If Science and Religion Conflict, is it Unconstitutional to Teach Science?

I am sorry to do yet another post about Michael Ruse, but I do feel the need to reply to his latest. Partly I feel compelled to reply because of this remark:

In the case of people like me, those who endorse the independence option, our fellow nonbelievers are scornful to an extent equaled only by their comments about Pope Benedict. We are labeled “accommodationists” or “appeasers,” and reviled. Just earlier this week I got flak for suggesting that perhaps St. Augustine on original sin was not the last word on the subject and that a more evolutionary friendly interpretation can be found in the second-century thinker Irenaeus of Lyon.

As proof that he did, indeed, get flak, he linked to this post by Jerry Coyne.

As it happens, though, Coyne's post was actually just a link, with excerpts, to my post of a few days ago. I think it would have been classier for Ruse to have linked to me directly.

I object to the characterization that what I wrote constituted “giving flak.” I merely responded to Ruse's argument, and was not personally insulting at all. The worst thing I accused him of was making weak arguments. To judge from the amount of time he spends complaining about how put upon he is, I am beginning to think he has a very thin skin.

Still, that by itself would not be sufficient provocation for me to reply. But there was also the fact that Ruse was responding to this essay by David Barash. The essay was arguing, quite sensibly, that the idea of treating science and religion as entirely separate domains of inquiry that cannot conflict (known as NOMA in the biz) is unworkable in practice. He is right about that, but also wrote nuggets like this:

But the reality--at least in my not-so-humble opinion--is that anyone who claims to espouse both science and religion is being intellectually dishonest or else lazy, and is necessarily short-changing one perspective or the other.

Ruse uses this statement as a jumping off point for his post. As it happens, I think Barash went overboard here. Charges of intellectual dishonesty should not be leveled lightly. When I read someone like Ken Miller, for example, I fail to see how he is shortchanging either science or religion. When he talks about evolution he sounds much like Richard Dawkins. When he talks about his faith it is clear that he is not describing some watered-down version of the real thing. Personally I don't think his religious beliefs are very plausible, but surely that's a matter of opinion. Disagreements should not automatically lead to charges of dishonesty.

But even that would not have been enough to get me to reply. Instead, the part I really wanted to address was this:

So my question (and it is a genuine one, to which I don't have an answer) to David Barash is this. Suppose we agree to the conflict thesis throughout, and that if you accept modern science then religion--pretty much all religion, certainly pretty much all religion that Americans want to accept--is false. Is it then constitutional to teach science?

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution separates science and religion. (Don't get into arguments about wording. That is how it has been interpreted.) You cannot legally teach religion in state schools, at least not in biology and other science classes. That was the issue in Arkansas and Dover. (I am not talking about current affairs or like courses.) But now ask yourself. If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?

Ruse has been peddling this argument for quite some time. It is odd that he does so, because in other venues he writes things like this:

For myself, I simply cannot get around the problem of evil. My god died with Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen.

Does he now think it is unconstitutional to teach about the holocaust? Can teachers no longer assign The Diary of Anne Frank as a required reading?

From the other side, on several occasions I have had creationists tell me that the unlikely victory of the colonial forces over the mighty British army during the American Revolution was clear evidence that the United States is a nation uniquely blessed by God. Can I now sue to get the American Revolution removed from history curricula?

The first problem with Ruse's argument is the word “implies.” So far as I know, nobody is claiming that evolution implies that Christianity is false, if we are using that word in the way it is used in logic. Certainly Barash made no such claim in his post. What many of us do claim is that it is very difficult to reconcile evolution and Christianity, to the point where a reasonable person should not accept both. But that, you see, is a matter of opinion. Many disagree. Different people draw different metaphysical conclusions from evolution, just as they do from the holocaust or the American Revolution. In each case the conclusions go beyond the facts of the matter themselves.

Here's another reason Ruse is the wrong one to make this argument. You see, he also writes things like this (from the same essay as before):

Of course, no one thinks that it is possible to hold every belief that someone has held in the name of religion also in the name of modern science. You cannot believe in a worldwide flood and in plate tectonics.

We should note that, as it happens, creationists do generally accept both plate tectonics and a worldwide flood. Their theory is that the motion of the continents is the result of the violent upheaval caused by the flood. So this was a poor choice of example. But we can take his point. There is certainly a flat-out contradiction between modern science and basic tenets of creationist faith. But Ruse does not think this renders it unconstitutional to teach modern geology.

In his own reply to Ruse, Jerry Coyne provides further examples of commonly taught ideas that conflict with the religious views of some. In a comment to this post, Gregory Meyer points out that precisely the issue Ruse raises has actually been litigated:

Fortunately, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on this issue in 1980 in Crowley v. Smithsonian. Crowley claimed that evolution exhibits at the Smithsonian amounted to an establishment of religion (a religion Crowley didn't like). The Court rejected Crowley's complaint, finding that that the balance between freedom of religion and learning

...was long ago struck in favor of diffusion of knowledge based on responsible scientific foundations, and against special constitutional protection of religious believers from the competition generated by such knowledge diffusion.

Though not, of course, the Supreme Court, a court of influential jurisdiction has thus already considered Ruse's point, and found it wanting.

It is obvious that the standard cannot be that it is unconstitutional to teach anything that conflicts with anyone's religious beliefs. That would render public education impossible, since anyone could then form a religion of one to object to any particular bit of the curriculum. That is why the actual standard is currently the Lemon Test, which puts forth three prongs for determining if a state action violates the Establishment Clause.

The first prong is that there must be a legitimate, secular purpose to the action. The secular purpose for teaching evolution is obvious. The state has an interest in promoting the scientific literacy of its people. The various attempts to include creationism in the curriculum plainly run afoul of this prong, as several courts have ruled.

The second prong is that the primary effect of the action must not be to promote religion. Again, evolution passes easily. The primary purpose is to teach the best current science, not to promote any particular religious view. Once again, courts have consistently (and rightly) found that teaching creationism is all about promoting a particular religious view.

The third prong, that the action not represent an excessive government entanglement with religion, has always been a bit mysterious to me. I'm not actually sure what it means. I know there's a body of case law that is supposed to help interpret it, but I'll leave that to the lawyers.

Creationism and ID are not scientific ideas from which some people draw pro-religion conclusions. They are religion through and through. They take for granted that God exists (in the case of ID) and certain tenets of the Bible (in the case of creationism). So far no court has been fooled by the denials of this fact by those advocating against evolution. Evolution, by contrast, is a scientific idea from which many people draw anti-religion conclusions, and many others draw pro-religion conclusions. This is the clear difference between the two, and it is not at all weakened by anything Barash, Coyne or anyone else is actually claiming.

