Have recently finished reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
Yes, I did find the language rather quaint but I was very impressed by the thoroughness of this work. Darwin seemed to anticipate all the arguments which might be used against his theory of development of species by natural selection and dealt honestly with each of them. Modern proponents of creationism should refer back to Darwin’s book where they would find answers disproving most of their arguments.
The work is also a great example of how scientific knowledge evolves by throwing out old theories when they can no longer explain new evidence and developing new theories which explain the evidence – a very important aspect which gives so much power to the scientific method. Darwin wrote the book at a time when the independent creation of species was commonly believed but yet these ideas were clearly out of touch with the accumulating evidence of the age of the earth, the fossil record, distribution of species around the earth, existence of relic organs, etc. The creation theory had been discredited, although still being strongly promoted for religious reasons. Darwin’s theory was able to accommodate this new knowledge and has provided a base for a wealth of new research up to the present.
I especially enjoyed Darwin’s question of creationists – did they “really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth’s history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissue?” This reflects back on to the modern creationists who attempt to discredit evolution by using a ridiculous argument which has more to do with their own ideas.
Anyway, putting evolution into this historical context shows how silly (and dishonest) it is to advocate teaching creationism (or intelligent design) as an equal alternative to evolution in science classes. Creationism should be taught, but only as a failed theory which was replaced (for very good reasons) be evolution. We should teach creationism in the same way we teach about phlogiston (an obsolete theory which tried to explain oxidation and discredited by Lavoisier in the 18th century) in chemistry classes.
What do you think – should we teach creation theory, but only as a failed theory?