This house would teach creationism in schools

Creationism, often rebranded as Intelligent Design, is the belief that intelligent agency was involved in the creation and development of life on Earth. The view purports to be a science and to be deserving of consideration not only by the scientific community, but also students. For this reason Creationists have been involved in raising public awareness about the flaws they see in evolution, and have created major controversies, and it has become a particular issue in the United States. In Britain, schools must teach evolution as part of the National Curriculum, but are not barred from teaching creationism as well, and some religious schools, such as Emmanuel College in Gateshead, have done so, presenting creationism as fact and evolution as a matter of faith. In the USA, pressure has been put on school boards to enforce the teaching of creationism and evolution as equally controversial scientific theories (as in Ohio), or to remove evolution from the list of examination topics and therefore make it less likely to be taught (as in Kansas). While Creationists have found mixed success in the furtherance of their views on the political stage they have met with far stauncher and more unified opposition from the scientific community, which has largely denounced Creationism as religion in the borrowed clothes of science. The controversy remains in spite of this denunciation. Debates on teaching Creationism in school revolve around the questions of whether Creationism can be considered a legitimate scientific position, and whether it stands up to empirical scrutiny.

Important note: In any debate regarding evolution, abiogenesis, and Creationism, it is important to work out from the start what is under discussion. Creationists in particular use ambiguity to their advantage in debates. For example, if the debate is on evolution, should he feel cornered, a Creationist will often try to turn the conversation to the question of the origin of life, or of the planet. Sometimes they will go so far as to ask for an explanation of the beginning of the Universe. While all these do have scientific explanations, they have nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. Debates should always be kept on topic or else they have a strong tendency to get very messy indeed.

 

Useful Definitions.

- Scientific Theory: "A systematic ideational structure of broad scope, conceived by the human imagination, that encompasses a family of empirical (experiential) laws regarding regularities existing in objects and events, both observed and posited. A scientific theory is a structure suggested by these laws and is devised to explain them in a scientifically rational manner."[1]

-Evolution: "The biological theory that animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations."[2]

-Abiogenesis: "The field of science dedicated to studying how life might have arisen for the first time on the primordial young Earth."[3]

 

Title 
There is a very real controversy regarding the origin and development of life, and children deserve to hear both sides.
Point 

Many scientists do not accept the conclusions of the evolutionists. People like Dr. Michael Behe have dedicated themselves to exposing the flaws in evolution and showing that there is very real disagreement within the scientific community. This controversy is highlighted in the many court cases, books, and televised debates occurring in countries all over the world[1]. Children deserve to hear about the controversy, and not to simply be fed one story set for them by the prevailing majority in the scientific community, even if that community cannot claim anything near consensus. Until consensus is reached and indisputable proof of one theory or the other given, both sides should be taught in schools.

[1] Linder, Doug, 2011. “The Evolution Controversy”. University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Counterpoint 

There is no controversy. It is not even a matter of most scientists agreeing with evolution, but virtually all of them. This is demonstrated very clearly in the scientific literature, as thousands of papers are submitted for peer review every year on the topic of evolution, all bolstering and upholding the theory. On the other hand, on average zero are submitted supporting Creationism, because such papers would not meet the necessary criteria of being scientific research at all.[1] Some papers at best question evolution, but attacks on one theory are not supports of another. Furthermore, the reason there are public debates and court cases is that Creationists seek to capitalize on the relative scientific illiteracy of the general public, knowing they can only win by spreading disinformation, rather than facing off against real scientists in the academic realm.

[1] Kuhn, Thomas. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

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Title 
Scientific opinion often changes; evolution may be accepted in the scientific community now, but it could well be rejected in future.
Point 

The opinion of the scientific community with regard to facts and theories has a great propensity to change with time. Once scientists adamantly maintained that the Earth was flat. For centuries it also maintained that there were two kinds of blood flowing through the human body. Science is not infallible and the prevailing theory is no more than the opinion currently in vogue among scholars. In light of new evidence, theories can change over time, giving way to better explanations[1]. For this reason, the evolutionists' dogmatic adherence to their position in spite of contrary evidence provided by Creationists is hard to understand. However, it becomes clear why the scientific establishment takes such a confrontational position toward Creationism when one considers that many eminent scientists and researchers have built their careers within the paradigm of evolution, and their research often depends wholly on its acceptance. These scientists would lose their exalted position in the light of a paradigm-shift in scientific understanding away from evolution. It is for this reason that scientists who adhere to established norms so often fight things like Creationism, even though they provide explanations where evolution cannot. For science to progress, these conservative impulses must be fought against, which is why it is essential that when science is taught, so are all the prevailing theories concerning branches of the sciences, including Creationism.

