Saturday, July 28, 2001

Educators: Creation
theory not scientific

Creationism can be taught,
but not in science class,
teachers and scientists say

By Crystal Kua

Learning about the Bible's version of how humans and other living things were created does have a place in the public schools, but not in science class, scientists and others say.

"Creationism is not testable. You can't prove or disprove God," said Khalil J. Spencer, a specialist with the University of Hawaii Department of Geology and Geophysics. "I think there's room for it in other parts of the classroom."

The discussion comes after a state Board of Education committee on Thursday approved proposed state science performance standards that included changes to the language that opens the door to teaching creationism by having students be able to identify "multiple theories of origin" in addition to biological evolution.

The language was changed after committee Chairwoman Denise Matsumoto voiced concern over evolution -- which she argued was opinion -- being the only "theory" listed. She argued that creationism is also theory supported by science.

That opinion is backed by organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research. "The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator," states the group's Web site,

But many current and former Hawaii scientists say that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has stood the tests of time and science and is the cornerstone of biological change.

"The idea of evolution is very strongly supported by the facts," said David Krupp, associate professor of marine and biological sciences at Windward Community College. "Everything biological can be explained by evolution."

Krupp holds seminars on the debate between evolution and creationism. "The minute you start bringing in religious concepts, it messes up science."

They also say that if the origins of life according to the Judeo-Christian Bible is allowed, then others should be explored.

"They could just as well talk about the Kumulipo," the Hawaiian creation chant, said Pauline Chinn, associate professor with the UH College of Education's teacher education and curriculum studies.

"Creationism is not science, it's faith," said Gerard Fryer, associate professor with the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. "You believe something that you accept without question. Science deals with what you can question."

Fryer teaches an introductory course in geology. "The course I teach grapples with this thing directly," he said.

Victor Stenger, a retired UH physicist now living in Colorado, said that creationism is "just not good science."

Last year, Stenger was invited to Kansas to give talks on the subjects related to "intelligent design," or creationism. He was invited there by the Kansas Citizens for Science, which was formed after the state board of education there made changes to the science standards to eliminate evolution from schools' curricula. That group was successful in ousting board members who voted in favor of deleting evolution. The new Kansas board reversed the action earlier this year.

"The big lie is that there's something to (creationism)," Stenger said.

Naidah Gamurot, a biology teacher at Kapolei High School, said students benefit by listening to the debate over evolution vs. creationism. "I think it's good that the kids get to see everything out there."

She said she does not tell her students what her beliefs are and allows them to go out and find the evidence for both evolution and creationism. "Can they see the sequences, or do they have too many holes in the evidence?"

Students also explore whether personal bias gets in the way of their conclusions, she said.

"The wonderful thing about science is that everything is open to challenge," said Mitch Kahle of Citizens for the Separation of Church and State. "The theory has to stand up to scrutiny."

Kahle said he believes that creationism will not pass scientific muster.

"Teach it in a science classroom, and you'll make Hawaii the laughing stock of the nation like Kansas," Kahle said.

"Obviously, we're going to shout it from the rooftops that biblical creationism is not going to be acceptable as anything except clearly as mythology."

The proposed science standards will go before the full Board of Education on Thursday.

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