Science in Christian Perspective
Biblical Creation: Should It Be Taught in the Public Schools as a Mandated Subject Alongside Evolution?
Nell Segraves Fred Jappe Bette Chambers Ray Menegus Robert Ball
From: JASA 33 (December 1981): 231-235
(A public discussion on May 14, 1980 sponsored by the Community Services Office, San Diego Community College, and the Biology Department of San Diego Mesa College.)
Nell Segraves is a co-founder and an administrative assistant at the Creation Science Research Center. She has been involved in the evaluation of science, social science and health textbooks for approximately eighteen years.
The premise on which we base our need for alternative theories
is protection of religious beliefs. We use a legal premise under the
first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the
The fact that the Creationists have gone a second mile and presented alternative scientific theories and explanations for origins is simply the frosting on the cake. We don't owe the educa tional system good science. We only require them to recognize alternative belief systems. It has been charged that we are trying to legislate into science classrooms theories that would not be sup ported in science. It is our contention that this is what has already been done by the humanist and the evolutionist ... that they have legislated into the science classrooms a particular point of view, mandating that every student adhere to it and making their grades dependent upon it. In years past, teachers could not even be hired if they did not adhere to this doctrinaire position. When we first began our studies, those scientists that are now part of the Crea tion Research Society were fearful of identifying themselves as not
adhering to the evolutionary system for fear they would be fired. They could not achieve their Doctorate if they did not adhere to that point of view. We contend that is not science. That is scientism, and a religion. When we have asked the Board of Education to open up the science curriculum and subject evolution to falsification, we have been denied the privilege of criticizing it, or bringing into the classroom evidence that would tend to militate against it or falsify it. We contend that is not science instruction ... That is religious indoctrination into a particular belief system taught at tax expense. It violates the neutrality re quirements of our State Constitution, puts the State in the position of having adopted a particular religion of secular humanism, the State prescribing it and forcing every student to adhere to it. And that is why the Creationist Movement is so active today.
Fred Jappe is a member of the Department of Physical Sciences at Mesa College. He teaches chemistry and also science and religion. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Washington and has done graduate studies at San Diego State University and Seattle University.
"Firstly, all Civil states with their officers of justice in their respective constitutions and administrations are proved essentially Civil and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual or Christian state of worship."
That was an acknowledgement on the part of Baptists that the State is secular.
"Sixthly, it is the will and command of God that a permission of paganism or anti-Christian conscience or worship be granted to all men and that they be fought against only with the Word of God."
Baptists have continued to argue this position. My own Convention (Southern Baptist) has, for "ample, consistently argued against prayer in public schools. I believe, as a Christian, that this position is correct. Religion, as well as the State, suffers when this wall of separation is breached. Religion in general, and Judaism and Christianity in particular, would suffer from legislation of this sort. It is harmful to religious values to have them taught by the non-religious. To do so is to profane that which is holy. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not need secular help. By extension, neither does Genesis I or 2. Neither, of course, should religion be hindered by the State. I do not expect the Hindus' belief in vegetarianism, the Buddhist's belief in reincarnation, the Orthodox Jewish belief in the infallibility of Genesis I and 2, or the Christians' belief in the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to be the object of ridicule by the State.
We also should not legislate biblical creationism into the schools because of the lack of agreement as to what that term means. It is true that Christians and Jews share much in common on the importance of Creation as an idea, but there is a widespread disagreement as to how God carried out his creative acts. A friend of mine, Jerry Albert, who has a PhD in biochemistry and is a Christian member of a Missouri-Synod Lutheran Church (not noted for its liberalism), debated Dr, Duane Gish, who also possesses a PhD in biochemistry, and is another fine Christian. They debated under the auspices of Fuller Theological Seminary, one of America's orthodox schools. Dr. Albert argued for theistic evolution, the idea that evolution took place as described by the biologists, but under God's direction. Dr. Albert argued that no Christian doctrine creedal statement was threatened by evolution. I have also had Dr. Gish and other speakers from both the Creation Science Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research speak to my science and religion classes. I have found them to be warm, honest, sincere Christians, but they reflect a much different point of view, the view of fiat creation and a young earth. I also know Dr. Bernard Ramn, who is a progressive creationist, a view which fits somewhere in between the views of Dr. Albert and Dr. Gish. In fact I'm confident that Christians hold to literally all possible views on how God did it. I personally have reached the conclusion that the question, "How?", is best answered by the scientist. As a Christian, I do, of course, affirm that God is the maker of heaven and earth. A study of Christian theology also reveals a full spectrum of ideas as to how God created, I therefore oppose trying to legislate Biblical Creationism, because not all views could possibly get a hearing, which is manifestly unfair to those left out.
