Matt Lowry, whom I hope to be seeing in a couple of weeks, has written an article on his blog and republished on the JREF web site, called Is It Time To Call Creationists’ Bluff And Push For “Teaching All Views”?

The idea is this. There has been a recent change in strategy among creationists (which, I’m sorry, but I may have started a few years back for which I apologize). Instead of pushing creationism per se, they push “academic freedom” which doubles as a way to repress the teaching about climate change, evolution, and other inconvenient science, and a way to introduce whatever other “alternative view” a creationist or anti-science teacher might pull out of his or her nether regions. An by “nether regions” I mean material provided by the Heartland Institute, stuff they picked up at the Creation Museum, or took off the Answers in Genesis web site.

Matt is re-suggesting and giving new air to an idea that we all mutter under our collective breath about now and then; If they want to teach their particular religion in the classroom, then fine, but then we also must teach the origin stories of every one of the thousands of distinct tribal groups documented by anthropologists, all the other non-Abrahamic state level religion such as Hinduism, the much-hated1 Islam, and, of course, we must provide the origin and evolution related parts of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I recommend that you have a look at Matt’s blog posts, here and here.

Matt is obviously being both serious and not serious at the same time. Sometimes this seems like a strategy one should try, a sort of massive passive aggressive attack. “Well, then, fine. Let’s just do that. Let’s see what the Bhagavad Gita says about cellular biology,” is how we would say it here in Minnesota, where Passive Aggressive originated and is still a refined art.

I insist that the cults of Elvis and Bigfoot be taught in science classes from now on. Photo of Elvis and Bigfoot fighting courtesy of roadkillbuddha at http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadkillbuddha/239553576/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Other than pointing you to my colleague’s post, which also includes information about recent creationist antics in the legislative system, I also wanted to mention two-three reasons why we actually can’t do this. This is not a disagreement with Matt; he knows these things too. I just want to make sure they get mentioned.

First (but not most important), the curriculum is full. Only time neutral suggestion are reasonable. At times it seems like everyone has a thing they want taught in school. “If only they taught the kids how to bla bla bla then everything would be fine.” The thing is, whenever such an idea occurs to someone with power, like the person who happened to show up on nomination day and got elected to the school board in Poffadder Iowa, it actually DOES get added to the curriculum. School boards and administrators generally have no idea of what goes on in the classroom and despite words they may use have little respect for classroom time. Every year, in most schools, classroom time is taken away and replaced with dumb-ass crap mandated by the state legislature, the school board, the school’s administration, or whatever. Lockdown drills, Pledge of Allegiance, The News Minute, standardized tests that do not have a standardized schedule, etc. etc. People worry about snow days. Snow days are not the problem. Administrators with a microphone and a random thought popping into their head are the problem.

Another reason is the simple fact that if we let one of the hoard past the moat the rest will feel like they’ve been invited. The wall between church and state would actually have to be breached, or at least, a gate lowered, to let this happen. That can’t be allowed. This has happened already; at present, there are religiously based charter schools in the US being funded by tax dollars that give religious instruction and don’t teach evolution because the religion of the school does not accept it. That’s a breech. This is being walked back here and there, and the weakening of the charter school strategy is helping with that, but we can’t handle too many breaches.

Another reason which is the secret reason Matt would never really accept teaching the Origin Story of the Iroquois, as interesting and culturally relevant as it may be, as a scientific theory in a life science class, is because it is not science. A closely related but distinctly different reason is that it is not true.

One of the most important points Matt makes, and that I imply above, is that we are no longer talking about creationism vs. evolution. Increasingly we are talking about science in general. Well, we always have been to some extent, but it has gotten specific:

…let us note that the new Tennessee law also makes specific references to the science of global warming and human cloning, both increasingly hot-button issues for social and religious conservatives in the United States. But, interestingly, the language is more open-ended and doesn’t stop explicitly at those topics; in fact, the language states that “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that arouse “debate and disputation”. Note that the law doesn’t specify among whom these topics can arouse debate and disputation.

If this strategy is attempted, though, I very much hope that the first law suit demanding equal time comes from … well, you can probably guess what I think about that.

Ancient artifact from The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion from the fourth millennium before the present. Source: Pastafarian at http://goo.gl/9hsZY

_____________________________
1Hated by many of those who want to force their particular religious beliefs onto others’ children by legislation.

Comments

  1. #1 Shakatany
    June 26, 2012

    ID is to America what Lysenkoism was to Soviet Russia. It held back science and agriculture there for decades. The people who propose this are sabotaging our future as our children will have to compete against children who are taught real science.

