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Debate: Creationism vs evolution in schools

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==External links and resources== ==External links and resources==
-British biologist Richard Dawkins* Wikipedia entry on Richard Dawkins' book [ ''The God Delusion'']
* [ Answers in Genesis] * [ Answers in Genesis]
* [ Humanism: against creationism in UK schools] * [ Humanism: against creationism in UK schools]
Line 209: Line 209:
* [ Overview of legal debate in USA] * [ Overview of legal debate in USA]
==Books:== ==Books:==
-The God Delusion* [ The God Delusion] Richard Dawkins
-* [ Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools] <sup>Amy Binder</sup>+* [ Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools] Amy Binder
-* [ River Out Of Eden] <sup>Richard Dawkins</sup>+* [ River Out Of Eden] Richard Dawkins
-* [ The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism] <sup>Niles Eldredge</sup>+* [ The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism] Niles Eldredge
* [ Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution] <sup>Edward Larson</sup> * [ Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution] <sup>Edward Larson</sup>
* [ Creation Vs. Evolution: Examine the Evidence] <sup>Ralph Muncaster</sup> * [ Creation Vs. Evolution: Examine the Evidence] <sup>Ralph Muncaster</sup>

Revision as of 00:02, 19 January 2008

Should public schools be allowed to teach creationism alongside evolution as part of their science curriculum?


This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Tom Hamilton. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.


Background and Context of Debate:

Many Christians believe that the earth and all living things on it were created by God in seven days. This is denied by the theory of evolution. Since the origins and development of life are an important part of the school science curriculum, the question of what schools should and should not be allowed to teach is an important one. There are differences between the debate in Britain and in the USA. In Britain, schools must teach evolution as part of the National Curriculum, but are not barred from teaching creationism as well, and some religious schools, such as Emmanuel College in Gateshead, have done so, presenting creationism as fact and evolution as a matter of faith. In the USA, pressure has been put on school boards to enforce the teaching of creationism and evolution as equally controversial scientific theories (as in Ohio), or to remove evolution from the list of examination topics and therefore make it less likely to be taught (as in Kansas).NB This topic does not go into detail about the nature of the evidence used by evolutionists and creationists in support of their position; for this, I would recommend the web links and books given at the end – although I would also suggest that going into detail on this, and trading example and counterexample, will make for a poor debate, as the key questions about the legitimacy of creationism and evolution are about their respective approaches to scientific method rather than the evidence they employ.

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Creationism as science: Does creationism qualify as science?


  • Teaching evolution exclusively is dangerous to science and reason. To exclude a set of ideas a priori is to potentially exclude the truth. Thus, as a matter of principle, science should not be constrained to a single set of ideas. Creationists argue that both sides should be taught. Evolutionists, on the other hand, limit the scope of science to a narrow acceptance of just one theory. Thus, to teach evolution exclusively is to promote limitations on the power of scientific inquiry. To teach creationism along side evolutionism is to promote open scientific inquiry and critical thought.
  • Creationism is scientifically testable. Some creationists have argued that 'creationism' is a theory consistent with the scientific method. The hypothesis it adopts is that God created 'the heaven and earth ...' some thousands of years ago, and that man did not "evolve" into his current state. Supporters of Creationism then cite supporting evidence for this theory.
Creationism claims to have discovered evidence for a young earth and for the biblical flood. It has pointed to the absence from the fossil record of intermediate forms between known species, and it is argued that certain species could not have evolved gradually because of their particular chemical or physical make-up. Organs such as the eye are cited as being 'irreducibly complex' (what is the use of half an eye?) and could not have evolved step-by-step as is suggested by Darwin and therefore must have been created.
It is claimed that these discoveries and observations are pieces of evidence that support the creationist hypothesis and compose the creationism theory. It is argued that because creationists follow this theoretical approach, that it can subsequently be called a "science".
  • Evolution is an unproven, unobserved theory - The term evolution can describe a number of things, some of which are directly observable while others are not. Evolutionists extrapolate evidence for observed evolution to be evidence for unobserved evolution. We have directly observed that random mutations invoke change and that nature sometimes selects for these mutations. Such mutations, however, are the result of the degregation of already existing information, not the development of new information. The development of new information via random mutation has not been observed. What has been observed is a very low ceiling for the number of mutations that the economy of life will allow before fitness costs become fatal. This is why bacteria have yet to grow arms, despite our direct observation of billions of generations.


