Evolution, at least in North America, is a hot topic and, if mentioned in strongly religious communities, is likely to engender considerable discussion. The religious alternative to evolution is called “special creation”, which is defined in Wiktionary as, “a theological doctrine which asserts that the origin of the universe and all life in it suddenly sprang into being by unconditional fiat or divine decree.” A fiat is defined in the same dictionary as, “An authoritative command or order to do something.”
It is quite surprising that in the 21st century special creation is such a pervasive belief, especially among fundamental and evangelical Christians. This is so much the case that there are frequent attempts made to have special creation taught as part of the science curriculum in our schools, giving it as an alternative to evolution and, in the process, endowing it with authority as a valid alternative to a purely scientific explanation and clothing it in a scientific disguise.
If people want to believe what most think of as arrant nonsense then that is obviously their right. If they want to teach this arrant nonsense to their children that is also their right but, since it is fundamentally a religious matter, doing so should not be financed with tax money. In other words, it should not be in science classes in the public school system. As an atheist I strongly object to public funds going to support a religious objective, and asserting that special creation is an alternative to scientific evolution is clearly a religious objective.
If special creation were to be taught in a school science curriculum it would be necessary for those setting the curriculum to specify what form of special creation should be taught. There are many explanations, both past and present, which purport to explain the origins of mankind. They are not all variations of the story found at the beginning of the bible book of Genesis, the story regarding the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall from god’s favour. Some other explanations from other religions and cultures differ from that account significantly, but since the largest group applying pressure to teach special creation in schools are Christian, the majority of Canadians would likely presume that the term “special creation” refers to that account in Genesis. Due to these circumstances, teaching special creation would require several assumptions:
Is Genesis an authoritative and scientific treatise?
If we are going to accept that the bible meets either of these two criteria, those of being authoritative and of being scientific, then it must be objectively scrutinised so as to prove that is the case. Historically, the whole book of Genesis is considered to be a single unit, but internal evidence indicates that it may be composed of several more ancient accounts. It is possible that a claim could be made that only the first part of Genesis which contains the creation account, or some other defined portion of it which includes that account, needs to meet those criteria since it is that account alone which forms the basis for special creation. The rest of Genesis is not involved and is a history of the founding of the nation of Israel as the god Yahweh’s chosen people.
This should be the first thing to look at, then. What portion of Genesis should be included in the scrutiny? In short, the answer must surely be “all of it”, and should, perhaps, include the rest of those books which make up the Pentateuch, the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are usually considered to be the history and laws of the nation of Israel from the creation of the world to the establishment of Israel as an independent nation. Separating off a small part of that is surely improper. If the account itself presents itself as a cohesive whole, and if the nation it describes accepted it as a cohesive whole, and if their descendants today consider it to be a cohesive whole, then surely so should we.
Integral to the Genesis account is the creation of the Nation of Israel and their selection as Yahweh’s people, and it traces their descent from the first man up to that point. Christians, of course, later use the same to trace the ancestry of Jesus back to Adam. In fact, Paul contrasts Jesus with Adam in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 45 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Those Christians who believe that special creation should be taught as an alternative to evolution will also be the ones who accept this statement by Paul as literally true, that Adam and Jesus were both “Adams” in the sense that both brought life to mankind, the first bringing physical life, the second bringing spiritual life. The point here, though, is that those who want special creation taught in schools see the bible as an indivisible unit, complete in itself. On this basis, the whole of the bible should be subjected to this scrutiny to determine if it is authoritative and scientific.
Is The Bible authoritative?
In a free society anyone is free to rely on anything as an authority, including the bible, but before that authority is used to make decisions affecting other people certain questions must be answered. The first question is whether the authority of the bible is accepted as valid by those who would be bound by its premises, and a second is whether it is objectively reliable enough to be used as an authority for specific purposes. There is no mandatory recognition of the bible as an absolute authority for anything, and even for religious purposes it may not be accepted as an infallible or inerrant authority. Among the many religious people who honour it, a significant proportion consider it to be allegorical or metaphorical rather than literally true. Others may consider it to be a biased historical document written to support the national aspirations of a small middle eastern nation a few thousand years ago. Acceptance of it as an authority is a purely personal choice of those individuals who choose to read and rely on what it says. If is is rejected as an authority, then what it says becomes irrelevant to any discussion. So, what proportion of parents in Canada accept the bible as the inerrant word of god? How many think of it as just a moral book of guidance with little impact on their every day lives? How many think it is a scientific treatise?
