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Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

June 30th, 2009 by Matt

In this two-part series I will sketch and defend Alvin Plantinga’s proposal that evolution should not be taught as “the sober truth” in state schools. In Part I, I will sketch Plantinga’s position and the arguments he provides for it; in Part II, I will look at what should be taught and then I’ll defend this position against the most significant critique offered of it by Robert Pennock. I have developed this position partly out of reading and reflecting on the published debate between these two men but also through correspondence with Alvin Plantinga over the issue.

Part I. The Argument against Teaching Evolution in State Schools
Arguably the most sophisticated argument against teaching evolution in state schools has been made by Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga begins by offering a couple of qualifications; first, Plantinga’s inquiry is limited to whether evolution should be taught in the state schools of countries that display significant pluralism and diversity of opinion.[1] This would include, not just Plantinga’s own country, the United States of America but also New Zealand. Second, Plantinga limits his inquiry to whether “evolution should be taught as the sober truth of the matter” [Emphasis mine][2] as opposed to “the best current scientific hypothesis, or what accords best or is most probable (epistemically probable) with respect to the appropriate scientific evidence base.”[3] Plantinga’s conclusion is that it is unjust to teach evolution in this way. His argument proceeds in three stages.

First Plantinga notes that American (and the same is true of New Zealand) society is “radically pluralistic; and here I am thinking in particular of the plurality of religious and quasi-religious views.”[4] Following John Rawls, he calls these religious and quasi-religious views “’comprehensive’ beliefs… deep ways of understanding ourselves and our world, other deep ways of interpreting ourselves and our world to ourselves.”[5]

Second, Plantinga suggests that with state schools, “It is as if we are all party to a sort of implicit contract: we recognize the need to train and educate our children, but don’t have the time or competence to do it individually. We therefore get together to hire teachers to help instruct and educate our children, and together we pay for this service by way of tax money.”[6] However, given that “[for] most citizens, these comprehensive beliefs are of enormous importance… some even thinking that one’s eternal welfare is tied up with accepting them, parents will typically want their children to be educated into what they take to be the true and correct comprehensive beliefs;”[7] This, however, raises an immediate question of fairness,

It would clearly be unfair, unjust, for the school, which we all support, to teach one set of religious beliefs as opposed to another–to teach that evangelical Christianity, for example, is the truth. This would be unfair to those citizens who are party to the contract and whose comprehensive beliefs–Judaism, naturalism, Islam, whatever–are incompatible with evangelical Christianity.[8]

From these points Plantinga argues that parents possess what he calls a basic right that, “each of the citizen’s party to the contract has the right to not have comprehensive beliefs taught to their children that contradict their own comprehensive beliefs.”[9] A basic right expresses a prima facie right not an absolute right; that is, it is a right which can be overridden by other considerations. Teaching evolution clearly violates a basic right; a significant proportion of people hold comprehensive religious views, views that contradict evolution. Hence, their rights are being violated if evolution is taught as true in state schools. It follows then, that in the absence of other considerations, teaching evolution in state schools is unjust.

The final step in Plantinga’s argument is to contend that, in the case of evolution, there are no other considerations that override this prima facie right. Commenting on a defence of the teaching of evolution made by Robert Pennock, Plantinga identifies two considerations made in favour of teaching evolution. The first is that evolutionary theory is true; the second is that it is an empirically supported theory, the best supported theory of origins in the biological sciences.

In response to the first consideration Plantinga notes that even if evolution is true, it does not follow that it is just to teach it as true in a pluralistic society.

Suppose Christianity is in fact true, as indeed I believe it is, would that mean that it is fair to teach it in public schools where most of the citizens, citizens who support those schools, are not Christians and reject Christian comprehensive beliefs? I should think not; that would clearly be unfair, and the fact that the system of beliefs in question is true would not override the unfairness.[10]

Plantinga’s response to the second consideration is more nuanced. Plantinga has not claimed that evolution cannot be taught as “the best current scientific hypothesis, or what accords best or is most probable (epistemically probable) with respect to the appropriate scientific evidence base,”[11] his claim is that it should not be taught as true. The fact that evolution is the best scientific theory does not, by itself, entail that it is true. To get the conclusion that evolution is true one needs to conjoin the claim that evolution is the best scientific theory of origins with an epistemological claim that Plantinga labels PC,

(PC) The right way to answer questions of empirical fact–for example questions about the origin of life, the age of the earth, whether human beings have evolved from earlier forms of life–is by way of science, or scientific method.[12]

Plantinga notes that PC is not an empirical or scientific claim; it is rather a claim of philosophy or epistemology. Second, PC is a claim that contradicts the comprehensive beliefs of many parents. Hence, to justify teaching evolution as true, as opposed to just the best scientific hypothesis, educators would have to go beyond the mere scientific empirical evidence and teach substantive philosophical views that contradict the comprehensive views of parents.[13]

Plantinga concludes that the considerations put forward to override the prima facie rights of parents do not override these rights, hence, “is that it is improper, unfair, to teach either creationism or evolution in the schools–that is so, at any rate for areas where a substantial proportion of the parents hold religious or comprehensive beliefs incompatible with either.”[14]

In my next post, Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part II, I will look at what should be taught in state schools and I’ll address Robert Pennock’s criticisms of the position.

