Friday, May 20, 2005

Inherited Education

In 1925 a trial in Dayton, Tennessee captured the nation's attention. Tennessee representative John Washington Butler was concerned that school children would lose their belief in Biblical creationism if Darwin's theory of evolution was taught in public schools. He claimed:

"In the first place, the Bible is the foundation upon which our American Government is built . . . The evolutionist who denies the bible story of creation, as well as other Biblical accounts . . . robs the Christian of his hope and undermines the foundation of our Government."

To that end, Butler proposed legislation, an anti-evolution act, which quickly passed through the legislature. The anti-evolution act was challenged by John Scopes, a school teacher that was arrested for teaching evolution to his students. Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes served as a defeat for anti-evolutionists. (although that "defeat" is heavily debated by legal scholars)

Let's jump forward 80 years. The state of Kansas is currently debating the introduction of "intelligent design" into classroom curricula. Intelligent design claims that there exists evidence that the Earth was created by one or more intelligent beings. The National Academy of Science has labeled intelligent design as pseudoscience. Mind you, Kansas did away with evolution in their classrooms in 1999. Currently, their school board is recrafting scientific standards to incorporate criticism of current scientific dogma (which is a good thing). However, creationist ideas, based on intelligent design, may be used as an alternative explanation. This fight is being waged in other states as well.

It is often stated that the introduction of intelligent design will allow school teachers to "teach the controversy." What is the controversy? Science is based upon facts. The occurrence of the big bang is supported by a wealth of data, including redshifting of cosmic microwave background radiation. Evolution is supported by a wealth of anthropological discoveries. Those conclusions are all based on fact. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for religion. I firmly believe in God. I just don't want that taught in public schools.

If you want your child to learn about creationism, take them to your local church, synagogue, mosque or temple. If you would like them to have an education that is heavily indoctrinated with spirituality, place them in parochial schools. To incorporate religion in public schools is an abomination. To replace scientific facts with nonscientific alternatives in our nation's classrooms is outright wrong.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should intelligent design be taught in public schools? Generally speaking, should religion be included in classroom activities? Stretching, how do you feel about prayer in public schools?


Blogger Megan said...

Raised in the South with a Southern Baptist minister as an Uncle and graduating college with a science degree, I have seen this argument from every angle. I have been to presentations for the ID argument, but never been convinced.

I believe in God and in evolution. Quite simply, you cannot deny that things evolve. You can try to argue but you will be pummeled for years with the evidence that everything has evolved and continues to evolve.

I was not there at the beginning of time, so how it all worked out I don't really know. But every time I hear this argument I wonder: what does it matter? Evolution does not dispute the existence of God. In fact, Darwin's original theory never discussed God at all as far as I can tell from my research. (If I'm mistaken please let me know.)

Intelligent design is almost like a cop out. Since creationism and evolution are so controversial we'll come up with a middle ground so everyone can sit on the fence.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

Creationists scare me a little. If you look at the universe, it’s a little too organized to be happenstance. Just because I don’t think humans "popped" into existence doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. And if you dismiss evolution, how do you explain dinosaurs? That’s just where I'm coming from.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Aurelius said...

This dichotomy that seems to exist in the US fascinates most of us in the rest of the world. How can a country that is so forward thinking in so many ways allow itself to be held back by such childish ideas? A country that states openly that church and state should be separate, then allows this sort of twaddle.

1:49 PM  
Blogger mindful said...

Aurelius: Although I don't think we should be teaching intelligent design in science classes, it is our committment to freedom of speech that explains why we "allow" this kind of twaddle. I think the overwhelming diversity of America, though it may generate frustration at times, is one of our great strengths.

In that line of thought, perhaps (and this idea is not mine, I read it somewhere...) we should be teaching intelligent design. But since it is not a genuine scientific theory or hypothesis, it is not fitting to teach it in a science class. As sold by its proponents, ID is more an ideal of skepticism, proposing that we should always doubt the evidence before us. That is fine, and even laudable, in its pure form. Perhaps if we taught philosophy in our schools, a section on epistemology and the philosophy of science would cover these issues. This approach would, though, teach skepticism in a much wider-ranging consequence than I suspect the ID crowd really desires.

6:30 PM  
Blogger dreadcow said...

Myself? I believe in creation. The world makes too much sense for there not to be a god. I just don't like religion...

That aside... since schools are run by the state (which they shouldn't, methinks), none of that stuff should be taught in public schools.

Wanna teach your kids about creation? Bring 'em to church.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Anandi said...

I'm wondering if it's even worth my posting a comment at this point, since everyone before me has made all of the good points I was going to make. :)

I don't understand why "separation of church and state" is so hard for people to understand.

Or "send your kids to private school and/or church".

7:17 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

I've studied a lot of religions and came to the conclusion that I'm a Martenist (meaning that I think our creator would want us to believe in ourselves first and formost with our own relationship with them as support.)

Anyhow, I also think that many people hold the days that God created our world as written in stone. Couldn't his days be a lot longer than ours? Couldn't he have created through evolution? I never hear that idea discussed by either side.

When it comes to education, I have always believed that the government needs to exit and let it run like a business. I'd let the states lease and fund each school with the money that seems to be disappearing from their coffers. If a school wants to push for creationism they should also have to cover every other alternative with equal time and respect. Parents don't spend enough time with their children after school as it is and to ask the educational system to teach them religion is a hefty goal. This will be an unending issue though. If you teach creation, you will then be at the mercy of local church authorities to how detailed and see an urging for further religious studies. It is sad. I remember when I would learn these things in Sunday school. Why should that change?