I oppose trying to legislate Biblical Creationism into schools also because it directs Christians from their main task of witnessing by their lives to Christ's love and redemption, and misdirects monies and energies that, I believe, could be better spent elsewhere. Christianity centers in Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection. It does not center in Genesis I and 2. Activities that divert either group from their central theme hurts their witness. My personal experience has been that attempts to legislate Biblical Creationism do not further the Gospel, but, indeed, hinder it by making people believe that one must choose between belief in evolution or belief in God.
I oppose trying to legislate Biblical Creationism into public
schools because I believe it is based on a false understanding of
science, Evolution is a theory. At the present time, it is the
glorious all pervasive theory of biology. But if biology follows path of other sciences, astronomy, physics, and chemistry, it
see this theory change and most likely even be replaced by
theories. Science is self-correcting, partly, I'm sure, because theories are subject to scrutiny by all members of its
community. The scientist is not generally anti-God. His task is to understand
how the material universe works. As a Christian, to paraphrase
Kant, I would suggest that we cannot help but be filled with awe
we study the heavens above, or the feedback mechanisms of enzymes within, as well as experiencing the need for values for
I oppose legislating Biblical Christianity into schools because is do so would interfere with the prophetic voice of the Church by tying its interests to that of the State. An important aspect of Judaism and Christianity is the need to speak out against the wrongs of the State, whether in the fields of war, censorship. nuclear power, abortion, the abuse of the poor, or the lack of medical facilities. By demanding special privileges for our doctrines we lose the ability to speak out on critical issues, and speak out, we must.
Lastly, I oppose trying to legislate the teaching of Biblical Creationism into schools because I don't think the legislators could do it properly. I work as a grievance chairperson and use the Stale education code a lot. Anyone who has read that mass of redundant inconsistency could not possibly be in favor of having that group of legislators write or prescribe anything they were in favor of.
Dr. Jappe has already defined the various kinds of creationisn. The way in which I use the term Creationism is the extreme evolutionist point of view which holds to a belief in a young eart h. six to ten thousand years old, to the necessity for a universal deluge and to a relative fixity of species. In all the states in the USA (over the last dozen years or so there have been about twenty them), which have had Bills in their state legislatures to mandate the teaching of Creationism in the schools, these have been points of view behind the individuals who lobbied for and wrote the model Bills. Theistic evolutionists are those who believe that God directs the course of evolution toward a goal and purpose none of the organizations representing that form of theistic evolution or evolutionary theism are in fact part of the political struggle to get Creationism mandated in the public schools.
I, of course, take the negative in the present question. My
reason for doing so is that evolution theory is not mandated.
only mandates of Congress, and in the State of California, u
the California Constitution and the State Education Code, reaquires
merely that a modern and up to date education in the sciences
provided for the children in the public schools. Decisions regard
ing textbook adoption are left to the State Board of Education
to local districts.
Creationism is a strictly religious point of view vigorously sup ported by some religious persons and sects, and as vigorously posed by other religious persons and sects, almost all of broadly Judaeo-Christian. The arguments favoring mandating Creationism have been dealt with by the courts and judicial bodies over the last decade to fifteen years; they have ruled consistently so far that Creationism is religious and has no place in the science curriculum of a public school. One of these citations is: the California State Attorney General's opinion, April 2, 1975. Again in Burston vs Wilson, United States Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Clark stated in 1952, "The State has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them."
The claim has been made that teaching evolutionary biology is a religion in itself, which is offensive to the beliefs of the fiat Creationists, hence, in violation of both the establishment and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. The courts have never agreed that evolutionary biology is a religious view. However, in the Amish case, the ruling of the Supreme Court notes the existence of remedies for religious objectors. The State maintains a high interest in a creditable education in the sciences for a majority and provides exemption or the choice of a parochial education for objectors. In Daniel vs Waters, the Tennessee case in 1975 which struck down an equal time for Creationism proposal similar to those in other states, the Court for the Sixth District in Tennessee held: "There is, and can be no doubt that the First Amendment does not require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma."