[1] Understanding Science. 2011. “Science Aims to Explain and Understand”. University of California Berkeley.

 

 

Counterpoint 

Of course scientific opinion changes over time. It does so because the process of scientific enquiry requires the search for new data. Theories are not rigidly adhered to, but are rather accepted when there is evidence for them. When evidence mounts against a theory it is rejected. The examples cited show this very well. The idea that the world was flat was proposed as a theory without proof but by the end of the classical world Pliny was able to say "Every one agrees that it has the most perfect figure. We always speak of the ball of the earth, and we admit it to be a globe bounded by the poles."[1] as scholars had provided evidence of the earth being spherical. This process of change can harm some scientists' careers, but it can also make others. There is no monolithic scientific establishment setting policy, denying younger researchers from exploring new hypotheses and avenues of inquiry. It is clear from this that Creationism is not a science, because it does not change in light of new evidence, but rather dogmatically adheres to its claims in spite of evidence. Science adapts to new information. Creationism is stagnant and intellectual barren.

[1] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, John Bostock ed., Taylor and Francis 1855. 

 

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Title 
Much of the complexity of life cannot be explained by evolution, but is perfectly explained by Creationism.
Point 

Nature is marked by clear design. The complexity of the human body, of ecosystems, and even of bacteria, attests to the existence of creative agency. It is impossible that such things as, for example, interdependent species could come to exist without the guidance of a designer. Likewise, certain organisms can be shown to be irreducibly complex, meaning that if one were to remove any part of it, it would lose all functionality. This refutes the gradualist argument of evolution, since there is no selective pressure on the organism to change when it is functionless. For example, the bacterial flagellum, the "motor" that powers bacterial cells, loses all functionality if a single component is removed.[1] Besides design, the only explanation of its development is blind chance, which is nonsensical. Creationism serves to explain the various mysteries of biology currently absent from the evolutionary biologists' picture of the world. The existence of complexity of the order found in the natural world is too great to envisage an origin other than complex design.

[1] Behe, Michael. 1996. Darwin’s Black Box. Glencoe: Free Press.

 

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Counterpoint 

There is no design in biology. People tend to anthropomorphize their environment, trying to assign human-like qualities to animals and nature. All of the complexity of life on Earth can be attributed to natural processes; life, diversity, and complexity are all the product of physical and chemical interactions and biological processes. There is no mystery in the basic process. Also, complexity is not at all indicative of design. In fact, evolution has been observed to occur from simple single-celled organisms into multi-cellular organisms under laboratory conditions. That degree of evolution completely refutes any claims about complexity requiring design. Furthermore, there are no irreducibly complex organisms. Every example offered by theists of irreducible complexity has been found inaccurate. The bacterial flagellum, for example, when several key components are removed loses its functionality as a motor, but becomes a form of secretory system that has a separate function.[1] Clearly, complexity is not indicative of a creator.

[1] Miller, Kenneth. 2004. “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’” in Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (ed.). Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

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Title 
Creationism is as valid a scientific theory as those of evolution and abiogenesis, and should therefore be given equal time in the classroom.
Point 

Creationism can be drawn as an entirely reasonable scientific hypothesis, and it forms a coherent theory of the origin and development of life that opposes the naturalist theories of abiogenesis and evolution. Abiogenesis describes the development of life from nonliving materials and evolution seeks to explain the development and diversity of life through a gradual process of mutation and natural selection, yet no one has ever demonstrated either process sufficiently in the laboratory. In the case of abiogenesis, all experiments to create an environment similar to the supposed prebiotic soup whence life first sprang have resulted in no new life forming. In the case of evolution, evolutionists consistently fail to show the development of new kinds of organisms[1]. While there is no doubt that some change occurs within species, such as the breeding of wolves into dogs, it appears to happen only within certain limited bounds. Certainly no experiment or study has shown evolution to be capable of explaining such huge diversity in the world of living things. Creationism, on the other hand, offers the explanation that abiogenesis and evolution cannot. The diversity of life and its origin are rationally explicable as the product of intelligent agency. This is not a statement of religious belief, but of scientific observation. Describing the nature of the designer, however, is another question all together, one that need not be answered in order to accept that there is such a designer.

