The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Creationists Whining About “Censorship”

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 1, 2011

You may have already seen it: the video of would-be Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann commenting that not teaching creationism (or, “intelligent design”, as she calls it) in public school science classes is “government censorship.”  Check it out…


Wow, there are so many things wrong with what she’s saying, it’s hard to know where to begin.  While these arguments from creationists are nothing new, I’ll just hit some of the high points:

1. The “Teach All Views” Argument: I think this one bugs me more than any others, because it is a disingenuous attempt to play off the American sense of fairness.  “Just teach all the theories” says Bachmann, but she makes a very interesting omission – what she omits in her argument is that creationists don’t actually want “all ideas on the table” as she states.  What they really want is to insert their very narrow religious ideology (typically, the view of young-Earth creationism) into public school science classes.

If Bachmann and her ilk were really genuine in their argument, then they would have no problem with “equal time” for a large variety of creationist ideas: old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, gap creationism, flat Earth creationism, geocentrism, Islamic creationism, various Native-American creation myths, Scientology, and even Raelianism.  I especially like proposing “equal time” for Raelianism under Bachmann’s plan, because the Raelians are an atheistic UFO-cult which believes that humans were not created by God but aliens.  You have to wonder how willing Bachmann and her pals would be to give “equal time” to the Raelians!

So, I say to Bachmann: go for it, but if you really mean “teach all views” then be prepared to open the door to every kind of creationist idea out there.  And perhaps after all views have been equally represented, the science teachers in U.S. public schools just might have a couple of weeks at the end of the school year to teach actual science.  Who cares if our students will be effectively scientifically illiterate and we start to have massive brain-drain as compared to China and India?  At least we can all feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that we “taught all views”.  Gee whiz, thanks Ms. Bachmann!!!

The logical conclusion of applying the creationist idea of “teaching all views”…

2. The Whiny “Censorship” Argument: here again we have another facepalm moment.  These creationists actually believe, or they try to make us believe, that just because the U.S. government doesn’t give their particular set of religious beliefs some kind of priviledged status in public schools that it means they are being “censored.”  Purre rubbish, plain and simple.  For one thing, there is this little thing in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which is called the separation of church and state.  It basically means, in this particular context, that the public schools don’t get into the business of favoring one particular religion over another – that is, the government remains neutral on the question of the “correctness” of various religious beliefs in the public school classroom.

And that means specifically not giving any previledged status to a particular religious view in schools.  So while it would be appropriate to have a class on, say, comparative religion where the topic of creationism is studied, it wouldn’t be appropriate to insert those views into a science class since that crosses the boundary between science and religion.  Religious ideas are taught in religion class, and science is taught in science class!

3. “Scientists don’t agree on the origins of life”: while this is technically true, because the subject of abiogenesis (the study of life’s origins) is a subject of much discussion in the scientific community, Bachmann plays fast and loose with the facts by erroneously equating abiogenesis with the well understood and accepted theory of evolution.  These are not the same thing, and it is a common tactic of creationists to equate the two in an effort to give the sense that the scientific community doesn’t support evolution.  That’s just plain wrong, because – as these statistics point out – evolution is well-established in the scientific community.

4. Evolution is “just a theory”: this is another tried and true argument used by creationists to denegrate evolution.  They try to make it sound like a “theory” in scientific terms is equivalent to a hunch or a guess, but this is incorrect.  In science, a theory is a well-established and tested set of ideas that ties together a large set of observations and evidence into a coherent explanatory framework.  An analogy in physics would be to talk about the theory of gravity – would Bachmann or her creationist ilk try to seriously argue that gravity is “just a theory”?

If so, I invite her and anyone who agrees with her to take a dive off the nearest tall building without a parachute :)

I jest, of course, but in my jest there is a note of seriousness: if these creationists truly believe that evolution is “just a theory” (that is, a guess) then why do so many of them continue to use modern vaccines and antibiotics which are made as a direct result of the application of evolutionary theory?  If we didn’t understand evolution, we simply wouldn’t have those medicines.  So to avoid being labeled as hypocrites, I think creationists need to at least acknowledge that evolution is more than just a simple guess.

But I won’t hold my breath.  One thing’s for sure: creationists certainly are persistent, and as long as they’re up to their shenanigans we have to be equally vigilant.

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5 Responses to “Creationists Whining About “Censorship””

  1. [...] Creationists Whining About “Censorship” « The Skeptical Teacher [...]

  2. Joe Shuster said


    I think rational thinkers should think more about strategy in dealing with opponents of science, rather than emotionally arguing and instinctively bickering with them.