The bible is fundamentally a religious book. The basic concept underpinning it is that there is a god who has the right to rule the universe and everyone must submit to his wishes. The bible itself makes it clear that only that one god, Yahweh, exists and all other gods are fake. If that is so, then he would be a powerful being indeed, controlling every single subatomic particle in the universe. One would expect that such a powerful entity would leave some sign of his existence, some clue in the physical universe that we are told depends on him, but there has never been anything detected that could be classed as being of that nature.
The universe is sometimes used to justify god’s existence on the basis that it is orderly and follows rules (the laws of cosmic physics), but how could it be otherwise? Over the 14 billion years since the universe began there have been numerous collisions, collapses, accretions, expansions and so on to ensure that what is left as the result follows an orderly pattern to a large extent. Yet, even today after all that time, there are still collisions, collapses, accretions and expansions going on. They have not stopped. The universe is not stable and is heading for more collisions, collapses, accretions and expansions, including some involving our own galaxy and its neighbours. It only appears to be stable due to the short time periods for which we can examine it. In time periods of millions or billions of years it is not inherently stable. The universe is by no means perfect, notwithstanding what the bible says in Deuteronomy 32, 3-4 “Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our god. He is the Rock, his work is perfect”, and Job 37, 16 “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” When the bible says that “his work is perfect”, the bible is incorrect, it is not being authoritative. The reality is that the universe is not as orderly as the bible leads us to believe. If it is wrong in this most fundamental aspect of the “creation”, as religionists would have it, how can it be relied upon as an authority for any other aspect of the physical world?
The bible is fundamentally about religion and, for those practicing a religion based on it, may well be thought to be authoritative. I must ask, though, if its authority is so obvious and clear, why so many religions disagree so much on what they believe the bible is teaching? Surely, if its authority were clear, all religions based on it would have the same beliefs, would they not? Yet, one group believes this thing, another believes the opposite. Compare the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation with beliefs about the bread and wine used for communion in, say, Baptist churches. Compare beliefs on the trinity between Anglicans and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are numerous such differences, yet if the bible were truly an authoritative guide there would be no disagreement between them since what it said would be plain and obvious to all.
Since Christian churches themselves cannot agree as to what the bible teaches and which parts are factually correct and which parts are biased history and which parts are allegorical, how can a state educational system rely on it for curriculum development? Until such time as all churches that consider themselves to be Christian can agree on what the bible teaches, it cannot be objectively considered to be an authority.
Even with that, getting Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, Wiccans, Animists and a host of others to accept that the bible is the only way any of their gods have communicated with humanity would be quite impossible. If these other religions do not accept the bible as the sole authoritative word of god, with the sole authoritative explanation for special creation, how could it be an authority in setting a science curriculum?
Is the bible a scientific treatise?
Clearly it is not. It is a religious book with some historical content. It does not deal with scientific concepts. Any overlap between the bible and science is purely coincidental and accidental. When the bible makes statements that might be considered scientific it does so as a straight statement, unsupported by evidence. None of its statements regarding the origins of life and mankind have been rigorously and independently investigated, then shown to be valid. The scientific evidence, in fact, argues strenuously against the bible account.
Let’s just look at two relevant sections, both from Genesis. The opening chapters of that book include the creation account which gives the order in which the world and its contents were made over a period of six days. The second section is the account of the great flood in which Noah preserved the ancestors of all living animals from drowning. According to this account every single land animal alive today descended from those on his boat.
In the creation account the creation process is divided into six days, with a seventh day when god is said to rest. The rest day is not meant to be taken literally, obviously, since a god as powerful as he is said to be would hardly get tired and need to rest. It is not clear, however, how long those days were. Even today the word “day” is used in several contexts to mean different periods: 24 hours, the daylight period, a person’s lifetime, and so it is in the bible, there may be different time periods referred to by the context in which the word is used. The relevant ones here are: 24 hours, a year, 1,000 years and 7,000 years. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 3, the apostle Paul discusses who will enter into god’s “rest”, and says that only believers will do so. From this we may conclude that the day on which god rested, the seventh creative day, was still in effect during Paul’s lifetime. So, let’s use the longest period of 7,000 years for evaluating what Genesis says about the creation. This makes the process itself 42,000 years long (7,000 x 6) plus the seventh day, giving a maximum total of close to 49,000 years, since we do not know how much of the seventh day is left.
