Monday, November 21, 2005

And Monkey Lung cross-fires! The following is posted by proxy:

Our student newspaper [at University of Florida -- ed.] has been running a series of editorials for and against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Here is the latest one, which happens to be against, but raises some good points:

I think this is a fascinating topic, particularly given the recent court decision for intelligent design in Kansas. Arguments about the validity of either theory or about separation of church and state aside, what I find interesting is the mere question of whether intelligent design should be taught based on what it is. One argument claims intelligent design should not be taught because it is not science, inherently. It is outside of the realm of science and therefore outside of the realm of the classroom (or the science classroom, at least). On the other hand, if one is to grant separation of church and state jurisdiction here, is teaching of evolution in public schools also tantamount to advancing a religious agenda, namely atheism? Does this not represent a violation of the separation of church and state? I tend to agree with those who would exclude intelligent design from the classroom mainly because it doesn't need to be there. Christians already do far too much dressing their religion up in socially acceptable clothes as it is. Why spend so much effort justifying something so far above science with limited scientific principles that will inevitably fail to capture your point in a meaningful way? Placing God alongside science as if the two are equal players borders on sacreligious. However, I think the question raises some interesting points and I figure you would be in a better position than I to reference some good information on the matter (not the crumby UF newspaper). I do find it interesting how vehement defenders of evolution have become on this matter. Some of the editorials in response to pro-creationist viewpoints are outright slanderous and angry. It is as if this decision in Kansas represents the beginning of a movement viewed as threatening by most scientists. If supporters of evolution really belive it is such a logical theory, why do they not also believe it will stand on its own merits? The tone of some of their defenses is reminescent of the tone with which members of the Christian right speak about legalized gay marriage; as if the first domino is about to fall in a cascade that threatens their belief system or even their very way of life.

Interestingly the same issue of the newspaper also features an article about a UF student arrested for stealing a sign from a local minister preaching on campus. The sign read "Beware Queer University!" The student was apparently so enraged by the sign that she grabbed it from him and ran off. Ironically the minister himself was arrested only a week earlier for disturbing the peace (disrupting class with his yelling). He is protesting a policy in the dorms on campus that RA's (student hall leaders) are instructed to direct students who express homosexual feelings to one of the campuses Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trangendered student groups or to counseling centers for homosexual students. In his mind this promotes the expansion of homosexuality on college campuses. While the minister is obviously a little off-base in his methods he raises an interesting point. What should a public institution like UF (or public high schools for that matter) do with students who maybe expressing to peers, teachers, or administrators homosexual sentiments for the first time? Or what should we do as Chirstians? Should we make attempts to discourage these feelings? Should we listen with an aim to help the student understand such feelings, knowing this may lead to their justification? Should we do as UF has done and direct them to homosexual support groups that can help them solidify or reject these feelings?


Becca said...

Just to toss in more food for thought, the following is included in the ever-authoritative Wikipedia entry on BJU:

"The BJU biology department proclaims its support for creationism. Its Department of Biology's website states:

Although Bob Jones University is primarily a teaching institution, the members of the science faculty have a long tradition of speaking, writing, and doing research related to defending the Bible's account of creation.
Since many academic biologists consider the theory of evolution's explanation of biological diversity the foundation of their science, this embrace of creationism may be one of the major reasons that BJU has chosen to forego accreditation until recently. BJU is currently seeking accreditation as a Christian college; however, even should the university as a whole attain accredited status, it remains likely that a bachelor's degree in biology from BJU would not be recognized by any accredited Ph.D. program in the biological sciences as legitimately fulfilling the prerequisites for graduate study."

It seems to me that such a refusal to recognize the validity of a program, even though its students measure up to standards in all respects, is unjustifiably defensive, and yes, discriminatory. I find it disturbing.

The Bard said...

I submit that the hostility Monkey Lung notes toward Intelligent Design is motivated by fear--the Evolutionary Atheists know that they cannot win on the merits and must attack ad hominem. They fear having to defend their own religous worldview on the same terms as Christians must defend theirs. Somehow they forget to mention that many of the great scientists of the past were Christians, and that Einstien himself said that "I refuse to believe that God plays dice with the universe."

Second, I am no so sure that ID is christians dressing their faith in secular clothes. Perhaps it is for some, but there are also non-Christians, some humanists, some non-Christian deists, who have accepted ID and support it apart from the religious arguements.

The Bard said...

The second story is also a demonstration of hypocrisy by a secular university. Suppose a religous school counsels a struggling person towards heterosexual behavior. That action demonstrates a normative view that heterosexuality is good--precisely the view that the Platonic Guardians in the media & accademia say that we backwards religous folk cannot have.

However, UF's decision to direct a questioning student toward the homosexual group (and such groups, no matter how tolerant their name, more than likely have not problem with homosexuality) also represents a normative judgment--a moral judgment--about homosexual behavior. Why THAT judgment is considered neutral escapes me...

Monica said...

I'd like to comment on a couple of things in Monkey Lung's post, but I have to put a big fat disclaimer right here in the beginning. I do not claim any kind of scientific qualification to discuss this. To my shame, I know little to nothing about the whole debate, and while the Christmas project is to find out more about it, Christmas isn't here yet, and so I'm still poking around in the dark.

I have, however, done some intense studying of the separation of church and state, so I'd like to poke at that a little bit. At the risk of being blown out of the water, I'm gonna stick my neck out and say that I'm not so sure that teaching evolution equals promoting atheism, and I'm equally unsure that teaching intelligent design promotes Christianity. Someone who knows help me out here, but does believing in evolution preclude a belief in God? I know that at one point there was a pretty thoroughly developed school of thought following what they called "theistic evolution." At the same time, teaching intelligent design (or at least my understanding of what that entails) doesn't necessarily push any particular religion so much as it means that something had to start the process. If I'm misunderstanding, please correct me, but if the above summaries are correct, then it sounds like a reasonable compromise would be to teach them both.

