand some terms here. Let me try to communicate what I understand and mean with these words.
Creationism – an ideological position that maintains the origins of the universe started with and by a Supreme Being, typically called God.
Evolutionism – an ideological position that maintains the origins of the universe could NOT have started with or by a supreme being.
I’d suggest that both positions are positions of faith. They both start their journey of discovery on an assumption, a ‘faith claim.’ I would suggest that if the schools are going to teach one, they ought to teach the other and it should NOT be taught by science teachers but by philosophy and/or anthropology teachers.
Intelligent Design vs. Evolution may be a more helpful debate and framework as these are the terms being used in the academia world. I’m all for taking the risk to teach them both. Both have strong proponents in the academic world. Teach them both, test on what the student knows on each position, not necessarily on if they believe one over the other.
I think Intelligent Design should be taught along side the theory of evolution. This is not solely because of my faith. It is growing in its acceptance worldwide – Far East schools in particular. If we are serious about equipping students who can compete on a global scale in the sciences, let’s teach them both.
However, most teachers are ill-equipped to teach on it because our system from middle school on is completely and solely focused on evolution – not just as theory but also as a philosophical point of view. ID is avoided at all costs.
What kind of options should students have in public schools on the origin of life and the universe?
They should be taught both schools of thought – Intelligent Design and Evolution. More and more scientists are moving to the ID side of the argument because evolution doesn’t work on a micro-biology level. See Michael Behe and Dr. James Tour.
What kind of options should teachers have in public schools on the origin of life and universe?
Same as I said earlier – teach both ID and Evolution. Ideally, teachers would grade on how well a student understands and grasps the concepts of the theories, not on whether or not a student believes these theories. It just seems disingenuous with scholars like Dr. Michael Behe and Dr. James Tour who are signing documents like this one: A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism to completely ignore Intelligent Design. They aren’t teaching a Theistic Creationism but that’s how they are being painted as.
In your opinion, would teaching only the theory of Intelligent Design be pushing Christianity or other religions on students? How so or why not?
It would push theism only to the extent that theory of evolution pushes atheism now. The larger issue is that science has a major problem on it’s hands when it comes to teaching on the origins of the universe. We are no longer just in the field of science at that point. We are talking about philosophy, anthropology, and theology. It’s multi-layer discussion that involves many disciplines of study. The origins is much to complicated and much to important to leave strictly to the scientists! Science alone is ill-equipped to handle the discussion of our origin.
In your opinion, does teaching only the theory of evolution push atheism on students? How so or why not?
Like I said earlier, it is teaching a perspective that assumes no miracles, no Intelligent Design at the outset. It’s a theory and we should learn it. But we ought to hear other theories as well that world renown scientists are wrestling with.
Do you believe the current system in public schools on the origin of life and the universe adequately allows students room to explore other theories? Do you believe it provides adequate knowledge of the existence of other theories?
I think the current system is broken in so many ways. Teachers/professors grade according to what a student believes, not what a student knows. Students feel painted into a corner because only one viewpoint is taught. The whole thing is rigged to be a combative environment from the start. There seems to be more emphasis on WHAT you think rather than HOW to think. There is no way our current system provides adequate knowledge of other theories or other viewpoints as well. It’s shortsighted and narrow-minded.
I give you this link as an example. James Tour is a professor at Rice University and one of the more brilliant minds in our nation. He is a chemist at his core and has written numerous articles on how MACRO-Evolution does not work and can NOT be true since it doesn’t work on the chemical or cellular level. He also states that MICRO-Evolution does work – it’s provable. The larger issue for Dr. Tour is that while he is not a proponent of ID, he maintains that many theories need to be taught and explored and critically evaluated as evolution clearly has many holes that can’t answer the larger questions.
In your opinion, what is the best passage from the Bible on this subject?
It’s important to say from the outset that the Bible was never written to be a science text book. Everything I’ve said so far has been from an educational/scientific standpoint. Different faiths will have their own take on their origins and perhaps those should be explored in an anthropology or theology class. I don’t want a science teacher teaching theology or philosophy or anthropology. They aren’t equipped to teach on it.
That being said, from a Christian point of view there are 3 creation stories given in Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2, Genesis 1:3- 2:4; and Genesis 2:5-25.
Each one unique, each one brings something to the creation discussion. Genesis 1:1-2 gives us the big picture. Genesis 1:3-2:4 is poetry and will appeal to artists. Genesis 2:5-25 is story-driven, written like historical narrative.
I’d also say this on this topic: The Bible claims to teach TRUTH, not necessarily FACT. Again – a great discussion for philosophy, anthropology, and theology classes.
I can go through each of the creation stories and talk about the significance of it. I can talk about the three different meanings for the word commonly translated “day” in Genesis 1. I can talk about how the progression of creation makes sense, there is form then there is filling of that form, there is order, there is beauty. I can talk about all those things but it won’t change the fact that the Scriptures were never written to be a science-class textbook.
Some final thoughts not said in interview:
The current Evolution/Creation debate is just another piece of evidence that points to a larger problem. It’s shame how polarizing and political education has become. Standardized tests that were originally put in place to make sure a certain standard was achieved have now become solely what teachers teach to. That’s so short-sighted. It’s teaching to the test and not teaching for the sake of just learning.
We need to create life-long learners and stop treating high school as the end-all/be-all. I understand that ACT scores and SAT scores and GPAs are all are necessary for scholarships and the like. I just want us to quit treating them as the capstone of education. Like getting high scores are ALL that matters. Be learners. Be curious. See a larger picture. Explore. Investigate.
That was the purpose of education in the first place.