Writing Off Creationism
by Kenneth B. Cumming, Ph.D.
The issue of separation of church and state has aroused the passions of many, as our nation comes to grips with the intent of the people and their understanding of the Constitution. Swomley (1988) says:1
The unique American doctrine of separation of church and state is not a by-product of the First Amendment's religious clauses. Those clauses were intended to guarantee the religious liberty already implicit in the Constitution's provision for a wholly secular government. The historian, Charles A. Beard, wrote that the Constitution 'does not confer upon the Federal Government any power whatever to deal with religion in any form or manner' (The Republic). James Madison called it 'a bill of powers' which 'are enumerated, and it follows that all that are not granted by the Constitution are retained' by the people (Annals of Congress of the United States).
Although the terminology of separation of church and state doesn't appear in the Constitution, many Americans think it does, and this has led to great confusion. Peacocke (1988) states the situations
It was Thomas Jefferson who used this phrase in a letter written to a group of Baptist pastors in Danbury, Connecticut in 1802. The purpose of the letter was to assure those Baptist pastors that Jefferson's somewhat unorthodox view of Christianity would not be pressed on the church in the United States during his presidency.Just such confusion was aptly illustrated in a recent regional competition for Southern California's high school journalists called a "Write-off' which was held at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights on March 12 1988. Over 300 students participated in the event, making contributions to news, features, editorials, sports, and graphics. Winners from the activity advanced to Redondo Beach for state-wide competition on April 23 This year's theme for writers was a pseudo press release conference called by the Concerned Women for America to announce a mock suit against California's Superintendent Honig for violating the rights of Christian students to hear creationism arguments in science classrooms of public schools. Mrs. Dawn Wipperman served as the spokesperson for CWA and led the news conference with a prepared statement of issues.
President Jefferson assured them that there was a wall of separation that supposedly protects the Church from any undue meddling by the State. The irony is that the phrase never implied that the State needed to be protected from the Church: Jefferson was guaranteeing the church the benefit of the wall.
The contemporary anti-Christian religious establishment has turned the issue completely on its head by redefining the phrase. This trick is called 'historical revisionism.' Historical revisionism twists history and interprets it for one's own purposes."
Miss Margaret Hawley acted as the expert testifying for the teacher's position in the suit. She is a science teacher at Sunnyvale Junior High School. The writer represented the creationist position, and, after an introduction to just what Darwin's theory meant, he emphasized that there were scientific and philosophical components to both theories. Many of these students were not aware that there is any scientific evidence for creation. (I wonder why?) Further, because creationism is disallowed from the textbooks, they didn't realize that creationism can be as scientific as evolution, and that both are equally religious (belief systems) when addressing the ultimate questions of origins. Once these writers caught on to the underlying issues, many for the first time, their questions were many and penetrating.
After preliminary instructions by Mrs. Georgia Moore, coordinator for the event, the students applied their skills to meet a short deadline. Following are two first-place winners, one in news and the other in editorial categories of journalism. The texts are presented as originally written.
First Place News3
by Jennifer Cheng of Alhambra
The Concerned Women of America announced at a press conference Saturday their launching of a campaign for the equal representation of evolutionism and creationism in the classroom.
"Both creationism and evolutionism are assumptions. Both require a certain amount of faith. Both should be represented" said Dawn Wipperman, Communications Coordinator of the CWA for the Greater Los Angeles area. Wipperman then referred to a 1981 court ruling to justify the campaign. The court ruled that the schools may not teach evolutionism dogmatically. However, the California Science framework, which determines the information to be put in textbooks, has yet to allow for the teaching of theories other than evolutionism.
Kenneth Cumming, Ph.D., who is the Dean of the Graduate School at the Institute for Creation Research, supported the CWA. He believes it was an issue of fairness.
Both Cumming and Wipperman agreed that in the teaching of "good science," all points of view must be presented.