I will acknowledge that the actual formation of the earth, the physical globe, may not necessarily be included in the creative days period. The bible simply says that “In the beginning god created the heaven and the earth.” Let’s assume that this was a separate creative act from its preparation as a home for mankind, and may have occurred over 3 billion years ago. We must be clear, though, that the creation of all forms of life are specifically stated in the bible to have been created by god within those first six creative days. From that it follows that any life form which can be shown to have been alive more than 49,000 years ago must have been present before creation began. In other words, the bible must be wrong. The fossil evidence does, very emphatically, show that as fact.
On day one it appears that at the start of the creative days the earth was composed of water or, at least, covered all over with it. God then created light. However, for the earth to form there would have had to be a sun. It is now understood that the earth formed from the accretion of solid particles orbiting our star. The star was there first, then the planets formed. A functioning star gives off light and must have done so before the particles coalesced, so light must have existed before the first creative day, yet the bible says that the earth was present and light was created during that first day 49,000 years ago. There is no indication as to whether light was produced by stars other than our sun before then or whether their light was created at that time as well. We now know that light has existed for as long as the universe has existed, and that it is just a restricted band of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, in essence, no different from any other electromagnetic radiation with which the universe abounds as part of its fundamental character. That means on the very first day the bible says god “created” something that already existed.
On the second day god separates the waters, one portion under the “firmament” and one portion above it. The firmament is then identified as “heaven”. This is usually understood to mean the sky as delimited by the blue arch, since the account is about the creation of physical matter. Presumably, in modern parlance, we are to understand that this refers to the atmosphere since the blue area is not a physical object but an optical effect from the diffraction of light. If the blue arch is not an object, then what else could it refer to? The first verse of the bible says god already created the heavens and the earth, so this must be another type of heaven, different from either the stars or where god lives, depending on what the “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 refers to. This separating of the waters means there were two major bodies of water, one below the atmosphere and one above it. There is no indication in the geological record that this has ever been the case. Clouds are one thing, but a body of water so large that it encloses the whole globe and is noteworthy enough to be described as a major creative act has never been indicated.
On the third day the land is separated from the sea, then plant life is created, specifically including grasses, plants which produce seeds and trees which produce fruit, i.e. much as it is today. The fossil record, in contrast, shows that when animals first appeared modern type plants did not exist. The plants that did exist at that time were different from the kinds of plants that exist now because they are a later development, evolving along with the animal life. In other words the scientific evidence is that animal life evolved before the kinds of plants that exist now, whereas the bible says the plants that exist now were created before any type of land animal life. The bible sequence is wrong.
During the fourth day the heavenly lights are set up: the sun, moon and stars and the periodic natural cycles they govern, such as days, months and years. Verse 15 specifically states that the light in the firmament of the heaven (the sky) gives light to the earth. The point is, if providing sunlight to the earth began on the fourth day, how did the plants grow on the third day, since light is necessary as the energy source for photosynthesis in green plants? Again, the sequence is wrong.
It is also necessary to ask whether the earth revolved prior to the fourth day, whether the moon encircled the earth or whether the earth orbited the sun. This question is raised because a 24 hour day is due to the revolution of the earth on its axis, a month is the time it takes for the moon to travel around the earth, and a year is the time it takes for the earth to travel once around the sun. Yet, if these periods, the day, month and year, were created during the fourth creative day, doesn’t that mean they did not exist during the previous three creative days? Did the earth not spin on its axis? Did the moon not orbit the earth? Did the earth not orbit the sun? How is that possible? Is there a shred of scientific evidence to support the contention that days, months and years began such a short time ago of less than 28,000 years (4 x 7,000 years since day three)?
Of course they existed during that time. Of course the earth spins and orbits the sun. Of course the day and the year have existed for billennia, ever since the solar system was formed. In fact, the earth was created from cosmic materials orbiting the sun and being drawn together by gravitational forces as they orbited, until the planets formed. Planetary days and years did not suddenly come into existence less than 28,000 years ago, they existed well before the creative days are claimed to have begun!
