Why Creationism Should Not be Taught as Science
The following correction was subsequently made to this article in issue 3 (volume2.1):
Two errors of fact occurred in my article, "Why Creationism Should Not Be Taught As Science: The Legal Issues," published in Issue I of Creation/Evolution.
On page 13 paragraph 3 it was stated that the "Tennessee law which John Scopes was charged with breaking" was declared unconstitutional. This is not so. John Scopes was convicted in Dayton, Tennessee, and fined $100, the usual fine for transporting liquor, which in this case seemed to be applied to transporting information. In June of the next year (1926) the case was appealed in the State Supreme Court. The judges were determined to clear up the issue and prevent a further appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court, so they, "having decided that the law was constitutional, nevertheless reversed the conviction on the ground that the fine had been improperly imposed by the judge," thereby implying that the law in question was simply not to be enforced. (Gail Kennedy, Evolution and Religion. New York: D. C. Heath, 1957, pp. 35-52.)
The second error occurred on page 19, next-to-last paragraph. There I stated that the sample resolutions appearing in the July-August 1975 and the May 1979 issues of Acts & Facts were used verbatim in Columbus, Ohio and Georgia. Popular newspaper accounts frequently declared this, but a careful comparison reveals no similarity in Ohio, or Georgia. The Florida bill, however, does show signs of strong influence, though it was drafted by another creationist organization, Citizens for Fairness in Education, in South Carolina. This same group was behind the Anderson, South Carolina resolution, which did take some sentences verbatim from ICR materials.
PART 1. The Legal IssuesThe legal objections to placing Special Creation doctrines in the science classroom form what, quite frankly, can only be called an air-tight case. For once one understands the history of what Biblical creationists have been trying; to do, once one grasps the full significance of their new tactic, and once one is aware of the nature of their latest legal moves, no choice is left but to acknowledge that the creationist's aims can never be legal under our present constitution. Let us, then, explore the history, tactics, and legal efforts of the creationist movement so as to better understand why it has never won a constitutional battle.
A History of the Legal ConflictLarge scale challenges to the teaching of evolution by creationists have occurred on three significant occasions in the last century and a half. The first was after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, the second was at the time of the Scopes trial, and the third is taking place today. On each occasion, creationists have attacked those in the scientific and. educational community desiring to teach evolution.
Looking back on the first battle, Andrew White, in his 1896 book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, recalled that. "Darwin's Origin of Species had come into the theological world like a plough into an ant hill. Everywhere those thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books light and heavy, came flying at the new thinker from all sides."
Specifically, one English clergyman, who was vice president of a Protesant institute to combat "dangerous" science, had denounced Darwinism as "an attempt to dethrone God." Another creationist, Wheedle, succeeded in preventing a copy of the Origin from being placed in the Trinity College Library. Rougemont had called for a crusade against evolution in Switzerland. And a similar crusade had almost taken place among the scientific community in America until Asa Gray, the foremost American botanist, won it over in a series of stunning public debates at Harvard that defeated the anti-evolution movement for a time.
But a dozen years later it flared up again with Darwin's Descent of Man.
In England, Gladstone condemned it. In America the Reverend Dr. Hodge of Princeton declared that Christians "have a right to protest against the arraying of probabilities against the clear evidence of the scriptures."
However, the problem of the teaching of evolution in the public schools was not yet an issue. No. In those days the issue was the teaching of science in any form to children. Huxley had his hands full in England just trying to lay to rest the old classical and theological education so as to make room for such "liberal" studies as science, geography, history, grammar, composition, drawing, and physical education.
This meant that it wasn't until the decade of the Scopes trial that teaching children about evolution became an issue. And it became an issue largely because its teaching had finally become frequent enough to alarm the conservative American religious community. So, once again the anti-evolutionists formed their battle lines, thereby setting off the second great conflict.
Between 1922 and 1929, forty-six pieces of legislation aimed at preventing the teaching of evolution were introduced. Of these, only three were passed, all of which were later declared unconstitutional.
Writing in 1927 in the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, S.J. Holmes said that "the worst feature of the situation is not so much the intellectual backwardness revealed by the passage of these statutes as the spirit of religious intolerance and disregard of intellectual liberty which prompted their enactment."
Many feel it was this sentiment, becoming widely held, that brought an end to the legislative attacks by fundamentalists. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The only real reason the attacks came to an end was because evolutionists made a compromising retreat. As Mayer (1978) points out, "In most American schoolbooks the word evolution simply disappeared." Many times this was done as a mere camouflage maneuver, evolution still being taught under different names like "change through time" or "heredity." But at other times it was done in an apparent recognition of defeat.
As Bette Chambers (1977) noted when president of the American Humanist Association, "Years ago we were made painfully aware that this intricate and beautiful principle of modern biology is taught almost nowhere without extensive apologetics or having first been filtered through a sieve of nervous religious disclaimers." She was describing the case of her own daughter who, in 1965, had come home angrily from junior high school after seeing a Moody Bible Institute nature film in her science class. "Must I believe that the spider makes the web perfectly the very first time she tries because God has `programmed' her brain like a computer?" she cried.
