Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Evolution of Creationism?

A recent On the Media episode explored the way in which evolution is discussed in Texas science textbooks. (Since Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks, their decisions impact textbook writing for the nation). The state once required creationism to be taught alongside evolution as "competing theories." Part of the problem is the word theory, which in some cases connotes speculation or suspicion. To scientists, however, the word means a unifying explanation of a range of phenomena that is testable and verifiable. By this standard, creationism and evolution are not competing theories; only evolution offers empirical data.

But, since it's hard to find a scientist of any repute to endorse creationism or to challenge evolution, the position of the religious right has "evolved" into a more insidious challenge. Textbooks now insist that all terms -- including, perhaps especially, evolution -- are to be examined for their advantages and disadvantages. This is the ultimate aim of the relativist: to see all knowledge as flawed resists the idea that some knowledge is more valid than others.

Are we to treat genocide, for example, as a "theory" in deference to deniers?

What of the man-made environmental catastrophes we currently face?

What of politicians caught in scandals who say, "Am I perfect? No." Aren't they hiding behind the idea that everyone is flawed, so we can never really judge anyone's actions?

Where else do you see the fight over truth being waged?


Zack said...

I have no problem with people believing in Creationism over Evolution. No one has yet to come up with a concrete answer that no one can deny. Therefore, I have no problem with Creationism having a home in textbooks as long as they are not marked as factual. Part of the allure of believing in Creationism is that there really is no data, unless you count the bible. Creationism is all about faith and believing that something no matter. That doesn't mean that anyone is dumb it just means that that is what they have chosen to believe. Let there be Creationism in textbooks just don't cite it as fact.

This may not be exactly the right answer but as far as "the fight over truth being waged," I believe that it is true in Pro baseball. Many players think that it is ok to use steroids because everybody else is. Due to the widespread steroid use players felt like they were doing nothing wrong because it is what needed to be done to survive in the major league.

Max Rice said...

The fact of genocide to the fact of the THEORY of evolution is a mean, and unfair comparison. You are making it seem like that creationists are in the same league as holocaust deniers, which clearly has a connotation of being outrageously ignorant and racist. But the truth is, unlike the recent genocides that took place in this century, the creation of the universe took place millions of years of ago. And scientists didnt have first hand accounts, they had to make speculations. Because the main problem that scientists face is how are we here, when the number one rule of science is that matter can not be created. Since, as of today, matter can not be created, scientists thought of a scenario where anti matter built up and some how turned into matter. That is just a theory, built up on a non substantial amount of scientific data. While creationism, which many believe co-exists with evolution, can not be ignored as an unvalid explanation of how life came to be. As it not only explains how matter was created, by an intelligent designer aka God, but also it explains how the universe, especially earth were able to sustain itself for so many years. If earth was a few miles closer to the sun, rotated a few degrees differently, spun a little slower, didnt have a moon, didnt have a sun, venus didnt exist and literally an infinite amount of other factors occured earth would perish. And not only is it remarkable that earth is sustainable for life, but furthermore how life is able to evolve and not perish. Under the rules of evolution the odds of life evolving without perishing is astronomical, or impossible without some help. Creationism expalins how an intelligent designer gave life a helping hand. Gave life the neccesarry instincts that it could not have learned on its on, like reproduction and hunting. Since the odds of us being here right not now are so insanely minute and go so against the laws of natural evolution its completely valid that an inteligent designer atleast somehow helped out in the development of the universe and life. Since creationism isnt the crazy talk you make it seem to be students should have the right to see both sides of the issue, as of now, their is no definitive answer to the question. By the way, God Bless Texas!!!

Matt H said...

Personally, I cannot believe that people would actually believe that everything on Earth was made at once. There's no scientific evidence that can even come close to supporting Creationism. I have no problem with going over what it is in school, but Evolution is the truth of how we all got to where we are today. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that supports Evolution.

I also believe that as far as judging other people's actions are concerned, it is ok for me to judge other people and for other people to judge me. No one's perfect and because of that, we all can judge each other.

andrea said...

