Being 'Tolerant' About Creationism

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Forty percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, according to a Gallup poll released late last week. In other words, they subscribe to creationism. 

Believe it or not, that is a positive sign for American education. Just 11 years ago, the number of people touting an evolution-less worldview was 47 percent. The creationists' numbers are shrinking. They have either have joined the 38 percent who say that God guided evolution or the 16 percent who say evolution had nothing to do with a supreme being.

But the poll still offers some depressing news for K-12 educators. Among students with just a high school background, a much larger 47 percent still accept the creationist view. Meanwhile, the people most likely to accept evolution hold either college or postgraduate degrees.

We’re often asked how evolution is a subject for Teaching Tolerance. There are two answers.

First, the corruption of science education is like a regressive tax—everyone pays the price, but it weighs on the poor disproportionately. Statistics show that those students who get just a high school education are the most likely to wind up with low-income jobs. And as the Gallup poll shows, it is these people who are most likely to live in ignorance—or cling to ignorance—about their own biology, their own origins. There will be no college courses to undo this damage.

Second, the whole creationist movement is being promoted by appealing to Americans’ tolerant instincts. Creationist advocates say that they just want “equal time” for their point of view. Of course, in many cases they are trying to force this “tolerance” on others, as Texas’ recent textbook battle shows. And now in Kentucky they have managed to win tax breaks for a creationist theme park.

But here’s the harsh truth: There is no scientific evidence for creationism. None. It does not rival evolution scientifically in any way. Therefore, it does not belong in science classrooms.

And, no, it is not intolerant to say so—quite the opposite. There are many people who believe that the moon landings were faked. They have no good evidence for this, but they have a passionate belief. We would not expect a science teacher to report "both sides" of the moon landing "debate" just because one side feels strongly without evidence. And we would say that that the “moon-landing-is-faked” crowd was being unreasonable to expect equal time. They would be seen as completely intolerant if their protests shut down discussion of the topic.

Yet that is what’s happening with evolution. Textbooks and other materials are being dumbed down to omit or “soften the blow” of evolutionary ideas. The name Charles Darwin cannot even be mentioned in many classrooms for fear of creationist backlash.

Needless to say, these travesties have nothing to do with promoting “equal time.” They have everything to do with promoting a very narrow religious agenda. And there’s not one thing tolerant in that.

Price is managing editor at Teaching Tolerance.

Comments

I fall with the camp of

Submitted by Chris Marschner on 14 October 2013 - 8:39am.

I fall with the camp of scientific reasoning that believes in the Big Bang and evolution. However, science cannot discredit creationism simply by virtue of having evidence that the world is significantly older than 10,000 years. I agree that it is.

Before modern science, answers regarding the how and why of the universe were dictated theologians who were the first scientists. They pondered the mysteries of the universe. Soon, those that controlled the knowledge were rewarded in power and prestige. Any threat to that power would come at a steep price. In the 16th century, modern science of the day believed the Earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus had a different view but was afraid to challenge the existing order for some 40 years. Galileo's work later supported Copernicus but his work was viewed as heresy. Thus, modern scientists of any era typically challenge any theory that does not comport with the existing order without definitive proof.

Evolutionists use modern day metrics to find fault with creationism. In the book of Genesis it is said that God created the universe in six days and on the seventh he rested. The modern disproof of creationism is based on the fact that we assign the length of the day in modern time measurements of 24 hours. Could it be that each day could have been actually tens of millions or billions of years. Theologians/scientists, had to fit their theory into something workable that could be readily communicated and believed. They had no good means to measure much of anything when the old testament was written.

Even the scientists that this year proved the existence of the Higgs Boson particle, after nearly 50 years of inquiry and with the help of Hadron collider, cannot explain what created that particle and why it acts as it does. Perhaps if ancient scientists/theologians had the measurement equipment we have today they might have written things a bit differently. The point of this is that science seems to demand that one must prove the existence of god for it to be included but has no problem accepting an unproven scientific theory as a theory that merits discussion.

It seems like professional scientists have not changed much since Copernicus' day.
So much for tolerance.

Let me start this off with me

Submitted by Tolerance on 31 January 2011 - 1:14pm.

