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

From: Oudeyis (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 22:21:23 PDT

Has anyone considered the social educational implications of the replacement of science education by quasi-religious and religious indoctrination?

Modern elite establishments, be they government, business enterprise, or academic and research institution generally incorporate candidates for elite status into the establishment in accordance with their training and skills in the areas that satisfy their institutional needs. Certainly a proficiency in creationism or intelligent design is of little use to a pharmaceutical company, to the Department of the Interior, or to the Institute for Ecological studies of X University. Then too, the replacement of scientific training for some sort of alternative irrelevant to the developing technologies of modern society in public school education would go a long way in mystifying for the graduates the powers of science-wielding authority . Finally, public ignorance of modern scientific developments restricts public criticism of policies based on developments in science.

The main target of the movement to replace science by alternatives such as creationism and ID and to introduce magical activities such as prayer and quasi-religious rituals into the curriculum appears to be the public school system, and, particularly for those sectors of the public school system of communities that are not very aware of the political and economic consequences of producing students ignorant of science and filled with the conviction of the efficacy of prayers and rituals. We are somewhat familiar with these developments here in Israel, though here it takes a somewhat different form: Reduction of advanced courses in arts and sciences in the public school system (black and grey educational programs in these areas are available to those that can afford them) and the co-related expansion of cheap (sometimes virtually free) educational resources in the religious sector. The class-based restriction of educational resources, human and material, is ancient, but here we have the development of a means for making the educationally deprive regard themselves as blessed and shriven by their ignorance. What did Marx say about religion?

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Steve Gabosch
  Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 11:51 AM
  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.

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