Thursday, November 30, 2006

Creation in UK science classes

It seems the insidious methods of the fundamentalists have spread to the UK.

Now, I have no objection to children being taught about creation, in line with their religions. I do object when a group with the laughable name 'Truth in Science' distributes unsolicited material to school science departments on the pretext that it's not creationism. It's certainly not science.

Certainly, teach children the creation story. Teach them evolution also. Let them make up their own minds. I have no objection at all when this is done openly.

What gets me wound up is when the creationists sneak around like this, hiding their intentions in the guise of 'science' while simultaneously deriding all aspects of the subject. You are doing yourselves no favours by using these kind of underhanded techniques to force your message on schools.

Should creationism be taught in science classes? Certainly, as long as evolution is taught in church.

Neither side has absolute, irrefutable proof of its position, which is why the argument rages on. They are polar opposites. They cannot be taught in the same place, and certainly not by the same teacher. It is as unreasonable to demand that a science teacher teaches creationism as it is to demand that the church teaches evolution.

If the fundamentalists persist in this venture, they will do far more damage to religion than they will to science.


Anonymous said...

Rom, I really want to get your opinion on James P. Hogan's book. Especially since I know your views and you are the only scientist I know.

Romulus Crowe said...

You mean 'Kicking the Sacred Cow'?

I haven't yet read it, but it's on my list of books to buy (it's a big list, with ever-changing priorities).

I'm baffled by the level of fuss over this issue, to be honest. If a child grows up to be a doctor, lawyer, bus driver, architect, plumber, electrician...etc, it doesn't matter at all whether they believe in evolution or creation. If they become administrators, I believe they're excused any form of thinking. It doesn't even matter in most branches of science: evolution/creation has no impact on their ability to do their job.

The only time it matters is when they grow up to be evolutionary biologists, archaeologists, geologists, astronomers... and if they're creationists they won't get those jobs.

It also matters if they want to be a priest, of course. Evolutionists won't get those jobs.

It seems to be one of those 'we don't want science to embarrass us' vs. 'we don't want religion to make things difficult for us' arguments. There have been plenty of those in the past, and I suppose there'll be more in the future.

I don't see why they can't just agree to disagree. It would save an awful lot of bother.

I'll move that book up my priority list, and get back to you once I've read it. I've just picked up new ones on Stonehenge and Avebury, so it might take a little while.

Anonymous said...

Why would priests be excluded from being evolutionists?

creationism and evolution aren't necessarily exclusive.

Romulus Crowe said...

Well, I don't think creation and evolution need be exclusive, but it seems most churches do. The previous Pope had no problem with evolution, for example, but the current one isn't quite so open-minded.

It depends on the interpretation of scripture, which can vary enormously-not just in Christianity, but also in other religions. Some insist on seven literal days of creation, others are flexible to varying degrees. Some insist on 6000 years, others are not tied to that calculation.

So a liberal church might accept an evolutionist priest, although I doubt they'd want him to shout about it.

Actually, I see no reason why a church should accept someone who doesn't believe what that church preaches, just as I see no reason why a science teacher should be forced to teach religious beliefs in class.

Anonymous said...

John Paul was God's gift to us.

We'll see if Benedict is God's representative or a placeholder while we wait for God's man. Perhaps God sends us Benedict to make obvious the extraordinary gift he'd given us in John Paul and to make us appreciate the next gift he sends. Or perhaps Benedict is a work in progress or has a mission that requires a narrow focus or perhaps I misunderstand the man.

At any rate, Jesus taught in parable so often that it astonishes me when fundies insist on taking the bible literally. Sons usually speak much like their fathers.

Genesis is obviously not supposed to be taken literally. It is supposed to expose truth in a way that makes it more easily understandable.

The reason humans can't accept the fact that God created the world they live in over billions of years is because they feel diminished by that fact. It's all supposed to be about humankind. The rest of God's creation isn't supposed to be as important. But that's just human arrogance.

