A bill introduced in the Ohio General Assembly would require that whenever evolution is taught in public schools, competing “theories” about the origin of life would have to be taught, including the view that life resulted from “intelligent design” of the universe.
Critics of the bill recognize it’s a thinly veiled attempt to interject biblical creationism into science classes. (Some have described “intelligent design” as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”)
Passage of this bill could make Ohio a national laughingstock. The state would likely be depicted on late-night talk shows and elsewhere as a scientifically ignorant and narrow-minded backwater.
Moreover, the economic repercussions on the state could be serious. Businesses are unlikely to locate or expand in places where workers lack the knowledge necessary to understand modern science and technology.
An examination of the biblical creation story shows that it has no place in science classes.
For a scientific theory to be valid, it must be internally consistent. The biblical creation story doesn’t meet this requirement.
The Bible actually contains two creation tales, which scribes attempted to combine into a single story. The first account runs from the beginning of Genesis chapter 1 through the third verse of chapter 2. The second account starts at the fourth verse of chapter 2. Because of the two separate traditions used in compiling the story, it contains contradictions.
Genesis chapter 1 gives six days of creation, whereas Genesis chapter 2 speaks of the “day” the Lord made the earth and heavens. Chapter 1 describes the earth as beginning in a watery state, but chapter 2 reports that the ground initially was dry “for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth.”
Chapter 1 says the man and woman were created at the same time, and after the animals. But chapter 2 insists the man was created first, then the animals (to look for a “help meet” for the man), and then the woman.
Chapter 1 indicates God gave the man and woman the fruit of every tree for food. Chapter 2, however, tells us they weren’t allowed to eat fruit from one of the trees.
According to chapter 1, the winged fowl were created out of the water. But chapter 2 declares they were formed out of the ground.
And chapter 1 alleges the fruit trees were created before the man, while chapter 2 indicates they were made after the man.
Besides contradictions resulting from the two disparate traditions, a contradiction exists because of the biblical writers’ lack of knowledge about astronomy. Genesis chapter 1 says God divided the light from the darkness on the first day, and called the light day and the darkness night.
The same chapter later claims, though, that God didn’t create the lights in the sky to divide the day from the night until the fourth day. This error was caused by the ancient belief that light and darkness are specific entities unrelated to the celestial bodies.
In fact, the belief lasted into the Middle Ages. There used to be on display in Rome a bottle allegedly containing part of the darkness that, according to Exodus chapter 10, overspread Egypt for three days.
Because two contradictory statements can’t both be true, the foregoing pairs of contradictions each contain at least one claim that’s wrong. Thus, the Genesis creation story has errors throughout it and is not scientifically valid.
Inconsistent with Scientific Findings
There’s another reason the Bible’s creation story should not be taught in science classes: it contains claims that science has proved to be incorrect.
Genesis chapter 1 says life appeared on land as plants on the third day, and the seas didn’t teem with living creatures until the fifth day. But the fossil record reveals that the seas contained life for about 3 billion years before life appeared on land.
Genesis chapter 1 states that the birds and fishes were created on the fifth day. The fossil record shows, however, that the birds didn’t appear on earth until more than 200 million years after the fishes.
Chapter 1 asserts that the beasts and creeping things were made on the sixth day. But science tells us the creeping reptiles appeared at least 50 million years before the earliest mammals.
And by saying the birds were created on the fifth day and the reptiles on the sixth, the Genesis account contradicts science in another way. The fossil record proves the reptiles arose 100 million years or more before the birds.
According to chapter 1, the sun was made on the fourth day – three days after the earth. Science informs us the sun is older than the earth.
Chapter 1 alleges that God made the stars to give light to the earth. Science refutes this claim by telling us that 99.9999% of the stars can’t even be seen from earth.
Additionally, the third chapter of Luke in the New Testament traces the genealogy of Jesus back 76 generations to the first man, Adam. This chronology indicates the earth is no more than several thousand years old. In contrast, science discloses the age of the earth as being approximately 4.6 billion years.
The same genealogy supports a young age for the stars, because Genesis chapter 1 says they were created on the fourth day. But science reveals there are stars whose light has taken billions of years to reach earth.
