RE: an article on the creationist's plea "teach the controversy"

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 02:51:53 PDT

Hi Michael,

Forgive me, this creation vs evolution discussion gets me a little fired
up. Allow me a few moments to pontificate. I think the traditional
arguments you outline that originally pushed religion out of education are
weak and unable to successfully withstand the new waves of anti-scientific
arguments that are challenging the teaching of science in public education
today. Some of the difficulties some people today face answering the
creationists and other anti-science tendencies may lie in not having a
clear enough understanding of how science is different from religion, and
how religion in no way fulfills the necessary roles science does. The old
arguments you cite are no longer adequate. The achievement of "consensus"
and the formulation of irrefutable "scientific proofs" are not what makes
it necessary for the modern citizen to understand and participate in
science or for the public schools to teach it. This is an inadequate (and
unrealistic) defense of science in our time, in my opinion. What makes
science necessary is mechanized agriculture, industry and modern social
organization - often referred to as modern "technology". These cannot be
operated at all, let alone responsibly, without a scientifically-oriented
world population. And today's planet of 6 billion plus people cannot be
sustained without these technologies (in some form), which as things
currently stand, is leaving billions woefully poverty-stricken and the
environment in a death spiral. To truly thrive, enormous changes are
needed - and science is absolutely necessary for learning how to make these
changes. Take the issues of clean water, sanitation, and electrification -
or any issues you please. How can humanity rise to these challenges
without using science: debating ideas, experimenting with different
solutions, pooling experiences? Religion, on the other hand, which I
believe people have every right to practice as they choose, is useless in
this regard. As I see it, religion is not any kind of an alternative
option to science in any way whatsoever. Religion is something entirely
different. Religion and science are as different from one another as the
children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is different from the operator's
manual for your car in your glove compartment.

I believe the "teach the controversy" angle that intelligent design
proponents are promoting is phony. ID is not a scientific theory of
biology. The controversy they are stirring up is not about alternative
explanations about evolution. Their game is to get public school teachers
to treat science as just another kind of religion under the guise that
religion is just a controversial kind of science. This is simply not
so. Science is the name for the historically evolved methods humans use to
figure out how to interact with nature, with technology, and with
themselves. Different social classes and social layers develop conflicting
methods and theories of science as they engage in making this history - and
some social layers become outright opponents of science. Science by its
very nature is a domain of constant conflict and debate, as Jay
emphasizes. But religion is the name for an entirely different set of
historical and cultural activities. Science and religion are two different
realms and should not be confused or conflated. I think giving a
millimeter on this opens the barn door, and the creationists are doing
their best to exploit these openings.

Jumping down from soap box :-))
~ Steve

At 12:11 PM 10/11/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>I am actually of two minds in this, and I think it has to do with
>recognizing all the different issues involved in the development of the
>debate to this point. One of the really important battles was the
>separation of science from religion in education. This was especially
>important concerning the advent of Darwinism. We should never forget that
>religion wanted to control the growing education movement in both England
>and the United States in the late nineteenth century. Scientists fought
>back hard making the argument that what is taught in education must be
>totally separate from religion, and perhaps the primary vehicle they
>developed was mainstream science – that there is a thing called scientific
>proof that outweighs religious arguments, and if we don’t accept this we
>can never progress as a society (notice I used the word progress and not
>advance). This was easier for some disciplines than it was for
>others. For instance it was relatively easy for the physical sciences and
>mathematics to make this argument, less so for biological sciences, even
>less so for developmental sciences (such as evolution and geology), and
>most difficult for what we now call the social sciences. Yet the field of
>battle was always that the disciplines claimed they could offer some form
>of agreed upon scientific methodology leading to consensus. I think a lot
>of bad things were done in the name of this argument, no doubt about it –
>such as there is only one methodology (that the most powerful people in
>the field determine and judge) and that this is the only direction towards
>consensus – so that as already mentioned science soon took on some
>religious overtone. At the same time religion was pushed out of education
>based on this argument.
>In our current atmosphere religion is attempting to make a comeback, and
>ID is in many ways at the forefront of this drive. I have made the
>argument in a couple of places that mainstream Darwinism really doesn’t
>make a lot of sense in a number of areas, and there is no doubt that quite
>a few people (so called scientists) accept this more as religious belief
>than rational (broadly defined) explanation, not even allowing minimal
>dissent. But I think that is because what we have allowed our field to
>become. Rebels are filtered out of scientific communities and the few
>that are left are shunted to the margins where too often they are set
>against each other. But I also worry about abandoning the original
>argument, that religion can be held at bay in education because there is a
>possibility for rational scientific discourse that can come to some
>consensus that is beyond anything religion can offer us in setting our
>society on a progressive course.

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