Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Edumacation President

In one of those news stories that can't help but wake me up briefly from my outrage overload, President Bush yesterday explicitly advocated teaching "intelligent design" in schools alongside that most evil of secular humanist inventions, evolution.


Wonkette has the Quote of the Day:
"Teaching [intelligent design] as 'alternative' to evolution is a little like teaching 'magic' as an alternative to physics."
Which reminds me of one of my favorite science stories. Bertrand Russell once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady from the audience came up to Russell. "What you have told us is rubbish," she said. "Everyone knows that the world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."

Russell chuckled at this and asked the woman, "Then ma'am, what is the tortoise standing on?"

"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."


Anonymous said...

I was taught both theories in school, by nuns no less, evolution in science class and "intelligent design" in religion. We discussed the idea that the two were not necessarily mutually exclusive. I was perfectly able to distinguish the scientific theory of one and the spirtual concept of the other.

A discussion in a philosophy or world religions class, obviously not science class, doesn't seem out of line to me. It's hard to tell where the President thought this would fit in, so little was quoted, but "fucker" seems a tad harsh. Those nuns were pretty open-minded about most things. Not one called evolution the "most evil of secular humanist inventions." You're poor opinion of people with spiritual and religious beliefs is certainly different than my own experience.

Thomas More said...

Where do I start?

-Intelligent design (which is just putting lipstick on creationism) isn't a theory, at least in the scientific sense. It can't be proven or disproven. It's faith, not science. If you have faith that God created the universe, good for you. But that's not science, and it never will be.

-What is taught in religious private school and what is taught in public school just isn't the same thing. At all.

-What the religious right wants to do is the opposite of what you're talking about: blur the line between religion and science. If you think all they want is discussing this in philosophy class, you're fooling yourself.

-I have a high opinion of people with spiritual and religious beliefs. I just don't want them using the public schools to proselytize.

-As for "most evil of secular humanist inventions," "Origin of Species" recently narrowly missed being listed on the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" by the conservative Human Events Online. ("The Kinsey Report" was No. 4.)

Anonymous said...

Most of the world believes in a creator. It's part of our history. There was not enough in what the president said to assume he wants to shove creationism down our kids' throats. That's a mighty big leap. World religion is taught in public schools all the time and should be.

Most Christians I know are able to distinguish science from religious beliefs. They mostly know the world is round and not some Discworld fantasy. The same for the Jewish people I know. That probably won't change if creationism is discussed in school.

Who cares what Human Events Online says. There's more out there than what the media and internet provides.

Thomas More said...

As if it needs to be said: I have no problem with talking about creationism in comparative religion class, or philosophy class. But science class, no. And if you don't think that's what the religious right wants, then you're being naive.

"Intelligent design," as a guest on Bill O'Reilly's show said last night, doesn't have to prove itself. It's an article of faith that God created the universe - this needs or has no proof. So all they attempt to do is poke holes in evolutionary theory.

Of course the press should ask the President more detailed questions. But part of the reason I called him a "fucker" is because he purposely does these namby-pamby statements, hoping they will simultaneously assuage the religious right that got him elected, while allowing enough wiggle room for discussions like this. "That's not what he meant at all!" Yeah.

As for Human Events, I think it's an accurate barometer of what the far right in this country believes. Those people got GWB elected, and now they want payback.

And as for "most of the world," you know, I don't much care what most of the world believes, if we're talking about science. (We pretty much believed in a flat earth until a few hundred years ago.) If it's not science, it shouldn't be taught in science class as an "alternate theory." That's why the "magic and physics" line is so on-point.

Thomas More said...

Good stuff here:


And here:


Thomas More said...

One more thing: throughout history, churches have, when they had the power to do so, suppressed any scientific thought that conflicted with their beliefs. It took the Catholic Church more than 300 years to apologize to Galileo!

X Philius said...

All Hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster that created us all!

Anonymous said...

Interesting editorial.


Thomas More said...

After reading the above article: Those darn "coastal elites" again, huh? Hmmmm.

I don't know why I (or others like me) have to keep saying this, but I don't disdain anyone's faith. I just don't want it taught in science class. I don't know why that's such a controversial stance.

How about this: I'll advocate that scientists be available in Sunday School to explain why they think Christian orthodoxy is wrong. How about that? We want to teach all viewpoints, right? Ack.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I forgot the disclaimer: "While not exactly agreeing with everything said in the posted article, some things were of interest, mostly the incredible changes that have happened in just 80 years. I do not think Thomas More is a coastal elite. This is not a personal attack on him, or others like him. Not being able to black out any portions of this editorial that might offend Thomas More's delicate sensibilities, or those of others like him, please proceed with caution."

Thomas More said...

I'm not offended. Far from it. I was just trying to point out that the article regurgitates a lot of tired stuff about the "culture war," including laying the entire thing at the feet of liberals, which yes, are like me.

As far as I'm concerned, there is a culture war. But it's being fought by right-wing Christian conservatives, not by liberals who simply want a separation of church and state - something that I believe strengthens religion in this country.

Also, I don't think things have progressed that far in 80 years. When you think about it, the likelihood of another Scopes Trial, with the same outcome, is more likely today than it has been in decades. Imagine if during the space race, President Kennedy advocated teaching creationism in the public schools. How would that have gone over with the public and the media? Yeah. Blows the mind.