My wife brought Rekha Basu’s latest contribution to our bird cage’s lining to my attention yesterday.  It was her Tuesday op/ed in the Des Moines Register entitled – “Remember, religion isn’t fact.”

She wrote:

Back in February, Republican State Rep. Rod Roberts of Carroll introduced a bill in the Iowa Legislature purporting to protect the rights and freedoms of Iowa teachers. More than 200 Iowa college faculty members promptly exercised their rights and freedoms by signing a statement against it.

The bill, called the "Evolution Academic Freedom Act" (HF 183), joined the ranks of legislation like No Child Left Behind for doing precisely the opposite of what its title claimed. The freedom this bill promised to protect was of school teachers to present as scientific fact religious theories on the beginnings of life. The problem is, the only scientific theory on how we got here is evolution. No matter how you dress them up, the rest fall into the realm of religious belief – which the Constitution forbids imposing on public-school students.

First off, this clearly shows that Basu has bought into the chatter that you can’t present Intelligent Design without citing chapter and verse in the Bible.  Not so.  Secondly she is making an assumption that the presentation of evolution doesn’t bring forth religious ideas, which it does.  I know, I was subjected to it in public school (and I wasn’t a Christian at the time and it hardened me against Christianity – is that the purpose of public education?).

That bill died in committee.  She now is complaining about what the Spencer (IA) Community School District is trying to do.

Two Spencer school board members, one an Assemblies of God minister, proposed a "religious liberty" policy providing for elective classes such as "Critic of Darwinism" (I assume they mean Critique) and "The Bible in History and Literature." The first, I fear, would try to debunk the theory of evolution, while the second, I’m guessing, would treat what’s in the Bible as historical fact.

First off, these are elective classes… meaning not part of the core curriculum and they are voluntary.  Shelf that even for a second.  Secondly is Darwinism is above critique?  Her objection to this class gives the appearance  that is the case.  There are atheist scientists who have problems specifically with Darwinism (which by the way can be argued is a religious belief) and the Theory of Evolution in general.

Regarding the Bible class.  I’ve seen other high schools do this in a non-parochial manner.  How she thinks you can honestly look at Western Civilization and look past the Bible as a historical source and literary work is beyond me.  In many ways I’d prefer, as a pastor, that public schools not do this, but for different reasons – I think they’ll screw it up.

She goes on to say “the rationale for Spencer’s proposal rests on the claim that academic and religious freedoms are being denied.”  Then goes to dismiss that reason.  Which shows me that she is listening to an echo chamber of people who say that isn’t so, but ignores evidence in other school districts and public/secular private universities where that has been the case.

She then says, “Nor is anyone asking kids to check their faith at the schoolhouse door. But publicly funded schools should not present religious beliefs as fact.”  Perhaps that hasn’t happened in Spencer, but can she say that has never happened?  Not so.  Public schools shouldn’t present that religious beliefs are false either.

She says “there’s nothing wrong with parents wanting their children to get a religious education. But that’s what parochial schools are for.”  I’m assuming that you’ll be endorsing the next school-choice bill that gets brought up in the next General Assembly.  I’m sure they’ll appreciate your support.

She describes Spencer High School students as “thoughtful, smart, and inquisitive.”  Then assumes because that is the case they’ll agree with her.  If they are “thoughtful, smart, and inquisitive” then why shouldn’t they be exposed to the marketplace of ideas…. including one’s she doesn’t agree with?

When it comes to our origins, I’d love to see us come to a realization that science has it’s limitations.  Provide all sides of the debate – the science of the debate.  Share the scientific limitations of all theories and leave it there.

In Basu’s mind religion isn’t fact (I’ll debate that, but that is an entirely different post), but neither is Darwinism.  Unfortunately it is often taught as though it is.

9 comments
  1. I’m not sure how a course titled “Critic of Darwinism” fits under the rubric of ‘religious liberty’. If the course focuses on theological and philosophical reconciliation with biological evolution or the history of religious reconciliation, then I think that would be perfectly OK and even uncontroversial. If, however, it consists mostly of ‘antievolution’ then I think it will run into trouble and certainly doesn’t fall under something like ‘religious liberty’.

    The Des Moines Register provides a draft of the Spencer’s Regious Liberty Policy here: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/assets/pdf/D213815778.DOC

    Having read the draft, I’m not optimistic. And why is biological evolution singled out of all scientific fields or science in general for ‘special mention’? This is the same transparent sleight of hand (supported often by the Discovery Institute) that has been attempted by many school boards… and ultimately, most were complete failures. I’m sure the board means well but they really don’t understand the subject or what they’re getting into.

