Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology 19

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Geschichte und Theorie der Biologie (Hg.)
Elizabeth Watts: Analysis of Creationism in the United States from Scopes (1925) to Kitzmiller (2005) and its Effect on the Nation´s Science Education System
(Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology 19 / 2014)
341 Seiten, 17 x 24, Softcover
Unversitätsverlag Göttingen 2018
ISBN: 978 – 3-86395 – 339-3
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17875/gup2018-1065
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Inhalt

Acknowledgements S. 7 – 8
Abstract S. 9 – 11
List of Tables and Figures S. 12 – 16
Foreword S. 17 – 18
Introduction S. 19 – 24
Understanding the Conflict: science, religion and the United States S. 25 – 86
Creationism and Intelligent Design S. 87 – 124
Examining the Legal Conflic S. 125 – 162
Examining the conflict and its effect on education S. 163 – 202
Beyond Borders: post-Kitzmiller, free-choice learning and creationism outside the US S. 203 – 264
Conclusion S. 265 – 278
Afterword S. 279 – 380
Literature S. 281 – 302
List of Appendices S. 303 – 327
Index S. 328 – 336
Ulrich Kutschera, Uwe Hoßfeld, Georgy Levit
Comment: Creationism and Intelligent Design: Dogmatic concepts that will not go away
S. 337 – 341

 

Zusammenfassung / Abstract

Der Kreationismus in all seinen Varianten geht weitgehend bis heute von der Annahme aus, dass die biologische Vielfalt nicht durch natürliche Ursachen, sondern durch Einwirkung übernatürlicher Kräfte entstanden ist (Einwirkung eines Schöpfer-Wesens). Nicht mehr hinterfragbare Begründungen sind dabei für kreationistisch geprägte Theorien charakteristisch, auch die ID-Bewegung setzt hier fort. In beiden Fällen (Kreationismus/ID) handelt es sich nicht um Theorien, da sie die Ansprüche, die man in der Wissenschaft an eine Theorie stellt, nicht erfüllen. Es sind vielmehr pseudowissenschaftliche, antidarwinistische Theoriengebäude die derzeit mit dazu beitragen, dass die „Religion“ generell in Misskredit gezogen wird. Diese Sichtweise kann sich auch negativ auf den naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht auswirken, wenn Kreationisten bspw. versuchen, übernatürliche Erklärungen für das Auftreten von Arten im Biologieunterricht zu propagieren. Diese „weltanschauliche“ Interpretation ist besonders stark innerhalb des naturwissenschaftlichen Unterrichtes in den Vereinigten Staaten zu finden, wo fast 75% der Bevölkerung die naturalistische Evolutionstheorie ablehnt. Zudem sind die meisten amerikanischen Schüler unfähig, erfolgreich an naturwissenschaftlichen Universitätskursen teilzunehmen. Vorliegende Arbeit liefert eine erste umfassende Bestandsaufnahme des „Kreationismus-Phänomens“ aus historischer, rechtlicher und pädagogischer Perspektive. Es wurden hierfür 24 Rechtsfälle, die auf anti-evolutionärer Grundlage basierten, im Detail analysiert und die strategischen Tendenzen der Kreationismus-Bewegung identifiziert. Hierbei wird verdeutlicht, dass die kreationistischen Strategien Großteils als Reaktion auf die jeweiligen Gerichtsentscheidungen entstanden sind. Weiterhin wurde die direkte Einflussnahme des Kreationismus auf das Bildungssystem mittels staatlicher Einflussnahme auf Lehrbuchinhalte und Bildungsstandards im Fachbereich Biologie analysiert. Da die Inhalte von Lehrbüchern und  Bildungsstandards vorwiegend durch politische Prozesse und Gremien in den USA festgelegt  werden, gelang es so den Kreationisten, durch entsprechende politische Einflussnahme, die Wissenschaftlichkeit der Evolutionsbiologie innerhalb der Lehrbücher und Bildungsstandards herabzusetzen, mit der Konsequenz, dass das Thema „Evolution“ nur noch marginal unterrichtet werden kann. Zusätzlich ergab eine Analyse frei wählbarer amerikanischer Lehr- und Lernmaterialien, dass die Kreationisten auch sehr erfolgreich darin sind, ihre Ideen entsprechend zu vermarkten (Bücher, Filme, Errichtung von Museen), um so ihre Ziele  auch außerhalb des Klassenraumes zu stärken. Ebenso wurde die Kreationismus-Bewegung in Deutschland dargestellt. Dieser Vergleich zwischen den beiden Ländern soll mit dazu beitragen, die generellen Schlüsselkomponenten kreationistischer Bewegungen aufzudecken. Die Studie liefert hier neue, detaillierte Einblicke in die Kreationismus-Bewegung und zeigt, dass diese Strömung derzeit weiter sehr aktiv und erfolgreich ist. Überdies wird gezeigt, dass der Kreationismus (ID-Bewegung) sich nicht nur in den Vereinigten Staaten ausgebreitet hat, sondern auch zunehmend in europäischen Ländern zu finden ist.

