School board candidates asked to rethink creationism vs. evolution

Brentwood resident, Robin Duntze D.V.M., said in an email to 40 South that she was dismayed to learn that all but one of the candidates in the Brentwood School Board candidates forum on Thursday supported teaching creationism in Brentwood Public schools.

(Originally published March 11.)

The majority of candidates in the forum said they supported teaching both creationism and evolution, when asked.

Lindsay Spencer was the only one who said teaching should be exclusively “science-based.” She concluded, “Teach evolution.”

Duntze said she has been a Brentwood resident since 1989; both her sons attended Brentwood schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. She sent an open letter to the candidates, encouraging them to rethink their position.

Duntze’s letter:

Creationism Has No Place In Public Schools

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Evolution is a fact; there is no scientific debate about the fundamentals of evolution. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 percent of American adults know that humans developed from earlier species. Many Americans consider evolution to be a threat to their personal or religious beliefs. The media has contributed to the problem by presenting evolutionary theory as controversial, and by false equivalency. Approximately 95 percent of the scientific community and academia support evolutionary theory; there is no controversy. Darwin’s hypothesis has stood the test of time and modern genetic science has confirmed his elegant theory.

Teaching creationism or intelligent design harms students because it creates confusion about established scientific fact.  It is one of the reasons that 15-year-olds in the United States placed 24th out of 71 counties on the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test of science education in 2015. Moreover, teaching creationism would make Brentwood School District vulnerable to lawsuits.  In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the United States Supreme Court determined that the teaching of creationism violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it was intended to advance a specific religion.  In Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., in 2004, the Supreme Court determined that intelligent design theory is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy of “teaching the controversy” also violated the Establishment Clause of the First amendment.

In conclusion, I would encourage the school board members who favor teaching creationism to rethink their position. Teaching creationism would be doing a disservice to Brentwood students by muddying their science education. It is not “doctrinaire” to insist that 2+2 = 4 instead of 5, nor is it “doctrinaire” to teach evolution.  We need our students to have mastery of scientific concepts in a future where STEM careers are increasingly important.

As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things: and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

55 thoughts on “School board candidates asked to rethink creationism vs. evolution

  1. Folks – Comments have been turned off for this article. Thanks for all your thoughts.

  2. I find people are way too serious about this. Lighten up people. Teach both ways and let people decide what to believe and what not to believe.

    • That’s a great way to teach. Let kids decide what science is right and what’s not. Shall we let them decide if the earth is flat as well?

  3. And here I thought Maplewood was becoming a great little progressive community. Love everything about it. Guess I will have to change my mind if creationism is being taught in the public schools. Maplewood would then be moving obviously backwards.

    Keep it in the churches.

    • You really didn’t pay attention to the article, did you? It clearly says ‘Brentwood’ at least 4 times. Believe it or not, 40 South News covers more than just Maplewood…

  4. Evolution is not a scientific fact, Duntze is incorrect, this is far from settled science. There is no scientific proof of macro evolution. Time, chance and mutation does not make living organisms more complex! DNA is the operating instructions, the governing software and for each living thing it is unique, it limits the variation and adaptability such that cats do not become dogs etc. Information is contained in that software and wherever there is information there must be an information giver. In a similar vein, consider the laws governing chemistry, physics and mathematics. Where there are laws there must be a law giver.

    Teachers should not teach creation because they are likely to get it as wrong as they have teaching evolution. What should be allowed is since evolution is being taught then certainly all the scientific criticisms of the evolution hypothesis should be allowed and taught as well. Far too many people are not aware of the many serious weaknesses and outright falsehoods too often included as evolution fact. Clearly constant popular cultural conditioning in deep time and chance feigns to make natural selection and mutation the creator.

      • Public education benefits society by imparting current knowledge not religious theses.

        • Public education leaves much to be desired if the diminution of testing standards and current test results are to be believed. There was a time when education involved a search for the truth as an objective;alas those days appear to be from a bygone era. And religions take many forms these days and ultimately the vast majority of them lead to less than stellar results and ultimately no good end. Would it were not so,

      • Are you able to be more specific? Anything in particular I posted that is incorrect? I’ve got an idea, why don’t you tell me the evolution proofs which have convinced you that matter can assemble itself, generate life and become more complex over time.