8:12 PM  
Blogger Mentally Challenged said...

Creationism? Evolution? Creationism and Evolution?

Personally, I'm more concerned with:
Do heaven and a hell exist? And if they do, which one am I going to end up in.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

I am a firm believer in separation of church and state. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand? It just goes to show you that parents do not want to be parents anymore and rely to much on schools to do it for them. As for prayer in school, it simply does not belong there. There are many more hours in the day that parents can spend praying with their children.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Maseman said...

to see my view check out my latest post, which coincidentally adresses the same issue, though not as in depth.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous tomw said...

First of all, the state of Kansas did not do away with the teaching of evolution in '99. It was "demphasized" by the state board only to be reinstated by a new straight thinking school board. ID is not science, so it shouldn't be taught in science class. If you want it taught, where? The quote you post about the bible being the foundation is the argument being used today. As far as prayer in public schools, there's not a day that passes where there is not prayer. If one wants it led, if I get to choose the prayer, I'm all for it!

10:42 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

tomw: Apologies, I should have used the word "deemphasized." ID advocates the notion that the Earth had a (several) creator(s). That notion should not be taught in any public school, since it smacks of religion.

10:54 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

All the theories of life are discussed at the lowest levels and are covered in less than five minutes.

When we move to spleens this has zero relevance

10:59 PM  
Blogger lionsgraphics said...

Well, I'm glad i'm far away from Kansas or Tennessee. I think praying in classes will be really weird for kids who are not religious. Furthermore, evolution should be taught in biology (and ancient history) class, as a theory. Religion should be taught in history classes and in churches.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Raine said...

I really haven't been following the debate going on in Kansas regarding teaching ID. However, from what I've read, they had nearly deleted all references to evolution, but then re-inserted them in '01. So here we are in '05, and they are no longer seeking to delete the theory of evolution, but want a theory that is, frankly, movement away from a strict reading of Genesis. You've got to acknowledge that. This is a good development.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Raine said...

Regarding school prayer, kids should have the right to pray-- during recess--if they feel like it. I'm too tired to elaborate.

11:43 PM  
Blogger FJ said...

Not being from the US, it's hard for me to comment on the specific cases you have all spoken about, but from my point of view as an Australian, I think religion should be kept out of state schools.

Australia is a multi-cultural society, there are alot of different religions among the different cultures, and not all of them worship the same gods, so where do we draw the line?

Religion itself has no place in public schools, and if I have children and their public school introduced religious study and prayer time, I'd be pulling them out of there as quick as you could say "Hail Mary"

I am not religious but I believe that the Earth was "created" for a reason, even if I don't understand what that reason is and I also believe that the "evolution" of life on Earth was meant for a reason, even if it is a reason which is beyond my comprehension.

In terms of teaching children about this, I'd like to think that they would view the Earth's "creation" and the "evolution" of life on Earth as a thing of wonder rather than as something that happened exactly the way the teacher told them it did...

Science says alot of great things about this, but then again, so does religion... so, it's up to the individual what they want to believe.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Prayer has no place in the public school system. On the other hand, teaching about religion is fine. In our district, we have a semester course entitled World Religions.

We need to teach facts in the classroom; prayer doesn't fit that bill.

9:20 AM  
Blogger SheaNC said...

It's amazing that this has become an issue in the 21st century. And the answer is so simple: teach science at school and religion at church.

I see two types of creationists: The first is able to see that science and religion to not have to oppose each other; he second are the "bible-literalist" faction who seem to fear the information obtained through scientific inquiry. If were secure in their faith, they would not be intimidated by science.

12:08 PM  
Blogger dusty said...

jesus..its getting heavy in here..but for the most part people think the religious stuff should stay out of schools and i agree but only on the grounds that public schools have diverse populations and they can not teach children about all types of religious beliefs..its all or none i my pastor when i was growing up told me this about evolution vs. creationism: kid, you can believe in aint a one can say how long gods day was so evolution is entirely possible even based on the bible teachings..i kinda para-phrased him..he didnt actually call me kid..

6:03 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

The trouble amid all this emotive pontification is that "evolution" is merely a theory and not science at all.

A theory is a person's suspicion that things are as that person perceives them. Science takes things further by requiring observation and repeatable experimentation in order to draw conclusions from theory.

Since neither Creationists nor Evolutionists claim there was any person around to witness the beginnings, both are in fact faith systems and neither are in fact science.

Neither can this situation ever change, since there is no evidence that either evolution or creation is either observable (ie; mire turns into monkey turns into man)or repeatable (ie; the world beginning again of whales leaving swamps once more to become cows).

Neither is science. So no more of this "everybody knows evolution is proven" or "can't we put away the primitive/childish faith systems now we've grown up" comments, please! Hitler used those same arguments and look where that got us.

The real issue here is one of worldview. Take the example of fossilised bones: evolutionists--described by the theory's founder as seeking a way of explaining life apart from a creator God--see them as supporting their cause, while creationists--seeking to explain life because of a creator God--see them as evidence of the Biblical flood. Same facts, but different worldviews producing different faith theories, neither of which are able to be observed nor tested by experiment.

What the whole debate is really about, in my humble opinion, is peoples' attempts to interpret the facts (ie; what we can observe around us--and these are the only facts) in a way that fits with their already established worldview. Rather than naive faith vs the superiority of science, it's about whether we want to be answerable to anyone except "self" for the way we live our lives.

11:31 PM  

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