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

From: Kevin Rocap (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 07:34:16 PDT

Dear Michael and Judy,

So then creationism vs. evolution is not a *scientific* controversy, so
does not deserve to be taken up in "science class", but it is a
controversy that has a place somewhere else in the curriculum? Like in
a course on ethics and perspectives on human history/development or in a
course on social issues?

And separately, if not creationism and religion, then, as Judy suggests
we need an ethics of another kind taught in school? But would that
incorporation of ethics into the curriculum also exclude religious
ethics (separation of Church and State and all)?

I've purposely framed these as questions, as I'm not advocating here,
and am curious at what the uptake might be.

In Peace,

Judy Diamondstone wrote:

> Well, Steve, you addressed your harangue to Michael, but I will jump
> in regardless. I agree with you, with one caveat, which I tried to
> introduce previously. Science does not answer questions of what is
> good for us. Scientists funded by pharmaceutical & oil & etc.
> companies or the defense department use science to water down
> environmental and consumer protection regulations. Science is not,
> then, a good-in-itself, a responsible guide to practice -- ought we
> shuttle questions of 'the good' to different disciplines? I would
> argue that we need to integrate the varied life projects that we as
> cultural-historical beings face. I am not arguing for religion in the
> schools, but for rigorous attention to questions of 'whole-ness' --
> ethics. The ethics of how we deal with difference seems implicated
> here, as well. Not religion, but what?
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Gabosch []
> Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 5:52 AM
> To:
> Subject: RE: an article on the creationist's plea "teach the controversy"
> 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.
>> Michael

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