Creationally Unintelligent? A Review of the Needs for Scientific Education

How well do you know your evolutionary process? Could you tell me the difference between the process of Microevolution and Macroevolution? Despite what it seems most evangelicals think, it’s worth knowing basic knowledge of science, especially when it comes to our theological issues. Our schools should be acting as buildings which hold the arguments for both, from the pros to the cons. Sadly, the bias is there, and science education standards are at an all-time low. And it’s likely because of this that we have events like this fiasco relating to Louisiana Senator Walsworth and his case relating to questioning how evolution is proved:

The problem isn’t that Walsworth was wrong in his choice to question pro-evolution legislation; the problem is a lack of understanding of evolution on a whole. Bad Astronomer writer Phil Plait clarifies the misunderstanding that happened here.

Just to cover two huge points: Evolution on a scale like that takes millions and billions of years, and evolution isn’t a blueprint such that one organism evolves toward some predestined other organism. Humans are not inevitable; we just happen to be one of many million of species along an evolutionary tree, and we’re not the endpoint.

This is a mistake on Walsworth’s part. But it does beg the question: How thorough is the senator’s scientific knowledge?

If my guesses are correct, the senator’s knowledge is fairly shallow. The senator comes from a background of sales and business, not that of biology and chemistry.

The issue exists partly in the larger culture. No one asked for Walsworth to become an expert in scientific matters (even though he was in charge of the laws handling this issue. Plait is correct for judging Walsworth’s lack of education of this topic.

In his book The World is Flat 1.0, journalist Thomas Friedman noted a diminishing amount of students entering into the engineering science field. Why? Because people see little value in the scientific field. Since the end of the Space Age, Americans have slowly lost interest in the scientific, instead focusing on the liberal arts and the humanities (please note I do not want to diminish the value of these areas. We simply see a significant decrease in science education, which must be responded to.)

We then also find that too many of our leaders are less knowledgeable in basic scientific topics (like evolution 101 or physics), and thus will make incorrect decisions about the subject. I’m willing to agree with Plait (who uses the case of Senator Walsworth to condemn the Creationists altogether) that our leaders require more education. But even more so, we require an openness of ideas, which will let the truth (whether it be Theistic Evolution, Old-Earth, or Young-Earth Creationism) to stand on its own two feet.

As Christians, we must not neglect the sciences. There is much value to this realm, for it is a place we we can “think God’s thoughts after him” (to use astronomer Johannes Kepler’s colloquialism).

And it is because of that, that we should be able to choose to follow through and learn from the best. If we, God’s people, have the Truth, then what do we need to fear? We can hear all of the arguments, and still return to what is true, what is good, and what is actually there.

The truth is, it’s never as simple as that. Here’s a case, presented by Time writer Annie Murphy Paul, where evolution is presented in an effective manner which the students are told to analyze the results themselves instead of the lectures. The innovative lecture techniques garnered the teacher a direct award from Science Magazine.

[The Students], Choosing their own set of observations and measurements to make of skull casts of chimpanzees in different stages of development, as well as adult skulls of Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Australopithecus afarensis and Ardipithecus ramidus, the students reexamine a common misunderstanding of evolution: that humans evolved from chimpanzees. ‘I want students to be engaged in conversation, instead of dogma, about evolution,’ Price says.

I applaud Professor Price for allowing students to learn and test the theories on their own and see the cases for the evidence. Sadly, the evidence itself here was likely still biased, but I wish that one could extend Price’s philosophy could extend to the other teachers, in hopes of actually allowing the evidence to speak on its own.

It is this mindset that the educational environment needs to present. Despite Bill Nye’s claims of “Creationism being dangerous,” there is no more danger in learning to judge claims than there are anywhere else. Man must learn to do this, lest he be led to believe that the debate is far less complex than it actually is.

About Christopher Hutton

Chris Hutton is a college student and Freelance Writer from Bloomington Minnesota. Since he was young, he loved books and ideas. Science was one of his favorite topics, as well as technology. It's one of the issues that has mattered to him consistently. Hence, Chris tries to bring a critical/helpful take to the modern understanding of technology. You can find Chris' home online at liter8.net, or you can tweet him via @liter8media.

  • http://moviegoings.com Jared

    Excellent piece. I have a question about your view on the “openness of ideas” . . . At what point can one tell, say, a member of the Flat Earth Society, “No, I am not being intolerant of different ideas, you’re being absurdly thick. The earth is round, the controversy does not exist.”

    I like your idea that, whatever is being taught, it is being taught in a way that invites students to draw their own conclusions and think critically, but can you foresee a point where reasonable people can agree that the evolution/creation controversy is not really controversial anymore?

  • http://liter8.net Christopher Hutton

    @Jared,
    You ask a really valid question.

    I would say that I cannot. When we play with the Evolution/Creation controversy, we’re playing with the foundations of worldviews. More than a few emotions are gonna be opened up by that. and if emotion is involved, then controversy WILL abound. So, while I’d like to see an end to the debates, I don’t think it will be possible.

    However, I would like to see more open policies which support both sides being represented educationally. But it likely won’t happen, since no Atheist would allow for intelligent design to be considered for even an iota. But if we’re gonna fight each other, let’s not let the attacks be based on lack of knowledge, but similar knowledge but differing presuppositions.

  • S. L. Whitesell

    This is an interesting reflection on an important topic. But it seems as though we are tangling up a few issues.

    For one, there is a foundational disagreement about the purpose of education. I believe that a child’s upbringing should largely be about transmitting to him a heritage that I myself inherited, or at least one that I’ve adopted. The Deweyites tend to think that we should make children as unlike their parents as possible.

    A related concern is teaching children a comprehensive worldview. Some (Dewey, Rand, maybe Hirsch?) might think that we should start with sense perception and train children to infer and construct a theoretical world from objective observations. I think that’s a rather silly way to get on in life.

    And tied up in all of this mess about how to TEACH children is a separate consideration about the validity of various theories. It’s an entirely different inquiry whether creationism or evolution are actually warranted by the evidence. The better response, I think, rather than “the controversy does not exist” is “I cannot make sense of these pieces of evidence and still see a flat earth” or “here are some assumptions that I have that I can’t square with your interpretation.”

    The final issue I see woven in to this piece is the intellectual quality of our public figures. I use the term loosely; the fact that the president of the United States can say things like, “If we might save even one life, we have to try” and still be taken seriously as an intellectual is beyond me. When you get to be 1 out of about 500 or so people who make laws for the other 300 million of us, or whatever the comparison is for a state legislature, is it too much to ask that you get an adequate grasp on the concepts you are addressing?

    It’s no surprise that the issues get tangled. Usually our modern betters tell us that science is a comprehensive worldview and the expert conclusions as to the interpretations of the data reach a point of orthodoxy past which any challenge is unacceptable.


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