Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Specious Origins: Why it doesn't matter if you teach evolution or creationism

When it comes to the ostensible dichotomy of evolution and creationism, there are people who believe one explanation and people who believe the other, and both groups passionately contend that their view should be taught in public schools and that the other view is harmful to the young minds.

Both sides are wrong, but not for the reason you're thinking.

Last night I saw a story on the news where the Delaware senatorial candidates debated that very topic. The thrust of the article focused on how Tea Party darling and non-witch Christine O'Donnell appeared to question that the First Amendment mandates the separation of church and state when "taxman" Chris Coons alluded to that. (See for yourself.)

Later, presumably just as a defensive jab back, O'Donnell asked him if he could name the five freedoms provided to citizens from the First Amendment. Apparently he could offer only one.

Certainly one could argue that O'Donnell is technically accurate regarding the lack of the exact phrase "separation of church and state" appearing in the Bill of Rights, but to quibble such wording will only serve to make one look like one is abjectly ignorant about the amendments to the Constitution, if it doesn't utterly confirm that abject ignorance.

That Coons could not recall the content of the First Amendment better might be a mere extemporaneous mental lapse, or it might suggest regurgitative educational methods from his school days where little was actually retained.

But the glib conclusion we can draw from this exchange is this: It doesn't appear to matter what they teach; there's little evidence that anyone is actually paying attention to what gets taught.

Political talking points, on the other hand, when repeated sufficiently seem to embed themselves in the brain pretty effectively.


The stubborn attitude of both sides of the debate is particularly befuddling when one considers that if one simply attributes evolution as an act of God—that He made species evolve slowly (which conceivably could have been more interesting for Him than just, Boom, here's everything)—then both sides get to be right without contradicting each other.

But then there's nothing to get all worked up about, so that will never work. Indignant self-righteousness is the greatest freedom offered us by the First Amendment, even though it's not explicitly stated.


  1. I really don't understand why people think (in Texas, mostly) that creationism needs to be taught in school alongside (or in place of) evolution. Isn't that what church is for?

  2. (Hmm. Clearly I was too subtle about the politicians-are-dumb thesis.)


So, what do you think?