    • If there must be a law giver because there are laws, then who is the law giver who gave the law that there has to be a law giver? And who gave the law that gave the giver of laws the law that there are laws to give?
      Let me guess. God. Belongs in religion class, not science class.
      Thanks for proving Duntze’s point.

      From my “constant popular cultural conditioning”….
      Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria.

      Shorter version: what Cindy said.

      • Maybe logic wasn’t your best course in school Maryr. But the answer is the same intelligence that makes 2+2=4 and not 5 or 3.14. For more consider (Goog) the Mandelbrot set and Jason Lisle’s presentation on fractals.

        Remember science is a process of discovery, investigation and repetition. It is not a belief set, especially not a mandatory belief set. That would be a religion.

        • Hahahahahahah. I think I get it now. You are like an Andy Kaufmanesque performance artist. You are parroting talking points from the discovery institute and answers in genesis ironically!
          An educated person, like yourself, obviously knows that Wolfram’s mathematics show in examples that ordered complexity does occur by accident and that Lisle’s argument that god has hidden transcendent truths in fractals is a classic example of the fallacious argument from incredulity. (Learned that in my logic class)

  5. My Dear Ms. Duntze~

    Hmm…
    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
    This is fair enough…

    “fewer than 50 percent of American adults know that humans developed from earlier species”
    Goodness what a disparity! with a number this large, could we mean to say that fewer than 50 Percent *agree*?

    “Many Americans consider evolution to be a threat to their personal or religious beliefs.”
    …Just as many in the scientific fields consider religion to be a threat to their own beliefs…

    “…There is no controversy…”
    a 50% of-adults issue would certainly seem to define a controversy… I wonder what that approximate 5% of academia has to say on the matter? This statement only makes sense one way: “there is no controversy [among people who matter to you]” People who make their living doing science; the people *you* choose to look to unquestioningly for answers to the world’s uncertain questions; Kind of like some people look towards religion.

    “Hypothesis”
    Fact? Hypothesis. There is good ground for the observed law of microevolution and some considerable evidence for the continuing hypothesis of macroevolution– but no tangible proof. By the principles of science you seem to treasure, a hypothesis it still remains.

    “…24th out of 71…”
    That’s pretty bad, alright. I’m fairly confident that in an environment where youth attention-spans are measured in seconds and pop-culture is the closest thing to a national ideal that we still widely share…. an individual’s stance on the destiny of prehistoric monkeys is probably not a key reason why we’re falling behind here.

    “…Lawsuits…”
    You’re probably right. What a shame it would be if the shoe were on the other foot and an institution’s teachings about another mysterious field like Sub-quantum Mechanics were subject to that kind of suppression from a political body which should have more fitting things to do.

    “…2+2=4…”
    That is a wonderfully concise equation to sum up the scientifically estimated 3.8 Billion years of history during which many think the rich and complex story of life on earth has slowly played out. But is it robust enough? Has it encompassed all the variables? Is there any future discovery conceivable to the powers of the human mind that might alter the current “consensus” understanding on this somewhat? If so, it’s probably too simple and we might want to leave room in the teaching for some X’es in there.

    And now we’ve come full circle. A person (or body of people) is most certainly not entitled to his, or her, or their own facts. This article seems to have elegantly though unintentionally indicted in itself the very accusation it has sought to direct outside.
    Respectfully Yours,

    • “a hypothesis it still remains”

      No. It’s a theory, just like gravity. There is tangible proof of evolution. That is why it is considered a scientific theory. You just choose to ignore it, or are you one of those that believes Satan left fossils here to trick us? I bet that’s it. The earth is 6000 years old too, right?

      “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.”

      But I guess the bible trumps all, because that thing is loaded with tangible evidence.

    • A brilliant satirical takedown of creationist arguments! From the name (seeker of truth) to the question that had me rolling on the floor, “2+2=4, has it encompassed all the variables?” Truly, one of the funniest things I have read in a while! Pretending not to know the difference between evolution and natural selection and between a theory and a hypothesis really puts the ceationists in their place. And using biblical concepts of mystery to describe complicated science was inspired! But I must warn “seeker of truth” that there is no satire so ridiculously over the top that some people will think you are serious and they may judge your ability to make coherent arguments rather harshly. Keep up the good work!

      • Oh dear..
        If modern “Science” is reading even a fraction as much into the fossil record as you are into this post, my friend, I’d say the genuine skepticism is well grounded.

