Red Hen Creationism

I’ll bet we don’t agree about this one. As you’re sick of hearing by now, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was politely kicked out of a DC-area restaurant. Sanders complained about the fundamental incivility of her political foes. Whatever we think about defenestrating Sanders, we need to consider the implications of this dust-up for our creation/evolution discussions.


Kicked out for Trumpism…

You’ve likely read them all by now: Progressive types have argued that it was okay to be rude to Sanders, because Sanders was personally responsible for defending a horrific, hateful public policy. Conservative pundits call this episode an “appalling” example of the totalitarian mindset of the left. My favorite analysis came from someone I don’t usually agree with who laments the dangerous situation we are all in.

What does any of this have to do with creationism?

Like Sanders, a lot of creationists feel “kicked out” of public schools. They insist that schools teaching mainstream evolutionary science without any creationist science are not welcome places for their creationist kids.

So here’s the question: Do creationists have a right to feel welcome in public schools?

The ILYBYBTH answer: Yes, absolutely. But there’s a ‘but.’ As savvy creationists should want just as much as the rest of us, public schools need to avoid teaching any religious ideas in a devotional way. That is, public schools need to teach kids about religion, but they should never preach any particular religion.

Creationists have never been ejected from public schools. What WAS ejected—and very properly—was the idea that any religiously inspired science should have an equal voice in science classes.

As I’m arguing in my new book, the biggest disagreement in our continuing creation/evolution battles is not actually about creation or evolution. Rather, the problem is a breakdown of trust. If we hope to teach mainstream science in a way that welcomes all people to our public schools, we need to be much clearer about the things that we do and don’t disagree about.

For example, we should all agree on this: All creationists are always welcome in public schools. If they feel otherwise, we need to fix that. But creationism itself is not welcome, at least not as part of the official curriculum. If anyone feels otherwise, we need to fix that, too.

Leave a comment


  1. I’ll bet we don’t agree about this one.

    I don’t even agree with myself on this one.

    If I were the owner of that Red Hen, I would have attempted to calm down the employees and allow Sanders her meal.

    On the other hand, deliberate incivility is a core practice of the Trump administration. How dare they complain about incivility.

    • Agellius

       /  June 27, 2018

      On the other hand, how dare Trump’s critics complain about incivility while indulging in it themselves.

      Just yesterday, near where I work, there was a small crowd of people protesting a speech by Jeff Sessions. As I walked out of my building on my way to lunch, I saw a man, evidently one of the protesters, walking across the street, taking his time, on a red light. A police car was coming through the intersection with its lights on and blasted its siren at the man. Well deserved in my opinion; the guy was deliberately flouting the traffic laws and screwing up the flow of traffic. But one of the protesters across the street bellowed at the top of his voice, at the police officers, “FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!!!” Followed by another guy, who yelled the same thing at a couple of officers who were standing on the sidewalk for the purpose of keeping order. Of course the officers can’t say or do anything back, which makes it a rather cowardly thing to do.

      I’m a conservative but I didn’t vote for Trump, in large part for this very reason: He’s a boor. He can’t keep a civil tongue. For his opponents to sink to his level, and then blame it on him as if that excuses it, is pretty weak.

  2. Like Sanders, a lot of creationists feel “kicked out” of public schools. They insist that schools teaching mainstream evolutionary science without any creationist science are not welcome places for their creationist kids.

    That’s a creationist mistake. There is no such thing as “creationist science”.

    The science class should be teaching the scientific consensus. The creationists have no interest in the scientific consensus. They are concerned by what they take to be truth. Arguments about truth belong in the philosophy classroom, not in the science classroom.

    Let’s pretend, for the moment, that young earth creationism is true. The science class is supposed to prepare students for doing science. And most science has to be done within the scientific consensus. Even if creationism is true, it would be a mistake to teach that in the science class, for it does not prepare students for a future in science.

    If creationists want to change the scientific consensus, the science classroom is the wrong place to do that.

    So here’s the question: Do creationists have a right to feel welcome in public schools?

    No, that’s the wrong question. Creationists have always been welcome in public schools.

    The question should be: do creationists have the right to feel unwelcome in public schools?

    I suppose they have that right. But it is extremely anti-social of them to insist on exercising that right in a public way.

