Fixing the Human-Origins Education Problem

On May 24, 2006, I addressed the Faculty of Education, School of Education Studies of the University of Kwazu­lu-Natal, Edgewood Campus, South Africa. In attendance were professors of education and officers of the Provincial History Committee. Here are some excerpts from the address:

In recent times, archaeologists have become interested in seeing what the science of human origins and antiquity looks like from different cultural perspectives. My investigations in the field of human origins and antiquity are in­spired to some extent by my studies in the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. Among these writings is a group called the Puranas, or histories. These histories inform us that humans have existed since the beginning of life on Earth. If you are interested in learning more about the Puranic concept of extreme human antiquity and how it re­lates to physical evidence, you can have a look at my paper “Puranic Time and the Archeological Record,” present­ed at the World Archaeological Congress 3 in New Delhi, in 1994 and later published in the peer-reviewed confer­ence proceedings volume Time and Archaeology (Routledge, London, 1999) edited by archeologist Tim Murray.

The same message of extreme human antiquity, that humans have been present since the beginning of life on Earth, is found in other spiritual traditions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Of course this idea is differ­ent from the idea of human origins and antiquity supported by the modern followers of Charles Darwin. They say that… humans like us came into existence only about 150,000 years ago. And they say all of the physical evidence supports this evolutionary picture of human origins. But when I did eight years of research into the entire history of archaeology, I found something different. Over the past 150 years, archaeologists have found much evidence showing that humans have existed since the beginning of the history of life on earth. This evidence takes the form of human skeletal remains, human footprints and human artifacts many millions of years old.

I documented this evidence in my book Forbidden Archeology, with my coauthor Richard L. Thompson.

What is the significance of this evidence? In a letter dated August 10, 1993, William W. Howells, one of the principal architects of the modern theory of human evolution wrote to me, “Thank you for sending me a copy of Forbidden Archeology, which represents much careful effort in critically assembling published materials….. To have modern human beings…appearing a great deal earlier, in fact at a time when even simple primates did not ex­ist as possible ancestors, would be devastating… to the whole theory of evolution.”

Everything I have said is, of course, controversial. There are going to be different opinions about it all and you may not be persuaded to accept my anti-evolutionary opinions. But I am hoping to persuade you that there are al­ternative views on the origin of species that can be supported by physical evidence and that there are some of us who are representing these alternative views in the world of science—making presentations at leading scientific institutions, at scientific conferences and in scientific publications. If these alternative views are being represented in the world of science, they should also be represented in the classroom.

Now let’s be honest about something. The current alternatives to Darwinism are theistic, in one form or an­other. Creationists of various kinds are quite open about their theistic perspectives. Supporters of the more recent intelligent design theory are not so open, but almost everyone knows that the designer they talk about is God.

Should theistic alternatives to Darwinism be allowed in science classrooms? One thing that educators and edu­cation policy makers should consider before answering a question like this is the beliefs of students and their par­ents. Education and here I am talking about state supported education, is a public service, funded by the tax mon­ey of all the people. It would seem natural that the opinions of the people should be a factor in making decisions about education policy. Surveys have been done on this topic. Because I am from the United States, I will give the results of the study from there. In 2005 Nature published the results of a survey by the Gallup organization on be­lief in evolution in the United States among teenagers 13-17 years old. The survey found only 18% believed hu­mans came about by evolution from apelike beings without God. About 43% believed God created human beings by guiding their evolution from apelike beings. We must keep in mind that the idea that God guided evolution from the beginning to produce humans contradicts the modern scientific idea that evolution is an unguided, natu­ral process relying on random genetic mutations. Finally, the survey found that 38% of the teenagers believed that God created humans in the beginning just as they are today (that is the view that I myself favor). What about adults? According to the same Gallup survey, only 35% of Americans believe the theory of evolution is well sup­ported by scientific evidence. Educators and education policy makers should take these beliefs of students and their parents into account.

Some educators and education policy makers will naturally raise this questions: Should God have any place in the science classroom? In order to answer this question, we should have a clear understanding of the different roles that the concept of God plays in religion, philosophy and science. In religion, God is an object of worship. And the state should not dictate to people how they should worship God. And of course, religion, worship of God, has no place in science classrooms. In philosophy, God is a metaphysical principle that many philosophers have ar­rived at through the exercise of logic and reason. Government should not dictate to philosophers that they cannot use logic and reason to come to the conclusion that there is God. Neither should government forbid philosophy teachers in schools and universities to teach about philosophers (like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, etc.) who have come to that conclusion. In science, God is an inference arrived at by study of nature. Historically, many scientists have in­ferred from their study of nature that there must be a supreme intelligent being responsible for the order and complexity visible to us. And government should not forbid scientists to make that inference. Neither should they forbid teachers from teaching about scientists who have inferred the existence of God, an intelligent designer, from the evidence visible to us.

Some educators and education policy makers are under the impression that there has always been and always should be, a clear separation between God and science. But the best of modern scholarship in the history and phi­losophy of science demonstrates that this is not true. I refer you to a recent (2001) volume edited by John Hedley Brooke, et al. and published by the University of Chicago Press, titled Science in Theistic Contexts. The University of Chicago Press description of this book tells us: “This new collection shows religious ideas not only motivated scientific effort but also shaped the actual content of major scientific theories.” It is a modern myth that God and science have nothing to do with each other.

So what are the practical implications of all this for education policy? First, education policy makers should recognize that today the vast majority of scientists accept the theory of evolution. This is a fact. But it is also a fact that some in the world of science, a small number, do not accept the theory and are proposing theistic alternatives and education policy makers should recognize this. The proper solution is that the theory of evolution and its sup­porters should be given most of the time in the classroom and most of the pages in the textbooks. But a small amount of classroom time and a small number of textbook pages should be devoted to neutrally presenting the theistic alternatives to the current theory of evolution. How small? I would suggest five percent of the classroom time and five percent of the textbook pages. But I will leave it up to you.

Right now, in many parts of the world, especially the United States, educators and education policy makers are participating in a system of intellectual apartheid that is artificially excluding voices that are opposed to the theory of evolution from the education system. We should end this system of artificial exclusion and give fair, proportion­ate representation to all the views that are there in the world of science. We cannot pretend that there is no debate about these questions. Everyone knows there is a debate. It is going on in the media, in the courts, in the school systems themselves. Educators and education policy makers can take a leading role in resolving this debate in the fairest way for all concerned.

Michael A. Cremo is author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race. His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see www.humandevolution.com).

BY MICHAEL CREMO

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