Predictions about Teaching Creationism Rather than Evolution in Public Schools

The article referenced within this post can be found on Blackboard under the Electronic Reserves tab.

 

Andrew Lac, Vanessa Hemovich, and Igor Himmelfarb (all graduate students at Claremont Graduate University) are the insightful researchers of the American sentiment about the teaching of creationism in public schools as opposed to evolution, or evolution and creationism. 

 

What sets this piece apart from other commentaries on American feelings towards creationism is the fact that rather than a conventional textual dissertation on the nationwide attitudes regarding evolution, this article, entitled “Predicting Position on Teaching Creationism (Instead of Evolution) in Public Schools” is actually a statistical study. The authors begin the summary of the study with three main questions: (1) “what predictors reliably discriminate people’s position on creationism in public schools;” (2) “to what extent are creationism-only proponents and opponents different in their perceptions of whether scientists and science teachers, parents, and school boards should be responsible how evolution is taught in public schools;” and (3) “to what extent do parents who prefer creationism-only education more likely to report that their children encountered the problem concerning the topics of religion, sex, and homosexuality in public schools?” 

 

Through careful statistical procedures the team analyzes the responses of their subjects and draws credible and solid conclusions. The first question they asked participants in the study was who should have a voice in deciding how evolution is taught in schools. They then provided participants with three optional answers. These included, scientist and science teachers, parents, and school boards. From their research, the team gathered that those who supported teaching strictly creationism decided were more likely to believe that parents of children should the most influence in the matter, while those in opposition favored scientists and science teachers. The study follows in a similar manner, citing the rather stark differences between the ideas of adults who favored a purely creationism curriculum and those who were more open to teaching the theory of evolution.

 

The team’s final results conclude, “variables commonly associated with religiosity (belief in God and importance of religion) [can] predict creationism-only support,” and “[l]ack of educational attainment, especially attaining less than a high school degree, served as the strongest predictor for supporting creationism-only education,” amongst other conclusions.

 

These assertions fail to surprise me. I do not at all find it unusual that people who are extremely religious or less educated would be in support of creationism-only teaching. This is not at all to slight either people who do believe in creationism or people with less educational experience. However, people who are staunchly religious may fail to see or acknowledge that there is another possibility of how we as humans came to be in our current form. In fact, at the start of the article the authors prefaced their research by saying that 44 percent of Americans believe that humans were created by God in their current form and never evolved or changed at all. In my opinion, these people are simply disregarding the facts, however, the research team was very credible in their (in my opinion) totally unbiased approach. Furthermore, people who have received less schooling than the general public tend to be missing vital pieces of education and thus tend to be more close-minded. I also would assume that these people would be far less open to the idea of non-Christian ideas being taught in school to students.

 

Personally, I believe that students should be taught both ideas so that they are able to decide for themselves what they choose to believe. That is how my school taught us in freshman year and I believe it was very effective. After all, how can we expect our children to be forward thinkers and decision makers when we only teach them what we want them to know and force them into only believing what they want to believe?

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9 Responses to Predictions about Teaching Creationism Rather than Evolution in Public Schools

  1. Pingback: Predictions about Teaching Creationism Rather than Evolution in Public Schools | ChristianBookBarn.com

  2. mykkros says:

    While I understand the point that runner95 tries to make when he or she states that “I believe that students should be taught both ideas so that they are able to decide for themselves what they choose to believe”, I personally disagree. It is my belief that only science should be taught in science classrooms and creationism or intelligent design are not sciences. If creationism is taught in classrooms, why not teach astrology too? Many people would agree that astrology is a viable explanation for the Universe and what occurs in it. In addition, while I concur with runner95 that students should be “forward thinkers” and “decision makers”, teaching something such as evolution in classrooms would not allow this. I personally feel that if parents feel that their children need to learn such things, they can be taught it at home or at Sunday school. Forcing every child to learn creationism is, personally, an attempt to keep as little evolution as possible taught to students.
    As shown time and time again, teaching religious doctrine, including creationism, is a violation to every student’s first amendment rights clearly granted in the Constitution. If schools are going to teach the Christian theory about the origins of the Universe and how life became what it is today, why not also teach the Aboriginal story of how the world looked like a desolate plain during “Dream Time” before humanity was created. Why isn’t the Jewish, Islamic, or Hindu theories of the origin of life taught alongside Christianity’s idea of Creationism if that is the case? By the first amendment, one religion in particular cannot be favored but clearly, every religious idea cannot be discussed in a science classroom, or any classroom for that matter. Thus, just like how only math is taught in a math classroom, the same should be done regarding how biology is taught in a biology classroom.

