The evidence of some intermediate species clearly exists through fossils. Evolution has been observed in living species within the times of Homo sapiens. Yet, the reason creationism still holds today is because of two reasons: the “not enough demonstrable evidence” argument (which is poor), and pure backed-into-a-corner irrational arguments such as “demons put fossils there to mislead us”. Now, I definitely don’t go immediately labelling all creationists irrational fools. That latter argument is quite extreme. Yet, this idea that evolution is not proven enough to be accepted or taught is shared by some pretty intelligent, highly educated people.
Creationists admittedly, have one remaining point, but it’s a good one: so far no scientist in any discipline has been able to successfully reproduce or demonstrate exactly how we evolved from the lifeless soup of essential goo in the first place, into the structured, designed DNA lattices that led to life. But once life is in place, and species exist, there is utterly limitless proof of one species evolving into another.
The bill (simply called Bill 893, not “The Anti-Evolution Bill” as the media are labelling it, by the way) reflects the current strategy to grant the mention of creationist arguments in public schools, or more accurately, to get creationist arguments back in to schools that admonished even the mentioning of such teaching in the first place, decades ago.
Bill 893 offers this justification for why it is needed:
- An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens;
- The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy; and
- Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects
The first sentence is certainly true, but begs the question of whether this bill will serve that purpose. Ironically this bill may be used to directly oppose students who are scientifically literate and can think critically. On the other hand, it has always been the correct practice of science to look at all theories on a particularly unproven or debated topic.
To teach that evolution is the widely accepted and proven standard is fine. But a truly scientifically literate, critically thinking student should never blindly accept an unproven theory on spontaneous evolution: ”before our common ancestors, we, by chance, evolved from ‘a primordial soup’ into intelligently arranged DNA strands that had life in them” without at least questioning other theories, even if they appear just as absurd as that very statement is. Fact is, the jury is out on that notion until we demonstrate how “chance” so happens to have such ‘intelligence’ of its own.
The wristwatch phenomenon puts this another way: if you leave raw materials together long enough, they should form an object of roughly equal complexity, such as a Rolex watch, by themselves, given enough time.
Is it lawful to mention this limitation /weakness in the current scientific standard in schools, under current laws? No. It is illegal.
This fundamental beginning of evolution is the sticking point here where Creationism, in some form at least, still has a valid foot in the door of today’s schools. Believing in the probabilities necessary to achieve such a feat as evolving from non-life into life, is as much of a leap of faith as believing in a creator.
That said, biological evolution beyond that initial point is not scientific controversy. There is a mountain of evidence from genetics, developmental biology, anatomy, biochemistry, and palaeontology that support this core fact of evolution. Further, there is no competing scientific theory that can account for the evidence from these disciplines. That is the consensus view of the scientific community and the vast majority of scientists. Once life was established from lifeless, non-evolving objects (the only remaining point of debate), it began to evolve. Therefore, yes, the spontaneous creation of distinct separate species by an intelligent being, definitely is an absurd notion to teach in schools. But is that really the agenda Bill 893 is supporting?
The Vatican itself officially revised its stance on creation in 1996, with Pope John Paul II stating:
“Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of the theory.”
Evolution, a doctrine that Pius XII only acknowledged as an unfortunate possibility, John Paul accepts forty-six years later “as an effectively proven fact”, a feat which received major play in international news stories.
So in essence, many argue that remaining Creationists create controversy where none exists, and then exploit the controversy they made in order to push what is demonstrably their religious agenda into the public school science classroom. However, looking closer, this fierce campaign against Bill 893, painting it as if your children will be taught fairy tale nonsense, is a level of scaremongering ignorance reminiscent of homophobia.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, explains that “[the Bill] was needed so teachers can answer students’ questions, including those that were rooted in their personal beliefs.” That, of course, raises the question as to the proper role of science teachers in addressing questions of personal belief, especially when dealing with subjects where the origin or root cause of the process is still unknown to man.
Many argue this bill is not needed for a teacher to address such a question (regardless of what the “root” of the question is), however I personally believe teachers need to be prepared to go there if they’re going to address theories which potentially open a can of worms in the classroom. To ignore such valid questions completely would be irresponsible on the part of a teacher demonstrating to students how to be critical thinkers.
Opponents of the bill include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Institute for Biological Sciences, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association. These opponents correctly argue that this bill is there for one reason: to provide cover for those teachers who want the freedom to mention the creationist argument / explanation in their science classroom.
Yes, of course it is, and if evolutionary theory is taught, and the two opposing theories of how evolution began in the first place, I see that breeding naught but more students able to critically think and wrap their heads around all angles of an issue: just like Intentious attempts to do with its controversial topics. A fully informed citizen is more aptly placed make up their own minds, or, even better, be motivated and encouraged to continue the research on the origins of evolution in order to get to the irrefutable answer.
So behind all this scaremongering by mainstream media and those who vehemently believe that the entirety of scientific evolution’s evidence is at stake here, what does the bill actually state?
“Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”
Well, even though I am not a creationist, I do support that statement. This is not, after all, called “The Creationist Bill”. This statement validly applies to the teaching and study of any scientific field, including those where debate arises from conflicting scientific theories beyond the one currently chosen as “the standard belief”.
Any sound-minded, critically thinking, decent scientist or teacher, should thus support the bill for what it actually is, rather than what it’s being painted out to be, lest we teach the next generation that it’s better to ignore and never question the unknowns.
Sources and related articles:
- NeuroLogica Blog – Tennessee Bill on Creationism in Schools
- Are Evolution and Creationism Compatible? (theness.com)
- Tennessee’s Anti-Evolution Bill (theness.com)
- Pro-religion writer decries Tennesee’s anti-evolution bill – without mentioning religion (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Should we address the controversy? (3quarksdaily.com)
- Tennessee Bill Encourages Teachers To Critique Theory Of Evolution (inquisitr.com)
- Creationist: Science Begins with the Bible, Not the Facts (patheos.com)
- Teaching the Controversy (my.psychologytoday.com)
- More creationist shenanigans – in Tennessee (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Tennessee Goes Monkey Again – Katherine Stewart – RichardDawkins.net (richarddawkins.net)
- Tennessee Passes “Monkey Bill”; Science At Risk (techie-buzz.com)