R. Reese Fuller

Scientific American dissects creationism

by R. Reese Fuller

The Jan. 2009 edition of Scientific American focuses on evolution, but one article takes a look at creationism in the classroom and uses the Louisiana Science Education Act as its primary focus. It also offers a historical overview of past attempts to inject creationism into public school science curricula.
Failing to demonstrate the scientific credibility of their views, creationists are increasingly retreating to their standard fallback strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution: misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial while remaining silent about what they regard as the alternative. This move represents only a slight rhetorical shift. From the Scopes era onward, creationists have simultaneously employed three central rhetorical themes, sometimes called the three pillars of creationism, to attack evolution: that evolution is unsupported by or actually in conflict with the facts of science; that teaching evolution threatens religion, morality and society; and that fairness dictates the necessity of teaching creationism alongside evolution. The fallback strategy amounts to substituting for creationism the scientifically unwarranted claim that evolution is a theory in crisis.

Creationists are fond of asserting that evolution is a theory in crisis because they assume that there are only two alternatives: creationism (whether creation science or intelligent design) and evolution. Evidence against evolution is thus evidence for creationism; disproving evolution thus proves creationism. The judge in McLean v. Arkansas, the 1981 case in which Arkansas’s Balanced Treatment Act was ruled to be unconstitutional, succinctly described the assumption as “a contrived dualism.” Yet by criticizing evolution without mentioning creationism, proponents of the fallback strategy hope to encourage students to acquire or retain a belief in creationism without running afoul of the Establishment Clause. Creationism’s latest face is just like its earlier face, only now thinly disguised with a fake mustache.
Read "The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom."