Science and religion have seemingly always been at odds with each other. From the theories posed by Galileo to arguments regarding medical ethics today, science and religion have taken two opposing sides. The debate on whether or not creationism and intelligent design should be taught in schools is one such example. These theories with no basis in reality are being forced onto schools as a strategy of “teaching the controversy.” In this essay, it will be demonstrated that creationist thought runs not only counter to scientific theory, but also to the legal and educational standards of the public school system.
Many creationists and evolutionists alike argue for “teaching the controversy” simply for the reason of a fair and balanced education, but in concept this argument is flawed. For example, one would not support the teaching of holocaust revisionism or 9/11 conspiracy theories in school as “alternate viewpoints” because one cannot allow absurdity to enter the classroom (Scott 3). In perhaps the most well-known and celebrated rebuttal, Bobby Henderson, a 25-year old science student, wrote a letter to the Kansas State School Board (which had recently approved teaching “alternatives” to evolution) that he approved of the decision, but expressed concern over whether or not his views would be represented. He explained that he believed a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe in a mock religion and proceeded to send a crude diagram demonstrating the creation story of the new religion, conspicuously labeled “Pastafarianism.” Through this argument ad absurdum he proved that one cannot fairly teach all alternatives, so only the most religiously neutral viewpoint, evolution, is acceptable (Boxer 1). It is impossible to accommodate all viewpoints into a school curriculum, but it is logical to use the one viewpoint which has a fundamentally neutral stance on one’s personal beliefs.
Aside from that, theories such as creationism are simply inappropriate in an educational setting. First and foremost, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was meant to establish a purely secular government and, thus, a religiously neutral educational setting. By teaching creationist thought, the principle of separation between church and state is violated. In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard the Supreme Court reinforced this position, ruling that creationism was a religious concept and its teaching in schools is unconstitutional (NSTA 4). Even worse, if both ideas are presented, it blurs the line between fact and fiction. Much of what is considered legitimate in the eyes of creationists is very suspect and remains unproven, if not flat out false. If it is taught in a classroom, students are at a great disadvantage. Essentially, they are being fed lies disguised as truth. As such, they will be unable to determine the difference between scientific facts from pseudoscience (AAAS 4). In addition, they do not learn an adequate amount of information pertaining to facts. Time spent learning creationism and intelligent design is time spent not learning evolution. It is also time spent exposed to ideas in direct contrast to everything science is about, which will be addressed later. On a practical level, students will not be prepared for standardized tests, college entrance exams, and higher education, which all agree on the validity of evolutionary thought (Scott 2). The classroom is a place of learning truth, which means that creationism is out of the question.
Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the fallacy of allowing these theories into schools is the fallacy in the theories themselves. First and foremost, the scientific consensus is that evolution is a fact and that the only debate about it is not whether or not it happens, but how it happens (AAAS 2). Intelligent design simply isn’t science at all. Essentially, intelligent design is the idea that there are complex aspects in nature which cannot be chalked up to coincidence and, thus, are the product of a “first cause,” which is the equivalent to a supreme being, which had the mental capacity to design everything. There have been no tests and there is no evidence supporting intelligent design. Neither is the question scientific in nature, but rather philosophical. As such, even if it were placed in scientific terms, the label of “theory” is a misnomer for intelligent design. Rather, it is better termed as a hypothesis, which is essentially a wild guess which has yet to be substantiated with facts. Once it has sufficient facts to support it, then it is a theory. Likewise, the layperson’s definition of “theory” does not apply to the scientific definition. In common terms, a theory is the same thing as a hypothesis or inference. In a scientific context, however, theories are simply ideas which are unified and supported by enough evidence not to suggest but rather to prove validity (AAAS 2). Creationism itself, the most common form being biblical creationism, runs counter to the scientific method as well. Science is about explaining the world in purely empirical terms without resorting to mysticism or superstition. Under scientific theory, if you can tell it’s there, you can explain how and why it exists. (Scott 2) Creationism is a fundamentally flawed perversion of the scientific process. First, creationism uses a presupposed assumption that there was an intelligent designer involved, which is essentially giving a hypothesis the validity of a fact, the worst thing that any scientist can do and an action which would automatically discredit any theory in any scientific community. It is not an issue of science, but of religion and is something which one must remain agnostic towards in regards to scientific process. Religious conviction is instead a matter of personal choice, but is not applicable to the scientific process. Second, creationist thinkers work selectively by piecing together a patchwork of ideas, both proven and unproven, to support their position while ignoring that which runs contrary. This cherry picking leaves much to be desired when the unified theories based upon the pre-screened data are placed up to critical review. Third, and perhaps most important, creationism does not have the intellectual honesty of the scientific process. The goal of science is to constantly amend theories based on the discovery and verification of new evidence. As such, scientific thought improves over time. Creationism has the goal of proving a presupposed notion which is simply identified as fact. There is no critical review within creationist circles and no new hypotheses, because the one hypothesis they have is given the validity of a scientific law and cannot be deviated from (NSTA 3-4). Essentially, creationism and intelligent design cannot be taught in science classes simply because they do not qualify as science in any sense of the word.
The two “theories” of creationism and intelligent design are completely inappropriate in the classroom. They do not qualify as science, are not confirmed, defeat the purpose of the separation between church and state, create an unfair bias in favor of Christianity, and do not foster intellectual honesty. They are not acceptable “alternatives” to evolution, and they do not fulfill the basic goal of education as an institution which encourages critical thinking and independent reasoning. If one wishes to follow their own religious beliefs then that’s fine because it’s their business, but they have neither the authority nor the right to bring their beliefs into the public realm by pushing it as an equal to scientific fact.
American Academy for the Advancement of Science. “Intelligent Design is Unscientific.” World Religions. 2006. Opposing Viewpoints Series. OpposingViewpointsResourceCenter. Gale Group Databases. ClarkstownHigh School South Lib, NY. 15 May 2007. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC?vrsn=230&slb=SU&locID=win16990rpa&srchtp=basi c&c=1&ste=17&tbst=ts_basic&tab=1&txb=Intelligent+D esign+is+unscientific&docNum=X3010438219&fail=1&bC onts=1
Boxer, Sarah. “But is there Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?” The New York Times. 29 August 2005. The New York Times. 16 May 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/29/arts/design/29mons.html?ex=1179460800&en=6262e34a96254bc3&ei=5 070
Eugenie Scott, interviewed by Leo Lynn. “Creationism Should Not Be Included in Science Curricula.” Education. 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Series. Opposing ViewpointsResourceCenter. Gale Group Databases. ClarkstownHigh School South Lib, NY. 15 May 2007. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC?vrsn=230&slb=SU&locID=win16990rpa&srchtp=basi c&c=4&ste=17&tbst=ts_basic&tab=1&txb=Creationism&d ocNum=X3010129231&fail=0&bConts=79
National Science Teachers Association. “Creationism Should Be Excluded from Science Courses.” Education. Opposing Viewpoints Series. Opposing ViewpointsResourceCenter. Gale Group Databases. ClarkstownHigh School South Lib, NY. 15 May 2007. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC?vrsn=230&slb=SU&locID=win16990rpa&srchtp=basi c&c=1&ste=17&tbst=ts_basic&tab=1&txb=Creationism+s hould+be+excluded&docNum=X3010129260&fail=1&bConts =1