Scholar suggests creationism has place in schools
By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star, November 2, 2005
Intelligent design has an appropriate place in the school curriculum as long as it is taught not as science, but as religious belief, legal scholar Noah Feldman suggested Wednesday.
Students should be exposed to "a diversity of views," Feldman told a University of Nebraska-Lincoln symposium centered around the 1925 Scopes trial challenge to teaching evolution in Tennessee's public schools.
The Darwinian theory of evolution should continue to be taught in science classes, Feldman said, while creationism is an appropriate topic in other classes as a belief system that represents "a social reality in American life."
Feldman described intelligent design as "a euphemism of a euphemism," which began as creationism and morphed into creation science en route to its newest designation.
Inclusion of creationism in a school's curriculum would recognize "the centrality of the Bible to American life," Feldman said.
"It's perfectly appropriate to be discussed in the schools."
People are free to believe in creationism, view it as allegory or reject it, Feldman said.
"Intelligent design is not science," he said. "It is religious belief. But it doesn't follow that it's wrong or it's bad."
Feldman, who specializes in the relationship between law and religion, is the author of two books on Islamic democracy and Iraq. A third book, "Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It," was published this year.
Secularism in public life in the United States "always has had an irreducibly elitist character," Feldman said. Educational elitists, he said, have insisted that people who believe in creationism are "just dumb."
That air of condescension "devalues sincere religious experience," he said.
Popular resentment against "elitists telling people what to believe" has helped keep the battle that raged in Dayton, Tenn., alive eight decades later, Feldman said.
"It's a debate that's not going away," he said.
Understanding, tolerance and accommodation would be valuable, he said, since "you can't run a country in which half the people think the other half is off the rail."
On today's agenda at the week-long symposium is a panel discussion at the Lied Center on evolution, intelligent design and creationism. The event is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m.
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