Smart design is real

To deal with creationism in schools and in public:
Seven didactic central themes

The discussion about the treatment of creationist conceptions in biology lessons is now also circulating in Germany. The following explains why creationist statements about nature are not part of the curriculum for school subjects, i.e. why they cannot be taught on an equal footing with the results of evolutionary biology. At the same time, arguments are given for the critical examination of pseudoscientific statements by creationists. It should be made clear that such statements do not stand up to biological, scientific or theological knowledge. Furthermore, it should be shown that creationism also questions the fundamentals of physics and geosciences and is therefore open to interdisciplinary criticism. This detailed study of various aspects of creationism should not, however, suggest that creationism should be given a wide scope in school lessons. In any case, the teachers should have the arguments necessary for a critical discussion on hand when the topic is raised by students in class or in public.

 

Seven didactic central themes: An overview

  1. Creationists make pseudoscientific statements about nature; they cannot explain what happens in nature. The discussion with them must therefore take place with epistemological arguments, on the basis of solid knowledge from biology and other sciences.
  2. Creationists mistakenly equate creationism with theism and the acceptance of the theory of descent and evolutionary theory with atheism. Discussing them must therefore also be based on theological arguments. These are to be strictly separated from biological arguments.
  3. The theory of descent can affect human self-understanding. If biological and non-biological statements about the image of man are not strictly separated, this can hinder the acceptance of the theory of descent and the theory of evolution.
  4. Creationists secretly pursue socio-political goals. Dealing with them must therefore also be based on arguments from the social sciences.
  5. Creationist statements about nature cannot be part of the curriculum. In school, however, the foundations are laid for the interdisciplinary discussion of creationism in biology classes, religion classes, geography classes, physics classes and politics classes.
  6. Misconceptions about evolution make it difficult to deal with this topic in class and in communication with the public. The widespread teleological conception of evolution is closer to the creationist conception than to the theory of evolution.
  7. A (Darwin) Science Center is required in Germany to provide information to the public

1.
Creationists make unscientific statements about nature; they cannot explain what happens in nature. The discussion with them must therefore take place with epistemological arguments, on the basis of solid knowledge from biology and other sciences.

Creationists believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the development of complex biosystems and therefore reject this theory. They claim such systems are the result of deliberate planning by the Creator. In the natural sciences, on the other hand, a theory that cannot explain certain phenomena is modified, supplemented or replaced by another more explanatory theory. A scientific theory is verifiable. To replace such a theory with a doctrine of faith (doctrine of creation) means to stop the theory development and thus to end the scientific work.


The assumption “God created the world” cannot be falsified and is therefore not a scientific hypothesis.

  • Anyone who puts forward such a “hypothesis” cannot fail scientifically; because a statement about God's creative act cannot be checked, so it can neither be proven nor refuted. The creationist statement mentioned is therefore not a scientific hypothesis. Intelligent design is therefore not part of the natural sciences, it is not a sub-discipline of biology. Generally no falsifiable hypotheses can be derived from a doctrine of creation, it is therefore scientifically empty and does not provide any explanations of natural events.
  • In contrast to this, the theory of evolution includes all results of biology without contradiction; no result of biology contradicts it. On this basis, numerous predictions have been made about homologies or the structure of genes in different species. The theory of evolution is also consistent with the results of other disciplines, e.g. geology and astrophysics, which were obtained independently of the theory of evolution.
  • Although DARWIN’s theory of evolution has been modified (see e.g. synthetic theory of evolution), it has proven to be essentially correct. Nevertheless, there is a dispute about Darwinism in biology (see e.g. "Critical Evolutionary Theory"). Corresponding critics, however, do not reject evolution, but try to explain it in another way. In no way do they replace the theory of evolution with a doctrine of creation.

Like any scientific theory, the theory of evolution cannot be regarded as conclusively concluded. It may not yet provide a complete description of the cause. The description of the parentage relationships or the course of the parentage history should also not be completed. Further contributions in this regard can be expected as new sources are opened up. However, the theory of evolution is to be regarded as a sufficient theory.

