School Salvation

July 28, 2006

coffeeOh, my God! or is it Todd’s God? has generated a healthy debate on religion, science and public education. Mixing them isn’t good for public schools.

I’m a Christian raised on the Roman Catholic tradition. I don’t ask my daughters’ teachers to pray the Rosary with them and all their other students.
My parents chose for me to go to a Catholic school from 1st-12th grade so that I would be instructed in the tenets of our faith. They didn’t demand the public schools do it for them.
Todd Leonard and others can educate their children in the private schools and their homes in their faith, too.

Politicians shouldn’t be deciding what should be taught in our classrooms. Didn’t Hitler, Mao and Stalin do that?

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11 Responses to “School Salvation”

  1. Tom Says:

    Intelligent Design is not “religion” it is science. Are we to ignore “design” merely because it points to a designer? Obviously, a change in paradigm is needed in our educational system. Presently, debate is squashed, especially if it contradicts evolutionary theory.

    It appears to me that Mr. Leonard is not interested in eradicating the teaching of evolutionary theory from our schools. Rather, he appears to be advocating balance and tolerance by encouraging the teaching of all legitimate scientific theories. Scientific inquiry is encouraged when we present legitimate competing views (Joe’s comical
    “Flying Spaghetti Monster” version of origins does not fit the bill) and students are better as a result.

    As far as mandatory teaching of a particular religion goes, I couldn’t agree more. However, I see no problem with offering electives which investigate the competing religions of the world and their impacts on our culture.

    As a Christian, I welcome any legitimate, thoughtful investigation into the tenants and histories of the major world religions. Intelligent Design, however, is not religion, theology, or philosophy. It is science.

    If parents do not agree with I.D., then in the privacy of their own homes, let them teach their children why it is illegitimate — just as those who hold evolution to be illegitimate, have done for the last 50 years!

    Teaching I.D. as a “theory” is good for our kids.

    And this is the issue… isn’t it?

  2. routzen Says:

    Intelligent Design is not accepted by the vast majority of Educators and scientists as legitimate science.

  3. Joe Says:

    I’m glad you like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Tom, but I don’t appreciate your dismissal of my point. Intelligent Design is not science, plain and simple. The argument usually cited by ID supporters as a “common sense appeal” for their side is: if you happened upon a watch, you would (rightly) assume it was created by a watchmaker. IDers want to use the apply that metaphor to the creation of the universe and leave it at that, but science — real, honest-to-God science — wouldn’t stop there. What about the watchmaker? From whom did he learn his trade? Was this fully-functional watch his first attempt, or did he make mistakes along the way? Who were his parents? Who were THEIR parents? Where did he get the components to build the watch? Who mined the ore? And so on.

    That is the real difference between ID and actual scientists, and the reason why ID is NOT science. Intelligent design says we’ve learned enough; that any remaining mysteries in the universe are best left unquestioned. What if that philosophy had prevailed 500 years ago? Furthermore, Intelligent Design fails to provide an explanation when the design isn’t very “intelligent” — why do flightless birds have wings? why do vertebrates have a blind spot while invertebrates do not? why do we humans have organs and teeth inside that sometimes hurt or kill us if we don’t remove them with the tools modern medicine?

    Perhaps the most important question, Tom: why would a “designer” surround his creations with a glut of false evidence?

  4. Tom Says:

    That’s a pretty broad statement you are making. Not sure its fact. Even so, this is not a valid reason for teaching or not teaching intelligent design. The issue is this, “is it legitimate science.” Is it testable and observable. One can observe intelligence and design. One cannot observe evolution in progress. One cannot even find the plethera of transitional species that Darwin said must be found if his theory was to be validated. We are still waiting. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate theory for the moment and our students should be made aware (of evolution).

    If one would have applied your reasoning to the evolution debate of the early 1900’s, evolution would never have been included in the curriculum in those days.

    Are we to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to intelligent design? Are we to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to evolution? No, to both questions.

