Creationism in the classroom: It exists.

Posted: August 7, 2007 in Atheism, Australia, Education, Evolution, Religion

chalk2.jpgTo any persons out there that believe the hypothesis of creationism (yes, it is not a theory. Not by a long shot.) does not currently have any impact in the classroom … bollocks to you.  I am an educator, a teacher of children in the curriculum decided upon by the state Department of Education and from the feedback I get, I’m a pretty good one.   This afternoon I had a short and reasonably civil run-in with a Creationist who queried why the topic was not given plenty of time in the classroom…

A little back story (please note, no real names of persons or school used, due to legal requirements governing confidentiality at schools); a few days before, one student had asked in class something along the lines of where people had come from.   An interesting question and one which I spent maybe five to eight minutes covering before the bell for lunch went.  Not surprisingly, I presented the scientific/evidence based scientific theory for such – other known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution.   You know the one, the one with huge amounts of evidence supporting it on the point of being utterly overwhelming in any conceivable way.   In short, I did a quick and very basic cover of that theory with the proviso (just to cover my own rear) that other theories did exist and this was only one of them.  Considering the question stemmed from the study of the Solar System, it is also the most fitting theory to present by far (talk about science, you present science. That only makes sense).

A few days later, the parent of said student makes an appointment (which is actually fantastic. When parents show up out of the blue and interrupt you doing work after school hours, it’s a pain), came to my classroom and sat down to have a short talk.  Now, this particular parent was not a problem – perfectly civil and so on. Not a problem with that parent in the slightest.

The point of the visit was.

If I am doing a science based lesson (such as the formation of the solar system) then what I present will be science and it should be no other way.  Science curriculum belongs in science lessons, if you want theories like creationism then you sit and wait until the Religious Education class, which all students have ample opportunity to take part in anyhow.

Some of you may be asking ‘why should it be that way?’ at this point.  Valid enough question but one with a pretty obvious answer.  To begin with, the validity of the creationism hypothesis is highly dubious having no independent evidence to support its case and is fundamentally based on irrational faith.  Therefore, logic and reasoning dictates that scientific findings are by far superior to ones such as creationism.

warning.jpgSecondly, if one faith based theory is presented in class then what of all the others?  Are educators obligated to give equal times to Thor and the World Tree? The Aboriginal tales of the Dreamtime? The Native American mythology? Why not the Aztec pantheon? Islam? Hinduism? They are all faith based and have just as much evidence as the other.  Therefore if Creationism is to be presented in the classroom, then every single faith based hypothesis/story must be as well – and only the greatest of fools would try to say there is time in the school day for that.  Not only that, but to attempt to teach falsehoods and primitive mythology as fact would be an exercise in gross intellectuall dishonesty and thus morally indecent.  No, not all beliefs are equal, not at all.

In short, school has little to no place for religious teaching. Schools are there to teach students how to think and pass on established and known facts.  Groundless hypothesese are not covered under that description, else topics such as ‘the celestial teapot’ or ‘the flying spaghetti monster’ would need to be part of the official curriculum.  Religious teachings such as creationism or intelligent design belong in religious organisations, such as churches or bible groups.

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Comments
  1. Chris Gray says:

    I agree, children should be encouraged to examin all the FACTS in their lives. The complexities of science and nature, the riddles in mathmatics and the wonders of human interation through language and communication.
    I have just responded to a blog on this site about the Discovery documentary “Jesus’ Tomb”. My comment is relevant here too, I strongly believe the time has come for man kind to venture into a global debate on religion and the effect on our race as a whole.

    My comment re “Jesus’ Tomb” documentary follows.

    I welcome the documentary and scrutiny of suposed facts documented in Christian scripture. I have long held the belief that we are litterally as a flock of sheep beying to every ‘Word’ laid before us in the name of ‘The Lord’ which we then absorb as ‘Gospel Truth’.

    I can’t allow myself to discredit the input of all theologens and scientist involved in the documentary. My conclution, based on the FACTS estabished during the program, is that the tomb is far more likely to be that of Jesus and his family than not!