Ruse closes his post with this

I should add that when I raised this worry with Eugenie Scott, her response was that I am just plain “dumb.”

I find it unlikely that Genie actually said that. More likely is that she described Ruse's idea as just plain dumb, which it is.

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When he talks about evolution he sounds much like Richard Dawkins. When he talks about his faith it is clear that he is not describing some watered-down version of the real thing.

Wish I could say the say as I think he waters down his RCC upbringing quite abit although does his best to prop it up. Although in my view he doesn't do it at all.

'say the say' should read 'say the same' above. Need to use the edit button.

First of all good discussion and kudos for not letting it degenerate in to name calling that all to often pervade these topics. My 2cents would be that science is a process as opposed to a fixed rigid belief. True successful science puts out a theory then demands that it is challenged, tested and all attempts to disprove it. A religion makes no such provision and with fundamentalist views questioning can not be tolerated. Although it should be noted that many manage to reconcile faith and modern science some would suggest that god put the evolutionary process in place (planetary auto pilot so to speak) but the central premise of the debate is flawed, it says that because religions 2000 year old texts can not reconcile the knowledge gained since that it then relegates science to a religion itself. It would be like those who thought the world was flat demanding a ban on globes or ocean travel. In closing any belief or science that is worth anything should never fear doubters or questioners as it will survive on its merits or it like dinosaurs it will fall to history replaced by better. Evolutionary thought so to speak

1. I think that Dr. Dawkins' position on religion should be restated here and be made perfectly clear so that there be no misunderstanding. His position is that the existence of god is a scientific proposition, subject to application of the scientific method. He finds no credible scientific evidence for the existence of god. Therefore, his position is that, in the absence of such evidence, it is permissible to posit that god does not exist, subject, as always, to the possibility that such evidence will be found in the future. In the event of the discovery of such evidence, he would be perfectly willing to modify his tentative conclusion. Of course, as creationists like Kurt Wise have stated, there is no possibility that any evidence, no matter how extensive and how overwhelming would cause them to drop their creationist position.

2. Ken Millers' position on the inevitability of the appearance of humans has evolved over time. As I understand it, his current position is that the appearance of intelligent beings, not necessarily humans, was inevitable. The first position is scientifically very weak; the second position is at least arguable.

As I have argued elsewhere, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for intelligence is encephalization, e.g. the appearance of beings with large brain to body size ratios. The evidence, based on a sample of 2, is that there appears to be a selection advantage for encephalization: Cretaceous dinosaurs had larger brain/body size ratios then their Jurassic ancestors while modern mammals have larger brain/body size ratios then the mammals of 50 million years ago.

Encephalization is only a necessary condition because the organization of the brain is also important. Neanderthals had a brain/body size ratio that was about the same as modern humans. However, it is posited that their brains were organized differently then modern humans, which apparently contributed to their losing out to the Cro-Magnons.

I think it's worth adding that the Lemon Test would not rule out the teaching of a scientific conclusion that favoured a religious view. If the evidence really did show the Earth to be 6000 years old, teaching that fact would not be banned from public school science classes.

By Richard Wein (not verified) on 23 Dec 2010 #permalink

If the evidence really did show the Earth to be 6000 years old, teaching that fact would not be banned from public school science classes.the.

Ruse has been a screwup over teaching creationism since he got involved in Arkansas in the early 1980's. He messed up and claimed that Scientific creationism wasn't science, when all he should have concluded was that it was very poor science. Admittedly, science so poor that most scientists wouldn't give it the time of day. Anyone that wants to narrow the defintion of science to what they want it to be and not to what it is, is just asking for trouble.

He screwed up by getting involved and used as a tool for the ID perps, and this just seems to be another screw up on his part. The fact is that under current law creationism could be taught if they could back it up scientifically. What does Ruse think that the bogus ID perps were trying to claim to be doing? The Lemon test would not exclude the teaching of evolution simply because it had religious implications. It is the science that is important. "Secular purpose." He must have missed that.

By Ron Okimoto (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

Jason -

The next time you argue with creationists about the American Revolution, remind them that the French aid in the form of financial, material and military support made possible our victory over the British Empire. You could also steer them to Gordon Wood's work.

Knowing Genie, I concur with your assessment of her interpretation of Ruse's latest exercise in "profundity". His idea is indeed "dumb". Methinks he has been hanging along too long with his "dear brother" Bill Dembski.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

@ SLC -

Excellent assessment with regards to encephalization. I concur completely. As for Ken, I've distanced myself from his embrace of a weak anthropic principle, which is exactly as you have stated.

@ Ron -

I think it's absolutely pathetic that Ruse has been part of the "Bill Dembski Show", lending that kleptomaniac crypto-Fascist some credibility by "debating" him and stating to the assembled faithful attending these "shows" that he loves Bill as though he is his brother.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

The problem is not restricted to the relationships (conflict, agreement, etc.) between beliefs and propositions (scientific, historical, etc.).

There are also practices (pacifism, segregation, diet, clothing, etc.) which have been problematic. Can the state permit someone not to serve in the military on religious, but not secular ethical, grounds? Can the state forbid certain clothing specifically because it is religious? Can the state allow religious institutions to refuse employment on religious grounds (but not allow secularists to refuse employment to non-secularists)? In the prohibition era, people attempted to sell wine under the cover of religion.

Religion being a combination of inflexible belief and rigid adherence to practice, and the pursuit of science meeting neither of those criteria, I think we're safe to teach science in schools.

You can logically extend the arguement to anything where fact cconflicts with personal belief. Should we not teach that humans landed on the moon in 1969 because there are those who don't believe it? Look at how Thomas Jefferson has been removed from the social studies curriculum in Texas. If irrational beliefs became the basis for whether or not to teach became the standard, we'd teach only reading, writing, and arithmatic.

@ Russell -

I respectfully beg to differ. Both Vatican astronomer - and Jesuit Brother - Guy Consolmagno and physicist Lisa Randall have said, in effect, that science and faith are different ways of knowing. What is intellectually dishonest about religion exists within those who are ardent Fundamentalists within their respective faiths, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., who would contend that their Scriptures are inerrant.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

SLC wrote

[Dawkins'] position is that the existence of god is a scientific proposition, subject to application of the scientific method. He finds no credible scientific evidence for the existence of god.

Dawkins' position is narrower than that. In the God Delusion he specifically means the sort of personal intervening god(s) of the sort that the Bible describes. Spinoza's god is OK with him.

Great post! I don't really understand why Ruse is making such a weak argument, but it is always nice to see a strong rebuttal.

By Matthew Ackerman (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

John, if faith were a way of knowing, we wouldn't have a separate word for it, and those who practice it wouldn't talk about "choosing to believe," or "inviting others to accept it." That's not how knowledge is won or propagated. That believers can, on the one hand, talk about faith as an alternative to knowing, and on the other hand, excuse it as a way of knowing, shows only that one deceit is quickly followed by a second.

