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The Atlanta Science Tavern Message Board The Atlanta Science Tavern Discussion Forum › Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Scien

Discussion - The Christian Right's Assault on Public Education and the Science Curriculum

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A former member
Post #: 29
To Mark Merlin, I think your statement "Be that as it may, science stands apart in many respects from those other fields of study, at least at the level of the K-12 curriculum, and that is that there are not two sides to teach about subjects like the theory of evolution by natural selection. The science was long-ago decided and the consensus is not only strong, but the body of supporting evidence and detailed theory grows stronger with each passing day.", ...... is totally ON target. smile
A former member
Post #: 22
Mr. Conservative, you are claiming that there are two sides, and that science is unable to explain many things completely to your satisfaction, and that therefore we should treat science with contempt and let country preachers into public schools to 'teach' our credulous children about talking fire-bushes and talking snakes and virgin pregnancies and turning water into wine and God apparently not having godly stamina since he felt a need to rest after 7 days of creating all of known reality? (That reminds me, there are still many, many questions that fundamentalist Christianity has yet to answer to my satisfaction. Which suggests, of course, that I should give the other side a chance.)

Anyhoo, is it your belief that science is incapable of answering all of the questions you have above, and, therefore, is it your belief that Jesus did it all? And, therefore, we should all just shut up about it?
A former member
Post #: 100
We need to give all ALL sides representation in the school system. I'm pretty sure I can come up with rationale to demonstrate how the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Tooth Fairy or aliens created the world and all that's in it.
user 9391516
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 1
I think that HM Deutsh is correct, at least in the sense that it should not be assumed that one's political views determine one's views on scientific matters. After all many scientists are or were religious, and many are or were from the right of the political spectrum. Nor do those views determine whether one's personality will tend to support an educational approach that assumes that it is acceptable to impose those views on children. However there does NOT seem to be an assault on the US education system from the left as far as I (a non-educator) can see - though maybe HM Deutsch can enlighten me. It is clear that there are countries in the world where the education system is used as a tool of propogation of state philosophy - the UK promotes belief in the monarchy, Iran in Islam, Turkey its view on the massacre of the Armenians......but, as Marc says, in the field of science, there are many things on which there cannot be more than one opinion. Now, there is a view, apparently reasonable, that comparative religion should be taught at school. This is a view which the religious right might oppose because they believe that the US is a Christian country - whatever that may mean - and that they have a monopoly on what is "right". But I say "apparently reasonable" because religion almost always takes an anti-scientific approach (even if some great scientists have been extreme believers such as the Indian mathematicain SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN). But SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN never tried to impose his religious views on anyone as far as I know. Most importantly his scientific view of the world was distinct from his personal beliefs as far as they were expressed in his professional work. One does not need to accept his version of Hindusim in order to validate his equations! And, because he was mathematically correct in most of his work, that in NO WAY does validates his religious beliefs - even the religious right (because we mean Christian) would have to accept that. If we are to teach Creationism then let us do so within the study of Comparative Religion, but not in the teaching of science.
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 3
The real issue this discussion brings up is the terrible close mindedness of those who would otherwise consider themselves intelligent and logical.

To search for the answers to the questions of life one needs to be exposed to ideas of science, as well as the creative interpretations of religions or even science fiction. Stephen condemns anyone wanting to include alternative explanations in discussions of creation, as "condemning" science! How in the world is being exposed to many ideas, however fanciful, condemning science?

The human mind, in it's desire for answers, will make up explanations (also what consciousness does with day to day life btw). If you're really interested in teaching, and not just force feeding information like syrup, alternative ideas should be discussed. Children, and adults for that matter, are so easily deluded into false beliefs. If you are not allowed or encouraged to examine all ideas you get stuck on what you have first learned to believe, not capable of entertaining alternatives. The scientific community is often just as guilty of this as religious ones.

Close mindedness is dangerous. I do not think children should be told that creationism IS THE ONLY answer. Of course not. Not even a viable answer for that matter. But likewise, science knowledge too is still very primitive. Science can only explain the material universe, when ultimate reality may have very little, if anything, to do with that at all! We might be existing in a sort of debris field of true reality. To shut out elegant and elaborate ideas, however implausible, is narrow minded, and does not lead to greater knowledge.
Roswell, GA
Post #: 49
For those that are as confused as I am, I wrote the reply that was attributed to Lorraine. I just happened to be using her computer because we are traveling.....not very scientific of me I know!
Marc M.
Group Organizer
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 54
I wanted to add to this lively exchange by trying to focus the discussion to see if we can make some headway with the issue at hand - or at least what I believe to be the issue at hand - and that is the formulation of the science curriculum for public primary and secondary schools.

