Should public schools allow public debate over the question of origins? This has made headlines as Tennessee seeks to question evolution in bill. This is not the first time Tennessee has been in the news on this issue but perhaps a short visit with history will help.
Darwinism made its literary debut on November 24, 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species It was advanced as a scientific theory and was obviously in competition with claims of creationists as to the answer of origins. The church was ill prepared intellectually for the battle but most folks did not buy into the idea. As Darwinism advanced and worked at being at least accepted in the educational system, the state of Tennessee passed a law that would not allow evolution to be taught in the public schools. In 1925 this law was put to the test in court in the town of Dayton, Tennessee in the Scopes Trial. Although the state won in the trial they lost in the court of public opinion. That decline has continued to this day. In the 1960s evolution was allowed to be taught alongside creation and by the 1970s creation was essentially banned from public schools. Consequently, most of those who shape the thoughts of students (teachers) and culture at large (television, films, etc.) have advanced their belief system unencumbered with the need to actually defend their claims. In 2008 the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowedstarring Ben Stein was released. Ben is not opposed to Darwinism but he is opposed to censorship. Wasn’t that the exact issue in the 1925 Scope’s trial? It is often claimed that Clarence Darrow, the attorney for John Scopes, said something like, “It would be sheer bigotry to only teach one view of origins.” I haven’t been able to confirm this statement but my question is, does the truth have to hide censor competing ideas?
Some years ago I was asked to debate a professor at a local college on creation vs. evolution. We both agreed and a few days later he asked the sponsoring organization if I was a young earth or old earth creationist. They said they didn’t know and would find out but why would it make a difference. His response was, “I would be caught dead in the same room with a young earther.” I was befuddled since we were not talking about the when of origins but rather, can something come into existence from nothing, by nothing for no apparent reason or is a preexisting designer required? He chose hot to show up and I was asked to give a presentation on my view. After I was done a couple of students came up to me and said, “The way you present it, creation is true and evolution is false.” Very perceptive. Those students asked the professor to come on another day and present his side. I decided to attend. At the question and answer time I asked him if he might elaborate on how we made a transition from Asexual reproduction to male- female sexual reproduction. What would be the steps from one to the other and what intermediate forms have we found. He seemed frozen in place for a few minutes so I elaborated. Asexual reproduction is arguably the most efficient method and any steps in between would require changes that are likely not beneficial and may have been harmful. In fact, male-female reproduction is fraught with difficulties and even with all of the systems in place pregnancy does not always occur. It is enough of an issue that there are fertility clinics to help couples that are struggling with producing offspring. I went so far as to suggest that his view really took a series of miracles to work.
You would need to have a female pop into existence with all of the necessary components in place and working in order for her to be able to conceive. But that would be a miracle. In addition, you would need to have a male pop into existence with all of the necessary elements in place in order for him to be able to impregnate a female. But it gets worse. You would need both to pop into existence at about the same time in history. I mean 100 years a part simply would not work. Then, they would have to pop into existence in about the same geographical location. After all one in say Alaska and one in perhaps Australia, would not work. And so, he needed about 6 or 8 miracles to happen in order make the transition from one to the other. He thought for a moment and said he didn’t know how it happened but knew that it is scientifically possible and he believed even though he has no evidence. “So, you take it by faith” I suggested. He was not happy. In the end, whether one believes in evolution or creation, both begin with faith since we cannot get on the other side of the original events of origins and for the most part cannot trace evolution to any substantial degree.
I don’t know where things will end up as Tennessee seeks to question evolution in bill. There will probably be an outcry from the media elite and likely a court case trying to overturn the law. I think that will actually be helpful as it gives more public exposure to the issue. I would suggest that a major network televise a debate between , say, William William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Educating students and even culture in how to think, challenge and be challenged in the world of ideas would be a big step. It would also allow the faith claims which have the best evidence and answers rise to the top and provide the best answers to life’s issues.