Michael Ruse:

If âGod existsâ is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is âGod does not existâ not a religious claim?

Actually, both statements are scientific claims in the same way as are the claims "Climate change is anthropogenic" and "Climate change is not anthropogenic". Determining whether or not something exists is an exploration of reality which science does by examining the evidence.

I would argue that theists are unable to claim that God does not exist. If they did, they would be flirting with atheism (and therefore outside of religion). And, if a fence-sitting theist wanted to weigh the merits of that claim, what would they use, stories from the Bible? They would have to resort to science.

"God does not exist" is not a religious claim, although it certainly has religious implications. Religion accepts that God exists and that's all. Religion would hardly claim that he doesn't.

Ruse seems to think that religion and science are different but equal. The fact is, religion is simply a belief system, whereas science is a method of testing claims.

By colluvial (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

@ RBH - Spinoza's GOD is mine, hence that's why I am a Deist.

@ Matthew - I think Ruse has allowed himself to become tainted by association with his "brother" Bill Dembski. It's utterly pathetic and only serves to give Dembski a fig leaf of credibility from someone I once admired as one of our foremost philosophers of science. Regrettably, I don't anymore.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

@ Russell -

Any condemnations should be aimed squarely at the Fundamentalists IMHO. If you want to argue the phrase "ways of knowing", I suggest you take that up with Lisa Randall herself, since she has used that. While I disagree strongly with Ken Miller's embrace of a weak anthropic principle (which SLC has noted correctly that Ken has diluted it further), Ken has also said that those who embrace faiths hostile to science should reject them. In that regard he isn't that much different from the Dalai Lama, who has observed that if Buddhism is wrong and Science is right, then Buddhism must conform to Science.

Clearly there are many reasonable men of faith - and theistic scientists - who recognize that there are important distinctions between science and faith, and that the two should never be mixed. If you doubt this, then another excellent example is of course the Clergy Letter Project in support of biological evolution.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

And if faith is another way of knowing, then you have no basis for criticizing fundamentalists, who know as a matter of faith that their scriptures are inerrant. Proclaiming that faith is another way of knowing opens the door to anything as a knowledge claim. Even were you to oppose such claim with what seems hard evidence against it, for example, denying the literal truth of the Bible with the many evidences that the earth is far older than 10,000 years, the believers will simply deny the basis for your evidence, asserting that their method (faith) is every bit the equal of yours. And why not? They have an "alternative way of knowing."

Or to put it another way, if faith is a way of knowing, then what isn't?

Russell -

I suggest you ask Lisa about this. I can't speak for her, but she has written about this elsewhere online, and has been, unlike her high school and college classmate Brian Greene, a strong advocate in defense of the teaching of sound mainstream science, having written about "scientific creationism", including Intelligent Design, in the recent past. While she clearly recognizes science and faith as different ways of knowing, it hasn't stopped her from condemning scientific creationists and scientific creationists, especially those advocating Intelligent Design.

I'm not really interested in getting mired in yet another debate on "accomodationism" nor do I have time to, but I see where your argument is headed. Let's just respectfully agree to disagree and leave it at that.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

Doesn't it seem a bit odd that theistic scientists think science and faith "should never be mixed," if indeed these are alternate ways of knowing? Scholars in general and scientists in particular typically are eager to combine different methodologies. We don't say, "never mix logic and data." Or, "never mix statistics and microscopy." Or "never mix history and simulation." Just the opposite!

So what is special about faith, that it shouldn't be mixed with other ways of knowing? I think that's obvious. It's not a way of knowing, and is rejected as nonsense in every area other than religion.

I see no reason to aim such criticism especially at fundamentalists. Theistic scientists are, if anything, more culpable in their intellectual deceit. Many fundamentalists simply haven't thought things through well. Scientists should know better than to build these intellectual walls, in the attempt to protect a belief that has no defense.

@ Russell -

May I suggest you take this up with Lisa Randall. She has written extensively about scientific creationists, especially Intelligent Design advocates, and while she has affirmed that science and faith are different ways of knowing, it hasn't stopped her from condemning both the motives and content of scientific creationists and scientific creationism, especially Intelligent Design.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

@ Russell -

There's some sense of irony in this observation of yours that I saw immediately:

"I see no reason to aim such criticism especially at fundamentalists. Theistic scientists are, if anything, more culpable in their intellectual deceit. Many fundamentalists simply haven't thought things through well. Scientists should know better than to build these intellectual walls, in the attempt to protect a belief that has no defense."

Why do I regard it as ironic? It is something which Fundamentalists of all stripes - be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim or some other faith - could point to as an example why those who profess "belief" in evolution must either be Atheists or Agnostics in their religious outlook.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

Evolution isn't required to reject religion, but simply applying a modicum of reason to the various explanations offered for it. Which is why there were atheists long before Darwin wrote. Evolution irks those believers who find it inconsistent with their religion. It doesn't bother those believers who can make room for it. My posts above aren't meant to defend evolution. They criticize faith. There are two different battles engaged. One pits evolution against the religious believers who reject it. The other pits rationality against those who would offer faith as "an alternate way of knowing."

@ Russell -

I really have no time to argue further with you. I strongly disagree with the final sentence of your latest post (@ 26). Otherwise, you could generalize your comments to describe all of science, and while they are philosophically and emotionaly true, I personally regard them as irrelevant. Once again, there are many devout Christians - both scientists and non-scientists - who have no difficulty in accepting biological evolution as the substantially well-supported scientific fact that it is, and contemporary evolutionary theory ("The Modern Synthesis"). To assert that theistic scientists "are, if anything, more culpable in their intellectual deceit" is one that I regard as both a superb example of religious bigotry and an observation of the kind that, ironically, I see all too often from the Dishonesty Institute and similar, quite pathetic, creationist "think tanks".

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

John Kwok --

You've left an awful lot of comments in a rather short amount of time. I'd appreciate it if you didn't post any more for a few hours. I don't like it when one thread gets too dominated by one commenter. Thanks!

The ultimate problem with Mr Ruse's position is that he's asking a straw-man question (like that's a surprise in this context). In law -- just as in argument in general -- the way a question is formulated often determines the answer. In this instance, Mr Ruse has formulated a "When did you stop beating your wife?" question, with the following opposition:
* Religion claims the existence of a supreme being.
* Science denies the existence of a supreme being.
and concluding that
* Therefore, because science and religion are making opposing claims, if one excludes one one must exclude the other.