    Many reputable scientists, much smarter than you and I (although I don’t know you personally, and it may be that you are on par with gentleman in the field of science who hold PHD’s), hold to intelligent design. Even atheistic evolutionists (as opposed to Theistic evolutionists) acknowledge that the earth appears to be the product of an intelligent designer. This is not absurd. Squashing it without even considering its inclusion as a possible curriculum in our schools is absurd and intolerant and betrays an antagonism toward anything that would seemingly postulate the existence of God.

    Nearly all scientific advancement has come from those who acknowledged God’s design. They expected to see logical results from tests. They did not gaze into an ocean of chance and chaos and hope to find meaning and reason. They looked for God’s hand in His universe and made assumptions and deductions based on a the logic that permeates the created order.

    I.D. is science, whether a “majority of scientists and teachers” see it that way or not. Science is not a democracy. We do not poll scientists and teachers to find out what is held by the majority, and then teach or not teach based on the poll results. We develope plausible theories, test them, and teach them.

    What is to fear in teaching intelligent design?

    Tom

  5. Tom Says:

    Check out a DVD entitled “The Privileged Planet” (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0002E34C0/ref=ase_bookstorenow58-20/104-0802531-7399925?v=glance&s=dvd).

    Or purchase Michael Behe’s (Professor of Biochemistry Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University) book entitle Darwin’s Black Box.

    These are excellent sources and you’ll see that they do not think that all explanations and investigation into origins end with I.D. Rather, I would think that they would say that I.D. seeks to answer questions about the creation and its design.

    As far as investigating the “watchmaker”, certainly you are not suggesting the evolution seeks to investigate the watchmaker, his design and purposes.

    I fully understand your point Joe. I am not a fan of what you have labled as I.D. I simply think that you do not fully understand what these guys are saying.

    As to your comment concerning the past 500 years. I cannot think of even one signicant discovery that has impacted our lives which was made by an atheistic evolutionist.

    There may be one or two. But, I can’t think of them. Conversely… Galilleo, Newton, Edison, Franklin, Faraday, Einstein… all these men acknowledged an Intelligent Designer.

    Tom

  6. Disgusted Says:

    What is so wrong with just not knowing where we came from? Wasn’t it Voltaire that said, “If there were no God, man would find it necessary to invent him.” Even educated, established people are still fearful of the unknown and need the feeling that something out there is protecting them…gave birth to them even. Pure nonsense. Ever notice that this whole debate always happens the most in poor, rural areas, the types of places that are all over the Bible Belt? You people believe in god only because you were raised to, the same way people believe in racism, opening doors for other people, and liking spicy foods or not. It’s what you knew from an early age and now you can’t even imagine questioning it. Either that, or you came into your religion as an escape from a major problem in your life. Man’s need for a higher power is just that…a need. This does not prove existence of said power. Nothing to date does. When I see Christianity or any other religion flourishing in major cities and anywhere else that is a center of education and culture, then perhaps I will take it a little more seriously.

    Really, you believe in an invisible being that protects you, a devil that lives in a pit of fire, and that a man ( (whom you wouldn’t give a quarter to on the street today) died on the cross for your sins? But then, it does take most of the thinking out of life doesn’t it?

    Please.

    “I cannot think of even one signicant discovery that has impacted our lives which was made by an atheistic evolutionist.”

    Pure ignorance. What does that have to do with anything at all? We are talking about the origin of the universe, not what a mere man accomplished.

    I would love to see a rundown of the IQs of people who need to believe in god and intelligent design and those who prefer to spend their lives wondering. It’s WAY too easy to just accept the “god did it” excuse time and time again.

    If I come across as angry and a little disjointed in my thoughts, it’s because i’m just a little bit tired of living in such an ignorant “culture” as the Bible Belt. I guess I should have grown up here so I could think that god is an american, northerners (and anyone else outside the south) are evil and rude, the republican party is honest and caring, and NASCAR is a good way to spend an afternoon.

  7. Mary D. Says:

    Just keep your religious beliefs out of my child’s classroom. When the majority of the science and education world accept I.D., then bring it into the classroom.

    They are Christian sects that believe in snake handling as part of their service. Do we bring that into the Biology classes next?