Let me start this off with me saying that I believe in Evolution. I completely agree that Creationism has no place in the classroom.

However, I think that the way that this article goes about this message is a little... harsh. The article starts out with the message that belief in creationism is a failing in the public education system. These kids have probably learned about evolution from their teachers, and they still choose to "subscribe" to creationism. Since it doesn't have scientific evidence, I don't believe that it should be taught in the classroom, but I also believe that faith can be a good thing. Even if people get nothing else out of it, it can help them through hard times. So why is it that the choice to believe, to have hope, is considered "losing"?

Seems like time is part of

Submitted by steve on 7 January 2011 - 9:46pm.

Seems like time is part of the issue. Evolutionists make time their god. Given enough time, then anything can happen. Think about how many articles you see that start with "millions of years ago." We've been conditioned to think that "a long time ago" is the answer.

It is very interesting that

Submitted by Rishona on 4 January 2011 - 11:08am.

It is very interesting that the word "science" is equated with "fact". Humans are the creators of science and we are quite fallible. So the product of something that is fallible can be infallible?
Actually science is a process through which information is dicovered. You are then free to formulate conclusions based on this information, but you are still most likely to either be wrong, or a bit misguided. So in a few more years, another scientist will do more research on a previous claim. We are far from "knowing it all". Ask any professional scientist!
I am an Orthodox Jew, so in my case I am a creationist (although I know of Orthodox Jews who are not). The understanding that I personally believe is that G-d is G-d and not a man...and he can make anything look like anything 'it' wants it to. For example, why should G-d need to plant a seed and wait for it to grow into a tree? He can just put a tree in place that looks like it has been there for several generations. Also, who defines time? Is it G-d, or is it man? Again, we qualify a "day" as when the sun rises; a "year" as when we revolve around the sun. How do we know that these actions were always constant? There are variations in the earth and it's mechanisms (global warming anyone?). Things are constantly in flux; including man's ability to truly understand all that is going on around him.
A good example of this is a show I believe I saw on Lifetime that told the story of two mothers who failed the DNA tests that determine the paternity of their own children. Both of these women knew this was ridiculous...they gave birth to these children (and no one was 'switched') either. However "science" was proving them to be wrong. In the one instance, the woman's freedom was on the line, because she was going to be convicted of welfare fraud (for lying and saying that children were hers, when they were not). Amazingly, her lawyer was able to dig up some preliminary writings in medical journals about this occuring before. It turns out that both women were something called chimaras; so basically they had multiple strands of DNA in their bodies (apparently from a fraternal twin that was 'absorbed' by their cells very early in the gestation process).
This is just one example of many to show how "science" (and in this case, DNA tests were always thought to be cutting-edge and foolproof) is not as reliable as it seems. So sorry for the length of this post, but I hope I presented the creationist view as something that is not solely harbored by uneducated idiots and superstitious individuals).

Although I'm not a

Submitted by Stephen Lindemann on 31 December 2010 - 5:03pm.

Although I'm not a Creationist...
I would tend to agree with the Creationist comments made here. It seems as though we have not permitted them the
light of day to actually present their case in a fair and insightful manner, lest we find that we've become intolerant to 'stories' that so far, have appeared quite harmless.

Next time ask a Sunday School kid how they're ruining Science for everyone else? A bleak stare and grin is probably all you'll get.

So it would seem that personal opinion is what molds our tolerance levels...because belief involves human emotion, and always will.

Thank You

Stephen, public school

Submitted by Sean Price on 7 January 2011 - 4:57pm.

Stephen, public school classrooms are not the place to allow creationists to "present their case." That should be done in peer-reviewed journals and at scientific conferences. Needless to say, creationists have already done this and they have utterly failed to make their case. As I said in the blog post, there is no scientific evidence for creationism. None. It is neither intolerant nor closed-minded to say so. It is simply stating a fact. Given that, it is fair to say that creationism has no place in a science classroom. If private religious schools wish to teach it, that is their right. But public schools have no obligation to discuss any religious creation story in a science classroom.

Intolerant of

Submitted by Lance Marchetti on 31 December 2010 - 4:37pm.