The problem, of course, is that science makes no claim whatsoever about the existence of a supreme being; instead, science is about process. The correct formulation of "opposition" -- if one must formulate an "opposition" over an issue that anyone who had read Aristotle (let alone Toulmin) would recognize as a "first cause v proximate cause" issue -- is much closer to this:
* Religion claims the existence of a supreme being without offering any verifiable evidence but instead demanding faith in that conclusion.
* Science denies the existence of a supreme being in the absence of verifiable evidence and denies mere faith in the conclusion as an adequate warrant for such belief.
leading to the conclusion that
* Therefore, religion and science are fundamentally incompatible (not oppositional) methods of reasoning because their Toulminian warrants are incompatible.

Given the implicit (and, in secondary sources, explicit) rejection of "mere faith as an adequate warrant for belief despite any inconsistent, verifiable evidence" in the Constitution and other founding documents -- and, in particular, in the First Amendment itself and secondary sources concerning its creation and passage -- there's just no Constitutional problem here.

Jason -

I have to return to my work, so have no plans to comment futher. However, again, if you deal with creationists again with regards to their perception that the American Revolution demonstrates somehow Divine Providence at work, remind them about France's involvement and tell them to read Gordon Wood's excellent histories.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

With respect only to the question of the constitutional validity of teaching science:

This is a problem only because funds are confiscated by force through the government to support public schools. And since people are forced to pay for them, they naturally do not want to pay for teaching and texts that violate their beliefs. As Jefferson writes with respect to freedom of religious thought:

"that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;" (Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, 1779).

The establishment of public schools is the problem because taxpayers will inevitably be required to fund the propagation of ideas that they do not believe are right. One cannot on the one hand proclaim that an individual has the right to the free exercise of her faith, and at the same time compell her to pay for the teaching of ideas that contradict that faith, no matter how right those ideas might be.

Perhaps, rather than continue this argument--since no one can force another to give up his religious beliefs, and the attempt to do so inevitably ends with violence and persecution--the high road would be to demand a separation of school and state.

Ruse merely points out the contradiction inherent in using public funds in a free society.

One cannot have liberty if it stops at the schoolhouse doors.

By Elisheva Levin (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

John Kwok @ 22:

While she clearly recognizes science and faith as different ways of knowing, it hasn't stopped her from condemning scientific creationists and scientific creationists, especially those advocating Intelligent Design.

We get that thousands, heck, millions of people live with both of these notions in their head. That they can be just as vociferous as any atheist in their opposition to ID, pseudoscience, etc. There's nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn't stop us from pointing out the contradictions. That's what much of "New Atheism" comes down to â we're not willing to play this game whereby some ideas go totally unexamined just because their advocates are kind and intelligent people who agree with us in all sorts of important ways.

What does it mean for faith to be another way of knowing? Can it actually generate, you know, knowledge⦠or does the word "knowing" here mean something more like the feeling that you've just absorbed something Profound? It's like trying to figure out what is meant by the "power of prayer" â they more canny advocates of intercessory prayer know to waffle when pressed, rather than make claims that are easily thrown down by pointing out the relevant experiments.

The way I see it, you either find things out or make them up. Sometimes, of course, what you find out is a fact about yourself, so you don't need to go outside your head to confirm it. This excellent Greta Christina blog post/a> elaborates on that subject.

Re Ron Okimoto @ 7:

The "bad science vs not science" question is, to use the terminology of a character in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman,, a difficult pancake and a real snorter. Sure, there are plenty of findings that would and do contradict creationism, making it falsifiable (and falsified). And prior to Darwin and Wallace, many biologists figured that creation would, at some point, be a part of their scientific findings.

At the same time, suppose we did live in a seemingly 6,000-year-old universe in which the fossil record showed all present-day species appearing at the same point, or scattered around as if they'd all died at once in a flood. Would creationism be a confirmed scientific theory? I would say no, because there remains no real answer to the question "How did species appear?" and zero curiosity about that answer, which I think is crucial to actual science. There's a worldwide flood, and other "solid" (well, liquid) ideas, but when it comes to creation, we're still looking at a totally mechanism-free black box. Goddidit. Poof.

Both YECs and IDists partake of nonscientific fluff, but the former have the (dis-)advantage of presenting additional, coherently wrong ideas.

Ruse is not even wrong, methinks. It is, at best, a false equivalence. Unless, of course, Ruse wishes to argue that we are not Constitutionally permitted to teach about things that are real.

One side of the 'argument' must constrain itself to that which can be objectively verified. The other is permitted to make up anything necessary out of whole cloth. This hardly makes for a level playing field!

The MadPanda, FCD

By The MadPanda, FCD (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

There are a number of Buddhisms which are in fact non-theistic. A reasonable claim can be made that the God of Judaism,Christianity, and Islam is not particularly theistic, particularly in comparison with Greek and Roman pagan theism. Many of us who are believers are fascinated with the study of religion from a evolutionary point of view. One way to characterize such religious believers is that they assert either that there really is meaning in the universe, or from a more existential point of view that there is an 'ought' regarding morality and meaning.


Perhaps this real instance is relevant to your hypothetical.

One of the long-time conflicts between faith and reason was over whether the universe was eternal. Faith saying that it was not, and reason saying that it was. In the 20th century, science came up with the (tentative, of course) answer that the universe was not eternal.

But, as you point out, "godidit" is still not in the category of "descriptions of what happens" or of "explanations for nature", the category where scientific statements belong. Any resemblance is merely superficial, coincidental, and verbal, not substantive.

Poor Gould's NOMA gets another raking over. Well, I think he got it almost right. Theer is a NOMA but it isn't between science and religion, it is between decidable versus undecidable propositions. Science is the tool of choice to resolve decidables (how old is the earth, are we evolved organisms, etc) while philosophy is the tool required to address undecidables (shoulds, oughts, meaning and purpuse questions). Most (if not all) religions field doctrines that spill over into the decidable realm (Ken Ham's "Christianity" obviously, but also Mormon pre-Columbian history, Native American creationist exceptionalism, Hare Krishna cosmology, etc). In that respect pursuing the science honestly inevitably implies that those doctrinal packages are false.

Whether the "Christianity" of Ken Miller or Francis Collins or the Jesus Seminar is true or false is not intrinsically a decidable question, governed by the domain of philosophy not science. I grappled with some of these issues in an address I gave last year at the Kennewick WA Freethought Society (google James Downard and "Tortucan" and the links to the YouTube posting and the Panda's Thumb transcript should pop up) but here are some cinema illustrations of the issues:

When Jack Skellington tries to figure out what Christmas "means" in "A Nightmare Before Christmas" he gets nowhere by the "scientific" approach of examining cranberries under a microscope or performing thermal tests on Christmas balls. Likewise when Hans Zarkov asks Ming the Merciless in "Flash Gordon" why he is trying to destroy the earth, Max von Sydow's emperor blithely replies "Why not?"

