Topic Tuesday #41 2013/04/30 - "Teach the Controversy?"Ready to get mad? Ready to get fired up? Ready to take on a big bad taboo subject? Faith and science in schools; here we go.
In the United States, and around the world to varying degrees, there is a movement known as Intelligent Design. For those that are not familiar with what this is: ID, or Intelligent Design is the theory that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity. This is largely a Christian Fundamentalist backed position.
ID's asserts that:
It is a scientific field of research
Darwinian evolution by natural selection is wrong
There is an "design agent" working to fine tune the universe.
For the extreme positions asserted, one jumps to a stance known as "Young Earth Creationism" which asserts the following:
The Universe is, at most, 15,000 years old.
The planet Earth is, at most, 10,000 years old.
All of the book of Genesis is fact.
Noah and his ark were real
The flood compressed the plant life into our fossil fuel, covered the world with the observable sedimentary layers, carved out the Grand Canyon, the Norwegian and Icelandic fjords, and even continental separation and plate tectonics.
And lots of other items.
As you can tell this is a very religiously oriented world view.
ID arguments are somewhat acceptable and represent a Deistic view; the same view was held by most of the talked about Founding Fathers of the USA. Here is where we run off the rails and into the schools and "teaching the controversy".
It sounds great, on paper. From http://www.intelligentdesign.org/education.php, "Instead of mandating intelligent design, the major pro-ID organizations seek to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks by teaching students about both scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution. Most school districts today teach only a one-sided version of evolution which presents only the facts which supposedly support the theory. But most pro-ID organizations think evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned."
The failure with their premise is that the evolution that we have been teaching in school for decades is not at fault, it just doesn't leave room for a designer, as it is the designer. There are no real gaps in the data, certainly less gaps than in an ID discussion that pleads to a supernatural agent for tweaking what we do not fully understand at the moment. The research and understanding are quite complete and there is no controversy except for what they "believe". As has been said before, the nice thing about science is that it doesn't care about your beliefs, it only cares about what is real.
This has come up because a few things have breezed past me to draw my attention to them.1) A copy of a test from an ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) school was trotted out on Reddit for all to see. Those involved are waiting to disclose all the details around it until the end of the school year to prevent any adverse reaction to the students, but it is amazingly awful what they were passing for science. check out Snopes for the dirt on it. http://www.snopes.com/photos/signs/sciencetest.asp
2) the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Central Florida chapter will be distributing secular documentation to 11 area high schools to balance a bible distribution done Wednesday, January 16, 2013. The initial Story - here http://goo.gl/WTxfU and here http://goo.gl/cRXpj - The FFRF response here - http://goo.gl/2bbVH
The group responsible for the Bible outreach is World Changers of Florida, Inc. http://www.worldchangersfl.com/
I will let them to speak for themselves here:
"We should resist trying to force the Holy Scripture to fit with popular scientific consensus. What would science tell us about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? How about Moses and parting the Red Sea? What about a virgin conceiving without sexual relations? How would science explain the resurrection of Jesus and his many appearances afterward? Science says it can’t happen, but we know that with God, all things are possible, even a 6-day creation. Do you trust man’s interpretation of events that were not witnessed and that cannot be duplicated in the laboratory? Flawed suppositions supporting weak theories promoted by scientists who will not accept the possibility of a supernatural explanation for our existence. I’ll trust God’s explanation because “the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate.”"
What we have is a group, the defines themselves as YEC (Young Earth Creationists) touting the Intelligent Design arguments and trying desperately to get their view alongside hard science in the classroom as a possibility, rather than the science that works, and can be built upon.
That is the "teach the controversy" argument.
Their argument is that science is lacking this side of the debate. It's not up for debate. One is theology and mythology and the other is science, tried and true.
I am up for teaching about theology in school. It is a part of humanity, and part of our culture. Something that pervades our speech and habits. We should learn about it. We have classes for that. Mythology and Humanities and Social Studies. I highly recommend a comparative religions class too. But you see, that would not forward their position. These groups, and there are many more, have their built in proselytizing agenda to contend with. They venture forth with the banner of equality, but that only opens the door so they can sneak inside and start making changes.
I personally find it offensive and insidious. It is a danger to our future. Many students are in for a harsh wake up when they get to college or in the real world and "god did it" is not the answer to the real problem in front of them. To manage in the real world with these ideas, you have to have a dualistic view of reality, and you have to be comfortable with cognitive dissonance. You may believe that the world was created in 6 days, but the math you use to make the rocket fly to the outer reaches says it wasn't and could not have been. You may believe that man was fashioned out of clay, but if you cut one open you see the same organs as our cousins in the animal kingdom and all we become are animals made of meat, bone, and blood. Reality doesn't care about your beliefs.
Science works. If you water it down at all, you cause our future to be watered down too. This is a heated fight, because it damages the view people have of reality. People don't want to think they have been wrong for so many years, and potentially wasted their life in the pursuit of a fallacy. It's hard to swallow. But that doesn't mean that they should be coddled, especially when they adversely affect others. What you do at home, none of my concern. What you bring or force into the schools and the mind of our children, will always be my concern.
Teach the controversy? We would if there was one.