Boundaries

The title says it all in this Times article: “Half of us think creationism should be taught alongside evolution.” Granted the ‘us’ in question are the English, but I’m sure the sentiment is not unusual in North American, especially in the United States.

Talk about a can of worms.

In my opinion, religion should indeed be taught. Whether it should be taught in public school is a different question, however. Everyone would want their own faith to be included, and it would get more and more complicated from that point onwards.

I am not a religious man. Despite this, I recognize that religion is part of the human condition, and a fundamental part of our culture. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but rather that it simply is. It therefore warrants study and understanding. The problem is that there are two ways to teach a faith. You can teach for those who want to learn about it and understand it, and you can teach those who believe it. Granted there’s not a firm boundary between these two teaching styles, but someone would have to decide how to teach it. Given the selection of faiths, teaching to give an understanding of religion seems to be the best bet. Of course some will absolutely freak when their beliefs are put on an even footing with all the others. Teaching to those who believe is best done at home or in the church.

I agree with the idea expressed in the title of the article as a general principle. I change my mind if by ‘alongside,’ you mean that you want to bring creationism into science class. Creationism is not science. It does not belong in science class in the same way evolution doesn’t belong in religion class.

The article says,

National Curriculum guidelines stipulate that evolution alone should be taught in science lessons, while creationism may be discussed as part of religious education.

This seems exactly right. While they both explain what seem to be similar things, the means by which they do so are entirely different. Neither can be examined with the tools of the other. And they shouldn’t be. Science is not just another belief system and religion can’t be proven. The twain shan’t meet.

The article quotes Professor Reiss, Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education, as saying,

In my experience in the UK, the overwhelming majority of science teachers do not want creationism or intelligent design taught as valid scientific alternatives to evolution, but are often comfortable with pupils bringing up such ideas. When I was taught science, we were allowed to bring anything up in lessons.

See? This is the type of person I’d want to have teaching my children about science. I don’t believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science class. If children ask about it, and they will, such questions are an excellent trigger to discuss what science is and how it works. Children are accustomed to a black and white world in which things are right or wrong, and this would be an excellent introduction to the idea that everything is not so clearly defined.

To me, those on each side of this debate needs to realize that they each have their own territory and they’d best not try to gain territory at the expense of the other side. I’m firmly on the evolution side of this debate but you won’t hear me suggest that evolution be taught in religion class. I’d appreciate the same consideration in return.

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