Flying under the legislative radar this past week was potential McCain running mate and governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal’s signing into law of Senate Bill 733, which allows ” local school systems to approve the use of supplemental instructional materials for teaching science classes.” What opponents are up in arms about is that, with SB 733, teachers could supplement evolutionary teachings with materials on Creationism or Intelligent Design.
SB 733 was signed into law as I was completing some research on our founders’ view of education for my upcoming (September) book release, “Black Belt Patriotism” – it is my critique of what is destroying our country and our founders’ prescription of how we can rebuild it and restore the American dream. I’ve already written a column on how our founders would have endorsed a pro-creationist education in taxpayer schools – something they would not have seen as a breach between church and state relations.
What many might not realize is that our founders were familiar with naturalistic and evolutionary views of the sciences. Evolution has been around a lot longer than Darwin. And criticism for it has also been around a lot longer than Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” The Founding Fathers were familiar with the arguments for and against theism and naturalism from well before the time of Christ. I’m not citing them here as an irrefutable argument for Intelligent Design in the classroom, but as a congruent historical voice with SB 733 that demonstrates science and theism are not mutually exclusive.
Though Thomas Paine was probably the most outspoken against religion among the founders, he stood for Creationism in schools:
It has been the error of schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the Author of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles; he can only discover them, and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.
And James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, twice elected to the Continental Congress and notable power behind the creation of the U.S. Constitution, said:
When we view the inanimate and irrational creation around and above us, and contemplate the beautiful order observed in all its motions and appearances, is not the supposition unnatural and improbable that the rational and moral world should be abandoned to the frolics of chance or to the ravage of disorder? What would be the fate of man and of society was every one at full liberty to do as he listed without any fixed rule or principle of conduct – without a helm to steer him, a sport of the fierce gusts of passion and the fluctuating billows of caprice?
John Quincy Adams also wrote about the ludicrous nature of naturalism, when he wrote:
It is so obvious to every reasonable being, that [God] did not make himself; and the world which he inhabits could as little make itself that the moment we begin to exercise the power of reflection, it seems impossible to escape the conviction that there is a Creator. … [T]he first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
John Adams describes those who pretend to understand the scope of the cosmos and deny the existence of God:
It has been long – very long – a settled opinion in my mind that there is now, never will be, and never was but one Being who can understand the universe, and that it is not only vain but wicked for insects [like us] to pretend to comprehend it.
And what about Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson? Franklin echoed his affirmation in a Creator:
For, if weak and foolish creatures as we are, but knowing the nature of a few things, can produce such wonderful effects, … what power must He possess, Who not only knows the nature of everything in the universe but can make things of new natures with the greatest ease and at His pleasure! Agreeing, then, that the world was a first made by a Being of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, which Being we call God.
Actually, according to Franklin, atheism was virtually non-existent in America in those days. He explained in his 1787 pamphlet to Europeans, “Information to those who would remove [or move] to America”:
To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel. And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.
It is no coincidence that Thomas Jefferson penned the founding document, the Declaration of Independence, with an emphasis on God throughout:
“… the laws of nature and of Nature’s God … all men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions … And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence. …”
The Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was truly a declaration of dependence upon God. And, having just celebrated America’s independence a few days ago, neither Gov. Jindal nor any one of us should hesitate to legislate pro-Creator educational platforms, nor fear anti-theistic swells that try to shut God out of America’s classrooms. Our founders didn’t. And neither should we.