Teaching About Origins

By Robert George Sprackland

One of the most confrontational issues before American school boards and administrators is the effort by some Christian fundamentalists to have their views on life and its origins taught in science classes as a scientifically valid alternative to biological evolution. This is no ordinary philosophical debate in which semantics is all that is at stake. Rather, the leaders of the creationism and intelligent design movements seek to undermine and overthrow the teaching of science and critical thought and replace them with their specific interpretation of Christianity.

Harsh words? Not when ID advocates misrepresent the evidence, methods, and interpretations of science to push for equal treatment of their religious ideas in school science curricula. The fact that representatives of a single religious viewpoint -- not Christianity writ large, but a branch of Evangelicals -- have led the public to believe creationism is an actual scientific alternative to evolution is appalling and dangerous.

“It says we’ve failed as scientists and science educators to convey the nature of science and its values to the American public,” says Bruce Alberts, outgoing president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The issue continues to plague science education, suggesting that few school people have a deep understanding of the issue and its extremely broad ramifications. America will continue to fall behind in medicine, technology, and other fields of science as long as our children are denied a good science education -- one based on an understanding of what is, and is not, science.

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