So, even though the legislative track record of creationists was poor, they had an impressive long-term success in convincing teachers and publishers to soft-pedal evolution (Cowen, 1979). That is, they managed to set up an
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environment where evolution was "selected out" of text books by a "slow and gradual process" which went almost unnoticed. No wonder only one piece of legislation attempting to prohibit the teaching of evolution was introduced in the 33 years between 1930 and 1963.
But this couldn't go on forever, not with evolutionary science developing by leaps and bounds. Sooner or later the scientific and academic community would have to wake up to the fact that only a shadow of evolution, if any at all, was being presented in the public schools. And to help bring about this awakening, biologist Hermann J. Muller on the centennial of Darwin's Origin, wrote an article entitled "One Hundred Years Without Darwin Are Enough."
When the drive finally got underway to bring evolution back into the classroom, it seemed the public would be receptive. Russian advances in the space race had parents and school boards calling for more science education. So, in 1964, biology textbooks sponsored by the National Science Foundation went into use with government funding. These textbooks reintroduced evolution and, as a consequence. also reintroduced the creation/evolution controversy.
This time, however, the religious conservatives were not so blunt as to reject all science, or even to reject evolution alone. The new ploy was to appeal to "fairness," and thereby demand "equal time" for creationism. As a result, at least twenty-five pieces of legislation relating to the "equal time" idea have been proposed since 1964. At present, more than 20 states have policies allowing local school districts to include creationism as an alternative. Ellen Goodman reports in her newspaper column that "In 27 states, textbook selection committees are under pressure to accept books which teach Divine Creation — not as theology, but as biology.
And it hasn't stopped there. With the creationists gaining momentum and putting forth ever more sophisticated legal arguments (they at first wanted equal lime for Genesis. but now usually seek it for "creation science"), they have burst forth in a new wave that is beginning to blanket the nation.
So far, three pieces of "equal time" oriented legislation have passed, one of which has already been declared unconstitutional. The real threat, however, has come from the creationist influence on individual school boards to either allow or require their "two-model" teaching program. A large number of local school boards in a variety of states have been persuaded that equal time for creationism is both fair and legal.
The New TacticObviously the creationists have learned a lot in their long struggle to unseat evolution. Trial and error has shown them what doesn't work: Anti-science doesn't, efforts to ban evolution don't, and purely religious invective is also a losing proposition. The idea of being open-minded, religiously neutral, and scientific has gained such wide credence (or at least lip-service) that creationists
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can't successfully oppose it, no matter how much they might like to.
So, their new tactic is to declare creationism scientific, then join in with the majority and espouse the virtues of the times in their own name. In this way they can pose as latter-day Galileos being persecuted by "orthodox" science. They can become the champions for fairness fighting against the "dogmatic" evolutionists who have hauled them into the "Scopes trial in reverse." In fact, they can even declare themselves Jeffersonian fighters for church-state separation against "the religion of evolutionary humanism" in the public schools, as well as revolutionaries for progress bringing new truths into play against "the establishment."
How have the creationists accomplished this? With one simple sentence. Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research probably deserves the credit for it. In his debates he simply says, "Creation is just as much a science as is evolution, and evolution is just as much a religion as is creation."
Such a statement serves three purposes at once. First, it declares creationism to be an alternate scientific theory to evolution. Second, it criticizes evolution for being a belief held only on faith. And third, it confuses school boards and legislatures.
To back up this statement, Morris throws in a variety of scientific-sounding arguments and legalistic appeals for "equal time" and "church-state separation The effect of this on his average audience is one of producing doubt. And in the face of such doubt, these people begin to think, "Since I can't tell who is right, it's only reasonable to let both views be taught." And so it happens: through clever word manipulation and appeals to "equal opportunity," the creationists win the day.
When objections are raised, however, the first one is invariably that creationism is derived from the Bible, that the Bible is a religious book, that it is unconstitutional to mandate teaching sectarian religion in the public school science curriculum, and therefore creationism should not be introduced.
The creationists, however, have a ready answer. The two-model approach, they declare, "is not the introduction of the Bible or Bible stories about creation into the science books or classrooms." (Creation-Science Research Center, 1980.) "It is the fair and balanced presentation of the evidence and arguments both pro and con relative to both models of origins ..."
In addition to this ready answer, they also have ready-made textbooks. Probably the most famous is Dr. Morris' Scientific Creationism, put out by his Institute for Creation Research. The preface states "Scientific Creationism (Public School Edition) ... deals with all the important aspects of the creation/ evolution question from a strictly scientific point of view, attempting to evaluate the physical evidence from the relevant scientific fields without reference to the Bible or other religious literature."
However, in spite of this nice-sounding opener, this textbook is nothing more than a polemical attack on the evidences for evolution, with almost no
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statement of the case for creationism or the nature of the creation model. Such a ploy is necessary since, outside the Bible, there is no creation model. This is readily proved by Dr. Morris' revealing statement, "The Bible account of creation can be taught in the public schools if only the scientific aspects of creationism are taught, keeping the Bible and religion out of it altogether." This seems to mean that Biblical ideas suddenly become scientific once one hides the fact that the Bible is the source.
So, hide the Bible they do. For example, in another anti-evolution book entitled Evolution: The Fossils Say No!, Dr. Morris' colleague, Dr. Gish, writes, "By creation we mean the bringing into being of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation described in the first two chapters of Genesis." This seems plain enough. But Dr. Gish wanted his book used in the public schools. So, what did he do? He wrote a revision of it that left out this reference to his ultimate authority.