Monkey Lung makes an excellent point wondering why the evolution supporters are so protective. If it's really that good, put it up where everybody can try their best to pick it apart. Although maybe what they're so afraid of is the possibility of an intelligent designer, because that can't be explained and it can't be controlled. And so they protect the door from cracking open ever so vigilantly.

As to Becca's comment on the BJ science department, I think it's absurd that a BJ degree should be invalid just because the teachers don't believe in evolution. There is at least a full semester class on evolution that bio/pre-med type majors are required to take, and while arguments against evolution are also presented (and probably given the upper hand), that doesn't mean that they don't understand evolution or that they are unable to function in the scientific realm without believing in evolution.

When the author of the UF article talks about the signers being benifitted by antibiotics, he's suggesting that they could not have been developed unless the scientists believed in evolutiontiary biology. Sounds to me like he's mixing up micro and macro evolution. Nobody who knows anything is going to deny that evolution happens on a micro-scale, within a species (or whatever the correct term is that should go here). But micro doesn't prove macro. Because a virus evolves from carried by animals to carried by humans, that doesn't prove that a cat evolves into an alligator.

Monkey Lung said...

I agree with Monica's comments on the whole. I mostly questioned the spearation of church and state business to see what people thought about it. I do believe that evolution, in its strictest sense, requires atheistic thought at some level. I think this is true for precisely the reasons Monica so eloquently points out. Hardcore evolutionists take the principles of micro-evolution and spread them out over a long enough time span to achieve the fantastic cat to alligator (or alligator to cat, more precisely) transformation the theory requires. At the core of this argument is the assumption that the same principles that govern micro-evolution (namely random chance) also govern macro-evolution. In fact the whole field of evolutionary thought is now consumed by statistical modelling with the goal of proving the validity of creation driven by chaos. ID (at least my understanding of it) assumes the process is not completely random and that some being (preferably God) is directing (or has already directed) the show. Advocates of ID may still believe evolution happened the way scientists claim it did, but by relinquishing atheism they question the very heart of the theory of evolution, its randomness. In order to teach evolution in its purest conception (as the accumulation of random change over time leading to pregressively more complex life) one must preclude the possibility that any being can be influencing the randomness of this process. The operating assumption is that God is not present, or if He is He makes no difference. This is my point in arguing evolution to be teaching atheism.

Monica said...

OK, that makes sense. If randomness is the heart of evolution, then introducing any kind of designer dilutes it. But you're talking about teaching evolution on an extremely theoretical level. Do teachers do that on an elementary or high school level? That sounds like something that would be reserved for college classes. So if the only practical difference is that an alternative theory is advanced but on as simple a level as evolution, then it doesn't seem like any theistic viewpoint is getting pushed in the current battle.

The Bard said...

I'm not so sure I agree with Monica that "randomness is the heart of evolution" is somehow more theoretical or confined to the college classroom. It seems to me that the core atheistic concepts of evolution can, and I suspect that they in fact are, presented at the middle school level.

Monica's remark on "theistic evolution" is on the mark, because that is the best way to describe ID--it is an evolutionary process with some Divine prodding along the way.

As to the Establishment Clause (to be technically accurate on what we are discussing) I'm not sure what I think because I have not studied the area of law enough. It does seem to me, however, that teaching of ID, creation, or evolution does in some way promote a religous viewpoint. That is a fact--how our law responds, and should respond to that fact is beyond me for the moment.

Monkey Lung said...

It's been my experience in science curricula at all levels that the approach to evloution in the classroom is largely instructor driven. The theoretical approach to evolution mentioned above is more aggressively pursued by instructors that already have an atheistic agenda. Having come up all the way through the secular scientific establishment I have found two approaches to be prevalent:
1. The apologetic:
Professors that believe in evolution but have been so inundated with Christian students and parents stirring up controversy over the matter that they now only teach it in an extremely qualified and watered-down manner
2. The arrogant:
One who takes the assumed truth of evolution for granted to such a degree that they needn't even adress issues of origin of life or molecular probabilities. They inadvertently focus on the bigger, less God-exclusive ideas because of their confidence in the theory.

I am sure that teachers with atheistic agendas are out there. I just have not experienced them. I tend to agree with Monica that the approach (at least in my experience) at the secondary level is limited in scope and generally avoids issues related to origins of life. This would seem to indicate that in such a setting ID is little more than a disclaimer clause in the preface of one's biology text. Which beg's the question why are Chirsitians getting their panties in a wad about it? And as I have already pointed out, if evolution really is a sound theory, why are evolutoinists getting their panties in a wad about it? Indeed why are we getting our panties in a wad about it by breaking the historic 7-post limit? Why are all these panties being wadded up so carelessly? Doesn't anyone fold their panties anymore? Or at the very least, place them in the drawer neatly?

The Bard said...

I will defer to monkey lung on how secularists teach evolution, as he had expierence on the subject and I do not. Still, the reference to the "apologetic" evolutionary teacher make me wonder why the discussion of origins exists in the biology class at all.

But I want to raise a similar issue (unreated to the state of one's dresser drawers). How wise are we as Christians to fight this "evolution in the public schools" issue so harshly? On one hand, the validity of Christianity does in fact turn on Genesis, so the issue itself matters. On the other, I think some of our cultural war fights are more symbolic because the things we want to change will do little to change people's minds. How many people's view on origins is shaped by their biology class as opposed to the culture at large?

In short, is this fight on evolution in school more like the 10 Commandments in a courthouse, and thus a waste of time, or like the fight against the normalization of homosexuality, which is critical to the survival of our nation and our religious liberty?

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