Advocates of Creationism/Intelligent Design want schools to “teach the controversy” between a spiritual belief that all species are fixed and were created at the same time a few thousand years ago (think humans playing with dinosaurs) vs. the geological, paleontological and biological evidence that organisms arose billions of years ago, that some groups have gone extinct (that’s why we’re not playing with dinosaurs now!), that distinct individuals and populations can arise as a result of mutations, that their success depends on their environment, and that when distinct populations become too different and no longer interbreed, science calls them different species.
Can you spot the problems with this demand to teach Creationism in SCIENCE classes?
(Problems and solution below infographic)
Problem #1. There is no controversy: Creationism and Science are different things and logic precludes any connection.
Beliefs based on religion are valid beliefs. Science is not a belief, it is a method and resulting body of knowledge. Beliefs about the supernatural (forces beyond the workings of the natural world including those believed to have originated all life) are outside the scope of a science class, that by definition can only teach about the workings of the natural world. To teach what society deems important cultural ideology in schools, we need ideology courses, or creationism could be incorporated into existing religious studies courses. Teaching creationism in science class would be like asking students to learn art in science class. It’s beyond the scope of the material and there is no context for it.
Problem #2. Incorporation of one loudly supported societal belief into school curriculum invites incorporation of other commonly held societal beliefs.
How can we include one common belief and turn away another equally or more common belief? As the infographic below suggests, a majority of people believe in the paranormal and in astrology. Should we incorporate learning modules on ghosts into science classes? If the Holy Ghost is vying for a place, why not other spirits? Because it would be illogical, confusing, and unproductive as science only deals with the natural world. But what about astrology or “creation science”? Many people are invested in knowing what their “sign” is and read their astrological forecasts (and think of all the men who depend on it to pick up women: “hey baby, what’s your sign?”). And what about “creation science” that claims to have found human and dinosaur remains together in situ? Like “creation science”, astrology is a pseudoscience, because, although there are connections to the natural world (alignment of stars and planets), there is no natural mechanism to explain events – a requirement of true science. If it doesn’t have a natural mechanism, it might be interesting and important to many people, but it’s just not science. And there is no justifiable reason to teach anything but science in science classes.
Solution: Even though the supernatural has no place in a science class, creationists and supporters of the paranormal, astrology, and other common unscientific beliefs could argue for inclusion of their beliefs in comparative ideology classes. Then it becomes a matter for school boards to decide how best to balance the curriculum. It’s really not about whether to teach kids to believe in God or Ghosts or not (that’s what churches, social groups, and parents are for). It’s about teaching in schools the most effective curriculum to develop the most competent and successful leaders of tomorrow. Will everyone’s pastor teach our kids math or how to become a doctor? No. Stop asking science teachers to teach religion and pseudoscience. We need to let the experts teach their own subjects.
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