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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 27 2013: Educating young minds in critical thinking skills is difficult particularly in an environment where funding for schooling is piecemeal and partisan. There is a similar situation here in the UK with 'faith' schools, where particular religions will not allow their young people to mix with the mainstream because of the fear the children, who are very bright, will come back home and start asking 'awkward' questions. There also tend to be 'fashions or trends' in teaching methodology as much as in any other specialist field. So 'putting mythology' in science textbooks - actually it can be helpful to name 'the elephant in the room'. It can help engage children and start debates about the processes of belief structures and the outcomes which can then be compared and contrasted with other frameworks for exploring the phenomena we experience. As you have pointed out it is when teachers start using value laden words like 'good' and 'evil' etc that the children start to get confused and fearful which is always bad when you are hoping to nurture creative, independant thinkers who are prepared to challenge 'what is already known'. Teach a child to read 'critically' and how to use a library effectively and creatively. Give them 'hands-on opportunities to explore materials and their properties eg growing crystals is always a favourite. That really sets 'the cat amongst the pigeons' when the youngsters can grow their own crystals. As to what the 'creationist' stories actually say, it is important to remember they are products of the time they were written and it is only in the last hundred years or so that the general population has had a decent standard of basic literacy and numeracy. Some of the 'creation myths' especially amongst 'abooriginal' peoples are very interesting insights into complex dynamics between people and their lived social groups and their local environments. Agendas and funding going to cause trouble so experiments plus books better balance maybe.

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