Those Pesky Creationists!

New poll of U.S. high school biology teachers reveals one in eight discuss creation in the classroom

by A. Peter Galling on May 23, 2008

The results of a new poll have alarmed evolutionists by suggesting 1 in 8 high school biology teachers in the U.S. promote creationism.

At a Glance

  • A poll run by Penn State University revealed that one in eight high school biology teachers promote creation or intelligent design in the classroom.
  • Correlations between teachers’ own study of evolution and the amount of time they spend teaching it prompt the researchers to encourage stricter certification for science educators.

A new poll of high school biology teachers confirms one of evolutionists’ worst nightmares: a chink remains in the legally enforced regime of evolutionary indoctrination in education.

The poll was conducted by political scientists at Penn State University, and the results appeared in the journal PLoS Biology Monday. The team questioned 939 public high school biology teachers in the United States, with the survey revealing that:

  • One in eight “present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to Darwinian evolution.”
  • Less than one-third of high school biology teachers believe that God had no part in evolution, nearly one-half believe God had a hand in evolution, and almost one in six believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
  • The teachers who hold creationist or intelligent design beliefs spent substantially less time teaching evolution than their Darwinist counterparts. Likewise, teachers with a stronger background in evolution spent 60% more time teaching it than those who had the least education in the subject.
  • Differences in educators’ responses were not linked to differences in state regulations.

(For a graph illustrating teachers’ opinions regarding evolution/creation, see Figure 2. For a table listing the amount of time teachers covered various topics, see Table 1.)

On the last note, the researchers conclude that the disparities in evolution education are more likely caused by differences in religious belief and education than state regulations—thus the PLoS news release title, “Teaching Evolution: Legal Victories Aren’t Enough.” Lead researcher Michael Berkman suggests increasing certification standards for teachers to prompt more attention on evolution in their classrooms. The paper’s authors write, “The extra background could make a large difference. The legal ruling and legislative victories are clearly necessary for evolution to maintain its proper place in the biology curriculum, but they are not sufficient.”

Accurate data, inaccurate conclusions?

Insofar as the research is simply reporting educators’ views, we can’t take fault with it. However, we do find a few faults with the scope of the survey, the questions, and (of course) the conclusions.

Several of the questions seem to be designed to split creationists from the evolutionists but may not actually do so.

Several of the questions seem to be designed to split creationists from the evolutionists but may not actually do so. For example, the survey asked teachers to respond to the statement, “It is possible to offer an excellent general biology course for high school students that includes no mention of Darwin or evolutionary theory.” Yet even a creationist might disagree with the statement, based on the historical prominence of Darwinism in biology. Additionally, answering “yes” to a statement such as “it is possible” does not indicate that the respondent thinks it is preferable.

Finally, the researchers concluded that requiring teachers to have more extensive education on evolution will lead to fewer instructors presenting creation as a scientific alternative to evolution. This is based on the statistical correlation the survey revealed between level of evolution education and advocacy of evolution in the classroom. However, this conclusion presupposes that a teacher’s belief about evolution is a consequence of his or her level of evolution education, when in fact it could likely be the opposite–that a teacher’s level of evolution education is a consequence of his or her belief about evolution. Those teachers-in-training who reject evolution are probably less interested in wasting their time on more discussion of what they consider bad or non-mandatory science, whereas those who consider evolution the cornerstone of biology would understandably spend more time studying it and focus on evolution in the classroom.

Speaking of presuppositions, we would once again point out that when it comes to the creation and evolution, we cannot run experiments to scientifically determine the truth of either, because both are (alleged) events in history. Thus, our framework for understanding the past must be presupposed; then, off of this framework, we build a scientific understanding of origins to explain our present biology. For evolutionists, this presupposed framework is naturalism, uniformitarianism, and chance. For creationists, the framework is God’s Word. (For more on this topic, see What Is Science?.)

AiG’s take

Now time for a word about Answers in Genesis’s view on origins education in public schools. We have made it clear time and time again that we do not endorse legislatively forcing educators to teach the Bible’s account of creation. Doing so would only guarantee that evolutionist educators would invariably misrepresent creation science, much as evolutionists accuse creationist educators of doing with evolution.

Rather, we emphasize the importance of giving students the resources they need to understand the debate and learn the scientific merits of each viewpoint on their own, giving teachers the freedom to educate and honestly express their own perspective without fear of censorship from creationists or evolutionists, and giving Christian parents the motivation to remember their primary role as educators of their children—including teaching kids about biblical authority starting from Genesis 1.


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