Perhaps he had learned something from the recent experiences of John N. Moore and Harold Slusher, two other creationists. They co-edited the controversial high school science textbook Biology, A Search for Order in Complexity. Although this book was purported to be objective, scientific, and non-sectarian, an Indiana Superior Court found it riddled with religious references such as: " ... the second law (increasing entrophy) is essentially a confirmation of the universal law of decay and death postulated in accordance with the biblical version of the creation model." " . . . most fossil material was laid down by the flood in Noah's time." " ... the most reasonable explanation for the actual facts of biology as they are known scientifically is that of biblical creationism."
The court's verdict, issued by Judge Michael T. Dugan II, was probably the most embarrassing judicial expose of modem-day creationism ever handed down from the bench. The Court declared, "Clearly, the purpose of A Search for Order in Complexity is the promotion and inclusion of fundamentalist Christian doctrine in the public schools. The publishers, themselves, admit that this text is designed to find its way into the public schools to stress Biblical Creationism. ... The question is whether a text obviously designed to present only the view of Biblical Creationism in a favorable light is constitutionally acceptable in the public schools of Indiana. Two hundred years of constitutional government demand that the answer be no. The asserted object of the text to present a balanced or neutral argument is a sham that breaches that `wall of separation' between church and state voiced by Thomas Jefferson. Any doubt of the text's fairness is dispelled by the demand for `correct' Christian answers demanded by the Teacher's Guide. The prospect of biology teachers and students alike, forced to answer and respond to continued demand for `correct' fundamentalist Christian doctrines, has no place in the public schools."
As one watches creationists, one can see that they learn their lessons very well. Scientific Creationism, though it mentions a worldwide flood that occurred less than 10,000 years ago, the "survivors" of which "emerged" "near the site of
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Mount Ararat," and though it refers to a miraculous origin of languages "near Babylon" " . . . where tradition indicates the confusion of languages took place," it never mentions the Bible.
At least it never mentions the Bible in the "Public School Edition." The "General Edition," however, is quite another story. It is "essentially identical with the public school edition, except for the addition of a comprehensive chapter which places the scientific evidence in its proper Biblical and theological context," says the Foreword. This version is for the Christian schools.
In their public debates, the creationists are even more careful to avoid stating their creation model. They invariably start out by saying that what they're talking about has nothing to do with Genesis. After that, the rest of their material is evolutionary criticism. If their opponents try to bring up the Bible, they counter-attack by declaring they came to talk about science, not religion. They further add that they have a right to their religious faith and should not have to hear criticism of it during a discussion of the scientific issues.
This approach seems to do well for them most of the time. But constant demands by evolutionists for creationists to explicitly state their model has lately forced them to formulate a secularized version of what they really believe. This version, contrived by attorney Wendell R. Bird, was published for all the world to see in the December 1978 issue of Acts & Facts, put out by the Institute for Creation Research.
Clearly, Bird felt it was important to carefully define the differences between the Biblical creation and scientific creation models. It was and is his view that a sharp and consistent distinction can be made. Acts & Facts declared, "The scientific creation model is based on scientific evidence, and the Biblical creation model is based on Genesis and other Biblical revelations. Mixing presentation of the scientific creation model and supporting scientific evidence with references to the Bible, Genesis, Adam, Noah, or the Ark will cause scientific creationism to be barred from the public schools."
It would seem by all this that the differences between the two models must be quite radical. Are they? You San find out for yourself by comparing them side-by-side as is done in the box on the next page. No doubt you'll notice that the actual differences between the "scientific" and Biblical creation models are quite small, in some places only amounting to a change of two or three words.
As I pointed out rather bluntly to Dr. Kofahl, a leading creationist, during a recent debate in which we both participated, "The differences between the Biblical model and the science model are so minor, so minute, that nobody is kidding anyone and nobody is being fooled. Once you hear the creationist model laid out, you're going to recognize it immediately as a Biblical model unless you were born in Borneo somewhere and never heard of the Bible."
In response, Dr. Kofahl argued that this wasn't the creationism he was interested in, and that he had no desire to bring Dr. Morris' Scientific Creationism into the classroom. What he wanted to see was "the evolution model criticized
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on the basis of the scientific evidence."
Well, there we have it again. They don't want to talk about their own model. They only want to critique evolution. This is the only real way they can avoid the problem of bringing in the Bible, and they know it.
And yet, when they get careless, they do bring it in. The Creation-Science Research Center, of which Dr. Kofahl is a representative, publishes the Science and Creation Series, which is a set of graded public school textbooks. This set was examined by Richard M. Lemmon for the California State Board of Education in 1975. In his report he drew attention to a number of religious references in the series.
