TED Conversations

Christopher Halliwell

Secondary Education Physics, Mississippi State University

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Should public schools be allowed to teach creation myths in science class?

Should christian political parties be allowed to circumvent the scientific method by using politics to put mythology in science textbooks?


Closing Statement from Christopher Halliwell

This conversation contains strongly differing opinions about public education. However, those who commented in favor of introducing creation myths into science textbooks were always religiously motivated. This is no surprise. Instead of appealing to the validity or truth of their respective creation stories, theses people appealed to "teaching the controversy". My response:

There is no controversy concerning evolution in the scientific community. "Teaching the controversy" of creation stories vs evolution is equivalent to teaching astrology next to astronomy, or alchemy next to chemistry, or magic next to electromagnetism. Without any verifiable claims to test, creation stories are not scientific. Ergo they do not belong in a science textbook.

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    Feb 25 2013: Absolutely, given they properly teach evolution theory.

    The suppression of any information will make it leak out regardless of any one or group's objectivism. Allow both evolutionism and creationism, children are more intelligent than we give credit for. (Why? I feel as though parents believe they know what's best, and that blinds them to know children are highly adaptable at young ages - with or without your cognitive awareness of their natural states of mind.)

    WE are talking about children EDUCATION.

    Indeed creationism is unfavorable to those of the scientific community (and who value 'science'), but while we argue this.... We waste time being practical with our scientific achievements - miles of psychological based research being done every moment. While we sit here and worry about how we began? We hardly understand our current conditions.

    There is no question politics and religion go hand in hand... The debate of our founding father's 'God'-based faiths, should be seen along side of their political philosophies... Separation of church and state is idealistic at best. Religion is as personal as it is communal. To neglect the impact religion REALLY has on political manners, is to not realize how a debate like this begins - by distracting you from the real issues.

    Information isn't the problem. I was raised to believe in the Christian-Catholic God but was given the room to guide myself into understanding God is as unique to every individual, let alone religion.

    Let the FUNDAMENTAL Christians win. Creationism should be allowed.

    Real knowledge and knowing cannot be suppressed or eliminated, it can only be ignored.

    If you really feel it is destructive to allow creationism to be taught along side of evolution, you must ask yourself a few things:

    What is it I am afraid of?
    When is more perspective bad?
    How can we expand creationism?
    What makes creationism appealing?
    Is this theory limited to Christianity?
    What is the best argument for/against creationism?
    • Feb 26 2013: In terms of deciding curriculum your questions are poorly chosen and biased to the creationism side.
      If you are teaching science you need to define what science is to start with.
      If you do, you will realize that creationism is religion dressed up.
      If you want to "teach the controversy" you have to first understand that there is no controversy. There are only a few strident fundamentalists screaming in the dark that their interpretations of a few pages of their magic book in interpreted their way. To give it the time it is worth in an average school year is to spend about 5 minutes on it.
      Evolution has been around since before Darwin and has mountains of evidence for it.
      Creationism has no evidence and no working theory to replace it.
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        Feb 26 2013: Your ENTIRE position is biased, while I attempt to find a middle ground, you have no other motive besides to side with your beliefs. I know you won't understand the irony, so I will try to explain as clearly as possible.

        Science has no unifying definition, and if you consider Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolutions) to be the best explanation and way to define what science is and how it works... Then we haven't taught science right in school for generations. As science takes consensus, community, consistency and higher practices of the above. Oh which, by the way, theologian cultures have similar systems of checks and balances.

        Creationism isn't religion, it's a theory that originates from religious doctrines. Which, is not strictly bound by religious scripture but also philosophers and scientist - but you wouldn't know that since you are so fundamental about your beliefs....

        Never once did I use the word controversy, in fact, I made it very clear, it would be obvious to children that if we taught both creationism and evolutionism, the child THEMSELVES would figure out the truth, without your flawed objective views.

        Creationist, if they are genuine, understand evolution may be a part of the creation process and God had designed us to evolve in a certain way over time... You cannot disprove this idea... And to deny it with no reflection, is stupid.

        My questions are not in favor of anything besides opening up the debate.

        More perspective is never bad. Understanding the arguments for creationism can make evolutionist more equipped to debate. Understanding alternative creation stories/myths/theories and/or expanding them - will grant more awareness.

        See? while your approach actually proves more limiting, it ultimately would create a taboo. Mine would get children to your desired objective "goals" anyways, but without actually being an objectivist with education. And being pragmatic or existential.
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      Feb 26 2013: It's not about suppression. No one is burning bibles or churches in the US.

