Posted on Fri, Dec. 10, 2004
Subject: Creation/evolution debate deserves full hearing in classrooms
Some controversies never seem to die - they just keep coming back like that stray cat you never should have fed. Nearly 80 years after John Scopes stood trial in Tennessee for teaching evolution, the issue is being debated once again in a north Georgia courtroom.
A group of parents in affluent Cobb County convinced the local school board to place a sticker in all science textbooks that cover evolution explaining that it is "a theory, not fact" and that it should be critically considered as such. Six parents are now suing the school system in federal court, arguing that the stickers amount to an expression of religious sentiment that has no place in a public school setting.
Actually this issue has never really gone away. Ever since the effort to ban the teaching of evolution failed, creationists have been counter-punching by arguing that evolution and creationism should be taught side-by-side, so that children can make up their own minds about which theory seems correct to them.
I think that idea has merit, although I understand why some people fear that teaching Bible-based creation theory would cross the line into state sponsorship of a particular religious viewpoint. Perhaps we could address that concern by opening up the classroom discussion to include a multitude of viewpoints on how life came into existence.
Students could spend an entire semester learning about creation stories from around the world.
In such a class, children could learn the Hindu story of how life originated from the universal Self. According to this story, the world began as a single essence, which eventually split itself into male and female parts that mated and began the human race with their offspring. The female half of the Self, apparently not enamored of the whole procreative process, then disguised herself as a cow to avoid experiencing it again. Unfortunately for her, the male was persistent (as males tend to be in these matters) and changed himself into a bull, and shortly thereafter the line of cattle was started. The female continued her vain attempt to dodge the male's advances by transforming herself into a succession of different animal forms and the male continued to follow suit until all life forms presently on earth had been established.
They could also learn about the Chinese story of Pan Gu and Nu Wa. This story teaches that in the beginning the universe consisted of only an egg-shaped cloud which contained all matter in a chaotic, unstable form. A giant named Pan Gu gradually formed in the midst of this egg, growing larger and larger until, fully formed, he stood and stretched, breaking the egg and forming the universe as it now exists. Much later, a lonely goddess named Nu Wa walked the lifeless surface of the earth and, to stave off her loneliness, created humanity from mud scooped up from the edge of a pond.
There are many other creation stories that could fill a seminar on the subject for enquiring student minds. As long as the various stories were presented even-handedly and put into cultural context, I don't think it would amount to a government establishment of religion.
Of course, if someone's goal was to indoctrinate students into one way of thinking (whether it was evolutionism or creationism or whatever) they night have a problem with this approach. But if the goal is truly to put all the facts before our young scholars so that they can make an informed choice on what to believe, this wide-open method of introducing them to creation theory should meet with widespread acceptance.
Bill Ferguson, a resident of Centerville, can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] com