Recently, a bill in Tennessee was passed with a 3-1 margin that will now permit the discussion of creationism in public school classrooms. The bill met expectedly massive dissent from the public, though ironically, its passage reflects more accurately the type of public school system that the United States inevitably works toward. Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam refused to sign the bill, according to The Los Angeles Times, saying that “it would create confusion over schools’ science curriculum.” Haslam refused to veto the bill, however, due to the large majority of the vote. Haslam also added, “I don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”
Unfortunately, this is where Tennessee’s governor is very wrong.
Ever since the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, public education in the area of Earth’s origins has been intensely controversial. While the outcome of the court case was meant to prevent religious exclusivity in state schools, it has reversed itself to now serve as an instrument designed to prohibit any science that smacks of religious implications.
Despite militant prohibition from public classrooms, creationism holds many concrete objections to the theory of evolution.
Scientists have provided counter research to that of Charles Darwin, evolution’s “founding father.” Scientific concerns have arisen about the lack of transitional fossils, something Darwin himself saw as a major pitfall in his theory. Challenges have even been made against the representation of facts in science textbooks, for example the notion that similar bone structures in animals provide evidence of a common ancestry. This particular assertion, overwhelmingly prevalent in science textbooks, ignores the possibility for similarity in design.
But in addition to challenges against the theory, evidence that supports creationism has also arisen. Archaeological digs in China have produced fossils that show the appearance of separate species without evolutionary transitions. New discoveries regarding the relationship between light and gravity, conducted largely by atheist scientists, support the notion of a young Earth. Even structures known as Polonium Halos, rings found in granite all over the world, suggest a rapid formation of the earth, in contrast to evolution’s billion-year claims.
But scientific evidence aside, Tennessee’s bold political move to include discussion about creationism in its classrooms is not only beneficial to students, but essential.
Science in particular is a subject where open thought and systematic exploration of facts is encouraged. Naturally, the inclusion of varied ideas of origin should be welcomed, and used in the classroom to allow students to form and defend their own ideas. Sadly, in American public classrooms, this is not the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued that it was wrong to teach only one theory of origin (creationism at the time) in the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, is now a leading advocate of teaching evolution exclusively.
Educators have suffered as a result of this dogmatic restriction. Consider Roger Paull, a substitute teacher who was indefinitely suspended for briefly mentioning intelligent design to his students. Or Robert Gentry, an acknowledged scientist with articles in leading scientific journals who was rejected for a research contract because of his creationist stance. Or perhaps Guillermo Gonzalez, an associate professor at Iowa State University who was denied tenure in part because of his creationist stance, as two of his colleagues would later admit.
Even further than academic censorship, a recent poll was conducted attempting to show that the scientific community is almost entirely against evolution. The study showed that only about 5 percent of American scientists believe in a young Earth. Later examinations showed that the results conveyed opinions of professionals completely unrelated to areas of evolution, such as computer science, chemical engineering, psychology and even business administration.
Public school classrooms are where generations of students are given the tools to affect the future of our nation. With employment in scientific areas becoming increasingly important, it is vital that we allow our students access to all types of information, in order to promote true open-minded and informed thinking.
Thomas Henry Huxley, a 19th century biologist known for his advocacy of Darwin’s theory said that “the man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.” I propose we follow Tennessee’s lead, and allow our classrooms to encourage students to do just that.
Stevens is a sophomore majoring in English and French. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.