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."


Mike King said...

From what I've come to understand, morality doesn't come from religion, it comes from individuals who usually live by the rule, I won't don't do anything to you that I wouldn't want done to myself. The government was created to protect individual rights, not the will of the masses.
As far as people wanting that sticker on there text books I don't think they go far enough. I love the last sentence "this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered". I think that warning should be put on everything we can get our hands on. Our textbooks, the bible, television reporting, you name it. EVERYTHING should be approached with an open mind and critically reviewed or else you leave yourself open to poisoned information disguised as wisdom. The sticker stating that Evolution is not a fact but a theory is really taking these "words" way to literally. I will take the argument to it's next logical step and say that gravity is a theory not a fact. Fly away bitches (sorry for the language but it was appropriate).
I used to not believe in evolution because I couldn't understand or believe in the mechanism. Even so the fact that I couldn't make sense of the mechanism doesn't mean that the theory was wrong. It's the same thing you have here, a whole gaggle of people cant understand or want to inject there own mechanism to bring understanding or meaning for themselves and unfortunately project that on to others.

Mommyjolle said...

I think you need to consider a few facts. Obviously science classes need to teach science theories such as the evolution of animals. Although the wealth of information that science has discovered points clearly to supporting Darwin’s theory there are still some aspects of evolution that are unknown. In a science class, teachers expose students to the scientific method and the evidence that has been discovered so far.
An article at has a very good point that I agree with completely.
Religious explanations for the order of things are not science because they are based primarily on faith and do not subject themselves to be objectively falsified. Because of this fundamental difference in the approach to understanding our natural world, the U.S. Supreme Court in effect decided in 1987 that the Biblically based "creation science" is not a science and cannot be taught as such in public schools as an alternative or in addition to the mainstream evolutionary theory of the biological sciences. However, religious creation stories and the idea of "intelligent design" can be taught in philosophy, religion, or history courses. Religion and Science provide different approaches to knowledge.
It is this point that the Texas school Board is ignoring. Of course, as any good teacher will tell you, we are teaching all subjects in all classes. Math, History, English and Reading as well as Science are infused in all classes. That’s why I expect students to remember and use their English writing skills when they write an essay in my class.
Even Darwin apparently agreed with my personal feeling, that the higher power put the evolutionary possibilities in motion. It’s not Science vs. God, science exists because of God.
Another interesting point..
On July 17, 2005, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted a national poll in the United States concerning the teaching of creationism and evolution. In regards to beliefs about how life developed, 42% of the respondents said that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." Only 26% said that they had evolved through time as a result of "natural process such as natural selection," while 18% said that evolution occurred but was guided by a supreme being. In response to the question of whether creationism should be taught in public schools instead of evolution, 38% said yes and 49% said no. When asked whether creationism should be taught along with evolution, 64% said yes and 26% said not. The older the respondent, the more likely he/she was to reject evolution and its teaching in favor of creationism. The sample consisted of 2,000 people and the margin of error was ±3.5%.
So, no matter what the founding fathers believed or wrote in documents of our government, today’s Americans hold a range of beliefs about the origins of the humans on the planet. Our children need to know, and respect those beliefs AND to know that some are faith-based and some are science-based.