He wrote, "In the 'Handbook for Teachers', page 75, it is stated that 'It is known that the nation of Israel began about 3700 years ago with the patriarch
|The Two Creation Models of Wendell R. Bird As Taken From the December 1978 Issue of Acts & Facts|
|Scientific Creation Model:||Biblical Creation Model:|
|I.||Special creation of the universe and earth (by a Creator), on the basis of scientific evidence.||Divine creation of the heaven, stars, and earth by God, on the basis of Genesis.|
|II.||Application of the entropy law to produce deterioration in the earth and life, on the basis of scientific evidence.||Application of the curse, pronounced by God after Adam's fall, to produce deterioration in the earth and life, on the basis of Genesis.|
|III.||Special creation of life (by a Creator), on the basis of scientific evidence.||Divine creation of plant and animal life, Adam the first man, and Eve from Adam's side by God, on the basis of Genesis.|
|IV.||Fixity of original plant and animal kinds, on the basis of scientific evidence.||Fixity of original plant and animal kinds, determined by God, on the basis of Genesis.|
|V.||Distinct ancestry of man and apes, on the basis of scientific evidence.||Distinct ancestry of Adam and apes, on the basis of Genesis.|
|VI.||Explanation of much of the earth's geology by a worldwide deluge, on the basis of scientific evidence.||Explanation of the earth's geology by a world-wide flood in which only Noah, his family, and animal pairs were preserved in an ark, on the basis of Genesis.|
|VII.||Relatively recent origin of the earth and living kinds (in comparison with several billion years), on the basis of scientific evidence.||Approximately six thousand year time span since creation of the earth, life, and Adam, on the basis of Genesis.|
Jacob.' ... In `The World of Long Ago, 3T', page 29, it is stated that `The Bible also records a great flood, one that covered the highest mountains.' ... In `Man and His World, 7T', page 11, we find that a French explorer `found timber which he believes came from the Ark of Noah.' . . . In `Beginning of the World, 7T', page 5, there is a reference to `one eternal personal God as the Creator of all things (as in Genesis).' ... In the `Handbook for Teachers', page 77, we find a statement about the ' ... great world catastrophes occurring after the creation, including especially the great flood recorded in the book of Genesis...' "
On the basis of these and other discoveries, Lemmon argued that "The entire purpose of these books is to use science classes to indoctrinate students in a particularly narrow brand of religious sectarianism. That sectarianism ignores most of the world's great religions; its promulgation in the public schools would violate the Education Code, Article 2, Section 9014, and the California State Constitution, Article IX, Section 8."
The New Legal MovesFrom the foregoing, it would seem the creationists have been rather clumsy in sticking to their new tactic of secularizing creationism. But, even if they had managed to carry off such a plan with any efficiency, their position would still fall short of legal acceptability.
There are a number of reasons for this; but to understand them correctly, it will be necessary to first reveal what the creationists are trying to do with their new "scientific creationism" now that they have formulated its rhetoric.
In a September 1977 letter of appeal for contributions, Dr. Morris wrote, "As you know, one of our main purposes here at ICR has been to reach the schools and colleges of our nation with the message of creation, so that young people would know there is a valid alternative to the evolutionary humanism that dominates our society today." In October he added, "We especially appreciate the splendid efforts of so many of you to accomplish the goal of getting creation into your own local schools and colleges."
Nell Segraves, Administrative Assistant of the Creation-Science Research Center, and one of the founders of the modern creationist movement, stated in a recent letter to Frank Mortyn of San Diego Mesa College that, "we are advocating the introduction into science textbooks and classrooms of scientific data which support the alternative explanation of origins, namely, intelligent purposeful design and special creation. In other words, we are calling for a reform in the teaching of science."
Segraves authored the Center's "action Manual," a guide for implementing Creation-science curricula in the public schools, the legal rationale for teaching it, and guides for evaluating textbooks. In a recent debate she declared, "We feel that we are entitled to at least 50 percent of the public education system for our point of view."
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Her reasoning is simple and straightforward: The Scopes trial, in showing the illegality of banning evolution, also showed the illegality of banning any theory of origins. Since creationism is such a theory, then by the logic of the Scopes trial, it cannot be banned either.
When confronted with the argument that creationism has definite religious overtones, she responds by claiming that the same is true for evolution. It is "the religion of secular humanism" in the public schools. This means that any school that teaches evolution without balancing it with special creation is operating contrary to the religious neutrality requirement of the U.S. Constitution. It is setting up a state religion in the science classroom.
These are her arguments; and on the basis of these, the Creation-Science Research Center is seeking to cut off millions of dollars in federal funds that come into California. Since the state-supported schools don't teach both theories of origins as science, it is claimed the schools are religiously biased and therefore undeserving of the monies.
CSRC is also suing the state of California for setting up textbook guidelines that leave out special creation. CSRC wants to prevent the guidelines from going into effect and has attempted to get a mandatory court order forcing the state to allow teachers to consider creationism in science courses.
Other creationist groups go further, however, and try to pass legislation that not only will allow creation to be taught, but will require it. The recent battle in Georgia in March of this year was one such example. The joint houses of the state legislature came very close to passing a bill that would have required equal time for creation any time the issue of origins came up.
In the same month, the Florida House Education Committee voted 7 to 6 for a similar bill. An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times declared:
"This bill would not prohibit the teaching of evolution, at least not in so many words. But any school that undertook to acknowledge the theory of evolution — whether in class or merely on its library shelves — would have to give `balanced treatment' to what is called `the theory of scientific creationism.'
"And what is that? The bill defines it with a lot of gibberish and mumbo-jumbo, all of which boils down to this: The biblical account of creation can be proven literally, with scientific `evidence.' ...
"IN PRACTICE, the bill would simply end he teaching of evolution — and perhaps all science — because few teachers and school boards would consent to teach the alternative theories the bill espouses."
