Texas is back in the news as parties clash over teaching creationism along side of evolution in the science classroom. The creationism debate is not new for Texas. This goes hand-in-hand with the notion that we should teach the controversy. In principle this is a good idea. Science is not without controversies, nor is any academic endeavor. The goal in academic study is to propose ideas, test those ideas, and then allow your conclusions to go under the microscope of public scrutiny.
But there are certain facts about the world that are no longer under as much scrutiny because they are continually proven to be correct. That is to say, they continue to be powerful predictors of events. The speed of light is one constant as is the way the heart pumps or specific vaccines fight disease. There may be some controversy if you want to call it that, but that discussion is just the way science works. In science ideas are refined even if the basic principles are essentially the same.
Evolution works this way. Time and time again it has been one of the most powerful models to predict how populations of organisms develop and mutate. These are large populations over very long periods of time. Apes did not one day become Homo sapiens. This was a long process with different species and the genes that make us human beings “won out” in the end. The controversy in biology is as small as those who argue for a flat earth. Yes, there are those who still insist that the earth is flat.
Where is the controversy in science with respect to evolution? It is coming from a source outside of the scientific community, namely, a specific thread of Christianity in America. This is the pocket that insists evolution is not true based on a specific theological worldview that also insists on a specific way of reading the bible. Yet though this group comprises about 30% of Christianity and in some research even less, it has been the loudest voice in the effort to change the science curricula to pit God against evolution. This is true in the debates over textbooks in Texas as it has been a source of friction in Kansas for years. Kansas standards have gone through several changes since 1999 both excluding and including evolution in its science standards. That debate has slowed down in the past couple of years. Ohio is also not without challenges.
“The conclusions and tenets of evolutionary theory, while not declared as being unimpeachable, are nevertheless offered without any suggestion that there are competing scientific theories,” said one reviewer. He did not specify what those theories are.
He complained that “the theory that life most definitely emerged [from primitive organisms] is simply a foregone conclusion.” – Dallas Morning News
“Both evolution and human cause of global climate change are presented in these standards dogmatically,” Willard said. “This nonobjective, unscientific approach to education standards amounts to little more than indoctrination in political correctness.” – Fox News
“What we’re looking for in the policy is to create an environment where we can identify and discuss and debate openly, honestly, sides of controversial issues and the strengths and weaknesses of scientific issues or debates,” said Kelly Kohls, School Board President. – WDTN
(Gov. Bobby) Jindal also said he has no problem with creationism being taught in public schools as long as a local school board OK’s it. Since the state is committed to national academic standards, he said, as long as schools are teaching evolution they should be allowed to teach other theories as well. “What are we scared of?” he said. “Let (students) debate and learn … give them critical thinking skills.” – Nola.com
Is creationism actually science? Science is about forming testable hypotheses. I make an educated guess and then I test it. I make conclusions and others will try to do the same thing to see if it works. Even if self-interest moves the data around, the end result is usually a solid theory that is reliable and flexible enough to account for other data about the world.
A theory is not a guess. It is a way to explain reality and understand new facts about it. Until a theory is debunked in the same way it was discovered, it will stick around for quite some time. If that happens enough and we get enough data, voila: the cure for polio, the invention of the microwave, the suspension bridge, rocket propulsion, and even nuclear weapons. We can’t test to see if creationism is an accurate predictor of biological events. We have to rely on an untestable premise of faith.
Hypotheses are not faith. This does not mean that faith is somehow “less than” hypothetical testing in science. What it means is that we cannot pit the two against each other in a classroom because they are two very different ways of looking at the world. Faith can predict true results as the lives of the saints and the presence of miracles over millennia suggest. I am not one to dismiss all of these events as hoaxes or delusions. But none of these are testable in the same way that evolution is.
This is why Texas and any other school board is leading us down a misguided and dangerous path that will confuse our kids. Our students will come out of science not understanding science and go to church without understanding the purpose of faith. Faith is vital to religion because it is not to prove facts about the world. It’s function is to grow in the love and likeness of God. This is my theological worldview through the lens of Eastern Orthodoxy. It is not the business of a public school to confuse a faith that is my responsibility to teach my kids.