The fifth day sees animals that live in the water created and birds that fly, although whether that included winged insects and mammals is not clear. There is no comment on birds which do not fly, such as the dodo or kiwi. The creation of birds on this day specifies flying birds, so presumably did not include those non-flyers. There is no mention on this day of any land animals, only sea creatures and birds, although it specifically mentions large sea animals. This is from a word often translated as “whales”, although it has the sense of a monstrously large animal without specifying which one. That would clearly describe a whale. These, of course, are now known to have developed from land animals which returned to the sea. It is not clear whether walruses, seals, manatees and similar animals were included in this, since they live on both land and in the sea, feeding on marine animals or plants. Whether they were created on this day or the next would, I presume, depend on whether they were considered by god to be land or sea animals.
On the sixth day the land animals were created, including humans. Although they are not specifically mentioned, non-winged insects would be included within this group of animals that “creepeth” upon the earth, such as worms, slugs, snails, spiders and so on. In other words, plants existed before the worms which ate decaying plant material to fertilise the soil. The winged insects may have been included within the flying animal group created on the fifth day. It is not clear when animals like butterflies were made as they spend most of their life creeping and a small part of it flying.
In any case, it is clear that the bible says birds were created before animals that walked on the ground, but this is just not the case. The scientific evidence is that crawling and walking animals came first, then birds. Once again, the bible has the sequence wrong.
On the seventh day god rested “from all his work which he had made.” In other words he stopped creating things. This becomes a factor later on when Jonah is swallowed by what is specifically stated to be a big fish. When questioned as to what this big fish was, the response is often to refer to Jonah, chapter 1, verse 17, which says, “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” The bible says god “had prepared” a big fish, that is, god made a fish for the specific purpose of swallowing Jonah. However, the bible also says god stopped creating and rested on the seventh creative day, which according to Paul was still in existence during his lifetime. Therefore the seventh day must have also been in existence during the time period of the account in Jonah, since it is supposed to have happened hundreds of years earlier. Either the bible is wrong and god did not rest on the seventh day and he created the animal during it, or it was created by god on day five and had remained in existence until after it swallowed Jonah. In that latter case, we have to ask what it could have been and why it does not exist today, because it was obviously quite capable of breeding over a period of more than 10,000 years (part of day 5, day 6, part of day 7). Perhaps we are to believe that it was a single fish which was miraculously kept alive for those 10,000 years or more.
The most obvious problem with the bible’s account of creation is that it repeatedly gets the sequence in which different life forms appeared wrong. This is surely a most fundamental aspect of creation, and if it does not get the sequence correct, how can it be relied on to get anything else right? Obviously, it is not a scientifically accurate account of how life came to be since it doesn’t even give the correct order in which it happened.
Are other scriptures inferior to the bible?
To accept the bible account of special creation as being correct requires the rejection of all other accounts of how creation came about. This means that public education authorities must take the position that all other religious writings dealing with how the universe, life, animals and man got here are wrong. If the bible account is accepted as being authoritative and scientific, then all other accounts which differ must be automatically rejected, since there cannot be two or more correct explanations. In other words, a group established by and consequently representing the state must publicly hold that all other scriptures revered by any other religion are neither authoritative nor scientific in describing creation and must be seen as inferior to the bible in that regard. This would obviously be elevating Christianity above every other religion practiced in Canada, since the Christian view of creation would dominate in the educational system by authority of the state. That would so obviously be a violation of our constitution and charter of rights and freedoms and religious liberty that to even seriously consider it would be an egregious attack on our freedom of religion and conscience.
Should a public body be objective?
The state does not exist to represent and act on behalf of one group, but on behalf of all citizens. It has an obligation to objectively apply the constitution and our laws to everyone without bias. That means a public body, in this case the group responsible for curriculum development, must act objectively. They should not give more credence to one religious writing than to any other religious writing, whether the particular writing is revered by a majority or plurality of Canadians or not. All scriptures, of all religions, should be accorded equal credence.
The problem is that not all groups have religious writings. Atheists, for instance, do not have revered scriptures and neither do groups which never developed a formal writing system. There is only one way that groups without spiritual scriptures can be accorded equal treatment and that is not to give credence to any written account from any group, to act as if they did not exist, to establish a curriculum without taking their stories into account, to be completely objective and rely on science alone.