  2. #2 Benton Jackson
    United States
    June 26, 2012

    Don’t forget Pastafarians have something to say about global warming too. It’s inversely proportional to the number of pirates.

  3. #3 Wow
    June 26, 2012

    Pasta Be Upon Him.

    Ramen.

  4. #4 Morgan Price
    June 26, 2012

    Does it make sense to teach evolution, or global climate change, without addressing the issue that many (most?) Americans don’t believe in it? It seems problematic. I suspect the average student would benefit if some of the technical material was replaced with discussion of these higher-level issues. And surely there are already comparative religion classes that give an overview of various creation myths without going through every one of them?

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    June 26, 2012

    Morgan, that is often done at the college level but it is almost impossible at the high school level. Teachers would get fired. School budgets would be drained by legal fees. Cats and dogs would … well, you get the picture.

    But yes, in fact, I think that is what should happen.

  6. #6 Wow
    June 26, 2012

    What does most Americans not believing in something have to do with teaching them stuff?

    What does it have to do with reality?

    Why, in short should teachers give a monkeys what most Americans do or don’t believe?

  7. #7 Wow
    June 26, 2012

    As Greg says, further education can manage things differently, but there’s too much to cover by far to go off on side quests in school.

    When they have the foundations, THEN you can start telling them how it was done. Because by then you’re teaching them about one or two things in university.

  8. #9 Wow
    June 26, 2012

    No, ron. And yet another case here of a True Beleiver who, having read another rehash of a WUWT report of a scientist who was at the extreme danger end of the spectrum now, having moved toward the IPCC consensus saying ‘I was alarmist’ is now touted as reliable.

    Until you hear that he still says the IPCC is right and AGW still real.

    Tiresome.

    And irrelevant.

  9. #10 bks
    June 26, 2012

    Insist that Zoroastrian creation principles are taught. They are actually a rather good metaphor for descriptions of “vacuum energy”. Once the School Board finds out it’s Iranian, all religion will be purged from the science syllabus within a month.

    –bks

  10. #11 Dunc
    June 27, 2012

    The other obvious problem is that it would inevitably fall to teachers to figure out how to present all this material… Given that many of them are managing to squeeze their personal religious agendas into the classroom as it is, does anybody really believe that this “teach all the controversies” approach would actually be honoured in practice, or that all the options would be given equal time and weight? Of course not.

  11. #12 ron
    June 27, 2012

    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

    “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

    He discredits the IPCC saying: ‘I don’t think people have noticed that, but it’s got all the sort of terms that religions use. The greens use guilt. You can’t win people round by saying they are guilty for putting CO2 in the air’

  12. #13 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    Have you checked that AT ALL, ron?

    No, you haven’t.
    +++
    “In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

    However, the professor admitted in a telephone interview with msnbc.com that he now thinks he had been “extrapolating too far.””
    +++

    No, you’re a BS artist and been told to swallow this load without flinching.

  13. #14 ron
    June 27, 2012

    Those were direct quotes from the articles I linked. You and I have the same data. Checked it against what, Mr. Ad hominem Attack?

  14. #15 bks
    June 27, 2012

    Lovelock is not the “founder” of climate change. That would be Svante August Arrhenius.

    –bks

  15. #16 ron
    June 27, 2012

    Lovelock originated the concept that CFC’s deplete ozone and the Gaia hypothesis. Would you accept “modern torch carrier”? He’s a critical cog in the current movement.

  16. #17 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    Yes, and I gave direct quotes too, ron.

    what was your point?

  17. #18 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    “Lovelock originated the concept that CFC’s deplete ozone”

    LIAR!

    After the development of his electron capture detector, in the late 1960s, Lovelock was the first to detect the widespread presence of CFCs in the atmosphere.[7] He found a concentration of 60 parts per trillion of CFC-11 over Ireland and, in a partially self-funded research expedition in 1972, went on to measure the concentration of CFC-11 from the northern hemisphere to the Antarctic aboard the research vessel RRS Shackleton.[8][14] He found the gas in each of the 50 air samples that he collected but, not realising that the breakdown of CFCs in the stratosphere would release chlorine that posed a threat to the ozone layer, concluded that the level of CFCs constituted “no conceivable hazard”.[14] He has since stated that he meant “no conceivable toxic hazard”.

    However, the experiment did provide the first useful data on the ubiquitous presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. The damage caused to the ozone layer by the photolysis of CFCs was later discovered by Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina. After hearing a lecture on the subject of Lovelock’s results,[15] they embarked on research that resulted in the first published paper that suggested a link between stratospheric CFCs and ozone depletion in 1974, and later shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (with Paul Crutzen) for their work.[16]

  18. #19 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    And what the heck is the point of saying “he originated… the concept of gaia”?

