Providing “Equal Time”

The idea of “balancing” evolution with creationism, giving “equal time” out of “fairness,” is an approach that resonates with Americans. It is, in fact, the strongest argument creationists have raised, not because of logical soundness but because Americans value fairness and equality.

However, science is not a democratic process. Scientists decide which explanation (theory) is superior based on its power to explain successfully, not on how popular it is. Heliocentrism was not a popular idea 400 years ago, but it is now the accepted explanation for the relationship of the Earth to the sun because it explains so many more observations than any other theory. It is not “fair” to mislead students by pretending that discarded ideas are still viable. We do not present geocentrism and heliocentrism as if they are currently contending theories. Similarly, we only confuse students by presenting special creation and evolution in the science classroom as if both were equally scientific and as if scientists were still trying to decide between them.

There is another question regarding the “fairness” approach: How should educational curricula be determined? Most of the time, we agree that the consensus scholarship of history, literature, or science should be presented to K–12 students. We do not teach astrology with astronomy because professional astronomers (and physics teachers) tell us that astrology is not considered good scholarship. Biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists tell us that evolution should be taught, and creation “science” should not. The proponents of creationism in the curriculum are a political pressure group outside of the educational and scientific communities. Scholarship does not depend on what a political pressure group wants. Otherwise, some districts might teach Holocaust revisionism along with standard World War II history, and medical schools might give equal time to the ideas that AIDS is caused by a virus and that AIDS is a curse sent from above.

  • Alternatives to evolution
    Use of misleading euphemisms such as “intelligent design theory” or “alternatives to evolution,” as discussed earlier

  • Adopting creationist books
    Attempts to have creationist books adopted for classroom use, e.g., the “intelligent design” creationist book Of Pandas and People

  • Outside speakers
    Outside speakers presenting explicitly religious views in classrooms or at assemblies

  • Informal science centers
    Attempts to influence or downplay such topics as the age of the Earth and biological evolution

Explore further
•  Diluting evolution education
•  Direct interference

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Clarifying the Legalities

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