And this may be something creationists would like to see. The April 1979 Acts & Facts stated: "We are not trying to exclude evolution from public schools, unless creation is also excluded." Nell Segraves put it more plainly in debate: "It's totally unnecessary to bring origins into a science discussion. Textbooks today can give good science without discussing philosophy of origins at all." Dr. Kofahl, in the same debate, then immediately added, "We would really be satisfied to see the subject of origins removed entirely from public
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school science ... Let's forget about origins. Let's put all origins discussions into the philosophy department."
In Medford, Oregon, it seems creationists easily got their wish. When a young student of "scientific creationism" started stumping for equal time, the Medford School Superintendent, Richard Langton, declared the following:
"Evolution is not taught in any of the schools of District 549C [Medford] ; neither is creation for that matter. Down through the years, educators have learned that this is such a controversial subject that it is far better not to deal with it at all than to try to deal with it, even on a fair basis, pointing out the claims of both sides. At appropriate levels, where it is understood, we do teach simple genetics, but we in no way get into the question of the evolution of man."
We can now see the entire creationist legal program in all its glory. First they stump for equal time on the grounds that creationism is an alternate scientific view. When that fails, they argue for equal time on the grounds that creationism is an excluded religion. When that fails, they say that neither should be taught because both are philosophies. And by the time that fails, the school officials are so intimidated they begin to wish they had never even heard of evolution.
Still, however, the creationists have one more legal gambit up their sleeves. Nell Segraves probably deserves all the credit for it. Her argument runs thusly:
The atheists have won a number of significant court cases that have resulted in the removal from the public schools of everything offensive to their atheistic viewpoint. They have gotten rid of prayers, religious references in text books, religious displays, etc. Women's rightists have also had much success in removing things that offend them, such as sexist language in textbooks. Well, now it's time for Christian fundamentalists to use these same court decisions in their favor — that is, to remove everything offensive to the Christian fundamentalist viewpoint. " . . . we now are on the outside demanding equal treatment and equal recognition for our, point of view under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964," she argues.
Such an interpretation of the relevant court decisions has far-reaching implications, and the Creation-Science Research Center reaches most of them. They aren't satisfied with calling only evolution "offensive," but go on to add sex education to the list. They further object to the teaching in history classes of the theory that human societies evolved from tribe to village to cradle of civilization. (They believe that man was civilized when he came off the Ark.)
In the general public sector they use the same arguments to condemn rehabilitation of criminals, abortion, government grants to Planned Parenthood, and research grants to behaviorists. In their January, 1980 Creation-Science Report they make their position very plain: "As theists and creationists, possessing equal rights and privileges under the Constitution and Federal Civil Rights
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legislation, we can set forth creationist position papers on any and all problems affecting public morals or health, domestic or foreign policy, whenever government funding is required." This is why seeking cutoffs of funds is one of their major tactics.
One can only ask, in the face of this line of reasoning, where it will stop. Obviously, there is no view taught in our schools that at least somebody won't find offensive to their religion or value system. The teaching of physical science in any form is offensive to mystics who hold that matter is an illusion. If the school nurse talks about health, she had better not mention medicine or vaccinations, or it will offend the followers of Christian Science. Teaching English is bound to be an offense to those who uphold the sacred languages of Hebrew or Sanskrit. Any geography or astronomy which declares the world to be round will create problems in the homes of religious children who were raised by Bible-believing flat earthers.
So, we must ask the practical and legal question: how far must the schools go to avoid offending someone's religion, and how far must they go in giving balanced presentations of all viewpoints every time an "offensive" issue is raised? Furthermore, what state and federal programs will have to be cut off because someone comes up with a religious reason for not liking them? Would we have any government programs or modern education left?
Two creationist women I met during a lecture in Seattle had a simple solution. Get rid of public schools altogether. Let parents choose what kind of schooling they want their children to have. In fact, let them opt for no schooling at all, if they so desire.
The Legal Case Against CreationismIn recent months, bills promoting "equal time" have been introduced in 15 states. The Creation-Science Research Center has volunteers working on legislators and school officials, to get them to reform the science curricula, in 37 states. All in all, it appears the creationist legal movement is operating at full tilt.
Some of the creationists promoting such action probably think they can win, that the law is on their side. But many others know better, like Senator Hugh Carter, who, in speaking for Georgia's recent creation bill, declared cynically from the floor of the State Senate look at all the good we can do between now and the time it is declared unconstitutional."
Those on both sides who have really looked into the matter can see hopeless flaws in the legal case for creationism. Right off the bat it starts out with a basic contradiction. First the creationists try to define science so narrowly that it leaves out evolution. This renders evolution a religion, right along with creation. Then they try to so broadly define the science curriculum that it allows both "religions" to be taught in a scientific context. Putting it another way, creationists demand equal time for creation on religious grounds,
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so they can get it into the schools, and then demand equal time on science grounds, so they can get science instructors to teach it! No case this absurd can be tried for long without trying the patience of everyone.
In the new legal battles, creationists will often deny they are trying to replay the Scopes trial. They don't want to ban evolution, they declare, they just want to make sure it won't be taught without creation having a place too. But the idea that evolution is OK only if creation is included is really two ideas in one. First, it is the idea that when evolution is taught, creation is mandated. Second, it is the idea that if creation is not taught, evolution is banned. The two must be dealt with separately. Let's begin with the second.