Creationism is based on a fundamental belief in the inerrancy of the bible and negatively affects science education because creationist proponents insist on the inclusion of supernatural explanations for the appearance of species, in particular the origin of humans. This detrimental effect on education is particularly relevant in the United States, where almost 70% of the population rejects the idea of naturalistic evolution and the majority of American students struggle to meet the college-readiness benchmarks in science and math. This dissertation provides a comprehensive look at the issue from historical, judicial and educational perspectives. Twenty-four legal cases in the United States regarding anti-evolutionary strategies were analyzed in detail. Strategic trends were identified ranging from the statewide banning of evolution in public schools to the required teaching of Creation Science. The exact effect of creationist political activity was discerned through the analysis of state science standards and textbook adoption processes, which illustrated the creationists’ ability to lobby for a diminished coverage of evolution in science standards and textbooks. It was found that despite attempts made by scientific and educational agencies to provide guidelines such as the Next Generation Science Standards, the majority of American state science standards continue to be sub-par and one of the major flaws of these standards is the overall attempt to weaken the coverage of evolution throughout the standards. A similar loss of quality occurs in textbooks since publishers engage in self-censorship in order to avoid controversial topics such as evolution in order to prevent their books from being rejected. An examination of the free-choice learning materials revealed that creationist proponents are very active and successful in producing books, films and museums for the sole purpose of promoting creationism. Moreover, a brief look at the creationist movement in Germany provided a powerful comparison to the United States and elucidated the key components necessary for a creationist movement to exist and flourish, namely the presence of fundamentalist willing to fight to get anti-evolutionary materials introduced into science classrooms. This study provides new insights into the creationist phenomenon, present not only in the United States but also increasingly present in European countries such as Germany. Understanding the detrimental link between creationism and science education will help the science community realize that this topic needs to be continually readdressed and that it is imperative that these creationist trends are not dismissed as inconsequential.

 

Introduction

In the simplest of terms creationism is the belief that God was responsible for the creation of all life present on the Earth in the basic form that it has at present. Creationists in general oppose the idea that natural processes could be solely responsible for the production of new life forms – though many creationists concede to the notion of microevolution that would lead to minor changes within a species such as different dog breeds. Creationism has been popular among evangelicals in the United States for over one hundred years and continues to gain acceptance and popularity outside of America. This thesis will analyze the creationist movement in order to illustrate how the spread of this fundamental belief system affects not only science education, but the general science literacy of future generations.

The analysis of creationism in this thesis was approached in a way that could be likened to the manner in which an anthropologist studies another culture. At first, one acquaints oneself with the literature available on the culture, identifying the experts in the field. In terms of creationism, there are many experts who have published great masses on the subject. Some authors such as Scott and Numbers have written books covering the vastness of the development of creationism in the United States, such as Creationism vs. Evolution (Scott, 2009), The Creationists (Numbers, 1992). Other authors have written books that delve into certain aspects of creationism such as Forrest who focused on Intelligent Design in her book, Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, or Larson who has focused on the historical legal history in books such as, Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creationism and Evolution. Meanwhile European authors such as Kutschera, Hoßfeld, and Levit shed light on creationism beyond the border of America through multiple papers and books, such as Creationism in Europe (Blancke ed., 2014). Authors such as Gould, Ruse and Mayr as well as Junker and Hoßfeld have also provided a wealth of materials regarding the history of Darwin, evolution and biology in books such as Die Entdeckung der Evolution (Junker & Hoßfeld, 2009), The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Gould, 2002), What Evolution Is (Mayr, 2003), The Evolution Wars (Ruse, 2002). Many authors who are relatively new to the Darwin arena such as Humes and Shermer also provided valuable insights into the creationist phenomenon with their comprehensive books such as Why Darwin Matters (Shermer, 2009). Through the work provided by these authors it was possible to become acquainted with the overall history and dynamic of the creationist movement. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in general, also provides a massive amount material on the subject, which was extremely useful, in particular for keeping up-to-date on current developments and understanding the timeline of legal cases.

