Tuesday, January 31, 2012

on science in science classrooms

The Indiana Senate just passed a SB 0089 which allows public schools to teach creationism in science class as long as they teach origin of life theories from multiple religions. The bill now goes to the House, where hopefully saner heads will prevail.

We've been sent back to the 1950s.

I have a few thoughts on this bit of legislation.

1) If you subscribe to any particular religion, you should absolutely defend the separation of church and state rather than argue that "it doesn't exist". The whole point of that idea is to protect religions from state interference. Why do so many forget that? And only when it is convenient. Is it ok to push a particular religion? If you are Christian and answer "yes" when it is yours but are disgusted by theocracies elsewhere in the world, think about what that means. Just remember that when a particular religion is protected, other religions suffer. You could be on the losing end.

2) Creationism is not science. Please don't argue that "evolution is just a theory" unless you really understand what a scientific theory is. Hint: it means a hypothesis has been proven. Think Theory of Relativity. Science uses particular methods to investigate how things happen. Creationism has not been tested using scientific methods. Is it a valid subject? In certain classes, yes. Not in science class.

3) Science tries to answer "how". Religion explores "why". These are different questions. The Theory of Evolution explains the process by which living things have developed. It actually isn't in conflict with creationism. This is why the Pope and Catholic Church, for example, endorses evolution as the process God used to create the world. (Science doesn't care if there is a Supreme Being pushing the buttons.)

4) For an interesting fictional take on the argument, I suggest Chapter 9, Cosmos, in Piers Anthony's For Eternity. This is the 7th book in the Incarnations of Immortality series. I highly recommend the entire series, but this chapter in particular is a trial of science (evolution and the Big Bang theory) vs. religion (Creationism). Of particular note is that the Biblical "day" can be interpreted as "as long as the stage took". Because does God really follow an Earth day? Or would God have his own timeline?

So about teaching creation is science? It's not science. It isn't in conflict with science, but it isn't science. It doesn't belong in science class. As part of social studies, history, theology, or a variety of other classes? Absolutely, as long as other religious viewpoints are included. Because the place for true religious doctrine to be taught is at home or in church or mosque or synagogue or whatever religious institution subscribes to that religion. (Even if you are Christian, do you trust that YOUR particular brand of Christianity will be taught? Because it just might be another group's viewpoint that is given.)


  1. This bill just baffles me and of course, no one in Indiana is talking about it. I agree with your points except for one. Creationism is not based on empirical evidence from scientific investigation. Therefore, the idea IS in conflict with science. Evolution is the only theory of life that does this. Anyway, teaching creationism is unconstitutional and has legal precedence (SEE: Edwards v. Aguillard). People WILL fight against this bill.


  2. Allison - By not being in conflict, I meant that many people are able to believe in both: that evolution is God's method. No, it's not based on empirical evidence, which is why it isn't science.