I agree with what Zack said. No one has yet come up with a concrete answer for evolution vs. creationism as competing theories, therefore neither one of them can be completely factually accepted or denied. Only opinionated. I believe that it is important for everyone to have all the information presented to them so they can make the decision which theory they believe. As they said in the podcast that students should analyze "all sides of scientific theories". That would be like if we were taught only about the republican party, and were not offered democratic ideas. We should be presented with both ideas so we can make our own educated decision regarding which party we side with. I feel as though they can both be in textbooks as theories, however not as facts, because that causes controversies. If one is offended by the idea of religion, then they should decide that evolution is the correct theory, however they must make an educated decision, meaning they explored both sides.

Jackie said...

The problem then with being presented with both ideas, at least the problem that becomes evident to me, is separation between church and state. Creationism is truly a religious idea. You can't believe in creationism and not believe in a God. But how can you present school children with religious ideas and still be following the constitution? Not to mention the huge variety of creationist theories. The way Hindus believed the world started is different from Muslims, is different from Christians. So which do you put in? Do you just say, "creationism is the theory that some other being created everything"? Learning doesn't really work that way. Although, I for one, studied evolution as a sixth grader, and I have to say, no part of me questioned my religion because of that unit. That came much much later, and had nothing to do with the idea of evolution.

The whole relativist thing is a different issue. I am the ultimate relativist, and that will probably never change. Because we can’t prove it, the theory is obviously flawed, but I think it’s impossible to say that creationism is more flawed than the evolutionary theory. Because we believe the evolutionary theory more it’s less flawed? But some other person may not believe that! I have my beliefs on the issue, but I would never say someone else’s beliefs are wrong. Therefore, you must teach both. Now how, once again, is a whole different issue.

I'm not saying I have the answer, because I sure don't, I'm just adding in another important thing to consider.

Matt M said...

Hey jackie, did you realize that our nation does not seperate church and state? Have you said the pledge allegence lately? Because I have and it says UNDER GOD and children say it all the time in their schools. Also, I have never seen nor heard of "empirical data" concerning the big bang. There is no evidence! How could a world so complicated be created by a random explosion? And the chances of that "explosion" happening are close to zero, and in my opinion, zero. Up until the 20th century, almost all people believed in creationism who believed in God. But, today's society views creationists as crazy and evolution as the only true way of how the world became the way it is. New Trier rarely acknowledges how creationism is a way the world could be created and that angers me. They need to show both sides of belief. The big bang is impossible to prove and if anyone tells you it is true, they are wrong. They have no evidence to back it up.

Jackie said...

What are you arguing though? The blog post was about whether or not you should teach both evolutionism and creationism, and you just basically backed up my point by stating that everybody has different beliefs. I am in no way disagreeing about whether or not creationism is real, or even about whether or not the big bang happened. Which of those arguments is true, is actually completely irrelevant to this whole discussion. Both theories are flawed, there is no denying that, but we can't ignore one and teach the other. Besides, you ignored my other important point about what type of creationism we should teach? Is it Christian? But how do you know that it was created the way the bible said and not the way the Qur’an said? The same way that nobody can say whether or not the big bang started the universe.

In conclusion, the big bang theory didn’t come out of thin air, there is evidence to support it. How else would somebody think of it? But once, again, the truth of creationism versus evolutionism is irrelevant. What we really should care about is whether or not they are both taught in schools.

Max Rice said...

Jackie, "the truth of creationism versus evolutionism" (which isnt a word)is completely relevant. Schools have an obligation to teach students the truth not whats convenient. And teaching students facts in no way violates any U.S. law. Should we stop teaching students that killing and stealing are wrong just because both of those ideas come from the ten commandments? And Jackie, Creationism is the idea that an intelligent designer helped out in the creation of the earth, and does not endorse any particular religion. Its not like Texas is asking students to open up their text books to ezekial 25:17. And as I stated earlier just based on common sense, along with other evidence, creationism can not be written off as an invalid idea. Schools have responsibility to teach the truth, all of it.

Matt H said...