While scientific investigation inevitably stomps on many religious doctrines, it is genuinely irrelevant to resolving the undecidable (but no less important) issues of philosophy. If anything philosopher Ruse can be faulted for failing to get the demarcation lines straight, but then so too for those on the secular side who get the religion/science debate confused with the true NOMA of the science/philosophy issue.

By James Downard (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

What #29 said.

Also, as has been pointed out, there is no Constitutional protection from ideas you don't like. In fact, that is the very strength of the 1st Amendment - allow the ideas to circulate, and the ruthless logic of the marketplace will take care of the weak, outdated, and wrong. (If your religion falls into one or more of those categories, that's your problem, not the government's.)

For example, I am a Humanist. There's not much to it, really - but if I were the type, I could certainly find facts I don't care for.

We've already brought up Anne Frank, so I'll pile on - yes, it would be convenient for me and my faith if the Holocaust would disappear down the memory hole. If you believe that humanity can save itself, it's not comfortable to see a "modern" society descend into madness. It certainly gave me something to think about when I studied it (in public school! think of the children!), and I do know people who aren't Humanists for roughly that reason. There may well be some Serious Talks with my hypothetical children coming when it's their turn for the Anne Frank unit.

But the world is under no obligation to flatter my beliefs. The Holocaust happened, and I would be a damnable coward to pretend otherwise. I certainly don't get to force anyone else to pretend with me. And I wouldn't want my kids' teacher to let them weasel out with "I don't believe in World War II".

You can draw whatever metaphysical conclusions you want, but facts are facts. There is a legitimate secular purpose to exposing students to facts - they might learn something. They don't have to *believe* anything, but they can understand what others believe, and why.

Who says you can't teach religion in the public schools? You absolutely can. Three wouldn't be the slightest constitutional objection to public school classes about religion. Taught in good faith, an academically-sound course about the different faiths and their histories and doctrines would be a good thing, and, in a better world than the one we inhabit, I would like to see it. Of course, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, and I know that, as a political matter, there are places where teaching about religion would be done in bad faith and degenerate into constitutionally-forbidden indoctrination in the beliefs of the locally-dominant sect. Still, since teaching about religion is constitutionally OK, there can be no constitutional objection to teaching about science, which is what we do.

By CJColucci (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

So if science and religion conflict, is it unconstitutional to teach evolution, biology, paleontology, astronomy, physics, mathematics, medical science...even history and philosophy? This is every fundagelical's wet dream, to make the teaching of any science that conflicts with their twisted worldview illegal.

What about the Amish / Mennonite rejection of computers and books (other than the Bible, of course) and electricity? What about the Muslim rejection of any photograph or painting or drawing of the human body - there goes medical science and anatomy. How far into religions' intolerance of gender and racial inequality do we really want to go?

The question really devolves to "Is it constitutional to destroy civilization to accomodate every religion's objections to anything and everything at all?"

This is ALL much ado about nothing. Religious belief and scientific observation are NOT mutually exclusive for a very simple reason: science describes HOW the universe works- not WHY it works that way....why does energy even exist....or time...or why did the Big Bang even have SOMETHING to pop ? I am fascinated by NOTHING....the concept of absolute total nothing...no energy, no dark matter, no multiverse, no GOD, no fields....REAL ABSOLUTE NOTHING !!! But Ex Nihilo Nihil fit...thus we couldn't even have this debate. Obviously there needs to be some perpetual precursor to avoid the illogic of Nothing.....but this SOMETHING apparently is independent of the physical processes we can observe and measure. Religious texts are simply humans attempt to explain the indescribable.....rather than what we CAN see, observe, and measure.

By Alan Jacobs (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

TomS @ 36 â that's a very good point, and one I happily concede to theists. The proposition that our universe (or at least our present familiar configuration of stuff) had a beginning was, prior to the 20th century, held more by the religious than by non-religious.

Beyond that, of course, the Bible (and other holy texts, and people "inspired" by divine revelation) got almost every significant detail wrong. Genesis describes no Big Bang, has the formation of Earth precede the Sun, and even seems to be talking about a rather different cosmology than the one we know obtains. The "anticipation" of a finite universe looks more like the stopped-clock principle than a conclusion drawn from rigorous study of the facts.

There is no conflict between religion and science. They are compatible. Right now I am posting my comments on reincarnation and later on i will write my views on evolution.

