Friday, 13 June 2008

When Creationists Attack

In an awesome blow to science education in the US, the Louisiana House of Representatives has approved senate bill SB 733.

Have a read. Looks innocuous enough? There's lots of talk about critical thinking and objective discussion and all that good stuff.

Don't believe a word of it.

This is nothing more than a cynical and underhanded stealth attack on science education.

The sole purpose of this document is to allow Creationism to be taught as scientific theory in public schools.

Of course there's no mention of Creationism, or even its modern equivalent Intelligent Design.

But note that the bill makes specific mention of
" . . . evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

That seems like a rather specific list.

And then, the kicker is in this paragraph:
"A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board"


So if the school board is stacked with creationists, as is often the case in the US, then The Book of Genesis will be taught right alongside the standard science textbook.

And guess which one will be given more weight.

This is a science class. Surely we should be teaching science. And therefore listening to scientists. Only.

This stuff isn't a matter of opinion. It isn't a matter of theology.

It's open to debate, of course. But debate on rational, logical and scientific grounds. Not some manufactured debate of Religion vs Science designed solely to make the local ministers look like heroes to their parish.

I'm deeply disturbed by this.


Spoon said...

Late, yes, I know. But jeebus, I couldn't resist. I just got around to reading this bill, and your comments on it have made me quite reactive.

How dare they - how DARE they - talk about teaching which "promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion"? They should be ashamed.

Perhaps it much better to teach argumentative techniques in which you deliberately misquote something to prove a point that is so obviously not there?

To quote you:

But note that the bill makes specific mention of

" . . . evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

That seems like a rather specific list.

To quote the actual piece of text:
objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

Including but not limited to. That's a pretty clear way of clarifying something that might otherwise be construed as a "pretty specific list".

Seems to me you've been soapboxing about them teaching creationism in schools (and while I disagree with your mode of discussion, and some of the generalisations that you make, I agree that creationism should be left out of science class), along comes a bill that actually supports what you say and you are so clouded by your pre-conceptions that you can't see it. Either that or you are deliberately misjudging it.

It is basically saying that if you have a science class, and you only teach creationism and don't objectively discuss such subjects as evolution, origins of life, global warming and human cloning then you are not following the letter of this Bill.

It's saying "be objective" and we know, from the tone of your previous posts that you say that that is exactly what we should be. I'm honestly not sure how they could say it in such a way for you to believe it.

And lets, for the sake of really obfuscating the truth, skip the bit of the Bill that says: "This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine" shall we? Cos you know, that would go against the point you were trying to make.

Matt said...

It all sounds great, doesn't it? Critical thinking, logical analysis. If this were the preamble to a science syllabus it'd be great.

But it's not. It's a piece of legislation. So what is this really for?

Some history:

Creationists were hit with a legal challenge a few years ago. The 2006 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial found that teaching Intelligent Design in the science class amounted to teaching Creationism and hence was unconstituional.

As a result, Creationists have stopped teaching ID directly, and now the trick is to "teach the controversy". That is, to teach Intelligent Design alongside Natural Selection in a compare-and-contrast fashion, thereby subtly promoting Intelligent Design.

This what is really meant by "open and objective discussion".

There is very specifically no mention of religion, and no mention of God.

But it's still the same stuff and would be subject to the same sort of challenge that was successful in Dover.

So this bill is a pre-emptive measure to head off any more legal challenges.

The clincher . . . this bill was lobbied heavily for by the Discovery Institute, the main advocate for Intelligent Design in the US.