Steamboat Springs Whether the origin of life was created by a natural chemical reaction, God or a divine energy of souls, evolutionary scientists are discovering that creationism and evolution do not have to butt heads any longer.
At the start of Charlie Leech's evolution unit, the Steamboat Springs High School biology teacher gave students options to explore one of evolution's hot topics the origin of life.
Leech said he gave students options because evolutionary scientists are not as concerned with how life was created as much as how it has changed since complex life arose.
Leech said he thinks it would be beneficial if students could be taught all the origin of life options, and then let each student decide what is the best personal choice.
"Evolution is a fact it happens," Leech said. "It's also a theory that explains how life's diversity has come to be."
According to Webster's Dictionary, creationism is the doctrine that ascribes the origin of matter, species, etc. to acts of creation by God.
"Creationism doesn't have to exclude evolution, and evolution doesn't have to exclude creationism," Leech said. "My biology teacher was my Sunday school teacher."
Junior Jenni Stanford said she feels creationism deserves a chance in the classroom, more so than Leech provided.
"There are certain ideas of creationism and evolution, they go hand-in-hand. They don't have to cancel each other out," Stanford said. "When we asked what else is there, what about other origins of life, he said there is no scientific evidence for those. Yes there is. I just don't feel like we had a chance to get all that."
Michael Antolin, associate professor of biology at Colorado State University, said much of the misunderstandings is not how life was created, but why.
"The 'why' is what you want to believe, your faith. Creationism is a bold face attempt to inject religion into science classrooms." Antolin said. "Trying to inject religion in science classes is highly offensive to me."
Webster's definition of evolution: the development of a species, organism or organ from its original or primitive state to its present or specialized state (Darwinian theory).
During Thursday's sixth-period class, students sat at their desks and wrote their thoughts on the evolution unit they recently covered in class.
Politicians, theologists and evolutionary scientists around the country have pondered whether public schools should allow for the teaching of both creationism and evolution. This debate first started with the rejection of evolution in the classroom, but evolved into the rejection of creationism in public schools. In 1925, the state of Tennessee brought John Scopes, a biology teacher charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution, to trial in Dayton, Tenn. Tennessee enacted a bill stating it was unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals." The goal of Scopes' defense attorneys was not to have him acquitted, but to make a point to the U.S. Supreme Court that forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools was unconstitutional. It wasn't until 43 years later, in the 1968 case of Epperson v. Arkansas, that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Scopes' trial outcome to prohibit the teaching of evolution. The ruling was reversed on the grounds that the First Amendment does not allow states to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to any particular religious sect or doctrine. Although the reversal didn't prohibit creationism, it did allow for evolution. However, in 1981 and 1987, cases in Arkansas and Louisiana held that evolution and creationism do not deserve equal time in the classroom because "creation science is not in fact a science." In February 2001, the Montana House State Administration Committee did not make a decision whether they would or would not allow creationism and evolution to be taught in public schools, but rather tabled the issue. Creationists in Montana argued that other options of origins of life deserve equal time in the classroom next to evolution. Opponents of this subject feel that teaching religion in classrooms is "blatantly unconstitutional," the Missoulian reported. And not long ago, Kansas' Board of Education voted to reinstate the evolution standards in the classroom favoring the evolutionists. Sources: University of Missouri at Kansas City, National Center for Science Education, and the Associated Press
"It's difficult to be a person who believes in creationism when you're taught to believe evolution in a public school setting," Rachel Miller wrote.
Some were avid creationists, other students thought Leech gave them helpful options.
"I think that the way we learned evolution this year was the best way we could. (We) didn't focus on one theory, we learned all of them, and Leech let us decide for ourself what we believe in," Drew Roberts wrote.
While students voiced their concerns that teachers don't give them enough origin of life options, teachers sit back with their hands tied.
"Teachers don't want to get in trouble," Leech told sophomore Joel Adams after Adams said teachers are conservative in voicing their beliefs in the classroom.
Adams said everyone has an opinion and should be able to voice it, but the law says otherwise because of teachers' position in the classroom.
"My family is really religious, but the whole scientific thing is really realistic," Adams said.
Leech said a problem lies within the misconception that a theory is a negative thing in science.
"(People) see it as a weakness, but scientists see that as a strength," Leech said, adding the difference between a theory and a hypothesis is that the former has withstood multiple tests.
Again, according to Webster, a theory, like that of evolution, implies considerable evidence in support of a formulated general principle explaining the operation of certain phenomena.
Contrary to a theory, a hypothesis implies an inadequacy of evidence in support of an explanation that is tentatively inferred, often as a basis for further experimentation.
But within the last two years, science has begun to redesign the outlook on evolution and creation in order to find a middle ground for both parties.
It's called intelligent design, but it's not all that new.
Leech said the frame of thought started sometime in the 1600s, but is just now finding popularity among scientists and creationists alike.
"Scientists are realizing these first life forms couldn't have occurred through natural selection. Natural selection alone cannot explain the origins of life," Leech said. "The origin of life is a hypothesis."
Both religion and science make up our culture, but taking entirely different roles, Leech said. People in each category think and act differently, but each do not have to explain each other.
"If you look to Genesis to explain evolution, you're looking in the wrong place," Leech said. "(Evolution) is what science supports. Evolution is just a fundamental to all of biology."
Antolin added that creationists views accept the fact that there is change within a species over time, but do not accept the common descent theory.
Antolin said that the 'why are we here?' question is an old battle that itself continues to evolve with time.
But as society emerges into the 21st century with an abundance of information, the potential could be damaging, he said.