Margaret Hawley disagreed with the CWA's view. Federal law requires the separation of Church and State, said Hawley. The teaching of creationism would necessarily involve the use of the Bible as a textbook. Hawley then asked, "Would that not be a merger of Church and State?"
In response, Cumming said, "No. Creationism can be taught without involving religion." He believes that when the truth is known, religion and science will come together.
First Place Editorial3
by Laura Daroca of Diamond Bar
Where can one draw a borderline between science and religion? Scientific experiments and faith? When the teaching of evolution and creationism in school is the subject, a border must be erected.
Since the beginning of America's freedom from Great Britain, there has been a direct division between Church and State.
The above questions can be answered by the Founding Fathers themselves. Science is a matter of hypothesis, scientific methods, and theories. Creationism is about Adam and Eve, God creating the earth in seven days, and faith. Evolution is facts, not faith.
Since faith and God is the controversial point, creationism must not be taught in school because of the separation between Church and State.
What if students could be allowed to pray in school? There would be anarchy. One can imagine the teacher in the front of the class splitting students up into groups. "All right! Hinduism in the right corner, Protestantism in the back, Jewish in the middle. Atheists—you go outside."
The same would happen if there were evolution and creationism taught in school. Each religion has its own "creator" and belief in how that "creator" carried out the formation of man. Hindus, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and atheists each have a different view.
When this same issue came up in the schools of California, conflict arose.
Dawn Wipperman said that all theories should be allowed in school. Dr. Kenneth Cumming agreed with Wipperman by saying that both have to do with faith and that creationists and evolutionists agree on some points of Darwin's theory.
But the issue is not whether creationists and evolutionists can sit around a table and agree on four out of the five hypotheses of Darwin's theory. The issue is creationism taught in school has to do with the separation of Church and State, and our whole governmental system.
Margaret Hawley, who was directly trapped in this situation, called it a "Catch 22." If she teaches both to please the few who believe creationism should be given a chance, then those who believe religion and school should be separate will step in.
It is a Catch-22, but the decision has already been made once too often, beginning with the Founding Fathers. Church and State must remain separate in order to keep up the faith in freedom of religion and separation of Church and State so hallowedly inscribed in the document called the Constitution.
Notice that in the news article there was an excellent agreement between what was said and what was reported. In concise terms, Jennifer stated the reason for the occasion, quoted highlights from the speakers, and made no commentary on the interpretation. When it came to the editorial where interpretation is expected, there was not time or opportunity for the writer to check out the validity of the concepts introduced at the conference. Therefore, Laura went with her previous understanding of the issue to polarize the conclusions. She assumed that there was a division between Church and State that was written in the Constitution as such. Further, she stresses that "Evolution is facts" and "Creationism is about Adam and Eve, God creating the earth in seven days, and faith." In spite of being told in the information session that both are equally scientific and/or religious, she went with her preconceived training that creation is religion and evolution is science.
Here we have the grass roots of the matter. Our public school students are being taught only one perspective of origins. It results in implanting fundamental knowledge that is incomplete. This limited knowledge, when called upon to make decisions, is then the resource for critical judgments. In this case, we have influential writers in school newspapers, who will, in some cases, become writers later for national media, that reinforce partial knowledge to their peers. They are the shapers of opinion and belief that excludes religious and alternate science concepts from their knowledge. One might say that the reader should "beware." But, one might also say that public education should "take care." For public schools to sponsor one religious position, humanistic evolution, could be unconstitutional.
REFERENCES1. Swomley, John M., "Education in Religious Schools, The Conflict over Funding," Phi Kappa Phi Journal, Winter 1988, p. 12.
2. Peacocke, Dennis, "Separation of Church and State, Clearing Up the Misconceptions." The Forerunner, April 1988, p. 13.
3. Moore, Georgia, Permission was granted to ICR to use complete copies of the firstplace winners and the graphic art in this article.
*Dr. Cumming is Dean of the ICR Graduate School.
Cite this article: Kenneth B. Cumming, Ph.D. 1989. Writing Off Creationism. Acts & Facts. 18 (1).