With each new development in science comes conflict, mostly from those who don’t believe that science follows the teachings of their religion or allies with their beliefs in an almighty power or God. Looking back in history at some of the great names in human scientific achievement, such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin, we see that with each genius discovery came some outcry from religious groups. Nikolaus Copernicus was one of the first pioneers of science. Until 1540 science had long been a servant of the Christian religion, but Copernicus brought about change, and with that change came persecution. Copernicus’ work, although not immediately and widely accepted, lead directly to the undermining of centuries of assumption and superstition. He was the first to state that not only was the earth not the center of the universe, but it also orbited the sun. Later in history came Galileo who brought Copernicus’ ideas to practical fruition. He was also on the receiving end of much religious persecution, even to the point of living out his last years under house arrest, forbidden from writing and publishing. Then in the 1800’s Charles Darwin researched and published revolutionary biology books on the theory of evolution, his most widely known book being “The Origin of Species”. Even today, long after his death, his works receive much religious debate; religion today is no more apt at dealing with scientific theory than it was hundreds of years ago; this is because it is a completely separate ideal than science. Science seeks truth and fact, whereas religion is based solely on faith in things that are not based in fact. Also, science deals only with observable physical aspects of life and nature, whereas religion (in any form) tries to explain that for which there are no answers. To avoid conflict and persecution in our country (the United State) we recognize in the constitution that government (which includes public education) and religion should be separate. The issue at hand now is whether or not science and religion should also be separate. Often, strongly religious people feel that a separation where their beliefs don’t get recognized is unfair. They also feel that if an idea that doesn’t coincide with their religion is being recognized, their beliefs are being persecuted. When the issue of requiring a religious belief to be taught in science classes in public schools alongside scientific theory was brought before Judge William R. Overton in the case of “McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education,” he established that requiring religious theory to be taught in public schools is unconstitutional (8). Then Overton defined five “characteristics of science” to help distinguish the difference between science and religion and clarify why religion shouldn’t be taught as fact (8). Today Mr. Jones is again being asked to teach creationism, a religious theory, in his biology class alongside evolution-science, which consists of tested scientific theory. I propose that creationism be taught in an optional theology class or through an extracurricular workshop to maintain the separation of church and state, as well as religion and science in public schools.
In 1981 the Governor of Arkansas signed into law Act 590 that entitled “Public schools in Arkansas shall give equal balanced treatment to creationism and to evolution – science”; a suit was filed challenging the Acts constitutional validity soon thereafter (Overton 1). The plaintiffs stated that the Act violated the prohibition of the establishment of religion in the first amendment to the constitution (made applicable to the states in the fourteenth amendment), the Act violated the Free Speech Clause also in the first amendment by denying academic freedom to students and teachers, and due to the vagueness of the Act, it also violated the Due Process Clause in the fourteenth amendment (Overton 1). Judge Overton ruled that Act 590 did indeed violate these clauses and cited past court rulings. It had been ruled in “Everson vs. Board of Education” that “the Establishment Clause enshrines two central values: voluntarism and pluralism, which must be guarded in Public Schools” (Overton 2). Requirement of the teaching of creationism does not embrace these rights. Several prior cases such as “Stone vs. Graham” ruled that mandatory prayer in public schools was found to violate the first and fourteenth amendment because “no statute can advance nor inhibit a religion” and “statutes must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion,” so due to the fact that creationism is a religious theory, it therefore violates these requirements for statutes (Overton 2).
To clarify that creationism is a solely religious theory, and that evolution has nothing to do with religion, Judge Overton gave a clearer definition of science and five essential characteristics of science as follows:
(1)It is guided by natural law
(2)It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law
(3)It is testable against the empirical world
(4)Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word
(5)It is falsifiable
Creationism defies these criteria on all counts; it is guided by faith, it is explained through the word of a God who is not scientifically proven to exist, it is in no way testable, it is seen by those who have faith in it as the final word, and it cannot be falsifiable since it cannot be tested to validate or falsify (Overton 8-18). Creationism is not “creation-science” because “creation-science means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those scientific evidences” (Overton 6). There is no scientific evidence to support creationism and the fundamentalists who promote creationism have no way to observe it, no way to test it, and logically it defies many of nature’s laws. This does not mean their beliefs are wrong, it just means they aren’t justifiable. The scientific theories on how life began are logical though, because they coincide with natural laws, are concluded through evidence of the earth’s history found in nature, and the observable features and characteristics of how nature behaves. Charles Darwin’s theories about evolution are scientific theories because they coincide with “evolution-science” meaning “the scientific evidences for evolution and inferences from those scientific evidences” (Overton 6). Darwin’s theories also follow natural law; therefore he was able to physically study his theories on evolution in nature. He observed evolution through observing the physical differences between generations within individual species (Encarta). Darwin was then able test his theories on natural selection through the controlled breeding of domestic animals, which he noticed animal breeders doing to enhance desirable qualities in the offspring of two animals within the same species chosen for breeding because they possessed the highest amount of the desired quality (Encarta).
These are the reasons Judge Overton ruled in “McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education” in 1981, that creationism should not be required to be taught in schools along-side scientific theory such as evolution. Presently, Mr. Jones is exercising his constitutional rights by refusing to teach creationism in his science class, and why should he teach it in science class when it is not a scientific theory? This doesn’t mean religion is wrong, even scientifically we don’t know for sure how life began, but there is just no way to prove religious beliefs, and they have nothing to do with science. Earlier, I proposed that an optional class or extracurricular workshop explaining creationism, as well as other religious beliefs, be offered. By being optional, it would allow the voice of those who believe in creationism to be heard by students who want to hear it, allowing the fundamentalists to exercise their freedom of speech while keeping church and state separate and church and science separate. This proposal allows students the option to learn about religious views if they are interested, and if they don’t share the faith behind creationism, then they don’t have to participate. Science will remain in science class, and science class is mandatory because it presents students with tested theories, facts, and offers them a chance, as well as methods, to prove or test these ideas or develop their own. This, in the end, teaches students to think analytically. In many religions a god deemed the dominating beliefs to be true, leaving no room to disagree with the beliefs, giving no concrete reasons to prove the beliefs, and stressing faith in the unknown. This is why there are so many contrasting religions and why our government gives people the right to choose a religion or to not choose any.
The mandatory teaching of Christian beliefs in science class not only excludes the beliefs of other religions, but also attempts to pass religion of as fact. Evolution is not an anti-Christian theory, and creationism has nothing to do with science. Any citizen of the United States who has something to say has the right to free speech, as well as the freedom of assembly, but the same constitution that gives those rights also gives citizens the right to choose their own beliefs. An optional class or workshop is a constitutional solution to this conflict.