Michael Dowd has left a comment on my previous post that I think deserves to be shared. The comment was appropriate there, but it raises a problem that’s a little different from the main focus of that post; so this new post can focus on Dowd’s own proposition.
The earlier post quoted John West of Discovery Institute saying evolution education in the U.S. is “dumbed down.” I agreed, but added that the remedy is not the introduction of Intelligent Design into Biology class, but instead teaching Biology at least well enough that people will know the difference between what is and what is not the natural science of Biology.
Dowd, who wrote Thank God for evolution: how the marriage of science and religion will transform your life and our world, (click on the title or the cover image to find the book; click here for a 4-minute interview of Dowd on CNN), contributed this comment:
I agree with you, Tony. ID is not science and should not be taught in science classes. I do, however, think that students, schools, and society as a whole would be greatly served by having worldview classes that show how mainstream Biology and other evolutionary sciences can be interpreted in ways that enrich a variety of religious and nonreligious perspectives.
My other post was about how science should be taught. This post shares the proposition that in addition to, and outside of, science classes, it would be a good thing to have “worldview” classes in which students could learn about the kinds of relationships that Michael suggests.
I agree, Michael, in principle; and I think that dealing with this controversy could necessity creating a place in the curriculum where appropriately qualified teachers could help students learn about these things. As a Constitutional lawyer, I think I could make a case for a course in which even your book could be read by students in a public school, perhaps alongside Dawkins and another book by someone arguing that Darwinism cannot be reconciled with Christianity.
If I were a public school principal, however, just about anyplace in the United States, I’d probably think that’s just not feasible politically, no matter how much I might personally want to see it done.
What qualifications would a teacher need before they were qualified to teach such a course? Recall that the “philosophy” course that was shut down in California right after the Dover decision, was being taught by a gym teacher whose husband was a local fundamentalist minister. But if not her, then who? They would need to be trusted, as well as qualified. Ironically, I think this would have a better chance in Catholic schools, not because of the Constitutional difference, but because the parents would be more inclined to trust teachers hired by their Catholic school.
But the first challenge is likely to come from creationists such as those who have brought the lawsuit over the Understanding Evolution for Teachers website hosted at UC-Berkeley. As reported in The Christian Post, the Pacific Justice Institute (the group bringing the lawsuit) “points to parts of the site that feature pro-evolution religious denominations alongside faiths that the site says adhere to creationism and ‘explicitly contradict science.'” Claiming that this case presents “a clear situation of viewpoint discrimination,” they argue that
Whatever one’s views on the origin of life or the theory of evolution, it is completely inappropriate for the government to declare that some religious denominations are better than others,” explained PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider, in a statement. “The Supreme Court has long held that government must not decree what is orthodox in religion, and we are seeking to hold UC Berkeley to that standard.
Roy Caldwell, one of the defendants at Berkeley, responds
“Basically, what we have is a page that deals with the misconceptions and challenges to the teaching of evolution, and we provided resources to teachers to answer them,” he told UC Berkeley news. “One of those questions is, ‘Aren’t religion and evolution incompatible?’ And we say, ‘no,’ and point to a number of sites by clerics and others who make that point.”
On the page that’s titled Misconception: “Evolution and religion are incompatible,” we find this explanation:
The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.
So, Michael, as reasonable as you are trying to be, and as Constitutionally scrupulous as I might try to be, if I tried to use your thoroughly religious book in a public school classroom, I would be sued for doing that — not by the “Darwinists,” but by the Christians who insist that to teach that God is not ruled out by evolution, is to impermissibly take sides in a religious dispute.
What do you think?
Added July 6, 2008:
Read the comments on that post to see examples of Christians insisting that “macroevolution” cannot be reconciled with Christianity.