Saturday, January 10, 2009


Accidental Honesty

The Richmond, Indiana Palladium-Item has an Op-Ed piece by Kenneth Riden, described elsewhere as a "local coordinator for a national effort seeking legislation to require teachers" to "teach the controversy." It is instructive as to how the "academic freedom" advocates, lead by the Discovery Institute, really see the movement:

[T]eachers today should have not only the freedom to teach evolution, but also to teach all relative (sic and a neat description of ID) scientific theories that contradict evolution. This is the argument behind academic freedom legislation now moving forward in several states calling for a science standard that would make "teaching the controversy" a required part of any science curriculum. ...

This would put the possibility of moral accountability on the table for serious consideration. I believe this alone would precipitate a renaissance of moral conscientiousness and accountability resulting in a new regard for life and human relationships and restore honor, unity, and pride to our nation. ...

Parents and clergy must begin to step up to the plate, become fully informed on the relevant theories being taught in school, and assume total responsibility for the moral and spiritual development of their children.

But they must be allowed to do so without fear of their children being wrongly and unfairly taught in school that science has proved their faith false and their religious beliefs archaic. Surely all fair-minded persons, religious or otherwise could agree to such a tradeoff to right what is wrong in America and reunite our estranged society. ...

This would change the debate over our First Amendment right of religious liberty that our founding fathers considered to be the cornerstone of freedom ...

America's social ills and a failing economy are but symptoms. The disease is a lack of moral accountability and the bigotry of circumventing the rights and will of the American people by any means for any reason by any person or any group.

Despite the usual blather about science in general and evolutionary theory in particular being a "conflicting one-sided world view," the real concern of these advocates is made clear: that "science has proved their faith false and their religious beliefs archaic." Well, certainly, if we are talking about young-Earth creationism, that is just a simple fact, with only the slimmest wiggle room afforded by the ambiguity in the word "proved."

Science doesn't deliver irrefutable, syllogistic proof, it delivers evidence -- in evolution's case, massive amounts of evidence -- sufficient in many cases to "prove" its propositions "beyond a reasonable doubt." But neither science nor anything else can prove something beyond an unreasonable doubt. So, when Mr. Riden declares that "science has neither proved nor disproved evolution," he is either displaying his ignorance of the science of evolution or his willingness to play disingenuous semantic games.

The real agenda is obvious: instead of parents and clergy taking on the "moral and spiritual development of their children," in the appropriate venues of their homes and churches, Mr. Riden and the Discovery Institute want the government to do it for them in the form of giving their narrow sectarian views its imprimatur as a viable scientific position, even though they are no more valid scientifically than geocentricism or astrology.

The notion that our failing economy can be laid at the door of science education is doubly ironic when it was the Republican drive for deregulation of our financial institutions and its politics of greed, based very much on a social policy of "survival of the fittest," all enthusiastically egged on by the Religious Right, that was the root cause of the collapse of the credit markets at the heart of our current woes.

However, Mr. Riden and the Discovery Institute certainly want to "change the debate over our First Amendment right of religious liberty" ... they want to do away with it and impose their religious views on the rest of us.

He also seems to be missing the irony of promoting "academic free" are requiring this stuff be taught by law.
Judging from his essay, Mr. Riden's vision of education also does not appear to include teaching proper English vocabulary, grammar, or style. Why do so many of these guardians of the school system appear to be people who never graduated from it?
Would Mr. Riden be as happy for schools with a majority of children from Muslim or Hindu homes being taught alternatives to science in keeping with their religious backgrounds? Or schools with a majority Roman Catholic background for that matter?

If not, then he is seeking religious preference rather than "academic freedom".
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