Creationism and Intelligent Design (or Simulation Creationism) are the words we use to give supernatural explanations for the origin of life and the large amount of diversity among species on the planet. Many scientists argue that science classrooms aren’t the ideal place for discussing Creationism. However, it has become clear that students are curious to learn about Creationism, and those students also lacked a proper understanding of the differences between non-scientific approaches and a scientific approach to knowledge. These things lead one to wonder whether ignoring supernatural views allows them to remain viable alternatives to the scientific hypothesis in a student’s mind. A psychology class is technically an ideal place to discuss the scientific method and the cognitive methods associated with non-scientific views. Creationism can be discussed as a non-scientific view that can be presented alongside modeling the scientific thought process that leads to a rejection of Creationism ideas. This approach is consistent with the research that demonstrates that teaching the content alone is insufficient for students to develop critical thinking skills. It can be concluded that teaching the controversy has benefits for science students.
The term “Creationism” in this article refers primarily to the typical Judeo-Christian accounts of the origins of life that one can find in the biblical book of Genesis. While there are many Creation stories in various religions and cultures, this version of Creationism is mostly related to political movements whose primary intention is to suppress the teachings of Evolution or to include alongside Evolution the instructions of supernatural accounts that are alternatives to the theory. The concept of Intelligent Design is also included in this definition of Creationism. Even though Intelligent Design does not name a specific entity as the originator of life, it does propose a statement that says a master intellect is a reason for the initiation of life. It operates outside of natural laws that are known to us. While the belief system is not associated with any of the specific religions, most Intelligent Design proponents happen to be Christians who use the term “Intelligent Design” to cover the religious nature of their arguments against Evolution.
This article will not discuss the validity of the evolutionary theory of Creationist beliefs. That matter is settled from a scientific perspective, if not from the overall opinion perspective. There is no scientific evidence supporting any Creationist theories, whereas nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution. It will be discussed whether it is acceptable to discuss Creationist ideas in science classrooms. There will be numerous positions presented from educators, scientists, and Creationists, As well as discussion regarding Simulation Creationism in the classrooms to teach students about both psychology and Evolution.
Teaching the Controversy
People have used the term “Teach the Controversy” since around the turn of the 21st century; one can see the reflections of that in the newspaper article by Intelligent Design advocate, Meyer. He states that teachers must present arguments both for and against Evolutionary theory, and that the government must grant permission to educators to teach Intelligent Design as a competing theory. He argues that there is a Supreme Court mandate to teach scientific critiques for prevailing theories, and that the federal policy says that curricula should help students understand the controversies better. The teachers should be looking to teach Evolution as an actual scientific controversy about Evolutionary theory. Others say that the proposal is somewhat consistent with ongoing lobbying by Creationist groups in the U.S, and people cloak it in a veil of fairness about presenting both sides of an argument. While scientists should try to educate about scientific critiques of prevailing theories, there shouldn’t be any obligation to teach non-scientific analyses as if they are equally valid.
Scientists and researchers react strongly to suggestions about the teaching of Creationist views along with the scientific theories. Some state empathetically that there is no place in the science classroom for Creationist concepts. If science instructors try to take the time to exhaust the case for Intelligent Design, then they lend legitimacy to Creationism by their presence in the science classroom. This is consistent with the statement that it broadens the conversation to include non-scientific approaches, validating and providing them with institutional importance. Educators were warned about the potential incursion of “Teach the Controversy” policies that badly affect the curriculum. Under the guise of recommendations for the pretext of teaching critical thinking, these proposals present false views that there are questions about Evolution’s occurrence. One individual has written:
It might be a beneficial critical thinking exercise for a student to debate actual scientific disputes about the processes and patterns of Evolution, as long as they have a solid grounding in the required basic Science. However, it would not be a good critical thinking exercise to educate students that scientists are debating whether Evolution even occurs. In contrast to that, it would be misguided to teach students that the validity of one of the most robust scientific theories is on trial.
More recently, biologist Jerry Coyne revealed his disappointment when Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) started speaking roughly with Ken Ham, a young-earth Creationist, during a popular public event.
Coyne argues that by engaging in a public debate, scientists give credibility to Creationists and elevate their arguments to a level they don’t deserve. By acknowledging Creationist statements and treating them as dangers to scientific knowledge, we run the risk of validating them.