2.
Creationists mistakenly equate creationism with theism and the acceptance of the theory of descent and evolutionary theory with atheism. Dealing with them must therefore also be based on theological arguments. These are to be strictly separated from biological arguments.

The statement that God cannot be part of a scientific hypothesis is by no means identical with the statement that God does not exist. The methodological restriction to empirically verifiable (methodical naturalism; "etsi deus non daretur") does not mean that there is no such thing as that which cannot be verified. Therefore representatives of the theory of evolution are not necessarily atheists.

The statement “God did not create the world” can neither be scientifically proven nor disproved according to the explanations on the 1st central idea. For this reason, too, it cannot be concluded from the findings of evolutionary biology that God does not exist.

A correct presentation of the theory of descent and the theory of evolution is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for a goal-oriented discussion with creationists. Anyone who believes that he will lose the meaning of life if he accepts the doctrine of descent and the theory of evolution can at best be convinced of the opposite by a theological correction of this view.

From the theological point of view, it can be justified that the Creator cares for the universe and that he willed evolution, the causes of which biology describes, as well as man as its result, who can recognize the Creator as the meaning and goal of life. Theological and biological arguments do not conflict with strict separation.


3.
The theory of descent can affect people's self-image. If biological and non-biological statements about the image of man are not strictly separated, this can hinder the acceptance of the theory of descent and the theory of evolution.

In relation to other living beings, people experience themselves as absolutely unique, they perceive themselves as fundamentally different from other species. According to the theory of descent, on the other hand, Homo sapiens is a result of the formation of species in evolution, i.e. one species among many. Seen in this way, humans are not biologically unique and fundamentally different from other living beings; they are part of nature. On the basis of anatomical and physiological properties as well as biochemical features (e.g. protein structure, DNA, RNA sequences), it can be classified in a consistent taxonomic system of all types of living.

From the evolutionary biological results on the descent of the human being and his position in the system of the living, no statements about the personal character of the human being or the responsibility of the individual can be derived that are, for example, philosophically, theologically or legally founded.


4.
Creationists secretly pursue socio-political goals. Dealing with them must therefore also be based on arguments from the social sciences.

The development within creationism from “Creation Science” to “Intelligent Design” is due to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which stipulates the separation of state and religion. The development within creationism is intended to obscure the religious character of creationism. Thereby it should be stylized into a science so that it can become the subject of the curricula of state schools.
For the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the inclusion of intelligent design in biology classes is only considered a milestone in achieving social change in the sense of evangelical ideas about how society is organized, e.g. about the role of women or how to deal with homosexuals: One of the "Twenty years goals ”of the Discovery Institute is called“ To see intelligent design theory penetrate our religious, cultural, moral and political life ”. This goal is veiled in the public display of creationism. Dealing with creationism therefore also requires sociological analyzes.


5.
Creationist statements about nature cannot be part of the curriculum. In school, however, the foundations are laid for the interdisciplinary discussion of creationism in biology classes, religion classes, geography classes, physics classes and politics classes.

The suggestion of the representatives of intelligent design that their views should be treated on an equal footing with the theory of evolution in biology lessons is unacceptable because scientifically unprovable or refutable belief statements would have to be conveyed as ostensibly biological statements. Biology lessons cannot be used as a Trojan horse for the purpose of religious proclamation. It is therefore not unfair to reject the call for the theory of evolution and intelligent design to be treated equally.

Religious instruction must make it clear that this type of theology is not at the level of theological science; it interprets the biblical accounts of creation in the context of their historical origins and according to their theological objectives. When religious instruction deals with questions of the goal and meaning of the doctrine of creation, it clearly and unambiguously differentiates this approach from the biological explanation of the doctrine of descent.
In the biology class, solid knowledge of the basics of the theory of evolution, tribal history and human evolution is acquired.