    • drc1995 says:

      I agree extensively with mykkros’s comment, especially when he talks about the desire to teach creationism in school, but not teach other beliefs. Even going back to running95’s comment that he “would assume that these people would be far less open to the idea of non-Christian ideas being taught in school to students”, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, does anyone honestly think we’d even be having this conversation if it were a controversy on teaching Islamic beliefs or practices in school? No. It wouldn’t even be discussed. So why must there be this huge struggle about teaching creationism versus evolution, when clearly we wouldn’t even think of accepting the teaching of other faiths in our schools? I think it just is a tad hypocritical, and completely ignores our founding principles of a separation of Church and state. I am not saying that creationism and other Christian beliefs and values shouldn’t be taught at all, they shouldn’t be taught in public institutions. Private schools obviously can teach whatever they please, but these sort of beliefs shouldn’t be forced on public schools, and I hope the trend continues this way in the future.

      I think one argument I’ve heard before is that it is the parents who are tax-payers, and they should be the ones to decide what is and isn’t taught in their children’s school system. I mean I guess one question to ask is, does this reasoning hold up? I don’t believe it does. If we were to follow this logic, why not also take into consideration the opinion of the teachers themselves who are the one giving these lessons, or the scientists, or any other tax-payer who also contributes to the system? At the base of this argument, I think it would just be too inefficient and to much of a struggle in order to take into account every single opinion that tax-payers have. The ones who are entrusted with the education of children, being the teachers, should be the ones to decide. Teachers are supposed to teach based on accepted scientific thought, not personal beliefs. We need to entrust in our school systems that they are teaching the right information and principles to our children, not try to impede on them every step of the way.

      In the end, I have to say that I disagree with the idea that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools. It has been set as a precedent for so long now that creationism is considered strictly a religious belief and evolution a scientific belief in regards to education, even being mentioned in the Aftermath section of The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents, by Moran. With this precedent, I think that creationism should be strictly confined to be taught in religious classes, such as the CCD classes I went to as a child, or other such Sunday school classes. Alternatively, evolution should be left to the schools and its teachers.

  3. I agree with runner95 and her idea of not just teaching evolution in the classroom. I also agreed with mykkros with the fact that teaching creationism is a violation of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. My reasoning starts from the fact that evolution is a theory. This means that we cannot take it as fact that evolution is the entire truth. For this reason, it is not correct to simply teach evolution as fact in science class. This is also the reasoning behind why there should lessons that include language that makes it clear that evolution is not fact and that there are other theories that are as valid as evolution. Due to the fact that evolution is just a theory, is it legal to only teach one theory in schools? If kids only have the information from school, it makes it seem to students as good as fact and as good as the real truth. This is why I believe it must be made clear of the uncertainty of the truth. Mykkros made an excellent point when saying: “If creationism is taught in classrooms, why not teach astrology too? Many people would agree that astrology is a viable explanation for the Universe and what occurs in it.” Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Astrology are all theories that exist and have some following. These theories do not have the same amount of physical evidence, but they are theories that can’t be disproven, and all have people that believe in them. In the United States, we should pride ourselves on our “melting-pot” culture. This is a land where many people believe different things, and it’s accepted. This is why education as a public institution is tricky. The courts have ruled in favor of evolution, and it should be taught with the full explanation of the fact that it is only one theory, and thats a fact.
    This is just my view and opinion on what the solution could be. This original study should spark a conversation on how evolution itself should be taught in a classroom. It should also spur on a number of solutions for those that encourage creationism being taught such as enrolling in a denominational private school, or teach your children your own beliefs at home.

    • tksekf says:

      Although I understand dantesnuggles’ reasoning that teaching children only the evolution theory is same as telling them that it is the truth, I must raise a question to dantesnuggles’ statement that “Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Astrology are all theories that exist and have some following”, as well as to Mykkros’ argument that “Many people would agree that astrology is a viable explanation for the Universe and what occurs in it.”
      A ‘scientific theory’ is by definition “a well-established explanation for scientific data [which] typically cannot be proven, but they can become established if they are tested by several different scientific investigators. A theory can be disproven by a single contrary result.” (http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistryglossary/g/theory-definition.htm). According to the definition of theory we cannot argue that Creationism, Intelligent Design, or Astrology is a theory, because they all have major flaws in their argument that have been disproven by scientifically proven facts. For instance, Creationism argues that the Earth is 6000 years old, but there are many evidences discovered today that refutes the idea, such as the fossil records. On the other hand, the evolution theory had been tested by many scholars and scientists throughout the human history since the 19th century but still does not have any concrete evidence that goes against the idea.