      Have the debate in debating class if you like.

      Teach creation myths in humanities.

      It's a slippery slope to let special religious interests hijack any subject. Do you really think evolution would be taught fairly along side a particular interpretation of supernatural creation?

      Let the peer review process deal with scientific controversies. Even most new peer reviewed scientific findings turn out wrong (especially in medicine). But over time they get improved or discarded. Teach the established scientific theories like evolution not any special interest religiously inspired hypothesis, especially accredited ones like ID.

      So happy to debate in schools, but not to teach special religious interests.
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      Feb 26 2013: Actually information can be suppressed e.g. North Korea. Although it is harder in open societies and with the internet?

      Do you actually think US citizens who want to learn creationism can not find information outside of science classes?

      Creationism is not suppressed, its just not appropriate for science class. Is everything not taught in science class suppressed?

      Creation stories come from religions. And the creation story ID proponents want taught is a version that is compatible with their particular theology. It is disingenuous to claim creationism has nothing to do with religion, even when the replace creator with intelligent designer.

      I suggest you are mixing up the question of what should be taught in science class with censorship.

      I'm happy if they even acknowledge there is a controversy at the start of th class but then teach science.

      Not letting special religious interests inject non science into science classes is not total censorship or suppression, its about teaching science and not being a tool for religious indoctrination.

      From distant memory I think you will find in the Dover trial ID failed the religious test, and is unconstitutional to be taught in state schools.

      Separating church and state is not total censorship. People are free to express their views just not via state instruments such as public schools.
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        Feb 26 2013: You're begging the question.

        And avoiding my positions entirely.

        Who cares if it is in science class? Most of the people on TED are guilty of overstating what science is anyways.

        If the debate continues, in which pushes creationism out of science class, that won't stop anything. In fact it will help the fundamentalist cause of spreading their ideologies - they will have MORE reason to keep being closed minded.

        Like most of you are being here.

        Creationism - intelligent design - is not only limited to Christianity or theologians but philosophers/scientist.

        Indeed, a giant premise of creationism is faith based, but you have no idea how much evolution actually is.... It's a theory! Yes, we evolved, but HOW, WHAT exactly evolves we have very little idea...

        If at any point creationism is getting more favored in a classroom than evolution theory, than guess what? Looks like neoatheist, and non-religious folk are going to actually need to organize instead of being militant for militant sakes.

        Religion isn't going away, to be arrogant enough to suppress a LARGE group's desire to want to bring their traditions of science into the schools, let them. Be the bigger people.

        Most people overstate the word 'science' so often, the word gets devalued and is made into an alternative religious ideology. Maybe with some information which is 'clearly' not science ina science class, children can decide for themselves.

        Because, again, this isn't about you all, it's about children.

        They will be able to filter the information being paralleled with it's contrary position. To try and protect and prevent this religious agenda of creationism in school, will only backfire overtime.

        Essentially, Obey, stop being petty, and put faith real knowledge will always outshine falsehoods.

        But the question of God should be as scientific as any other question, because it is open still and like I said above/below - this neoatheist trend needs to hit the limelight or its just pathetic
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          Feb 27 2013: How am I begging the question?
          Because science is naturalistic and deals with falsifiable claims?
          Because most views of creationism have a religious or supernatural context.
          Because intelligent designer is generally code for a god.

          I also have a different view of what a scientific theory is. Its not the same thing as colloquial usage. Look it up.

          I do acknowledge the prevalent theories may be updated or discarded at any time when a better one comes along. If a better alternative comes along than evolution, happy to teach that. But creationism or any other views shouldn't bypass the peer review process etc just because some people don't agree with the science. Have you thought through the precedent of teaching whatever influential special interests groups want rather than the best science?

          Maybe we have different ideas of what science is.
          I work in a Research organisation so I might have a different perspective to you.

          I'm all for the debate. But in the proper place.

          You seem to be implying I'm a neo atheist. I've been an atheist long before the current trends. I'm not really an antitheist either. I support freedom of religion, along with the separation of church and state. This issue relates to the latter.

          Yes it is about the children. They deserve to be taught the best science and not be the playthings of special religious interest groups. Science class is not the place to teach every social controversy, or even worse selectively inject certain religious views that sit outside science.

          Science class is also not the place to aggressively compare and debunk religious beliefs such as creationism or young earth. Just teach the science.

