Shaaban Fundi, Ph.D.
Going 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.