Friday, June 11, 2010

Creationism and Darwinism in Russia

Recently, there have been some reports that leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are arguing for teaching creationism and intelligent design in the public schools as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution. The argument is that Darwinian science promotes an atheistic or secularist view of the world that subverts the religious teaching of the Orthodox Church and thus subverts the religious basis for Russian culture.

Of course, this is remarkably similar to the argument one hears in the United States--that the public schools should teach creationist or intelligent design alternatives to Darwinism in biology classes to show respect for the religious beliefs that are fundamental to American cultural life.

As I have argued on this blog, I agree that the scientific claims for creationism and intelligent design should be discussed in biology classes along with the evidence and arguments for Darwinian evolution. Students can then think through this debate for themselves. To say that students should be prohibited from considering the creationist/intelligent design criticisms of Darwinian science is foolish, because it denies students a chance to examine the debate for themselves. I am confident that if students weigh the evidence and arguments on both sides, they can see that the case for Darwinian science is persuasive. Unfortunately, most public school teachers lack the inclination or the ability to open up this debate for their students in a fair manner.

Part of this debate should include a critical examination of the common assumption that religious belief and Darwinian science are necessarily opposed. If Biblical creationism means believing in the literal truth of the first chapters of Genesis--that God created everything in six twenty-four hour days--then creationism really is opposed to what modern science reveals about the origins of the universe and of life. But if the Biblical story of Genesis is interpreted as poetic imagery to convey a moral and religious message rather than a scientific theory, then there is no necessary conflict between Biblical religion and Darwinian science.

In fact, theistic evolution has been adopted by many religious believers--the idea that God could have employed a natural evolutionary process to carry out His will. Even Michael Behe--the leading scientific proponent of "intelligent design theory"--has embraced a version of theistic evolution. Theistic evolutionists include C. S. Lewis, Francis Collins, Mitt Romney, John Paul II, and many others.

Some related posts can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.


Paul said...

I don't know much about the situation in Russia; could Darwinian Political science explain why now, all of a sudden it seems, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to start promoting this? Can Darwinian Political science help to determine the probability that such moves will be successful, and what end they actually aim at?

Troy Camplin said...

I read a Science article that talked about the fact that when teachers teach creationism and intelligent design alongside evolution, students are more likely to accept evolution -- so I agree that we should teach them alongside each other.