Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Why, oh why, must our President, who is right about so many things, insist that idiocy is a form of intellect.

Elaborating Update: It is five hours later, and in that time I've managed to consume this column by Charles Krauthammer ("Let's Have No More Monkey Trials"). Krauthammer makes the critical (and obvious) point that "intelligent design" may be perfectly correct religion, but it is not science and therefore should not be taught in science classes. Many people also believe, as an article of faith, in angels, ghosts, reincarnation, extra sensory perception and certain arcane procedures for the preparation of food, but we don't teach these in science class, either. If, as one commenter suggests, the President was merely proposing that students be exposed to "different ideas," then let that exposure occur in religious studies classes rather than confusing students about what is, and is not, science.

And what of the argument that the theory of evolution does not explain all biological observations? Krauthammer:
How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes "monkey trial"? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton's universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein's revisions. There are gaps in Einstein's universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so.

And why should we worry about this fine distinction between faith and science? What is wrong with the President's idea that these are all ideas to which students should be exposed in science class?
To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

For those of you who worry that the West is civilization's great citadel, there is an additional argument against mixing science and religion. Apart from these occasional fundamentalist eruptions, Christianity has in the last four or five hundred years distinguished itself from Islam in that the former acknowledged the separation of religion and science as a doctrinal matter. Nobody objects to a heliocentric conception of the cosmos however antithetical it might be to traditional teachings of the church. We all agree that planetary orbits are eliptical, even if that indisputable observation trashes our ancient description of divine construction (which plainly called for perfectly circular orbits). The Muslims, however, have had a much harder time accepting that science and religion might exist as entirely different disciplines that do not conflict. Perhaps it is this failure of Islam to reconcile science that accounts for the multi-century collapse of science and innovation in that part of the world.


By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Aug 03, 06:44:00 AM:

And I do, with bated breath, as usual!  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Aug 03, 08:38:00 AM:

This is a murderously long and complex topic, usually best discussed over a drink in a dark room. Suffice it to say that religion and science (and politics) don't mix beautifully, not because the topics are incompatible but because the adherents tend to be. An expert in one of these is rarely an expert in both (or all). If you drew a Venn diagram of each topic, I bet there would be very limited overlap of adherents who were expertised and comfortable with all the topics. So people tend to go overboard on one or the other. As a parent, I want my child exposed to science, history, politics, religion, etc....They'll have to figure out how to balance their beliefs as they come to understand each topic. Where they ultimately learn about it should be amatter of expertise. Few high school science teachers would make excellent religion study teachers. And vice versa. I also vaguely recall that my finest teacher of evolution was actually my history teacher, who did an amazing section on Darwin. And then of course we covered the Scopes trial most interestingly in English class...by reading Inherit the Wind. So you learn about this stuff all over the place.

Just read baby.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 03, 02:27:00 PM:

The ever increasing demands of this secular society requires the censuring of any mention of God at least in the traditional Christian sense even though in a recent poll over 80 percent of the people believe in a godly deity who is the creator of all. In a true democracy concerned with the rule of the majority it seems to me that the elimination of a core belief from the education system in general and society as a whole is tantamount to rule by the minority, a true sign of oligarchy or tyrannical rule. This is basically what those that favor the absoluteness of evolution are trying to enforce on everybody else.

As so far as there are conflicts between science and religion as someone suggested, in my opinion, this statement can only come from a non-scientific person. For any true scientist, whose category I include myself, it is increasingly difficult to accredit the wonders of life and the universe to chance. At any level, subatomic to cosmic, the structure and form are too magnificent and marvellous to accredit to mere happenings. I personally have no trouble balancing and merging my godly religious belief with my scientific activities as I see them as complementary not opposing as secularists do. Indeed, seclularism by denying other religious beliefs is little more than a religion itself promoting the absolute power of the universe to evolve life.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Wed Aug 03, 07:52:00 PM:

If you want to teach comparative religion, then intelligent design yourself silly. But if you want to teach science, then teach science.

Also, Bush's intelligent design comment came shortly before his "complete confidence" in Rove comment. Discuss.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Aug 03, 09:59:00 PM:

I think pretty much everybody has "complete confidence" of one sort or another in Karl Rove. Bush is completely confident that Rove is the best political operative he has, you and -- dare I say it -- other opponents of the President are completely confident that Rove is the Evil Genius behind the throne, and Peter Fitzgerald is completely confident that he is not going to prosecute Karl Rove.  

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