  8. Joe Says:

    Tom, you’re grossly mistaken on a number of points, but let me first agree with you on one point: many of the world’s greatest scientists throughout history have indeed acknowledged a creator. I like to think this is because the areas of Faith and Reason are fully independent of each other, and that there are questions regarding our existence, consciousness, the supernatural, etc. that will never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction by science alone. But you’re putting science and religion on the same plane and pitting them against each other. According to you, you either believe in Intelligent Design or you’re an “atheistic evolutionist,” but that’s way off.

    As far as I’m concerned, there are plenty of things in nature that suggest the existence of God (the Big Bang, for example, or the fact that the nuclear, magnetic and gravitational forces are just the right strength to hold the universe together) but real science doesn’t comment on any of that. Science isn’t anti-God, it’s agnostic. Science just wants to look for more pieces of this giant jigsaw puzzle and see a little more of the big picture, even with the realization that a lot of the pieces have already been lost or destroyed. Intelligent Design looks at the partially-completed puzzle and says, “Don’t even bother. We have a pretty good idea what the big picture is already, so there’s no reason to continue. I think we can all agree that the pieces were placed here by some Great Puzzlemaster, so let’s just call it a theory and leave it at that.”

    Next, your factual errors. ID is not, as you say, “testable and observable” (what exactly have you tested or observed?), and there are no “reputable scientists” who embrace it — just a handful of “gentlemen in the field of science who hold PHD’s” promoted heavily by religious groups to convey a false equality (cf. Big Tobacco or, more recently, Big Oil). “Well, you have your scientists who say one thing, and we have ours. So our arguments are just as valid!”

    ID supporters go on and on about the questions that evolutionary theory can’t (or haven’t yet) answered, and the so-called gaps in the fossil record that Darwin didn’t anticipate. Do you know how RARE it is for a fossil to form at all? How exact the conditions have to be? Frankly, it’s a miracle we’ve found all the ones we have. I’ve heard plenty of people say, like you, that we “cannot observe evolution in progress.” Not true. Thanks to the short generational cycles of bacteria, evolution can be and has been directly observed.

    But going back to the metaphor of the puzzle, evolution is the only picture we’ve come up with, so far, that makes all the pieces of biology and archaeology fit together. Any theory that hopes to compete with or supplant evolution will have to do more than point out all the missing pieces — it will have to give an explanation for all the pieces we’ve already found. Look at the theory of relativity: it provided a whole new perspective on physics, explaining things that evaded classic Newtonian laws, but they still teach f=ma in high schools because it’s still true.

    I’m starting to ramble. Put simply: Intelligent Design is a sham. It was created by religious groups as a “wedge” to discredit genuine science while evading the Establishment Clause. It is NOT legitimate science.

  9. Tom Says:

    Joe, thanks for the thoughtful reply. Lets let kids have this discussion in the classroom as well. I’ve benefitted from your comments. I do not agree. But, you’ve challenged me. Why not let our kids have these discussions as well? We learn when we are forced to examine other viewpoints and defend our own. You’ve obviously investigated the other side and found it lacking. We’ve examined your side and found it lacking. I am confident that, like me, your own convictions were strengthened in the process. See, debate and discussion are good things. Lets not stifle it. And lets not call it religion. Irreducible complexity is not a tenet of religion, it is a fact, that I believe supports I.D. You may already know the “watchmaker” argument and may be familiar with “irreducible complexity”, but the average student in Escambia County hasn’t a clue. Wouldn’t you want them to be familiar with it? You as a parent can point out the flaws later if you choose. But, it is a debate that is taking place in academia and our kids should not be shielded from it.

    Again, thanks for the calm and reasoned discussion. It is quite healthy. Our kids ought to be doing this same thing in Biology class. I bet they’d be a lot more interested in “origins” if meaningful, reasoned discussion and debate were to occur. Rather than, “okay, class, get out your text books and lets learn about evolution” lets examine the issues. We will all be the better for it.

    By the way, I think you’d really enjoy reading Nancy Pearcy’s “Total Truth.” Not that you’ll be convinced of anything different than what you already embrace. But, she devotes a good deal of attention to what is called the fact vs. value paradigm. It is the view that regulates the “spiritual world” to the value realm, while the fact realm (the observable realm) is the only real factual realm.