  2. I'm not sure how a course titled “Critic of Darwinism” fits under the rubric of 'religious liberty'. If the course focuses on theological and philosophical reconciliation with biological evolution or the history of religious reconciliation, then I think that would be perfectly OK and even uncontroversial. If, however, it consists mostly of 'antievolution' then I think it will run into trouble and certainly doesn't fall under something like 'religious liberty'.

    The Des Moines Register provides a draft of the Spencer's Regious Liberty Policy here: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/assets/pdf/D21

    Having read the draft, I'm not optimistic. And why is biological evolution singled out of all scientific fields or science in general for 'special mention'? This is the same transparent sleight of hand (supported often by the Discovery Institute) that has been attempted by many school boards… and ultimately, most were complete failures. I'm sure the board means well but they really don't understand the subject or what they're getting into.

  3. I didn't read the policy, but was responding to what she said. While their policy may be not correct.. and that can be debated, her logic and argument is essentially flawed.

    Darwinism & Evolution are treated as scientific fact, when in fact they are theories. Just like intelligent design is a theory. And Argon I've seen enough Discovery Institute stuff to know that they don't dabble in theology. They discuss science, period, and they have science and peer-reviewed research to back them up.

    For far too long evolution has been taught as fact in schools, and it should be open to critique.

    BTW, not all scientists involved with the Intelligent Design movement are even Christian. There are just some serious flaws with evolution, but they never get challenged in the science curriculum and textbooks.

  4. “And Argon I've seen enough Discovery Institute stuff to know that they don't dabble in theology.”

    I have to strongly disagree. They claim they deal exclusively in science yet when one digs beneath the surface (for example, as was done at the trial against the Dover, PA school board) one easily sees the theological goals. Recall that the Wedge document of the DI specifically targets evolution because of 'materialism', which they saw as a problem for religious beliefs. The development of “theistic science” was the term they often described as their goal at least prior to subsequent court losses which led to their attempts to purge all mention of religion.

  5. So because they have a theological motivation that means the science is suddenly false?

    What does the curriculum actually teach? Is their findings untrue? Do they bring up legitimate problems with evolution?

    Whether it is DI or something else, what goes on in most high school biology classrooms is ridiculous as evolution goes unchallenged and promoted to impressionable minds as “fact” when it is anything but.

    That is my main beef with Basu's op/ed. Those who promote evolution often have theological motivation as well. And, evolution (macro, not micro) is no more “fact” than ID.

  6. “So because they have a theological motivation that means the science is suddenly false?”

    No. Their 'science' is simply garbage. They happen to promote and embrace garbage because they'd rather their particular concept of theology be true. This is bass-ackwards science.

    “Those who promote evolution often have theological motivation as well.”

    Well yes, but many simply accept evolution on its scientific merits. In particular, there are any number of Christian biologists and scientists who support evolution. They've come to resolve their theological beliefs in the context of what they've discovered in science.

  7. There are no scientific merits for macro, we came from primordial soup, evolution.

    None.

    I'll give you micro evolution, as that has been well documented. Macro-evolution, as far as, it comes to our origins is conjecture. I mean, the fossil record would back it up wouldn't it? It doesn't.

    That number of Christian biologists and scientists are relatively small.

    I know things like cellular biology, looking at the molecular machines within a cell… junk science.

    Looking at the laws of physics, and how they are balanced in order for life to occur… junk science.

    Looking at what the universe's source is… junk science.

  8. I've been involved in online debates about evolution since about 1991. I followed the creation/evolution debate about fifteen years before then. I've followed the rise of the modern ID movement since Philip Johnson's first book on the subject and read the papers of most of the major contributors to Discovery Institute's effort.

    This 'no scientific merits for macro' comment is way off. There is evidence for evolution at many levels in the past. The 'fossil record would back it up', wouldn't it' claim is simply unsupportable. For some groups there are very good evidence of when and how they originated. For other groups, consistency with morphological and genetic characteristics (nested hierarchy that also tracks with time) are often confirmed. This blog is probably not the place for an extended discussion of the merits of evolutionary biology but if you'd like, I can direct you to discussion groups where you could present your questions or arguments.

    “That number of Christian biologists and scientists are relatively small.”

    The number of Christian biologists and scientists that support evolution is small? I'd like to see the metrics. From where I'm sitting, I could bounce a ball off the windows of about a dozen Christian biologists that support evolution over ID/creationism, and this isn't an academic site. I know biologist who doesn't support evolution but he's a Raelian.

    There is a large group of professional scientist-Christians called the American Scientific Affiliation (http://www.asa.org). This group doesn't have a statement of faith about evolution but the large majority of member biologists and scientists support evolution. I've been active on their ASA reflector in the past (years ago). Archives are here: http://www.asa3.org/archive/asa/

    (Not a bad, Christian-friendly group in which to begin one's research into the area).

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