[1] Alvin Plantinga “Creation and Evolution: A Modest Proposal” in Robert Pennock Ed Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological and Scientific Perspectives (Cambridge, The MIT Press – Bradford Books, 2001) 779.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid 780.
[5] Ibid; John Rawls Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993)
[6] Ibid, 781.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid, 780.
[10] Ibid, 784.
[11] Ibid, 779.
[12] Ibid, 786.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.

RELATED POSTS:
Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part II

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54 responses so far ↓

  • What about the solution of state schooling as not being a fundamental responsibility of the government in the first place?

    Nevertheless, it's extremely naive for a parent to hold back a child from this presentation. If they don't come across it here, they'll come across it somewhere else. It's a recipe for instant atheism if they're not prepared for what they'll see, and what is a better opportunity for the parent to explain the faults they feel are inherent in the position than from a classroom setting like this?

  • Plantinga It is as if we are all party to a sort of implicit contract: we recognize the need to train and educate our children, but don't have the time or competence to do it individually. We therefore get together to hire teachers to help instruct and educate our children, and together we pay for this service by way of tax money.

    The "time" may be true but evidence disputes "competence".
    *****
    Personally I think schools should teach whatever the parents want. Some evolutionists have also taken this line.

    I am not certain evolution should be taught for the reason that other theories are not taught, at least not until a later stage. Newton's 3 laws are not generally taught. Thermodynamics are not generally taught. These things are left to an appropriate level. Insisting on having an evolutionary flavour to everything that is taught from year one upwards reeks of propaganda, not science.

    Recent blog post: Does the death penalty prevent reconciliation with God?

  • <blockquote>Teaching evolution clearly violates a basic right; a significant proportion of people hold comprehensive religious views, views that contradict evolution.</blockquote>
    But what if someone had religious views that contradict, say, geocentricism?

    Also, why focus on evolution? Why not say that ALL scientific theories are not 'true' in the final, 'we don't need to do science anymore' kind of way?

    Recent blog post: god is not a ‘thing’…

  • So are you in agreement with Plantinga that PC is false? That the right way to answer questions of empirical fact is NOT by way of science, or scientific method?

    If you believe this, then what do you think is the right way to answer questions of empirical fact?

  • Moreover, as Dale rightly noted, no scientific theory can be considered true in the final sense: the most that can be said about any scientific theory is that it is the "best current theory."

  • This is exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools and it does not just stop at science. Applied consistently, we'd end up not just not needing to do science, but any subject at all.

    Liberals are happy to push this line and make exceptions for their own positions but they do this arbitrarily. Plantinga is being consistent and demonstrating the problem with the argument.

    There is a solution. Part II will be online later today.

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

  • I can easily agree on the need for consistency, it's just that the logic of the argument seemed odd?

    A – In a pluralist society, someone will likely have religious beliefs which contradict evolution.
    B – It is wrong to contradict religious beliefs.
    C – Therefore, it is wrong to teach evolution in (pluralist/state) schools

    I would think the following logic would be better?

    A – ALL established scientific theories are not 'true' in a final sense, but rather are best described as the best reflection of the evidence.
    B – It is wrong to mis-represent science by saying that theories are 'finally true' when they are not.
    C – Therefore, NO scientific theory should be mis-represented in this way.

    Recent blog post: god is not a ‘thing’…

  • Spencer – I think we can say a lot more about scientific theory than 'it is the "best current theory."'

    The modern scientific method has proven to be an extremely powerful way of understanding reality. Just look at the huge progress humanity has made in the last few hundred years. The very fact that we don't see scientific knowledge as "finally true" or (quaintly) "the sober truth of the matter" underlies its power. It's success relies on that humility and the fact that our knowledge is constantly tested and verified against reality.

    That's why we can, with some confidence of safety, board a plane – because we understand that its design, its performance in flight and the knowledge of the pilots is founded in science. We could not have that same confidence if the designers and pilots based their understanding on biblical revelation or the naive philosophy of Platinga.