First, let me ask Midtown Scientist’ s (formerly Midtown Conservative) indulgence for not addressing his objections to my claims here. I’ll try to follow up in another post, but, suffice to say I think that he and I agree on certain specific and important points.

That said, let’s turn our attention to Deb’s concerns about the price we pay by closing our minds to alternative points of view in science and elsewhere in life. In some respects I couldn’t agree more, openmindedness is a personal virtue, one that I aspire to in my own life. I hope that I can live up to Deb’s expectations for me!

Of course, even our personal striving for openmindedness has to be tempered with what I would call discernment. We have to entertain a myriad of ideas in our daily lives, but ultimately we have to make decisions, sometimes very important ones. Good judgement is the balancing act that results from having an open mind and also learning from experience what sources of information and advice we can trust as we go about selecting between alternative courses of action.

I would also agree with Deb that it is incumbent upon us to inculcate openmindedness in our children, and I do believe that the schools, both public and private, have an important role to play in this process. That said, schools are also a place for us confer upon our children the hard-won rewards of our experience, not as individuals, but as a culture and as a civilization. To lay before them a set of options without offering them the benefit of our collective judgement would be a disservice, perhaps a crime.

Nowhere is this obligation clearer than in the K-12 science curriculum. That is because, unlike other other fields of human endeavor, the scientific enterprise, after centuries of struggle, has established positions about the nature of the world beyond any reasonable doubt. The confidence of those points of view are embodied in what is called the scientific consensus. While acknowledging that “truths” such as these are always provisional, we understand them to be of a different quality than competing opinions and so raise the bar as to what can be called the foundational knowledge we choose to transmit to young and growing minds.

To understand this better, I think that it is useful for us to consider another element of the science curriculum and that is the germ theory of disease. I would ask that the participants in this discussion to test the validity of their approaches by considering how well they fare in this analogous context.

The germ theory of disease, the idea that disease originates, at least in part, as the result of infection by microbes of one sort or another was, like Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, a triumph of 19th century science. This is not to say that it reached its current form then. Viruses were unknown to Louis Pasteur. Likewise, the kind of injury that can result from chronic exposure to, say, low-level radiation or pesticide residues was unanticipated by that great man. No doubt, much of the harm that befalls us is self-inflicted, indicative of bad “lifestyle choices” having to do with diet, for example or the use of addictive drugs.

Nonetheless, the germ theory has become ensconced as part of the scientific canon and recognized as the indisputable scientific consensus. More than a theoretical notion, Pasteur’s legacy has been the foundation for the development of medical therapies - everything from the practice of asepsis in hospitals, to childhood vaccinations to antibiotic drugs - that have saved hundreds of millions of lives.

Be that as it may, a controversy still swirls around the germ theory of disease, not in the scientific community, but in sectors of the public mind. Some of these challenges have to do with the very origin of disease itself, with the blame laid not with microbes but with such things as an imbalance in energy fields that pervade our bodies or the configuration of our spines. More commonly the controversy has to do with what constitutes effective treatment of disease, with homeopathy and crystal healing being offered notably as competing therapies. There is significant opposition from some quarters to vaccination as a safe and effective public health measure.

I want to emphasize that the question I am posing is not whether there is any basis to these competing ideas (I am confident that the list of citations is endless), but whether these ideas should be introduced into the public school curriculum to balance the teaching of the germ theory of disease.

Would we be derelict to not include classroom discussion of homeopathy, crystal healing, chiropractic as equally effective alternatives to the treatment of human ailments, on a par with antibiotics and accepted surgical practice? Are we obligated to teach this controversy? Should we instruct our children in elementary school that they should be suspicious of the vaccinations that their family doctors offer them, telling them that there are some people who say they not only ineffective but even dangerous?

Furthermore should the science curriculum in this regard be expanded to include a discussion of the “ultimate” cause of disease, causes that in some sense precede its origins in entirely natural processes?

Should students in a high school biology class learn that disease might originate as a result of the karmic balancing of accounts from our past-life transgressions? Should they be taught that cancer, for example, might be the fruit our original sin and evidence of our fundamentally corrupt nature? There are a not inconsiderable number of people, if Oprah is any indication, who believe that the ailments that beset us, including those that torment the tiniest infants, are generated as a result of failure to maintain a positive attitude about ourselves and about the world. Should those points of view be included in our biology textbooks?

I ask for you to consider this analogous question with an open mind, of course, and look forward to hearing whether you see the parallels as being applicable and how concerns about “teaching the controversy” might apply here.

