The Score on Creationism vs. Evolution [Last Modified on 2006.12.03]
Creationism and its kissing cousin, Intelligent Design, seem to be making headlines across the country and around the globe. While there are many subtle tilts to these arguments, the basic idea is that the theory of evolution is wrong, and that supernatural forces — most often specified as the Christian God — are responsible for all of creation. There are two popular approaches that these groups often take: first, that both creationism and evolution are science and hence deserve equal time; and second, that both are religion and should be treated equally. Both views are patently wrong. It is dangerous and irresponsible to frame evolution as anything other than the scientifically accurate cornerstone of biology, and it is equally dangerous to make the creationists seem to be anything other than rabid bible thumpers with a Christian agenda.
Creationism — or its allegedly scientific cousin, "Intelligent Design" — is religion, clear and simple. There are no scientific or secular claims to support such beliefs. The creationists will pull a bunch of rabbits out of their hats that may seem like scientific and secular evidence, but when you boil it all down, it's nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Therefore, creationist speculations cannot be endorsed by our secular government in our public schools. Just as a court of law would not accept a statement of "God made me do it!" as a legal defense, our science classes cannot accept a statement of "God did it!" as a scientific theory.
A popular creationist claim is that evolution is "just a theory" — however, this statement reveals a profound misunderstanding of what a scientific theory is. In science, a theory is not a "guess" — it is an explanation of observed phenomena that enables us to predict the future behavior of such phenomena. Technically, a scientific theory is neither right nor wrong — it is either supported or refuted by observable facts, and by its ability (or lack thereof) to successfully predict other phenomena. The theory of evolution has remarkable explanatory and predictive capabilities, and is the irreplaceable cornerstone of our modern science of biology; it is what enables us to delve into the mysteries of genetic science and paleontology. The "theory" of creationism has no predictive capabilities and serves as a "gap-filling" explanation of the origin of life; it does not rely on observed phenomena, and has no status as a scientific theory.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, a 2004 Gallup poll suggests that a whopping 45% of Americans believe that God created man about 10,000 years ago. Forget evolution, forget the dinosaurs, forget the millions of years of geologic processes that have shaped our planet — to these people all of that can be explained by creationism and a literal interpretation of the bible. Thankfully for the rest of us, popular opinion does not shape scientific fact — the fact that almost half of the country dismisses science in favor of the bible does not make it so.
Thus far, the creationists have lost every legal battle they have been involved in, beginning with the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 and continuing through numerous trials over the past 50+ years. Despite these decisions, the creationists continue to fight on the local level in a bottom up approach to insert their religious propaganda into mainstream culture.