Flying under the legislative radar this past week was potential McCain vice presidential 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."
Having just celebrated America’s independence a few days ago, neither Gov. Jindal nor any politician should hesitate to legislate pro-Creator educational platforms or fear anti-theistic swells that try to shut God out of America’s classrooms. Our Founders didn’t. And neither should we.
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 also has 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."
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 — asked, "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?"
John Quincy Adams also wrote about his opposition to naturalism minus theism: "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. … The 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."
Benjamin 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."
According to Franklin, atheism was virtually nonexistent 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 practised. Atheism is unknown there, Infidelity rare & secret, so that Persons may live to a great Age in that Country without having their Piety shock’d 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 favour 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. That is another reason I believe that from political corridors to public classrooms, we need not fear nor resist our Creator’s inductions.