On February 2nd, Rachel Krinick, member of the UGAtheists, presented a speech during a meeting of the Demosthenian Literary Society at UGA. The topic of that meeting was whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.
She argues that “creationism should not be taught as a counter-theory to the theory of evolution in public schools because it is not based in scientific research and supports a specific religious doctrine.”
The debate as to whether or not to teach the so-called theory of creationism alongside the theory of evolution is nothing new. From the landmark trial of the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, otherwise known as the Scopes Trial, in 1925 to Indiana’s Creationism Teaching Bill, which passed Indiana’s Senate Education Committee on January 25th of this year. As I’m sure many of you may know, creationism is the religious belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being. This belief conflicts with the theory of evolution, which is an atheistic process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms throughout history. Despite the furor that surrounds evolution and creationism, one question must be asked. How can creationism be taught within public schools when it advocates Abrahamic religions, and, by its very own definition, cannot be a scientific theory? Be it resolved: Creationism should not be taught as a counter-theory to the theory of evolution in public schools because it is not based in scientific research and supports a specific religious doctrine.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. This criterion necessitates that a theory must both be testable and compatible with natural law; neither of these requirements is met by the idea of creationism. As I said earlier, creationism cannot be a scientific theory by its very own definition. This is because, to many people, God is an omnipotent and omniscient perfect being that transcends both space and time. There are no empirical testing methods that can be used to investigate this type of divinity and supernatural power. Without the ability to test the existence of God, let alone the ability to test whether or not God created life, the universe, and everything, the main idea of creationism cannot be scientifically proved or even disproved. Creationism’s inability to be tested is detrimental to its moniker of theory.
Creationists’ attempts at having creationism received as a theory are again thwarted by the fact that the idea of creationism is not founded in natural law. God’s very own attributes and actions, like miracles, are incompatible with natural law. Miracles in themselves are not supposed to be explainable by natural causes and are outside the realm of science. If that’s the case, then how can creationism be considered a theory? Also, why would creationists even want creationism to be bound by natural law when God’s actions are only inspiring because they cannot be explained? If the purpose is just to mix science and religion, then saying, “God did it” does nothing to advance our knowledge of the world around us. We have no clear idea what God is or how God is supposed to do anything, except that, however he does things, it does not conform to known laws of nature, and therefore, the actions of God can never be within the realm of science like the theory of evolution is.
Aside from creationism’s incapability to ever become a true scientific theory because it lacks two basic benchmarks: testability and compatibility with natural law, it also conflicts with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, this was not always seen as the case. Prior to 1925, Creation Science was the prevailing belief. That was until the trial of the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes.
The Scopes Trial began when biology teacher, John Scopes, was accused and found guilty of teaching evolution. John Scopes was in violation of Tennessee’s Bulter Act, which prohibited any theory that denied the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible. However, the Scopes Trial was a seminal moment in the evolution-creationism controversy because the Supreme Court of Tennessee deemed the Butler Act to be unconstitutional. This case started the precedent that would begin the shift toward the following of the Establishment Clause in public schools.
In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court held explicitly that it is unconstitutional to restrict a public school teacher’s right to teach evolution. More recently, in Aguillard v. Edwards in 1987, the Court decisively held that it is unconstitutional to require educators who teach evolution to also teach creationism. Based upon the outcomes of these three trials, the United States Supreme Court considers the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to be an integral element in public school education.
Because creationism cannot be scientifically tested and does not act in accordance with natural law, creationism cannot be deemed as a theory. Without credibility within the scientific community, and the fact that creationism promotes specific religious ideas, which is in violation of the First Amendment, it should not be taught within public schools.