According to Dr. Granville Dharmawardena of Colombo University reincarnation may be defined as the re-embodiment of an immaterial part of a person after a short or a long interval after death, in a new body whence it proceeds to lead a new life in the new body more or less unconscious of its past existences, but containing within itself the âessenceâ of the results of its past lives, which experience goes to make up its new character or personality.
In the seventeenth century Rene Descartes divided everything in the universe into two realms as âRes Extensaâ (matter) and âRes Cogitansâ (mind). Gathering knowledge within the realm of Res Extensa was called Science and the phenomenon of reincarnation got pushed into the other realm Res Cogitans which was not considered suitable for scientific probing. Science developed in the framework of Res Estensa is known as âClassical Scienceâ. Classical science had tremendous material achievements because it helped all round growth of technology which brought about prosperity to mankind. The air of frame work of Classical Science was blown out by Henry Becquerel in 1896 by the discovery of Radioactivity. The discovery of Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein in early 20th Century gave it further blow. The advent of Quantum Theory and the Uncertainty Principle did the rest. It is significant to note that Einsteinâs discovery fall entirely within the frame work of Res Cogitans as it did not involve any experiments or measurements. Gravitation Force Theory of Newton is also an example of such observation and intuition work involving no experiments and measurements.
Modern Science enhanced manâs knowledge surpassing the restrictions imposed by the five senses and took us to hidden areas of nature and profound changes had been introduced in procedures of science. Our ability to understand everything by way of perceptible mental pictures is reduced and it became necessary to imagine models with components which behaved in ways that had no counterparts at all in the world familiar to us. In most cases mechanisms involved in these models not only are imperceptible but also consist of elements that operate in ways never known in the world that we actually experience through sensory inputs.
Modern science tied up the two realms, Res Extensa and Res Cogitans and made us to understand that they are not independent and cannot be completely studied independently. Within the establishment of modern science some of the aspects of nature that did not strictly adhere to the realm of Res Extensa, which were therefore earlier condemned as unbecoming of scientists to talk about have become respectable. Reincarnation falls into this category
Reincarnation is a very old belief and a large fraction of the world population believes it. For example Rene Descartesâ statement âWhat I have said is sufficient to show clearly enough that the extinction of the mind does not follow from the corruption of the body and also to give men the hope of another life after deathâ in 1641 confirms his belief in reincarnation. About 20 percent of those in the Western World whose religions shun reincarnation nevertheless believe it. According to opinion polls this percentage is rising.
Lisa Miller, Religion Editor of Newsweek says that Americans are becoming more Hindus. According to 2008 Harris Poll 24% of Americans say they believe in reincarnation
Steven J Rosen writes in The Reincarnation Controversy, Uncovering the Truth in World Religions (New Age Books) that belief in reincarnation allows us to see ourselves as architects of our own future. Rosen raises certain queries,â what is it that reincarnates from one body to another? Is it the soul? the mind? the intellect? To understand this we should suggest answer to these questions. We all know that there are four fundamental forces in the universe viz., gravitation force, electromagnetic force, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. I have written a paper entitled âGravitation Force is the Ultimate Creatorâ and presented it at the 1st International Conference on Revival of Traditional Yoga held in Lonavla Yoga Institute, Lonavla in January 2006. In this paper I have defined soul (individual consciousness), mind and body. According to this every point of action of Gravitational Force Field is individual consciousness or soul, electromagnetic force as the force of mind and weak and strong nuclear force as the gross material force which constitute physical frame of body.
Consciousness is All Intelligent and pervades everywhere. Although all other remaining three forces are also intelligent but they are subordinate to Gravitational Force. THIS DESCRIPTION WILL HELP TO UNDERSTAND âWHAT IS IT THAT REINCARNATES FROM ONE BODY TO ANOTHER.
According to Buddhism this is not the supreme atman or soul that ties one life to another, instead it talks about past lives as evolvement of consciousness, emergence of a new personality from the same stream of consciousness.
Reincarnation is not an exclusively Eastern precept. It is contained in some form in almost every major religion and mystical philosophy. Research indicates that it was an accepted doctrine, at least in some quarters, at the time of Christ, and is still an integral part of some sects of the Jewish tradition. The Bible contain no condemnation of the principle of reincarnation, and in fact, when Christ was asked when Elijah would return, he answered that Elijah had returned, referring to John the Baptist.
Sakina Yusuf Khan writes in an article A Night Of Forgiveness published in The Speaking Tree: âIt (Shab-e-Barat) is also a festival associated with the dead. It is believed that the souls of the dead are set free on this night to visit their relatives.â What this indicates? This is a belief in reincarnation, of course in subtle body. Sadia Dehlvi also writes in her article Jesus In Islam published in The Speaking Tree (August 29, 2010) that both Islam and Christianity believe that Christ will return to destroy the Antichrist. This is affirmation to reincarnation although in some restricted sense.
It is clear from the above descriptions that both Islam and Christianity appear not to opposed to reincarnation. Of course, they donât believe reincarnation in broader sense as Hindus do.
Unaccomplished activities of past lives are also one of the causes for reincarnation. Some of us reincarnate to complete the unfinished tasks of previous birth. The is evident from my own story of reincarnation:
âMy most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state of mine. This was sort of REVELATION.
HE told me, âTum Sarkar Sahab Hoâ (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth of Spiritual Head Radhasoami Faith.
Since I donât have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of âInfiniteâ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.â
I am one the chief expounder and supporter of Gravitation Force Theory of God. This is most scientific and secular theory of God. This is the Theory of Universal Religion. I have given Higher Theory of Everything. Sometimes back I posted this as comments to a blog on:
âFighting of the Cause of Allah by Governing a Smart Mathematics Based on Islamic Teologyâ
By Rohedi of Rohedi Laboratories, Indonesia. Rohedi termed my higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Some details are quoted below:
@anirudh kumar satsangi
Congratulation you have develop the higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Hopefully your some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory are recognized by International Science Community, hence I soon read the fundamental aspect proposed by you.
I have posted my comments to the Blog of Syed K. Mirza on Evolutionary Science vs. Creation Theory, and Intellectual Hypocrisy. Syed Mirza seems to be a very liberal muslim. He responded to my comments as mentioned below.
âMany thanks for your very high thought explanations of God.
You said:
âHence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation. Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
(i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, Source of Gravitational Wave is Godâ
Whatever you call it, God is no living God of any religion. Yes, when I call it âMother Natureâ is the God generated from all Natural forces and Gravitational force is the nucleus of all forces or we can presume that Gravitation is the ultimate guiding principle of this Mother Nature we call it non-living God unlike living personal God of religions. I can not believe any personal God would do so much misery created for its creation. Hence, only non-living natural God can explain everything in the Universe. When we think of any living personal God, things do not ad up!â
I have also discovered the mathematical expression for emotional quotient (E.Q.) and for spiritual quotient (S.Q.).
Austrian Scientist Rudolf Steiner says,
âJust as an age was once ready to receive the Copernican theory of the universe, so is our age ready for the idea of reincarnation to be brought into the general consciousness of humanityâ.

By A.K.Satsangi (not verified) on 24 Dec 2010 #permalink

"Obviously there needs to be some perpetual precursor to avoid the illogic of Nothing..."

Argument by assertion is no good means of establishing a proposition.

As to the topic, whether science and religion are in conflict comes down to the fact that revealed religions make certain existence claims about the universe. If these claims are conclusively shown to be false, then the case for religion is largely discredited. The First Amendment, however, has nothing to do with the correctness of the beliefs people may foster. A belief-system that is already so mired in magical thinking as an Abrahamic faith can and will find ways to muddy the waters and avoid the implications of physical science, as we see time and time again in these threads, for example.

One refining observation: Dover court held that the law had evolved beyond Lemon to the âendorsementâ test from Supreme Court cases more recent than Lemon, Justice O'Connor mentioned page 12, a way to conceptualize Lemon. The âendorsementâ findings go through the first 90 of the 139 pages. Then the first two prongs of Lemon are considered, because of plaintiffs' briefs, the third not being claimed by plaintiffs. Lemon is a good name and handy. "Endorsement" gives wider power to discretion of the Court.

And an opinion: the display and other evolution cases are not about "balance." There are not two items equivalent in kind to "balance." If we were to allow there are, then creationism has a foot and leg in the door. The Dover analysis, quote, page 71,

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. This argument is not brought to this Court anew, and in fact, the same argument, termed âcontrived dualismâ in McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980's to support âcreation science.â The court in McLean noted the âfallacious pedagogy of the two model approachâ and that â[i]n efforts to establish âevidenceâ in support of creation science, the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach . . . all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science.â McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267, 1269. We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago.

Elisheva Levin @ 32 said -
As Jefferson writes with respect to freedom of religious thought: "that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;" (Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, 1779).

