Mike the Mad Biologist

Sara Robinson raises an interesting solution to “end the Intelligent Design fiasco”, one that has been discussed here at ScienceBlogs before. Her suggestion is to have universities declare: “Teach what you like, it’s all fine with us. But if you put ID in your science courses, we will not accept those courses as adequate for admission to our campus.”

I think there’s a legitimate argument here: if your religious views make it impossible to accept multiple lines of evidence supporting a well-documented theory, then, yes, you should be discriminated against, in that you are not remotely prepared to function at the collegiate level as a student-scientist, compared to the other students who are prepared to do so.

Ideologically or religiously-based affirmative action is foolish. It rights no historical redress or structural societal inequality. Since the president of the U.S. is a born again Christian who has advocated teaching ID in schools, one can hardly claim theological conservatives are discriminated against–intense disagreement or even dislike is not discrimination.

At this point, the conservatrolls and the Compulsive Centrists are still going to cry “discrimination.” Robinson answers that too (italics mine):

This is, of course, a classic example of fundamentalist hypocrisy; you can hear that tell-tale petulant whine tune up whenever their paranoia engines start redlining. It’s perfectly OK for them to put their kids in history classes (like the ones described by Jeffrey Sharlet in this excellent piece in last month’s Harper’s) that teach them that they were born (again) to be the God-ordained leaders of America, and the rest of us are doomed to serve under their rule. It’s only right and natural that they’d build a whole separate network of private schools so their precious children will never have to interact with our wretched little sinners. It’s downright reasonable of them to send their kids to Jesus camp, and let them play video games in which they can rehearse the coming massacre of non-believers. Separatism is all fine and good — as long as it serves to keep the Christianist Kingdom pure, free from the taint of the wicked things (and people) of this world.

But when the world strikes back, making it clear that it is determined to maintain its own standards — standards that religious fanatics are forthrightly unwilling to meet, even though everybody else manages to – well then, the case is clear: they’re being discriminated against. For people who like to make fun of “political correctness,” they’re sure playing the victim-politics card for all it’s worth.

As Shakes stated in the context of pharmacists who refuse to dispense drugs due to religious objections:

This culture of victimhood among conservative Christians is ridiculous in the extreme. It is–yet again–predicated on the flawed assertions that their version of Christianity is the only version, and that it is the exclusive source from which morality can be derived. The morality of all the other Christians, all the people of other religions, and all the non-religious people who don’t have these personal issues on the job don’t figure a whit. Of course they don’t–because if they did, the barking lunatics who equate oppression with a requirement of compliance with one’s basic job description might have to face the reality that there’s not some insidious siege upon religious freedom, but instead just a minority group whose religious beliefs make them intrinsically unfit to hold positions as healthcare providers.

Parents who are theological conservatives have to face the consequences of their actions. If, when seeking explanations of material reality, they teach their children to ignore scientific methods of reasoning and logic so as to satisfy religious dictates, then their children will be at a disadvantage in a society reliant on scientific progress. And their children should not receive special preference because of this.

The question then becomes, as PZ notes, how do we deal with educating those students who have been poorly served by their parents and their communities, without degrading both high school and collegiate education.

Update: Amanda also has some thoughts on the matter.

Comments

  1. #1 ERV
    January 27, 2007

    The question then becomes, as PZ notes, how do we deal with educating those students who have been poorly served by their parents and their communities, without degrading both high school and collegiate education.

    Well, at least for biology majors, I think the best thing to do is just set the bar and make its the students responsibility to jump over it. Some kids will just have to study harder than others. In my courses that specifically addressed evolution, the prof made it clear that he didnt particularly care what we ‘believed’, but it was our responsibility to learn the information for the course whether we ‘believed’ in it or not.

    I know some students have to deal with unlearning bad information as well as learning information their peers might already know, but you simply cant hurt other students education on account of the radical theists.

    As to how to reach the non-science majors, youd think at the very least the basics could be covered in a required life-science course. … On the other hand, my alma maters one Creationist biology professor was ‘banished’ to only teaching biology for non-science majors **bangs head against the keyboard**

  2. #2 mark
    January 28, 2007

    How about those students who do not go on to college? Are they to be left with an understanding of a world where things are “poofed” into place, an understanding that implies that this world is the way it is because that’s the way God made it, and there’s nothing we can do to affect it? Even if their primary job skill is asking “Do you want fries with that?” they vote for presidents, school boards, and state legislatures. Their education should not be shortchanged either. University policies might help raise the bar for all, including those who do not attend.

  3. #3 Guitar Eddie
    January 29, 2007

    Perhaps the theologically conservative should take the next step to independence – “Turn on, tune in, and drop out” (T. Leary, circa 1966)

    GE

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