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Taking a Leap of Faith

Senior biology major Victoria DeLeon wrote this op-ed piece for the “Writing About Science” class offered in May Term 2012

The war between evolutionists and creationists still wages in the battlefield of public education, with no side hinting at retreat or compromise.  Raised as a Texan through and through, I heard about the monumental HB368 bill passed in Tennessee earlier this year and could not believe my fellow Americans would allow this. The bill acknowledges the social controversy (not scientific) of evolution and global warming and encourages students to respond respectfully and appropriately to differences of opinion about these scientific topics. Furthermore, the bill also states that no school authority shall prohibit any teacher from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.

            Many, myself included, fear that teachers will impose their personal views on students when teaching evolution—specifically creationism. I also fear that other states will follow Tennessee’s lead. Creationism and evolution have no place with each other in the same classroom. Requiring public schools to examine “all sides of the issue” between creationism and evolution contradicts the fundamentals of science and excludes students with other religious views. We hold the utmost responsibility in keeping creationism out of our schools, not as a judgment on religion, but to ensure the scientific well-being of our children everywhere in the United States. 

I am not new to this controversy. I come from an ultra-conservative Catholic upbringing and currently study Biology where I continually learn that nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution. Throughout my entire life, I have endured vehement tirades from both evolutionists and creationists without uttering a word.  For better or worse, I could not just ignore the problem.  While I remained unaffiliated, both institutions labeled my hesitancy as betrayal.

Many religions stemming from Christianity do not support evolution because it does not have a role for God in how we came to exist and contradicts the literal interpretation of the Bible. In other words, evolution hits a nerve of faith. Endorsing evolution forces Christians to declare their faith in God without reassurance from the Bible. Many of us claim to have undying faith in God, but when presented with evolution, we become defensive and reproach science and scientists for attempting to shake the stability of our foundation. But I must remind you that evolution neither denies nor confirms the existence of God. Nonetheless, the theory still troubled a lot of us, because it reinforced the limitations of our human minds in understanding God. In our minds, finally accepting evolution meant believing in God with blind faith, and so science became the sworn enemy and all scientists became known as cold atheists.

In addition, scientific theories provide an explanation of different aspects of the natural world, based on well-substantiated evidence. A theory should allow scientists to make predictions of future observations if it holds validity and contains much more support than the mere assumption of a non-scientific theory. Charles Darwin spent many years observing different species of animals in South America. Despite seeing similarities, he also noticed that the finches on the Galapagos Islands had distinctive traits that allowed them to better exploit their environment. Darwin then hypothesized that preexisting life-forms evolved into the existing life-forms seen today under the influence of natural selection, in which individuals with more advantageous traits had better chances of surviving and reproducing in their environment.

Where Darwin relied on his senses and intuition, we have the technology today to examine the molecular level of an organism’s DNA to gain insight between the evolution of species and the corresponding changes in genetic material. With our fears removed, we can live in a world where religion and evolution coexist harmoniously. We can support evolution taught in our schools without compromising our faith or fighting for the inclusion of creationism. The theory of evolution suggests that all organisms share common ancestry with other organisms, connecting all of God’s creatures on Earth. But most importantly, I think the theory of evolution selects those weak in faith and challenges them to become stronger Christians.  I urge my fellow Catholics, Texans and all American to keep attacks on religion out of the classroom and attacks on science out of the legislature.