This question seems to rather dominate religious questions in the United States. Somewhere in the region of 50% of Americans want creationism taught in their school system; a significant number of those (and I couldn’t tell you precisely how many, but a fair enough) seem to want it taught as part of the science curriculum … or in place of any and all other science classes.
That’s a terrifying thought. The scientifically literate consensus so far agrees that life evolved on the planet over billions of years, and there’s evidence to yet disprove that (no actual evidence, that is, rather than things made up by opposing fundamentalists). Creationism, on the other hand, would do nothing more than create an entire generation of young people without the basic understanding of science and, instead, having blind, unwavering commitment to a worldview that is entirely based on faith and trust rather than science and truth.
There’s an agreed syllabus for religious education in the UK, and it doesn’t involve teaching creationism. Instead, it teaches the central tenets of major world faiths. At the same time, the teaching of evolution is compulsory in publicly funded schools.
In 2003, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation after its founder, Sir Peter Vardy) sponsored a number of “faith-based” academies where evolution and creationist ideas would be taught side-by-side in science classes. This caused a considerable amount of controversy – as it should. The two subjects are not equally weighted; one is a scientific worldview, the other is a religious view coming from a holy book that cannot stand up to scientific or literary criticism.
Disturbingly, an organisation called Truth in Science has distributed teaching packs of creationist information to schools, and claims that fifty-nine schools are using the packs as “a useful classroom resource.” The government has stated that “Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories, and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum.” I’m glad to note that they’ve told schools this directly. Oh, and incidentally, I’m disgusted that this absurd organisation calls itself “Truth in Science” – because the fiction it is spewing out is nothing close to the truth. Instead, it’s an ignorant diatribe coming the dawn of religious monotheisms as an attempt to explain where we come from. Just because it’s our first attempt doesn’t make it our final one, and now that our knowledge and expertise has increased massively in the intervening two thousand years, we can easily discount that point of view.
Internationally, evolution is taught in science classrooms with limited controversy, with the exception of a few areas of the United States and several Islamic fundamentalist countries. In the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as science in public schools to be unconstitutional, irrespective of how it may be purveyed in theological or religious instruction. Intelligent design has been represented as an alternative explanation to evolution in recent decades, but its “demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions” have been ruled unconstitutional by a lower court. There’s also a certain irony that the countries pushing through this worldview have consistently seen their world education rankings fall consistently near the bottom of the list – or, in the case of the United States, start to sink.
Creationism, simply put, is not a scientific study. It is part of religion. Reference it in religious studies classrooms, along with other creation myths – it shouldn’t enjoy special status because it’s the Christian version of a myth that exists in every religion. Children should be taught how to question and learn – that should be endemic in everyone classroom and every lesson – and how to use their critical faculties to question the facts; how do we know such and such is real? How can we test that argument?
Teaching creationism as an alternative to evolution is like teaching astrology as an alternative to astronomy. Also, teaching creationism introduces religion into scientific discourse. People should be free to believe as they wish – that’s the bedrock of free speech – but your religious beliefs cannot change the facts, and that should be emphasised everywhere we look.
Some people say that, if you want to make children learn more about creationism, then you should send them to a religious school. NO! That’s most certainly not the answer, because then you’re intellectually hobbling them from seeking fulfillment in the modern world. People who grow up with a believe in creationism overruling their knowledge in, and engagement with, science, is terrifying; they won’t be able to contribute to so many parts of our society and knowledge, because they just won’t know anything about them. They’ll be stunted in their intellectual growth, and that’s – frankly – treasonous to treat our children in such a horrible way.
When we don’t understand something, there are two routes we can take. We can state that we don’t know and will research a solution, or you can stop research and settle on the belief that a higher power have created it. Creationism is the wall to the progression of science; it tells people to stop asking questions and just accept an answer on faith alone.
One of the biggest arguments against evolution is that something as complex as life could not have happened by chance. But evolution is not an explanation of complex life by chance, it’s an explanation of complex life due to factors caused by its surroundings or natural selection. While chance and design are equally implausible, natural selection has been tested and observed. Hence why a vast majority of scientists (above 90%) view evolution as the best theory of complex life. Teaching alternative science based solely on the fact that it doesn’t line up with theistic views isn’t the fault of bad science; it’s probably the fault of bad theism.