If Creationism Must Be Taught In Public School
Bible Loses: A Clergyman's View

A recent poll indicates that a majority of Americans would not object to having evolution and Creationism taught side by side in the public schools. Personally, I have never seen this as the issue. The issue is separation of church and state.

Never mind that we live in a pluralistic society. This country could be 100 percent Hindu and the United States Constitution still would prohibit teaching religious doctrine as scientific fact or theory.

The exact words are: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . ." Quite clearly, the intent of these words, among other things, is to protect a minority of individuals from being coerced by any public institution to believe in any particular religious doctrine. Certainly, the public school is a public institution and Creationism is, without a doubt, a religious doctrine.

So the argument goes on: Isn't evolution just as much a religious doctrine as Creationism? Then why don't we just teach them both? Even though I have problems with this reasoning, let's suppose it's true. Why not teach all religious doctrines pertaining to the beginnings of the world as though they were science?

Using this popular line of reasoning, not only would we have to teach evolution and Creationism, but we would also have to teach from the Rig-Veda, a wonderful Hindu scripture, and from the Koran, the writings of Mohammed. We would have to teach the philosophies of Jainism, proclaiming that there is no creator, and perhaps even the tales of the Cherokee, Apache and Hopi, which also give detailed explanations of how we came to be. And, don't forget the Black Muslims and the Krishnas. If some religious group has an explanation for our beginnings, it would have to be taught right alongside Creationism and evolution. Don't think that these other religious groups would not demand equal time. And don't think for a moment that the Supreme Court would not give it to them.

The end result would be that what were once courses in science would become courses in comparative religions. There might be a day or two left to teach evolution and Creationism. Sure, the kids would learn a lot, but it would be mostly about religions of which they had never heard.

In fact, however, evolution is not a religious teaching, any more than is Creationism a scientific theory. Anyone who knows anything about scientific method, after all, knows that the proper way to do research is to make observations and then draw conclusions from those observations. Those who have worked on scientific explanations for our beginnings -- physicists, astronomers, geologists, biologists, anthropologists, etc. -- have mostly tried to do their research this way, with open minds.

Creationists, on the other hand, have not done their research this way. They have started with a premise: that the Bible is historically and scientifically true in every way. Then they have set out to prove that premise by observation, even if it has meant closing an eye to some very convincing evidence which has been in existence from the beginning of time.

In a way, we are all victims of history, victims of what those persons who came before us said, did and thought. For hundreds of years, ever since the days of Descartes, people were taught that a separation had to exist between the physical sciences and the humanities, which include the study of religion. Even today we recognize this separation by awarding college graduates either bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees.

In a way, Creationists and other religious groups, such as those involved with the study of process theology, have rebelled against this separation, arguing that what is said in one discipline has to make sense in all of them. The Creationists, however, rather than becoming more flexible in the way they interpret scripture, have decided to rewrite science to fit their interpretation of scripture. All this has done is actually broaden the gulf between religion and science.

But there are a few of us who have been trying to put it all together. While we must not divorce the Bible from science, we must recognize the Bible for what it truly is: a witness to the faith of those who lived long before us. It is the testimony of those who saw their world in less scientifically accurate ways than the way we view the world, today. And, most importantly, it is a book which struggles with the relationship of God and that God's creation.

If we love the Scriptures, let us not love them by stacking them up alongside so many other textbooks. Let us, rather, use that book in such a way that science and even evolutionary theory may speak to us of the glory and wonder of God.

by Paul G. Donelson