The Evolution vs. Creationism Controversy in America

Shaaban Fundi,

Evolution vs creationismGoing through the articles regarding creationism vs evolution has made me aware of the existence of the great debate that is boiling between the creationists and the evidence based supporters of the evolution process. I understand the fear that is held by the creationists about evolution and the significant challenge it possess to the creation only idea. As a science instructor representing the larger scientific community in a classroom, I feel that curriculum decisions based on the belief of creationism have no place in determining science standards.

To me, science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science. Thus, creationism, that provides explanations based on faith and not on empirical evidence has no part in science and no part in the science classroom.

Moreover, progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence. The theory of evolution is one of these well-established explanations. An enormous amount of scientific investigation since the mid-19th century has converted early ideas about evolution proposed by Darwin and others into a strong and well-supported theory. Today the theory of evolution has become the bedrock of modern biology and is universally accepted by scientists as the engine for speciation.

However, creationists in their bid to get equal time in the science classroom, deliberately mislead the public by trying to present evolution as a controversial theory. I simply don’t understand why it is that today, more than 150 years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, we are still fighting over evolution. The Catholic Church has endorsed evolution; every competent biologist relies on its theoretical framework; and its mechanism and its consequences have been thoroughly documented. The theory of evolution has become the central unifying concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines. In contrast, the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested. These observations lead to two fundamental conclusions: the teaching of evolution should be an integral part of science instruction, and creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such in science classes.

The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted. Scientific investigators seek to understand natural phenomena by observation and experimentation. Scientific interpretations of facts and the explanations that account for them therefore must be testable by observation and experimentation.

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.

No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation should be admissible as science in any science course. Incorporating the teaching of such doctrines into a science curriculum compromises the objectives of public education. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to an increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare. The growing role that science plays in modern life requires that science, and not religion, be taught in science classes.

I am not advocating that students not have the right to believe in creationism. I am simply arguing that in the science classroom students be allowed to explore the truth about their own origin and the origin of their universe based on scientifically collected and proven evidence. In the science classroom, we teach students that all good science is based on the scientific method. Based on this method, we form hypothesis that we later test with experimentation. The evolutionary theory has undergone much experimentation over the past 150 years since Darwin first outlined his theory and for the most part this experimentation has upheld his ideas. Creationism, however, by its very nature, resists attempts to explore its validity using the scientific method. It is impossible to test this theory using experimentation. Thus, I believe that it has no place in the science classroom. I have no problems with it being taught as part of religious instruction or even in a philosophy class. However, I do not think it belongs in a science classroom simply because we cannot use scientific tools to understand and explore the idea.

I strongly reject the Creationists’ claim that if one believes that the theory of evolution is true then one necessarily must believe that there is no God, no meaning or purpose to life, and thus no moral accountability. This statement is completely wrong due to the fact that believing in evolution and believing in God are not mutually exclusive beliefs. The dilemma creationists have for themselves of being unable to reconcile science and religion should not be imposed upon the rest of world populous, and particularly not on educational systems. The courts have consistently ruled that “creation science” is actually a religious view. Because public education must be religiously neutral under the U.S. Constitution, the courts have held that it is unconstitutional to present creation science as legitimate scholarship. I believe that these court rulings should be upheld and creation science kept out of science instruction in the public education system.

Over the past 50 years, our world has become increasingly more technological and the need for students to understand scientific principles has become increasingly more important. If we want our public school students to compete on a global level it is essential that we teach them sound scientific principles and keep creationism out of the science classroom.

Life time: a concept I learned volunteering at a senior citizen’s living community.

There are 24 life hours in a day. You sleep for 8 of them (recommended). That leaves you with 16 hours. Lets say you spend 4 hours for your commute, shower, eating, and other none important issues of the day. Now you are left with 12 life hours.

These are your life hours for a day. Twelve hours only. You have a choice. You can either sell most of those hours to the highest bidder ( climbing the corporate ladder for what is called success) or enjoy them yourself (with your kids, your family, and also for traveling)while selling just a few to your work.

I learned this important life lesson while volunteering at a senior citizen’s retirement home. That life comes with a fixed amount of time. And that life is about experience over things…….things that you sell your life time for. Things like titles and material wealth. Both comes at a cost called your life time. You have to sell your life time to achieve them.

To live a full life, you have to realign your value system.