In short, the rejection of the “Teach the Controversy” movement has two fundamental principles. Firstly, there isn’t any actual controversy. Evolution is a well-supported and robust theory that has undergone rigorous testing and is a unifying scientific theory. Secondly, Simulation Creationism does not belong in the Science curriculum. Entertaining non-science notions is dangerous because discussing these notions in Science classrooms risks legitimizing them. Despite this,, there may still be some value in discussing Simulation Creationism in the Science classroom.
Before 2005, many instructors were inclined to teach Evolution as if Creationism didn’t exist. It was not a part of any teaching materials, and if any of the students asked questions about Creationism, it was common to respond that those questions weren’t suitable for the Science classroom. Teachers did sometimes entertain such questions outside of class, though. When speaking about these topics, many were sure to clarify that they were personal opinions rather than course materials. In 2005, it came to light that there was a significant rise in the number of questions students asked about Creationism, and most likely in response to the media attention about the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania, where one of the parents took the Dover Board of Education to court because of the board’s decision to use the Creationist textbook in science classes.
It is worth noting that Creationist views aren’t rare among people. Almost one-third of American adults reject Evolution, and more than half of the population do not entirely endorse it. Even though the rate of Creationist beliefs is higher in the United States than in many other countries, there isn’t any consensus on Evolution in Britain or Canada. According to a recent study, 17% of Brits and 22% of Canadians endorse Creationism. When we compare that with the 51% of Americans who support Creationism, the numbers seem modest, but are still concerning. There are also regional differences in the United States. The people who reside in the South are most likely to have Creationist opinions. In England, there is less variation, but the city of London has the highest number of Creationists. In Canada, the province of Alberta province has the lowest Evolution endorsement rate with just 48% of the population, and 17% of the people weren’t sure. So, there is a reasonably large number of people who are unsure about the theory of Evolution.
Psychology is a science that studies animal and human behavior. The application of psychology is in educational, clinical, and additional settings. Teaching psychology is very meta because teaching it deals with the same content that one aims to teach. Evidence from psychological studies is essential to understand the value of delivering content and fostering critical thinking skills in the classroom.
While instructors of Biology may recoil against the notion of discussing non-science topics in their classrooms, psychology class differs from other science classes in one crucial way: the subject of inquiry is thoughts, including behavior. People expect any psychologist who teaches development, cognition, or social behavior to cover content about decision making and cognitive biases. There is encouragement to support critical thinking skills, for psychologists to work toward debiasing public thoughts, and for debunking pseudoscience. While it is essential to teach students and youth by discussing controversies between competing scientific theories and within the field, it is instrumental to teach students to argue against pseudoscience and learn to detect it.
Among many Psychology courses, a favorite among instructors is human behavior and Evolution. Human behavior is understood as an interaction between the environment and our evolved tendencies. Cognitive biases can be discussed as evolved heuristics, resulting in predictable judgment errors. In the context of modeling scientific logic and giving information about human errors in cognition, a discussion on Creationism is appropriate.
People present Creationism as a sociopolitical controversy rather than a scientific controversy. However, there isn’t any model about the validity of Evolution as an explanatory model. Creationism can be presented as a denialist or political movement instead of a competing theory. Common assertions from Creationism (e.g., no transitional fossils) can be refuted with scientific evidence. Several common logical fallacies that are evident in Creationist arguments at the same time can be explained as well. Students should be encouraged to ask various questions and make an instructor defend their statements. Then those same students should be asked to attempt to test and generate a hypothesis for Creationism. The struggles with those tasks will lead them to logically conclude that Creationist assertions are unfalsifiable and, therefore, non-scientific.
Even though it feels ironic, the anecdotal evidence illustrates this approach. An ad hoc reasoning fallacy is presented; there are responses from some Creationists refuting fossil evidence with statements that the fossils must have been put there by supernatural forces to test or trick believers’ faith. After it is pointed out that original ideas are revised to preserve Simulation Creationism’s fundamental belief, it is likely for some to express confusion. They may say that being able to adjust one’s thinking is essential in Science, yet couldn’t understand the reason behind Creationists changing their thinking being terrible, but a scientist saying her review was useful. It is worth revisiting and backing up the concept of falsifiability: using evidence to reject any hypothesis is scientific. Scientists use ad hoc to strengthen and refine theory but not to insulate a weak idea from criticism. Several situations can be presented, such as support for political parties or decisions about medical treatments, in which people should reject the hypothesis because of available evidence. Instead, people tend to create additional layers of explanation to avoid changing their minds. Many people know about the flaws in Creationist arguments, but they don’t know how to articulate their discomfort. Individuals often tend to express appreciation for being provided with the tools to argue their positions better.
