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

From: Judy Diamondstone (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 06:41:20 PDT

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
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

    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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