      • shoutoutjfk says:

        I agree with tksekf’s notion that evolution is truly a scientific theory and that creationism and the likes are not scientific theories. Creationism has distinct observable flaws. When one looks at the big picture, it is clear that creationism stems from religious ideals which suffer the same consequences. However, even if people can admit that creationism is false, it is much harder to say that the religion as a whole is false. Thus, with a complete and utter disregard of science, people will attempt to validate their beliefs because many find it imperative to show that every aspect of a religion is true in order to justify the religion as a whole. Luckily, a large number of people, including leading religious organizations, now regard religion as a moral code rather than a historical account. Although, there are still some who require every word in religious text be true. Trying to persuade these people will most likely prove worthless as well. It is merely human stubbornness. A great example of this is presented in this youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfoKor05k1I) in which a mathematics professor at Nottingham University describes a study in which American politicians who were very capable of doing mathematics decided to completely disregard the mathematics they, moments before, proved they could perform because it clashed with their political beliefs. This type of reasoning is known as vested interest which describes the fact that people believe only what they want to believe. An unfortunate human trait, though one that persisted over the years.

  4. theotherhemingway says:

    I find mykkros points most valid in this argument: creationism has no place in the classroom. It stems systemically from dantesnuggles’ comment that evolution is just a theory and therefore not a fact. This runs counter to every science class dantesnuggles or any American who graduated high school would ever have encountered. This false perception is one of the few grants of legitimacy offered to creationism or intelligent design and it undermines our entire educational system. Omitting a lengthy discussion of the role of theories in science along with comparison and contrast of that role with its role in culture, I present the forum this statement. Gravity is theory. Prenatal development is a theory. Water pressure is a theory. Do we not hold these theories as self-evident in nature? Without any education, we accept that twisting a knob in the shower allow water to flow from a faucet, that genes from both parents contribute to the development of a newborn (and its subsequent postnatal development), and that things fall when you let go of them from above the ground. Why are these theories more legitimate than evolution when they have are accepted as self-evident?

    I find a good example of self-evidence in the Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    The foundation of our government and its philosophy are based on self evident truths. However in that phrase is technically an oxymoron. Evidence allows one to form an argument, yet truths are inherently true. To take it a step further, truths require faith. Taking the analogy to the debate of science vs. religion, both compete over one’s ability to assign faith to one or the other. As long as this competition exists–where no matter how evident something is, one has the capacity to place his or her faith somewhere else–there can be no absolute domination of one field over the other, thus ensuring the future of the debate for some time.

    To distill my argument even further, it is not about the following of alternative theories or the size of their donor base that matters in the debate, it is the simple fact that they exist. If there was only one theory–which mind you carries the same evident stature of gravity or water pressure–on the matter of human origins, there would be no massive debate. There are no (well technically there are but only in the limited circles of special relativity) debates over alternative explanations of why things fall when you drop them from above the ground or why our planet spins about the sun, and as such it is self-evident and a truth. It may very well be that this type of legitimacy may only be crowned upon one of the theories after further evolution of our species or some definitive evolutionary event.

  5. djrosato says:

    I agree with myykros on this topic. Creationism is not science and is therefore not a viable substitute or supplement to evolution. I see absolutely no reason why creationism as a scientific theory should be taught in schools. What is put in our schools’ science textbooks should be up to those who understand science the best: scientists. After all, historians ultimately decide what goes into our history textbooks. We don’t teach myths as history, so we shouldn’t teach myths as science. Education should be the culmination of humanity’s available knowledge; we owe that to our future generations. Even though everyone has the right to their own beliefs, due to the first amendment, public schools don’t have the right to show creationist teachings in priority to other religious and spiritual beliefs. Science courses have the responsibility to teach students facts as opposed to beliefs.
    Despite this, I believe that it’s important that we’re educated objectively about theories such as creationism, Young Earth Theorists, and even the flat earth theory.–just not in a science class and not being taught as fact. However the curriculum, I believe, should be up to the school board, simply because the sheer vastness of the scope of scientific knowledge. It’s the same as history: most high schoolers are taught about the Revolutionary and Civil War, but very few are taught about more obscure parts of history, such as the Italian Renaissance. School board officials choose which facets of science, as well as history, to include in students’ education.They’re elected to help run the school and students’ education and therefore have the responsibility and the trust of the community to do so.

  6. Sl1017 says:

    Mykkros’ comment about astrology actually changed my mind on this topic. Previously I was certain that creationism should most definitely be taught in schools along with evolution because both sides deserve to be heard by students so that they can make their own educated decision on what to believe. However, the idea of creationism not being a science turns the tables. Mykkros said ” If creationism is taught in classrooms, why not teach astrology too? Many people would agree that astrology is a viable explanation for the Universe and what occurs in it.” This is such an interesting point! Both astrology and creationism are based of things you can’t see, just ideas and thoughts making them not a science. Both can be studied just not empirically so technically they are not sciences. This leads me to believe that Creationism should be left to the church or be taught at home or left to other subject areas. Another possibility is simply to mention that evolution is opposed by a theory called creationism. In the science classroom, evolution should be taught and if people argue with that then creationism can be implemented to be taught separately or come from somewhere else other than the schools.

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