As the controversy evolves…


Brett Stover

Students, teachers debate whether creationism should join evolution in the public school science curriculum
After moving as a teenager from a liberal high school to a more conservative school at the Lake of the Ozarks, now-biology teacher April Sulze’s education was understandably changed. In particular, she would not end up learning about evolution until college
“My biology teacher actually got fired for teaching evolution,” Sulze said. “I mean, that’s not in the paper why he got fired, but that was really why they pushed him out was because he was teaching evolution [and] parents did not want it to be taught in class.”
Evolution, now an integral part of the public school education, has always been a tense topic, especially concerning its place in schools.
With the publishing of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, the general view of science began to change from a literal interpretation of the Bible to the more modern concept of evolution. While evolution began to be taught in classrooms, Christian fundamentalists pushed back, prompting a number of states, including Tennessee, to pass laws outlawing that curriculum.
In 1927 teacher John Scopes taught evolution in violation of the law and was brought up and convicted on criminal charges. He appealed the ruling, and the case went in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling on a technicality.
However, the court ruled that preventing the teaching of evolution in schools doesn’t violate the First Amendment, saying in its written decision that “so far as we know there is no religious establishment or organized body that has its creed or confession of faith any article denying or affirming such a theory.”
In the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled multiple times in favor of evolution, including in the cases Edwards v.
Aguillard and Epperson v. Arkansas. Epperson stated that forbidding the teaching of evolution is against the First Amendment, and Edwards ruled that requiring Creationism to be taught is also unconstitutional.

Infographic by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi
“The First Amendment does not permit the state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma…” the Court wrote in Edwards, “The state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them.”
Recently, acceptance of evolution has grown even higher. According to a 2013 Pew Research poll, 60 percent of Americans believe humans have evolved over time. Despite the growth in acceptance, some, like junior Jill Geyer, believe solely teaching evolution in science classes isn’t telling the full story.
“I just think it’s a very one-sided part of the argument. They don’t show two sides. It’s very controversial in the scientific world. You have interviews between Bill Nye and Ken Ham; obviously, it’s a big deal. They only teach one side like it’s a fact,” Geyer said. “Last year I asked why they don’t teach intelligent design — which is basically like there’s an intelligent being behind the creation of the world — and they’re like, ‘Well, it’s not rooted in science.’”
The justification behind keeping creationism out of science curriculum has been that creationism is a religious view and doesn’t have a scientific basis.
Senior Clarissa Curry agrees with that line of thinking, saying creationism has no place in a science classroom.
“I would say that there’s more evidence for evolution than there is against it, and there’s more evidence against creationism — creation in the typical biblical sense — than there is against evolution as well,” Curry said. “I think evolution should be the primary thing taught in science classes. If they wanted to teach the belief of creationism in social science class or a history class that would be more appropriate.”
Geyer’s opinion conflicts with that view, though. She thinks creationism is rooted in scientific study.
“There’s the cosmological argument where [scientists] have found … that [the universe] is constantly expanding, so at one point it was very very small and finite. It had a cause, and anything that has a cause has a beginning if that makes sense…” Geyer said. “That cause has to be eternal because there has to be something that always exists to start something.”
Sulze, who teaches evolution in her biology classes, thinks while creationism could be taught in religion classes it shouldn’t be a part of any science curriculum. She also said that the parents and students she deals with don’t frequently have issues with her teaching evolution.
“It’s not very often [that parents complain about it]. At the very beginning of my teaching career I had a parent tell me when I began teaching evolution that their student would not come to school,” Sulze said. “I agreed and told them that ‘That’s fine, but your child is still responsible for all of this information.’ What I didn’t tell them is that biology doesn’t make sense at all without understanding evolution and that I’m really teaching evolution all year long without ever saying the word.”
In the past few years, Sulze says the way evolution is taught in biology has changed. Starting last year, she presented the information through an antibacterial lab that allowed students to draw their own conclusions based on evidence.
“The kids grew bacteria and from that they recognized that, ‘Oh … the genes within this population are being selected for and they’re surviving and thriving and they’re getting passed on,’” Sulze said. “So they, without me ever saying evolution, realize that there’s a change in gene frequency in a population over time due to these environmental changes. So, they came up with that on their own and at the end I said, ‘O.K., that’s evolution.’ They’re like, ‘What? That’s all it is? What’s all the hubbub about?’”
While microevolution is relatively easy to teach in a classroom setting, Sulze admits helping students understand macroevolution can be difficult, but that the evidence is clear in the fossil record.
Geyer, though, says understanding the concept isn’t the problem. She said though her beliefs are in the minority, she thinks Columbia Public Schools should teach creationism in tandem with evolution.
“I think they definitely need to add intelligent design,” Geyer said. “Obviously, that’s kind of associated with religion — Christianity and whatnot — because there’s a way to teach it without being like, ‘This God, this religion is right.’ You can be like, ‘This is another alternative thing that other people believe.’”
By Brett Stover
Art by Ellie Stitzer
Do you believe religious teachings such as creationism should also be taught in science classes?