    God bless,

    Tom

  10. Joe Says:

    The Intelligent Design movement has a well-known strategy, as I mentioned already, outlined in the so-called “wedge document” published by Michael Behe’s Discovery Institute. Deliberately or not, you have been very attentive to the various steps of this strategy: you have “agreed” that religion should not be forced on children in public schools, then asserted that ID is not religion; you have propagated popular misconceptions about evolution while propping up ID’s false scientific credentials; you have criticized opponents of ID as dogmatic and narrow-minded for refusing to teach “alternate theories;” and now you’ve retreated to the last resort — the “teach the controversy” mantra.

    Let me back up. “Irreducible complexity” is not a scientific concept. It’s a very important-sounding phrase that was made up to legitimize pseudoscience, like “transdental electromicide” or “dianetics.” IC states that there are systems in living things with several specialized parts that work together to provide a function; that the system would break down if any of these parts were absent; and that, therefore, they could not have developed through evolution, which is thought to be a gradual process. This logic has been debunked and dismissed for a variety of reasons.

    First of all, Behe essentially makes an argument from incredulity: just because he looks at a system that emerged hundreds of millions of years ago and can’t figure out how it evolved, doesn’t mean it couldn’t have evolved. The stone arch, for example, is a structure that is “irreducibly complex” by Behe’s logic. Take any part away and the entire arch will crumble. Yet we are able to build them one step at a time, and we can admire 2,000 of them — formed naturally, through processes we now understand through science — in Arches National Park alone.

    Second, evolution occurs in a number of ways, not all of which are completely linear, or even gradual. Sometimes a mutation occurs that seems to serve no purpose in a life form, but then fortuitously acts as a stepping stone for another, more useful mutation later on. (You are welcome to look for the hand of God in these lucky, but natural, coincidences.) Some systems in modern animals serve a different function than the one from which they evolved — like the panda’s “thumb” or the bones of our own inner ear. Other times a complex system can lose some accumulated bits that have become extraneous (analogous to the “scaffolding” of our stone arch), leaving only a complex system that appears “irreducible.” The point is, we can’t look at a modern biological system and assume a static existence.

    Finally, a number of examples cited by Michael Behe as “irreducible” — bacterial flagella, immune systems, blood clotting, and even his example of the mousetrap — have all been shown to be, in fact, reducible. (Please peruse these topics at Wikipedia or TalkDesign.org for the full articles.)

    So, to answer your question, while I will certainly teach my daughter about ID and IC (since this issue will probably still be around for most of her school years, and she needs to be ready to rumble), I do not think the students of Escambia County should be taught this in biology class, because it’s not biology. We shouldn’t take time away from genuine study to “examine the issues” about “a debate that is taking place in academia,” because there is no such debate. The only debate taking place is happening here, by non-scientists like ourselves in the comment sections of blogs, or by politicians like Mr. Leonard, or in that place where neither Reason nor God dares to tread: the United States Congress. Real scientists will tell you there is no debate and no misgivings about evolution — and that any would-be alternative theory would have to do more than poke holes in its competition. Otherwise there’s no limit to the number of “alternatives” we should teach in schools.

    This was the point I tried to make in my original Flying Spaghetti Monster post. The purpose of science is to explain the natural world around us. To teach an “alternative theory” that merely passes the buck to supernatural causes is not only (by definition) unscientific, it’s just lazy. History recalls a number of times when the Christian Church, threatened by scientific advances, persecuted scientists for what we now consider positively silly reasons: “He says the universe is heliocentric, not geocentric? Heresy!” You need to look inside you, examine your motives, and ask yourself if this isn’t the same critter in a different outfit.

    I am not opposed to teaching spiritual matters in school, in an elective, non-evangelical format. But if you try to take religion, masquerade it as science, and try to teach it (or even the “debate” over it) in my daughter’s public school at the expense of her genuine education, I (and, thankfully, the Constitution) will have something to say about it.

  11. Tom Says:

    Joe, as you well know, te Constitution says nothing that would restrict teaching on intelligent design. In fact, our founding documents themselves acknowledge that our Creator has created us all and implanted within us certain rights that are common to all men.

    Tom

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