    I accept that christians may still assert that the spirit of Christ accended regardless of where his body ended up. I however prefer to rely on factual evidence and in the entire history of man there is’t a single case which presents proof of this phenomina!

    Are we humans completely incapable of releasing the fancyful ideas we have established in the name of religion? There is soooo much that needs to be said about religion in general but the bottom line is, don’t dwell on what may or may not happen when we die NO ONE KNOWS (I’m sure however that we do live on and effectively “reborn” in the form of fertilizer!

    Lets concentrate on just LIVING and doing so in peace without the destructive influence of religion!

  2. h3nry says:

    Hi Matt, well said and nice to have discovered your blog! I am an Australian and I find it quite aweful and unfortunate that you need to be watch your backside in teaching a valid fact.

  3. laelaps says:

    Nice post! I remember when I was teaching a few lessons as a “guest teacher” in an elementary school and I was barred from talking about whale evolution because it might offend someone. I did anyway, despite the wishes of the principal, I didn’t hear anything from any parents or the school, but at that time I was largely unfamiliar withe creationism and wondered why anyone would have a problem with evolution. To be honest, at that time I thought everyone just accepted it because it had been so well supported.

    Like you said, I don’t see creationists clamoring for “equal time” or “teaching the controversy” about Nordic creation myths; just their own. And even though groups like AiG claim that they want nothing to do with getting creationism in schools (thus having potentially hostile teachers having to talk about it), they seem to put a lot of effort into showing up at teacher conferences and handing out materials to school boards in order to sway opinion.

  4. Laughable. Especially the part about overwhelming evidence to the point of there being no other way. I have interviewed the Science correspondent for the Boston Globe and a team leader in the lab at Los Alamos and evidently read enough and talked to enough scientists to know you guys are living in a dream world on evolution.

    See how convincing the arrogance sounds the other way?

  5. On a serious comment, however, I don’t think anything you said -if you indeed did mention there are other theories out there- was out of line. Evolution is a scientific model used world wide and the predominate scientific theory and you should be free to present it in school.

  6. tinyfrog says:

    Hey Matt. Good post. As the child of a creationist science teacher (yes, he taught in the public school), creationists have their own set of facts. These are strongly reinforced by various creationist websites and presentations (I see you are already familiar with the Discovery Institute, and probably with other popular groups like AIG). For creationists, saying that evolution is science and creationism is religious myth sounds (to them) like saying that gravity and air doesn’t really exist. They’ll shake their head at your supposed ignorance, knowing that they are right and you are wrong, believing that they have scientific evidence that backs them up – but the scientists and teachers have the wool pulled over their eyes. Most US schools just sidestep the whole issue of evolution for fear of parents getting upset or getting hassled. There are some creationists you can help, and many that you can’t. According to polls, more Americans believe God created humans in the last 10,000 years than believe in naturalistic evolution. Given those numbers, I’m sure teachers and schools that actually teach evolution feel like they’re trying to walk through tar pits. No wonder so many decide to do the convenient thing and skip the whole issue.

  7. notcomingdown says:

    Have you ever heard of Lee Strobel? He’s probably the most famous of many previous atheists who indeed found amble evidence to support creationism. Do you know any Hebrew AT ALL? If you did you would understand the Bible a bit better. I’m sure you’re familiar with the way it was said we were created I’ll skip that; the word for ‘day’ in Hebrew (original language of Old Testiment) has four meaning unlike our one. They are: 12 hours, 24 hours, 100,000 years and the last is an extended period of time with no real meausurement. Also, ‘light’ can also mean order and ‘dark’ chaos. So if you imply original context/meaning it could very well be ‘seven periods of chaos and order’. I think people find it hard ot believe because they think that seven days is too short. We lose a lot in translation. And the Big Bang Theory, actually it and the Bible are pretty much right on eachother, it’s the initial catalyst that’s different in both.
    Evolution has become like a religion in itself. It’s a mighty stretch to believe; it’s the worship of time (basically) in that ‘if given enough time anything could happen’. But how come one can’t breed dogs with cats? Why is it that if a fish jumps out of the water and dies that after several generations it still wont grow lungs? If we ‘evolved’ from apes, why are there still apes? And why isn’t everything one species? Charles Darwin set out looking at adaptation which some how morphed into the evolution idea.
    What’s the point if we all evolved? That means there is no point to life and that humans are just ‘highly evolved’ animals but that’s it, just animals. Isn’t it strange how everything is caterred to humans? How we have a natural instinct to find a leader, and we have emotions and a concious.