    To add to Dale's comment that no scientific theory should be mis-represented as "finally true." Well, of course – and I hope that our children are taught something about the scientific method so they understand that. But lets face it. That is not the current problem. Currently we have dogmatic theists like Platinga (and maybe Matt) attempting to pass of scientific knowledge as just a belief. Therefore it should be treated as a world view, as a religion. That is a very dishonest way of attempting to discredit science. And I certainly hope that is not taught in our schools.

    Platinga seems to be suggesting that science should not be taught to our children if a small religious sect opposes one or another aspect of current scientific knowledge. Where will that end? He obviously wants a theocracy. I can't see what possible justification Madeliene has for her recent promotion of Platinga to me as a great scholar.

    Personally, I believe that denying good knowledge to children is a form of child abuse. And Platinga goes along with that!

  • I recently stumbled across this site from Debunking Christianity. At first it seemed as if you guys had some decent criticisms of Loftus, (as he does get defensive and often responds poorly to criticism). But this really surprised me, and I think it makes me more skeptical of other conclusions you are drawing on this site.

    Do you accept evolution? Yes or no? I would assume not, as why else would you have a problem with it being taught?

    I fail to find this argument in any way convincing. If we followed Plantinga's flawed logic, then we should also not teach about carbon dating….. the age of the universe…. geology…. etc. This is an intellectually defenseless position. School is about creating informed and educated members of society, not pleasing religious groups.

    Furthermore any informed Christian would know that evolution does not have an inherent contradiction with Christianity, just young earth creationism.

    Then we see lines like this:
    "
    This is exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools and it does not just stop at science. Applied consistently, we'd end up not just not needing to do science, but any subject at all.

    Liberals are happy to push this line and make exceptions for their own positions but they do this arbitrarily. Plantinga is being consistent and demonstrating the problem with the argument.
    "

    And now you start to attack liberals as well? Interesting. =/

    What is: "exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools" you surely haven't demonstrated it.

  • I recently stumbled across this site from Debunking Christianity. At first it seemed as if you guys had some decent criticisms of Loftus, (as he does get defensive and often responds poorly to criticism). But this really surprised me, and I think it makes me more skeptical of other conclusions you are drawing on this site.
    With respect, are you really suggesting that because you found one post I wrote unconvincing, it follows that everything I say is questionable. If so I suggest the problem is with your inferences not with what I write. 🙂

    Do you accept evolution? Yes or no? I would assume not, as why else would you have a problem with it being taught?

    I take then you did not read the post above, because in it I noted that the issue of whether evolution is true or false is separate from whether it should be taught as true in public schools. I think a moderately conservative brand of evangelical Christianity is true, it does not follow that I think all public schools should teach it as true. This is because doing so would violate the rights of non Christians. In the same way I think teaching that evolution is true in public schools violates the rights of fundamentalist Christians. I myself do not accept the views of fundamentalists that does not mean however I think they have no civil rights.

    So my argument is not based on any claims about evolution being false.

    I fail to find this argument in any way convincing. If we followed Plantinga's flawed logic, then we should also not teach about carbon dating….. the age of the universe…. geology…. etc. This is an intellectually defenseless position. School is about creating informed and educated members of society, not pleasing religious groups.

    See my argument above, the same one Plantinga makes in his post. If you claim that informing people of the facts overrides the concerns of religious groups then the state can actually teach any religious belief it considers to be true and to hell with religious minorities who disagree with it. Thats a recipe for all sorts of injustices which in any other context people would oppose.

    Furthermore any informed Christian would know that evolution does not have an inherent contradiction with Christianity, just young earth creationism.

    I agree, but the point is that some people who pay educational tax and are required to send there kids to state schools are young earth creationists.

    If an atheist were sending their children to school and the government required that their child be taught that its true that God exists, both theists and atheists would recognize this as a civil rights abuse. Does the fact that they are uninformed entail that they do not have the civil rights other people have? That’s a question that needs to be faced squarely, why do we exclude religion from schools on the grounds that to teach it violates the rights of non believers and yet allow secular beliefs into the same schools despite the fact that some religious believers are in a precisely analogous situation.

    I have asked this question many times and never heard an answer.
    And now you start to attack liberals as well? Interesting. =/
    What is: "exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools" you surely haven't demonstrated it.

    This is a quote from Robert Pennock in a widely acclaimed article arguing against creationism in public schools ( I agree with his conclusion that creationism should not be taught in state schools btw) he writes

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Then we see lines like this:
    "
    This is exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools and it does not just stop at science. Applied consistently, we'd end up not just not needing to do science, but any subject at all.