[1] Wells, Jonathan. 2009. “Why Darwinism is False”. Discovery Institute.

 

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Counterpoint 

Creationism is not science. It makes no predictions that can be tested in the laboratory or field. Adherents of Creationism do not accept it because of evidence, but rather they shape disparate facts to fit their beliefs. That is the opposite of scientific enquiry; Creationism begins with a conclusion and works backward. Furthermore, all evidence does indeed point to a natural origin of life and its diversity. Experiments are getting consistently closer to creating new life, and there are no evident bounds to evolution. The arguments of Creationism are based on gaps in knowledge; rather than trying to find real answers through scientific enquiry, they fill them with "the designer did it". Such answers are the refuge of the ignorant.

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Title 
Communities should have a say in what is taught in schools, and many communities want to teach creationism.
Point 

Society is made up of communities with their own views on politics, religion, education, etc. School boards should be able to set curriculum based on the desires of the public, not just on what the scientific elites command to be taught. Children deserve to hear that their beliefs and those of their community are respected in the classroom. This is why Creationism, a belief held to varying extents in many countries, should be taught in the classroom. This is particularly true in the United States, where in several states the majority of people does not accept evolution, but have instead adopted Creationism, considering the evidence for the latter to be more convincing.[1] In a poll in 2009 a majority (57%) said that creationism should be taught in schools either without evolution or alongside it.[2] The teaching of Creationism should not be taught exclusively, but should share time with other prevailing theories, particularly those of evolution and abiogenesis. Furthermore, evolution taught exclusively threatens religious belief, telling children they are no more than animals and lack the spark of grace given by God. It is important for social stability that schools are allowed to teach what communities believe to be true.

[1]Goodstein, Laurie. 2005. “Teaching of Creationism is Endorsed in New Survey”. New York Times.

[2] HarrisInteractive. 2009. “No Consensus, and Much Confusion, on Evolution and the Origin of Species.” BBC World News America/The Harris Poll, 18th February, 2009.

 

Counterpoint 

Schools should teach what is true. Evolution is one of the most robust theories in contemporary science; it is not the place of communities to propagate lies, even if they are more in keeping with their religious beliefs. Indoctrinating children and denying them access to real science, which happens even if Creationism and evolution are given "equal time", is to fundamentally compromise the value of education[1]. It is an inculcation of false belief to suit a communal goal of maintaining a set of beliefs that may not stand up to scientific scrutiny. The Creationists cannot win in the scientific arena because they are not scientists so they have decided to try to subvert the political system. Their goal is to undermine science and reason, and they must be stopped.

[1] Rooney, Brian and Melia Patria. 2008. “Because the Bible Tells Me So?”. ABC News.

 

Title 
The scientific community as a whole overwhelmingly rejects Creationism.
Point 

95% of all scientists accept evolution, and only a fraction of those that do not accept Creationism.[1] The numbers are even smaller among biologists, the people most qualified to discuss the relative merits of Creationism and evolution, as the study of life and biological processes are their specialty. There is, in fact, greater consensus in biology than in virtually any other discipline. Evolution is often called one of the most thoroughly proven theories, more so even than such things as the observable laws of physics, which break down at the subatomic level. Evolution is a constant, which is why it has survived as a theory for 150 years.[2] The scientific community always fights any effort to institute Creationism in schools through the political process.[3] This is why, when court cases are brought on the issue of teaching Creationism, the panel of scientists is always on the side of evolution. Only a few discredited cranks support Creationism, and they invariably break down under cross-examination when they can offer no positive evidence for their claims. Furthermore, many scientists have religious faith and accept evolution. They simply see no reason to reject observable reality just to serve faith[4]. Creationists try to portray evolution as contrary to religion, which forms one of the main planks of their political campaigns against it, but such claims are fallacious. Science and faith can be compatible, so long as people are willing to accept observable reality as well as belief. The scientific community rejects creationism because it is not true and is not science.

[1] Robinson, B. 1995. “Public Beliefs About Education and Creation”. 