Is there even any evidence that all worlds, galaxies, and the universe was created all at once? Also, do you believe that dinosaurs were once here on the planet? People need religion for one reason- we all need something to believe in! I personally believe that we EVOLVED from a type of Ape and not that humans, dogs, ants, cows, and whales were all created at once. There may not be evidence that the Big Bang happened or that Creationism happened, but I'm arguing in the survival of the fittest, something that has been proved many times.

By the way, I have a question for you-
Who wrote all of the Bibles/ Torahs/Qur’ans/Kitáb-i-Aqdas'/ any other religious book?
Answer- MEN!!!!!
We came up with the idea of God(s) because we, as humans, need to believe in something. I mainly believe in science, but I have some Agnostic beliefs as well.

Jackie said...

Once again, you missed the point. I am NOT saying one is right and the other is wrong. I'm just defending the idea of the evolutionary theory compared to creationism, and vice versa. Creationism is a very valid idea, there is no denying that. And I in no part of those posts said that I didn't believe in creationism, you for some reason assumed that. And about the intelligent design definition, that is a very nice definition, and I have heard it before, but what happens when a child asks how? Is the way creationism is going to be taught by just giving them a definition? Plus, what you are saying with the "schools should teach the truth not what's convenient"? It's not convenient to teach evolutionary theory or creationism, because both push buttons. There are no concrete facts about evolution or creationism. Therefore, we aren't teaching are students facts no matter which side we teach. If we wanted to only teach facts we wouldn’t teach either. But we can't do that, so we have to teach both.

Miles said...

Wow! can anyone say "drama"?
I can, "drama"!

Anyway, on the argument presented(should schools teach evolutionism [which is a word, Max, open a dictionary instead of talking out your...] or creationism?) I have to take a somewhat relativist/biased approach.
I don't go to church, and the times I have been were on holidays, so I don't hear any sermons about creationism, but I have been raised in a household that believes in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. This theory is what I have accepted as truth, not creationism. I admit I'm completely ignorant to the ideas/claims that creationism offers, so perhaps I have no place criticizing it, SO I WONT(quote it).
As a believer of Darwin's theory of evolution, theory being the operative word, I believe that it should DEFINITELY be taught in textbooks. Going along with Mr. O'Connor's claim that it has "empirical evidence," I cannot find any reason why it should not be taught. We learn in biology and environmental science that Darwin studied the evolution of finches, among other species in the Galapagos Islands. It is the theory of evolution that developed from his studies there. One can view that theory how they want, but must be reminded that there is compelling evidence that shows we, humans, are descended from apes, genetic research backs that fact up, there's no doubt about it. So I believe, that in the very least, Darwin's theory should be taught in schools.
On the issue of Creationism, like I said earlier, I have no thoughts.
I do believe in a higher power, whether it is God, or some unworldly entity I don't know.
So, I believe that evolution exists, and I believe that a higher power exists. This apparent contradiction sometimes makes me wonder, did this higher power possibly create the unuverse thus creating the "big bang" and thus creating evolution? That is an option that I find possible for myself. Whether that theory is wrong or right in your opinion does not matter to me, so don't attack me for it, it's just a theory, like the theories of Creationism and evolution.

To answer the question, I believe evolution SHOULD be taught in schools. With regards to Creationism, I believe it has no place in the science classroom, but rather in social studies, due to the fact that students study other religions in social studies and because religion is a social subject. Perhaps, in schools that integrate social studies and biological science could adopt both teachings and EDUCATE the students by explaining both subjects in detail. I find that the main point missing in the argument above is the lack of respect for the student and education. For a person to be truly educated on a subject, they need to be able to grasp the ideas of each respective argument, whether the argument be Palestinians vs. Jews, which bailout plan is better, or the theories of evolution and Creationism. We don't need to sit here and argue which idea is right or wrong, that's not what the question is about, it's about education, first and foremost. So take your bantering elsewhere, this is an educational forum, not the no spin zone.

End of thread!

LukeHG said...

