Thursday the usual straight talking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie failed to answer a straight forward question on his position concerning the scientific theory of evolution. When asked by reporters if he believed in evolution or creationism, Christie snapped “That’s none of your business.”
Christie’s refusal to answer this relatively simple question points to a much larger problem concerning the politicization of science in the classroom, and the ballot box, by conservative Christians.
Christie was asked his opinion on evolution in relation to the science classroom in public schools. Christie’s position is that individual local school districts should have the right to choose to teach creationism (sometimes called Intelligent Design) as a legitimate competing theory to evolution in science classrooms.
The only problem is that creationism or Intelligent Design is not a legitimate scientific theory. Creationism is a religious explanation with no scientific validity. As such, it has no place in a science class room.
Academic Honesty – Scientific Integrity – First Amendment
Most of those who value academic honesty and scientific integrity believe that speculation about an intelligent designer or creator have no place in the science classroom. Many believe such speculation should be reserved for classes dealing with philosophy and theology, humanities and literature.
Aside from being bad science, and bad public education policy, teaching creationism as science is a legal nightmare, forcing local school districts to spend a great deal of money defending religiously motivated curriculum choices that will not stand up in court.
Those who respect the U.S. Constitution, and in particular the establishment clause to the first amendment, have no desire to see religious dogma smuggled into the public school science curriculum.
Many fear that allowing creationism into public school science classrooms will simply give some unethical teachers permission to smuggle their religious dogma into the curriculum. The sad fact is that a few unethical science teachers, motivated by religious convictions rather than good science, would attempt to smuggle into the science curriculum religious dogma and superstition.
As for Governor Christie, the jury is out. What does Christie believe? And why is he afraid to say? What ever the answer, it is bad news.
If Christie actually believes creationism has some scientific validity it is sad that a political leader of his stature is hindered by such a profound conceptual confusion. Alternatively, if Christie understands the scientific irrelevance of creationism and the scientific truth of evolution, it is sad that a politician of his stature lacks the courage to speak the truth.
One thing is certain. Evolution, which should be as controversial as the theory of gravity, continues to be challenged by religious extremists. Christian fundamentalists possess the political clout to frighten some politicians, while forcing others to expend precious political capital to prevent religious superstition masquerading as science to be taught to our children.