Creationism has no place in biology classes

by Stacey Oparnica

Artwork courtesy of Taylor Stookey
Artwork courtesy of Taylor Stookey

Pseudoscience is still flooding into our nation’s public high schools. Data reported by the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers revealed that 13 percent of U.S. high school biology educators advocate creationism in class, while 60 percent tiptoe around the controversial evolution vs. creationism topic so as not to offend religious students and parents.

Creationism is a belief system that proclaims God created all living things. Between different religious groups and individuals, the level of faith in this concept varies. While some interpret the Bible literally and believe a supreme deity formed the universe, others — such as the Catholic pope — acknowledge and encourage not only faith, but scientific research as well. Still, the question remains as to whether or not there is room for religion in the world of science.

What it ultimately comes down to is this: If you believe in God, that’s your business. With the protections of the First Amendment, you are free to credit the existence of all living things to whomever or whatever you so desire, be it God, the Big Bang Theory or talking pigs.

However, when you are an educator in the public school system, circumstances change. While your First Amendment right still stands, your religious affiliations should never interfere with your lesson plans. It’s common sense.

When discussions about presidential elections would arise in my high school history classes, my teachers never revealed whom they voted for, despite the pestering of curious students. Whether they didn’t find it appropriate or were not permitted to discuss such matters is irrelevant. They always remained unbiased and we in turn learned the subject material as it was supposed to be taught: objectively.

Considering college professors expect students to have a basic knowledge of the material prior to entering their classrooms, it is vital that teachers relay rational and practical knowledge students can utilize wisely. If teachers hand out leaflets from the book of Genesis instead of textbooks and abide by the Bible instead of the required statewide curriculum, the academic consequences for students are going to be severe — especially when they’re staring blankly at their first college biology exam and all they can remember from previous science classes is how God created the world in seven days. I guarantee you that won’t be one of the multiple-choice answers.

Let’s call this what it is: a failure. The California education curriculum, which is overseen and enforced by the California Department of Education and the state superintendent of public instruction, is compiled of a detailed list of concepts teachers are expected to cover. Among the list is cell biology — ironically alongside some terms we’re reviewing in my own biology class this semester — as well as the meaning and purpose of genetics, sexual reproduction, DNA sequences, ecology and physiology. In bold letters, “Evolution” makes itself known among the list; hovering below are a series of specifications: Students should understand the concept and existence of natural selection, adaptation, evolutionary relationships, fossil records and mass extinction. Who wants to render a guess as to how many of the surveyed creationist biology teachers are sufficiently covering these topics? I think you know the answer.

Yet there’s one thing I still don’t get. How is it possible that faith-based lesson plans could ever intertwine with the rigorous research and trialing that is the foundation for the scientific community? Don’t be fooled by “theory” in the “theory of evolution.” There is little to no dispute between scientists about the existence of evolution, but their standards for proving something as fact are exceptionally more advanced than our own.

SDSU Biology Department professor Roland Wolkowicz explained it best when he said, “Someone who looks at a glass of what appears to be red wine will automatically believe it is red wine. But a scientist would have to taste the wine to believe it and still he would not be satisfied. He would test the chemical components and view the wine in a different light … for a scientist, it is not enough just to see the wine to believe it is wine.” How then, can religion ever find a place in a community so adamant on asking questions, making observations and conducting experiments?

It can’t. “Everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs,” Wolkowicz said. “But religion is based on faith,and biology is based on science. They are completely opposite.” For the high school biology teachers who aren’t aware of this reality, perhaps you need to put the chalk down and pull up a chair next to one of your students.

–Stacey Oparnica is a journalism sophomore.

–The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.