God loves man. But he also makes it clear he loves the rest of his creation as well. And whether we were his first priority or a later thought doesn't dimish us anymore than your 5th child is diminished by the fact you gave life children before him.

God created all that is. He did so over countless units of time and in a single action outside of time. He set evolution in motion for his own pleasure and for the benefit of all his creation.

Infinite variety, everchanging abundance.

Victor Allen Winters said...

Once again, That first Anonymous was me. (the rest are someone else).

And even if you take Genesis literally, there are explainations that cover the descrepencies in time, As Rom pointed out in one of his comments to pigsandfishes (I'd post the link, but I do not want to hijack Rom's Blog.

I am divided about taking Genesis literally, mostly, because I have found that when something is meant to be symbolic it clearly states that it is so (tells what those things represent at minimum)

Romulus Crowe said...

True, parables are labelled as parables. The only thing you need to not take literally in Genesis is the seven literal days of creation. I know the Witnesses and some other groups don't take those seven days literally.

The 6000 years (calculated on the ages of biblical characters) goes back to the creation of Adam (or to the date of his expulsion from Eden, depending on your viewpoint).

Either way, there can be a long, long time between the creation of animals and the creation of Adam. Dinosaurs might have come and gone in that time. So I don't see evolution and creation as mutually exclusive.

The only big issue is: did the Universe pop into existence on its own, or did someone pop it? I don't see any way to prove or disprove either viewpoint on that issue, and until there is a way to do that, both views have equal validity.

Religion: God created Man (Adam)6000 years ago.
Science: Men evolved from pre-human forms, longer than 6000 years ago.

Now, when did Man become sentient? When did the first human look up at the stars and actually wonder what they were?

If that happened 6000 years ago, it'd raise a few eyebrows (and ruffle a lot of feathers). It would leave open the possibility of Genesis as a true account, with Adam as the first 'true' human.

That's why I don't discount the Bible, like most scientists. There's enough uncertainty in science to allow that the Bible could be right. There's certainly not enough known to prove it's not right.

Still, the fundamentalists are not helping their case by forcing creation into science classes. That just sets up an equal and opposite force trying to keep it out. For now, the scientists should teach science, and the church should teach religion - and they should leave each other alone until we know for sure who's right.

tom sheepandgoats said...

“to force your message on schools.” That’s obnoxious. My group (JWs) doesn’t do that. The state makes no claim to being Christina, Hindu, Islam, or anything else. What’s the point in trying to force them to act as if they were? You just alienate everyone who’s not in your camp.

On the other hand, is that what happened here? This organization “distributes unsolicited material to school science departments on the pretext that it’s not creationism.” We don’t do that either, but is that really so horrible? Is the school feeding process so rarefied and holy that someone who differs from the mainstream can’t even approach school science departments? Are the school science departments the exclusive tool of Credentialed Scientists? Unless there is more to it than what you say, all that happened is a group distributed material without being asked. Let the science dept throw it in the trash if they think that’s where it belongs.

Romulus Crowe said...

I'm aware that in fact, there are only a few who insist on forcing creation teaching into science classes. I couldn't even point to any one denomination and say 'They all think this way'. It's the 'radical extremists' (and every group has those, not just religion).

The objection to this material was that it wasn't open about what it taught. It was disguised as part of the science curriculum.

An evolutionary scientist, even a general biologist, would spot this right away. A teacher, teaching a general science class, has to cover all of chemistry, physics and biology, and can't be expected to have as deep a knowledge of any one subject as a specialist. They might get halfway through before they realise they've been teaching with material that rightly belongs in the religious education class. We have those here in the UK, I don't know if the US has such classes.

It's not the material I object to. It's the sneaky way the radicals use to slip it into science classes. Once you undermine that teacher's credibility in one subject, you've undermined the credibility of all branches of science in a student's eyes.

Teach creation, certainly, but make it clear that's what's being taught.

opinions powered by