Again I affirm the negative because the allegation of fiat Creationists that evolution is a religion, the religion of humanism, is false. I don't know of anyone better equipped to speak to this point than myself, as past President of the American Humanist Association and a member of its Board of Directors for the past eighteen years. Creationists claim widely that evolution is a tenet or a creed of Secular Humanism or Humanism. All of the current State legislative Bills rest on this allegation. It is claimed that evolution is a tenet of Humanism, that Humanism is a religion, and that therefore it should not be taught in science classes lest it violate the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. These statements are false for the following reasons. Neither the State or the Federal Government nor its judiciary may define the mission of a church or define the beliefs of any faith. Only the adherents of a faith may do that, or its authorized leaders or both, as is the democratic tradition within humanism. The American Humanist Association is this nation's largest humanist organization. It's structure provides that its leaders and its members alone define the meaning of Humanism in its late twentieth century variety of expression. Evolutionary theory is not a tenet, creed, or required belief for membership in the American Humanist Association. It never has been and it never will be. No Humanist applying for membership need pass an evolutionary belief litmus test nor need even know anything about evolutionary theory.
The fact that most Humanists accept evolutionary theory as well established in science is of no more importance than the demonstrable fact that large numbers of Protestants, Catholics and Jews also accept evolutionary- theory as well established in science. To illustrate this let me remark about two cases: in Dallas in the month of April, 1977, when the Dallas Independent School District adopted one of the Creationist texts by the name of, Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity, published by Zondervan Publishing Company, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy organized an opposition to the adoption of it. Of the signatories, a statement was produced declaring: "The principal reason for our objection is that this textbook is expressly and avowedly organized in terms of sectarian religious beliefs." Again on January 27, 1980, in the city of Atlanta thirty-nine of the religious leaders of the Atlanta Ministerial Association representing Congregational, Episcopalian, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Unitarian bodies petitioned the Georgia House of Representatives to oppose the so-called House Bill #690, which was narrowly defeated in the State of Georgia not by a vote, but by a motion to adjourn sine die. They opposed this Bill which would have mandated the Equal Time Theory, the Young Earth Theory, the Noachian Flood Theory, and the Fixity of Species Theory. They opposed this on the grounds that it was the establishment of dogma in the schools, and, again, there was not a Humanist among them.
Allegations that evolutionary theory is a tenet or creedal belief peculiar to and almost limited to Secular Humanism is denied by Humanist leaders and members who alone define the tenets and beliefs of the Humanist faith. Allegations to the contrary come almost exclusively from the extreme minority wing of fundamentalist Protestantism and from pressure groups interorbital with right wing fundamentalist groups.
The inverse allegation that all evolutionists are atheists and that evolution is atheistic is common only to the publications of fiat Creationist groups: even such remarkable statements as "no Christian can be an evolutionist". Thus, the claim that evolution is a religion, the religion of Humanism, is refuted. Inasmuch as this issue is pivotal to the success of any legislative act or court case in which this view is argued, it fails.
As a Christian, a scientist, and an educator I too answer the question with a "No". Biblical Creation should not be legislated into our schools, but neither should we legislate it out. The real problem we have is how we can best serve the educational needs of our children. The controversy that has been raised between creationism and evolution over the last hundred years has really come about because of a misunderstanding of the philosophical foundations of science, the methods of science, and what science really has to say.
To begin with, neither creation nor evolution are scientific theories. Science has very rigid standards as to what it accepts as a theory. The method of science is the method of observation and experimentation with the so-called facts of science that scientists call data. In order for data to be admissable into science there are basically three criteria. The first criterion is that the data must be observable; the observations must also be recordable for retrieval and comparison with later data. The data arp then accumulated into laws and the laws become fixtures ui science: for example, the relationship between the pressure of a gas and its temperature ... But the laws in themselves do not constitute a theory. In order for a scientist to come up with a theory, there has to be a creative component. Many scientific theories are developed partly by imagination and sometimes accidents, but the theory itself is a way of organizing the laws and the data into a comprehensive scheme.
