Creationism and the public schools, part IV
Yesterday, Potosi MO superintendent Randy Davis invited a speaker from Answers in Genesis, an anti-evolutionism group based out of Kentucky, to address high school and middle school students in their science classes.
Riddle said in an interview that his presentation, entitled "Fascinating Facts About Origins," will focus on such things as "the laws of thermodynamics," and ask such questions as, "How could a protein originate by itself? Is that possible?"
He said one of his goals was to encourage science students "to think about the different ways things could have happened."
Randy Davis, superintendent for the Potosi R-III School District, said Riddle's background as a trained mathematician and former public high school teacher with a graduate degree in education helped convince the district that he was an appropriate guest for the science classes.
He said he was not worried that Riddle's talks would bring religion into public classrooms or serve as another touchstone in the debate about creationism versus evolution in public schools.
"We reviewed the presentation with our science teachers, and this has been presented at other school districts," Davis said. "This is simply a factual discussion of science…. It is not religion-based."
Bill Mayberry, a biology teacher at Potosi High School and chairman of the science department, would not comment.
Riddle characterized the extent of his public school presentations as "not very many."
"We don't get invited in very often," he said.
Asked why Potosi chose not to bring in a scientist unaffiliated with the creationist movement, Davis said Riddle was giving talks at local churches Sunday, and his presence in the area was a factor in the district's decision. Potosi is about 75 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Answers in Genesis, perhaps the nation's biggest creationist organization, is building a 50,000-square-foot, $25 million Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, that is scheduled to open next year. Creationists believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and have calculated Earth to be about 6,000 years old. Traditional science has pegged Earth's age at about 4.5 billion years.
Also informative today was an editiorial in the St. Louis-Post-Dispatch, the major newspaper closest to Potosi, entitled, ”Origin of the Specious.”
The website for Answers in Genesis, linked above, is very interesting, offering questions for contemplation such as “Is interracial marriage biblical?” and “Where did Cain find his wife?” The website also claims that Darwin and his proponents espoused female inferiority—a belief that I hardly think one could merely pin on Darwinists, as my memories of my mother dragging me to a church that did not allow women to speak or lead prayers in public come flooding back to me. The group also warns people away from being “theistic evolutionists," or believing in God and evolution simultaneously, warning that the price may be “too much to bear,” and arguing:
Jesus treated Genesis as though it actually happened, so that settles it. We may not be able to master a lot of complex arguments against theistic evolution, but even a child can grasp this one. Among those who claim to be Christians, Jesus' own treatment of Genesis closes the question.
I was not aware that Jesus mentioned the creation story as described in Genesis. But, hey, I’m just a theistic evolutionist. And actually, I studied the Bible in my public school English classes. Twice.
Yes, that’s right. In both my freshman and senior years of high school, the Old Testament was a subject of study, and no, I did not also study McGuffey’s Reader, nor did I come over on the Mayflower. I am talking late 1970s and early 1980s here, smarty-pants.
Anyway, the lady who taught it the first time had a religious axe to grind, and continuously tried to make sure that none of us were going to Hell on her watch—including the Jewish kid in the third row who had not accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. During this unit, our spelling tests consisted of memorizing and correctly spelling the names of all the books of the Bible. Fun. Amos was easy, but Deuteronomy was a killer for some of my friends. Asking Mrs. Falwell* the “Who did Cain marry?” question resulted in a severely unpleasant reaction, like we were trying to be snarky when all we were doing was asking a question.
The second teacher who covered this material, Mrs. Verdad*, taught the Bible as literature—which was, of course, the stated purpose of the course both times. She introduced us to the poetry of the Psalms as interpreted in several translations and compared the female characters in the Old Testament to those in the other great religious texts of the world.
The point is, it is certainly possible to address religion in a public school setting, as long as one avoids interjecting one’s own personal beliefs into the mix and one avoids telling kids what to believe. I’m just not too sure bringing in someone from Answers in Genesis to our science classrooms is the right tack, since their stated purpose is to tell people what to believe and to undermine the teaching of science.
*- Names changed to protect the people involved