Evolution versus Creation in Schools
- Aykut Kence, Ph.D.
Dept. Biology , Middle East Technical University
06531 , Ankara, Turkey
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998), 177-178.

There is a problem presently engaging most biologists and educators, especially evolutionary biologists, in Turkey. This problem certainly has ethical dimensions, and it is about the struggle between science and religion. According to the theory of evolution all living things on earth has descended from a common ancestor. The diversity of life on earth originated through evolution in billions of years of history of earth. This contradicts the fundamentalist interpretation of the accounts in the Bible and Koran about the origin of the diversity of life on earth. .Because of this reason, the theory of evolution has been under attack by Christian and Islamic fundamentalists.

The first well known case where evolutionists and creationists confronted each other was the Scopes trial. A young biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, named John T. Scopes, was tried because he mentioned Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection in the class. Teaching evolution was prohibited by the anti-evolution law in 1925. Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in violation of anti-evolution law. And he was sentenced to pay the $100 fine. Despite the guilty verdict the evolutionists were considered as having won a major moral victory at the end of the trial. After the Scopes' trial, evolution was left out from the biological curriculum for many years in many States of the USA.

When the Soviets had launched the first satellite into the space, Americans realized that they had fell behind Soviet Russia in the technological contest. And they immediately revised the science curricula and put Darwin's Theory of Evolution in biology curriculum. In 1968, the anti-evolution law in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas were found unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The fundamentalists who were against evolution then took the disguise of scientists and they named themselves as scientific creationists. And they demanded teaching creationism along with the evolution in schools. They were successful in passing laws about teaching creationism and evolution for an equal time in schools of many States. Later all these laws were canceled by courts because they were unconstitutional.

Around this time creationism came to schools in Turkey in 1985. It was decided that evolution and creationism will be taught in schools in Turkey. However this was not done by a law as in the USA, but with a change in the regulations about teaching biology. In 1998 the fundamentalists intensified their attacks on evolution in Turkey. They have organized several conferences in major cities of Turkey with participation of scientific creationists from USA. Since creationism is already in the biology text books, and the theory of evolution is heavily criticized in the religious culture and ethics text books in the high schools, what else can creationists ask? What could be the purpose of this campaign? I believe they want to completely remove the theory of evolution from the biology curriculum. Because there is always the danger that some students might take the theory of evolution seriously, although the theory is treated very lightly, it is almost ridiculed in biology text books. Their ultimate goal is to produce young men and women that does not ask questions, and obey the instructions of the authorities, to produce a society that does not think, that does not ask, but simply obeys the instructions of authorities.

I think, one of their major goals is to demolish the secularism written in the constitution of Turkey, so that they can rule Turkey by the Shelia laws of Islam. In biology text books, when the diversity of life is treated, first creationist view is stated as "according to Islam, all living things on earth were created by Allah and they did not change from the moment of creation to the present time". Then the book goes on to tell the story of a worldwide flood, which caused the extinction of dinosaurs and other organisms that are seen only as fossils today. Then Lamarck's view and its criticism is given. And finally there is a section on Darwin's view and its criticism. The creationist view is not criticized. However both Lamarck's and Darwin's views are criticized rather heavily and unjustly. So a one-sided view of the origin of diversity of life is given to the students. For example, in the criticism of Lamarck's views, they mention the custom of circumcision practiced by Moslems and Jews, and they point out that despite many generations of circumcision in these societies no body has ever been born circumcised. So Lamarck's theory of inheritance of acquired characters must be wrong is the conclusion of this observation. Therefore the theory of evolution must be also wrong.

Then Darwin's view of evolution by natural selection is criticized: treatment of natural selection is rather ridiculous: natural selection is described as follows: " during the struggle to live, nature always favors the strong ones, Nature protects the strong ones by eliminating the weak ones." This is how the subject of evolution is treated presently in biology books in Turkey.

Evolution is also criticized in religious culture and ethics textbooks with the same sorts of arguments. There is one argument which does not have any scientific basis and I think shows the level of the creationism in the text books. This argument states that "contrary to what evolutionists claim, it has been demonstrated that frog, mouse, and snake bloods are closer to human blood than that of monkey." In another sentence, "according to Darwin, strong ones would live, and weak ones would be eliminated. However strong organisms such as dinosaurs, and mammoth have become extinct, whereas some weak organisms such as earthworm could survive. Creationists make fun of the intellect of students.

Creationists do not need any literature to support their views as long as what they claim serves their purpose. In the mentioned book and also in all creationist literature, there is the mention of Piltdown man, which shows evolutionists as forgers. They never mention that the forgery of Piltdown man was revealed by evolutionists, not by the creationists. It was revealed by science, not by religion. The number of examples about creationists attempts to disprove the theory of evolution can be increased. All the attempts has elements such as lying about the facts, distortion of the scientific facts , out of context quotations from well known scientists. "Scientific creationists" are quite successful in making the public believe their case "Because they offer simple unambiguous, and certain answers to those who can not live with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty. They present an appealingly black-and-white caricature of science that makes few demands on its audience's intellect" ( Futuyma, 1983 ). This certainly is a problem in scientific ethics.

The main reason for fundamentalists or scientific creationists to object to the theory of evolution is that they see evolution as the major reason for declining morality in the society. They see teaching evolution as the main cause of promiscuity, permissiveness, drug abuse, perversions, abortions , pornography, increasing crime rate. They have a simple solution to all the evils of society, if we do not teach evolution in schools these evils will disappear from the societies. Scientific facts are not good or bad in themselves. The theory of evolution can not be held responsible for evils in the society.

Teaching creationism in the schools along with the evolution has another drawback. The students are forced to accept either one religious account or a scientific account. They will either reject all the scientific facts and arguments and accept what God says about creation in the bible and Koran. Or they will reject religious account of the diversity of life on earth and accept the scientific explanation of the origin of diversity of life on earth. And they will scrutinize the religious account of diversity of life, and they will ask how come dinosaurs became extinct. Were they too big for the ship built by Noah. How could Noah collect millions of species on earth to his ship, how could he maintain them in his ship during the period of flood.

I think that creationist teaching in the schools violates the secularism in the constitution. Scientific creationism is an assault on the intellectual honesty which is the very foundation of true education. Scientific education encourages skepticism, questioning, independent thinking, and the use of reason. These concepts are the major threats to traditional authority. So the fight between evolution and creationism is the fight between free thinking and fanaticism. This is a very long battle between science and religion. I think in the end science will have the victory over religion as it happened time and time again in the history of humanity.


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