Ask Melissa 1 – 2013 to Infinity: On Creationism in Canada

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Melissa Story lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband and three cats. She studied Advertising & Public Relations at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. She worked in the events industry for a few years, before returning to post-secondary to pursue a degree in Psychology. She received her psychology BA from the University of Waterloo in 2010 and continued her studies at Carleton University until 2013 when she graduated with a double honours BA in psychology and religion. She was the recipient of the Robert E Osbourne memorial scholarship for excellence in the study of religion in 2012 and 2013. Melissa currently works from home as a writer, blogger, and social media marketer, while also pursuing her artistic passions. She shares her perspective on religion and public life on her social media feeds and on her blog: https://thefeed.blackchicken.ca/.  

Here we talk about creationism internationally, nationally, and the harms of it.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What defines creationism, internationally?

Melissa Story: Generally, creationism is the idea that origins of life can be explained through divine, spiritual, or biblical terms, in opposition to evolutionary science. While creationism itself can be defined succinctly, the forms in which it can take varies. It’s important to note that creationism and religion are not one and the same. Many people follow religions with creation stories, but still look to evolutionary science to explain the origins of life.

Most of us are familiar with biblical creationism, but creationist stories are found in virtually every religion. For example, in Hinduism, Lord Brahma creates all and destroys all, only to create it once again. The concepts of karmic debt, reincarnation, and polytheism play intricate roles in Hindu creation stories. Similarly, indigenous cultures all around the world have their own creation stories. The Maori of New Zealand tell us of a male sky god named, Rangi, and a female earth god, Papa, and their six children, who were gods of the weather, crops, seas, forests, plants, and war. Rangi and Papa had come together to create their spawn, but because the sky and earth were together, their children had no space, so the children rebelled to separate their mother and father. Rangi’s arms were cut off so that he could no longer hold Papa, and they were separated, allowing the children to see light for the first time. Obviously, both these creation stories have very intricate narratives and I’ve only provided a brief synopsis. The point is that creation stories are intertwined into almost every culture and religion around the world, and just as those cultures and religions are diverse, so too are their creation stories.

Jacobsen: What defines creationism in Canada?

Story: Creationism in Canada is defined much the same way as it is internationally. It’s a basic viewpoint that origin of life can be explained through religious and cultural stories, rather than scientific pursuits. In Canada, pockets of evangelical Christians adhere to the belief that origins of life can be explained through biblical terms, specifically outlined in the book of Genesis.

Canada’s indigenous groups also have their own version of creation stories, and they are vast. The Mohawk tell of a story about a woman who fell from a hole in the sky world. She fell into our world which was only made of water. Noticing she was pregnant, birds placed her on a sea turtle’s back. In an effort to make the woman feel at home, marine animals gathered soil and plants from the sea and placed them on the turtle’s back. The woman walked counter-clockwise on the turtle’s back and that’s when the miracle of life happened. Seeds sprung humans, great crops, and herds of animals. As the woman continued to walk, she sang, and the turtle became the Earth, bringing forth all life.

Again, it’s important to emphasize that although these religions and cultures have creation stories, it’s doesn’t necessarily mean that their adherents are creationists. Many people are able to hold both viewpoints as having significance. Creationism becomes problematic when it is allowed to supersede scientific discoveries about the origins of life in the public sphere. As we previously discussed, this has happened in the past with some jurisdictions in Canada allowing the concept of creationism to be taught in science classrooms. Creationism has absolutely no place in science discourse, despite the efforts of new era creationists, such as intelligent design proponents. Intelligent design is essentially the idea that evolution could not have happened by chance and that it is the result of an intelligent entity. It’s basically pseudo-science for the existence of God.

Jacobsen: How is Canada betraying proper science, liberal religion and non-religion, and the educational rights of children to a solid science education, in the dispersal nationally and internationally of creationism?

Story: I think the biggest issue for Canada is the lack of clear divisions between church and state. Yes, Canada is a country where individuals are free to practise (or not) their personal religion, but there are no protections for the state itself. Public policies and government initiatives are not immune from being influenced by religion. For example, in regards to creationism in public science classrooms, the various levels of government in Canada acknowledge that some individuals and groups may dispute scientific discoveries based on religious grounds. These individuals and groups are often given accommodations in the public sphere. For example, disagree with the science education your child is receiving? You can pull them out of school and home school them, with very little oversight. So, it’s probably fair to say that not every Canadian child is getting a proper science education.

The dissemination of research on creationism also isn’t funded well, if at all. Simply put, there is just no appetite for discussions such as this in Canada’s socio-political discourse. Live and let live seems to be the mantra. But where could that leave Canada in the future? If students are not afforded a proper science education, then they will be unlikely to be a leader in the global science community. Sciences touch every aspect of our lives, so a basic understanding of the scientific method is crucial for citizens to understand the world in a global context. In addition, the apathy toward research and funding in this area means that if and when our public institutions are penetrated by religious ideology, it may be too late for us to do anything about it.

Bottom line is that Canada has to protect the integrity of science in matters of public life, but also afford citizens the freedom of and from personal religion. They can co-exist in our society, but it’s prudent for us to ensure that one does not try and disguise itself as the other.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Melissa.

Story: Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers, Scott. Until next, time!

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Image Credit: Melissa Short.

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