        • Oh my, you are just too clever! The dichotomy of putting science in quotes and then referring to yourself as a genuine skeptic lets your readers know that your tongue if firmly planted in your cheek. And then your clever play on words….fossil and well grounded! A precise writer like yourself could only have done that on purpose to let us know of your humorous intent. Wow.
          By now even those who thought your post was, how shall we put this kindly, serious, must acknowledge your debt to Jonathan Swift.
          Bravo, my friend.

          • Bravo to you, my friend! Your handy bait-and-switch, it is noted, was expertly calculated to leave you a rhetorical out in case of any answer. That really was clever.
            Unfortunately, rhetoric without logical substance is rather meaningless and is soon forgotten. A scientist should be able to do better.

    • “Rhetoric without logical substance is rather meaningless” -A Seeker of Truth
      Self deprecation! The pinnacle of the comedians craft.
      Please stop, my side hurts from laughing.

      • (Maybe if we laugh a little harder this person will go away… Curses! it’s not working.) 😀

        • Who is this ‘we’ to whom you refer? The royal we? The multiple personality we? Do we have people helping us write?
          One must admire the cognitive dissonance of concluding that if a person laughs at me and I don’t go away, then I will laugh at that person and they will go away. Is that what you mean by logical substance?
          Should I put this in parentheses?😂

          • All satire aside, (For that is what the parenthetical post was meant to attempt,) This is what comes of trying to have an open-minded constructive conversation with people who say they live by such ideals but obviously do not functionally believe them. This is by no means the first conversation I’ve had with religious supporters of establishment “Science” that has come out this way– and it supports a good body of evidence pointing in the direction of the real truth. I would encourage anyone with an interested mind to look for it wholeheartedly and with the scientific humility characteristic of Newton, Faraday, Semmelweis, Et al.
            And now I think I’ve said quite a bit more than is going to be listened to around here.
            Thank you very much!

    • Dear Seeker of Truth,
      1. How dare you presume to know the ideals I believe in and live by? I have not discussed them with you.
      2. Scare quotes around the word science, will not encourage the open-minded constructive conversation you say you want.
      3. Scientific humility isn’t a thing. It’s word salad.
      4. I know that when people post in a hurry they don’t proofread their work, and I know you did not mean what you literally wrote, but it really is one of the funniest things I have read. “I would encourage anyone with an interested mind to look for it wholeheartedly…” In this case, the antecedent of “it” is “mind”. One who has lost a mind should indeed look for it. (and yes, I believe you meant look for the truth, but that is not what you wrote)
      Every one of your posts has been a delight to read.
      I sincerely encourage you to continue seeking the truth.

  6. How about Medic-Alert bracelets for creationists, instructing health care professionals not to use any antibiotic other than penicillin on the wearer.
    Multi-drug Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus? Puh-lease! Microorganisms can not “evolve” resistance to penicillin. Expensive newfangled antibiotics are at best a ploy for Big Pharma to boost profits–or maybe a sinister plot for Satan to lead us astray!
    I am sure creationists would be willing to trust their livesto their beliefs; the situation may resolve itself.

  7. Excellent letter and valid argument from Dr. Duntze. Hopefully the Brentwood school board is listening. Evolution is an accepted scientific theory and should be taught in public school science classes. Creationism is a religious theory based on a story in the Bible and should be taught (if desired) in Sunday School. We shouldn’t mix science and religion. It’s that’s simple.

  8. Brentwood schools have never been criticized so vehemently by ignorant citizens. Teach Creationism and Darwinism both. If not, THEN be prepared to explain black holes in space, multi-dimensional life, the truth or fallacy of Yeddi, the new discoveries of life forms that are hundreds’ of millions of years old—-never mind—you can’t—-just making the point of your ignorance re what YOU SO REPEATEDLY IN ANY MYSTERY OF THE UNIVERSE, OPPOSE. You are scarier than i like to ever think about. Sorry for you, but blessings. Brentwood schools have LONG been open to interpretations==each interpretation being well explained. I graduated a lot of years ago—and things like creationism (not inconsistent) with evolution were left to debate. LET THE YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE UP THEIR OWN MINDS.

    • Shall we let young people make up their own minds about Gravity? How about letting them make up their own minds about whether the holocaust happened or not? Let’s also let them make up their own minds about math. 2+2=5 now.