    Liberals are happy to push this line and make exceptions for their own positions but they do this arbitrarily. Plantinga is being consistent and demonstrating the problem with the argument.
    "

    And now you start to attack liberals as well? Interesting. =/

    What is: "exactly the problem with the arguments used to exclude religious content from public schools" you surely haven't demonstrated it.

    Here is a quote from Robert Pennock one of the leading opponents of creationism ID etc. In a widely acclaimed article on creationism in schools this is what he says.

    The main reason typically offered against the teaching of creationism is that it
    improperly promotes one religious view over others. We need not dig into the
    theological soils in which creationism is rooted to see that this is so. In their literature, creationists write as though they are defending the Christian faith and that the enemy consists solely of godless evolutionists, but in reality it is the religious who are more often in the forefront of the opposition to seeing creationism taught in the schools. The plaintiffs opposing the “Balanced Treatment” Act in the Arkansas case included Episcopal, Methodist, A.M.E., Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Southern Baptist officials, and national Jewish organizations. Though creationists attempt to portray their
    views as purely scientific and non-sectarian, other religious groups are not taken in by the disguise, and quite understandably argue that to sanction the teaching of creationism would indeed be to privilege one religious viewpoint over others.

    This widely acclaimed argument from a leading opponent of intelligent design creationism etc. Note his argument; he says creationism cannot be taught because to do so would be to teach a religious perspective which is denied by many others and so is unfair to the others. and it would be unfair to these other groups to do this. He also says this is the main argument against teaching creationism in schools.

    I agree creationism should not be taught in state schools. What I would simply point out is the very same argument entails evolution should not be taught as the truth either. After all to teach evolution is true is to teach that creationism is false. Now the claim that creationism is false is to teach a religious perspective that is denied by many people. The fact that these people are mistaken is true is beside the point, laws about religious freedom etc are not there to protect only true religious beliefs.

    So if this argument is good as liberals claim it is then it applies with equal force to evolution.

    When liberals trump this argument as good when it leads to views they disagree with not being taught and ridicule Plantinga and others for offering the same argument( as Pennock does) to show evolution should not be taught either, then I suggest some very terrible special pleading is occurring.

    I do not agree with fundamentalism but I also have less time for people who think fundamentalists can be treated unfairly or unjustly or in a selective manner simply because they disagree with them.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Matt, I agree with the very first comment from Anon: separation of education and state. It is the simple solution.

    The status quo has the premise flawed from the outset.

    If schools were run independently, parents could send children to the school that best reflects their values, with nobody forcing a dissenting viewpoint on anybody else. It would also see an end to the politicisation of education via the central planners.

    The market would fill the vacuum. Left alone, it always does.

    Cheers.

  • I accept evolution as a theory. Both Matt and I are agnostic on a theory of origins, we believe in a creator but we do not claim to be certain as to how that creator brought about creation.

    However, Matt's and my beliefs about origins is not the issue. If that is what you are getting from reading this post then you are missing the point of it. Part II is about to go up, it might explain things more clearly though some here have managed to predict where Matt and Plantinga are headed.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • The denial of God's existence can no more be proved in a laboratory using scientific method than the fact that the universe, all all memory and fossil records and evidence to the contrary did not pop into existence 6 seconds ago can be.

    Evolutionary theory is part empirical evidence and part theorising which has theological implications.

    Again, if you think the purpose of this post is to argue the case against children being exposed to science you are missing the point. We do not believe that. Our daughter is taking a biology paper at Auckland Uni currently. Re-read the post and read Part II.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Matt, the fact is that much of the legal challenge to attempts in the US to impose creationist teaching in US schools has come from religious people who do not wish to see one form of religion imposed. The clear and informative Kitzmiller case is that in Dover, Pennsylvania a few years back.

    You are disingenuous in comparing "evolution" to religion. Evolution is a science, with all that entails, not a religion. This naive argument of Platinga is aimed at handing control of science teaching to minor religious sects. Most people in NZ are not going to be taken in by such an argument.

    I am sure that most NZers love their children and would like them to get the best education. That can't be achieved by denying them, access to good scientific knowledge.

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • Are you familiar with the Lemon Test? Creationism fails all three points of the test, whereas Evolution clearly fails none. One of these is science, whereas another is not. To equate Evolution and Creationism as somehow equal is a gross mis-characterization.

    The fact that you keep jumping on liberals shows your intellectual dishonesty on this point. It was after all a *Bush appointed* conservative judge that ruled that teaching ID was unconstitutional.

    I would suggest actually looking at some of the court cases and reading the opinions.

    I cannot grasp why an educated person would NOT want evolution taught in schools. Unless they had a religious axe to grind.

    The LEMON TEST:

    1. The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
    2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
    3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.

    Clearly evolution fits under point 1, there is a legitimate secular purpose in teaching evolution in biology classes.