The banning of evolution on religious grounds has the unenviable legal status of being totally unconstitutional. In the case of Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that no religious group had the right to blot out any public school teaching just because it was "deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine." For to do so would be to, in effect, establish a religion, or at least a religion's prohibitions, in the public sector. This is contrary to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reads in part: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ... "
And it doesn't seem to matter if the anti-evolution law is stridently religious, or is vague on the matter, it is unconstitutional all the same. For example, the Tennessee law which John Scopes was charged with breaking, made it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible and to teach that man has descended from a lower order of animals." But the Arkansas law challenged in Epperson v. Arkansas was less explicit. Both were declared unconstitutional. The Court declared in Epperson that it was "clear that fundamentalist sectarian conviction was and is the law's reason for existence." It was noted that "Arkansas did not seek to excise from the curricula of its schools and universities all discussion of the origin of man. The law's effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read." Recent legal moves, though more camouflaged than ever, seem to come to the same thing. The creationists are trying to remove evolution on religious grounds.
It would seem strange, in the light of the Epperson decision, that creationists wouldn't move to do what the Court seemed to allow, that is, remove all teachings of origins. But I doubt if that is their first preference. They would probably prefer to find a way to teach special creation (or, more correctly, Biblical fundamentalism). And it isn't likely they would be satisfied to have it taught in comparative religion classes either. Why? Because the science classes will continue to teach things creationists regard as persuasive in the "wrong" direction, things that would be devastating to their belief system if true. So, they want to get religion into the science classes also. When they can't ban evolution and teach creation, they usually strive to require creation and neutralize evolution.
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Teaching neither, then, is hardly satisfactory to them. This is probably why they don't really push for that except as a footnote to their bills and lawsuits, as an afterthought in their debates. (The aforementioned announcement by the Medford, Oregon School Superintendent that evolution was not being taught did not put an end to the creationist movement there.) So, let's look into this idea of requiring creationism.
Obviously, if banning a teaching in the schools on religious grounds constitutes the establishment of religion in the public sector, then it is all the more true that requiring a religious doctrine in the schools is to do the same thing! Yet creationists somehow think they can do better with this idea than with the previous one.
True, appeals for "equal time," "fair play," and "academic freedom" are more persuasive with the public. But it isn't the public who decides constitutionality. That operates according to a basic principle, one that is to be unchanging, for the most part.
But even if the doctrine being required wasn't religious, it would still be questionable. As Professor Richard D. Alexander noted in the February 1978 American Biology Teacher, "If evolutionists were attempting to require that evolution be taught it would be no less pernicious.... when anyone attempts to establish laws or rules requiring that certain theories be taught or not be taught, he or she invites us to take a step toward totalitarianism. Whether a law is to prevent the teaching of a theory or to require it is immaterial. It does not matter if equal time is being demanded or something called 'reasonable' time, because there can be no reasonable time in such a law."
In the past when a scientific view was mandated by government, it resulted in disaster and a stiffling of progress. One particular example occurred 40 years ago in Russia. A man named Lysenko temporarily established that Lamarkian evolution was true science and that Darwin was wrong. This resulted in, first, a mandating of Lamarkianism. But following shortly on its heels was a banning of Darwinism. It took decades for Russia to recover from this legal action and catch up to the modern world in the realm of science.
in the recent Georgia battle, Julian Bond, a black State Senator, expressed the point in this way. "Thirteen years ago, I sponsored a bill that called for the teaching of black history in the public schools. Everybody said, `It's a fine idea, but we can't legislate the curriculum.' What will we tell the large body of nonChristian children who sit in Georgia's classrooms and are taught the creation theory?"
In the Georgia State Legislature, Representative Billy McKinney argued much the same way. He noted that if government was now going to enter the business of curriculum design, it should demand equal time for black history. After all, "There are more black folks in this country now than there are scientific creationists."
The Epperson decision, while dealing with a law banning evolution, had
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something to say about requiring creation as well. The Court declared, "There is and can be no doubt that the First Amendment does not permit the State to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma.... the State may not adopt programs or practices in its public schools or colleges which `aid or oppose' any religion.... This prohibition is absolute. It forbids alike the preference of a religious doctrine or the prohibition of theory which is deemed antagonistic to a particular dogma."
In Zorach v. Clauson in 1951, Justice Douglas wrote the majority opinion, saying: "Government may not finance religious groups nor undertake religious instruction nor use secular institutions to force one or some religion on any person." The comment about financing religious groups is instructive, because the teaching of creation would require the use of creationist textbooks and learning materials. Since only religious creationists offer them, then to make such purchases could easily amount to the financing of religion by government.
In California, religious ideas may be discussed in the schools, provided they "do not constitute instruction in religious principles or aid to any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose . . . " (Younger, 1975.) In view of recent cases, it is clear the courts would rule that the teaching of special creation would do at least one of these things. There can be no doubt that creationism is a religious doctrine, even the "scientific" version, and that the courts would discover this fact.