Intolerant of Tolerance?
Allow me to quote from an EXCELLENT article by Scott Scruggs at Leadership University:
"...tolerance trends are merely impulsive reactions to the problem and not well-thought-out solutions. The reason is simple. If our goal is just more tolerance, then discrimination isn't wrong in a moral sense, it's only offensive. Yet what constitutes "being offensive"changes according to the whims of the ethnic and social group involved. Consequently, a standard of tolerance becomes arbitrary and variable because it is subject to interpretation based on an underlying bias. Ultimately, no matter how legitimate it sounds, how right it feels, or how rigorously it is enforced, tolerance alone can never eliminate prejudice any more than licking can cure chapped lips."

Mr. Price, I am a Christian

Submitted by Toby DuBose on 23 December 2010 - 12:31pm.

Mr. Price, I am a Christian and a Creationist. I have a master's degree, am a public school teacher, and I am in charge of character education at our school.

Let me start by saying I'm sure you never expected for someone like me to even read your article. However, I have and I find it both condescending and ironic. I'm not sure who has linked ignorance and poverty to people who believe in Creationism, but I'd really love to see that research!

If one only casually studies the history of education in America, they would be confronted with the fact that Christians founded many of the educational institutions and continue to educate millions of people worldwide every year. And should you question the quality of their education or be tempted to label it as "ignorance", examine the facts and do the research. Take a good look at parochial, Catholic, and Evangelical Christian Schools--are their SAT scores lower or higher than their public school counterparts? Do a lower percentage of students at Creation-teaching schools go on to colleges and universities?

The irony of your article is that Secularists have won the day in the public education arena and yet you are still whining about not having 100% compliance. The irony of your article is that had it not been for tolerant Creationists, you would not have the voice you now have. So the tables have turned and the majority (by a margin of 3%) believes in Evolution over Creation. The question for you should now be, "Who is failing?"

Since Evolution (in the vast majority of public schools, colleges, and universities) is and has been the ONLY scientific perspective taught for the last 40+ years, and you have only managed to win by a margin of 3%, how successful do you suppose you have been? If your science is so unquestionable, so convincing, so irrefutable, why have you not convinced 97%? I guess battling the ignorant, impoverished Creationists is a job too difficult for the largest and wealthiest public education system in world history!

One final thing...Creationists are not your real enemy, Evolutionists are. I have studied in public institutions and private ones long enough to know Evolutionists don't always agree with themselves. Furthermore, how often have the text books been changed because Evolution Scientists got it wrong or simply falsified "evidence"? Do you remember "Nebraska Man" or "Piltdown Man"? In the late 1980's while at a Christian university some of the hoaxes of Evolution were exposed to me using Time Magazine and other secular periodicals. I then matriculated to a state university where the biology texts were teaching "Piltdown Man" as scientific fact. When I questioned the professor about what everyone else had accepted as a hoax, he dismissed it and quickly defended his belief and the text much like a Christian would a Bible. I have since encountered similar resistance to honest discussion among many of the Evolutionary scientific community.

Most Christians are tolerant of Evolutionists as long as they are honest about their science and their agenda. And herein is the rub: When you guys are honest, it comes off with the same intellectual superiority and condescension with which you wrote this article.

Mr. Price, what if the shoe was on the other foot; would you want your "tolerance"?

Toby
Language Arts Teacher
Character Ed Director
Jacksonville, FL

To all who have commented

Submitted by Amber Maiden on 29 December 2010 - 7:38pm.

To all who have commented above, it's a really interesting debate. And, having read over each post I feel like I am better informed about this long and sometimes ridiculous dispute. Let me be the first to say, I am pretty unbiased in that I don't really have a dog in this fight. I am not overwhelmingly tied to the idea of creationism or evolution. I don't teach science or religion so I'm not passionate about these ideas.

I did attend a secular prep school, and when I was taught science I was taught from an evolution and big-bang perspective. I have to be honest and say, as a consumer of education, my money is on what they teach at the preps schools. Prep school are the education of choice among the very wealthy, and the very wealthy tend to get the very best of everything in most societies- and so if prep schools are going with evolution, I would guess that it's probably pretty cutting edge stuff. However, I have to be honest and also state the big bang theory never made much sense to me.

