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