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Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle...

The other night I was watching “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” on TV, and the episode was “In The Hands Of The Prophets.” In it, the conservative religious leader was trying to shut down the school for teaching that the wormhole was an artificial construct made by the Wormhole Entities, and not that it was the Celestial Temple and home to the Prophets Of Bajor. Even for Star Trek, the metaphor was extremely heavy-handed.

Every couple of years, the fight starts up again about teaching evolution vs. creationism in the classrooms. On one side you have the educational establishment, arguing that they will only teach principles that have sound scientific evidence backing them up. On the other side you have the religious fundamentalists, who insist that their holy scriptures are true and valid counterpoints to the unproven scientific “theories” that seem to contradict them.

The arguments seem to boil down to these simple arguments. The teachers say there is no scientific evidence, so the Creation side (also called “single source,” “intelligent design,” and a host of other terms) doesn’t have any right to be taught in a science class. The religious side says that the evidence backing up the common scientific theories is inconclusive at best and contradictory at worst, so the possibility of a single God creating everything certainly deserves representation alongside the rest.

One argument that I’ve never heard presented before is the one that most convinces me that Creationism has no place in schools.

For the most part, teachers in schools teach topics with which they have considerable training and education. My high school math teacher, for example, had a Bachelor’s in math and a Master’s in Education. It’s just common sense.

The primary evidence for Creationism isn’t based on history, or physics, or archeology, or any other “hard” science. It’s based on theology, which is more closely related to philosophy and “softer” sciences. Most teachers I’ve had, or known, were very uncomfortable in teaching students topics outside their field at anything more than the most surface levels.

I have known very few teachers who would have been qualified to teach theological issues. One of them was a Sunday-school teacher as well; the rest were good to excellent in their fields, but not as “up to speed” on other matters.

Teachers should stick to teaching what they know, and the best ones know that and practice that. What the religious fundamentalists want is these teachers to teach THEIR theological beliefs, and that’s wrong. They’re perfectly within their rights to teach their children their beliefs, and to have others versed in theological issues (clergy and teachers in religious schools, for example), but teachers should NOT be in the business of teaching ANYTHING beyond the basics of any religion, and then only in the context of a general survey of religions in a social studies class.

J.


Comments (10)

Interesting post, although ... (Below threshold)

Interesting post, although DS9 itself kinda contradicts you. The eventual position of the show (especially in the last 3 seasons) is that the Prophets are *both*, that there is no difference worth arguing between ultra-powerful aliens who exist in non-linear time and gods. (And more importantly, that the Bajorans aren't hicks and rubes for believing that they're gods, which still remains pretty shocking for a major TV series).

It's a good argument but ul... (Below threshold)
Paul:

It's a good argument but ultimately it fails... And you kill it your self.

"but teachers should NOT be in the business of teaching ANYTHING beyond the basics of any religion,"

It does not take any specialized training to teach kids about Adam and Even and God setting the whole shebang up. So you can't just say teacher's ain't qualified.

The problem with this debate is that NEITHER SIDE has any freaking clue what they are talking about but neither side will admit it. The theory that there was some ooze on a rock that got hit by lighting then became life and evolved to become man is actually even more preposterous than a benevolent, omnipotent being.

If we only teach children that which we KNOW, when it comes time to teach were we came from, the teacher should stand up before the classroom and say, "We don't have any freaking clue."

I've got my 10 foot pole an... (Below threshold)
Jim:

I've got my 10 foot pole and I'm not afraid to use it!

I'm going to completely ignore the creation/evolution angle here. I've learned the hard way that this particular argument will never ever go anywhere on the internet and I don't want any holes in my walls.

However I can comment on the focus of your con argument itself. We can't use the excuse that the current crop of teachers aren't experts in order to cull the curiculum. If we did that then we would never have anything new in our schools. As you said the best teachers are ones who know their topics well. If a new subject is introduced to our schools the laws of supply and demand will generate the necessary experts in (relatively) short order.

The argument for from the t... (Below threshold)
chris canning:

The argument for from the teachers and scientists for excluding creationism from the science curriculum does not boil down to lack of evidence on the creationist side, as you suggest. It is omitted from science class simply because it is NOT a scientific theory at all. A scientific theory has to make experimentally testable predictions which creationism does not.

My school had what I though... (Below threshold)
Rob:

My school had what I thought to be an interesting solution to this debate. Evolution was, of course, taught in science class while creationism was taught in a humanities class focusing on religions of the world. In that class we hit the basic creation stories of all the major religions (christian, muslim, buddhist, scandanavian, etc.) and learned about their worship practices.

I thought it was a rather nice way of splitting the subject up and allowing both sides to be given some time.

As the son of a retired Sou... (Below threshold)
Boyd:

As the son of a retired Southern Baptist pastor who is strongly on the side of Biblical Inerrancy, I've always found it odd that there's any argument going on here. Dad and I don't argue about it, though, since we wouldn't change each other's mind, and it's easier to get along by talking about other things.

Metaphors abound in the Bible, but for some reason the traditional Creationism proponents refuse to allow for any metaphors in the Creation story. As you may guess, I think they're wrong.

My belief is that God created the laws of physics, relativity, et al. The reason that life has progressed the way it has over the millennia is because God ordained it to be that way.

We don't know how God does many things. Why do some of us have the, dare I say, arrogance to think that they know exactly how God worked in this case?

In China - they critize and... (Below threshold)
Mush4Brains:

In China - they critize and laugh at Darwin regularly. They are doing incredible geologic fossil research on the "Cambrian Explosion". e.g., no fossils pre-cambrian, then BANG, all the fossils.

In China they laugh that it's O.K. to criticize Darwin all you want, but not the Government, while in the U.S. you can criticize the government all day long, but not Darwin.

U. Cal Berkeley Law Professor, Phillip Johnson says that the "Darwin Only" community is evidencing bankruptcy; they are no longer trying to argue evidence, they are arguing minutae in the law.

Click Here

hmmmmmChris said: ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

hmmmmm

Chris said: A scientific theory has to make experimentally testable predictions which creationism does not.

Hey Chris- Can you give me one example of "experimentally testable predictions" we have on the side of the folks that say we came from ooze?

You have no more evidence than the creationists. They admit it is an act of faith. You pretend it is science.

Interesting. I, too, end u... (Below threshold)

Interesting. I, too, end up skipping the argument. As a born-again Christian, I've never seen the contradiction. The Bible explains the "WHY" and Darwin is a possibility for the "HOW".

I suppose strict creationists count the number of year from Adam to Jesus and figure out how old the world is, but the symbology in the Old Testament would have to be taken a lot more literally than I take it.

Paul, there are thousands o... (Below threshold)
Ted:

Paul, there are thousands of testable hypotheses for evolution, such as "Because all living creatures on earth come from a single ancestor, all living creatures on earth have DNA," a hypothesis that has yet to be falsified for the millions of species tested. Plenty of others were you to open your mind and actually learn about the subject rather than get your information about evolution from Luddite propagandists and quacks like Philip Johnson.




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