This case study examines the conflict over whether public schools in the United States of America should teach biology from the viewpoint of evolution or of creation, according to the Christian Bible. Although this battle has raged for several decades, it is still an emotionally charged, often-debated issue. Through research on this subject, one finds the term “intelligent design,” and while this initially sounds like there may be a third contingency in this debate, upon closer examination, one finds that “intelligent design” is tantamount to creationism.
Likewise one finds the term “environmental creationism,” which is also a pseudonym for creationism. Those who believe in evolution contend that their view is the result of scientifically verifiable non-biased information. Those who believe in creationism contend that the Christian Bible is a book written through divine inspiration and therefore, whatever is written in the Bible is the ultimate authority.
Basically the evolutionists believe they are correct because their information can be proven scientifically, while the creationists believe that their information is from an infallible source that is more certain than the evolutionists’ scientific data. Since public schools are supported by public taxes, some believe that church and state must be kept separate. This is supported by the fact that, “the federal government has repeatedly denied the introduction of creationism into public schools as it is a direct violation of the separation of church and state (Lac, Hemovich, & Himelfarb, 2010, p.
253). Yet, it is also believed that the preferences of the local citizenry should be consulted in deciding which theory or theories should be taught in public school biology. Currently local school boards actually seem to hold sway over what type of orientation their local schools will use in biology. Even when there are state or local rulings favoring one side or the other, some classroom teachers include their personal preferences (or those of their supervisors) in choosing which orientation is taught in their classrooms.
For example, “in Dover, Pennsylvania, the school board adopted a general policy endorsing “intelligent design” and district administrators composed the statement that was read to high school biology classes as they began the evolution unit” (Lerner, 2002, p. 287). Some attempts toward reconciliation of these viewpoints have resulted in having both viewpoints presented in the biology classrooms of certain districts. This idea was condoned by the George W. Bush administration in 2005, stating that “children should be exposed to multiple ideas in school” (Warmick, p.
305). Another problem with presenting both evolution and the creationism in the classroom occurs when one tries to qualify which type of creationism is to be taught. The most commonly known creation story from the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible; however, there are actually 3 different versions of creation within the book of Genesis, some resembling the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian creation stories, with a substitution of one God for many gods (Carson-Newman University, 2013).
Another Christian variant of creationist theory is that of “intelligent design” which argues that Darwinian science does not contradict the Bible, while maintaining that a super-being planned transformation of species (Johnson, 2011, p. 15). Lastly, there is the version called “environmental creationism:” in which “the use of creationist language is employed without the explicit Christian context” (Nelson, 2010, p. 513). What can be done as the battle over creationism versus evolution rages on in courtrooms and at state and local school board meetings across our nation?
As mentioned previously, some localities have settled on including both sides’ viewpoints; however, it is difficult to present both possibilities without bias because they come from different schools of thought. The evolutionists believe scientific fact to be ultimate truth, yet the creationists consider the word of God to be the ultimate truth. Is there a way to honor the U. S. Constitution and the taxpayers simultaneously, some of whom believe in creation and some of whom believe in evolution?
If we decide to include both creationism and evolution and to consider the debate rhetorical, we run the risk of neither side being satisfied because there are those on both sides who believe that their way is the only way and who want to “win” the battle. If traditional approaches have not settled this issue, then perhaps it is time to try alternative dispute resolution measures, the attempts to present both evolution and creationism in the classroom, not-withstanding. Peter Tolman ( 2006, p. 544) writes that “intractable conflicts are rooted in the ways we make sense of the world and are not solvable in the traditional sense.
” He further states that, “It is primarily through assumptions about what is unquestionably “right,” in a given context that different groups develop and maintain incommensurate worldviews and conflicts persist (Tolman, 2006, p. 545). ” Our issue here is obviously one of intractable conflict. Our issue is not one in which both sides desire to reach a win-win solution; however, productive outcomes will depend on introduction of the principles of negotiation, beginning with the foundational abilities for conflict resolution.