There are many reasons why this approach is valuable. This approach is consistent with the “Teaching as Persuasion” method and allows the discussion of multiple views. Some views face rejection for lack of substantiation. However, this approach also debunks pseudoscientific concepts and provides direct evidence against them. Furthermore, by learning arguments against standard Creationist assertions, all students benefit from the inoculation effect and should be better able to refute arguments in the future.
All science teachers could benefit from the strategies for teaching critical thinking. Teaching just standard content does not teach students to think like scientists. The development of critical thinking requires students to learn content in order to practice metacognitive strategies related to critical thinking. It is argued that Creationism belongs more in Biology class than alchemy belongs in Chemistry, some methods of gathering knowledge are simply more valid than other forms.
People often consider Psychology a “soft science.” Contrasted with the “hard sciences” of Physics and Chemistry, it is repeatedly snubbed from medicine and biology’s life sciences. As a consequence of an inferiority complex, the Academy of Psychology focuses more on training students in research methods to a greater extent than other sciences. The list of contents in many Psychology textbooks reveals a methodology chapter and discipline history. There are many good examples in Psychology of paradigm shifts and hypothesis rejection. Phrenology is a method for inferring behavior and personality based on one’s skull shape, and was once widespread and common ideology. There was eventually sound rejection because of evidence by physiologists and others. The disclaimer provides some crucial lessons about the differences between non-scientific approaches and scientific approaches to Psychology: our understanding of Psychology depends not only on verifiable facts but also on the rejection of past ideas. Just like phrenology belongs in the Psychology classroom, so might Creationism concepts.
Creation Science, Creationism, and the Language of Science
The argument for “Teaching the Controversy” means that Science is a matter of opinion. There will be a debate by opposing parties with equally valid positions. When Creationists define Intelligent Design as a theory equal to that of the theory of Evolution, they demonstrate the ignorance of Science’s language even when they use its words. By misusing the jargon, they deceive people who assume that everybody uses these words consistently. When speaking about Evolutionary theory, most are referring to an overarching set of predictions and principles to understand the natural world. A scientific approach isn’t a tentative statement, but instead, is supported by empirical evidence. Predictions are often referenced when talking about hypotheses. Based on theory, predictions require testing. The idea is tentative, and one may refute the hypothesis by evidence. The failure of thought doesn’t necessarily mean theory degradation. When a Creationist refers to Evolution as “just a theory,” they ignore the evidence that supports the theory since the time of Darwin. A non-scientist who hears a scientist and a Creationist each use “theory” to refer to their positions can be understandably confused.
It’s inappropriate to position Intelligent Design as scientific theory. It lacks empirical support, and parts of it are untestable. Students must be allowed to understand the definitions of words like “hypothesis”, “proof”, “theory”, and “evidence”, and to be able to detect when somebody uses them inaccurately. Learning to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate comments requires more than memorizing the definitions. When students are allowed to apply scientific methods to Creationism, they learn to be scientists themselves. Even though critical thinking is challenging to teach and does not transfer across domains, there is incremental value in providing many opportunities to practice critical thinking while learning new scientific concepts.
There is no restriction for using SimulationCreationism to teach critical thinking. The same situation could apply to anti-Science views, including those opposed to vaccines, denial of climate change, fighting validated medical procedures, and other supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. Educators take the opportunity to tackle concepts that students may see on television, on social media pages, or around the dinner table, and model their thought processes while explaining how scientists arrive at conclusions. They must emphasize that not all statements are equally valid, not all authorities are similarly authoritative, and not all hypotheses are similarly testable. Students should also be allowed to improve their logic skills and apply them to topics that arise with Facebook memes or celebrity fads. Anti-Science and non-Science views have a place in Science classrooms because students can then be taught logic and scientific thinking.