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.”
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.