Biology Teachers and Creation

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More than one in ten high school biology teachers in the U.S. “advocate” creationist beliefs in the classroom. But that’s not the biggest news.

The Penn State University study, newly published in the journal Science, reports on the attitudes of 926 high school biology teachers toward evolution education. While some media outlets (such as LiveScience) have emphasized the portion of educators teaching creation views, most (such as ScienceDaily and the Washington Post) take a cue from the original press release and emphasize that many teachers (nearly three-fourths) are “reluctant to endorse evolution” in the classroom.

Study coauthor Michael Berkman, a political scientist at Penn State, blamed that reluctance on a “lack [of] knowledge and confidence to go in there and teach evolution.” Other commentators have debated whether insufficient education of science teachers is truly the problem, with University of Minnesota biologist Randy Moore (lead author of a study we reported on in May 2009) arguing,

“If someone wants to learn about evolution, it’s not hard to. It’s hardly a science education problem. Scientists think if teachers just take a class they will accept it, but many simply reject it.”

The study also located something of a silent majority among the teachers polled: roughly 60 percent who taught neither view enthusiastically, preferring to cautiously teach the minimum required evolution curriculum and avoid controversy by saying little else. According to the study authors, these teachers “tell students it does not matter if they really ‘believe’ in evolution, so long as they know it for the test.”

Evolution, too, makes claims about why humans are here (i.e., we’re here by accident with no objective purpose or meaning and no absolute morality)—exclusive claims that constitute a religious perspective on the question.

LiveScience spoke with Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, who criticized creation education in the classroom: “Science doesn’t deal with the human condition, like why we were here. That’s fine to be covering those, but not in the science classroom.” What Eberle seems not to realize is that evolution, too, makes claims about why humans are here (i.e., we’re here by accident with no objective purpose or meaning and no absolute morality)—exclusive claims that constitute a religious perspective on the question.

It’s certainly disappointing that even 13 percent of classrooms learning both sides of the origins issue is deemed “too much” by the high priests of evolution. Answers in Genesis wants Bible-believing science teachers to know and take advantage of what they can legally teach about creation in their classrooms. (For more on that topic, see Can Teachers Teach Creation Legally?) But we don’t want to force non-creationists to talk about creation, as they may intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent our views. What is ultimately more important is that Christian parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers recognize that good origins education is rarely going to be found in the public school system (or even, sadly, in many Christian schools). The responsibility to teach children about Genesis, origins, and biblical authority should begin and primarily be in the home and church (and be reinforced in Christian schools).

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