          It's not petty to keep science for science class and the debate where it belongs. It is a sound principle, not petty.

          Perhaps the pettiness is on the other side unhappy that their beliefs are not being given special treatment to be taught alongside the established science.

          Anyway good discussion. Ta.
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          Feb 27 2013: NL, just some thoughts on your last points :
          "But the question of God should be as scientific as any other question"

          I suggest it is. We have applied the scientific method for a few hundred years and found no empirical evidence of gods. I'm afraid invisible, immaterial, transcendent, entities outside of the reality we can test and observe, are concepts that the scientific method is not built for.

          I agree we don't know if any beings outside of the reality we can test and observe exist or not. We really don't know what a reality outside the one we can test or observe means, or exists other than a human concept, let alone any beings in it.

          "this neoatheist trend needs to hit the limelight or its just pathetic"
          I don't think the separation of church and state (schools), or protecting science classes from special interests is just a neoatheist issue. As a parent, I want my daughter taught science in science class not the loudest special interest getting special treatment. Do you understand that. I don't care if it is creationism or something pro homosexuality that is not established science.

          No issue debating or discussing the issue elsewhere.

          Why should creationism get special treatment and not some equally speculative non established pro homosexual or pro feminism or pro racism special interests. Because they have the loudest voice?

          In Australia we don't have a formal separation of church and state. In fact our head of state, of our constitutional monarchy, is the English Queen who is also the head of the Church of England. The Christian lobby has managed to get religious instruction (mainly Christian) and chaplains into state schools, which I also object to as a parent who supports secularism and freedom of religion and is antimonarchy. You might like it here. No constitution to prevent religious views (including sanitised creationism) being included in state curriculum.

          Do you support the separation of church and state?
          Do you accept ID is not established sc
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      Feb 26 2013: Your position seems to be heavily biased. Firstly, you seem to have a poor understanding of evolution. Your prejudice toward this proven fact implies you have a deep distrust of science. I impore you to cast aside any preconcieved notions or misinformation that you may have acquired in your religious indoctrination. As you study science, you will notice that it only deals with observable phenomena in nature. Religious views, however, are not based on verifiable information, nor does it claim to be contained within nature. Creation myths stem from a lack of understanding of the natural world. Since creation myths are always of a supernatural variety, they cannot be studied by science. Science only studies nature.

      Essentially, I would like to you to start from scratch. Pretend that you know nothing about evolution or the scientific method and do some research. You will be surprised what you learn.

      However, this topic is not about evolution, or any specific theory. This thread is about the movement of religiously motivated politicians attempting to put non-scientific fairy tales put in scientific textbooks. I look forward to your reply.

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        Feb 26 2013: You don't know me Chris, so it's understandable how you can misunderstand my position.

        It's one that is a middlist, which values non-extremism. Had you read my profile, Einstein himself has something to say about trusting authority figures with information. We shouldn't entirely.

        Science is not this flawless system of checks and balances. Since this conversation is talking about education and children - how about how science has allowed our youth to be pumped up with drugs? Not "science" fault? Political issue? Odd, they seem so closely associated, don't they? Since science developed the drugs, pharmaceutical companies campaign for their usage with scientist being the reliable sources. Indeed, a distrust of science, but not deep, just the right amount. To not give faith to a disconnected body of men (especially Western scientist) who are known to be sexist, racist and straight out white supremest - maybe not consciously, but their actions prove otherwise. (Check out feminist epistemology)

        I am biased? While I attempt to look at what both sides of the debate can offer, your debate premises are not - you are proposing the idea of creationism in science classrooms is not tolerable. You have presented nothing but biased notions here. My only bias is to not have bias - which is a catch 22.

        "As you study science" this indicates a lot of what I have said already on this conversation.. you can't just study 'science' it isn't a linear practice.. a scientist isn't a master of science, but a master of a specific specialized science...

        Creation myths are as ancient as any other stories we have in anthropology and humanities. To dismiss them, dismisses our human lineage, which is clearly based on science/history, since the above are SCIENCES.

        I read a good amount of evolutionary psychology, I can probably teach you a thing or two... lol which at this point is obvious.

        Your last statement is, again, clear to your biased position.
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          Feb 27 2013: Nobody claimed that science is flawless. However science does check for flaws and corrects them if the evidence requires. Your position, on the other hand, is immutable. No amount of evidence could ever sway someone who's decision is based on faith. Faith is lack of a good reason to believe. If you believe based on faith, then what reason could you possibly have to accept actual evidence?