    • On this last bit, we disagree a little. I think all of us–creationists as well as non-creationists, atheists as well as religious believers, people of all racial, national, and class backgrounds–all of us should agree in principle that our public schools must be held to a high standard of welcoming all members of our communities. It is not enough, IMHO, for people in power in those schools to shrug and say that a certain group has always been welcome, and it’s their fault if they didn’t feel welcome. Each group needs to FEEL welcome, and each group has the right to lay out the details of that feeling. If there is a group that values daily prayers during the school day, they should feel welcome in the school, as long as the school doesn’t lead or endorse those prayers. If a group values vegetarian eating habits, they should feel welcome and accommodated. And so on. The goal is not just to admit all comers to a public school; the goal is to create community schools that actively welcome all members of the community. It’s admittedly a high bar and one prone to misinterpretations, both intentional and not. No group–including creationists–can huffily insist that they must have their religious ideas taught as science if they are to feel welcome. But every group–including creationists–has a right to express their vision of proper secular public education and to be heard.

      • Actually, I mostly agree with that.

        If I were teaching biology in high school, I would be making it clear that creationist students are not required to believe that evolution is true. But they are expected to understand what the theory claims even if they don’t believe it.

        For that matter, I don’t like the way biologists say “evolution is fact”. That’s a contentious issue in our society, and biology can be taught without needing to insist on it as truth.

        On the other hand, it is my impression that the main reason for many evangelicals abandoning the public schools was their dispute with school integration. It wasn’t really about evolution.

      • Amalthea

         /  August 7, 2018

        There is no such thing as creation “science”. It’s a misappropriation of the word, science. One of the biggest bogus outfits that we actual scientists have to continually battle against is the asinine “Institute for Creation Science”, and the “Discovery Institute”, which is the shill behind “Intelligent Design”. These organizations exist to spread their brand of religion

        Keep creationism out of our public school science classes. America is dumbed down enough–it’s how we have tRump in the White House.

  3. pkayden

     /  June 29, 2018

    Christians like Sanders are perfectly okay with and argue that business owners can discriminate against gay customers. Gays don’t choose their sexuality. Accordingly, it’s perfectly okay for a business owner to ask Sanders to leave her restaurant on the grounds that Sanders chooses to defend a reprehensible government and its actions which include separating children from their parents and holding them in detention centers.
    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    • Agellius

       /  June 29, 2018


      Certainly it’s OK. You won’t see Sanders trying to get the courts to force the Red Hen to serve her. It’s just that once you start saying Republicans can’t eat here, and Democrats can’t eat there, and we only want people on our side attending our theater, you’re contributing to the polarization of society. And the more polarized we are, the less chance we have of getting others to see our point of view. You can say the other side did it first, nevertheless you still have to decide whether you’re part of the solution or part of the problem.

      • pkayden

         /  June 29, 2018

        Trump is the least civil politician in the modern age. Tell him to be civil to Democrats and then we can talk. As I’m writing this, Maxine Waters has been subjected to death threats. Where are the calls for her opponents to be civil to her? Where are the calls to censure Rep Steven King for retweeting White Supremacists?
        Sanders doesn’t deserve civility and I’m glad that the Red Hen owner asked her politely to leave her restaurant. Being a liar is not a protected class.

      • Agellius

         /  June 30, 2018

        I’m not telling anyone to do anything. I’m saying that this tit-for-tat incivility is going to lead to more polarization. You can choose to contribute to polarization or not, it’s up to you. I don’t justify it on either side.

      • pkayden

         /  July 1, 2018

        Sanders is not owed civility. Neither are any other individual connected to the current regime in the White House.

      • Agellius

         /  July 2, 2018

        And some on the other side will say that no one who favors baby-killing deserves civility. So what’s next? Do we start shoving each other around on the subway?

      • pkayden

         /  July 3, 2018

        No. Our side votes and gets your side out of power. That would be for the best. We don’t need bigots in the White House and Trump is the biggest bigot of all.

  4. But, how do you respond to the draft-dodging POSPOTUS and his minions who consistently lie, call opponents degrading names, are dismissive of all who might disagree, claim that the press is the enemy of the people, ad nauseum? I am all for civility, and am generally only non-civil to people who are exceedingly rude. There once was a day when politicians could have significant disagreements and still have a drink together at the end of the day. There are polarizers on both sides of the aisle who seem to not know how to attack ideas and not people. Usually name calling does not resolve anything, but it certainly helped Trump win the presidency.

    • Agellius

       /  July 2, 2018

      First, you try to defeat him in the next election. Second, you don’t do what he does. If you think Trump started a fire of incivility, and condemn him for doing so, then why would you want to add fuel to that fire? How will that persuade people that you’re better than he is?

      When the left uses extremist rhetoric against Trump, for a lot of people that only validates his extremism. Is that really what they want?

      I recall when he was elected, people talked about not wanting his incivility to become “normalized”. But when both sides become uncivil, then uncivil becomes normal.

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