I was raised in a very traditional Christian faith, and then later rejected it, because so much of what I was taught in that faith seemed to me to be illogical and idiotic. To my personal experience, good Christians aren't encouraged to think much, but rather just blindly accept whatever ridiculous and idiotic idea any man called a "pastor" puts inside their heads! I found the idea that this big God came along and made the world in seven days to be ridiculous! It just seemed like some kind of fairy tale that you would deliver to a three year old!

Honestly, I think no one can fully explain just how or why any of all of this came to be. The evolutionary types are guessing right along with the Jesus Freaks. I do think, however, that we need to be tolerant of people's religious and spiritual beliefs, because they are so important to people. Does this mean we should allow creationism to be passed off as science? Maybe. I'm not sure. I don't know enough about science to say whether creationism is a remote scientific possibility or just pure sci-fi! But I do think it's important for people to be heard, for ideas to be tested.

For example, nothing that Mr. Dubose said, persuaded me that creationism is scientifically possible. Just because Christians and Catholics have established many educational institutions, does not, in any way, prove that the education provided at those institutions is or has been sound or valid! I'm a very strong critical thinker and whenever someone is asked to just blindly accept something as "truth" simply on "faith", without question? without proof? I am highly skeptical. And yet, all of the organized religions have been running this little con game on their constituents for centuries! (And especially through their systems of education!) It's about power and manipulation, which is why organized religion is so threatened by science. Science represents another group of people who can provide clarity and insight into some of life's greatest mysteries, but before science, the church had a monopoly on that!

Ever since Isaac Newton, religion and science has been at war, each trying to discredit the other, when actually, the most brilliant of our times (Albert Einstein) realized and told us, that some how, some way these two concepts connect! But what the bleep do we know! Not much! Not much at all! So until we do figure it all out, we need to allow people to stumble along at their own pace. If a lot of people believe in creationism, that alone gives it value. If the creationist want the theory to be classified as "science" then they should be held to scientific standards. There should be some proof that a big man looking God made the world in seven days! (And is that really, all that different from the Big Bang theory?)

Amber Lisa

Toby- you are my hero. Thank

Submitted by S. Robertson on 29 December 2010 - 7:34pm.

Toby- you are my hero. Thank you for speaking up in such an articulate and respectable manner. It's encouraging to know there are still people like you teaching our children. :)

Thank you for taking the time

Submitted by Toby DuBose on 6 January 2011 - 12:02pm.

Thank you for taking the time to read and for your kind comments. Thank you also to Mr. Price who posted my response!

Toby

Thank you for a fabulous

Submitted by jane on 23 December 2010 - 11:08am.

Thank you for a fabulous article -- I have shared it with many people! I am truly thankful that in my country, religion and religious beliefs are kept out of the curriculum, and there is not a movement of people trying to integrate Christianity into our classrooms. Religion and spirituality do not belong in the classroom, they should be learned with one's family or friends or religious community. No matter how a person spins it, Creationism is not scientifically based, and therefore should stay out of the classroom. I wonder how Creationist Christians would feel about all religious and spiritual groups having their theories put into the curriculum?

With due respect, madame,

Submitted by Keith Moore on 24 December 2010 - 2:02am.

With due respect, madame, there are many well-regarded educational institutions that offer entire classes focused solely on the precepts of religion across all major, and some minor, faiths. Moreover, a class in philosophy in which students examine great works like those of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle and schools of thought including the Stoics, the Empiricists, the Epicureans would be severely diminished without inclusion of religious precepts since the way that various religions conceive of a moral universe is central to the study of philosophy. Naturally, it is also difficult to study thinkers and scientists like Kepler, Copernicus, Pasteur, Planck, Gallileo, and Newton without in some way touching on the way their process and thinking brushed up against religion. And frankly, madame, celebrating your belief that one of the three major monotheistic religions is entirely barred from the classroom is appallingly anti-intellectual. Such a thing would be akin to shutting out all discussion of National Socialism or Russian communism from a classroom, thereby preventing students from becoming fully aware of the origins, influence, and depravity of these movements; if there is real intellectual merit in discussing and being aware of movements that were actually depraved, there is certainly real intellectual merit in discussion and being aware of a monotheistic religion with hundreds of millions of adherents that divide themselves into hundreds of variations.
As to how creationist Christians feel about studying and learning about the beliefs of other religions and their theories about how the world came to be... they, unlike you, are open-minded.

