Confronting Creationism in the Science Classroom




This article is intended as an aid to teachers to deal with the issues of creationism as they may come up in the science classroom. It is meant to be useful for teachers irrespective of their own personal faith and may even unify the contradiction often felt by devout Christians between the Creation according to Genesis and the Big Bang theory and the theory of Evolution. The first part contains some theoretical considerations on the importance of proper answers to students who raise the topic of creation during science lessons, the second part contains a possible and practical approach how to answer these questions properly and how to unify these contradictory theories.


Creationism seems to be more and more a stumbling block for the credibility of science in society, although it can be argued that, because science is frequently questioned these days and since the reputation and status of scientists have decayed, that this has brought on a new surge of fundamentalist observation of religions. All technological answers which society needs these days are expected to come from science while the sources for answers to the questions of the use of newly developed technologies are religion and moral standards. Consequently both areas, science and religion and morals, are very important in society and they should be unified satisfactorily for the sincere school student who seriously attempts to study our world.

Many, if not most, science teachers these days have a professional reply ready to prevent the discussion about Creation should a student bring it up during science classes on the Big Bang or Evolution. This is a useful resource particularly, when the student in question is more likely to be interested in stalling the lesson than in genuine inquiry. Please keep in mind though, that there will be students who seriously wonder about this question, but who would not dare to bring this up in your lesson. These students are likely to be from a religious background, they know of the contradiction, and they probably have heard intellectually unsatisfactory answers from their parents or even their priests. They might have come away from discussions like these with the impression, that it is good to believe in Genesis and that it is not wise to ask about the contradiction to the scientific theories. This then leads the student to think that there are questions in society which should not be asked and you should just go with the flow of traditional answers, no matter how unsatisfactory they are, which is exactly the outcome science teachers should not want, because it makes students uncritical and lets them grow into uncritical adults who just go with the flow without any understanding.

Consequently a proper answer is not only what a student could rightfully expect, if he is to take his Science teacher seriously, but it is also very important for the further intellectual development of the student and all students who will make up the society of adult participants in our democratic processes of tomorrow.

What is the answer? The answer has three parts. You have to consider how sure are we about all the details of the Big Bang theory and Evolution. After all there are religious people with scientific training who carry the discussion on our turf. There is a creationist theory which looks at the evidence for the two scientific theories and undermines these with scientific arguments. You need to be able to address this on the basis of its credibility. Another part is to bring the discussion back onto religion. Even if this is not your personal conviction, admit, for arguments sake, that the book of Genesis is the Word of God and get the class to consider to whom this book was addressed. Could those people have understood the Big Bang theory? Do you, the Science teacher, really understand all its details? And this leads to the last part of the answer. Speak about Religion. Is there evidence for the possibility of the Big Bang theory in the bible? Could Genesis really be a story God told his people, as we tell our own children of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? Prov. 25,2 strongly suggests so.
Prov.25, [2] "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter."

Regarding Evolution, Ecclesiastes 3,18 even explicitly states that men are beasts and that a man has no preeminence above a beast!
Ecclesiastes 3, [18] "I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
[19] For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
[20] All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
[21] Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"

How do I go about this in the lesson. The part mentioned first above may not come up or you may want to bring it up yourself. The answer is very easy to understand to school students. Creationist Scientists are cheating. Imagine a Scientist, not a Creationist, would find a new piece of evidence and declare, that the Big Bang occurred 10 Billion years ago, or twenty Billion years ago, or maybe six thousand years ago. All other non-Creationist scientists will look at the evidence and either agree or disagree, depending on their own personal understanding of the matter. No non-Creationist scientist will feel any obligation to make his theory to amount to 14 or 15 Billion years. If the evidence, as they see it speaks against these numbers, they will readily give them up. The creationist scientist, on the other hand, is bound to arrive at the result 6000 years for the age of the universe. If another scientist would look at his argument and find a mistake so obvious, that he convinces the creationist that this particular point in his chain of arguments is wrong, then the Creationist Scientist will review the whole chain of his arguments in an attempt to make up for the mistake so that the final result will be 6000 years again. In other words, he is cheating. He does not work with an unpreoccupied mind. When students are given homework in mathematics, the teacher tells them to do it and then to compare their answers to those in the back of the book, and the teacher warns them not to cheat and look first, because they will learn more from their homework, if they figure out the correct solution themselves.

And what do you answer when a student point blank declares you to be wrong, because Genesis says differently? What is a Science teacher compared to God? What can you possibly say against the Word of God? Delay the confrontation. Encourage them to speak on and they will, if they are really interested. Ask them, who wrote Genesis. The traditional answer is that God dictated this book to Moses or something to that effect, even though the bible does not say so. Their answer does not really matter, in any event the story of Genesis is at least 2500 years old, and most likely much older than that. When you have listened to their eager answers and explanations, stop them and ask them a question. 'What did Moses get for his HSC Physics?' This stuns them and you get the opportunity to speak more to them. How well do you really understand the Big Bang theory. Consider whether you, the science teacher, could work out the speed of a distant galaxy from its red shift, if you were given the formula? Could you work out the formula? Could the students explain the red shift to their little brother or sister? What about Mum or Dad? Could you explain it to a person, who lived at the time of Moses, who had no idea about the nature of light, who would not understand the words frequency or wavelength? Wouldn't it be much easier to say to a person like that 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' And considering the poor level of education of these people, compared to our own today, is this so wrong? It says in Proverbs 25,2 'It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter!' Is it wrong to tell children of Santa Claus or of the Easter Bunny? What do you say when a young child asks you where the little boys and girls come from? When the child grows up and tells the parents, that he or she does not believe in Santa Claus anymore, do the parents take this as a mark of disrespect? Would God take it as a mark of disrespect, if we 'search out a matter' which He has hidden?

In conclusion, the Bible itself allows for different world histories than Genesis, the Bble explicitly says in Eccl. 3,18 about men 'that they themselves are beasts!' and have 'no preeminence above a beast!' Finally, some advice for when things go really well. Do not get caught up in proofs of God which might occur when students get encouraged in this form of investigation. Many students want to believe, but find it hard to do so. These would love to say, 'God certainly exists. My science teacher proved it in our lesson!' Remind them that science is about knowing, while religion is about believing. Jesus said, 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' (John 20,29) But also be aware that a science teacher is in many regards as a priest. Who of us really does understand all the facets and implications of the Big Bang theory. Not even Stephen Hawking's understanding of this matter is complete. And even if at least his understanding would be complete, could he explain himself to other adults, let alone the average high school student? But everybody can remember evidence for the Big Bang and Evolution to his own ability of understanding. Also when things do not go well, remember, 'It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.' You may not have a prospective king in your class.

Questions and comments should be addressed to: John Prince

Model Farms High, Baulkham Hills, NSW, AUSTRALIA

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