Can you provide some evidence that teaching accepted science is sinful (Jefferson's use of this word should have tipped you off as to his intent.) or tyrannical (oppressive, unjust or arbitrary) let alone that science itself is a matter of opinion. If you believe that Yahweh created you, that is your right. You have no right to have that opinion respected as being objectively valid unless you can provide some evidence of His objective reality. Science education can only be based upon what is scientifically accepted. (supported by evidence)

You fail to appreciate that the opinions that Jefferson references here are not those of a freely held personal belief. Jefferson was referring to those opinions that were handed down by the authority of the church/state. These were to be accepted as fact; they were not to be questioned, by the likes of you or me. We live in a time of personal freedom where one can act upon personal opinions without fear of being called before the Inquisition, which was still operative in Jeffersonâs time. I gather by your writing that you are a Jew - I would expect you, of all people, to grasp the significance of what Jefferson was trying to ellucidate.

I started writing this post with the idea of critiquing your entire post but, alas, that is filled with so many misconceptions and errors that to do so would require more time than I have to give to the effort, and to what end? To refute somebody who clearly equates religion (belief which will suffer no objective restraints) with science (which is constrained by objective evidence)

The rules of our republic are established by our Constitution â perhaps you would like to replace that with the tyrannical rule of an authoritative state religion. I see your intent as being inimical to my personal freedoms as provided by that founding document. You are deluded â your belief in Yahweh has no standing in these matters â enjoy your Constitutional privilege to spout nonsense but please do not insist upon such outrageous views to be taken seriously. You are a closet-tyrant.

Hail Eris!

"Why then should science which implies that God does not exist be taught?"

The scientific method is based on observation of the natural world and making predictions and tests based on that natural world. Science is based on empirical evidence that everyone potentially has access to and can similarly observe, replicate, test, etc. The minute you bring "God" into the equation, namely a supernatural being that cannot be empirically observed or measured, it ceases to be science. You cannot test a supernatural being and you cannot make predictions based on a supernatural being. Therefore, it has no place in the science classroom, regardless of whether or not it is "constitutional".

John Kwok @33

Your view of science os too narrow. Scientists do not spend all of their time trying to create over arching Scientific Theories. There doesn't have to be a scientific theory of creationism. That is what the pieces would ultimately contribute too, but you don't have to have the answer before you do the work. The scientific creationist did put up testable hypotheses. They claimed that they could produce evidence of a global flood and that the earth was less than 10,000 years old. Morris would make stupid predictions from creationism such as the stars would not be variable if creationism were true. Their evidence could be evaluated in that context. This was actually their Achillies heel. Their hypotheses were long refuted or just didn't pan out. They lost in the forum of science and couldn't produce the credible science that they needed to support their claims. Just think of the star claim where it was known that stars were variable before Morris ever made that prediction, and SN1987 put paid on the stupidity of that prediction. Not only were such predictions nonsensical in terms of telling anyone about creation, but the outcome was already known to be negative, so would have only gone against the notion they were trying to support. These guys were incompetent.

The ID perps learned from the foibles of the scientific creationists and tried to be as vague as possible. They tried as hard as they could to not put up any testable hypotheses. Behe and Minnich even admitted under oath that they hadn't bothered to do any verification. Minnich claimed that he hadn't gotten around to it, but Behe claimed that it wasn't up to him to do any such thing. The ID perps limited their science to the foo foo dust part about making junk up out of thin air and then never doing the work of producing the testable hypotheses and then testing them. The ID perp science was even worse off than the science of the scientific creationists. The ID perp science never got past the level of claiming that invisible sprites make the flowers bloom in the spring. The scientific creationists had testable notions like hydrolic sorting, or that the magenitic field decay meant that the earth could not be over 10,000 years old. It was all bunk, but anyone could dump objects into an aquarium and figure out that the geologic column wasn't made that way, or look up the current research on earth's magnetic field and find out that it doesn't matter about field strength decay when the field has reversed multiple times in earth's history. The scientific creationists could be classified as just incompetent. The ID perps set out to be desceptive and underhanded. The first is bad science. The second is unacceptable in science for a different reason.

By Ron Okimoto (not verified) on 26 Dec 2010 #permalink

No one can deny the advances science has made...

...and no one can deny the horrors science has created.
But the same could be said for all religions. I've grown up with christianity and realize it's community was full of hypocrites at a very young age. Jesus was Jew...I don't think he was trying to creat a brand new religion...and Jesus also believed that the end was near. It's for good reason that most christians think that the apocalypse will occur in their lifetime. They have believed this for 2,000 years.

The human race still lives in the dark ages...we are feeble..given to irrational exuberance...the religious right in america has bought into capitalism...and I wonder do those religious right folks who particpate in politics really understand the passage "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."

There is no conflict between science and religion. The problem is that most (if not all) of our scientists are ignorant of the scientific facts written in the Bible.

Even during the time when people thought that the earth is flat, Isaiah (700BC) already wrote about "the circle of the earth...that God stretches the heavens like a curtain, and spread them like a tent to dwell in." ISA 40:22 RSV

He even created the ages, "our time," within the confine of eternity!...our time - which has its beginning and will soon come to an end, then all the saints (saved) will be given a glorified body to join God in eternity. 1Cor 15:50-54

I think its time for world scientists to start reading the Bible to get ideas on their theories.

You can even travel through time by just reading the Word of God in the Bible.

well, "lernie" if you can show any of these supposed "scientific facts" in the bible, that would be great, rather than making vague claims and simply spewing what you've been told. The old saw about how the bible says the earth is a sphere has been shown to be wrong again and again. It's misinformation spread by desperate theists. Your bible is nothing more than what primitive ignorant men thought the world was, when they thought God was responsible for every disease and every disaster, just like the Greeks thought it was Zeus and the Norse thought it was Odin. Now we know better and religion constantly attempts to keep up with science not the other way around. And you can also "travel through time" by reading the Rig Vedas and the Greek myths. Nothing special about you or your religion at all.

In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.
The frequently made assertion that modern biology and the assumptions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are fully compatible is false.
Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.
As the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.
âLet me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear ⦠There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. Thatâs the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.â

All above quotes are from Will Provine. And guess what? According to that teaching the ToE is a violation of of seperation of church and state.

The human race still lives in the dark ages...we are feeble..given to irrational exuberance...the religious right in america has bought into capitalism...and I wonder do those religious right folks who particpate in politics really understand the passage "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."

Joey, Joey, Joey...

Let us add the law to a long list of things you do not understand, along with the proper manner of citation. (Sources, please? Not just the quotes. Where'd you find 'em?)

You are wrong in your assertion that teaching MET is a violation of the First Amendment in much the same way that you would be wrong for claiming that teaching the heliocentric solar system is a violation of the First Amendment: that also conflicts with deeply held beliefs, and demonstrates the less than literal nature of several bodies of scripture.