Theories must satisfy four basic criteria. First, they should be in agreement with the data. Second, there should be internal consistency between the laws and the data themselves. Thirdly, and very importantly, they should have the ability to produce understanding of the laws that hitherto were not necessarily completely understood. And fourthly, they should propose new hypotheses which could be tested by experiment. A theory that has no test, and cannot be in principal falsified, does not constitute a scientific theory. This means for example, that creation is not a theory because it cannot predict any new events which are testable by experiment. But neither is evolution a theory, because evolution cannot predict what new species are going to be, and evolution cannot be falsified. You open a typical biology book and you'll see a tree of evolution. If, for example, scientists were to dig up new fossils that disagreed with parts of the tree, the evolutionists would just rearrange the branches. Evolution in principal is not falsifiable, it cannot predict anything new, and it does not even correlate the data very well. However, creation and evolution are paradigms of science: they are ways of looking at the data and interpreting the data. Since neither evolution nor creation are scientific theories, it is my proposal that both paradigms be allowed to be taught in public schools. Ideally, the instructor would allow for discussion from both perspectives and this would encourage critical thinking on the part of the students rather than promoting lazy, closed-minded intellects, which are detrimental to the educational process.
I would like to explore some of the consequences that we face if we allow only evolution to be taught in OUT schools. What has made science great is the fact that it has proceeded on an unproven assumption: the assumption of reductionism. If we assume that evolution has occurred, then we can say that therefore biology and living systems can be explained in terms of chemistry, and that chemistry can, in turn, be explained in terms of physics. The hope of biological evolutionists is to completely explain human behavior and everything about the universe simply in terms of the laws of physics. That is reductionism, the basic assumption that evolutionists proceed by and that has led to many developments in science.
A famous evolutionist, Albert Szent Gy6rgyi A Nobel Prize winning biologist for his work in the discovery and work in vitamin A, says " In my hunt for the secret of life, I started my search in histology. Unsatisfied by information that cellular morphology could give me about life I turned to physiology. Finding physiology too complex, I took up pharmacology. Still finding the situation too complicated I turned to bacteriology. But bacteria were even too complex, so I descended to the molecular level studying chemistry and physical chemistry. After twenty years of work I was led to conclude that to understand life we have to descend to the electronic level and to the world of wave mechanics. But electrons are just electrons and have no life at all. Evidently, along the way, I lost life. It had run out between my fingers." One of the grave implications of teaching solely evolution in our public schools is that by proceeding with an evolutionary reductionistic ethic, life is reduced simply to the meaning of an electron. But an electron has no inherent meaning. One electron is the same as all electrons. One electron has no life, no consciousness. Therefore, our children are being programmed and indoctrinated to the belief that they, themselves, have no meaning.
Another aspect of reductionism is that the whole can be understood in terms of the sum of its parts. But what I've tried to show is that we cannot understand life and the processes of life in terms of simply the physics of an electron. Scientists are now beginning to realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that reductionism, has failed, and that, in fact, it has left residues, unexplained assumptions, and ad hoc assumptions all along the way.Teaching only evolution in our public schools is detrimental to the educational process. The most beneficial thin that we can do for our children is to teach both sides of the question, since le are scientific theories, but are rather belief systems. Since th.J1 tion of origins has plagued man since time immemorial, the way we can serve the educational needs of our students is to both Creation and Evolution, leaving it up to the discretion of instructor.
Robert Ball is a member of the Department of Biology at Diego Mesa College, and is responsible for teaching courses in the field of biology, He received his Bachelor's Degree from San Diego State University, and has done graduate work at the University of California as well as San Diego State University.
The question, "Should Biblical Creationism be legislated in public schools?" is not the real issue. This question has air been answered by the California Attorney General in 1975, w he stated that religious beliefs may be discussed in public sch provided they "do not constitute instruction in religious principals or aid any religious sect, church, creed or sectarian purpose." And I further doubt that many protagonists of the evolutionary theory would object to the advent of creationism in the classroom. real question is under what guise it should be presented-as a true science or as a religious philosophy? This question leads us to separate theses that the creationists would like us to believe: that the creation theory which parallels Biblical Creationism scientifically oriented and sound; and (2) that evolutionary th and its model systems are based on a set of philosophical be and therefore it, in itself, is also categorically a religion. The statement allows for the legislation of a fundamentalist system masquerading as science into public schools. The se position allows for the removal of an albatross from the neck fundamentalists, by removing evolutionary biology from the curriculum of science classes. This, in fact, would be the accomplish ment of an old political goal through a new tactic: the transmuta tion of a theological concept into science, and of a scientific concept into religious philosophy, once again, drawing the creation/ evolution issue back into the political arena.
