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A uniquely American debate, the argument over Creation versus Evolution ties together politics, religion, education, and science. Creation (or "Creation Science" or creationism) holds that the various species of animals — including Homo sapiens (man) — and plants on earth arose already in their present forms, usually at the direction of God. Evolution holds that all species arose through changes in prior, more simple species, with man and the great apes (and the other simians) having a common ancestor.
Kansas State Board of Education
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Haym Salomon would disagree. So would millions of Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, and atheist American citizens.
Martin's quote attempts to justify changing state public school curricula by altering the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations. She wants to include supernatural, pseudo-scientific explanations. The result will be students unqualified to compete for jobs in a technological economy.
In the meantime, Martin also voices the hope that the United States becomes a theocracy where non-Christians are disenfranchised and stripped of their citizenship. Martin is quite wrong! The United States is a secular nation where people of all faiths — and indeed people of no faith whatsoever — have the right to be free of government-imposed dogma, including dogma contained in public school curricula.
6 May 2005
Since even its supporters use the term theory of evolution, its opponents deride it as merely a theory. This, however, merely exposes the ignorance of creationists regarding science. A scientific theory is not a mere guess, something to be dismissed as if it were a conjecture. A theory is a scientific principle derived through logical inference from carefully conducted experiments or from collected observations. The whole of the evidence is weighed when developing a theory. And when new evidence is found to contradict the theory, the evidence rules: The theory must then be changed.
Denigrating evolution as merely a theory flared up in Cobb County, Georgia (suburban to Atlanta) in November 2004, when the school board there inserted stickers in biology text books. The stickers assert evolution is "a theory, not a fact" that should be "critically considered." The school board clearly showed its ignorance regarding scientific theories, bringing into question its own fitness to lead a system of education.
The importance of the fight over Creationism and its Intelligent Design clone seems to involve the substitution of religious dogma for science in school curricula. However, this is really just a part of a larger issue in which both dogma and politics (often working in partnership) reject the validity of science. We now (2001-2008) have a national administration that rejects scientific studies when making decisions about the environment, medicine, and climate. The new administration (2009) seems more willing to embrace science over pseudo-science.
Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation.
Philip Pizzo, Dean of the School of Medicine,
It [the anti-evolution movement] is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true.
Kenneth Miller, Biologist
We already have a population that readily believes in astrology, psychics, and medical quackery. Anti-science attitudes threaten the technological supremacy of the U.S. economy.
Source of quotes: Yahoo/Reuters, 28 Oct 05
Calling it Creation Science does not make it scientific. Creationism is backwards "science". In this case (unlike a scientific theory), the proponents begin with the principle and then seek supporting evidence. Contrary evidence is ignored and discarded because the principle rules, not the evidence. Creationism is pseudo-science that cannot have the same standing as a true scientific theory. Instead, creationism is a principle of religious dogma, which does not require either logic or evidence. Thus, while creationism might deserve a platform, that platform does not belong in the Hall of Sciences.
Yes, mainstream anthropologists (studying man) and paleontologists (studying ancient life) still disagree with some of the fine details of evolution. They dispute whether it occurs slowly and continuously versus abruptly and in spurts. Regarding the evolution of Homo sapiens, they dispute the locale of the first humans, the migratory routes they followed while spreading across the world, and the chronology of those migrations. They also dispute whether our species actually evolved in a single locale and then migrated or whether the migration began before our species.
However, the basic principles of evolution are not in dispute:
Gaps in the fossil record should be expected. As climate and geology change, not all eras have deposits of silt that entomb creatures in a way that fossils can form. However, fossils of crustaceans, fish, and horses show changes consistent with evolution. Over the past half-century, fossil discoveries in Africa have produced a continuous chain of the evolution of humans from a prior primate species.
In any case, the evidence for evolution does not depend entirely on fossils. In his The Descent of Man, Darwin asserted that the chimpanzee and gorilla were man's closest relatives. Recent DNA analyses clearly show that the chimpanzee and man are indeed extremely closely related.
While some religions are anti-evolution, evolution itself is merely a scientific principle. It is no more anti-religious than are the laws of physics, chemistry, or mathematics. To the contrary, the mere fact that evolution not only works but that it led from primitive life forms to humans has strengthened the religious beliefs of some scientists. After all, how is it anti-religious to believe that God put the process in motion with a primordial "soup" of non-living organic chemicals and then stood back to watch what happened?
While some try to describe the conflict as religion versus science, the real conflict is one religion against another.
Here is the heart of the dispute. Attacks against evolution and the support of creationism occur mainly in when public schools establish their curricula. And this agitation generally occurs only in the United States. In other nations and even in some parochial schools within the U.S., this is not an issue. Evolution is taught in science classes, while creationism is relegated to religion classes. Even in nations that have government-supported religions, people recognize that religious dogma should not be used to deprive their children of a sound education.
Only in the U.S. is there pressure on government schools to teach religious dogma as science. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that evolution is science and creationism is religion and that the latter does not belong in tax-funded public schools. A parent who thinks teaching evolution violates his right to perpetuate his religion onto his children cannot ask a public school to deny other children a sound education. He certainly cannot ask a public school to promote his own religious dogma.
A parent opposed to exposing her child to evolution should home-school her child or send the child to a private school operated by her religion. Yes, her taxes might still pay to teach evolution (although the public school is likely funded according to enrollment and will suffer a loss in revenue because the child is in private school). However, that parent's taxes will also pay to teach the equality of races and genders, which is contrary to some religions. And her taxes will pay to teach our children that they should respect the religions of others, which will surely offend those who believe in the correctness and divine origins of their own religion.
The latest ploy of the creationists is Intelligent Design (ID). This new name for Creation Science grudgingly admits to evolution but with a twist. ID asserts that evolution occurs only because there is an intelligent force causing it to occur, not because random variations in traits allow some individuals to survive and reproduce better than others and thereby propagate those traits. And what is this intelligent force according to the promoters of ID? God! Pressure upon local school boards and state education authorities to include ID in biology curricula as a valid alternative to Darwinian evolution is merely an attempt to insert religious dogma into what is taught in our public schools.
The school board of the Dover School District in Pennsylvania yielded to that pressure, leading to both a federal lawsuit by parents opposed to that action and a hotly contested election. In the election, those incumbents who supported teaching Intelligent Design — a majority of the school board — were soundly defeated. In court, U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled against Intelligent Design as part of the science curriculum. Judge Jones's opinion criticized both the removed members of the Dover School Board and Intelligent Design:
With the new majority on the Dover School Board now opposed to inserting Intelligent Design into the curriculum, an appeal of Judge Jones's ruling is unlikely.
The Anti-Defamation League (America's premier human relations organization, established "… to secure justice and fair treatment to all people alike.") states:
"Creationism" — the belief that humankind was created by a divine being according to a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis — is a pseudoscientific collection of religious ideas based on varying interpretations of the Bible. Any attempt to supplant or supplement the teaching of evolution in public schools in order to promote creationism would have a religious purpose.
In a report on Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design, the People for the American Way describes Intelligent Design:
[These] groups do not concentrate their energy on producing scientific research, but on providing tactical and legal advice on introducing the topic into science classes via clubs, speakers and supplementary texts.
The January 2009 issue of Scientific American is devoted entirely to articles on evolution in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of his publication of On the Origin of Species. Among the articles is "The Latest Face of Creationism", which described how creationists themselves evolve in response to legal environments.
Creationists who want religious ideas taught as scientific fact in public schools continue to adapt to courtroom defeats by hiding their true aims under ever changing guises.
18 November 2000
Updated 2 January 2009
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