    Point 2 is again something that Evolution clearly passes, the point of evolution is the science; not the rejection of biblical creation.

    Point 3 again evolution obviously passes. Evolution is a scientific theory, not a theological statement.

  • Yes I am aware of the "lemon test"; I wrote an essay on religious freedom for my rights and freedom exam two weeks ago.

    Are you aware of the "coercion" and "endorsement" tests? Are you aware of James Madison's "no penalty, no priviledge" test? Of all the tests I find Madison's manages the balance between the 'right to' and its corresponding 'right be free from,' religion the best. The lemon test is deeply flawed and has the effect of pushing religion outside the public square. Now some, of course, will quite happy to see that happen and allow their own secular views to take over, but those who champion freedom to seek, receive, impart and adopt information, those who support religious freedom as a fundamental civil liberty do not.

    However, we are not talking about what the law says, if we were, Matt and I are New Zealand based and NZ law more closely resembles Madison's test. The issue here is whether it is just or fair to compel fundamentalist parents to have their children taught evolutionary theory as truth. Plantinga and Matt took the argument widely pushed by the likes of Rawls, Pennock, et al (repeated by some in this thread) and asked if this argument applies to everyone or just parents who are not fundamentalists?

    Are you willing to endorse a double standard or does the rule apply equally to all?

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part II

  • We are not all over the place. No where have we ever stated that we accept or reject evolution. We are agnostic on origins. You decided, incorrectly, that this post was an argument against evolution itself. Neither Plantinga or us are 6-day Creationists. Plantinga has his own view, Matt and I do not believe the Bible is a science text-book, thus we do not know how God created the Universe.

    We reject the theological claims that scientists make alongside evolutionary theory, that it disproves God, but this is not a rejection of science claims, these are implications reasoned from science, implications that step outside science into the disciplines of theology or philosophy.

    This post was an argument against evolutionary scientific theory being taught as the truth in state schools. This is NOT the same as the claim that it should not be taught as the best scientific theory in schools.

    So yes, I accept that neo-Darwinian evolution is a scientific theory. I am not playing games with the term theory. You are simply missing my point and reading things into our words – clearly you expect Matt and I to be creationists or to hold to the naiive views of philosophy of science you often encounter with other Christians. We do NOT hold these views. Read what we say, not what you think we are saying.

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part II

  • Exactly Ken! To argue in favor of not teaching Evolution is to argue in favor of an ignorant populace that gets shoddy education.

  • Come on Madeleine: "I accept evolution as a theory." You guys are all over the place.

    The fact is evolution is not a theory – it is a science. As a science it includes theories, facts/evidence and speculations. it is changing over time (evolving) as our knowledge increases, as we find more evidence.

    Do you accept evolution as a science? I would love to know that as theists tend to play fast and lose with the word "theory."

  • Matt and I would agree with you Sly. We are not arguing this, neither is
    Plantinga.
    _____

  • So are you in agreement with Plantinga that PC is false? That the right way to answer questions of *empirical fact* is NOT by way of science, or scientific method?

    If you believe this, then what do you think is the right way to answer questions of empirical fact?

  • I will be moving replies into part 2 after this.

    "The denial of God's existence can no more be proved in a laboratory using scientific method than the fact that the universe, all all memory and fossil records and evidence to the contrary did not pop into existence 6 seconds ago can be. "

    Denial of God's existence? What?

    What does evolution have to do with Gods existence? This entire paragraph seems like a giant /facepalm to me. You have entirely dodged earlier points.

    "Evolutionary theory is part empirical evidence and part theorising which has theological implications.
    "

    Evolution is a comprehensive scientific theory that is reinforced by an *overwhelming* body of evidence. The theological implications are no more important to its veracity then the theological implications of the earth orbiting the sun.

  • Why is it not surprising you find the test you prefer the most if the one that allows the slipping in of religion into government? I brought up the Lemon Test, as it is *THE* test used here in the US.

    "The issue here is whether it is just or fair to compel fundamentalist parents to have their children taught evolutionary theory as truth."

    Evolutionary theory as truth? Interesting language.

    What does fairness have to do with anything?

    Here is what you are doing:

    You take a religious concept – creationism.

    You then take a scientific concept – Evolution.

    The religious one *cannot* be taught in public school because of the separation of church and state.

    You then complain about the unfairness of the situation and say we shouldn't teach Evolution as well.

    Do you see the problem with the logic?

  • The test I most prefer is the one advocated by one of the US founding fathers, James Madison, someone who is more privy to what the First Amendment should mean than you or I are. I prefer Madison's "no priviledge, no penalty" argument because it achieves both the prevention of religion slipping into government and the exclusion of it from the public square, it best balances the right to religious freedom.

