Science in Christian Perspective

Play It Again Sam Creation/Evolution in California Education
Richard H. Bube
Stanford University
Stanford CA

From: JASA 30 (June 1978): 96-97.

The following Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 87 was introduced into the California State Assembly on January 9, 1978 by Assemblyman Dannemeyer of Fullerton.
1 WHEREAS, It appears that most, if not all, 
2 state-supported educational institutions require students 
3 to take courses in which naturalistic concepts of evolution 
4 are taught as scientific explanations of origins of the 
5 universe, life, and man; and 
6 WHEREAS, Evolution is not demonstrable as scientific 
7 fact or testable as a scientific hypothesis, and therefore 
8 must be accepted philosophically by faith; and 
9 WHEREAS, There is another concept of 10 origins namely, that of special creation of the universe, 
11 life, and man by an omnipotent personal Creator - which 
12 is at least as satisfactory a scientific explanation of origins 
13 as is evolution, and is accepted as such by a large number 
14 of scientists, and other well-informed people; and 
15 WHEREAS, Many citizens of this state believe in the 
16 special creation concept of origins and are convinced that 
17 exclusive indoctrination of their children in the 
18 evolutionary concept (including so-called "theistic" 
19 evolution) is inimical to their religious faith and to their 
20 moral and civic teachings, as well as to scientific 
21 objectivity, academic freedom, and civil rights; and 
22 WHEREAS, Even most citizens who are not opposed to 
23 the evolution concept at least favor a balanced treatment 
24 of these two alternative views of origins in their schools, 
25 thus allowing students to consider all of the evidences 
26 favoring each concept before deciding which to believe;
27 now, therefore be it 
28 Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the 
29 Senate thereof concurring, That the Department of 
30 Education and the State Board of Education is hereby 
31 requested to recommend to all statesupported
32 educational institutions that a balanced treatment of 
33 evolution and special creation be encouraged in all 
34 courses, textbooks, library materials and museum displays 
35 dealing in any way with the subject of origins, such 
36 treatment to be limited to the scientific, rather than 
37 religious, aspects of the two concepts.

Thus is resurrected on the political scene a debate that took place in California within the State Board of Education in 1972 and 1973. Facing at that time the suggestion that the teaching of creation be added to science instruction, the State Board with the advice of Christian faculty in science wisely decided not to add a basically religious teaching (creation) to the science curriculum, but rather to remove from the science curriculum such nonscientific dogmatism as constituted a scientismic ''religious" approach. Thus the integrity of both scientific and religious perspectives was preserved. The charge to a Consultant Committee to the State Board of Education read,

That, on the subject of discussing origins in the Science textbooks, the following editing be done prior to execution of a contract (with a publisher): I. That dogmatism be changed to conditional statements where speculation is offered as explanation for origins. 2. That science emphasize "how" and not "ultimate cause" for origins.

The Dannemeyer Resolution ignores the entire history of this effort, returns us back to square one with the same difficulties encountered in the past, and strives once again to accomplish for defenders of a special-creation view what they failed to accomplish previously. The Resolution is replete with misunderstandings and misstatements; Christians of whatever persuasion should value the integrity of science and their religious faith sufficiently to defeat this Resolution. Some specific comments follow, with reference to the line in the Resolution text.

3. To speak of naturalistic concepts of evolution is to suppose that "natural" is somehow necessarily opposed to God's activity in the world. This is a fundamental fallacy that interprets the availability of a description in terms of natural process as automatically excluding a description in terms of God's activity. Evolution is a theory of human science; it must by definition be described in natural concepts.

4. If science courses offer ultimate explanations for origins, then these explanations should be deleted. If science courses offer possible mechanisms for the origin of life and man in the form of scientific descriptions of historical events, this is right and proper.

6. No major modern scientific theory in flux can be demonstrated "as scientific fact." Even to use this phrase indicates a misunderstanding of the relationship between facts and theories.

7. Evolution is certainly testable as a scientific hypothesis.

8. All major modern scientific theories in flux must "be accepted philosophically by faith," if they are going to be accepted philosophically at all. Why is this essential? One of the purposes of science teaching should be to show the tenuous connection between scientific descriptions and grounds for philosophical acceptance.
9. To speak of "another concept of origins," is to suppose that another scientifically viable concept exists. Indeed it does: it requires one to say, "We don't understand it, but this just happened." This is always an option, but it is hardly a recommended approach for science courses.
12. Since "special creation of the universe, life, and man" is in no sense a "scientific explanation" at all, it can hardly be advanced as "at least as satisfactory a scientific explanation of origins."
13. That this view might be accepted by a large number of scientists (a highly debatable and questionable contention) is no more grounds for its acceptance than the counter view that a much larger number of scientists accepts evolution as an ultimate explanation and that therefore it must be the only view taught.
14. The opinions of "well-informed people" hardly constitute grounds for deciding on what is or is not science.
17. "Exclusive indoctrination" would be reprehensible and this is exactly what must be avoided. To include "theistic evolution" without a word of explanation is hardly responsible.
15-21. Note the dangerous precedent of having a group of citizens decide what should and should not be taught in a science course because they believe that a current view conflicts with their religious convictions. It is not science that must be held in check; it is misinterpretations or extrapolations of science into nonscientific realms.