[2] Lenski, Richard. 2011. “Evolution: Fact and Theory”. Action Bioscience.

[3] Irons, Peter. 2007. “Disaster in Dover: The Trials (and Tribulations) of Intelligent Design”. University of Montana Law Review 68(1).

[4] Gould, Stephen. 2002. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Ballantine Books.

Counterpoint 

The scientific community was once convinced the world was flat. It was also once sure that women's brains were smaller than those of men. The scientific community "knows" lots of things only to be proved wrong. The scientific elitist establishment is built on the theory of evolution; many prominent academics' careers were made affirming it. Many people have a lot to lose if science changes and evolution is overturned as the prevailing paradigm in biology. That is why there is such resistance to the evidence piling up that contradicts evolution and affirms Creationism. The unwillingness of the scientific community to hear Creationists out in the scientific forums, where the old guard predominate and have all the power, is what has led them to pursue their objectives in the courts and through politics. The only reason Creationism is not accepted in the mainstream is because scientists fear the loss to themselves. Education is most effective when our children are exposed to the entirety of issues, not just parts. To contextualize and offer completeness to their scientific education, they should hear both sides.

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Title 
Education should be about truth and facts, not dogma and faith.
Point 

Scientific enquiry is, at its core, a search for truth[1]. It is about shining light in dark places. Dogmatic adherence to beliefs in spite of evidence, and even trying to cover up facts that contradict those beliefs is academically dishonest and intellectually facile. Evolution is proven fact, a theory so sound that it is the cornerstone of all biology. Nothing in biology makes any sense unless considered in the context of evolution. Schools should teach this fact, not the pseudoscience of religious demagogues. It is a fundamental attack on children's rights to subject them to false information for the sake of upholding outdated and disproved beliefs. It is a right of all people to have a valuable education, because good education is required to be able to take part in the democratic process, to be able to make informed decisions. That right is compromised when the educational system gives them a worthless education in untruths, like Creationism, because informed decisions must be based on fact, and must be objective the way science is, rather than loaded with religious undertones, that skew ones view of the facts. The value of education is only as good as its applicability, either directly or through its fostering of critical thinking. So, when the political process is used to circumvent the curriculum set by teachers and experts, who actually know the subjects they are talking about, and replacing them with the curriculum set by a scientifically illiterate political body, the children suffer as the quality of their education decreases.

[1] Pauling, Linus. 1983. No More War! New York: Dodd Mead.

 

Counterpoint 

Truth is a complex thing. Scientists claim to know what is true and that schools should only teach their truth. But their truth changes with time. Communities can hold, and desire to hold, beliefs with more constancy. States everywhere recognize the value of communities and often give them special rights and exemptions for the sake of those beliefs. The Amish in America, for example do not need to attend education past the primary level, because the communities do not desire it. Communities give structure and lend stability to broader society, so they should be allowed to behave with a degree of leeway in terms of issues like education. Creationism is a truth for those who adhere to it and see that evidence fits that paradigm more than does evolution. Until irrefutable proof of evolution is given, as the scientific community has yet to do, both paradigms are equally valid and should be available to students in the classroom.

Title 
There is no empirical evidence supporting Creationism, whereas all evidence supports abiogenesis and evolution.
Point 

Creationists have never once offered a positive evidence for their claims. When challenged, they respond with vitriolic, and often deliberately false, criticisms of evolution and abiogenesis. They behave as if delegitimizing an alternative theory necessarily gives credence to their own. Unfortunately for Creationism, that is not how science works. Positive claims require positive evidence. Even if the Creationists were able to provide evidence that actually refutes evolution it would do nothing to support a theory that intelligent agency is behind the existence and development of life. For Creationism to be true, there would need to be demonstration of living organisms that are unambiguously designed, and not the product of evolution by means of mutation and natural selection. Proponents of Creationism have consistently failed to do so. When they point to things they claim to be irreducibly complex they are invariably forced to back off as soon as scientists appear on the scene to test their claims.[1] The truth is there are no examples of organisms that could not have evolved. Abiogensis and evolution, on the other hand are thoroughly proven by observation and data.[2] In the case of abiogenesis, self-assembling molecules have been observed that are akin to the first proto-life, and hopes have never been higher that they will be able to observe the development under laboratory conditions of fully-formed new life. Evolution likewise is extensively demonstrated. Speciation, phylogenetic mapping, a more and more complete fossil record, structural atavisms, junk DNA, and embryology provide just some of the proofs of evolution.[3] All of these disciples are in agreement with evolution. In fact, only in light of evolution does anything in biology make any sense at all. Clearly, Creationism has no basis in science and thus no place in the classroom.