      Let them make up their own minds is the worst idea I have ever heard. You are not concerned about children’s education. You are just concerned about spreading your religious beliefs. No one wants to be preached to in school.

  9. Miss evolutionist, i feel sorry for you. You have NO dispositive proof. You proceed on NOTHING. You have no respect for the diversity of the entire universe. Creationism is EVERY BIT AS VALID as evolution. Creationism is God’s warmth of life. Evolution is an suiss cheese “theory” for those who do not believe in the Absolute Power of God. Think of these: Black Holes in the universe, the unfolding of new stars and planets, the intricacies of all life on earth. WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT CAME FROM?? I hope you open your (currently very small) mind to infinity. The Great I Am does NOT need your approval—but it is in the best interests of students to learn that not all the world is of a singular material nature. Intuition, creativity, extraordinary strong senses are not measured in material terms. Hope you either leave the school system, or OPEN YOUR “non-taxable” gift of Truth Eyes given you by God. If GOD IS NOT REAL—-YOU ARE ONLY AS REAL AS A STONE___ MADE BY THE NATURAL CHANGES GOD PUT IN PLACE, OR JUST A STONE to deterioate as though you never existed. How do you feel about NEVER HAVING EXISTED?

    • maureen – your strategic use of CAPITAL LETTERS is far more convincing to me than ACTUAL SCIENCE. YOU HAVE OPENED MY EYES! THANK YOU!

        • NOWHERE in God’s Word does it say HOW God created the heavens and the earth. That is not the point of the Bible. NOWHERE have I seen in the Bible stated the age of the earth. I’ve studied the Protestant Bible cover to cover alongside a Bible commentary plus read it complete two additional times. If I’ve missed it in my Bible study, please give me chapter and verse.

          There are Christians who accept Evolution just as there are those who accept Creationism. A person’s pastor or denomination may take a stand, but the Bible does not. What some people are doing is hurting the cause of Christ and making Christians look idiotic to non-Christians.

    • Maureen,

      Not all students / families in Brentwood believe in the same god. If you believe in Creationism, teach it at home or in your place of worship and please, keep Church and State separate.

  10. There is a time and place for teaching creationism, and that place is church, since, at its core, creationism is a christian ideology. Creationism is a religious subject, and those who wish to learn more about it have outlets to do so, just outside of public school. To equate creationism to evolution would be a fallacy, since not only are they not a part of the same subject, creationism is rooted in an agenda to teach religion whereas evolution is simply a statement of fact based on observable phenomenon in the natural world, similar to cell theory or the theory of relativity. These theories are the accumulation of evidence and decades of hard work done by multitudes of scientists. As a Brentwood alumni currently in a STEM field, it is disheartening to know that the areas of study in which I am passionate about, which I believe more young people should be encouraged to explore, is seriously being equated to what boils down to a three word sentence; “God did it.” While there is nothing inherently wrong with the belief of creationism, I agree with the sentiments of many of the people here. It has no place being taught alongside evolution in a public school.

  11. Does anyone else see the irony in this? The Scopes Trial, The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was a case in May 1925 in which a substitute high school teacher, John T. Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. Now we have the reverse – courts outlawing the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools. In both cases, in 1925 and now, the open expression of ideas is silenced by another party. What are we afraid of? Don’t we all want to expand our understanding and knowledge, and explore the possibilities beyond our own dogma?

    • John, science allows us to expand our knowledge and understanding. Creationism and intelligent design restrict our ability to explore new possibilities by asserting that god is the answer. If you believe that science is dogmatic, you don’t understand the process of science or the meaning of dogma.
      No one is trying to silence the open expression of ideas with which you are so concerned. We simply assert that theology is taught in theology class and science is taught in science class. Creationism and intelligent design are not science and should not be taught in science class. No one is trying to stop you from believing in supernatural explanations for things you don’t understand, as humans have been doing for thousands of years, but science is only concerned with natural explanations that can be tested.
      You ask what we are afraid of? We are afraid that our children will be mis-informed in a world where science and math education is more important than ever. We are afraid of a school board whose members are either uninformed or who want to impose their personal religious beliefs on children of different faiths.
      As for your “irony” of the the courts in 1925 outlawing the teaching of a scientific idea and the courts today restricting the teaching of religious ideas (like creationism) to religion classes, you are making a false equivalency.