  8. titus2woman says:

    As a Christian who believes in creation, I still can appreciate your point. I DO believe that in a public school ALL theories of how it all came to be should be presented for a well-rounded education. I *personally* don’t have a problem with science theories (couldn’t help myself~forgive me! ~smile~) being what’s taught in school, because even with children who go to school, parent should be teaching such things at home! Always! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  9. Vijay says:

    To be honest, I am actually with you Matt. And I do believe in the bible and am a christian. I am actually a bit taken back by people who’ve gone onto preaching mode already on the comments 🙂 – Apart from the crazy pastor, he does kinda have his sense of humor.

    Everything aside, I do think it makes sense to keep religion and science seperate. While our faith does talk about many things which are not visible, the very nature of science is built on verification, and validity and the two shouldnt be mixed together.

    I am with you on this one.

  10. cragar says:

    This has been 30 years ago or so, but I can remember a junior high teacher teaching evolution, yet at the end I can vividly remember her bringing up intelligent design. Saying something to the effect of even though evolution exists, it could have been helped along by a creator, and even suggesting it was.

    Probably not a big deal in todays world, yet I can remember her because I was studying the Bible a lot at the time and had my own doubts.

  11. Matt says:

    notcomingdown: Your post contained, at a quick count, around seven misconceptions about the Theory of Evolution. Kindly go and research the basics of it (preferably not from sites like AiG or the Disovery Institute who are infamous for talking out their rear ends) and then come back ready to talk about it.

  12. cragar says:

    I was going to comment to notcomingdown, but got sidetracked. One of the best sites is talkorigins.org.

    I think I am going to go breed me a dog and a cat.

  13. titus2woman says:

    Sorry to bother you again~I just figured out a better way to say what I tried to express above: I don’t expect the public school system to teach my child my religion. If I did (but I believe it should come from HOME), I wouldn’t choose public school for that responsibility.

    My hat is off to you as a teacher! I know that parents are expecting their children to learn everything they need to know from you with minimal efforts from home. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  14. tinyfrog says:

    Yikes, notcomingdown. That’s quite a few misconceptions you have there. I’ll skip over most of them an comment on one in particular: “And the Big Bang Theory, actually it and the Bible are pretty much right on eachother, it’s the initial catalyst that’s different in both.” Do you really believe that the Genesis story and mainstream science agree with each other in their sequence of events? I’m always amazed when creationists say this, because they don’t agree in sequence. Here’s a rundown – Genesis:
    “In the Beginning/Day 1?”: Heavens and Earth, Day 1: Light, Day 2: Sky, Day 3: Dry land and plants, Day 4: Sun, Moon, and Stars, Day 5: Sea Creatures and Birds, Day 6: Land Animals and Man.

    Here’s mainstream science for Comparison:
    Light, Stars, [Sun, Moon, and Earth], Dry Land, Plants, Sea Creatures, Land Animals, Birds (they descended from land animals), More Sea Creatures (like Whales and Dolphins which descended from land animals), and Man.

    Here’s a few differences:

    In Genesis, the Earth is created (Day 1) before the Sun, Moon, and Stars (Day 4). In Big Bang/Evolution, the stars existed 13 billion years ago, and then the earth, moon, and Sun form (4.5 billion years ago). In fact, the earth, moon, and Sun are formed out of elements formed in previous stars.