    Which you would know if you had read widely on this subject.

    The fact I know you have not read widely on this subject is your false claim that the Lemon Test is *THE* test used in the US. The Supreme Court has adopted three tests, the Lemon Test is one, the Endorsement and Coercion tests are the others. Jurisprudence on which test is superior is a mess and legal scholars, including the justices on the Supreme Court, do not agree. Recent cases which were hoped by many would settle the matter have not. The Supreme Court have increasingly couched religious freedom in terms of speech thus avoiding having to deal with the matter.

    The separation of church and state, as a legal concept, is not what you think it is.

    On the endorsement, coercion and no priviledges, no penalties tests, one could justify teaching scientific theories that had pro-God as creator theological implications. Further, I can construct an argument that one could justify it on the lemon test as well.

    Irregardless, we are not talking about what the law should or should not be or is in the US regarding state schools, we are asking what is just, what is fair, what is ideal? These are not the same questions.

    Recent blog post: John Loftus on Madeleine Flannagan and Women and Other Red Herrings

  • "We reject the theological claims that scientists make alongside evolutionary theory, that it disproves God"

    Most scientists don't make that claim. And the claim is in no way made in the classrooms. It is essentially a strawman. Because Dawkins etc will say things like this, does not equate to science making these claims.

  • "Which you would know if you had read widely on this subject."

    It is true that my reading has only dealt with the Lemon Test so far. It would have been more fair of me to say that it has been the most recent test used.

    "
    The separation of church and state, as a legal concept, is not what you think it is. "

    Considering how the court cases have ACTUALLY turned out, it seems it would be yourself, not I, that does not understand the legal concept.

    "On the endorsement, coercion and no priviledges, no penalties tests, one could justify teaching scientific theories that had pro-God as creator theological implications."

    What scientific theories would those be? If it is science then it wouldn't have theological claims inherent to it. If it is science it can be taught. There is no real scientific theory that cannot be taught because of separation of church and state. So this statement of yours is rather pointless.

    Creationism is NOT a scientific theory.

    "Further, I can construct an argument that one could justify it on the lemon test as well. "

    Again if we are talking about real science, then obviously it would pass the lemon test. If you are talking about Creationism then you argument would most likely be lacking. As all court cases thus far have shown creationism to grossly fail the Lemon Test.

    "Irregardless, we are not talking about what the law should or should not be or is in the US regarding state schools, we are asking what is just, what is fair, what is ideal? These are not the same questions.
    "

    What is ideal is that creationism is not taught….. after all it is false. Seems pretty simple to me.

    What is fair? Seems irrelevant, I have already gone over why, yet like before you comment on some parts of my posts and ignore the others.

    Here is what I mentioned earlier:
    "
    What does fairness have to do with anything?

    Here is what you are doing:

    You take a religious concept – creationism.

    You then take a scientific concept – Evolution.

    The religious one *cannot* be taught in public school because of the separation of church and state.

    You then complain about the unfairness of the situation and say we shouldn't teach Evolution as well.

    Do you see the problem with the logic?"

  • You have succeeded in motivating me to write a post on religious freedom and the separation of church and state addressing the various legal tests. So I will say no more on that for now.

    However I will respond this this:
    "What does fairness have to do with anything?"

    Matt's argument in the above post is about what is fair and just. It was an ethical question not a legal one.

    "Here is what you are doing:

    You take a religious concept – creationism.

    You then take a scientific concept – Evolution.

    The religious one *cannot* be taught in public school because of the separation of church and state.

    You then complain about the unfairness of the situation and say we shouldn't teach Evolution as well.

    Do you see the problem with the logic?"

    Yes I see a problem. We are not doing this. You are attacking a strawman. This is not our argument. Read the post.

    Let me ask you a question: is the claim that the world was not created in 6, 24 hour days, 10,000 years ago a religious claim?

    [Note, once again, I do NOT hold to this position, I am just asking you a question]

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Madeleine – "Let me ask you a question: is the claim that the world was not created in 6, 24 hour days, 10,000 years ago a religious claim?"

    No – it is not. It is a scientific claim. Any claim about reality is a claim about the way the world is and belongs in the province of science. It should be judged on the evidence – and of course in this case the claim of creation in the last 10,00 years is shown to be wrong by the evidence. We have judged that claim scientifically.

    Children should be taught about that evidence and the findings. They should not be prevented from learning this by the beliefs of an extreme Christian sect.

    (By the way – was my last contribution to this discussion deleted? I now can't find it anywhere – although I did see it after initially making the contribution. Could you clarity your deletion policy?).