    • Jesus Christ… Promoting creationism, a religious belief, in schools is not equivalent to teaching evolution, a scientific theory. Scopes was about prohibiting the teaching of science; the First Amendment prohibits state establishment of RELIGION. Religious understanding and knowledge =/= scientific understanding and knowledge.

  12. It’s perfectly fine to teach creationism in a religion or philosophy class. Creationism has NO place in a science classroom. Evolution does not preclude a belief in god.

  13. I agree with Duntze. The teaching of creationism has absolutely no place in the public schools. To state that it’s important to “teach both sides” is a false equivalency. Evolution is a fact. Creationism is a religious doctrine. Furthermore, it’s a religious doctrine to only certain people. It’s not the “other side” of the issue. It’s a completely different view based on religious beliefs. There is certainly nothing wrong with believing in creationism, it just does not belong as a part of curriculum in public schools.
    Bravo to you, Duntze, for expressing your concerns.

    • My husband and I are shocked and dismayed that current members of the Brentwood School Board as well as the array of board candidates are supporting teaching creationism in our schools.

      According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the scientific method is “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” Evolutionary theory is firmly rooted in this scientific method.

      Creationism, per Merriam-Webster, is “a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis”. Creationism holds firm to the belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural processes such as evolution.

      The question of teaching creationism vs. evolution is mute. Creationism does not follow the scientific method and therefore has NO place in the STEM curriculum.

      Brentwood School District has a history of valuing the cultural and religious diversity of ALL of its students. Each religion has its own rich tradition of creation stories, from the Native Americans to the Japanese. Each spiritual heritage bases its foundation upon the work of a Deity to form our world. Since Brentwood School District has a history of valuing the cultural and religious diversity of ALL of its students, it follows that ALL creation stories deserve fair representation. The theory of creationism is inappropriate for a STEM class but could be discussed in either a world religions or cultural anthropology class. All Brentwood students and their families DO NOT ascribe to the Judaeo-Christian idea of creation but those families of a specific religious orientation might have their creation lore addressed in these alternate elective classes. This would provide our students with the opportunity to learn more about each other and our individual life views.

      I repeat—creationism DOES NOT ascribe to the scientific method and therefore should NOT be part of the STEM curriculum in Brentwood Schools. If the need to address such theories is preferred by families, then it should be addressed for ALL students in an elective multicultural literature or anthropology class. Such a class would provide improved understanding and acceptance of ALL of our students.

    • Totally agree, Beth. Creationism falls under religion, and evolution falls under science, much in the same way as prayer falls under religion, and medicine falls under science. You can teach both, but within their respective contexts.

  14. Public schools shouldn’t be in the business of advocating for one religion’s beliefs. Creationism is clearly an attempt to preach Christian theology in our public schools – instead, maybe we should teach the First Amendment.

    • using your logic, mohammad’s akbar is also fake. Do you stand by that? What are you willing to bet to secure your position?

  15. I support teaching both. That’s the way is was when I grew up and I appreciate knowing both sides.

  16. Thank you for pointing this out. A public school board should not support teaching creationism in our public school. I, too, am glad to learn that Lindsay Spencer supports fact-based education. I agree with Robin that the candidates should reconsider.

    • May your influence move far and wide. What people do not understand is that creationism and evolution ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. Thanks for your post.

    • Those in attendance at the forum as well as those who live streamed it know that this is a misrepresentation of what was said. You can view the forum at Lois Truman for Brentwood School Board Facebook page.

      Four of the five candidates affirmed that evolution should be included in the curriculum as well as teaching all social theories surrounding creation. One candidate stated that she believed only evolution should be taught.

      • “Four of the five candidates … teaching all social theories surrounding creation.”

        Well there ya go. That’s all I need to know who NOT to vote for.

        • Gosh, I AM AS STUPID AS YOU Isadora Bull & Karen Laseter AND all who are AFRAID of alternative theories. I misspoke and said i agreed that Creationism should be banned. THAT WAS AN ERROR. It is anthropologically FACTUAL THAT PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF WHAT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Those who decide the level of stupidity they PERSONALLY adhere to—will live with the children who will decide the end of their own parents. EUTHANASIA—–sorry ma’ and pa’— you are not more than an aged plant needing to be replaced, Or a rock in the damn that kept your child save—but no longer needed. “You gotta go…” You are seriously making a mistake to claim that “science” –never proving a complete trail of evolution is THE only track You obviously are in deficit of the mysteries of all beings–and all that is.