          Yes, you are biased. Anyone who rejects evolution is either misinformed, or has not ever heard of it. Evolution is a fact. Welcome to the present day.

          I would love for you to "teach" me something about evolution. I look forward to your "information" that you got from a creationist website about how evolution is impossible.

          /sarcasm off
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        Feb 27 2013: Hi CH, suggest we are all a bit biased, not just the people who disagree with us.

        In this case I just think the case to make a special exception for creationism to be snuck into science class alongside established science doesn't stack up. All the principles or free speech, being against censorship etc is just a smoke screen.

        You don't get to teach a special interest view on history that is not established history such as holocaust denial as an alternative to established history in history class. Similarly science class should not be used to give equal status to the loudest special interest world views alongside established science. That is the principle.

        In addition, the US constitution prohibits the state establishing religion. Now they are no longer trying to teach Genesis 1 and 2 as science, but creationism or intelligent design is inherently religious in a non dogmatic sense. It supports the abrahamic monotheistic belief systems. It's not a Buddhist view or polytheist view. Imagine the text saying "the intelligent designer or designers", to fit in the polytheistics. May need some more changes to fit in Wiccans or Scientologists.
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        Feb 27 2013: Scientist are people too.

        Too assume they are people that NEVER exchange political exploitation (money for research) in return for favors, of the sort which are profitable either academically or monetarily...

        You're right no one is claiming science is perfect, but when you dictate science as being the answer to the holy question "how does one live life?" - well, guess what, sounds pretty religious to me.

        Scientific research is far from perfect, but what helps is theorizing - what you guys are talking about when you say it corrects itself.. But that, SLIGHT idea change takes a mountain of effort and work to do culturally, it's but people still talk about greek philosophers like they were born yesterday. It's maddening. Depending on the special field, there will be a general few paradigms these fields educate within. Necessary for development.

        You're putting faith into an abstract idea of science. And defending it by saying scientific method or reason, or logic... That's because the neoatheist trend is very real. The paradigm of a culture originating in scientific communities, being watered down into propaganda (at times) and philosophical scaffolding (most of the time).

        Faith isn't inherently irrational. It's what you decide to apply the faith to. Are you irrational for putting faith in science? (Or any type of strong belief) Eh, who is to say what irrationality really is? It's a more recent question of cog sci. We seem like we can be logical creatures, but we are not computers at the same time looking at ourselves like a computer makes us seem more like one and better understand ourselves. Yet, we still do not objectively understand these parts of our thinking which would be consider irrational to use in a certain sequence.

        Do you even know what the word biased means?

        Clearly I READ about evolution, in psych and humanities (namely culture studies).

        Biology is only one field to apply evolution too.

        Most creationist agree to microevolution, guy.
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          Feb 28 2013: Yes scientists are people with all the human dynamics and weaknesses that brings.

          Its competitive. In the end the model or conclusions that best fit the evidence win out,until something better is found.

          The steady state universe was the most accepted view until we found evidence the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate.

          Im not sure irrational is the right word, but based on my understanding it would be misguided to assume science is a perfect process and not subject to human dynamics.

          How do you define faith? If its believing something without sufficient evidence, well maybe irrational is a bit strong a term, for some situations, but it is fair to ask whether the belief is justified in terms of being correct. It is a different question to consider if it is useful.

          I think my view of science is more balanced than the straw man you present. Its not perfect but it works better than any other process for understanding the universe. The evidence it works is in the technology we have from applying it.

          Religious belief is understandable given our biological and cognitive make up. But does that make all religious beliefs correct. If they provide some personal or social benefits, that does not make them correct.

          My view is not all beliefs have equal standing in terms of evidence to support them.

          Are all religious beliefs rational given your current understanding of the universe. Is it rationale to assume gods are responsible for lightening, floods, mass murders etc. Is believing in Scientology rational? Is there sufficient evidence to believe the angel Gabriel dictated the Quran to muhumad over many years. Is there sufficient evidence to believe in Mormon beliefs about planets with Mormon gods. Was Buddha really born from his mothers side after she was impregnated by a beam of light.

          So is it rational to have faith in extraordinary claim without sufficient evidence?. Or is personal religious experience and intuitive feelings enough?
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          Feb 28 2013: I ran out of space.

          Just wanted to ask if you were suggesting that if something is commonplace than it always rational?

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