As for the question of whether evolution is also a religion, Evelle Younger, Attorney General for California, had this to say to the Creation-Science Research Center in 1975:
The "neutrality requirements" of the First Amendment are not violated by the inclusion in textbooks by the State Board of Education of a scientific treatment of evolution. The degree to which a scientific subject should be made more or less "dogmatic" does not involve considerations of "religion." Such considerations, in the exercise of the Board's sound discretion, turn upon the degree of scientific certainty supporting a subject presented in a textbook. Action by the State Board of Education or local boards of education to modify a scientific theory may be judicially proscribed if it can be demonstrated that it is an attempt to modify such theory because of its supposed conflict with religion.The issue Younger was commenting upon was the Creation-Science Research Center's efforts to have evolution taught in a less "dogmatic" way in California school, s and textbooks. His arguments indicate that not only can evolution not be banned or "balanced," but it also cannot be modified (at least not unless the scientific facts, as determined by the State Board of Education, warrant such modification independent of religious criteria).
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As for Nell Segraves' argument that prayers in school were removed because they were an "offense" to atheism: this is nothing but more creationist revisionist history. The reason prayers were removed was because they constituted an establishment of sectarian religion in the public sector (Swancara, 1950). This means Mrs. Segraves can gain no legal advantage by claiming evolution is a religi, ous "offense" to creationism.
And if she tries to point to civil rights legislation that bars "offenses" to blacks, women, etc., her argument will still miss the point. The civil rights laws ban disparaging remarks, not courses of study. Therefore, if blacks are depicted as lazy, women as emotional, or Christians as bigoted, then legal action will be taken. But no one can, under these laws, either ban courses or require "equal time" for black studies, women's studies, or creationism.
It is true, however, that in the case of West Virginia u. Barnette, Justice Murphy wrote in his concurring opinion: "Official compulsion to affirm what is contrary to one's religious beliefs is the antithesis of freedom of worship...." But this only applied to the compelling of unconscionable statements. Evolution, as normally taught, does not require the student's allegiance. Only his or her understanding of the objectively presented concepts is sought. Therefore, the teaching of evolution is neither a threat to nor an imposition on the religious freedom of any child. Students are always free to disagree with any theory they learn.
In the case of Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Court granted Amish parents the right to take their children out of the public schools after eighth grade, provided those children were participating in the "long established program of informal vocational education" that the Amish taught. The Court declared that "the values of parental direction of the religious upbringing and education of their children in their early and formative years have a high place in our society." A similar right of parents to send their children to private, religious schools was upheld in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, so long as the children were prepared "for additional obligation" in society.
All these cases, then, seem to offer a solution to parents like Mrs. Segraves. If they are "offended" by evolution, they can send their children to private religious schools, or, as in the case of sex education, have them released from the class when the subjects at issue are being taught.
Regarding this solution, creationist lawyer Wendell Bird rightly points out the unfairness of requiring an individual to make a choice between his faith and a public benefit. He has a right to both. Free education and free exercise of religion need not be mutually exclusive (Bird, 1978). Bird also criticizes the released time plan, citing the case of atheists who were not satisfied with merely having the right to leave the classroom during school prayers. Creationists, too, who in their situation might desire to leave evolution studies "would probably be prevented by pressure from fellow students, respect for teacher opinions, and need for other course material missed." (Bird, Acts & Facts, May 1979.)
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There may be something to Bird's argument that evolution serves to undermine faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible and is therefore a burden on a fundamentalist's rights to free exercise of religion. But this is hardly sufficient to justify forcing all the rest of the pupils to study creationist religious doctrines or to go without learning about evolution and thereby receive an inferior education. It would seem there is a state interest in teaching this material, and teaching it exclusively. This is made clear by the fact that evolution is the one great unifying principle of all science. Students cannot be adequately prepared for scientific careers if they are left in the dark about its existence. And if it is "balanced" with a non-scientific theory, then they will get an inaccurate picture of science and be misled into believing there is a significant split of opinion among scientists on the issue, when there is not.
Probably the best solution would be to set aside one science class wherein origins would not he discussed at all. This would be for conscientious objectors. Such a plan would effectively remove all "offense" and "burden on free exercise," while still leaving the rest of the students free to learn a complete science.
Creationist Guerrilla Warfare
Unlike the Creation-Science Research Center and other similar
organizations, the Institute for Creation Research does not engage in
law suits or legislation, at least not directly. In the
January-February 1973 Acts & Facts, Dr. Morris wrote that "no
recommendation is made for political or legal pressure to force the
teaching of creationism in the schools. Some well-meaning people have
tried this, and it may serve the purpose of generating publicity for
the creationist movement. In general, however, such pressures are
self-defeating.... The hatchet job accomplished on the fundamentalists
by the news media and the educational establishment following the
Scopes trial in 1925 is a type of what could happen, in the unlikely
event that favorable legislation or court decisions could be obtained
by this route."
The clear admission that creationism doesn't have a legal case is even more explicitly stated by Morris in a December 1974 article. He wrote: "Even if a favorable statute or court decision is obtained, it will probably be declared unconstitutional, especially if the legislation or injunction refers to the Bible account of creation."
Since Dr. Morris and ICR, then, clearly recognize the legal shakiness of their two-model position, what is their plan for getting creationism into the schools?
