yet again "creation science" rears its head in the classroom
- The following article, attributed to Matt Frazier of Knight Ridder Newspapers,
appeared on page A7 of the Sunday, July 13, 2003 edition of The Arizona
BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK HEARINGS STOKE DEBATE OVER EVOLUTION
Fort Worth--The long-running debate over the origins of mankind continued last
week before the Texas State Board of Education, and the result could change
the way science is taught here and across the nation.
Local and out-of-state lobbying groups are trying to convince the board that
the next generation of biology books should contain new scientific evidence
that reportedly pokes holes in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Many of those groups say that they are not pushing to place a divine creator
back into science books, but to show that Darwin's theory is far from a
perfect explanation of the origin of mankind.
"It has become a battleground," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the
National Center of Science Education, which is dedicated to defending the
teaching of evolution in the classroom.
Almost 45 scientists, educators and special-interest groups from across the
state will testify at the state's first public hearing this year on the
next generation of textbooks for the courses of biology, family and career
studies, and English as a second language.
Approved textbooks will be available for classrooms for the 2004-05 school
year. And because Texas is the second-largest textbook buyer in the nation,
the outcome could affect education nationwide.
The Texas Freedom Network and a handful of educators held a conference call
recently to warn that conservative Christians and special-interest
organizations will try to twist textbook content to further their own views.
"We are seeing the wave of the future of the religious right's attack on
basic scientific principles," said Samantha Smoot, executive director of the
Those named by the network disagree with the claim, including the Discovery
Institute and its Science and Culture Center of Seattle.
"Instead of wasting time looking at motivations, we wish people would look at
the facts," said John West, associate director of the center.
"Our goal nationally is to encourage schools and educators to include more
about evolution, including controversies about various parts of Darwinian
theory that exists between even evolutionary scientists. We are a secular
The institute also is a leading proponent of intelligent design: the idea
that life is too complex to have occurred without the help of an unknown,
>I have always insisted that if schools must
>accommodate the Biblical creationist "theory" then
>they should also make room for other religious
>theories about the origin of the universe as well.
>That would of course drown biology in a sea of
>mythology, but I see no reason why one myth should
>take precedence over all the rest.
>In particular I am fond of the ancient Egpytian story
>of how the craftsman god Ptah masturbated and thereby
>created the universe. That should satisfy the
>Christians' desire for the intervention of an
>intelligent creator, and it is also a story that
>adolescents will be able to grasp easily.
>In addition, however, the Bible has a number of other
>interesting "insights" into the biological world. I
>believe it mentions rabbits chewing their cud and
>insects with the wrong number of legs. Those lessons
>also need to be inserted into biology books.
I seem to recall having heard a local anecdote about a
Hopi schoolteacher who refused to teach that her people's
ancestors crossed the Alaska-Siberia land bridge during
the late Pleistocene because her tribe's legend was that
her people emerged from a hole at the bottom of the
Grand Canyon. It does indeed show that there is more than
one day to substitute mythology for science.
As for "intelligent design theory", there is nothing new
about it. It's lifted straight out of Catholic apologetics
and is at least a century old. Ironically the Catholic
Church itself does not consider this to be at all
incompatable with evolution by natural selection. They
simply regard evolution as God's mechanism for creating
the diversity of the natural world.
>Yes, I tend to think that it is suicidal in the longDear Eric,
>run for religious people to tie their religious
>doctrines to clearly unscientific teachings. Sooner
>or later people will conclude that such nonsense is
>nonsense and then draw the further conclusion that the
>religious structure that bases itself on nonsense is
>From their perspective it is far more rational for
>them to try to reconcile science and myth - something
>that the Greeks started to do with their myths some
>2,000 years ago. It didn't save Greek paganism in the
>end, but it preserved it for hundreds of years until a
>new myth displaced the old ones.
Interesting. What did they do? Climb Mount Olympus
and say, "Hello, Zeus, Athena, anybody home?"
>In the 20th century the Catholics seem to have beenThe Catholic Church has been slow on some issues. It
>far better at adapting their mythology to current
>science than the Protestants have been - or at least
>the more fundamentalist Protestant sects.
was the current pope, John Paul II, who publicly said
that Galileo may have been mistreated by the Church,
though in all fairness the Church did take his books off
the Index Librorum (the Catholic index of forbidden
books) in the 1750s. The index itself was abolished
in 1966. Catholics are generally allowed to let their
own consciences dictate what they may and may not read,
though by general consensus hard core porn is frowned
>ThoseIn such an environment, one wonders how the students
>people insist that seven days is seven days and all
>quite literally. All the fossil evidence is, I
>suppose, Satan's dysinformation or black propaganda or
>In fact, at times I have heard Protestant extremists
>cite the presence of fossilized sea creatures in the
>rock of great mountains at high elevations as proof
>that Noah's flood actually covered the earth. Since
>science as regards natural history is taught so badly
>in school a surprising number of people accept such
>I remember my seventh-grade biology teacher refusing
>to answer students' questions about evolution because,
>he said frankly, he would get in trouble. At that
>(1966-1967) time the Scopes trial verdict was still
>operable in Tennessee and he quite literally would
>have been committing a crime to teach evolution.
