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Origins Smorgasbord

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on February 4, 2012

The Indianapolis Star blog: “Creation science bill clears the Indiana Senate Indiana Senate passes amended school bill.

Indiana’s Senate voted 28–22 this week to pass a bill offering schools the option of requiring “various theories of the origin of life” be taught in public school science classrooms. The bill passed in extremely amended form, however. Despite the good intentions of the bill’s sponsors, a couple of aspects of the bill—in its original form and more so in its amended version—raise concerns.

As we reported last week, Indiana’s Senate Education Committee voted 8–2 in favor of a bill stating:

The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

To avoid the appearance of endorsing a particular religion, lawmakers agreed to an amendment proposed by one of the bill’s opponents.1 The amended bill, which will now go to the House, states:

The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.2

Although the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard prohibits teaching creationism in order “to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind,” religion may be taught in public school if it serves “a secular educational purpose.”3

Riggs says his schools teach “two theories of the origins of life” in the same way literature classes examine both the Bible and the Quran. He says, “The idea is to get kids to think.”

According to Mount Vernon Community School Corporation Superintendent William Riggs, “We’ve always been able to do that.” Riggs says his schools teach “two theories of the origins of life” in the same way literature classes examine both the Bible and the Quran. He says, “The idea is to get kids to think.”

In contrast to the Indiana proposition that schools wishing to present alternatives must teach a smorgasbord of religious ideas, Louisiana’s Science Education Act allows school boards the option to “assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment . . . that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”4 Teachers, the law states, in addition to standard texts, “may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials [as permitted by the . . . school board] to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”5 And the Louisiana law specifies it is not to “promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”6

Answers in Genesis has likewise never suggested public school teachers should be required to teach creation science. As we have written many times, we are encouraged by the efforts across the country to try to provide teachers and students the opportunity to question and critically examine evolutionary claims. However, we remain “opposed to the compelled instruction of any alternative view (i.e., biblical creation or intelligent design) in public schools. You see, science teachers who are committed to an evolutionary belief system will teach any alternative to evolution in a poor and probably mocking way. In the end, it would be counterproductive.”7

We maintain teachers should have the academic freedom to help students develop critical thinking skills by openly discussing various scientific positions on origins without fearing to criticize evolution or fearing to mention creationism. Origins science—because it involves interpretations outside the realm of observable science—always involves faith, even if it is an evolutionist’s faith that no deity was involved. Students allowed to explore the difference between historical science and observational science should develop a superior understanding of the true nature of science. And by seeing evolutionary claims are not unassailable as commonly claimed, students should then be able to see true scientific observations are consistent with the Bible’s account of Creation and the Flood.

The amendment requiring any school opting to teach alternative viewpoints to teach the views of multiple religions in science class adds to the problems with Senate Bill 89. The point of academic freedom in science class is not to turn science into a class on comparative religions and suggest a multiple choice scenario for origins. With all due respect to the well-intentioned boosters of the current bill, to require teachers present material in the way now described in the amendment will not improve students’ scientific understanding but instead will likely cause more harm than good. Biblical young earth creationism offers models consistent with observable evidence, but treating it as a “religious option” will just obscure its consistency with science and make all ideas but the evolutionary fairy tale look foolish.

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  3. News to Note, January 28, 2012
  7. Misrepresented (Sigh) Time and Time Again


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