Monday, April 20, 2009

Let There Be Science

This will be a long one…

I heard a news story recently about how Texas was going to be ordering new science text books for their public schools. What caught my attention was that due to printing costs the publishers of the textbooks only use the ones sold to Texas as the format for the rest of the country. So, what the schools board of Texas tells them they want included or excluded will be what the rest of the nation gets. The conflict for me is that the Texas school board is asking that Creationism and Intelligent Design be included and that the Theory of Evolution be downplayed. They will do this by turn of phrase and disclaimers like the stickers placed in Cobb county school books.

And here we go again. You know I have had this conversation with several people since hearing about it and I always get the same series of points. “Our founding fathers were religious and never intended to take God out of the public forum”, and “Well, if God shouldn’t be in schools why is it printed on our money?” and the old standby “Why shouldn’t children be taught all sides of the issue and allowed to make up their own minds?” I can’t tell you how tired I am of that bullshit.

First: The United States Constitution at no point even mentions the word God, Deity, or Higher Power. Not in the preamble or in the articles or in the ratification. The only part that has anything to do with spirituality is the first amendment which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. “
Now, though some might interpret this as a blank check to start infusing government with religion (especially the Christian religion ) lets look at the original wording so you can see what the thought process of the founding fathers was. "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.'' - James Madison (Original wording of the First Amendment; Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).) Let me just emphasize that; No one group gets any more say than another, no national religion, no ones rights infringed. That means everyone who isn’t a Christian should have equal representation.
I’m sure some of you might argue that our founding fathers were Christians so it can be easily inferred that they meant the Judeo-Christian ethic should be put first as that is the basis of our American society. Alright, lets just pound this home for you all. "As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; …” - (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797 - signed by President John Adams.) There it is, clearly stated by a founding father that America is not founded solely on the Christian faith.

Second: The whole “In God We Trust” on our money and the “Under God” in the pledge. Ok, the phrase “In God We Trust” was added to our currency and adopted as the “national motto” during the red scare of the 1950’s spearheaded by the rightwing religious organization The Knights of Columbus and fueled by McCarthyism. The phrase was added to freaking everything and religious texts and wording were put into schools and public buildings across the nation much like the mandatory display of swastikas in Germany during the previous decade. It basically put out the notion that If you aren’t with us, then you aren’t American. Kinda like the fervor in the beginning of the Iraq war. The original U.S. motto was “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one), a much more fitting phrase to describe our nation if you ask me. “Under God” has much the same story and was added to the pledge. The pledge of course was made mandatory in 1940 and then later repealed on the basis of the first amendment. Summation; “In God We Trust” was not the American motto laid down by our forefathers and is actually quite counter to their ideals and linked very strongly to a disturbing time in our past.

Third: Tyranny of the majority, is an idea that if unchecked a simple majority will ruin this country by making unfair, unbalanced, and unequal. James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 51: "It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure." It may be overwhelmingly popular to do something that the people want but, the freedoms of others and the separation of church and state must come first. Yes, Christianity is the largest religion in the country and it is for that reason we must work all the harder to make sure that its tenants don’t start tainting everything or soon we won’t have a democracy it will be a country like Iran. Public schools especially should be free from any political, social and religious agendas due to the diverse nature of the families that attend them.

In conclusion it is right that Intelligent Design and Creationism be taught in places where these beliefs can be shared by the group that wishes them taught. Places like private schools that are not funded by the state or federal government and in Sunday Schools. However, due to the nature of these ideas it is wholly improper for them to be taught in science classes. A science class is a place where theories are gathered from unbiased sources and where they can be changed and challenged. Religion on the other hand is doctrine and must remain unchallenged. The only basis for these ideas is a belief in God and the evidence stemming from one source, the Bible. Further, the ideas of some are not the ideas of all and if the classroom must play host to one religion’s ideas on creation they would have to play host to all. For these reasons it is imperative that religion not play a part in our public education programs. Benjamin Franklin once said "When a Religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its Professors are obliged to call for help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."