Dissent from denial of cert in latest evolution case
dsg at PRCHFE.ORG
Mon Jun 26 08:42:29 PDT 2000
From: Steven D. Jamar
How do you handle the young-earther creationists? I'm not talking about
who see a watchmaker or a god who started the whole thing off or who,
from time to time puts his or her hand in to muck things up a bit - I'm
about the Bible literalists who agree with Cardnial Usher's calculations of
world being only some 6000 years old.
I think the problem arises because we have an inadequate definition of
religion (if one even exists in the law) and an inaccurate and inadequate
understanding of the religion-secular dichotomy. Without these, the court
has inadequate tools to address the problem. We label something as religious
and it becomes suspect and different - whereas if we label it secular it is
safe and unexamined. What I think we need to do is rethink our definitions
along functionalist lines and in line with a more accurate understanding of
epistemology. Instead of treating this student's opinions as "religious" we
need to think of them as a belief system -- and recognize that science is a
belief system as well.
We can teach children a wide range of thought systems without compelling
them to believe that they are true. For example, we can teach a student
about Marxism without demanding that he or she believe Marxism to be true.
So too, at least in theory, with other religions. The student is expected
to know the tenets of that belief system and be able to answer questions
according to that system. e.g. "How would a Marxist (Buddhist, etc.)
answer this question?"
The difference is that the belief system of science (i.e.. that all physical
phenomena are to be analyzed within a closed system and without recourse to
ideas of the supernatural) is taught not as a belief system but as absolute
truth. While I happen to agree that science is capable of explaining a lot
(including evolution) I strongly disagree with teaching it as absolute
truth. There are things that science cannot explain such as morals,
meaning, and ultimate causes (e.g. what came before the Big Bang? What came
before Time?) And, who knows? As we learn more about quantum theory and
the uncertainty principle, there does seem room for the supernatural.
Students should be taught to think critically about science instead of
worshipping it as revealed truth.
Of course, thinking critically about science risks teaching the students the
critical skills that might be applied by the student against religion as
well -- but that is a risk that religion will have to take.... I don't think
that society is obligated to freeze the minds of students to blind obedience
to any authority.
David E. Guinn JD, PhD
The Park Ridge Center
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