    Why not also regale us of his preference for blue check shirts while you’re at it!

    All, I might add, on a thread about creationists.

    What the hell does AGW have to do with creationists, other than you’re liable to be one and had nothing else to pollute the thread with?

  19. #20 ron
    June 27, 2012

    Yes, Lovelock is entirely unimportant and his recent ramblings that climate change cannot be predicted based on carbon dioxide increases is irrelevant. Is that your point?
    BTW, why would it be wrong to lie? Where does one base morality if not on a constant standard?

  20. #21 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    Here ron goes, careening from one extreme to another like an extremist.

    Are you now saying he was wrong about being alarmist before?

  21. #22 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    “Where does one base morality if not on a constant standard?”

    On something that isn’t a constant standard, of course.

    It’s immoral to kill humans. Unless it’s capital punishment. Oh, look not a constant standard.

    It’s morally right to keep slaves. But not any more.

    It’s immoral to have ordained women as priests. But not now.

  22. #23 ron
    June 27, 2012

    I think I’m catching on…It’s immoral to lie, except when teaching Climate change?

    Are you confusing “killing humans” with murder? Killing as punishment or in self-defense is not murder. So where is the exception to murder?

  23. #24 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    I think you’re contagious.

    What the hell kind of irrelevant tangent are you off on now?

  24. #25 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    Wasn’t the rule “thou shall not kill”?

    So the bibble is no constant measure of morality.

    Therefore NOBODY gets morality from a consistent standard.

    Either nobody is moral, or your demand for a source of morality unnecessary.

  25. #26 Joe Shuster
    Gurnee
    June 27, 2012

    I don’t see the “teach all” strategy as a tactic to confound the religious right in legislatures and school boards. It would have that effect in some areas. But I think a bigger win would be to pass “teach all” laws and use the classroom to expose a generation of students to the contrast between religious cosmology and scientific cosmology. The best lesson in any science class is WHY the scientific method is the best tool for learning about the universe. Forget the legislators and board members. Think about the students.

  26. #27 Wow
    June 27, 2012

    Are the students still in high school, with 10+ courses to go to?

    Then there’s no time to waste on trivialities.

    Unless the parents are willing to spend VASTLY more on teacher numbers AND salary, sod em, I say.

  27. #28 ron
    June 28, 2012

    @ wow…happy to provide you some Bible study materials:
    http://www.christianhomesite.com/cherryvale/text/10command6.html

    The Bible is a consistent standard of morality and you agree with it when you imply lying is wrong. You would further agree that criminals should be punished and that theft is wrong (unless in support of atheism in schools),
    Having said that, the ten commandments outline many things, but principally, that all are in need of a savior.

    Furthermore, you believe that the scientific method is appropriate for learning about the universe because you know believe in the uniformity of nature (which is based in Christian doctrine). http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/bldef_uniformity.htm

  28. #29 Wow
    June 28, 2012

    The bible doesn’t have a standard of morality (it’s apparently “whatever god does” which hasn’t been consistent).

    Neither does anyone today follow it.

    And no, uniformity in nature is incompatible with Christianity: a miracle is a breach in the uniform nature of the universe.

    E.g stopping the sun? Broken.

    Walking on water? Broken.

  29. #30 ron
    June 29, 2012

    Parting the seas…etc Furthermore, that’s why there’s the concept of “supernatural”. Christianity believes that the Creator (outside of nature) can do as He pleases in nature. Consistency in tact.
    However, if one believes that random chemical reactions bring about life, how can one believe in the uniformity of nature which is the bedrock of the scientific process?

  30. #31 Wow
    June 29, 2012

    Yes, but the fact of the seas parting would be a physical event and would be uncaused in nature (else would not be supernatural) and breaks the uniformity of nature.

  31. #32 Wow
    June 29, 2012

    Since life is a chemical process, where is the problem?

    The chemistry is uniform. Burn hydrogen and carbon with oxygen and get CO2 H2O and energy.

    As aerobic respiration or inside a car engine. Uniformity.

  32. #33 Alan
    June 29, 2012

    Lovelock: Father of Earth science.
    Ron: Bible thumping troll.

  33. #34 ron
    July 9, 2012

    Your worldview cannot account for WHY chemistry is uniform. According to you, chemistry can be random, creating new and improved life forms. This is the theory behind the origin of life! This contradiction is why the atheist claim to “objective” observations is so interesting.
    The scientific model is based on uniformity in nature that defies the atheist worldview.

    http://www.everystudent.com/wires/organized.html

    @ Alan: Boo!