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Is the "Right" Way the Correct Way?

Poppyflower's picture


            The topic of evolution versus creationism is, for evident reasons, a fragile subject.  The discussion of which should be taught in schools is even more delicate. While some believe that only evolution should be taught because of the scientific data to back it up, there are also some who believe that creationism should be taught because of strong religious beliefs. And then there are those who are divided; those who believe that both sides of the story should be taught. Many cringe at the idea that a student is only taught one point of view, and are not learning how other people might feel about this particular subject. It often seems as though the people on either side of the argument believe that only their opinion is correct, and cannot be swayed. Some might find it ironic that there is such a battle over the beginning of a story that, ultimately, has the same ending. But what is the best way to teach our children how life came into existence? Can we really expect them to become well-rounded citizens of an ever-changing world if they are only taught one side of the argument, or is teaching them the “correct” story the only way they can hope to function as adults? 

            According to, one out of every eight high school biology teachers believe that creationism is a valid and scientific alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution. This statistic is then further supported by public opinion; 38% of Americans prefer the teaching of creationism over the teaching of evolution. (1) Paralleling this is the research of Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Penn State, who claim that, “Many…teachers typically rejected the possibility that scientific methods can shed light on the origin of species, and considered both evolution and creationism as…systems that cannot be fully proven or discredited.” (2) Furthermore, the aforementioned teachers, who overtly favored creationism as a legitimate and scientific history, did have a point in mentioning that both versions on the origin of life could not be proven or discredited. Although there might be scientific proof affirming that life took millions of years to evolve and develop, there is no way of proving that there is no higher power controlling the changes that occur.

            In recent studies, genome researchers have argued that in the last ten thousand years, the process of natural selection has caused genetic variants in things such as the skin, bone structure, and metabolism in the human body, due to the pressure to adapt to different environments. (3) To a supporter of evolution, this is evidence that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not only correct, but that is still applicable today and that humans are constantly evolving. Such a person might also say that they don’t believe in creationism because, with this theory, humans never “change.” Meanwhile, one who believes in creationism might argue that just because humans did not evolve from apes, does not necessarily mean that they are not changing. After all, people change and learn as they grow up and adapt to different environments.

But does change necessarily equate to evolution? Perhaps there is indeed a Divine Creator who decided to create the world, but wanted the creatures to evolve. So while man did not come from Adam and Eve, maybe this Creator made the decision to have the ape develop into man, thus merging evolution and creationism into one story. However, in a society where proof is valued above all else, it would be difficult for many, if any, to accept this ‘outside-the-box’ theory or evolution.

            As a result of my upbringing in a non-religious household, I grew up with the notion that I, or more specifically humans, are here because we, as creatures who think and create and love, are the best and most dominant of all of the species on earth. In high school, I was only told of creationism; it was never discussed in great detail. Of the little I was taught about it, I learned that it was wrong, that it had been scientifically proven to be wrong, that it always would be wrong, and that evolution was scientifically proven to be correct and would always be correct. I could not even fathom the idea that an almighty being made all of the decisions of the universe, or that the world was created in seven days.  To me, creationism was akin to a fairytale.

            No doubt that there are many people who were exposed to a similar education, or an education with an opposing view in which creationism was the only correct story. But what if schools were to reach an armistice by teaching both evolution and creationism in class? Would that be so terrible to learn how different people think? And if a teacher did not agree with one of the theories, but still taught it to students, then at least those students would have the right to form their own opinion about what was the right story for them, as opposed to being told what is the ‘right’ story.

If people do not learn both sides of the story, then they will not be getting the full education they need in order to understand present society. People need to realize that the formation of life is divided into many different stories. While both creationism and evolution have the same parts for the middle and end of the story, they have different beginnings. But, in the end, both versions of the story resulted in humans and intelligent life, whether or not those particular species were created because of God’s will or because they happened to evolve into various life forms. 






(1)Public Library of Science. "Teaching Evolution? Many High School Biology Teachers Include Creationism In Their Curriculum." ScienceDaily 20 May 2008. 9 February 2011­ /releases/2008/05/080520090630.htm


(2)Penn State. "High school biology teachers in U.S. reluctant to endorse evolution in class, study finds." ScienceDaily 28 January 2011. 9 February 2011­ /releases/2011/01/110127141657.htm



(3) National Geographic News. “Human Genome Shows Proof of Recent Evolution, Survey Finds.” Norris, Scott. National Geographic. 8 March 2006





Paul Grobstein's picture

Replacing "right" in classrooms with ...

 "Is the "right" way the correct way?"

Interesting way to pose the issue.  And interesting suggestion for an "armistice."  Actually, I think what you're suggesting is more than an armistice; its a new set of criteria defining what should be presented in school and how, no?  "Teach" what is needed "in order to understand present society", in order for students "to form their own opinion about what was the right story for them."  Interesting to think about what this would mean for curricula generally.  For more along these lines, see discussions at Brain, education, and inquiry.