Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Interesting Item in UC Complaint

In reading the complaint against UC, there are some interesting things to discover. Here’s an interesting item it contains. The plaintiffs allege that UC is official state board of education policy by requiring students to believe in evolution:

Furthermore, the State of California has agreed that in public and private schools, students do not have to accept everything that is taught, and cannot be required to hold a state-prescribed viewpoint:

Nothing In science or in any other field of knowledge shall be taught dogmatically. Dogma is a system of beliefs that is not subject to scientific test and refutation…

To be fully informed citizens, students do not have to accept everything that is taught in the natural science curriculum, but they do have to understand the major strands of scientific thought, including its methods, facts, hypotheses, theories and laws.

California State Board of Education, Science Framework for California Public Schools,
“State Board of Education Policy on the Teaching of Natural Sciences” Pgs. 3-4 (2003).

First of all, this is an empty argument. Nothing in the UC standards requires students to accept or believe anything. Indeed, it is not the individual student or their positions that have been rejected, it is the pedagogical content of the class they may take that is being rejected. So this is a pure red herring from the get go. Secondly, let’s compare the definition of dogma – “a system of beliefs that is not subject to scientific test and refutation” – to this statement from the introduction to the biology book the UC is objecting to:

The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second…If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

Clearly, the definition of dogma applies perfectly here. They begin from the premise that the Bible is absolutely true and it doesn’t matter what the scientific evidence indicates. So it appears that they are admitting, unwittingly, that the material contained in this science book is not science, but dogma. And ironically, they’re claiming that if you don’t allow their dogma to pass as science, you’re being dogmatic. Another irony meter bites the dust.

Also interesting is this quote from the university’s analysis of the textbook and why they rejected it:

The texts in question are primarily religious texts; science is secondary. The textbook authors and publishers are quite clear and direct about their approach and provide evidence of this approach in both the texts and general marketing materials such as their websites… As a result of the orientation/approach of the texts in question, which expressly prioritize religion over science, a course relying on these texts as core instructional
materials does not meet the faculty’s criteria for the UC subject “d” laboratory science requirement.

Seems to me that the university is dead right. The textbook – allegedly a science textbook, remember – explicitly declares that they begin from the assumption of Biblical inerrancy and any science which appears to contradict that assumption is wrong, regardless of the facts. Game, set, and match, I would argue. If you start a science book with the assumption that science must be wrong any time it conflicts with your religious views, you are not teaching science you are teaching anti-science. The notion that such a text should be accepted as a science credit is as ridiculous as the notion that a class in homeopathy should be accepted by a medical school, or that a course in astrology should be accepted as credit for astronomy.

Comments

  1. #1 ACW
    August 31, 2005

    Ed, I think you left a word out of your third sentence. Probably violating, just before official state board of education policy.

  2. #2 spyder
    August 31, 2005

    “So this is a pure red herring from the get go”

    Indeed, and maybe more like a huge can of worms being used to chum a whole school of red herring in order to obscure much of the underlying intent of the action. Christian based parent groups in CA have been encouraged to form charter schools as well as their own parochial and home school systems and networks. There are thousands of children enrolled in these systems supported quite generously by foundations and corporations who purchase materials and other educational resources. The fight over this one biology book is a wedge issue to open the universities and colleges in the state(community colleges of CA use the UC-CSU admission requirement criteria) to these thousands of (IMHO) very poorly academically trained children.

    Until i retired nearly two years ago, i spent the bulk of the last forty years in CA education academia. I have seen these materials, and i am more than casually familiar with all of the frameworks and curricula guidelines developed, formulated, approved, revised, discarded, created anew and so forth. Thus i am deeply concerned with the intent of these folks to force CA to accept their “graduates” who have received an education that utterly and completely dogmatic.

    If you are the least bit familiar with David Barton’s US History writings you begin to realize the scope of the issue, in that his book is THE curriculum choice for teaching 5th, 8th, and 11th grade US history for ACSI and all most of the other Christian schools. In each strand of core academic curricula these students receive nothing other than biblical based references and resources–math using bible numbers, grammar and punctuation lessons focussed on literal textual meanings,, and so forth. It is really quite scary.

  3. #3 jcw
    August 31, 2005

    Spyder,

    Because you have personally been witness to this flight from public schools to private, parochial, christian and homeschools what do you believe are the 2 or 3 most prevalent causes of this? They must have some major concerns with public schools to form their own schools.

  4. #4 raj
    August 31, 2005

    The plaintiffs allege that UC is official state board of education policy by requiring students to believe in evolution…

    Just to point out, the plaintiffs are wrong. The policy doesn’t require students to “believe in” anything. The policy would require students to be educated in regards evolution–in other words, the students would need to be presented with the theory. They don’t have to believe that the theory has anything to do with reality (the “believe in” part) but the policy would require that the educational institution present the theory and evidence to them.

    The difference is subtle, but very real.

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