There has been
an outcry in the United States of America since 1980, by the spokesmen of the
evangelical right wing, to the effect that something they call "creationism" be
taught in tax-supported public schools. They want this to be presented on an
equal basis with the concept of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the
universe, of life, of human beings. It seems fair. Why should not both cases
have equal chance? Why much evolutionists oppose the teaching of creationism?
Yet equal time for both view is not fair. It is down-right pernicious.
The concepts of
evolution and creationism are not equal. The two views, that is the evolutionary
view and creationism are not equal. The two views, that is the evolutionary view
has been built up painstakingly over a period of two centuries on the basis of
scientific evidence, and it has behind enormous body of evidence and reasoning.
All biologists, of any reputation at all, accept the evidence that the present
day species have developed slowly from simpler forms: that unit of life, the
cell, has developed from pre-cellular scraps of life: and that these, in turn,
have arisen from non-living materials by changes that are in accord with the
laws of nature over a vast stretch of several billions of years.
mechanism is under dispute, regarding the fine details of evolution, since the
process of discovery is not yet complete and may never probably be complete.
Even the most argumentative of those who quarrel over the details do not,
however doubt the evolutionary concept itself. Creationists, on the other hand,
present no evidence in favour of their view. They argue entirely from the
negative. They maintain that if the concept of evolution is found wanting, then
this alone is sufficient to force acceptance of creationism.
that the concept of evolution is indeed found wanting. They point out
insufficiencies, contradictions and uncertainties in evolutionary arguments and
say, triumphantly, "Thus we establish creationism!" And yet in the first place,
the insufficiencies they present are often advanced in distorted, simplistic,
and down right erroneous ways. In the second place,some of these insufficiencies
are matters over which biologists are indeed undecided, but which effect merely
the details of mechanism and not the concept of evolution itself. And in the
third place, even if the concept of evolution were indeed insufficient, that
would not, of itself, prove the validity of the concept of the independent
production of each species by a "Creator". Other alternative may exist and the
choice among them would have to rest on positive evidence. Thus if a close
investigation were to show that our notion of reproductive physiology were not
entirely right, that would not, of itself, prove that babies were brought by the
stork. They might, indeed, have been found under cabbage leaves, or have been
delivered in the doctor's little black bag.
In order to
establish creationism as a rational concept, the creationists must advance
scientifically valid evidence for their beliefs, and not merely try to make
holes in others views. They simply cannot question whether the universe is
really fifteen billion years old by casting doubt on Hubble's constant. They
must present reasonable evidence that the universe is, in fact, ten thousand
years old (or whatever figure they would like to maintain). Needless to say,
this they have never done. For these reasons, creationism has never established
itself in one place that really counts - the market place of scientific ideas.
Science is a
self-correcting process, and scientists do change their views, but they do so
only on the basis of new evidence or of a new and convincing presentation of a
line of reasoning. Scientists refused to accept the notion of drifting
continents on the basis of evidence advanced in 1913 and thereafter. New
evidence was obtained in the 1960s, and improved version of the concept was then
accepted with immediate effect.
It is possible
that the day may come when evolution will indeed turn out to be insufficient and
when new evidence in favour of creationism will force a change of view, but that
day has not yet come. Nothing the creationists say bears promise that it will
ever come, and since that is so, it is impossible scientifically, to ask that
creationism be taught in the schools today as a reasonable alternative to
evolution. The fact that some people earnestly believe in creationism is
of that belief is a legitimate matter of interest in courses of history,
sociology, and psychology, and in those courses creationism may well be
discussed in detail, but it does not belong to science. But suppose were
creationism to be taught. What would be the content of the course? Merely that a
Creator formed the universe and all species of life ready-made? Is that all?
Nothing more? No details?
creationists seem to accept the biblical tale of creation, but is that the only
pattern of creationism possible? Millions of people the world over who believe
in divine creator of some sort do not accept the Bible as a holy book. In fact,
many people who read the Bible disagree on the manner of interpretation of its
account of the creation. They accept the biblical account as poetry, as
allegory, as symbolism: they feel in it for a deep ethical and moral meaning -
but they do not accept it as a liberal description of how the universe began.
What can one
learn if creationism is taught? Which view does one accept? Can one choose among
the several interpretations based on scientific evidence? Should it just be
taught on equal basis? If creationists simply want the literal words of the
Bible taught, then that is manifestly unfair to all the competing creationist
notions. It might be possible to argue, that if creationism is so empty of
content and so transparently unscientific, there is certainly no harm in
offering as an alternative. Clearly no one would accept it. Some people even
argue that, if scientists object to "equal time", they must not really have a
Ah, but it is
not equal time the creationists want. That little slogan is merely the smile of
the crocodile. School is not the only place where the origins of life and the
universe are dealt with. There also the churches that have creationists views in
the United States of America. In these churches, only creationists view are
presented. There is no question of "equal time" there. Children are therefore
exposed only to creationist views there, and in their homes, for many years
before they hear about evolution in the schools. And they are threatened with
hell fire if they doubt. Where is the "equal time"?
The teaching of
evolution in the public schools (in U.S.A.) is a very recent phenomenon. It was
not many decades ago when in the strong holds of creationism the teaching of
evolution was forbidden. That was what the Scopes "Monkey Trial" (in 1925) was
all about. Scopes had mentioned evolution in class and that was a crime. Where
was the concept of "equal time" then?
Even now the
teaching of evolution in public schools is not very strong affair. In many
states of America, people of creationist views heckle and have brow beaten the
school boards, school principals and school teachers to the point where, if
evolution is mentioned at all, it is done in an apologetic whisper. The
creationists attempt to ride hard on the libraries, too, and do their best to
pull out every book that does not suit them.
And still they
demand "equal time"? Do not kid yourself. They want all the time there is. One
can see why, too. Their cause is so weak, so non-existent, in effect, that the
only way they can feel sure of maintaining it, is to have their victims never
hear anything else. Yet none of what I have said so far reaches the real dead
lines of the situation.
views, after all, continue to be firmly rejected in the market place of
scientific ideas. There can be no another way as long as creationist views are
so empty of content.
creationists call on the American Government. They brow beat legislators and
executive and insist on laws defining what is scientifically valid and dictating
what is to be taught. What a dangerous precedent this is! If the United States,
Supreme Court can be bullied to declare these ideas as constitutional, thus it
goes a long way for putting an end to pluralism. In America, and to democracy
and free thought. Thus the United States is on a path of setting on established
church and an official orthodoxy.
precedents show that the ability to censor and to enforce orthodoxy is a delight
that has no limits. Today "equal time", tomorrow the world. Today is the
creationists view on science, tomorrow probably the way one must dress, speak
and behave. It is not merely creationism that one fights in this regard. Behind
it are the old enemies of bigotry and darkness, and one need not complain about
this endless battle. The price of liberty, according to Thomas Jefferson, is