Creationism for My Child’s Teacher

(***Update 7/10/06: The pamphlet mentioned in this post was edited to mention that the National Geographic article does say that there is sufficient evidence for evolution. Soon after that, other points about the inaccuracies of the document were discussed on this website and the pamphlet was taken down from the Parkview site altogether. Thus, the links in this post no longer work.)

As I said last week, Pastor Tim was a great guy to talk to, but I did have a major problem with his stance on Creationism. Tim said he wanted it taught alongside Evolution and wrote a pamphlet on the subject that is offered on the church’s website. However, there are a lot of problems with this pamphlet that I think deserve to be pointed out. Ultimately, I’d like to see my points corrected or the document removed from the site.

This is not me saying why Creationism is general is incorrect (There are much better resources for that than me), but I want to just point out why the document on the church’s website is misguided.

The pamphlet in question is here. It’s called “Creationism for My Child’s Teacher.” I encourage you to read it for yourself before and while you read this post.

My problems with it follow:

  1. The word used in the document is Creationism, not even Intelligent Design (ID). Not that I would be complacent with ID either, but Creationism is specifically saying that we should teach a particular religious belief in public school. The Supreme Court said this was illegal in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). The gist of the pamphlet seems to be that we should teach ID, though, so I’ll assume that the rest of the way.
  2. The first page of the document shows this picture from the cover of the November, 2004 issue of National Geographic:The introductory letter (page 3) states that after the 1925 Scopes Trial, “the courts decided that evolution could be taught with creationism. Somehow the pendulum swing went way over to the other side. As the cover from the November 2004 National Geographic suggests, many people – scientists included – would like to see it swing back.” Really? The cover suggests that? Actually, the first page of the actual article says this to answer the question:

    I unfortunately see this all too often. The raising of the hypothetical question is enough to make Creationists think scientists don’t trust Evolution. This is the reason most prominent Evolutionary Biologists do not engage Creationists in debate. For the latter, it’s not about who wins or loses; they will simply tell their followers that So-and-so debated me and that shows that there is a controversy. There is NO controversy in the scientific world about Evolution in principle (and that is why it, and it alone, should be taught in high school).

