several thousand years old, a position referred to as “young Earth” creationism. Creationism also includes the view that the complex features of organisms cannot be explained by natural processes but require the intervention of a nonnatural “intelligent designer.” The “Additional Readings” section following these questions contains several books that describe the various ways in which the word “creationism” is used.

Wouldn’t it be “fair” to teach creationism along with evolution?

The goal of science education is to expose students to the best possible scholarship in each field of science. The science curriculum is thus the product of centuries of scientific investigation. Ideas need to become part of the base of accepted scientific knowledge before they are appropriately taught in schools. For example, the idea of continental drift to explain the movements and shapes of the continents was studied and debated for many years without becoming part of the basic science curriculum. As data accumulated, it became clearer that the surface of the Earth is composed of a series of massive plates, which are not bounded by the continents, that continually move in relation to each other. The theory of plate tectonics (which was proposed in the mid-1960s) grew from these data and offered a more complete explanation for the movement of continents. The new theory also predicted important phenomena, such as where earthquakes and volcanoes are likely to occur. When enough evidence had accumulated for the concept of plate tectonics to be accepted by the scientific community as fact, it became part of the earth sciences curriculum.

Scientists and science educators have concluded that evolution should be taught in science classes because it is the only tested, comprehensive scientific explanation for the nature of the biological world today that is supported by overwhelming evidence and widely accepted by the scientific community. The ideas supported by creationists, in contrast, are not supported by evidence and are not accepted by the scientific community.

Different religions hold very different views and teachings about the origins and diversity of life on Earth. Because creationism is based on specific sets of religious convictions, teaching it in science classes would mean imposing a particular religious view on students and thus is unconstitutional, according to several major rulings in federal district courts and the Supreme Court of the United States.

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