  • Creationism is not scientifically testable. - The creationist account is an explanation that is not based on empirical evidence. It is not, nor claimed to be by those that uphold it, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses. The creationist account requires a belief founded on faith and is not a 'working hypothesis' testable using observation or experiment. 'Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science' – National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism [1] Furthermore, all scientific theories are necessarily unproven - that’s what ‘theory’ means. A hypothesis is an assumption that is not taken as "truth", but as speculation. Evidence is used to test a hypothesis with the goal of demonstrating that it is likely true or unlikely true. If the evidence demonstrates that a hypothesis is likely false, then it is scrapped, and a new hypothesis is formed. This is the strict process of the scientific method. Critics of creation argue that creationism takes the Genesis account (actually there are two Genesis accounts, in Gen 1.1-2.3 and Gen 2.4-3.24) as necessarily true in every particular, and then bends the historical evidence to fit that so-called ‘hypothesis’. Because creationism attempts to advance an unalterable hypothesis or doctrine, it does not follow the basic principles of science, which stem from doubt, hypothesizing, and re-hypothesizing on to accepted theory. Because creationism fails to follow this basic scientific, theoretical approach, logically it is argued that it should not be called a "science".
  • Evolution is an observable fact - While creationists often attempt to describe evolution as merely a theory, this is not exactly the case. Observations that evolution does occur in nature makes the process of evolution fact. The only part of evolution that is "theory" is the explanation as to "why" it occurs. But the "why" has nothing to do with the simple fact that it does occur, a fact that leaves no room for creationism.

Teaching the controversy: Should the creationism vs. evolution controversy be taught in public schools?


  • Teaching the creationism-evolution controversy is important to student learning - One of the greatest lessons that a school can teach its students is the ability to use their own logic and reasoning to develop an objective opinion of the world around them. By teaching creationism in the classroom, schools are broadening students' knowledge. It is possible to teach both creationism and evolution in the same school. The goal is to expose students to all widely held 'beliefs'. The path to understanding requires the teaching of both Creationism and Evolution.
  • Preventing the teaching of creationism violates freedom of religion: Many groups contend that evolution directly instructs that Genesis is wrong. If this is true, than allowing only the teaching of evolutionary theory directly undermines a religious doctrine. Young, impressionable students are more likely to believe such teachings. This should not be the case. Public schools should allow for the teaching of all salient doctrines and theories. No favor should be given one way or another. This principle is known as "Freedom of Religion" and is protected in the United States by the Establishment Clause. This clause ensures that no favor or dis-favor be given to any religious doctrine, yet this is precisely what is happening if creationism is prevented by the state from being taught in schools.
  • The history of God's creation should be taught irrespective of it being considered "science". Why does creationism have to be considered "scientific" to be taught? Spirituality and God's role in creating the world (or even just the possibility of this) are all highly important to understand by students, and should therefore be taught.