  3. On page 8, Pastor Tim writes: “Even secular scientific organizations are becoming less dogmatic about the issue. A NASA publication reads: ‘It is important to be aware that there is no one theory for the origin and subsequent evolution of the Solar System that is generally accepted. All theories represent models that fit some of the facts observed today, but not all.'” First of all, I didn’t realize science organizations were labeled as either “secular” or, I presume, “religious.” Secondly, this document was written in 1975. The more compelling evidence FOR the Big Bang theory has been discovered in the past two decades. There is no NASA publication anywhere (that I’ve found) that says anything remotely close to this statement.
  4. Also on page 8, a statistic is used to show that many people want Creationism to be taught in public schools, including lawyers and university presidents. The citation is a book written in 1989… I don’t think a nearly-20-year-old statistic has much credibility, but I don’t doubt the general sentiment– a lot of people want their religious beliefs taught in school. In science class. The problem is that a subject’s curriculum ought to be decided by experts in the field, those who study and use the information on a daily basis. The major science organizations in the country– the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, etc.– have all said that ID is not credible science. These groups are not hell-bent against religion. They simply keep science to the observable and falsifiable. Religion is based on faith; it is also by definition not open to change.
  5. Another statement made (on page 11) is that: “The reason that so much of the scientific community holds so firmly to the theory of evolution is because of the alternative. If evolution is wrong, there are a lot of people who will have a lot of explaining to do.” That’s why scientists are against ID? Not true. In fact, the beauty of science is that it’ll correct itself when wrong. It’s open to change. For example, even scientists long believed that ulcers were causes by stress. Only in recent decades was the discovery made that, in fact, ulcers were caused by a bacteria, H. Pylori. It showed that science had been wrong for quite some time, but it’s not an ambarrassment. The scientists were working with what they had, and that’s ok. If evolution is wrong, so be it. If a credible alternative comes about, I have no doubt scientists would jump at the new discovery. I brought up the point during our dialogue last week that I thought science journals would race to publish such an article.
  6. When talking about scientists who disagree with Evolution (page 11), Pastor Tim said, “That one-sided depiction of evolution [in a PBS special] spurred a backlash from 100 reputable biologists, chemists, zoologists, physicists, anthropologists, molecular and cell biologists, geologists, and astrophysicists, who wanted the world to know they were skeptical.” This is again used to have us believe that Science is up for a popular vote, which it is not. But I’ll humor that idea. The Discovery Institute, the group that sponsored that list, also has a longer running list of scientists who support ID on its website. The list has been compiling for years. Meanwhile, in one 4-day period, in reaction to the aforementioned list, other scientists signed a petition in support of Evolution. 7733 of them, to be exact, more than half with Ph.D s. There’s also Project Steve, which has a list of over 700 scientists named Steve (or any variant) who support Evolution..My point is that numbers shouldn’t be used at all to show why ID should be included in a science class. But if we’re relying on numbers, let it be known that the number of scientists who support ID is virtually non-existent compared to those who support Evolution.
  7. On page 12, Pastor Tim talks about “evolutionary scientists who are willing to be honest” and quotes Carl Sagan as saying the odds of man evolving are 1 in 102,000,000,000. Tim implies this is impossible. The problem is that Sagan used the line in his book to say that the genome did NOT just appear. Evolution had to happen to explain the odds. The problem here is the misquoting of scientists, taking their words out of context to support a different point.
  8. The part about mutations is completely inaccurate. On page 15, it states: “Now, understand that mutations don’t happen very often – almost never… When mutations do happen, they are almost always lethal.” Again, this is wrong. Mutations happen often, and most of them are neutral. They depend on the environment as well. For example, have two copies of the sickle cell mutation is bad, yes, but having one copy is beneficial—it protects against malaria.
  9. Page 28 lists the problems that the “survival mentality” has caused, including Nazism and Racism. Because as we all know, those things did not exist before Darwin. In fact, modern Evolution theory says that altruism does occur and is essential for survival.
  10. Page 29 says that Darwin himself called his theory “grievously hypothetical.” This is true. He did. Of course, this was because he didn’t know about genes or DNA. Once those were put in the mix, it confirmed the predictions Darwin had made.

I didn’t talk about several of the points Pastor Tim brought up only because there’s not enough time to go through everything. But if anyone wants me to go through more, let me know…

If I’m wrong on this stuff, I know I’ll be corrected.

if we allow science to include the supernatural, it defeats the purpose of the field itself. The whole goal is to take what we see and find an explanation. If someone doesn’t think Evolution works, the person’s job is to provide a better theory. Resorting to the supernatural is not an option in Science, and should not be taught to our children as a credible alternative to experimentation and correction.

[tags]Creationism, Parkview, atheism, Christian, Harlow, National Geographic, Darwin, Evolution[/tags]

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  • jane smith

    3.First of all, you say that you didnt realise that all organisations had to be labelled as secular or religious. I dont that that was Pastor Tims point. He was merely observing that NASA is a scientific organisation. And most scientific organisations would label themselves as secular, rather than religious, because otherwise they would have no credibility within the scientific community. And secondly, the more compelling ideas for the Big Bang Theory, in which you presumably believe, has not proved I.D. wrong.

    4. Although a statistic used to show that many people want Creationism to be taught in public schools, may not in itself have much credibility. But just because it is an old document it doesnt mean that opinions have changed. Many people, religious, atheist and agnostic alike, would agree that if atheism can be taught all the way through a childs education, then so should religious ideas, (because religions gets so much negative coverage from the media), and teaching both sides of the science vs religion debate is how an open mind is developed. Not by instilling certain attitudes an beliefs into children from a young age.
    You also say that there is NO controversy in the scientific world about evolution in principle, and that is why it and it alone should be taught in schools. Similarly there is no controversy within the religious world about the idea of a creator, or Creatonism, in principle.