Yet, while all of the information from these creationists experts was very useful, it was all written by individuals outside of the creationist movement, making observations about the creationists, providing a wealth of facts about the existence of creationists and different creationist groups, their goals, their leaders, their books, their strategies to oppose evolution, but almost always from the perspective of a scientist. In order to take the study of creationism one step further, much effort was given to understand the creationist movement from the inside-out by learning about creationism from the creationist themselves and thus after a general orientation using literature from scientist about creationism, the second step of research was a complete immersion in the creationist culture. This immersion meant reading books about creationism from leading creationists such as Johnson, Morris, Behe, Meyer, Dembski, Wells, etc. It meant scouring creationist websites such as Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, Discovery Institute, etc. and then reading and rereading Genesis and other Scriptures and books by bible experts such as Bart Ehrman. It meant listening to podcasts produced by the Discovery Institute and watching creationist movies to hear about their beliefs from their mouth.

This immersion allowed an insight into the creationist phenomenon, that would not have otherwise been possible. Instead of just reading about them from authors such as Dawkins, who immediately dismiss all creationists as imbeciles or are baffled by the existence of creationism, the immersion in the creationist culture allowed insight into why they have these beliefs and why they oppose evolution and what is it exactly that they want to accomplish.

Once this general understanding of the creationism was established, it became clearer what parts of creationism are truly noxious. Thus, the second approach of the study developed into an examination that could be compared to the analysis of a mutating infectious organism or a super bug. This comparison is made not to vilify a belief in special creation but to make the clear distinction of what aspects of this movement are dangerous. It would be wrong to say that all bacteria are bad, just as it would be wrong to say that all religious belief is dangerous. Thus, creationism can be thought of as a super bug in that a certain belief in special creation or God may serve certain emotional and psychological needs for an individual or even provide whole populations with a sense of purpose, yet it becomes very harmful when it mutates to an extreme form of fundamentalist belief that is entirely resistant to scientific discovery and is aimed at degrading the standards of science education.

So in order to limit the amount of harm that this mutated species could cause to an organism, one would want to study an infectious species or super bugs to understand where it came from, how it develops, how it reproduces, what it feeds upon, what type of conditions it needs to survive, what kind of damage it causes, what can be done to limit damage, in the same way, this thesis aims to provide a thorough overview of the origins, developments and specific dangers of this movement in terms of science education and will accomplish this by examining the movement from multiple perspectives.

The first chapter of the thesis is devoted to looking at the origin of creationist beliefs, the conditions in the United States that provided an environment for these beliefs to flourish and a look at the theory of evolution which became the focus of creationist attacks. The first chapter provides background necessary to understand all subsequent chapters. The subchapters on religion and American history aim to (1) highlight how creationism is not a general phenomenon of religious belief or Christianity but is a fundamentalist idea centered within the evangelical sect of Protestantism (Ruse, 2001), (2) explain how and why this evangelical belief system is so popular within the United States, and (3) have evangelical Protestantism gained its political influence in the US. The subchapter on science and evolution provides a brief overview of the nature of science and the theory of evolution in order to (1) explain the nature science in order to explain how creationism, creation science and intelligent cannot be considered scientific pursuits, (2) highlight the strength and importance of the theory of evolution to show that many of the later described creationists claims that the theory of evolution is weak and flawed are without merit, and (3) explain how the theory of evolution became associated with moral degradation.

The next chapter is devoted to looking at the development of creationism. The chapter provides an overview of the various strains of creationists and creationist beliefs, whenever possible based on works written by creationists themselves. The chapter also chronicles the mutation of creationists, who began as fundamentalists who opposed evolution outright but accepted the antiquity of the Earth (Numbers, 2014) and became a movement towards Creation Science, which attempted to find scientific data to support the Genesis account of creation and simultaneously popularized the proposition that the Earth was relatively young and that there was data to support this idea (Blancke, 2014) and finally moved on to Intelligent Design. The final part of the chapter is devoted to a special look at Intelligent Design, which takes a subtler approach to the idea of creation by emphasizing the necessity of a higher being without harking upon the details of the Genesis account. The purpose of the chapter is to (1) provide contextual information about creationism, (2) to illustrate the stark mutations of the movement throughout the 1900s, (3) to highlight the fact that the creationist movement is not only still present and very active in the United States but is in fact stronger and more powerful than ever before (Forrest, 2007), (4) thus providing the reasons why it is important to study this phenomenon.

The ensuing chapter focuses on the legal aspect of the creationist movement and describes not only the cases but also the laws and measures that are in place in the United States to protect students against the introduction of religious doctrine into public science classes. While almost all publications, only focus on only the most prominent cases such as Scopes, Kitzmiller, Epperson, and Edwards, this thesis provides a detailed overview of every single case heard in the US involving creationism from 1925 to 2005. In order to illustrate the weight and influence of each case, a particular effort was made to explain how the American legal system works since many publications about these cases presuppose that the author is familiar with the American judicial system. Again, instead of just reading about these cases from experts such as Larson or central organization such as the NCSE, importance was placed on the reading primary sources such as the actual court rulings, prohibition legislation, etc. This chapter specifically describes (1) the laws that prevent creationism from being taught in public schools, (2) the legal battles that have been fought in the 80 years between the most publicized cases: Scopes and Kitzmiller, (3) the effects that these cases had on education and the creationist movement, (4) the temporal and geographical presence of these types of cases in the United States. All cases are presented using a uniform layout that included the year, location, court level, plaintiffs, defendants, charges, ruling, summary and the cases specific effect on education. This sleek design provides the reader with a thorough overview of the cases in a simplified and organized manner allowing the reader to (1) quickly understand how many of the cases are built upon one another, (2) see how the results of these cases caused creationists to change strategies in order to avoid further legal problems, (3) glimpse at the complexity of the problem for parents, students and teachers, (4) understand why certain cases have larger impacts due to the precedence set by their ruling.

