Adventures in Ethics and Science

You’ll recall that the Lancaster(California) school district has recently adopted a “science philosophy” that calls for critical thinking about evolutionary theory … but no other scientific theory in the curriculum.

You’ll recall that the school district trustees didn’t seem to view this as having anything to do with opening the door for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design.

If you read the comments, though, you’ve discovered that Alex Branning, the entrepreneur who spearheaded this new policy, and who claimed to have no truck with creationists or ID proponents, is the registered owner of the domain evolutionisimpossible.com.

And, Lancaster’s local paper, the Antelope Valley Press, has printed an editorial that shows they know what the new policy is intended to do. The awesome thing is that the editorial calls shenanigans on it. Here’s just a taste:

This past week, the Lancaster School District board voted to implement a “philosophy” of science instruction that encourages students to question Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and that permits science teachers to insert into the curriculum critiques of the longstanding and accepted scientific theory.

The new statement does not include any alternative theories such as “intelligent design,” which posits a master plan or master “designer” as an explanation of how the universe began, but science instructors and educators quickly pounced on the move as a way of sneaking a divine explanation into the public classroom. …

Creationism, and the more vogue school of thought propounded by advocacy groups such as the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, are not scientific. There are scientists who ascribe to these beliefs, but they are scientists who have a commitment to their faith explaining the origin of life and the universe.

Which is all fine. Faith is the belief in things unseen. Science is the exercise of that which can be tested and demonstrated by physical evidence. That is where the two great topics of exploration part company.

Now the new policy or philosophy or whatever you choose to call it in the Lancaster School District is littered with chatter about science, debate, critique, objectivity, thinking skills and being competitive and so on. But that is, we believe, just a metaphorical fig leaf intended the shelter the big idea – the big idea being to permit teachers to encourage students to open their impulse to throwing a knock at the theory of evolution.

Inevitably – we say inevitably – that knock comes from a basis of faith rather than the foundations of teaching the physical sciences.

It’s extremely doubtful the so-called philosophy would withstand a court test. Not because the judges are godless, liberal legislators from the bench, although some undoubtedly are. The legal test will come because judges see the law allowing faith to be faith and allowing science to be taught as, well, science.

By the way, evolution, as posited by Charles Darwin, is taught as a theory, not a fact. …

We wonder at the need of legions of believers to intrude their beliefs in an area of study in which they themselves place so little faith. Let the believers come to church or whatever domicile of faith welcomes them. Encourage them.

But let faith be faith, and science be science, and let science be taught as such. Since when is a theory more powerful that belief?

Go read the whole thing. The editorial starts with a story about Jesus.

Antelope Valley Press, I salute your awesomeness!