    5. If I.D. is not credible science, neither is the Big Bang Theory, because they both make a leap of faith between fact and the creation of the universe. Your argument would have ben considerably more persuasive if you had not tried to use one theory to prove another theory wrong.
    And, secondly, how is modern religion not open to change. Although Gandhi said that ‘he’d be a Christian, if it weren’t for the Christians’, that doesn’t mean that all religious people are close-minded, and certainly not that religion is by definition, unchanging and therefore rendered as unadaptable.

    6.I think that the claim you made in your sixth pont about how if evolution was proved wrong and an alternative came about scientists would jump at the new discovery, is incorrect. Perhaps, some scientists would, but certainly not the majority of the scientific world, because that would ridicule the majority, who have been imposing their incorrect views upon our childrens education. And you could kindly explain why the concept of a creating entity is so ridiculous to you, because there appears to me to be a similar number of holes in the Big Bang Theory as there are in the concept of a God.

    7.I agree with your point that numbers shouldn’t be used to prove whether something is an intellectually, scientifically and morally sound concept, because most statistical polls can be easily manipulated, and besides the majority is not always right. HITLER. Need I say more.

    8.I have to agree with you on your eighth point. Tim was incorrect when he said that mutations are rare and usually lethal, but maybe he was talking about mutations on a macroscopic level. Or perhaps his knowledge of biology is unsound, either way its really not a point worth raising.

    Im sure that if you disagree with my points, and they are not intellectually valid, then I will be notified. But i have to say that you would not last in a debate, with a truely open minded person. Or any member of my philosophy class, because you argue like a close minded, middle class, conservative participant named Beardon.

  • Jason

    Jane Smith:
    3. Because once you bring religion into science, you lose all credibility, the same way somebody loses credibility when they can beat their imaginary friend 1v1 in basketball. Also, I constantly hear a “ID has nothing to do with religion”, yet the same proponents are quick to consider it unfair that science wants nothing to do with religion. Which side are you going to sit on?

    4. Besides your rather ridiculous assertion that “atheism” is being taught in schools, your final point is the most unique and interestingly fallacious.

    Similarly there is no controversy within the religious world about the idea of a creator, or Creatonism, in principle.

    Which story of creation, how many creator(s), which creator(s), when, in what order, how? I suggest you learn about world religions instead of holding this absurd, arrogant position, that you have presented above.

    5. Learn to quote. Don’t paraphrase what Ghandi said and then put it in quotes as though he were speaking. And I won’t bother wasting my time teaching you about the Big Bang, presenting all of the evidence and explaining the entire notion of Inflation to you; that is what Wiki, Google, and Talk Origins are for. But you have erected an oversimplified strawman (redundant perhaps?) to try and compare what an actual science with actual evidence and predictive powers that is actually falsifiable, to a completely mythological story about the magic loving man in the sky creating the universe in 6 days.

    6. Again, you are showing a complete lack of understanding of the topic at hand. Are you actually comparing the reasonabless of a very understandable property of quantum mechanics (that particles and antiparticles pop into and leave existence in vacuums), to the reasonableness of an omnipotent, omnicient, self-creating, intelligent being creating the universe? Occam’s razor: it slices, dices, and removes supernatural entities.

    7. Isn’t there some sort of law about bringing Hitler into conversations as a giant red herring, where the larger the discussion gets, the higher chance we have of somebody bringing up Hitler?

    8. I’m fairly certain that practically every formal debate that has been constructed to an impartial audience, the side supporting Creationism/ID has been completely and utterly destroyed. Remember the radio debate that PZ Myers did? Completely destroyed his opponent. If a Creationist/ID proponent actually could keep up with his opponent, it would be headline news (at least in our circles), but no, you have creationist blogs responding to the Myers debate by saying “Let’s just forget it ever happened” and a total weakness to criticism.

    Obviously, you are defining an open mind as “a mind that agrees with me”. You have presented nothing but evidence that you have a complete misunderstanding of the scientific facets of the topic, rather than anything compelling that would make me, or any other proponent of science, consider your point to be anything but the rantings of somebody who takes media like “Expelled” and “The Case for a Creator” to be accurate, realistic, and reasonable.

    You lose. Good day ma’am.