    In Genesis, plants created on Day 3, but the Sun, Moon and Stars aren’t created until Day 4 (no mention of how the plants survived at negative 270 degrees Celsius for some undefined period of time, assuming you believe there were vast gaps between the “days”). In Big Bang/Evolution, the Sun, Moon, and Stars form billions of years before plants exist.

    In Genesis, Birds and Whales (Sea Creatures) are created (on the 5th day) before Land Animals (on the 6th). In Evolution, Birds, Bats, and Whales descend from Land Animals – and therefore, appear hundreds of millions of years after the first land animals.

    To explain it another way, I’ll rearrange the Genesis Days to conform to mainstream science (tagging each with the day Genesis says they were created): Day1-Light, Day4-Stars, Day4-Sun, Day1-Earth, Day4-Moon, Day2-Sky, Day3-Dry Land, Day3-Plants, Day5-First Sea Creatures, Day6-First Land Animals, Day5-First Birds, Day5-More Sea Creatures, Day6-Man.

  15. […] Over at Matt’s Notepad, he talks briefly about a run-in he had with a creationist parent, and why he wasn’t giving equal time to creationism in his classroom. Down in the comments, a Creationist says: Have you ever heard of Lee Strobel? He’s probably the […]

  16. Tinyfrog… You guys aren’t paying attention to details. Your details, yes, but not those speaking of the order of creation etc… You also have many misconceptions about Genesis as well, or at least where a literal interpretation and close look at Genesis can take you. I mean, we aren’t even arguing apples and oranges here. It’s more of an entirely mixed bag of fruit.

    Genesis does not explicitly say the earth was created before the sun, moon and stars. And one thing you’re missing is whether the perspective of the writer is on the surface of the earth (which is where verse two puts it) or whether the perspective is an absolute perspective from God’s view. The former simply means the writer is communicating what it would have looked like from the earth (ie the sun, moon and stars becoming visible) After all, verse one says God created the earth and the heavens (which includes the sun, moon and stars) before the “first day.” It also says the earth was covered by darkness, and ocean before the “first day.” Keeping the perspective on the earth where Genesis starts, describing what could be seen and perceived from there, fits.

    In fact, it would fit perfectly with what you believe about the sun, stars, moon etc… forming long before the earth. Again, verse one says in the beginning the Heavens (the universe) were formed as well as the earth. In verse two, the earth is already present as the “first day” begins and the perspective is from the surface of the earth. That is simply what it says, and what it means, if you look closely and pay attention to the actual Hebrew.

    On day 3 there was light, enough light for plants to grow in much the same way clouds do not kill plants yet keep the sun, moon and stars hidden.

    What would lead you to conclude the earth was 270 degrees below Celcius? Especially when the earth had already started the water cycle processes?

    Verse one… heavens and earth created in the beginning
    Verse two… the earth was “waste, emptiness, formless, void” covered by ocean, no life, and no light reaching the surface.
    Verse three… Let there be light. Light reaches the surface. Either the light from the sun began to reach the surface or the light from God himself. God won’t even use a sun when he reinovates the place next time. See Revelation. So evidently, God’s light is enough for life.
    Day One – Light (science got it right!)
    Day Two – Water cycle starts because light is reaching the surface now, atmopshere starts to take shape
    Day Three – Dry Land emerging
    Day Four – The sun, moon, and stars are visible from the earth.
    Day Five – Sea Creatures and Birds
    Day Six – Land animals and man
    Day Seven – Mountain Dew Break

    As for birds descending from land animals, I simply think you’re wrong, but the above list, consistent with a literal interpretation and exegesis of the Scripture, is a lot more consistent with current popular scientific belief than you guys give it credit for. Which ain’t bad for a 4000 year old document.

  17. 13.6 billion years isn’t nearly enough time for evolution to happen by sheer chance, btw. Which is why things like String Theory (or whatever the infinite-alternate-universe theory is) are popping up.

  18. Ed Darrell says:

    String theory is a theory of physics. It has no bearing on evolution theory, which is a theory of biology.

