Creation v. Evolution: An Educational View

Many words have been written about the origins of things. Numerous ancient people believed that several powerful gods were responsible for creating human beings (Warburton 12). Another theory is parallel evolution, humans evolving simultaneously in several parts of the world (Allman, 54). The metaphysical assumptions and moral implications demonstrated in aspects of evolution theory have been a source of conflict for over one hundred years. “Pre-Darwinian” biologists based their science on theological assumptions. Science was rooted in religion; its purpose was to prove the existence of God, using as evidence the design and purpose in nature. Darwin introduced as explanation of biological change that “excluded the necessity of supernatural minacy” (Fix 172). He hypothesized that the ” human family” arose in Africa. He was right. All the earliest hominid species have been found in Africa, and Africa alone. Thus, Darwin’s Origin of Species was viewed as a revolutionary document in 1859, although its primary contribution was to “organize and synthesize a set of ideas that had pervaded the scientific literature for more than fifty years” (Nelkin 17).

Thomas Huxley, an early supporter of Darwin’s theory attended the famous British Association meeting held at Oxford in 1860. His views clashed with those of the eloquent Bishop of Oxford who defended fundamentalists. Darwin himself took very little part in these controversies and was rather “distressed at the furore to which his ideas had given rise” (Waechter 8), though throughout his life he never altered his views. The introduction of Darwin’s theory in the American school system gave a reason for concern about this underlying assumptions and social implications. There are four basic philosophies on the theory of evolution. A biblical creationist believes that the words in the Bible “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7) have literal truth spoken by God and say that the words are enough to explain all things. A scientific creationist respects the words but seeks to prove the account in Genesis by scientific evidence.

A theistic evolutionist believes God created heaven and earth and all life, but did so using his own natural laws. This person also believes the six days of creation are equivalent to eons of geologic time. Lastly, the scientist, who by rules of his profession must consider the origin of all things natural and solely in naturalistic terms. The confrontation between creationism and science is a social, political, and specifically, an educational problem. There are two competing theories that explain how life, earth, and mankind all came to be as we see them today (Moore 42). One is the notion of evolution- that the universe was formed by natural processes in a gradual manner requiring billions of years. However, there is a lack of fossil evidence to indicate how the first life originated. This is referred to as the missing link (Alland 33). The other problem that baffles scientists is that no one has yet shown how the enormous amount of genetic intelligence in a single-celled organism could have come spontaneously from non-living chemicals (Rohr 157).

The second theory, creationism, views the origins as the separate acts of a supernatural Creator who a very short time ago created what we see now out of nothing- a metaphysical conceit. This claim that life was made by an undetectable Creator using supernatural powers falls outside of science. It makes no predictions that can be tested. It can’t be negated by science. If it had any real possibility of negation, it would lose many of the advantages that it offers to its adherents. Evolution passes as science; creation science, by its own admission, does not (Shapiro 150). The famous Scopes trial of 1929 had teacher John Scopes, who taught his class evolution instead of the approved creation, convicted of violating the Tennessee statute known as the Butler Act. It said in part: “it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the state which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the state, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals” (Eldredge 14).

This victory was more for creationists than for their opponents. By 1968, the issue of creationism in the classroom reached the Supreme Court. In the case Epperson v. Arkansas, biology teacher Mrs. Epperson successfully challenged the 1929 Arkansas law forbidding the teaching of evolution. It was the ruling of this case that caused the Tennessee and other similar statutes to be declared null and void. “In 1654, Archbishop Ussher of Ireland deduced that the earth was created on October 26, 4004 B.C. and 9:00 in the morning. The basic result of such biblical scholarship is clear: if Genesis is literally correct, the earth is no more than a few thousand years old” (Eldredge 19).

Geologists can now prove that the earth is vastly older than the creation story seems to allow. Although the creationists seem to be fighting a losing battle in their quest to deny the teachings of evolution in the classroom, there is substantial evidence to also disprove the big bang theory as the source of human evolution (Echoes 92). The debates between evolution and creation continue. Their persistence suggests that the truce between science and religion, based on the assumption that they deal with separate domains, may be a convenient but unrealistic myth. Bibliography:


Alland, Alexander. Evolution and Human Behavior. New York: Natural History, 1967. Allman, William F. “Who We Were: The Origins of Modern Humans.” U.S. News & World Report 16 Sept. 1991: 53-60. Eldredge, Niles. The Monkey Business. New York:Washington, 1982. “Echoes: Cosmology and Gravity.” The Economist 10 April 1993:92-93. “Evolution.” New Encyclopedia of Science. 1985 ed. Fix, William R. The Bone Peddlers: Selling Evolution. New York: Macmillian, 1984. Moore, Ruth. Evolution. New York: Time, 1964. Nelkin, Dorothy. The Creation Controversy: Science or Scripture in Schools.New York: Norton, 1982. Rohr, Janelle, ed. Science & Religion : Opposing Viewpoints. Minnesota: Greenhaven, 1988. Shapiro, Robert. Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide To The Creation Of Life On Earth. New York: Summit, 1986. Waechter, John. Prehistoric Man: The Fascinating Story Of Man’s Evolution. London: Octopus, 1977. Warburton, Lois. Human Origins: Tracing Humanity’s Evolution. California: Lucent,1992.