To clarify, I do not mean that you are wrong in the common, everyday sense of the term (that is, that I disagree with your opinion). I mean that you are wrong in the same sense that ex post facto laws are Constitutional in the US, to the same degree that the atomic weight of Platinum is one third, and in precisely the same way that Napoleon Bonaparte led an invasion of Texas from Louisiana in 1810.

You are off the table and into somebody's pint of lager, my lad. If you do not understand why, then take any given argument for ID and insert a name wherever it needs a designer. I suggest Quetzalcoatl. The ridiculous nature of the statement ought to be readily apparent after that.

The MadPanda, FCD

By The MadPanda, FCD (not verified) on 27 Dec 2010 #permalink

"Creationism and ID are not scientific ideas from which some people draw pro-religion conclusions. They are religion through and through. They take for granted that God exists (in the case of ID) and certain tenets of the Bible (in the case of creationism)."

Horseshit. One can posit an extraterrestrial intelligence causing and/or intervening in terrestrial life without any sort of "religious" implication.

One can posit an extraterrestrial intelligence causing and/or intervening in terrestrial life without any sort of "religious" implication.

One could, but no ID proponent seriously does.

Second, the 'it was aliens' hypothesis tacitly accepts that intelligence is evolvable - reducing ID to nothing more than the argument that evolution of complex organisms can happen, it just didn't happen here. This is an extremely weak form of ID and doesn't actually do what the creationists want it to do, which is make God necessary. So its not surprise to me that none of them take it seriously.

The flaw in the guys argument comes here;

'If âGod existsâ is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is âGod does not existâ not a religious claim?'

Because Atheism does not make statements about gods. Atheism is simply "not theism". It simply does not accept the theists claim. Or, at the very least asks them to demonstrate it.

It is like someone coming up to you say saying "I am a lawyer". You simply wait for them to demonstrate they are, until you believe them. until they demonstrate their claim you are not really making a claim. So, atheism is not a religion. In fact, it is really not a "position". It is really just the default position almost anyone takes about other people's claims until they demonstrate their claim.

Cheers! RichGriese.NET

52, 56, 61, 62 and 63 all seem to be copy/paste spambot comments.

It is obvious that the standard cannot be that it is unconstitutional to teach anything that conflicts with anyone's religious beliefs.

Don't know why folks have such trouble with the First Amendment when the language is quite plain. Regarding religion, there are two clearly stated no-nos in the First Amendment:

- The "establishment" clause: The government can't 'establish' a religion i.e., provide the government's imprimatur to a particular religion as the state religion. (The primary example of a state religion for the Framers would have been the Church of England.)

- The "free exercise" clause: The government can't stop individuals from freely exercising their religious practices. 'Free exercise' has some limitations, just like 'free speech.'

There is certainly nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits government-supported schools from teaching subject matter that incidentally offends someone's religious beliefs, or incidentally makes it less likely that those hearing it would believe particular religious precepts. It is only if that teaching amounts to an attempt to either establish a state religion or inhibit someone from freely exercising his/her religious beliefs that the First Amendment would come into play.

With regard to the attempt to equate science with religious belief and thereby make it susceptible to attack under the establishment clause: The "trier of fact" - the jury, or in a non-jury proceeding, the judge - is entitled to take into account everyday knowledge and experience. While certain philosophers may have difficulty distinguishing between science and religion, judges very apparently have not.

I must be missing something... If science and religion are in conflict, how would that make it unconstitutional to teach science? Religion, yes, but not science, or any other empirically based field of knowledge. This was never explained that I can tell.

Just because some religionists call atheism "just another religion" doesn't make it so. Atheism is by definition a lack of belief in theology, but atheism does not equate science, and trust in science does not necessarily imply atheism (although I know plenty of atheists think it does, that opinion isn't uniform among our ranks). Religion implies faith in some supernatural being or principles, science is grounded in the natural world and does not demand belief in any ideology. While the shape of the currently accepted body of scientific knowledge does and will continue to change throughout the ages, all scientific knowledge is provisional, as Massimo Pigliucci and others have pointed out. Old scientific theories get overturned as more evidence comes in and newer theories that better explain the data are devised.

The question of "how can there be morality without God?" is also a nonissue when one considers that since human beings made up all gods, we made up morality as well, or rather, our moral systems grew out of our evolutionary past. So it seems a bit silly to wonder how we could ever have morals without god. We already do. Some people believe that all morality stems from a supreme being, but that belief does not make it so. The challenge is for everyone, believes and nonbelievers alike, to live up to the morality that is inborn in us.

By Jeanmarie (not verified) on 28 Dec 2010 #permalink

Within 50 years you'll be dead. What does any of this matter?

Within 50 years you'll be dead. What does any of this matter?

Because I would hate to see your wrong view of the conflict propagate through future generations.

Creationists have no problem with science, for instance, learning how the human body operates. The information that a human brain has billions of nerve cells which are connected to one another is science. You will get no argument from a creationist on this type of information from science. However, one may argue that those nerve cells came from evolution but it has no impact on the discovery of those nerve cells. It's just an interpretation on origin by a fixed establishment of scientists. Michael Ruse should have posed the question like this, Can evolution which teaches there is no God, be taught in the public schools? Another question, does evolution hurt science (like researching the human brain) because it advocates there is no God?

I read this blog pretty often, based just on the titles that I find at ScienceBlogs, and I am consistently pleased with the writing quality that I find here.

Michael @65: Michael Ruse should have posed the question like this, Can evolution which teaches there is no God, be taught in the public schools? Another question, does evolution hurt science (like researching the human brain) because it advocates there is no God?

No, the way you suggest would be the exact wrong way to pose the question since evolution teaches no such thing about God. It does posit a natural explanation for the origin of species, but that is not anything like the claim "there is no God."

I am not sure in what way you mean your second question. Do you mean that it has slowed progress? Compared to what? What other theory would permit faster progress? Certainly not ID; a handful of publications and 0 patents in 20 years is utterly abysmal.

Science and religions do not have to be in conflict. I believe there is a mis-interpreteation of the universe and evolution in the science. I think that in the very origin of the existince, there has to be something to cause all the events for the big bang. I believe universe is initially created with a cyclic-life mechanism and a system connecting all creatures. In the original creation when the perfect balance in the original universe gets broken, then events can happen like planets crushing to each other. After crush, there would be a reformation process and huge energy can be released. Particles moving with extremely huge speeds may create sufficitn energy to cause Big bang. Many other universes and galaxies can form. Evolution occurs aiming to revert the conditions back to the original perfect condition, which requires the creatures to evolve to form whatever their shapes in the origin were. Big Bang and evolution do not necessarily conflict with the idea of original creation.