    Moreover, string theorists aren’t looking for ways to get more time for biological evolution. 13.6 billion years seems plenty of time — heck, from the evidence we have, a lot can occur in just 3.5 billion years! Consider that mammals rose to prominence in less than 65 million years, and you can see that a lot can happen in a cosmic blink of an eye.

    Oy! Genesis 1 differs from Genesis 2 in order of creation, pastor. All the physical evidence God left us says that birds descended from non-flying animals, as indeed did all things that fly today, including flying fish, flying mammals, and flying insects. Moreover, some of the creatures of the ocean descended from land-dwellers — two massive series of evolutionary changes, to come out of the sea, then to go back. Fossils clearly document both transitions.

  19. toni says:

    This is interesting and of course if we are going to teach a religious view then we would also have to teach the lotus version plus about 50 -100 other “versions” of the same. Now personally i am a “haagan-dazs” and i believe the world evolved from Popsicle sticks………..and i have a friend who’s church believes we actually live inside of a walnut ………….my gracious our children will never get into college……….but the funny thing is we teach these “religious” views in our homes and in our churches………and i can assure you our children are quite versed in them because this is what we believe…….so i think that this could work,….. when can i schedule the first appointment with your child to convence him that you are wrong and that “my” popsicle theory is correct…………………………. 🙂 t

  20. cragar says:

    crazypastor my friend (and I mean that literally even though you beat me every year in fantasy football), that is taking a big leap saying ok, God created light for himself to work, when if you just read the verses (and the way they were understood for thousands of years until science proved different), it makes it seem like he created the light on earth the way it is now, and you assume his light will create photosynthesis for the plants to grow until he “creates” the sun on the fourth day.

    The problem is ever since science has started to prove that much of the Bible is incorrect, now theists have to try and mold the Bible to fit what we actually know happened. And if God was truly omniescient, then he knew we would one day discover the sun was here before the earth, so why would he have “Moses” write the Bible in a way that would just confuse everyone rather than unite everyone in the future?

    If God existed wouldn’t he want science to validate his works? If science validated the Bible then we wouldn’t have any argument would we?

  21. tinyfrog says:

    “What would lead you to conclude the earth was 270 degrees below Celcius?”

    Because the Sun is the source of warmth on earth. Without the Sun, the earth would be as cold as interstellar space. Why -270 degrees Celcius? Because it’s approximately absolute zero (–273.15′ C) – the coldest anything can possibly get, and it’s the temperature you’d experience out in the middle of interstellar space. You might say – “well, gee, God kept everything warm for a few days before the Sun was formed”. Remember the context of the discussion: notcomingdown said that “days” were unspecified periods of time in order to get it to agree with secular accounts – but that would mean billions of years without a Sun.

    verse one says God created the earth and the heavens (which includes the sun, moon and stars) before the “first day.”

    Actually, based on the description of Day 4 (below), it does require that the Sun doesn’t exist yet. Further, it depends on your definition of “heavens”. Heavens can mean the place where God and the angels live, and where souls go when people die. It can mean vast, empty space (where the Sun, Moon, and stars will be placed on Day 4). Or, it can mean (as you claim), “the sun, moon and stars”. I’d agree with you except for the fact that the description of Day 4 contradicts your interpretation.

    Genesis does not explicitly say the earth was created before the sun, moon and stars. … “Day Four – The sun, moon, and stars are visible from the earth.”

    No, actually it does. You jumped on this idea about “being visible on day four” and “whether the perspective of the writer is on the surface of the earth”. What genesis (Day 4) actually says is, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” Notice the word “made” here.

    “On day 3 there was light, enough light for plants to grow in much the same way clouds do not kill plants yet keep the sun, moon and stars hidden.”

    And on day 4, it says that God created the Sun to “separate the day from the night”, “serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years”, and “to give light on the earth”. In other words, your idea of “clouds” fails. You would already have day and night even if there were clouds. You would already have seasons even when there are clouds. You would have have “light on the earth”, even if there were clouds. Genesis says none of these things existed until the fourth day.

