and Justice, says scientific evidence suggests that the complexity of
life -- such as the uniqueness of each person's DNA -- points to a
Here in America, everyone is entitled to express his or her view.
But why does a newspaper give weight to the opinions of lawyers and
religious leaders on what should be taught in school? Why not ask
scientists how to conduct business in courts of law or what topics
are appropriate for discussion in churches? Wouldn't it make more
sense for the newspaper to solicit the opinions of actual scientists
on issues related to the teaching of science?
The opinions of some of the panelists were quite reasonable.
However, others, like Pastor Jon Barta's, promulgated several common
misconceptions that tend to dominate the debate over an issue that
should have died a century ago. Barta argued: "Creationism should be
taught in the classroom as one explanation of the origin of the
universe and the life it contains. It is dishonest to teach students
only one theory of our origin and further to present that theory as
if it were proven fact. To this day the theory that all life on Earth
evolved from a single organism remains unproved. It is equally
dishonest to ignore a theory that has been a cornerstone of
scientific thought for thousands of years and is still held by
Many scientific theories are taught to children as fact because
they are well-supported by mountains of evidence and because they
underpin vast areas of science. All theories in science are
provisional and subject to refutation. However, many scientific
theories are among the best-established facts humans possess. I am
happy to leave to educators the task of figuring out the appropriate
ages at which to emphasize the provisional nature of scientific
theories and their incredible success at accounting for the behavior
Newton's laws of motion are a good example of "just a theory."
They can be applied to beautifully account for the behavior of our
solar system. The church once offered alternative explanations,
persecuting those who sought the truth. Should we teach those
alternative ideas in school? (Yes, in history classes.) Evolution by
natural selection is one of the best-established scientific theories
there is. It underpins all of biology. Despite what Barta believes,
there has never been a scientific theory of creationism, and it would
be dishonest to pretend one exists.
If such a theory is ever developed, and if it comes to be debated
in peer-reviewed scientific journals, it would be appropriate to
include it in a science curriculum. Creationism today comes under the
heading of religion and should be taught as such.
* ALAN KLEINSASSER is a resident of Glendale.