Science & Education

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 111-133

First online:

Should Creationism be Taught in the Public Schools?

  • Robert T. PennockAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Michigan State University

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This article discusses philosophicalarguments relevant to the question of teachingcreationism, especially with regard to developments inthe debate since the early 1990s.Section 1 reviews the newfactions within the creationist movement, and theoverlapping views from ‘young earth’ to ‘intelligentdesign’ creationism, as well as non-Christianvarieties. It also considers what are the relevantdifferences for the policy question for private,public schools, and for home schoolers, as well aspossible differences in what it means to ‘teach’creationism. Sections 2 & 3 discuss the main legal argumentsthat have ruled in the public school case, as well asarguments from academic freedom, fairness, censorship,parental rights and majority rule. Section 4 evaluates theepistemological issues regarding competing claims oftruth, and the contention that excluding ‘whatChristians know’ (Alvin Plantinga) amounts to‘viewpoint discrimination’ (Phillip Johnson). Section 5argues that religious protection arguments actuallyfavor excluding creationism more than including it. Section 6 considers the goals of education, especiallyDewey's views on science education, and what theseimply regarding the teaching of a ‘theistic science’. In Section 7, I review a new argument of Alvin Plantingabased upon a purported Rawlsian basic right of aparent not to have her children taught anything thatviolates her comprehensive beliefs, and show whyRawlsian agents would reject it.