The question as to whether or not creationism should be taught in public schools is a very emotional and complex question. It can be looked at from several different angles, its validity being one of them. Despite the lack of evidence to support the fundamentalist idea of creationism, that in itself is not enough to warrant its exclusion from the curriculum of public schools in the United States. The question is far more involved and complex.
One way to address the question is whether or not creationism, in itself, is a valid idea to be taught in public schools. The answer to this can be yes. Not only should a student in American public schools learn and acquire knowledge in empirical sciences, and other tangible facts both in history and other courses, but he should also learn how to think and make decisions for himself. Unfortunately, as it turns out, creationism is in direct conflict with the biological theory of evolution. Many fundamentalist propose that creationism should replace, or at least be offered as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.
This is not the right approach. Creationism, as exemplified in the book of Genesis, should not be taught in a science course. Science runs on a certain set of rules and principles being:
- it is guided by natural law,
- it has to be explanatory by reference to natural law,
- itÕs conclusions lack finality and therefore may be altered or changed,
- it is also testable against the empirical world, and finally
- it is falsefiable. These characteristics define the laws, boundaries, and guidelines that science follows.
In a science course, all knowledge conveyed is shown, or has been shown in the past, to exemplify a strict adherence to these qualities. Creationism, unfortunately in the eyes of Christian fundamentalist, does not exemplify any adherence whatsoever to these rules and guidelines of science. Therefore, it should not be included in the science curriculum in public schools, even as an alternative to evolution.
Another idea is that which is held by those who subscribe to the idea of scientific creationism. Scientific creationism, as it relates to this topic, states that God was the creator, and that evolution is simply a means, developed by Him, of conservation. Due to this definition of how scientific creationism relates to evolution, it may be easier to accept by scientific criteria, despite the fact that the origins are scientifically debatable.
The problem in scientific creationism, and what I see as a reason for its exclusion from the science classroom in public schools, is the fact that it looks as if, from the outside, the whole theory that it rest on is simply a contortion of the traditional version of creation described in Genesis, custom-made to fit in with Darwin's theory of evolution. R. M. Hare would probably say that scientific creationism is simply a modification of the story of creation in Genesis, to fit into the ÒblikÓ of the religious fundamentalist. A blik, as Hare describes it, is a pre-set world view held by all people, in which they draw from when forming certain opinions on any particular subject. In the case of religious fundamentalist, whoÕs faith in the validity of the Book of Genesis is an essential part of their blik, it becomes necessary for them to contort their literal view of the Book of Genesis into a form that is scientifically acceptable. For this reason, creation science still does not have a place in the science classroom of public schools.
Another problem with scientific creationism is that it would exclude the idea of a random beginning. No theory could ever be tested to find origins because it would conflict with scientific creationism. Scientific creationism would be, in essence, a lesson on science halting efforts to find creation, if it is possible at all. It may, however, be acceptable as a theory and not a solid law.
Now that it is clear that creationism, as well as scientific creationism, does not fit into the guidelines on which science operates, therefore making them unsuitable for teaching in science classrooms in public schools, in what part of the public school curriculum in the United States should they be taught? The story provided in the Book of Genesis could conceivably fit into the literary genre of mythology. It could not be considered as nonfiction, due to the many contradictions it makes within itself, as well as in the world of empirical knowledge. These contradictions are numerous and would create a paper within themselves, therefore it should be addressed elsewhere. The controversy here, despite the factual and logical inadequacies of the Book of Genesis, is whether or not creationism should be taught in public schools. Therefore, the story of creation in the Bible is best suited to be taught as literature and not scientific theory. Due to these facts, it is conceivable that it can be taught in English courses in public schools in America. If creationism is to be taught, this would be the proper realm of the curriculum in which to discuss it.
Now that it can be agreed that it is suitable for creationism to be taught in the English and literature classes of public schools, we are faced with another controversy. The teaching of the creation story in literature courses, while valid in itself, still faces the problem of whether or not the government would violate any constitutional rights by including this in any curriculum in public schools. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from passing any laws that show favor to any particular religion which, in effect, is a fairly total separation of church and state. If Congress were to pass a law demanding that the Christian version of creationism be taught, even in literature classes in public schools which are supported by the taxes of all Americans, it would directly violate the constitutional rights of Hindus, Moslems, Buddhist, and scores of other religions that flourish across the country, many of which have their own stories of creation. Therefore, even with a suitable area of curriculum in which to teach creationism, it still is in violation of the Constitution.
The exact manner in which it would be taught, if it were even remotely possible to teach it in public schools, would also be debatable. Should it be taught as fact, as religious fundamentalist would prefer? Or should it be taught as mythology or some other fictional story, as it well may be addressed in an English class? This may offend many religious fundamentalist. If it were taught as fact, it may offend students who subscribe to other religious beliefs, whose parents also pay taxes.
Since creationism has to many conflicting aspects, as well as factual and logical inadequacies, and not to mention the fact that it does not follow the guidelines of science, it should not be taught in science classes in public schools. Scientific creationism, while subscribing more to the guidelines of science, can be simply seen as a contortion of the Book of Genesis to make it compatible with these logical scientific guidelines. Until it logically fits into the mold of a theory, it can not be accepted as a plausible alternative. Even if the Book of Genesis happened to find a place in the English curriculum of public schools, or an any other curriculum for that matter, it would still violate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Even if all these hurdles were overcome, it would still be hotly debated by different religions as to which story of creation to teach. For all of these reasons, it is impossible for any version of creationism to be taught in public schools in the United States.
As one can see, the question of whether or not creationism should be taught in public schools is not so much a question of should it be taught, as it is more of a question of can it be taught. Can the Book of Genesis, or even a version of it be taught legally as part of a standardized curriculum? The answer is no. Can Native American versions of creation be taught? The answer is no. Can any idea of creation, subscribed to by any religion be taught legally? The answer is no. Should it be taught? Yes. Where then should it be taught legally, if not in the public school system? Probably, the best environment would be the home. The best teacher would probably be the parents.