  • A special focus is the topic of self-organization. It is made clear that, in the course of evolution, the complexity of the structure and information processing of biosystems through self-organization, i.e. without regulatory interventions from outside, increased continuously.
  • According to the KMK educational standards for secondary level I2 and the propaedeutic principles of science for the upper level, it is also made clear how a biologist comes to true and generally valid statements (competence area "knowledge acquisition"). In this context, the epistemological shortcomings of "intelligent design" can be discussed.
  • In an interdisciplinary way, biology lessons continue to show that the theory of evolution is in harmony with a large number of scientific content in other disciplines, which would also have to be abandoned if the theory of evolution were to be replaced by a doctrine of creation and the time of creation was set 6,000 years ago according to the statements of the Bible would. Examples are: Big Bang, age and expansion of the universe, aging and dying of stars, plate tectonics.
  • Evolution in biology lessons must not only be dealt with at the end of secondary levels I and II. Since all findings in biology can be easily assigned to the theory of evolution, it can and should be made clear over and over again over all school years that biological phenomena also have evolutionary (ultimate) causes.

Physics classes and geography classes deal with the specific contributions of physics and geosciences to the formation and development of space or the earth and also place an emphasis on questions of scientific knowledge acquisition.

The image of society favored by creationism can be discussed in politics lessons. It should become clear that socio-political goals are hidden in the intelligent design approach (analysis critical of ideology).

The training of religion teachers and biology teachers must in part be interdisciplinary so that both groups of teachers can adequately address the subjects of evolution and creation in the classroom in terms of the theory of science. In the course of biology, questions of the theology of the creation must therefore also be dealt with, and questions of evolutionary biology in the theology course.


6.
Misconceptions about evolution make it difficult to deal with this topic in class and in communication with the public. The widespread teleological conception of evolution is closer to the creationist conception than to the theory of evolution.

Many students have a teleological conception of evolution; they see evolution as a linear historical process that leads to the "improvement" of living beings and do not realize that variations occur by chance. It is not clear to these students that those forms inevitably prevail in evolution which have the highest reproductive success under given environmental conditions. The teleological misconception stands in the way of the insight into the interplay of chance and necessity (random variation, necessary selection) in evolution.

Many students also find it difficult to differentiate between genes and traits. It is therefore not clear to them that selection affects the phenotype. Research is required on the question of the conditions under which misconceptions can best be further developed in the direction of scientific ideas. Research also needs to clarify whether the teleological notion of evolution facilitates the acceptance of creationist notions.

It cannot be assumed that a scientifically correct idea of ​​the causes and the course of evolution is widespread among the public. For this reason there are also limits to the understanding of newspaper articles on evolution.


7.
A (Darwin) Science Center is required in Germany to provide information to the public.

To date, there has been no science center in Germany for communication with the public, in which the basics of the theory of descent and the theory of evolution and the additional information required for dealing with creationism can be presented in a clear and understandable manner, and visitors can acquire the relevant knowledge in their own work.

In such a science center, a school laboratory should also enable school classes to empirically work on the subject of evolution under supervision.

A multimedia department should develop and evaluate materials for information for schools and the general public in cooperation with science journalists, natural scientists, specialist didactics and scientific organizations. Such a science center could counteract the missionary activity of the creationists on a scientific basis, which is likely to be significantly strengthened in Germany sooner or later.

 

Remarks

  1. First published in MNU 60, 196-199 (2007)
  2. Kultusministerkonferenz: Educational standards in biology for the secondary school leaving certificate. Munich: Luchterhand 2005

 

further reading

  • Baker, C., Muller, J.B. (Eds.): The Evolution Dialogues. Science, Christianity and the Quest for Understanding. Washington DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): 2006 (ISBN: 0-87168-709-7 )
  • Bayrhuber, H., Kull, U .: Linder Biologie. Braunschweig: Schroedel 200522 (p. 519, f)
  • Kutschera, U .: Evolutionary Biology. A general introduction. Stuttgart: Eugen Ulmer 20062
  • Leinfelder, R. R .: Evolution and Creationism from the Point of View of a Paleontologist (working title). - In: Kutschera, U. (Ed.): Creationism in Germany. Facts and analysis. Science and Faith Vol. 1. Münster: LitVerlag (2007, in press)
  • Purdy, J. (ed.) Keeping Science & Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil after Dover. A Free Public Forum, May 17, 2006, Florida State University: www.urma.org/uresources/dovforum.html