Sal Cordova is an ID advocate who teaches at (I think) George Mason University. He now blogs at Dembski’s home for wayward sycophants and comments there often. Lately he’s been pushing this notion that Jack Krebs and Nick Matzke refuse to answer this simple set of questions he poses. He apparently thinks that this is a very difficult question to answer and really reveal some flaw in our position. So much so that he can’t wait to get us in court to catch us in a Perry Mason moment. He’s brought it up in at least two comments (here and here) lately. Here’s how he phrased it in one of them:
In my interactions with Nick Matzke and Jack Krebs I asked if the following represents their views:
1. school children with creationist religious beliefs should have those religious beliefs changed since it impedes their scientific understanding
2. public schools are an appropriate means of changing their religious beliefs regarding origins since such beliefs are an impediment to their ability to do science
They didn’t answer.
And here is how he phrased it the second time:
The appropriate vise-strategy is to ask ID critics the following questions which will put them in an indefensible corner:
1. Is it possible ID and/or creationism are true?
2. Is it possible the mainstream view of origins is wrong?
3. Are ID and/or creationism religious views?
4. If so, is it proper to use public schools for the purpose of changing ID and/or creationist religious views?
Whichever way they answer, I think they’re hosed. I point out the apparent reluctance of Nick Matzke and Jack Krebs to answer a similar set of questions directly. They were able to elude the vise in the free domain of the internet. The critics will not be able to elude the vise in court.
I’m a bit perplexed by why he thinks this is such a conundrum for us. The answer to the question of whether it’s proper to “use public schools for the purpose of changing ID and/or creationist religious views” seems obvious to me: it’s completely irrelevant. What is proper and appropriate is for schools to teach scientific views that are well supported by the evidence and by the consensus of scientific opinion. The fact that this will sometimes conflict with a student’s religious views is completely irrelevant.
Evolution is taught in science classrooms because the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and obvious to 99.9% of the scientists in those fields that contribute to it, the same reason that we teach the theory of relativity, big bang cosmology and the germ theory of disease. If one is seriously going to make the argument that teaching evolution is illegitimate because it “uses public schools” for the purpose of changing the religious beliefs of creationists, then there is virtually nothing that could be taught in science.
Would Sal seriously argue that we teach heliocentricity in schools because we’re trying to change the beliefs of those who, for religious reasons, believe in geocentrism? There are lots of geocentrists around, particularly in hardcore Calvinist circles. Would he argue that we teach that the earth is spherical rather than flat for that purpose? There are lots of relligious flat earthers around too. Do we teach the germ theory of disease in order to change the minds of followers of the Christian Science religion? Do we teach that humans have only been on earth for a couple hundred thousand years in order to change the minds of Hindu children? Do we teach that hurricanes are the result of atmospheric interactions and earthquakes the result of tectonic shifting in order to change the minds of those who believe that such disasters are sent by God (or by Satan, for that matter)?
Of course not. We teach all of these things because they are well validated and strongly supported explanations with the weight of evidence and the overwhelming consensus of scholarly opinion to back them up. The fact that they happen to conflict with someone’s religious views simply has no relevance to whether they should or should not be taught. No one is required to change their minds, but nor should what we teach be determined by the religious views of the students.
I frankly find the idea that either Nick or Jack ducked these questions for lack of a good answer to be quite ridiculous. I know them both well enough to know that they would give essentially the same answer that I gave here. Neither of them would argue that school children should “have their religious views changed”, nor would they argue that the purpose of education should be to change them. They would simply argue that we should teach what is valid and supported, regardless of whether that happens to conflict with someone’s religious views.