Students debate evolution
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 00:02
Evolution is not counter to religion
Personally, I do not understand why the idea of teaching evolution in a classroom remains at all contentious. A science curriculum that stresses evolution as the explanation for life on Earth is about as factually controversial as a math textbook outlining the fundamental theorem of calculus. By this point in our understanding of the world, the question is not if evolution happened, but rather how it happened.
Yet somehow, whenever I see elected officials publicly making fools of themselves, it’s never because they believe that Sir Isaac Newton was the spawn of Satan. Rather, the question always comes back to good old Charles Darwin. Just last October, Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) declared at a church event in Georgia that “all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell...to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding they need a savior.”
He won reelection handily, by the way, and he’s announced his intentions to run for the Senate in 2014. However, I don’t mention Broun here to suggest that his line of thinking is mainstream. I think religious and nonreligious people alike can agree that Broun’s remarks are foolish and amount to nothing more than a shameful attempt to pander to the lunatic fringe for votes.
Rather, I invoke his ill-informed comments because I think that he has a point. Not a good one, mind you, but a point nonetheless. The rancor that Broun and others like him direct at proponents of evolution is the same sort that has existed ever since 1859 when On the Origin of Species was first published.
After codifying his theory of evolution, Darwin remained quiet about his doubts on Christianity because he knew it wasn’t worth rocking the boat. Darwin’s theory is one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, but the ramifications of his hypotheses were also significant in a different way. He almost singlehandedly wrought a crisis of faith across Victorian England. Before the nineteenth century (and especially before the Enlightenment), few would legitimately question the dogma surrounding the creation story in Genesis. If we could have been wrong about the age of the Earth or the origin of mankind...imagine what else we could have been wrong about. The possibility that other fundamental truths of Christianity could have been flawed was unimaginable.
One hundred fifty years later, this same debate rages on, albeit a little less loudly. So I understand Broun’s disdain for science. But I also know that he is totally wrong. The leaders of nearly every world religion acknowledge that faith and science are not mutually exclusive of one another. Teaching evolution in the classroom is not going to make children morally deficient or cause them to doubt their need for a savior, and politicians who debase people’s faith in this way for the sake of winning votes do the public a huge disservice.
Science in all of its forms can tell us so much about ourselves. Maybe one day we will know the brain so well that we’ll be able to predict any move a person makes before they do it. But even if we come that far, science will simply never be able to tell us what it means to be a human being. For some, faith answers that question. For people like me, secular humanism helps guide us toward an answer. But regardless of how we make sense of existence, we need not pretend that acknowledging observable science somehow precludes faith. We can’t and shouldn’t try to make a religion out of science, but we can at the very least acknowledge reality.
Bub is a junior majoring in English, political science and history.
Intelligent Design has a place in education
In the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring evolution be taught alongside Creationism in the classroom was a violation of the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”). This case illustrates a drawn-out and concerted effort to push religion out of public schools, which draws its motivation from the Establishment Clause. However, Intelligent Design may have a place in the classroom.
I would not argue that Christian doctrine should be taught within a public school because, as the Court has said, this would be a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, thus illegal. While Creationism is characterized by a literal reading of the creation story in the book of Genesis, Intelligent Design is not Creationism.
Intelligent Design does not entirely ignore the scientific evidence for evolution, for the age of the Earth or for the origins of humanity. Instead, it holds that irreducible complexity is due to guidance by an intelligent mind. The million-dollar question is whether we can call intelligent design an “establishment of religion” if it is taught within the classroom.
While Creationism makes no apologies for being an overt promotion of the text of Scripture as science, Intelligent Design is a more nuanced position. In fact, Intelligent Design does not necessarily preclude evolution itself except that it would contradict the notion that evolution is “random and without purpose or guidance.” For that reason it deserves to be in the classroom.