If one religious writing is accorded a degree of credibility, then all other religious writings must be accorded the same degree of credibility or we become guilty of religious discrimination. This can lead to some unexpected and undesirable results. As an example, if the bible’s version of special creation is taught in a science class, then creation accounts from other religions must also be taught in science classes. Would we really want to teach as scientific an account that says god fell asleep and the world came into existence when he began dreaming? Isn’t that an essential component of the Hindu story of creation? The ancient Egyptians explained the creation of man several ways. They start with the same concept as the bible gives, of a dark, chaotic place covered with water. Should all of them be given as alternate explanations and all accorded the same degree of scientific authority? Should we include the one which says that the god Atum masturbated and when he ejaculated produced the God Shu and his sister Tefnut, who then had sex to produce the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, who also had sex to produce the quadruplets Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys, eventually giving rise to mankind? Do we really want to teach that to young teenagers? Would evangelical Christians really want that to be discussed? I think not.
The place for discussions about the creation of the earth, life and man as presented by various spiritual writings, such as the bible, is in an elective, comparative religion course, not in a science course. In a comparative religion course all creation stories can be discussed and evaluated on their merits. However, if being exposed to other peoples’ religious beliefs is unacceptable to some religionists, then a form of special creation with which they agree should be taught in a study group presented by the ministers of a church to its members. This should be done independently and separately from any government funded school system and at their own expense.
Is Special Creation a Theory?
Those who want special creation taught as an alternative to evolution often refer to it as a theory and claim that, as a theory, it is on a par with the theory of evolution. All theories are equally valid, they say and, since evolution is a theory and not proven fact, any other explanation is just as valid.
Those people who use this approach obviously do not understand what a theory is in scientific terms or are deliberately distorting it by applying the loose colloquial meaning to the restricted scientific meaning. The result is to deliberately confuse a theory with a hypothesis. Even so, after examination to scientific standards the biblical story of special creation is simply not rational enough to even qualify as a hypothesis due to its fundamental nature as religious dogma.
A hypothesis is an explanation for something which has no supporting scientific evidence to justify it but which plausibly explains the facts. There is no evidence supporting special creation, so in that sense it meets the requirement for a hypothesis, but the account in the bible does not explain anything, it simply makes a series of unsupported claims with no descriptions of the process. For that reason it is not a plausible explanation for how life came to be. Other religions’ scriptures, of course, make different claims and give different explanations which contradict scientific evidence and may even be quite fantastic in nature. These are not plausible either. That means special creation does not even reach the level of a scientific hypothesis, since it is not fundamentally scientific in nature. It contains no “how” for any of the creative claims it makes, so it is really nothing more than a series of fanciful statements with no supporting scientific evidence.
A theory is an explanation for something which does have supporting scientific evidence to justify it and which plausibly explains the facts. A hypothesis and a theory are similar in that both must plausibly explain the facts. The difference between them is that a theory has supporting scientific evidence to confirm the explanation. It is far more than just a claim and an explanation. It has some objective proof to support it, in whole or in part.
In the theory of gravity, for instance, if an object is dropped it falls to the ground. The hypothesis was that in a vacuum light objects, a feather perhaps, would fall at the same rate as heavy objects, such as a rock, because the air causes a resistance to the effects of gravity. The feather, due to its greater surface area to weight ratio, would be affected by the air more than the rock. This was tested when man walked on the moon. An experiment was carried out by dropping a heavy and a light object at the same time, the result being that both landed at the same time. That was scientific proof that when there was no air there was no resistance to gravity’s effect and that particular part of the theory of gravity was scientifically proven. I would presume that similar experiments were conducted in a vacuum chamber using precision equipment to measure the length of time it took for different objects to fall a set distance and the time measured with the accuracy that lasers and computers can accomplish, but the experiment on the moon is visually more stimulating. Despite that proof, the theory of gravity is still a theory since a full explanation for the force of gravity is not proven. There is no doubt that gravity exists because we can watch objects fall, but we do not fully understand it. When we do it will cease to be a theory and become a fact.
While the bible account of special creation simply makes a series of claims that on certain days god made certain things, the scientific theory of evolution seeks to explain how it happened based on scientific investigation. For many years this was based on the fossil record, the remains of animals from the distant past which had become petrified because they had died so long ago. Increasingly today, it includes biological evidence based on DNA, including the DNA of living animals which still contains genes for characteristics no longer displayed. Activation of these genes may revive the characteristic and give an indication of what kind of animal the modern one developed from: chicken embryos with teeth, for instance, indicating that a precursor to the chicken had a toothed mouth. This is not unreasonable since it is now theorised that birds derived from predatory, feathered dinosaurs, some fossils of which have been found with clear imprints of the feathers. The activation of a chicken gene for a toothed mouth is evidence in support of that relationship. There are, of course, numerous fossils of dinosaurs, large and small, with teeth.