DONT READ THIS COMMENT IF you have deep beliefs in creationism and you are an irrational person.
For me the question, "should creationism be taught in schools along side evolution?," is an easy one to answer. No, because evolution has "empirical data" and creationism does not. As defined by Merriam-Webster, science is,"knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding." Since there is proven data supporting evolution, and not creationism. Thus making evolution knowledge/Science and almost making creationism(I mean that in the weakest connotation not to piss off people, but I am pretty such people are going to get all up in arms after I do this but..)ignorance. Do you think schools should teach ignorance to there students? To clear things up I am fine with people believing in creationism, I just don't think it should be taught as an equal to evolution which is based on evidence.
This is the link to the definition of science by Merriam-Webster

Max Rice said...

First off, miles I believe the word you were looking for is ass. And just to please Bolos when I talk of creationism, inteligent design etc. I am talking about the theory that a higher being had a hand in the creation of earth and the universe. And their really is not "empirical" evidence of true evolution. I actually contend that true evolution is mathematically and scientifically impossible. As if matter can not be created, the their is nothing to be evolved from. Furthermore it is pretty much mathematically impossible that for an infinite amount of factors that life, do to the rules of evolution, could have survived for so long without being wiped. Therefore some sort of source of intelligence , whether it be God, Elron Hubbard, or Mike Ditka had a hand in the creation and evolution of life. Now the main problem that I see is in this whole debate, is the assault on religion. Doc Oc hinted in this post that any theory other than evolution was meritless. And in my own experience as a biology student, my teacher made it clear that evolution was the only explanation of life. While im not neccesarily calling for the mandatory teaching of intelligent design, I am asking for the tolerance and acceptance of it. Intelligent design is a valid theory and it creates an un-safe learning environment when students are chastised for believing in it.

Kate H said...

I feel like no matter what any one says the thought of creationism has no evidence! The Bible does not count because there is no evidence it such as dates and figures. Just like Doc OC says "The BOOK call the Bible". I find it to be just a book just like Harry Potter is a book of fantasy the only evidence in HP is the station 9 1/3 well guess what that was created after the book. What proof do we have that creationism isn't a fairy tale?

Kimber said...

What a heated discussion! It seems that both the competing theories of evolution and creationism have holes in them. There is not one unified explanation of how man was created. In the analysis of either theory, there are flaws. What is wrong with letting students know that we do not understand how man was created? Just like we have not yet discovered a cure for cancer, discovering the process of how man was created is a work in progress. Furthermore, what if neither of these theories is correct? We could be disagreeing and arguing over two incorrect ideas.

walt said...

I would put my self as an in between creationism and evolution. But here are just a few thoughts,
1. In 1965 it was scientific fact the the reason dinosaurs died out was becuase they couldn't adapt to their surroundings
2. You don't need to tell kids to believe in one thing, they could just know about both of them
and 3. All you big bang people, if there really was one "big bang" and everything was created after that, then one created that one bit of matter that started it all?
I personally believe that someone had to of created that matter to start all life and then all the process afterward occured

KBolos said...

Hello, New Trier students! This is Bolos daughter number one and I'm officially joining this blog. I wanna meet you guys; this debate and your comments are so interesting to me! I should be doing my homework right now... sshhh don't tell my dad! :)

TO ZACK: You're suggesting that Creationism could and should be placed within /scientific/ textbooks? Creationism is based purely on faith and science is based on empirical evidence. Science does not discuss an idea as the potential "answer" simply because "it's written..." The Bible, though sacred to many, cannot be used as a scientific source. I know you're saying "just don't label Creationism as fact" but that's not how science works. You don't just throw something into a science textbook that has absolutely no data backing it up. I could say that a levitating piece of swiss cheese created the world and there's no way you would put that in a student's science book! Oh yeah and separation of church and state wouldn't allow this anyway, unless you want every single religion's "theories" on how the universe was made inside a biology book... Nope that's a theology class.

TO MAX: THEORY in science does not equal your definition of THEORY. A theory in science, as the podcast explained, unifies and explains all the FACTS we have found thus far in the best way we can right now. It's not just a supposition. It's the best explanation we have and we accept it not only as fact but as higher than fact. I do agree with you, the comparison to those who "theorize" that the Holocaust didn't happen doesn't make sense at all. That's the type of "suppostion theory" that science doesn't use. I don't think it's a fair comparison. But moving on to the rest of your comment, how can you possibly use the expression "both sides of the issue"? There aren't just two sides to this! It's arrogant to think that only the Christian idea of how the world came to be is worthy of being included. There are many other religions with many different ideas; you can't possibly include them all! Evolution is the only SCIENTIFIC theory we are given and we're talking about SCIENCE classes, not theology. I would never say students shouldn't research the creation ideas of different religions (I think that's incredibly healthy exploration) but the place for that is not in a science class.