There is an inherent danger in this approach. Can such questions as "Is the creationist philosophy a religious minority position or true science?", be answered by a scientifically lay group such the state legislature, or state and local school boards without necessary backgrounds of experience? What does the lesson Russian Lysenkoism, teach us about science and politics? If scientific community acknowledges that evolutionary biology been derived from scientific empiricism, then we must also ask scientific creationist to acknowledge, for the sake of intellectual honesty, that the origin of the creationist hypothesis is the lit interpretation of Genesis. Both models could then be investigation and verified or rejected by the scientific method. It would therefore be apparent that the creationist account of origins, well as other statements within Genesis that have biological ap plications, must come under the scrutiny of scientific examination if it is to be included within the framework of science. Until this is done, it is not rationally possible to present creationism within a science class. If scientific creationism is presented honestly it becomes a religion. If it is presented in the light of its biblical origin then it becomes historically and scholastically fallible. Creationism is a concept whose origin is in a philosophical belief system that has no possibility of empirical examination. Evolutionary biology, on the other hand, is a concept born out of scientific data, whose origin was within the context of the scientific method. The scientific method is a process which sets the limits within scientific investigation. If evolutionary theory is wrong, it will be ultimately be lost to science through the integrity of the constraints of the scientific method.
The creationists want a two model system, i.e., evolution and creationism in science classes. They declare, "it is not the introduction of the Bible or biblical stories about creation into the science books or classroom." and "It is a fair and balanced presentation of the evidence and arguments both pro and con relative to both models and origins." In addition to this emotional approach to the inclusion of scientific creationism in science classes they also have a series of textbooks and pamphlets put out by the Creation Science Research Center. Examples of such books entitled, Scientific Creationism, and Evolution? The Fossils say 'No', are nothing more than polemical attacks on evidences for evolution; the Center wants these textbooks as reference texts for creationism within the classroom. A book recently written by Moore and Schlusher, two creationists, is an example of a text reported to be objective, scientific and non-sectarian, entitled, Biology-A Search for Order and Complexity. It is permeated with statements advancing the notion that, in fact, scientific creationism and Biblical Creationism are, in fact, one and the same. The book was recently rejected for use in the school system in Indiana by the Indiana Superior Court. The court's verdict was an embarrassing judicial expose of the thrust of modern day creationism. The court declared, "clearly the purpose of a Search for Order and Complexity is the promotion and inclusion of fundamentalist Christian doctrine in the public schools. Any doubt to the text's fairness is dispelled by the demand for correct Christian answers as instructed in the Teachers' Guide. The prospect of biology teachers and students alike forced to answer and respond to correct fundamentalist Christian doctrines has no place in the public schools." If one examines the creationists' literature, it becomes clear that what they really want to do is critique evolution. Science, by the way, already does that.
In fact, the creationists have no scientific model. Should the basic tenets of fundamentalist creation hypothesis be taught in public schools? Why not? But not as science, not as a mandated curriculum, but within a framework of elective courses dealing with comparative religious thought about origins. There is no reason to curtail the various biblical and religious accounts of creation of creationism if they are approached within a proper theological and epistemological system. Such a course would be theologically sound and be presented within an academically honest environment.
It is apparent, though, that the fundamental philosophical issue of this whole question is still the argument of evolution versus creation despite the appeal for democratic fairness, that is, equal time for the creationist point of view. In summary, there are at least six main reasons why Biblical Creationism, which is in effect, scientific creationism, should not be taught in science classes: (1) creationism is unscientific; (2) creationism forces the rejection of observations and data that contradict it . . . data ranging from molecular genetics to geology; (3) creationism constitutes a religiously mandated minority position; (4) scientific creationism is deceptive in the sense that no scientific research has been published supporting a creationist model, that is, there is no creationist model, only a restatement of biblical creation; (5) teacher training in the sciences does not prepare them for the presentation of theological materials; and (6) the teaching of creationism is illegal.
I would like to close with an idea that has been recognized within the philosophical framework of many Christians: when our faith becomes dependent upon scientific proof, we can never be sure and secure, and therefore we will always need more proof. We will always be afraid of every unknown or unfamiliar situation, including the advances brought on by expanding scientific knowledge, because we will always feel the need to defend such faith by finding fault with the expanding science. It is the difference between believing facts about God and his world and trusting in God and his world. The first kind of belief requires tangible empirical evidence, while the other involves a trust coming from the Holy Spirit working within our hearts.