Teaching the origin of species in schools
Conflicts regarding evolution, intelligent
Protestant religious schools: There is little conflict over evolution within most Christian home schooling programs and Christian religious schools. Creation science and Intelligent Design are taught there as the only valid belief systems concerning the history of the world, its life forms and the rest of the universe. Naturalistic and theistic Evolution is generally rejected. However, there seems to be an increasing trend among some Christian high schools and colleges to abandon creation science in favor of theistic evolution -- the concept that evolution of the species happened on earth over billions of years, and that God used evolution as a tool to create the species that we see today.
John Mark Reynolds, of Biola University in La Mirada, CA, suggests that parents
check out the purity of school teaching by inquiring whether the entire faculty
believes in a literal Adam and Eve, by studying the course descriptions
carefully, by examining the student newspaper for discussions on evolution, and
by using an Internet search engine to find and study any papers that school
professors have written about origins.
Roman Catholic schools: Among parochial (called "separate
schools" in Canada) schools, there is also little discord.
The schools have accepted, and taught evolution and the origin of the species
for decades. However, the Church teaches that humanity once consisted of one man
and one woman, called Adam and Eve in the Bible, and that specially created human souls
for the first parents and all their descendents. In this way, God differentiated humans from the lower animals.
Public schools: It is in the U.S. public schools that the battle between evolution and creation science has raged. It has taken many forms:
The battle between evolution and creation science will not be settled in the foreseeable future:
Most conservative Protestants believe in the
literal truth of the stories of creation found in the book of Genesis in the
Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). They interpret the Hebrew word "Yom"
as implying that creation took six actual 24-hour days. This implies an earth that is less than ten
thousand years old.
A minority of conservative Protestants, most liberal
Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church, and most scientists accept
either theistic evolution or naturalistic evolution. Both accept that
evolution of the species has happened, and that the earth is over 4
billion years of age -- some 500,000 times older than young-earth
creationists believe. Supporters of theistic evolution believe that God used evolution as a tool to guide the development of the species; supporters of naturalistic evolution beieve that evolution was caused by unguided natural processes.
Over 95% of scientists generally, and over 99% of scientists
in the fields of biology and earth sciences, accept the theory of evolution.
These beliefs estimate the earth to be about 4.5 billions of years old. More details.
General acceptance of creation science would mean that the entire
foundational structure and inter-relationships of many sciences (geology, biology, astronomy,
nuclear science, etc.) would become meaningless, and would have to be
General acceptance of theistic or naturalistic evolution requires people to interpret Genesis symbolically or to reclassify the creation stories as myths. However, the creation stories are closely tied to the fall of man and to original sin. The latter are two key beliefs among many Christians. If Genesis is interpreted as symbolic, as a myth, fable or fantasy, then the entire role of Jesus would have to be reinterpreted. Without original sin, there is no obvious need for a savior. Jews do not have this problem; although they share Genesis with Christians, they never developed the concept of original sin. Liberal Christians also have no problem; most have already concluded that Genesis is a myth. But the rejection of original sin would shake conservative Christianity to its knees, and so is unlikely to happen.
The battle over the teaching of creation science in the public schools will not be resolved soon. The concept of separation of church and state that is contained within the First Amendment of the Constitution requires that public schools do not teach that:
one religion as superior to any other religion, or that
religion is superior to a secular lifestyle.
Creation science could be taught in the public schools in a comparative religion curriculum. It can be argued that it is important that it be taught in order that the students become fully aware of the range of beliefs about origins among different religions. But, in order to be constitutional in the U.S.:
Creation science can only be taught as a concept that
some people believe in; it cannot be taught as actual truth.|
Creation science based on the biblical book of Genesis cannot constitutionally be discussed in isolation. The beliefs of other religions, and of secular movements would have to be taught along with the Judeo-Christian-Muslim belief. Otherwise, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would seen as being promoted by the school as superior to other religions and to a secular lifestyle.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
The source of this quotation is no longer online.
"Scopes trial grips nation," at: http://abcnews.go.com/century/feature/
Kenneth Chang, "Evolutionary beliefs," ABCNEWS, 1999-AUG-16. Available online at: http://abcnews.go.com/
David Miles, "Kansas drops evolution," Associated Press, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
Stuart Shepard, "Some Bible Colleges Soft on Origins Doctrine," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/
Bill Brewster & Kenneth Chang, "Latest evolution battlefield," ABCNEWS at: http://abcnews.go.com/
Stuart Shepard, "Poll: Students Favor Teaching Creation," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/
Tim Harper, "Darwin beats God in red America," The Toronto Star, 2005-JAN-14, Page A17.
Copyright © 1999 to 2013 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2013-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson
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