Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creationism, Evolution and Education

Both evolution and creationism should be taught in schools. There, I said it. It might be the most surprising thing you ever hear me say. Creationism and evolution should both be taught in schools, but they should be taught in different classes (and hopefully on different days to avoid confusion). They are an equally important part of education, but they are as different as carrots and apples (even forbidden apples).

Creationism is not an alternative theory to evolution. Creationism is to evolution as a flat-earth is to the heliocentric solar system. Creationism is to evolution as demons causing disease is to germ theory. Creationism is to evolution as the cabbage patch theory is to sexual reproduction. Teaching creationism in a science class is little different to teaching Spanish in a French class.

Creationism is mythology, and not a scientific theory. Evolution should be part of a science class. Creationism should be part of a history class. Genesis should be studied as an example of the way ancient people made sense of their world. Creationism should be taught as an example of the way cultures take myth, poetry and story and often turn them into literal truth. The science class should outline evolutionary theory as the universally accepted scientific theory of the origins of human life.

It’s important to still teach creationism (as myth) because so many westerners grow up with a form of 7 day creation at home and in Sunday school classes. Its part of western folklore. Young people need to come to terms with their cultural heritage.

Hopefully this way, we might avoid so much of the unnecessary tug-o-war between science and religion. It’s no wonder that so many kids grow up conflicted about science and religion. When creationism is taught as an alternative to evolution, it’s like a “gloves off” boxing match to the death. In one corner, evolution brings an assortment of fossils and ancient tools to the match. In the other corner, creationism has just one tool…. an ancient book, and a very limited interpretation of that book. When the Bible is used as a weapon, it hurts. Believe me. But ultimately, Bible bashing only reveals defensiveness and fear.

There need be no fear on either side, if evolution and creationism are taught in different classes. I celebrate both. I fear neither.

My sermon on Sunday celebrated Darwin’s birthday and looked at the relationship between science and religion. I was pleased to outline a number of ways that we can embrace both evolution and the God of our many understandings, without compromising our intellect or tradition.