Further, Genesis chapter 1 relates that on the second day God created the “firmament” to separate the waters above the firmament from those below it. The notion of the sky as a firmament reflects the ancient belief that it is a solid dome holding water. God periodically allows the water to fall to earth as rain.
That view was common in the Middle East when the Bible was written. It’s seen in the story of Noah and the Flood in Genesis chapter 7. There the statement is made that the rain began to fall when the “windows of heaven” were opened.
Thus, to teach biblical creationism would require schools to contradict science in outlandish ways. Instead of imparting scientific knowledge, they would be promoting ignorant and erroneous ideas stemming from a pre-scientific and superstitious stage of humankind’s development.
Inconsistent with Laws of Nature
Based on vast amounts of data gathered over hundreds of years, science assumes that natural laws operate uniformly and continuously. Science therefore doesn’t include the idea of supernatural intervention, which by definition is a religious concept beyond the realm of natural laws.
The biblical creation story is inconsistent with the laws of nature. It’s rife with claims of supernatural occurrences – and incongruous ones at that.
Genesis tells us God created the entire universe out of nothing, but then needed a rib from the first man in order to create a woman.
Genesis also says this omnipotent God had to rest on the seventh day from all the work he had done.
And it states the omniscient, omnipresent God walked through the garden looking for the first man, and asking where he was and what he had done.
The Bible further alleges that the Garden of Eden had a tree with fruit that could give knowledge of good and evil. This garden had another tree with fruit capable of bestowing eternal life.
And there are claims about a talking serpent who convinced the woman to eat from the tree of knowledge, the man and woman obtaining knowledge of good and evil by eating fruit, the Lord cursing the serpent to eat dust all the days of its life, and cherubim with a flaming sword guarding the tree of life after God drove the man and woman from the garden.
All these assertions are inconsistent with the laws of nature and our experiences of worldly phenomena. They could not be more unscientific.
Cruelty, Injustice and Immorality
A further reason the biblical creation story should not be taught is that it’s cruel, unjust, and immoral. This is particularly true in regard to the claim that God inflicted enormous harm on innocent people.
The Bible tells us God punished Adam and Eve for eating fruit from a tree that bestowed knowledge of good and evil. But if they couldn’t know good from evil until they’d eaten the fruit, there was no sense in punishing them for a decision made before they had the knowledge. It was therefore unjust to hold them culpable for their act.
God not only punished the man and woman, but also the rest of humanity. Adam and Eve were driven from paradise and sentenced to eventually die. The same punishment was inflicted on all their progeny, including us, even though we had nothing to do with the fruit tree incident.
Additionally, the ground was cursed so that it would grow thorns and thistles. Adam and all men were to gain their bread in sorrow by the sweat of their brows.
Eve and all women were sentenced to bear children in sorrow. And perhaps the cruelest blow of all was that they were consigned to have their husbands rule over them, even if their husbands were boors and dolts.
This divine punishment of billions of innocent people is one of the most unjust acts imaginable. In enlightened systems of justice, a fundamental principle is that it’s wrong to cause the innocent to suffer.
Yet the Bible says a just and perfect God caused innocent billions to suffer because of the acts of two people. And those two people – lacking knowledge of good and evil – shouldn’t have been held morally responsible in the first place.
The story is a gigantic miscarriage of justice. Civilized standards of justice are destroyed in teaching people that an omniscient and benevolent God could commit these horrible and senseless acts.
By promoting the Genesis creation story in science classes, schools would be giving children lessons that are contradictory, inconsistent with discoveries in the physical world, incompatible with the laws of nature, and morally and ethically degenerate.
No wonder that in the nineteenth century, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said, “There was never such a gigantic lie told as the fable of the Garden of Eden.”
The biblical creation story has no business in science classes, which are supposed to teach students about the natural world. The mythical nature of this story places it in the same category as the creation myths of many pre-scientific peoples.
If the Genesis creation myth has any place in public schools, it’s in mythology or comparative religion classes. The story can fit in those categories – especially mythology – but not in the category of science.