Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Friday, August 20, 2010


This latest controversy, over the Cordoba center in lower Manhattan, reveals a disturbing readiness of some in this country to dismiss the First Amendment. In this case, they seek to deny Muslims the freedom to spend their own money to construct a center that will include a mosque.

Yet this is not the only direction from which freedom of religion comes under attack. In addition to placing no restraints on the right of citizens to worship as they see fit, the state must also show no favor to any particular form of religion. In practice, some favoritism towards Christianity has been tolerated throughout U.S. history. Public holidays are a good example of how the simple fact of majority status has given U.S. Christians special consideration. Yet the founders’ strong distrust of any official church, like the Church of England, has persisted, and has resulted in a continuous tradition of separation between church and state. Over the last century, Jews and Catholics were often successful in preventing Protestants from improperly using the resources of the state to enforce their hegemony.

Despite all the battles won, there are many folks who still want to see their conservative Christian beliefs reflected in the content that is taught in public schools. The state of Texas recently adopted new curriculum and textbook standards that moves what teachers are expected to teach students far to the right.

In this piece about Don McLeroy, creationist, dentist, and the chair of the Texas State Board of Education we learn that he is pleased with their changes. Thomas Jefferson is marginalized while the contributions of Phyllis Schlafly and Newt Gingrich are elevated to great importance. Doubt is placed on whether the founders intended a separation of Church and State. In science, evolution must now be presented as a theory that is dubious at best.

The National Centre for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in US public schools against inroads by creationists, is so alarmed that it has branded 2010 “the year of science denial” — yet nothing alarms it more than Dr McLeroy’s astonishing success in seeding the Texas high school curriculum with his literal interpretation of Genesis.

The dentist has not achieved everything he wanted. Creationism will not be taught alongside evolution as an alternative explanation for life on Earth. Even so, he says he is still “pumped”. By requiring students to probe for weaknesses in evolutionary theory the new standards will “restore the lustre of science”, he says at his surgery in College Station, near Houston.

“Take bones,” he says, offering a brief description of the collagen and amino acids in bones as an example of biological complexity. “Intuitively people have a tough time thinking nothing guided this. Are we supposed to believe that all of a sudden, say on April 1, five million years ago, the first bone appeared? The question is, how did evolution do this, and the evolutionists have been painted into a corner. They don’t even have a clue. How did that first piece of bone get there?”...

Dr. McLeroy presumably passed a biology class at some point on his way to becoming a dentist. Yet he was so strongly wedded to his fundamentalist world view that attempts to teach him basic principles of scientific reasoning simply failed. The children of Texas should not be forced to follow Dr. McLeroy in his religiously motivated resistance to modern science. Creationist parents are certainly free to send their kids to private schools that reject modern science. Other Texas parents, who pay for public schools, should not be forced to subsidize the kind of religious indoctrination that Dr. McLeroy demands.

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