Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Making monkeys out of teachers

It amazes me that now, more than 80 years after the John Scopes trial, we are again in the midst of a terrible controversy about how to teach science in science class. As NPR pointed out this morning, science teachers are still stuck in the middle of it, not just needing to teach science to their students, but needing to justify it in the face of a religious fanaticism that would stop it from being taught.

At one level, justification is a fine thing: science itself teaches us that we believe what we have evidence for — experimental results, observations, measurements, logical conclusions — and that we always justify, question, and refine what we know, learning more at each stage. The problem comes when we have to argue science in the face of inflexibility. No logical argument is possible, no true questioning and refining, when the counterargument is "God said."

Because that is the real danger that religion can pose: the teaching of the rejection of critical thinking, replaced by unthinking belief in something unproven and unprovable — or "provable" only through a circular argument. I don't think it's bad to believe something for which one has no proof. I do think it's bad not to question such a belief, and not to seek proof that doesn't come from the belief itself.

There's a place for religion. There's a place for science. Only the latter belongs in science class, and we learned that years ago, in the aftermath of the Scopes trial. It's a pity that our current political climate and "leadership" have made many forget what we've learned.

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

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