TO MATT: I don't know why you included your last comment but since you did I'll respond to it. Just because humans can judge each other (we obviously have the ability to) doesn't mean we should.

TO ANDREA: ahhh no this is the same issue! Evolution and Creationism are NOT COMPETING THEORIES! Evolution is a SCIENTIFIC theory, with evidence, and Creationism is a RELIGIOUS theory, based on faith. They're not at all comparable in my mind. A science teacher can't teach faith. They teach facts, data, evidence, etc. Sure they can acknowledge that there are other /beliefs/ out there but a science teacher has absolutely no obligation to include religion in their curriculum because there are no facts. The students can take a theology class or research religion themselves.

KBolos said...

TO JACKIE: wait I was totally in agreement with your first paragraph and then you said we have to teach both...

HEY MATT M: I have no idea what you got so angry about... Anyway first off the big bang and evolution are entirely different theories and you lumping them together shows that maybe you should do more research before firing off about evidence and church and state. Second, yeah we do have under God in the pledge. That doesn't mean it's right. Not everyone in our nation believes in God. Our government has made mistakes before (i.e. slavery? Jim Crow laws? Waiting until the 20th century to give Native Americans citizenship? Waiting until 1920 to give women the vote? etc) and I believe our pledge (not just the under God part but overall) is one of them. But that's a different debate. Ah and again with the "both sides" thing. You said both sides of /belief/? Okay, creationism is a belief; like I said, it's faith. Evolution (not talking about the Big Bang) is a scientific theory. See my above comments for my multiple rants about the difference between the two.

COMMENTS FOR THE DEBATE B/W MAX MATT AND JACKIE: maybe I should clarify that just because a school is not teaching creationism does not mean that they are "writing it off as invalid." A science class doesn't have any obligation to teach an idea with no evidence besides the Bible, no matter how strongly somone believes it.

And just a random comment/idea/question: I don't understand why people are so adamant to get this into classrooms anyway! If you/your child already believes it, then you're learning it at home and at church already. Why do you want it in school so badly? And if you don't believe it, you obviously aren't going to fight for it. So I'm really confused as to why people want Creationism in the classroom at all.

Matt H. you're making the most sense to me.

Jackie I don't understand why you think there are no concrete facts about evolution…

Hahaha! Miles you made me laugh for the first time throughout this, thanks man! ...And I just read your whole comment, excellent! I like how you did everything with a light-hearted but still very intelligent tone... I should work on calming down :D

Thank goodness. Luke ya made my day. No comment except you're right and you explained everything well. The sense has come back to this discussion!!

...and the sense is gone again. Max do you have any data or research at all to back up anything you're saying? and also your biology teacher made it clear that evolution is the only SCIENTIFIC theory with enough data to explain life. Nobody's assaulting religion, calm down. And if you're suddenly saying you aren't calling for the mandatory teaching of religion then what are you arguing? Everything you said just became irrelevant.

Kimber I really like the angle you took on this; you're right, there shouldn't be anything wrong with saying we're not entirely sure. But I do think that the leading and widely accepted scientific theory with the most evidence should be taught.

THAT WAS REALLY LONG. sorry guys. hope I didn't get too heated/offensive, that's just kinda how I am sometimes :]

GreaserthrowbackGirl said...

We have proof that evolution existed, and scientific evidence to back up our information about the big bang. However, we have no idea as to whether or not the Earth was created in only six days by God alone, and no one to record that information. People didn't understand how the Earth was created, and so came up with creation stories, and theories in order to get rid of the fear and ignorance that was felt. Christians laugh at different types of creationism, but not their own, though they're all different theories. Also, Religion shouln't be taught in a science class, because 1. seperation of church and state, and 2. we have no evidence to back up the many creationist theories.