The subsequent chapter focuses specifically on how creationism affects education in the United States. Although many publications talk about the danger of creationism in terms of science education, many authors, with the exception of Miller, do not go into any specific details about these effects. This thesis thus aims to clearly define what parts of the American education system are effected most through creationist lobbying and grassroots actions in order to provide clear examples of the detrimental effects of this political pressure. Again, a firsthand approach was taken by reviewing the state education board publications and not only publications about the state education board activities. This chapter first describes the structure of the American school system, and the systems of control at the local, state and national level. Once establishing a general knowledge about the American education system, the chapter then (1) describes how curriculum and textbooks are chosen in the United States, (2) clearly explains the detrimental effects that creationists can have on science standards and textbook content through lobbying actions at the state level (Watts et al., 2016), (3) highlights how these deranged science standards and mutilated textbooks lead to a loss of science literacy among students and (4) discusses the various other ways in which creationists attempt to introduce creationism into American schools below the state level.

The last chapter aims to illustrate the immensity of the creationist movement by demonstrating that it is not limited temporally or physically. This chapter thus focuses on legal cases post-2005, free-choice learning materials used to influence public opinion outside of the classroom and creationism outside the United States. Almost all publications that mention the legal aspect of the creationism-evolution conflict only focus on legal battles fought before Kitzmiller giving the impression that all legal conflict ended in 2005. The first subchapter therefore discusses all of the court cases that have occurred since Kitzmiller in order (1) to illustrate that despite the apparent blow to Intelligent Design through the Kitzmiller ruling that the topic of creationism continues to appear in courtrooms around the United States, (2) to show the strategy changes caused by the Kitzmiller ruling and (3) to illustrate the fact that creationism is still very present problem in the United States that needs to be continually addressed. The second subchapter focuses on free-choice learning materials such as books and museums in order (1) to show that the fight for the American minds is not limited to the school classroom, (2) to illustrate the success that the creationist have had in the production of free-choice learning materials and (3) to discuss the potential that such materials have in convincing the general public about the legitimacy of creationist claims about the inadequacy of the theory of evolution. The last subchapter describes the presence of creationism in Germany in order (1) to show how creationist ideas have been exported from the United States to other countries, (2) to provide a comparison between creationist movements in different countries, while highlighting the similarities the necessity of certain elements within a society for a creationist movement to exist such as the presence of evangelical sects.

By the conclusion of this thesis, the reader should be very familiar with the origin, development, and detrimental effects of creationist activities on science education. It should be clear to the reader that (1) creationism is a fundamentalist belief that is localized in evangelical Protestantism, (2) the creationist movement originated in the United States and has since been exported to countries around the world (Watts, et al., in press), (3) creationism did not die in the 1900s but is in fact a very current issue, (4) it is necessary to understand the movement and the potential effects of this movement, (5) despite laws prohibiting the teaching of creationism in public schools that creationist continue to find ways to introduce their ideas into the classroom, (6) the inclusion of creationist beliefs is detrimental to science education, (7) if left unabated, the creationist could cause a major loss of science literacy, and (8) a general loss of scientific literacy could lead to a major societal shift towards fundamentalism. More specifically, by the end of the thesis, the goal is to have provided proof for the following thesis: There is currently an active battle surrounding science education in the United States that is particularly focused on the theory of evolution and specifically aimed at determining the manner in which human origins is taught to American students at public high schools. This battle has been active in the United States since the beginning of the 1900s and has evolved over the last 100 years in response to domestic politics, judicial rulings or social shifts within the country. This creationist movement is a well-organized movement that through generous financial backing and central organizations is well-equipped and prepared to pursue its aim of weakening the teaching and authority of evolutionary theory through grassroots action aimed at school boards, state curriculum standards, textbook adoption as well as the production of and marketing of free-choice educational material and venues and have thus been able to respond and adapt to new social, political and legal situations presented to them as well as flourish in the free market. This trend is an endangerment to science education and if left unabated could lead to a rapid drop in the overall science literacy. A list of sub-theses can be found in the list of appendices.

 

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