Well, they outline it in detail in a number of issues of Acts & Facts. Here are its salient points:
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Dr. Morris has said: "Creationist teachers are in a unique position to play a critical role in this strategic conflict," and he has his strategy all worked out. He notes further that pastors "are especially capable at the arts of persuasion and instruction" and should use these to promote the cause. "Scientists and other professionals who are Christians have a peculiar trust from the Lord." (Acts & Facts, December 197-1.) The aim here is obviously to bring as much pressure to hear as possible in order to "bring creation back into the public schools."
Sample resolutions for presentation before school boards and state curriculum authorities have been published for easy use in both the July-August 1975 and May 1979 issues of Acts & Facts. They have been used widely and verbatim all over the country and have had some success in places like Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; and Anderson, South Carolina. They were even used in drafting the recent Georgia bill. The 1975 Acts & Facts, however, recommends a bit of secrecy as to the source of the legal wording, saying "it would be better not to mention ICR at all in connection with it [the resolution], so that the officials will realize that it is their own constituents who are concerned with the issue."
What this boils down to is an ICR engineered local grass roots pressure movement to sneak creationism into the schools through every back door they can find. But, failing that, they will settle for the intimidation caused in their wake. knowing full well that such intimidation tends to prevent, or water down, the teaching of evolution.
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It should be clear by now that, legally, the creationists do not have
a case. Any effort to ban evolution because it conflicts with a
religion is an effort ca bring sectarian religious prohibitions into
the public schools. This is unconstitutional. On the other hand, any
effort to add creationism to the science curriculum will amount to the
teaching of sectarian doctrines. This too would be unconstitutional.
To get around this problem, creationists have sought to establish creationism as secular science. They have gathered data and tried to remove references to the Bible. But, because they have made little effort to work through the scientific community, to participate in the peer review of the journals, to do more than just token field research; and since they have promoted a rather dogmatic "science," the courts have exposed this effort to be a sham.
Yet even if they had become truly secular in their ideas, mandating inclusion of these through legislation would remain illegal and contrary to academic freedom. Even evolution can't be forced in this way. It is not the business of the legislature to determine what is and is not science. This task belongs to the scientific community. Therefore, only if there is a legitimate controversy among knowledgeable field workers on an issue is it proper for more than one model to be taught. Since there is no such controversy at this time, creationism is without academic grounds for inclusion (except, perhaps, as a discredited theory in the same class as Lamarkianism).
This realization has forced creationists to try another ploy: If you can't join them, beat them — that is, ban all discussions of origins from the science curriculum, and send them off to the philosophy department.
Of course there's no need to ban creationism. It isn't part of the curriculum. And if it's proposed that we ban evolution, we're headed for another Scopes trial. We must therefore ask creationists why they want it banned. If it's because it conflicts with their religion, the constitution will prohibit such a move. But if it's because evolution is itself supposedly a religion, they will have to prove that. And they will have to prove it using scientific means, submitting their arguments to peer review, and actually showing that evolution is untestable and non-scientific in nature.
Because of the difficulty of this endeavor, and because they cannot win in the courts, some creationist groups have given up legal action altogether and have emphasized a kind of "religious smuggling." One part of their plan involves telling school officials that the two-model approach is both constitutional and scientific, even though creationists have never won a court case or convinced a scientific symposium. Another part involves gathering pressure groups to intimidate school authorities so evolution can be pulled out, or creation brought in, through the back door. (In such cases, it should occur to school authorities to ask why pressure is necessary if creationism is scientifically sound, and why ICR
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has avoided the courts if their position is supposed to be constitutional.)
So far, not having a good case hasn't been fatal to the creationists. In fact they have flourished! — which shows that the problem will be with us a long time. Obviously it isn't enough for evolutionists to have the law on their side, to sit back and let the lawyers do the work. Creationists have been losing the battles and winning the war. That is, they have successfully intimidated the schools and textbook publishers into near submission. This has effectively won them the Scopes trial. With their continued persistence, and with further neglect by evolutionists, they may, through their "guerrilla warfare," succeed in their primary goal of getting Biblical fundamentalism taught in our public schools.
Meanwhile, their constant battling costs the taxpayers money and gains them the supporters they need. As a result, in time they could feel confident enough to push for a constitutional amendment that would turn the legal case around in their favor.
Because it isn't safe to neglect this threat any longer, the time has come to inform the public of the facts — and to guarantee students an adequate education. Respect for science in America is waning. The popularity of both creationism and mysticism are symptomatic of it. It's no longer possible for academics to ignore the public while advancing their scientific careers. If they try, they will soon find creationism in the schools and anti-science in the electorate.
The public never fully accepted evolution. Now that we realize this, we can work to remedy the situation. We can study the creationist arguments to learn where evolution is being misunderstood or feared. We can then tell the public why scientists accept evolution, instead of telling them merely that they do. We can improve the public relations of science in general, and thereby bring it back into respect. But, most importantly, we can update Muller's statement and boldly declare, "One hundred twenty-two years without Darwin are enough!"
In a future issue, PART 2. The Educational Issues. Watch for it.
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Bird, Wendell R. "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools." Yale Law Journal. January 1978, pp. 515ff.
Bird, Wendell R. "Evolution in Public Schools and Creation in Student's Homes: What Creationists Can Do." Acts & Facts. March and April 1979, ICR Impact Series Nos. 69 and 70.
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Bird, Wendell R. "Resolution for Balanced Presentation of Evolution and Scientific Creationism." Acts & Facts. May 1979, ICR Impact Series No. 71.
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