Dinosaurs and their precursors were land animals and the fossil record shows very clearly that animals which walked on land existed before birds, yet the bible account of creation says birds were created on the third day and that land animals were created on the fourth day. The bible account has it in the wrong order. Land animals preceded birds, they did not come after birds. That is the scientifically proven evidence. The bible is wrong. That being the case, special creation does not meet the requirements for a scientific theory, nor even for a hypothesis. It has been proven factually wrong in the sequence in which different life forms appeared.
Freedom of religion.
Religion is a personal belief system. It varies from person to person and place to place. Even members of the same religious group may believe different things, accepting some doctrines and rejecting others. To paraphrase Queen Elizabeth I of England, the state should not seek to set up a window into peoples’ souls. What an individual believes is purely their business and nobody else’s. The same applies to the non-religious agnostics and atheists regarding their freedom of conscience. To what degree those who don’t care about, don’t know or reject religious influence apply these two freedoms in their lives is their business. They may apply both if they wish, or neither, since it is not an either-or choice.
Since adding the Christian view of special creation would require that a Christian doctrine be treated as a valid scientific theory, doing so would necessarily mean that all other religious doctrines on the subject of creation held by religions other than Christianity must be accorded an inferior position. This is a direct violation of the freedom of religion of those other religious and non-religious groups since it requires they be taught a religious viewpoint as a valid alternative to science from a religion they do not practice and with which they may disagree strongly. The science curriculum is set by the government, so endorsing one religious perspective over any other religious perspective would be the same as endorsing that religion and rejecting all others.
A fossilised skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex remains a fossilised skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex no matter what the religious convictions of the viewer are. It physically exists and objective assessments of it and other fossils can be used to formulate theories as to how and when they came to be and their interrelationships. It requires no faith, just good vision and a mind. It should be emphasised again that there is no compulsion involved in accepting evolution, as the ability of religionists to raise objections to the subject so clearly testifies, and students are completely free to accept or reject the reasoning behind it as they see fit or to formulate an explanation different from what is usually taught. The purpose of an education is, among other things, to enable students to think critically, evaluate information and reach conclusions of their own. If their conclusion is to reject evolution, then so be it.
Undoubtedly, some Christians would charge that teaching evolution violates their religious freedom, since they do not agree with the conclusions reached by science. Teaching objective scientific observations in a science class is different from teaching a religious doctrine from one religion to members of another religion. Science is objective. It does not seek to justify a preconceived viewpoint, but seeks factual information from both scientific experiments and paleological investigation, such as examining unearthed fossilised animals and plants, determining their age and reviewing their relationships.
Since evolution is not a religious doctrine and has no religious or spiritual content at all, teaching it in a science course as a scientific explanation as to how life developed cannot violate anybody’s religious freedoms. It has nothing to do with religion. It is totally secular and objective. Understanding the concepts is what is being taught, not religious dogma. and students are free to accept or reject the explanations as they see fit
Setting a precedent.
One of the dangers of allowing the public educational system to be determined by religious views and doctrines is that doing so on one occasion sets a precedent for doing so on other occasions in other areas. There are already attempts to do this in the areas of sexuality, reproduction and morality. These are all areas of intense variability in society depending on both religious beliefs and secular convictions, i.e. religion and conscience.
Setting a precedent that the commonest religious viewpoint is what should determine what is taught sends a clear message to those with religious viewpoints which differ from the most common one: that their views are less important and less valid. Surveys clearly show a decline in religious commitment among Canadians to the point where the majority viewpoint may be different from the largest religious viewpoint, emphasising that religious perspectives are now minority perspectives and that the majority of the population views social matters from a secular perspective. If the majority view is to be the deciding influence in society, then that secular viewpoint should be the one followed.
Despite that, social and educational policy should not be decided on what viewpoint the majority of the population follow, but on what will best serve the children being educated during their lifetime. “What do they need to know?”, should be the question, not “What do religious leaders want them to know?” That requires careful analysis of social trends to determine what the future citizens of Canada need in order to make valid decisions regarding the direction the country should take under various circumstances, without tying them to a particular political philosophy nor restricting them to a particular religious philosophy.
The only precedent that needs to be set in education is to prepare a curriculum based on what most benefits the children being educated. The religious instruction should be left for the home.
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