I am not anti success or anything. However, balancing your life time is important. Don’t sell all of your life time to the highest salary or to accumulating only material wealth. When the time comes for your life’s curtains to close on you. Something called regret, oftentimes shows up.

And I know so much about life’s regret through my experience volunteering at the senior home. Most of the elderly I met regretted not spending their life time with their kids, family, and also not spending their life time traveling. No one regretted not having money. Because money did not have value or meaning to them when the only thing they were waiting for was death. Life time had value, unfortunately, there was not much of it left for them.

So, while you have plenty of your life time, spending it with your kids, family, and do travel to have the experiences that you will cherish while waiting for the time for you to leave this earth.

Please spend your life time wisely.

Dr. Shaaban K Fundi

CHAPTER THREE: Education Ideologies

CHAPTER THREE: Education Ideologies

You may be asking yourself, why am I talking about education ideologies while discussing the education system in Tanzania? The answer is simple. Human knowledge is socially constructed. In order to create solutions related to education, the context under which those solutions are created is important. In addition, to create solutions to educational problems, one needs to know Continue reading

Chapter Two: Major Policy Reforms Continued

As I continue to write about education reforms in Tanzania. Chapter 2 will not be complete without a mention of a monumental and most progressive education policy released in February of 2015. Here, instead of writing descriptively about the policy itself and what it contains, I will highlight the issues I thought were great. In addition, I will also talk briefly about the areas that were raised but there is lack of detailed information about them Continue reading

CHAPTER TWO: Major Education Reform

Chapter two covers the major policy changes that took place in the education system in Tanzania since the country’s Independence. I don’t claim the list to be complete or exhaustive, however, it is a good start to understanding the changes that took place within the education system because of internal and external political realities of the times Continue reading

CHAPTER ONE: Background of Education in Tanzania

The Tanzanian education system would not have existed without a mention of both colonial Germanic and British education systems.  Prior to the German and British education systems, it is documented that formal Western schooling began in around 1868 by missionaries of different denominations. Before the missionaries, an informal tribal education existed in each of the more than 120 tribes in the country. Continue reading

AN OVERVIEW OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN TANZANIA: History, Reforms, and Research-Based Recommendations for Improvement.

This small handbook covers the history of the education system in Tanzania, the major policy reforms that have taken place since the country’s independence, and at the end, the handbook offers research-based recommendations that the country can pursue to change its education system to meet the needs of all children. As you may know, there have been numerous discussions regarding the successes and failures of the education system in Tanzania. Continue reading

Improving equity and quality of education in Tanzania

In this presentation I discuss educational philosophies the Tanzanian education system has pursued since the country’s independence. Tanzania inherited the British System of Education. In its early years, the country pursued the Excellence Model of Education. The Excellence Model of education was entirely based on a bizarre interpretation of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Early educationists believed in the survival of the fittest as being the main tenet of the Darwinian Theory. Thus, survival of the fittest become the heart and soul of their education philosophy. The country pursued this philosophy (educating only the best) of education until late 1990s. Continue reading

Socially Balanced Equity Education

Growing up I always thought I needed to work at a lucrative job and make tones of money so that I can escape poverty. As a kid, I thought being rich was the best thing ever. Growing up in a poverty stricken neighborhood, I have seen and experienced the real problems associated with poverty. And, I tell you, poverty isn’t fun. Continue reading

What ails the Tanzanian Education System? The GPA vs Division Debate.

Yesterday, I re-read a letter  Mr. Rakesh Rajani  wrote to Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda. The letter was titled “Commission to Investigate Causes of Poor Form IV Results” and dated May 13th, 2013.   The letter sparked my interest on recent development regarding education reporting in Tanzania. A few weeks ago, Professor Ndalichako decided to remove the use of gpa in calculating students’ results when reporting exam scores. In arriving to her decision, Professor Ndalichako (the current Minister of Education) reported to have used sound scientific evidence. I quote “”Yes, we need change, but change should be informed and backed by scientific grounds.” Continue reading

An Equity Based Edu-Policy in Tanzania

I was in Tanzania last month. I can attest to the fact that class struggle has taken a strong hold in the Tanzanians’ elite minds. It has reached to a point a good number of them thinks the poor are poor because they are lazy and don’t work hard enough. A fallacy brought about by being in a position of power. When in a position of power, ‘ people see things differently —their way and never — the poor people’s way. As they say, power corrupts absolutely. Continue reading