    The martial art “jiu jitsu” is “an art of weaponless self-defense developed in Japan that uses throws, holds, and blows and derives added power from the attacker’s own weight and strength”. I believe a rational thinking form of jiu jitsu would be a much more successful approach to the creationists and their kind. For example, the Religious Right want Creationism taught in discussions of cosmology (or science in general)? Well don’t stop there. Include all the origin hypotheses (not “theories”) including Buddhist, Hindu, Nordic, Greek, Persian, etc. This menu of competing hypotheses is the perfect way to force an evaluation by each student. What are the criteria for determining whether one hypothesis conforms better to the observed, consistent, and repeatable observations? Which is best at predictions? Perform Galileo’s (purported) experiment with dropped weights and find out if Aristotelian science is correct. Compute the age of the universe according to the New Testament (don’t trust some ancient bishop) and then compare how deep we can see into space, or how old our rocks are, etc.

    In the case of evolution, I believe that a good scientist must INSIST that Creationism (and other life source explanations) is included in a discussion of biology. It opens the door to compare and contrast how the different hypotheses of Natural Selection and Divine Creation compare as they confront observations such as fossil layering.

    Instead, most rational thinkers jump to the “we’ve already proven our case” response and oppose co-mingling scientific and religious explanations for the universe. This only empowers the irrational thinkers to use the “this is too complicated for me therefore it must be God” response. If supporters of the scientific method refuse to escort the average person through that wonderful process, they encourage that person to go “across the aisle” to the other side. Most of the arguments and tactics used by the proponents of science have been successful at stirring the current fan-base but they have little or no persuasive value. No “pep rally” has ever convinced the other side to surrender.

    Worse, the dominance and power of Christianity in the US means that the supporters of science are unwitting partners in creating a false dichotomy that the ultimate battle is between “Science” and “Christianity”. Scientific explanations of the cosmology, biology and anything else are not a form of anti-Christianism. The scientific method promotes a process of evaluating alternatives in a process designed to objectively identify the best hypothesis and measure its accuracy. So today’s scientific explanations should be willing (eager, desperate) to stand up to older ideas like the 4-element universe, the Ptolemaic system, and other old (discarded) beliefs. As long as this false dichotomy is fueled by both sides there won’t be progress. Instead, the religious anti-science faction becomes elevated to “Defender of the Faith” and they gain more power and they use it to bolster the false dichotomy. The strategy of knee-jerk opposition instantly reinforces the opposition.

    So I feel that a strategic approach of “pull, not push” would be more effective. Let the people with weak hypotheses have their opportunity to defend their position – in fact, INSIST on it. Use their own weight and strength to defend science.

    Joe Shuster

  3. DataJack said

    She is even worse then most YECs, because her immense misunderstanding of how anything actually works (history, science, government) is coupled with her support of (and by) a party that usually cares little for intellect, and often is outright hostile towards it.

    Consider her complete failure to comprehend what science is when she says “proven fact” (a term that has no meaning at all in science), or “all facts on the table”, or when she says teachers, students, and parents should decide what is taught. That is a dreadful misunderstanding of how governments…govern. Should children decide on their meal choices (candy and cookies 3x/day!)? Should motorists vote on speed limits?

    Governments are practicing “censorship” when they set school curriculum?

    She is a dangerous combination of stupid, uneducated, unethical, and ruthless. The fact that she is in government at all, much less running for president, is shameful.

  4. Nothing new under the sun. What the smarter-than-thou crowd among the anti-anti-intellectuals I ran with in college when I was one of them, what they don’t know is, that abiogenesis and the rest of it is an ancient superstition, resurrected like an Orc from the mud by superstitious post-modern brains that think they are smarter than Isaac Newton. They think that the most sophisticated and complex and interactive digital computing system the world has ever known, encapsulated and represented in one lonely little bacterium, that beats every Big Blue and supercomputer the best human minds can come up with, they think it sprang spontaneous from a mud bank. Just add water and sunlight and time.

    And this is the problem with cookie-cutter politicized education with all its political control.

    You don’t want Michelle Bachmann teaching your kids creationism? Instead, you’re pushing teaching them the Bible is wrong, and stealing my money and my neighbor’s to do it. Tit for tat.

    Get government fiat out of it, and free up education from the chains of conformist teaching forged by people who think they are more “englightened” than everyone else. We tried that with divine emperors, divine right of kings, Inquisition, the massacres of ATHEISTS in Stalinist Russia where creationism was a capital offense and in Mao’s China too.

    • Except, you are completely wrong. Abiogenesis is science, not opinion. And it isn’t evolution, which relies on completely different mechanisms. Neither of them says anything about the bible being right or wrong.

      This “government fiat” you throw around is actually teaching standards. And, applied properly, they say only science can be taught in science classes, not magic.

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