>But at least in those days nobody ventured to teach
>Biblical mythology instead. They left a gap in our
>education; but they didn't try to stuff it with Hebrew
knew enough about evolution to ask questions.
>Well, what I meant about the ancient Greeks trying to
>reconcile science and myth was that as Greek society
>moved into the slave mode of production and developed
>more sophisticated thought, the old legdends and myths
>- such as that of the gods on Olympus - were no longer
>believable. Greek thinkers then turned the myths into
>symbols. The later Greek thinkers, particularly in
>the Hellenistic period (that is, after Alexander the
>Great) turned philosophy itself into a very spiritual
>set of doctrines, but they had to regard the old myths
>There was one, for example, who took the relationship
>between Ares and Aphrodite (Mars and Venus, to use the
>Roman names) as representing forces of repulsion
>(Ares/Mars being the god of war) and attraction
>(Aphrodite/Venus being the goddess of love).
>I don't imagine that the sailors in the ports who
>venerated Venus as the goddess of prostitutes thought
>much about those philosophical interpretations, but by
>giving the ancient religion some supposedly rational
>meanings, the intellectuals of the Hellenistic and
>Roman ages could continue to find ways to accept the
>"truth" of the gods, at least in some sense or other.
>Religion was an underpinning of the state (then as
>now) and the ancients felt it was important to keep it
>as a way to keep society "in order." Yet it's
>difficult to do that if all the intellectuals are
>atheists and just make hypocritical shows of
>religiosity. It was probably not hard to pursuade
>such upperclass intellectuals to adopt those
>rationalized versions of mythology because they would
>already be inclined to think that religion was good
>I also wonder where the kids in my junior high school
>would have heard of illegal and "sinful" doctrines
>like evolution. Maybe they watched TV and got it
>there. Also kids all seem to like dinosaur stories
>and books and such things did exist and they might
>excite questions about the origin of life. Many of
>those childrens' books would also be written by
>authors who had incorporated evolutionary theory into
>their thought so perhaps the kids received glimpses of
>it there. Finally, I'm sure that they were introduced
>to the "evils of evolution" in their Sunday schools.
>I admit that I was never impressed with the effects of
>Sunday school indoctrination on my peers. For example
>when I asked one Baptist acquaintance of mine how his
>sect reconciled their ban on alcohol with the story of
>Jesus turning water into wine. He explained (entirely
>seriously) that THAT wine was non-alcoholic.
>I'll have to admit, though, that in one sense he might
>be closer to fact. That is, if the story has any
>basis in fact whatever, the substance in question
>probably was highly diluted wine, i.e., simply a small
>amount of wine with a great deal of water added. The
>ancients typically mixed water with their wine anyway
>and one can keep on adding water indefinitely if the
>crowd keeps getting bigger.
>On the other hand, since I can perform such "miracles"
>for all my guests (if they so desire) the
>water-into-wine trick really loses its effect as a
>sign of special divine favour.
Fascinating stuff! Thanks for explaining the concept of
deities in the ancient world. I can imagine the creationists
depicting Noah saying, "Well did you ever try getting a
tyranosaurus rex into an ark?!" Still there were smaller
and more managable dinosaurs.
When I was on elementary school summer break, my parents
for some strange reason sent me to a Protestant Bible camp
near Prescott. As part of the indoctrination process, we
were given a book called "Only Dopes Use Drugs" that
described the various recreational drugs and their adverse
consequences (ecstacy and crack cocaine were excluded as
unknown substances is those days). One chapter "A liquid
drug: alcohol", apart from discussing the adverse effects
of alcohol, also asked the readers, "Would Jesus drink
One of the young people said what was probably on all our
minds, "The Bible said Jesus drank wine." Our counselor
just sat in embarassed silence for a while, not knowing
what to say and eventually changed the subject.
Since Jesus is considered to have been a great prophet of
Islam, indeed the penultimate prophet just before Muhammed,
I am curious to know the Muslim take on the miracle of
changing water into wine.