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • Ken: No – it is not. It is a scientific claim. Any claim about reality is a claim about the way the world is and belongs in the province of science.

    If this is so then the legal case for excluding creationism and allowing evolution Sly mentions collapses.

    First, if the claim about reality is a scientific claim and not a religious one. then it follows that the claim that God exists, is not a religious claim, nor is the claim that Jesus Christ rose form the dead, nor is the claim that Mohammad is a prophet, it follows then that to teach these things at school is not to teach religion, and therefore does not violate laws prohibiting the teaching of religion.

    Second, if your definition is true then creationism is a scientific theory, creationism makes claims about reality and so is a scientific claim, hence the numerous court rulings which have excluded creationism from public schools on the grounds that creationism was religion and not science are all wrong, and the legal case for excluding creationism from public schools collapses.

    (Your definition is clearly flawed btw, there is a long respectable tradition in philosophy of science known as anti-realism, this tradition states that science does not make claims about reality but simply provides a useful model for predicting things. If your definition were true then a practising physist who held to this tradition would not be doing science, even though what he does is identical to what other physists do. )

    It should be judged on the evidence – and of course in this case the claim of creation in the last 10,00 years is shown to be wrong by the evidence. We have judged that claim scientifically.Children should be taught about that evidence and the findings. They should not be prevented from learning this by the beliefs of an extreme Christian sect.

    You seem to have not read carefully what I read, I did not say students should be prevented from hearing the scientific evidence for evolution or to be taught the theory. I specifically stated several times that I accepted that evolution can be taught as the best scientific theory or the best theory on a scientific evidential base. What I denied is that it should be taught as true. This is not the same thing, the fact that a theory is probable with regards to the scientific evidence does not mean its true on all the evidence. That only follows if you accept the epistemological and philosophical claim that scientific evidence is the only evidence that is relevant to the question.

    I maintain that students should be allowed to hear and consider the theological and philosophical debates around this epistemological claim rather than simply being taught it is true.

    Perhaps you can clarify to me why you think controversial epistemological claims should be taught as true in schools and why students should be allowed to asses the theological and philosophical debate around these claims? It wouldn’t be because a sect of atheists object to religious claims being taught in school would it? Strange I thought we should not limit learning and knowledge to accommodate extreme sects.

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Spencer, I don’t think what you describe is quite what Plantinga's position is.

    Plantinga's position is that when asking whether a particular claim is true one should decide questions on all the evidence that is relevant to the question. That means we should take into account all the relevant empirical evidence but we should also take into account any relevant theological information. One should not just restrict ourselves to the empirical evidence.

    Science as currently practised however brackets or excludes theological information even if its relevant to the question, hence it cannot claim that its theories are probable with respect to all the evidence.

    I agree with Plantinga on this. His argument that [1] In determining whether a claim is true or false we need to take into account all the evidence relevant to the question [2] sometimes theological claims are relevant to the question, seems to me to be compelling

    [1] seems obvious true, if we rely on only some of the relevant evidence then our results can be skewed, [2] seems correct as well. The only reason I could see then for rejecting this argument is that a person does not believe there is ever theological evidence relevant to a question, either because theological claims are always false or because they never make claims which are relevant to questions of fact. Both these claims are I think false, but even if they are true they are issues of theology and philosophy of religion not empirical science.

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Guest or Madeleine as I think it is you.

    You have not presented any evidence that evolutionary science is presented any differently to other scientific fields – as living, developing, evidence based and constantly changing as new evidence comes in. So don't try that old trick of critici9sing one aspect of science by claiming it's taught differently. It isn't and you are being disingenuous with that assertion.

    I made this point, together with others about the problems of Platinga's naive and distorted understanding of science in the comment which has apparently been deleted. Pity, because I don't really want to go through all that effort again.

    Evolution and other areas of science are NOT controversial epistemological claims as you seem to think. You should try better to understand what the scientific process entails instead of taking Platinga naivety as gospel.

    Science may be controversial for some religious sects but that is there problem – children should not be denied access to good scientific knowledge for that reason. That is, I believe, another form of child abuse (those sects really have a thing about children, don't they?).

    As for you speculation that I object to teachi8ng religion in schools. I think Dennett's proposal here is really worth following. All children should be taught about religion – about all religions, and about other life stances such as humanitarianism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. To some extent they do this in the UK – and sometimes the RE classes are actually taken by non-theists.

    As Dennett says – if schools did this, parents could present whatever dogma and lies they wish to their children after school. But I think if our children grew up recognising the diversity in our society there would be more tolerance.

    By the way – I have found very often that religious people actually oppose teaching about religion in schools. They appear to want religious INSTRUCTION – dogmatic instruction in their own religion. This is all I ever got at school.

