Teaching children the earth is only 6,000-years-old, that human beings and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time, and that the story of Noah’s Ark is true, constitutes intellectual child abuse.
Every child deserves an education. However, many children in the U.S. and around the world are denied an education in the name of religious superstition. In the U.S. some children are denied a science education because they are being home-schooled or attend Christian schools that fail to teach the facts of basic biology, like evolution.
Instead of learning about evolution, children in extreme Christian environments are taught creationism. This is wrong, and immoral. Children have a right to a science education. Denying children a science education by teaching creationism is a form of child abuse.
Evolution is the single, unifying scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth, and the foundation upon which the biological sciences are built.
Indeed, the scientific theory of evolution is accepted by an overwhelming majority of mainstream scientists around the world as the cornerstone of biology. To deny the reality of evolution is to deny the foundation upon which modern medicine and related biological sciences are built.
Thus, if there is a controversy about evolution, it is not scientific. The controversy is not about science, but religion. The fact is that once the theory of evolution is accepted, a literal, fundamentalist reading of Biblical creation is rendered untenable. Many Christian and other religious fundamentalists are simply unable to accept evolution as a scientific truth for this reason.
And because adults refuse to accept the scientific truth of evolution, children suffer.
Recently, a voice of reason, everybody’s favorite “Science Guy,” Bill Nye, spoke out against creationism in an essay published in Skeptical Inquirer. Noting that creationism is “bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind,” Nye went on to note:
“… if you, as an adult, want to hold on to a completely unreasonable explanation of the Earth’s natural history that is useless from a practical standpoint, that’s your business. But we don’t want our kids, our science students, to be indoctrinated into that weird worldview, because our kids are the scientists and engineers of the future. They need to be the innovators that drive the U.S. economy in the coming decades.”
And speaking to Popular Mechanics about the problems of teaching children creationism, and why evolution is key to a science education, Nye declared:
“Science is the key to our future, and if you don’t believe in science, then you’re holding everybody back. And it’s fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don’t believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. We talk about the Internet. That comes from science. Weather forecasting. That comes from science. The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.”
Nye is not alone. Top scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss also advocate for children, arguing children should be allowed to develop as critical thinkers and be protected from religious indoctrination.
Speaking with The Irish Times, Dawkins, a leading biologist, and Krauss, a leading physicist, defended a child’s right to a proper education.
“There is a balancing act and you have to balance the rights of parents and the rights of children and I think the balance has swung too far towards parents. Children do need to be protected so that they can have a proper education and not be indoctrinated in whatever religion their parents happen to have been brought up in.”
“That means parents have a limited — it seems to be — limited rights in determining what the curriculum is. The state is providing the education, it’s trying to make sure all children have equal opportunity.
“And parents of course have concerns and a say, but they don’t have the right to shield their children from knowledge. That’s not a right any more than they have the right to shield their children from health care or medicine.
“And those parents that do that are often tried and imprisoned when they refuse to allow their children to get blood transfusions or whatever is necessary for their health. And this is necessary for their mental health.”
Dawkins, Krauss, Nye, and others make an interesting and compelling claim: Forcing children to accept the religious superstitions of their parents can be a form of child abuse.
For example, teaching children Biblical creationism as a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is considered by many to be a form of child abuse.
The leading proponent of creationism is Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, an organization devoted to teaching and promoting the false notion that Biblical creationism is a legitimate scientific theory. Ham and his organization produce and supply much of the literature and curriculum used by Christian schools and others to teach children creationism.
Ham and his organization are also behind the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. Aimed at children and located in Kentucky, the multi-million dollar facilities are part of Ham’s Christian fundamentalist project to spread his flawed and misleading message based on discredited science and a literal interpretation of Genesis.
The Creation Museum and life-size version of Noah’s Ark are designed to be an exercise in Christian propaganda: a deplorable attempt to deceive children and others by denying the scientific reality of biological evolution and promoting Christian mythology as scientific fact.
The 500-foot-long, $100 million ark opened in 2016, and is dedicated to indoctrinating children with ridiculous and discredited claims from the dubious field of “creation science,” claims such as the earth is only 6,000-years-old, that human beings and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time, and that the story of Noah’s Ark is true.
By teaching children creationism is a legitimate scientific theory that disproves the theory of evolution, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is engaged in a despicable form of intellectual child abuse.
However, Ham is not alone in his desire to force creationism into the science classroom. American politicians routinely try to smuggle creationism into the public school classroom via various nefarious legislative efforts. From state legislatures to the highest reaches of government, creationism has powerful proponents that would happily sacrifice the intellectual health of children on the altar of religious superstition.
In fact, even Vice President Mike Pence believes that creationism should be taught in public schools. When serving as a congressman, Pence made it clear that he opposes evolution, while claiming that creationism (intelligent design) provides the only “rational explanation for the known universe.”
In 2002, Pence delivered a passionate speech on the floor of the House of Representatives arguing that evolution is “only a theory” and that public schools should teach the theory of intelligent design as well as the theory of evolution.
“I believe that God created the known universe, the earth and everything in it, including man. And I also believe that someday scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”
In other words, for Pence, the only rational explanation is “God did it.”
In his speech to congress, Pence also made the false and misleading claim that creationism is a valid scientific alternative to the theory of evolution, arguing that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the public school science classroom.
The question is begged: Why is creationism so important to so many Christians? Well, it may be that evolution exposes the flimsy house of cards that is the foundation of Christianity, and by extension, all Abrahamic religions. For if one embraces science, and accepts the scientific account of evolution, one must dismiss biblical creationism as myth, metaphor, or some other euphemism for factually untrue.
Speaking for many Christian fundamentalists, Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham argues that any coherent understanding of Christianity depends upon a literal interpretation of the Bible, including a belief that the story of Noah and the account of creation offered in the Book of Genesis is historically accurate.
The fact is, for many, once biblical creationism is rejected, Christianity unravels: there is no Adam and Eve, no original sin, and no need for redemption through the blood of Christ.
In addition, once one biblical account of supernatural absurdity is rejected, all other biblical accounts of supernatural absurdities become suspect, including the absurdity that is God. Indeed, implicit in evolution is a powerful argument for atheism. And this drives some Christians to ridiculous positions, like clinging to the untenable claim that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that human beings and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time, and that the story of Noah’s Ark is true.
To conclude: Forcing children to accept the religious superstitions of their parents is a form of child abuse. And it follows that teaching children Biblical creationism as a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is an example of such child abuse.
(This was an extended excerpt from a new anthology from the Patheos Nonreligious channel – Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st Century)