I absolutely agree that

Submitted by Jennifer Kugler on 23 December 2010 - 8:01am.

I absolutely agree that creationism has no place in a science class. It is not science. However, I think that the tone of your article was a bit antagonistic and your choice of examples ineffectual. One cannot compare religious belief with a conspiracy theory. They are not equal and to portray them as such is disrespectful and lessens the force of your key argument which is (or should be) that religion is not science – it is based on faith and it involves a completely different way of looking at the universe; one that science cannot access. While science can tell us the “how” behind any given thing – can break it into its elemental parts etc, religion experiences those same things as something greater than the individual parts. I have no problem with evolution. In fact, I believe that G-d choosing that method of creation is incredibly creative. I have no problem with science; I believe that great good can come from the study of its many disciplines. I believe that religion and science both give us valuable and necessary information with regard to the universe and our place in it. Having said that, I also have no problem with those who do not believe. Although I am not a “creationist” and was not the intended “target”, I found myself hurt by the insults implicit in the use of some of your adjectives and descriptions. My many years of working and training in diversity have made it impossible for me to stand by and not respond. I would hope that, as the Managing Editor of a magazine dedicated to tolerance, you would be able to see beyond your own perspective and accept that there are others who may hold fast to beliefs different than yours. I will continue reading Teaching Tolerance magazine because I believe that it has a great deal to offer, but I am very disappointed in the tone and presentation of this article.

Very nice. Teaching tolerance

Submitted by Mary on 2 January 2011 - 1:35am.

Very nice. Teaching tolerance is all about being able to stand up and make yourself heard when someone (even someone supposedly teaching tolerance) is being absolutely INtolreant. The tone, the grand and sweeping conclusions, all tell us that Mr. Price has a long was to go before he can dialogue effectively with this group.

I'm sorry, but I'll have to

Submitted by Sean Price on 30 December 2010 - 1:54pm.

I'm sorry, but I'll have to disagree - you can compare creationism to a conspiracy theory. While creationism is very much bound up in religion, it is not *just* a religious belief. Creationism (or Intelligent Design) has become the political club of a relatively small group that is trying to muddle or shout down the teaching of evolution while inserting religious instruction into science classes.

Scientifically speaking, there is just as much proof for creationism as there is for moon-landing denial. So the comparison is apt. Obviously, I had no intention of offending religious believers in evolution by saying so. What I hoped to do was to point out that creationism, unlike moon-landing denial, is given consideration by some precisely because it is tied up with religion. Otherwise, it would be dismissed out of hand.

I'm sure that most creationists are basically good, sincere people, and I don't know what "insults" you inferred from the blog post. I simply believe that unscientific ideas should not be taught in science classes. Likewise, I believe that unscientific ideas should not be given "equal time" with scientific ideas just because a vocal minority believes them. Most important of all, I believe those who hold unscientific ideas should not be able to sabotage the teaching of genuine science in schools.

I am well aware that others hold views different from my own, and they will always get a respectful hearing here. But the name "Teaching Tolerance" does not imply that we must simply accept destructive viewpoints. Nor does it oblige us to soft-pedal criticism of those views.

Very well said, and I agree

Submitted by robert conerly on 23 December 2010 - 4:16pm.

Very well said, and I agree totally!

With all due respect to Mr.

Submitted by Keith Moore on 23 December 2010 - 1:25am.

