Previous | Next

October 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 4 · pp. 24–27 

Forum: Should Creationism Be Taught in Public Schools? Yes!

Kerwin Thiessen

Several years ago the Wichita Eagle-Beacon carried a story which reported the Flat Earth Society to be alive and well in modern America. This select group of traditionalists have held tenaciously to the archaic notion that the earth is flat, not spherical. Such a society reminds one of the self-proclaimed scientist who said, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up!”

In the most recent court battle concerning this issue, U.S. District Judge William Overton struck down Arkansas’ “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act” by rejecting two state arguments that are crucial elements in this debate: 1) that evolution is as religious as creationism, and 2) that public schools should teach what the public wants. In striking down the Arkansas law requiring schools to give a balanced presentation of both evolution and creationism Judge Overton stated, “No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of movement, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.”

What about the question, “Is evolution just as religious as creationism?” My answer is, “yes,” because the system of evolution is, in its definition, a belief system. Sir Julian Huxley, one of today’s most respected evolutionists has defined evolution as

a directional and essentially irreversible process occurring in time, which in its course gives rise to an increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization in its products. Our present knowledge indeed forces us to the view that the whole of reality is evolution—a single process of self-transformation (What Is Science? p. 272).

I refer to such a definition because there is not a shred of scientific evidence to scientifically demonstrate Huxley’s statement. The definition of science shows that something is scientific only if it can be observed {25} and verified. All must admit that it is impossible to prove scientifically any particular concept of origins, creationism or evolution. No human being was there in the beginning to observe and verify how matter and life came into existence.

For nearly one hundred years evolution-as-a-dogma has been accepted and perpetuated in America’s public educational institutions, and the proof of such a statement is seen in the almost universal acceptance of three sub-beliefs: 1) faith in spontaneous generation of life substance, 2) faith in transitional forms between different kinds of organisms, (unverifiable on the basis of anatomy, embryology, blood and protein analyses, fossils, or genetics) and 3) faith in mutations as a source of raw materials by which supposed evolutionary changes in organisms might have come about in the past. Each of these three sub-beliefs is dependent upon the other, as well as the very definition of evolution as given by Huxley. And each of these statements is made without experimentally verifiable or observable scientific evidence.

The point is that both evolution and creationism are belief systems. Both are embraced through “believing what is unobservable” rather than on the basis of what is scientifically provable. I disagree with Judge Overton in striking down the Arkansas law on this basis. He has closed his mind to the true definitions of science and religion. Science deals with observable data. Religion deals with belief and faith in the unobservable.

What about the matter of public education, i.e., “Should the public schools teach what the public wants?” The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Section One, states,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Clearly the intent of our forefathers was that freedom prevail in all areas of civil life, education included. Neither creationism nor evolution should be barred from the classroom where citizens of the republic desire that they be taught. Should not public education be nonpartisan? Some students and their parents will place their faith in the belief-system of evolution when it comes to the study of origins. Others will embrace creationism. Both should be presented in the classroom where both are desired by the public.

The role of today’s educator should permit such an approach. The teacher used to be seen as a disseminator of knowledge, imparting to eager students the information and concepts they should know. Today’s teacher, however, is taught to be skilled in questioning techniques, {26} particularly in the disciplines of science and social science instruction.

This inquiry approach puts priority upon a presentation of data by the teacher coupled with thorough reading and experimentation by the student. Such an approach is intended to be objective with the result of developing logical thought and decision-making skills among the students rather than reflecting the pre-conceived bias of the teacher. Such skills as observation, classification, inferring, predicting, measuring, communicating, interpreting, formulating questions and hypothesis, experimentation, and formulating models, teach students to make critical observations when dealing with data.

It makes “First Amendment” sense to present students with all available data in their “search for truth” in any given area of study. Especially in a free society, students must be allowed the academic freedom to pursue every viewpoint possible. The most valid conclusion is always the one that best reflects all available data. One certainly cannot label our public schools as “free-learning-centers” when a most crucial area of study, i.e., origins, is oppressed by state and federal legislation permitting only one viewpoint.

My answer to the question, “Should creationism be taught in public schools?”, is, therefore, “Yes! It should be allowed to be taught in those local school districts where students and parents embrace creationism and desire that it be taught by knowledgeable instructors.” My specific rationale for answering in this way is as follows:

1. The constituents of each local school district should determine the parameters of educational instruction for that district and that district only.

2. Since neither evolution nor creation is accessible to the scientific method, since they deal with origins, not presently observable events, both should be formulated as scientific models, or frameworks, within which the student can then predict and correlate observed facts.

3. Such scientific models can neither be proven nor tested, only compared. Which model can explain, with the least amount of difficulty, the observable data in the real world?

4. Evolution is a faith-system. Creation is also a faith-system. Both of these systems have far-reaching implications for the life, world-view, and morality of the adherent. Both systems should be discussed in their entirety and presented as viable options. Therefore, each is as religious as the other. Each is as scientific as the other, as well.

5. Neither evolution nor creationism should be the only view presented in the public classroom if both views are desired by parents and students. Henry Morris of Institute for Creation Research has {27} stated, and I agree, “There are . . . strong scientific and pedagogical reasons why both models should be taught, as objectively as possible, in public classrooms, giving arguments pro and con for each. Some students and their parents believe in creation, some in evolution, and some are undecided. If creationists desire only the creation model to be taught, they should send their children to private schools which do this; if evolutionists want only evolution to be taught, they should provide private schools for that purpose. The public schools should be neutral and either teach both or teach neither” (ICR Impact, Vol. 1, p. 1).

Kerwin Thiessen pastors the Koerner Heights Mennonite Brethren Church in Newton, Kansas.

Previous | Next