[1] Miller, Kenneth. 2004. “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’” in Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (ed.). Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Lenski, Richard. 2011. “Evolution: Fact and Theory”. Action Bioscience.

[3] Colby, Chris. 1997. “Evidence for Evolution: An Eclectic Survey”. TalkOrigins Archive.

Counterpoint 

Evolutionists point to all kinds of evidence "proving" their case, yet they still fail to offer a practical demonstration of their theory that would prove that all life could have evolved from a common ancestor. That still requires a great deal of faith on the part of the scientists. As to positive proof for Creationism, there are many co-dependent species relationships, as well as irreducibly complex biological structures which evolutionists have consistently been at a loss to explain. Creationism offers the explanation evolution cannot.

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Title 
Creationism is a religious, not a scientific, explanation of reality.
Point 

Creationism is, by definition, not science. It is not based in any empirical evidence. Rather, Creationists start with a presupposed answer and work back from it. They assume there is a designer, so they look for holes in evolutionary theory and claim only a designer can explain the gaps. When new evidence arises that gives a natural explanation of the phenomenon in question, the Creationists backpedal and start looking for new holes. No amount of evidence could convince a Creationist because his belief is not based on evidence, but rather on a usually religion-driven opposition to evolution on a political and belief level. A science proves itself through experimentation and submitting research for peer review. Creationism fears scrutiny by real scientists. Instead supporters of creationism attempt to further its agenda through politics and courts, where science is not the main goal, but popularity and where expertise is not in science but in law (Dawkins, 2006). Creationism couches itself in the language of science and does its best to look respectable in the eyes of the public. For example, in rebranding as Intelligent Design, Creationists sought to appear less overtly religious. These attempts show the illegitimacy of Creationism. The pseudoscience of Creationism must, for the sake of education, be kept out of the classroom.

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Counterpoint 

Creationism is a legitimate scientific endeavor. Researchers struck by the apparent design in organisms look for evidence of that design. There is nothing pseudoscientific in that. There are many issues that evolution cannot explain, but which Creationism can (Behe 1996). Evolutionists can say the gaps in their theory will be filled over time, but that is not a scientific proposition either.

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Bibliography 

Ayala, Francisco. 2011. "Evolution". Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Behe, Michael. 1996. Darwin's Black Box. Glencoe: Free Press.

Colby, Chris. 1997. "Evidence for Evolution: An Eclectic Survey". TalkOrigins Archive.

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2011. "Scientific Theory". Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. Ealing: Transworld Publishers.

Goodstein, Laurie. 2005. "Teaching of Creationism is Endorsed in New Survey". New York Times.

HarrisInteractive. 2009. "No Consensus, and Much Confusion, on Evolution and the Origin of Species." BBC World News America/The Harris Poll, 18th February, 2009.

Gould, Stephen. 2002. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Ballantine Books.

Irons, Peter. 2007. "Disaster in Dover: The Trials (and Tribulations) of Intelligent Design". University of Montana Law Review 68(1).

Kuhn, Thomas. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lenski, Richard. 2011. "Evolution: Fact and Theory". Action Bioscience.

Linder, Doug, 2011. "The Evolution Controversy". University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Miller, Kenneth. 2004. "The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of 'Irreducible Complexity'" in Ruse, Michael and William Dembski (ed.). Debating Design: From

Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pauling, Linus. 1983. No More War! New York: Dodd Mead.

Robinson, B. 1995. "Public Beliefs About Education and Creation". 

Rooney, Brian and Melia Patria. 2008. "Because the Bible Tells Me So?". ABC News.

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, John Bostock ed., Taylor and Francis 1855.

TalkOrigins. 2006. "Abiogenesis FAQs". TalkOrigins Archive.

Understanding Science. 2011. "Science Aims to Explain and Understand". University of California Berkeley.

Wells, Jonathan. 2009. "Why Darwinism is False". Discovery Institute.

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