With all due respect to Mr. Price, the scientific maxim that correlation does not prove causation seems to apply quite nicely here. Unless the survey he cites about the correlation between level of education and belief in creationism breaks down by specific educational paths in specific colleges, no logical conclusion can be drawn between the belief in creationism and the weakening of scientific education. Moreover, he does not present the poll results for those with a high school degree previous to this one although he does tell us that there has been an overall reduction in the percentage of people who believe that God created all things. Thus, his tying of scientific education and belief in creationism suffers from two fundamental errors of logic. First, without the previous number of high school-educated people who believe in creationism, he cannot demonstrate that the number who believe has stayed steady or increased and without the first step of showing that some portion of primary education may have fallen short, it is logically impossible to proceed to the step of claiming that the portion that has fallen short is, in fact, science. Second, without the breakdown of specific educational paths in specific colleges, there is no way to know what level of supplemental scientific education any given college-educated student has received and thus, one cannot logically draw conclusions from the difference in college and high school education; there is simply no direct evidence that the college-educated people received more scientific education. The question of whether God exists is not a question confined to science; it encompasses precepts of philosophy and rhetoric as well. It is therefore plausible that, without receiving any additional scientific education, a college graduate may come to be convinced that God does not exist and by extension, that He did not create anything. This explanation is no more or less credible than Mr. Price's supposition that additional scientific education not attained at the high school level is responsible for the lower level of belief in creationism by the college graduates. Take both of these points together and it poses a hurdle for Mr. Price's assertion that creationism is a tolerance issue because the poor, who may be unable to go to college, are more affected by an alleged deficiency in high school science education supposedly wrought (in some manner unnamed) by the existence of a belief in creationism.
Now, as to the second justification for creationism as a tolerance issue, it seems like a weak argument like that presented by creationism advocates (that admitting unscientific theories into science is required by tolerance) is not an issue for an organization promoting tolerance since what is being demanded by creationism advocates is not, in any way, tolerance. What they are demanding is a suspension of disbelief and ignorance of the merit of an argument; needless to say, this is not an issue of tolerance in any fashion.

Creationalists are,

Submitted by Dr. X on 22 December 2010 - 12:16pm.

Creationalists are, scientifically speaking, historically incorrect in their beliefs, due to the fact that they believe that the earth is only 10,000 years old, when ancient rocks prove otherwise, dating back to 4.2 BILLION years ago. Also, there is basically no scientific evidence of such religious, yet entirely inaccurate, belief.

how do you come up with 4.2

Submitted by nick carabba on 6 January 2011 - 6:28pm.

how do you come up with 4.2 billion years and not 1.7 billion years???

It is neither. The Earth has

Submitted by Peter Smythe on 13 December 2013 - 5:32pm.

It is neither. The Earth has been around for 4.6 Billion years. Eukaryotic cells have existed for around 1.7 billion years though.

Creationists don't believe

Submitted by Ellen Bartlett on 5 January 2011 - 5:48pm.

Creationists don't believe the "earth" is 10,000 years old.

We believe that mankind is 10,000 years old.

Okay, you can tell me that

Submitted by Jodi on 22 December 2010 - 2:17pm.

Okay, you can tell me that the sky is blue, and I can see that it's blue, so I know its true...and that verifies your claim. I cannot 'see' the age of a rock. The whole premise of anything scientific like this is that you believe it to be true. The scientists can tell me that they can date a rock back 4.2 billion years. They can show me the rock and the test results, but I have to have some sort of underlying belief that what they are telling me is the truth. If you believe that scientists lie and that the tests can't possibly prove the age of a rock....then no amount of arguing about it can prove otherwise.

Go out and do the tests

Submitted by Claire on 30 December 2010 - 5:32pm.

Go out and do the tests yourself, then. If you refuse to see the facts right in front of you- and your only argument is that you don't UNDERSTAND how the tests could prove a rock's age- well... I'd put more faith in the scientists.
Honestly, no amount of arguing can prove otherwise if someone refuses to listen.
I have nothing against Creationists... just voicing my opinion.

Agreed. Saying that "your

Submitted by Peter Smythe on 13 December 2013 - 5:30pm.

Agreed. Saying that "your evidence involves too much maths, therefore we don't believe you" is a pretty lame excuse.

Plus, we have thousands of scientists independently coming to the same conclusion based on evidence vs. 1 book from 4000 years ago describing events from thousands of years before that and passed down for hundreds of years before being written.

You don't have to "believe"

Submitted by Suzie on 22 December 2010 - 8:28pm.

You don't have to "believe" the scientists. You can learn the science behind the testing and then judge for yourself. I think that's the major difference between the two.