  • Attempts to teach the creationism vs. evolution controversy are disingenuous promotions of ID - Certainly, it sounds reasonable that creationism should taught in public schools in the context of it being a cultural/religious perspective? Who could argue with this? Many non believers would argue that creationism and Bible are wonderful literary works of fiction, and so, yes, they should be taught. Unfortunately those that uphold creationism as true cannot be satisfied with this because their doctrine drives them to require it to be taught as the truth. This is what many creationists are calling for in school systems. They frequently call for individuals classes to be created that teach "creationism science" as truth.
  • Schools should not teach theories that are completely at odds with each other: Evolution should be a central part of the science curriculum, because the rest of biology is dependent on it. Understanding how and why different organisms work as they do requires a knowledge of mutation, natural selection and adaptation, which are rejected by creationism. For creationism, the classification of living things based on lines of descent and chronological speciation makes no sense. Furthermore, understanding how evolution works as a theory helps teach students about the nature of scientific method - a matter on which creationists are notoriously shaky.
  • Because students are impressionable, if you teach them the literal truth of Genesis as science, they may well believe you: Since you are wrong, this is not to be welcomed, particularly since what your teaching involves is a wilful misunderstanding of the nature of scientific method, with implications for their understanding of science in general for the rest of their lives. The fact that more than half of all Americans believe that the world was created by God in seven days is a testament to political pressure from Christians to water down the science curriculum, and it is harmful - because it is wrong. We may allow children to be sent to faith schools, but we do not allow those schools to teach them whatever they like.
  • If creationism should be taught, it should not be taught in science classes. Opponents point out that there is no scientific controversy, but only a political and religious one, therefore "teaching the controversy" would only be appropriate in a social studies, religion, or philosophy class.
  • Teaching creationism is comparable to teaching "flat earthism". The scientific consensus against creationism is as strong as against "flat earthism". "Flat earthism" would never be taught today as a legitimate theory. Therefore, neither should creationism be taught as a theory explaining the origin of the earth. This view is put forward by Richard Dawkins, a prominent opponent of teaching creationism in schools.
  • Teaching creationism is akin to child-abuse. This view is put forward by Richard Dawkins, a prominent opponent of teaching creationism in schools.
  • If creationism should be taught, it should not be taught in science classes. Opponents point out that there is no scientific controversy, but only a political and religious one, therefore "teaching the controversy" would only be appropriate in a social studies, religion, or philosophy class.

Upholding Christianity: Should creationism be taught to uphold Christianity?

No Background Information


  • Teaching creationism's truth is necessary in upholding the truth of the Bible: There is a great deal at stake in the claim that God did not create the world in seven days: the Bible says that he did; if he did not, then the Bible is wrong. If the Bible is wrong on this, we cannot trust it on anything else and the entire Christian faith can be viewed as a lie. Atheists claim it is not appropriate to teach creationism as a 'truth' and evolution should be taught as a theory. However, those churches that fail to uphold the faith in creationism and even accept the theory of evolution are compromising their faith.


  • It is not 'appropriate' to teach creationism as a means for upholding the bible. This pre-supposes that the bible should be upheld in a literal sense. Many Christians object to this. More importantly, governments should not be in the business of upholding the Bible.
  • Creationism makes a false historical/scientific claim that is detached from the broader precepts of belief in God: The belief that God creates and sustains the world is not the same as the belief that God created the world in seven days a few thousand years ago. The former is a theological position which implies the goodness and sovereignty of God, and his continuing involvement with his creation, not a scientific claim. The latter is an empirically testable claim which has been empirically tested and found to be false. We should not allow schools to teach our children things that are just plain wrong, and known to be wrong. This is distinct from allowing the teaching of religion, which is culturally and historically significant and which involves beliefs which are in principle distinct from science.
  • The Bible is simply wrong if a literal interpretation is taken: On this question, the Bible just is wrong, and if you insist on holding a literalistic approach to Scripture then the implications you claim do indeed follow. However, there is no theological need to do this. The Roman Catholic and the Anglican churches, for example, have accepted the truth of evolution and they still hold what is a recognisably and distinctively Christian faith. If the authors of the Bible meant their creation stories to be taken literally then their claims are open to scientific test. It is widely held that they wrote stories designed to account for the world as they knew it, and by todays standards these could not be held up as scientific accounts.

Public opinion: Where do the various publics stand?



Pro/con bibliography



Activists/scholars pro and con in this debate


  • Ken Ham


  • Richard Dawkins.
  • Stephen C. Meyers (proponent of Intelligent Design theory)



  • This House would teach creationism in schools as 'Religious Knowledge' separarely and distinct from evolution which is a branch of science.
  • This House believes children should be free from indoctrination.
  • This House contends that religion, based on faith and doctrine, and science, based on reason and logic, can never be unified.

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also on Debatepedia:

External links and resources


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