Should Intelligent Design be included in Oklahoma’s public school curriculum as an explanation for the origin of humankind?
Two speakers debated this controversial topic in the College Union on March 16.
Approximately 40 people filled the room to bear witness as science and the Bible went head to head at a debate sponsored by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Sophia Hernandez, vice president of Americans United in Oklahoma, said the event had a good turnout.
The pastor of Olivet Baptist church in Oklahoma City, Dr. Steven Kern, said he opposes the teaching of evolution in the public schools because evolution denies the existence of God. Instead, he believes that Intelligent Design should be offered to show that higher life forms came from a plan and not a random accident.
Evolution, or Darwinism, is a theory that holds that the human species evolved from apes or other lower life forms.
He argued that teaching young ones about macro evolution creates all kinds of discrepancies, such as the fear to learn about God.
Kern concedes the validity of micro evolution, where microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria, adapt to environmental changes. But he rejects macro evolution where one species evolves into a different form of life.
Kern’s counterpart who believes in the teaching of evolution was Abbie Smith, a biology graduate student and HIV researcher at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center.
Smith disagreed with Kern’s opposition to macro evolution.
“Teaching macro evolution to kids at an early age gives them a chance to choose what they want to believe in when they get older,” she said.
Smith said she is not opposed to teaching about Intelligent Design, but not in science classes. She closed her argument by adding that science teachers need to be teaching kids the basics of macro and micro evolution.
“When you learn Spanish, you don’t go straight to ‘Don Quixote’ and doing your translation analysis on your own,” she said. “You start with the basics.”
Smith said that youngsters should grow up to talk about real scientific controversies.
On the contrary, Kern argued that bringing evolution into public school classrooms would only be acceptable to him if Biblical creationism is also taught, eliminating any sort of favoritism between the two subjects.
He supported his statement by reading from the stack of papers in his hands: “Government must show no favoritism between religion and non-religion, Waltz vs. Tax Commission,” he read. “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion, Jefferson vs. Arkansas. 1968.”
The diverse audience included both young and old, evolutionists and creationists. They had plenty to say about the debate. “Abbie was talking over Dr. Kern’s head,” said Hayden Kirkpatrick, a ninth grader at Edmond North High School. She is currently learning about DNA replication at school.
A self-confessed science lover, Kirkpatrick believes that Kern used unsubstantial evidence to support his statement, and thinks that he could have done better to defend his argument.
Another audience member offered a different perspective.
“There is no such thing as cats turning into dogs,” the man said. “The Creator (God) is the one responsible for science.”
The debate started at 7 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 8:30 but went longer than expected. No one in the audience seemed to mind.
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