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science vs religion

mmphillips at stkate.edu mmphillips at stkate.edu
Sat Feb 6 16:57:16 EST 1999


I think the critical thing to get across to students is that science and
religion answer DIFFERENT questions about life.  The teaching of evolution is
intimately tied to teaching about the nature of science.  What are the questions
that science can answer and how does a scientist go about answering those
questions?  I don't think it necessary to attempt to explain how "the creation
story" works with evolution -- for one, there is more than one creation story
(even within Genesis) and to deal only with the Christian interpretation is to
leave out many of the stories and interpretations of all the other world
religions.  Two, creation stories are the domain of a theology class.  They are
not science and need not be discussed in a science class.  They are not
SCIENTIFIC theories, i.e., they are not falsifiable.

But what you can do is stress that many of the world's religious leaders do NOT
find biological evolution incompatible with their religions, including the
Catholic Pope.  The Catholic stance is  one of dualism.  They accept that the
body of "man" is the product of biological evolution, but that what makes humans
'human' is the soul, and that was  instilled by God.  (You could say that Adam
and Eve were the first humanoids with a human soul).  I do mention this in my
classes (at a Catholic college).

I also find it useful to question students on their understanding of the word
"creationist," which many of them think is any person who believes in a
religious explanation for the beginning and meaning of life.  I point out that
the term is much more specific and that the conflict is between a literal
interpretation of the Bible (which is NOT the interpretation of most Christian
demonimations) and the belief in biological evolution.  Creationists are those
that hold to a literal interpretation, not those that believe in God.

A very good resource on teaching about evolution and the nature of science was
put out by the National Academy of Sciences a bit ago.  I've loaned out my copy
so don't have it here to give you the exact citation -- but I do remember I
ordered it from the National Academy of Sciences web site.

Good Luck!

Martha Phillips
Biology Dept.
College of St. Catherine
St. Paul, MN

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