    Scripture, is a lot more consistent with current popular scientific belief than you guys give it credit for.

    No, actually it isn’t. Whenever the Bible gets something right (like the first sea creatures before the first land animals), you say, “See, the Bible got it right”. Whenever the Bible gets something wrong, like the earth before the stars, you reinterpret the Bible (that’s when it was visible) so that the Bible is right. With a little bit of reinterpretation, it’s trivial to turn any randomly ordered list of events into “it matches the known sequence of events better than random chance”. Further, there’s a certain amount of logical “X must happen before Y” stuff in there. For example, it’s logical to say that the earth must exist before plants on animals on earth. It’s logical to say that land must exist before land animals are created.

  22. les says:

    How does evolution theory explain the availability of the sun, moon and stars? How were they formed? Is it through the big bang as well?

  23. Matt says:

    The Theory of Evolution has absolutely nothing to do with the formation of cosmic forms such as suns, galaxies or anything else of that ilk.
    And yes, after the Big Bang there was a large amount of gas floating about (to put it as simply as I can, an explanation this simple in no way does it justice) and due to the nature of mass, this gas starting grouping together until it formed other elements, this went on for some time and until these elements formed little pockets of grouped up stuff. And boom, you get a nice nuclear reaction and thus a star.

  24. Ed Darrell says:

    lessaid, take a look at this introductory article on star formation. Basically, a cloud of hydrogen collapses, driven by increasing gravity; if it has enough mass, it gets enough gravity to compress the hydrogen into starting a fusion reaction, and a star is born, to coin a phrase.

    Go see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_formation

  25. Ed Darrell says:

    Have you ever heard of Lee Strobel? He’s probably the most famous of many previous atheists who indeed found amble evidence to support creationism.

    I distrust Strobel so much — his journalistic ethics are atrocious — that I do not believe him when he claims to have been atheist. I don’t think he’s honest enough to have ever been atheist.

  26. Well, I’m not as anti-religious as you seem to be, but nevertheless still found this to be an interesting read that I agreed largely with. I am also a science educator (in the U.S.). I also enjoyed your “Expelled” review and linked to it on my own blog.

    Regarding some of the comments from other posters here:

    notcomingdown: Have you ever heard of Lee Strobel? He’s probably the most famous of many previous atheists who indeed found amble evidence to support creationism.

    Strobel came to my church (that fact alone almost makes me never want to go back to that church). He really does seem like a genuinely nice guy. However, his writing pretty much SUCKS, in my opinion. His arguments are terrible (not just the ones defending creationism/intelligent design…all of them in general). I find it hard to believe he’s an award-winning journalist. One day I’ll blog on that…when I get around to it.

    “Do you know any Hebrew AT ALL? If you did you would understand the Bible a bit better. I’m sure you’re familiar with the way it was said we were created I’ll skip that; the word for ‘day’ in Hebrew (original language of Old Testiment) has four meaning unlike our one. They are: 12 hours, 24 hours, 100,000 years and the last is an extended period of time with no real meausurement. ”

    English uses the word “day” in various ways as well. Consider the following:

    I completed the project in a day. (Does this mean literally 24 hours or just WITHIN 24 hours?)

    It takes one day for the earth to rotate around the sun (literally 24 hours).

    Back in my day, kids knew how to respect their elders. (Obviously not literally a day but rather a general period of time.)

    “But how come one can’t breed dogs with cats? Why is it that if a fish jumps out of the water and dies that after several generations it still wont grow lungs? If we ‘evolved’ from apes, why are there still apes? And why isn’t everything one species? Charles Darwin set out looking at adaptation which some how morphed into the evolution idea.”

    Please, please, PLEASE do some research. No offense, but this shows clearly that you have no understanding of evolution.

    I enjoyed the talk of Genesis. I’m one who doesn’t feel that the creation account in Genesis is meant to be read literally. I like the framework interpretation best.

    Cheers. I look forward to reading more.

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