Do public schools disregard the sanctity of life?
That’s the charge recently from Answers In Genesis’ Ken Ham. Ham responded to an article in which a public-school textbook author wondered about when life begins. Ham’s argument can tell us a few things about religion, creationism, and public schooling.
Ham, arguably America’s leading young-earth creationism advocate, argued that Dr. Ricki Lewis failed to promote a Biblical vision of the beginnings of life. Lewis argued that science could not offer a simple explanation of the point at which life began.
As she wrote,
that is a question not only of biology, but of philosophy, politics, psychology, religion, technology, and emotions. . . . textbooks list the characteristics of life, leaving interpretation to the reader.
Dr. Lewis offered seventeen common interpretations of the beginnings of life, from pre-conception to birth to puberty. In her opinion, the best answer was somewhere in the middle. Life became life, she thought, at roughly week 22 of pregnancy, the point at which most babies can survive outside the mothers’ wombs.
Ham disagreed. “Sadly,” he argued,
Dr. Lewis’s conclusion is false. She reaches it using human reasoning rather than the Word of God, and that’s likely how biology writers and teachers across the country are instructing their students to determine when life begins. No wonder so many think that abortion is not killing a human being—or really murdering a human being!
For those of us who follow the educational culture-wars from the sidelines, Ham’s argument can tell us a few things. First of all, it helps us understand that many creationists care about more than just evolution. They have much broader religious visions for schooling. Second, it shows us that many religious conservatives have already given up hope for public schooling.
For those new to the creationism/evolution scene, it may seem surprising that a young-earth creationist such as Ken Ham would be interested in issues such as abortion and the beginnings of life. But Ham and other creationists are first and foremost conservative evangelical Protestants. Creationism may be the issue for which they garner the most attention, but other issues such as gay marriage and abortion remain of central interest.
Also, Ham’s post shows the attitude shared by many religious conservatives about public schooling. Ham takes it as a given that public schooling is fraught with perils to faith. He opens his argument by reminding readers that public schools have been traveling down a dangerous road for some time. As he puts it,
One of the major trends many of us have witnessed over the years has been the way God has basically been thrown out of the public education system, including secular colleges and universities. Students often have to contend with teaching that is contradictory to God’s Word—especially when it comes to the origin of the universe.
Abortion, climate change, evolution, gay marriage…all are of central interest to conservative activists. And, most important for these pages, all issues in which schooling and education will continue to play a central role.