In case you missed it, the debate on our species origins continues gaining momentum. On February 4, Bill Bye – yes, Bill Nye the Science Guy – held a debate with Ken Ham. Ham may not have the same popular cachet as Dr. Nye, but Ham is a leader in the young earth creation movement and the founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.
Dr. Nye, prior to the debate with Mr. Ham, had been outspoken with his criticisms that creation theory should not be taught en lieu of, or alongside, evolution theory in public school science classrooms. Central to his criticism is the notion that by doing is dumbing down the next generation of scholars needed to move this country forward in science, discovery, and engineering.
Mr. Ham, a self-described Biblical Literalist, holds that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. That dinosaurs and humans coexisted peacefully with one another until Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden putting in to motion the rest of biblical history.
The push to include creationist theory in public school curricula has been evolving for decades. The new wrinkle is this near abandonment of the idea of “intelligent design” and to “teach the controversy,” in favor of the original goal: Biblical creationism.
“Contrary to popular opinion and to media coverage that incorrectly asserts that ID is not based on the Bible, ID is every bit as biblically based as the creationism that preceded it. The movement’s leaders have defined ID in overtly religious terms, identifying the intelligent designer as the God of the Bible and referring to themselves as creationists. However, in order to avoid divisive arguments with YECs (for example, concerning the age of the earth), whom they need as political allies, ID proponents do not use Genesis as the basis for ID. They appeal instead to the New Testament Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. / The same was in the beginning with God. / All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”
This movement to insert creationist theory in to science classrooms across America continues to gain traction. A recent study by Slate.com examines where public funding is being used to teach creationism across America; though Louisiana and Tennessee certainly stand out on the map.
In a recent interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Moyers posed the following:
BILL MOYERS: All right. According to the Pew Research Center, back in 2009, a comfortable majority of Republicans accepted human evolution as a fact. But now, a plurality rejects it. So I ask you, politics can trump science, can’t it?
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, in a free, elected democracy, of course. You vote who you want on your school board. There is no provision in the constitution for the government to establish what’s taught in schools. That’s all relegated to the states. Hence, we speak state to state about what’s in their science textbook versus another.
And so that’s the country we’ve all sort of bought into, if you will, or born into. I think it’s a self-correcting phenomenon. Nobody wants to die, okay? So we all care about health. But above all else, among the Republicans I know, especially Republicans, nobody wants to die poor, okay?
So educated Republicans know the value of innovations in science and technology for the thriving of an economy and business and industry. They know this. If you put something that is not science in a science classroom, pass it off as science, then you are undermining an entire enterprise that was responsible for creating the wealth that we have come to take for granted in this country. So we’re already fading economically. If this, if that trend continues, some Republican is going to wake up and say, “Look guys, we got to split these two. We have to. Otherwise, we will doom ourselves to poverty.” And so I see it as a self-correcting, I don’t know when it’ll happen, but they know.
This entire push to abandon science for biblical teaching resides largely within the fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party.
Take for example the words of Mary Helen Sears, a Michigan Republican and candidate for the National Republican Committee:
“How then can we as Christians stay in a party that adopts Homosexuality into the fabric of the tent. I say we cannot. Homosexuals make up less than one percent of the total population. They must prey on our children to increase their numbers. Why then, would we, as a party, entertain this perversion? We as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.”
While NDT has faith that reason will prevail within the Republican Party and rationalism with weed out fundamentalism, I don’t share his optimism. When a ranking Republican member of the House Science Committee addressing Liberty University students states:
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
I’m reminded, as a student of history, that once upon a time – roughly 1,000 years ago – the Middle East led the world in science, mathematics, literature, and philosophy. What happened? Fundamentalist Islam purged the land of thought that diverged from the Qur’an.
America has already slipped, dramatically in many cases, from the rest of the world in science and math. With a political party that holds science in such disregard as an enemy of its faith, it won’t require much to doom America to the same fate as has befallen Middle Eastern states.
To Be Continued: If we’re going to teach creationism, should all creationist theory be equal? Next up, let’s explore other creationist theories and see if they too can be taught in the science classroom…