Why We Shouldn't Teach Both

I used to blog on xanga so both my parents made xanga accounts to make it easier to comment on my site.  Well, dad still posts there on occasion and this morning he posted a bit on why we can’t teach creationism in science class.

It’s already getting some inane comments, so feel free to go to battle over there, secular warriors!

As a response to a post I had made about evolution, one of my acquaintances asked, “Why not teach both creationism and evolution and let people decide for themselves which to believe?”

This question has a reasonable ring to it in a bumper-sticker sound bite sort of way.  It implies that if you don’t teach both, you are against people being able to make decisions for themselves, and is typically designed to put you immediately on the defensive.  However, a small amount of analysis shreds it.

There is a not-so-subtle shift here from “teaching evolution and creationsim” to “letting people decide for themselves which to believe”.  Let me make it abundently clear that I absolutely support “letting people decide for themselves which to believe”. However, there are some very good reasons why not to teach both evolution and creationism IN SCIENCE CLASSES.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with teaching creationism in philosophy or comparative religion classes, along with OTHER philosophies and religions.  Of course, I do not support teaching it by itself and as true,  which is what a lot of Christians want.  Can’t do that, as it would be a violation of the separation of church and state.  More on that later.

We should not teach creationism in science classes because it (and its evil alter ego, intelligent design) are not science.  Teaching creationism in science classes would give creationism a scientific legitimacy which it does not deserve.   Do not think for a moment that those calling for it to be taught in that manner are not fully aware of this and, indeed, that is exactly what they want to achieve.  Teaching creationism misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, and presents students with a religious alternative to evolution masquerading as a scientific theory.

Asking “Why not teach both in science classes and let people decide” is like asking “why not teach alchemy and chemistry and let people decide?”  Or, “Why not teach germ theory of disease and demons in  the blood theory of disease and let people decide?”  Or, Why not teach both heliocentrism and earth centered universe theories and let people decide?”  Or, “Why not teach flat earth theory and ovate earth theory and let people decide?”  Or, Why not teach both astrology and astronomy and let the people decide?”  Or, “Why not teach magic and science and let people decide?”

The obvious and correct answer is because one is science, and the other is not science. You do not want to lend legitimacy to not science, and I would think you certainly wouldn’t want to teach not science in science classes.  What kind of sense would that make? To sum this up:  Intelligent Design creationism is not a “rival theory.” It is an ad hoc pile of mush.

From the judge’s opinion in Kitzmiller vs. Dover:

“We find that intelligent design fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that intelligent design is science. They are: (1) intelligent design violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to intelligent design, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and (3) intelligent design’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. It is additionally important to note that intelligent design has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

Science is neither a popularity contest nor a democracy.

There is another reason why you do not teach creationism in science classes.  Creationism is religion.  We have a Constitutional separation of church and state.
As to creationism being religion based, established court case after established court case has determined unequivocally that creationism–and its evil twin intelligent design—are religous doctrine.  One of the more recent court cases to illustrate this is Kitzmiller vs. Dover, wherein the judge’s opinion said:
“We do not question that many of the leading advocates of intelligent design have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that intelligent design should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

You might note the judge in this case was appointed by George W. Bush.

Creationism, as religious doctrine, must legally be relegated to the church and to the home for instruction. Public school science classes are not the place for religious indoctrination.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM.

    “And then a miracle happened” is not science.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/rrkusaba Richard Kusaba

    I think you dropped a close-quote from the Kitzmiller’s judges opinion at the end of the paragraph that concluded “nor has it been the subject of testing and research.”

  • http://cincinatheist.blogspot.com Cincinatheist

    I have entered into the fray over there. I know it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: your dad is awesome JT.

  • articulett

    I advocate showing the Nova special, Judgment Day, in biology class. It might be useful for the kids to learn what creationism is and why it is not science.

  • http://speakingupanyway.wordpress.com Allie

    I had creationism-based science class, and our evolution education consisted of students debating over “controversial” points of evolution. I just found out that the missing links aren’t missing. Like, last month. Because I went and I read about whale evolution, and now I’m reading The Greatest Show on Earth. Creation-based science education cripples your science knowledge and severely hinders you in your pursuit of a scientific career.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1009893752 michelesage

    “Why not teach magic and science and let people decide?”
    bahahahaha! I’ll be saying this for a while.
    Loved this blog JT. Thanks! And I’ve never met your dad, but he seems like a very insightful fella :-)

  • http://the-heretics-haven.blogspot.com/ Ben Crockett

    I want you to know that I revived my old Xanga account after several years just so I could jump into this one.

  • ohioobserver

    Your dad is very cool. And very smart. Good on you for making the right choice of parents.

  • gordonmacginitie

    Creationism is founded entirely on authority, with no notice of any verified observations. This is why they seek degrees, to bring themselves an aura of authority. Evolution is based on observations of the real world and would be discovered again if it were forgotten.

    The most telling thing about creationists and other very religious persons is their eagerness to tell fibs.

  • dfl42

    Personally, I don’t understand why we can’t just not teach children anything and let them figure out all of science all over again by themselves. That way there’s no bias at all.

  • robb

    some pointy headed nerds say 2+2=4? well i believe 2+2=5.

    let the people decide what to believe!


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