The Age Old Argument: Creation v. Evolution

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August 11, 2011

The Age Old Argument: Creation v. Evolution

And it’s Effect on the Texas School System

The argument of creation v. evolution, in respect to the public school system, has been going on for many years and is not likely going away but will more than likely continue to progress until an agreement has been reached or worse a law is passed to make one party permanently hold its peace. This argument has, in the past, favored creationism in the state of Texas; a Bible belt state. Slowly but surely more and more diverse religions have become more prevalent in Texas as it has in the rest of America. This has made this issue require more attention. More importantly, according to Susan Watts-Taffe, Texas is one of the most influential states in the development of school curriculum. The only way to come to a possible solution to this issue is to really dissect the matter. The best place to start when trying to resolve any conflict of disagreement is to look at the question. At first people see the question of creation v. evolution as being which is right or which is true but there never really is an answer to a question like that. An entire state of diverse people of many religious and nonreligious beliefs will never agree that, yes, one religion is true or, no, creation is as false its religion. It is more effective to ask which is more appropriate to be teaching in public schools: evolution, creationism or neither.

Firstly we need to understand what the guidelines are that must be followed when putting into practice a curriculum in the Texas public school system. Does creation or evolution even fit these guidelines, or should neither of them be taught? According to the Texas Education Code, section 4.001, “the mission of the public education system of this state is to ensure that all Texas children have access to a quality education that enables them to achieve their potential and fully participate now and in the future in the social, economic, and educational opportunities of our state and nation”. Obviously to decide what is the most appropriate topic to use for the discussion of Earths origins is to decide whether creation or evolution helps children achieve their potential socially, economically and educationally. The most common and necessary attribute to these three important goals is truth. Without actual truth in things children are taught in school, all three of these goals are not met. Without honesty in actual education children will gain no intellectual knowledge to stand on. In the educating of children economically it is irrelevant and a waste of time and tax payer dollars to teach children anything that is either useless to their academic or future career choices or their future impact on society. But it is not irrelevant but rather detrimental to teach falsities as truths as it is unproductive and useless to teach children things that are not fact as if they are. Lastly, in educating children socially, the greatest gift we can give to children is education but if some of what they are taught is false then children have been dealt the greatest injustice. It is impossible to function in the society of Texas, and the rest of America, if the base of one’s understanding is that lying is the most effective means to get beliefs and opinions across. From this we can see that the most important common denominator is that what we teach children must be true; it does them and society no good to teach children lies. Now it cannot be proven that creation really happened because when in it comes down to it religions that believe in creationism are based in faith, without proof. On the other hand evolution, having happened (according to its followers) billions of years ago, doesn’t allow for any eyewitness records to go by. It is then virtually impossible to prove either belief as entirely true but rather the best approach would be to find which has greater facts on its side and teach that in our schools. At the same time never, ever neglecting to teach that which is unproven about either creation or evolution, neither should be taught solely as scientific law because they are not and children need to know this. Now that the qualifications of academic courses in Texas are defined, it is time to see if either evolution or creation even belongs in the Texas school system.

The Case for Intelligent Design

“Did a computer form via an earthquake at Radio Shack or did it have a designer?” A thought provoking question posed by Dr. Jay L. Wile, a nuclear chemist and writer of science curriculum for homeschoolers in junior high and high school. Dr. Wile points out the fact that the distance, mass, magnetic field, and mixture of gases of planet Earth are so precise that should they be off, even by the tiniest percent, our planet would be as uninhabitable as the other planets in our solar system. He then goes on to say that it is because of the preciseness and fragility of Earth that one can see it was no accident that created the wonder that is our world, but rather someone of great intelligence, hence the label of Intelligent Design. But can these feelings be taught in Texas schools?

Texas is a part of the union of the United States of America and as a member of that union it must abide by its laws. In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard the Supreme Court clearly defined that a teacher may teach multiple theories whether they be creation or evolutionally based. This case was decided in 1987 and since then many other religious beliefs have become more and more prevalent in America. It would only be fair to the students, whose belief systems are so much more varied these days, to touch base with the beliefs of multiple religions as well as evolution; there are children who do not believe in a god or gods or are uncertain of what to believe. Not only would that be fair but, also according to the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is stated that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and in the case of Davis v. Beason Mr. Justice Field stated that “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.” Teachers, by law, have no right to teach one religious belief; they must be religiously neutral. Therefore in keeping with the Constitution, teachers need to make clear the fallible aspects of each theory as well as that which is proven without taking sides with any belief.

The Case for Evolution

After establishing an understanding of where the theory of Intelligent Design stands in the realm of teachable subjects in the Texas school systems, it is time to see if evolution also has evolved enough for it to have a leg on which to stand. At first glance it seems most logical to teach evolution rather than Intelligent Design, in that science and biology are not classes designed for the teaching of religion. But does evolution belong in the classroom? Does it qualify as a teachable subject? Is it even legal? Evolution has faced much opposition in the legal system. After WWI, many states began enacting laws to prohibit the teaching of evolution. This was felt to be a great threat to Constitutional rights by the American Civil Liberties Union in New York (ACLU). They set out to test the actual Constitutional soundness of the laws and more specifically the 1925 Butler Law of Tennessee. They decided to instigate a court trial to test this Law. All they needed was a teacher to put it to the test. John T. Scopes was a teacher in Dayton, Tennessee; he would be their guinea pig. George W. Rappleyea, a Dayton citizen, was a staunch evolutionist and greatly hated the Butler Act. After learning of the plans of ACLU, Rappleyea was eager to have such a trial in Dayton because the publicity the trial would bring great economic benefit to Dayton. He arranged for Scopes to be arrested, which raised the attention of Williams Jennings Bryan, a lawyer who strongly stood by the belief of creationism. He volunteered to be the prosecutor. Rappleyea got the financial assistance of ACLU to get a defending lawyer, Clarence Darrow. Dayton was filled with many people interested in watching the trial from preachers to politicians, just as Rappleyea hoped. After a heated battle between Bryan and Darrow, two men who already detested one another, Scopes was found guilty because he broke the Law but he won the favor of the public. In the same timeline (1925-26) The Texas State Textbook Commission decided that evolution and the mentioning thereof were to be deleted from text books.

Since the 1920’s the laws have changed in America and Texas. In 1968, The Supreme Court faced another case of antievolution law in the case of Epperson v. Arkansas. The Court stated that “the First Amendment does not permit the state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma” and that “the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them.” It is clear that teachers can no longer be forbidden from teaching evolution but it is clearly unethical to teach falsities to students such as the statement that evolution is a scientific law. Also due to multiple complaints from Mel and Nora Gabler, the Texas State Board of Education decided that text books would only state evolution as a theory.

The solution therefore logically would be that teachers of the Texas public school system may touch on the subject of Intelligent design by looking at it from all sides without biased opinions as stated by the Supreme Court and that Evolution is also permissible to be taught in the Texas School systems only when it is stated as a theory and not scientific law. According to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), students are to “evaluate the evidence concerning the Big Bang model” and “current theories of the evolution of the universe”. To sum it all up both evolution and creationism are both legally teachable in the Texas school system but only when it is taught in an unbiased and honest manner and after that it is up to the student to personally decide which theory or belief they desire to believe.

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