A former member
Post #: 23
"To search for the answers to the questions of life one needs to be exposed to ideas of science, as well as the creative interpretations of religions or even science fiction." Why?

" Children, and adults for that matter, are so easily deluded into false beliefs." Boy, that's the truth. That's why some of us are interested in not having the science education of children all muddied up with religious gobbledy-gook.

"The scientific community is often just as guilty of [pigheadedness] as religious ones." And yet, somehow, scientists always come to accept the more current understanding of reality. Unlike religious fundamentalists.

"Close mindedness is dangerous." At last we agree!

"I do not think children should be told that creationism IS THE ONLY answer." Really? So you think that scientific explanations of the world should be taught in church? Because they shouldn't be told creationism IS THE ONLY answer, right? How many religious fundamentalist churches do you know where creationism is taught as being "only a theory"?

" To shut out elegant and elaborate ideas, however implausible, is narrow minded, and does not lead to greater knowledge" You think it leads to greater knowledge to take seriously the reported beliefs of people who lived thousands of years before the French Enlightenment? How, exactly?

"The real issue this discussion brings up is the terrible close mindedness of those who would otherwise consider themselves intelligent and logical." You're being ironic, right?

A former member
Post #: 13
Deb, you may not realize it, but the majority of your posts have been strawmen, red herrings, and now ad hominems.

I truly wish you'd organize one cogent argument so that I can understand what your point is. Please stay on topic. The issue is The Christian Right's attack on Public Education and Science Curriculum. Yes, this is happening and at an alarming rate.

As far as this concept of the "left" being just as bad. I truly do not know of any court cases in which a "leftist" agenda(whatever that is) has tried to remove or modify any science standards contrary to what the scientific evidence reveals.

The reality is that creationist groups, usually Christian fundamentalist groups, are threatened by what they thiink evolution implies; no special creation, no purpose, no morality, etc.

Oh lastly, if I may wax philosophical for a second, you are insinuating that those that do not stroke your theistic tendencies (which comes across due to the overt emotionalism in your posts) are not open-minded. I have a video that I'd like to share. ~ Click to watch: On being Open-Minded~

Atlanta, GA
Post #: 4
I should clarify that I am a-theistic (outside of a desire to preserve some rare, beautiful and brilliant genes still floating around my ethnic/religious group's dna.) :) I attended religious school but even as a young child, refused to believe simply on faith. As you can imagine, I spent a good amount of time with the principal. Nice fellow actually once you got past the initial scowl.

My older brother the doctor, is Orthodox. He cannot have a simple conversation if it doesn't include religion. We don't talk much beyond the usual niceties. However, religion gives him a huge community of like minded people, as well as numerous children and grand children. "Darwinistically" religion is far better suited to gene survival than atheism! I see religion as "hardwired" to increase gene survival. Not being sexually attracted to one's immediate relatives is a similar mechanism. It takes courage, and/or missing that part of the brain, to see past religion's hope and promises. Most scientists see it for what it is, nonsense, but it takes a great, dare I say, leap of faith? to give up a crutch that satisfies such deep, innate human cravings.

Marc, I do not think alternative methods of curing disease should be offered to children as PROVEN solutions unless they ARE proven. I would never suggest creationism be taught as if it were truth either. But it is important for children to understand the pull of religion and why so many people are attracted to its promises. They can then compare it to the more direct and verifiable answers science provides. I don't think it would take too many hours of discussion to show there are distinct differences between the two ways of looking at reality. One is based on hope, one is based on reason.

Some people cannot cope or are not equipped to handle reality. Alas, these people may be better off with some sort of religion. Especially when, we really do not know ultimate reality, and there may very well be a far higher intelligence out there beyond our little speck of a universe (granted, to us, it looks huge, but logically, it probably isn't.) If G-d is a "mathematician" in Einstein's poetic sense, then we could be His mathematical debris field, the big bang was a G-d fart! ;) We are math writ live, spinning into complex equations and then melting out again. Well, yes, I have an active imagination. But as you see, that scenario doesn't exclude anything to do with the physical universe we know and love and aim to conquer, but still allows for the possibility of a G-d. Not exactly the loving image of an old man, but still, a higher power.

Pardon the digression. Alternative methods of healing often have large success rates due to the placebo effect, the power of suggestion, etc. These are important concepts to convey are they not? In other words, I believe all these things should be discussed, intelligently, as opposed to hidden as if exposing children to them will make them religious fanatics or herbalists. Though herbs are nice little mathematical constructions too. ;)

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