    So perhaps you have learned that you judgement of my position is faulty. Let's teach or children about those religious and other life stance claims – all of them. And we could do that in religious education classes. But lets also teach them about scientific knowledge, the scientific process and culture – without giving in to extremist religious sects because they are embarrassed about what that knowledge reveals.

    (Incidentally, I agree the claim of an existence of a god is a scientific claim – because its about reality, how things happen and came into being. The fact is though, that no one has yet put up any credible hypothesis for testing. When they do it will be interesting to see how it pans out. I would be happy to accept the result whichever way it goes. I say – lets follow the evidence, all the evidence, wherever it goes).

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • You have not presented any evidence that evolutionary science is presented any differently to other scientific fields – as living, developing, evidence based and constantly changing as new evidence comes in. So don't try that old trick of critici9sing one aspect of science by claiming it's taught differently. It isn't and you are being disingenuous with that assertion.

    Well I did not say evolution was taught differently from any other theory of science, nor did I say it was not taught “as as living, developing, evidence based and constantly changing as new evidence comes in” so the fact that I provided no evidence for this claim is beside the point I don’t have to defend claims I don’t make, and annexing a claim I did not make to an attack on my character does not rebut a word I said.

    All I have assumed on this matter is that evolution is currently taught as a true account of origins as opposed to being taught as the best scientific account of origins. This is correct. Dawkins in fact has stated evolution is certain and any one who doubts it is ignorant stupid or wicked. You have responded repeatedly accusing people who merely question its truth child abusers, that does not sound like a tentative unsure position to me.

    Evolution and other areas of science are NOT controversial epistemological claims as you seem to think. You should try better to understand what the scientific process entails instead of taking Platinga naivety as gospel. I did not say Evolution or science are controversial epistemological claims. What I said was the inference from “X is the best scientific theory of origins” to “X is true” makes controversial epistemological claims. And I for the record I have more faith in the arguments of a world class epistemologist than the assertions and insults of a scientist, scientists frequently are poor epistemologists and poor philosophers of science, though frequently they think there scientific training makes them experts in both, it does not.

    Science may be controversial for some religious sects but that is there problem – children should not be denied access to good scientific knowledge for that reason.

    If I argued “Christianity may be controversial to atheists but that’s your problem children should not be denied good theological knowledge” and then accused atheists of child abuse,(suggesting doubters should be locked up and have their children reeducated) how would you respond?

    Again assertions and character attacks are not valid arguments.

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Platinga seems to be suggesting that science should not be taught to our children if a small religious sect opposes one or another aspect of current scientific knowledge. Where will that end?

    No as I pointed out in my post the issue is not about teaching science. Plantinga grants one can and should teach evolution as the best scientific theory, what he objects to is it being taught as truth. That’s not the same thing.

    He obviously wants a theocracy. I can't see what possible justification Madeliene has for her recent promotion of Platinga to me as a great scholar.

    This is simply slander and name calling, the suggestion that because one believes that the state should not teach fundamentalist children that there religious beliefs are false they support a theocracy is rather extreme. In our society today the state schools are forbidden from teaching that Mohammad is not a prophet does it follow NZ is Iran?

    The modern scientific method has proven to be an extremely powerful way of understanding reality. Just look at the huge progress humanity has made in the last few hundred years.

    This is a historical claim and a debatable one, some have argued that in fact history shows us that scientific theories are nearly always latter discredited and proven false. If so this is not a history of progress it’s a history of failures and mistakes.

    More to the point, it seems to me that even if one can make this argument its circular, to examine wether science has made great progress in the past one will need to do a historical investigation, but historical investigations are scientific investigations, hence your argument will be essentially science is reliable because science says so. This is on par with the fundamentalist who argues that the bible is Gods word because the bible says so and it’s the word of God

    The very fact that we don't see scientific knowledge as "finally true" or (quaintly) "the sober truth of the matter" underlies its power. It's success relies on that humility and the fact that our knowledge is constantly tested and verified against reality. This is just rhetoric, if science repeatedly fails to get it right that does not show its reliable. It shows its unreliable.

    To add to Dale's comment that no scientific theory should be mis-represented as "finally true." Well, of course – and I hope that our children are taught something about the scientific method so they understand that. But lets face it. That is not the current problem.

    I agree, that’s what I advocate teaching people that evolution is the best scientific theory, letting people understand the assumptions, epistemic bases etc that undergird science and then letting people critically evaluate these assumptions, rather than simply having them accept a naive epistemological scientism as true

    Currently we have dogmatic theists like Platinga (and maybe Matt) attempting to pass of scientific knowledge as just a belief. Therefore it should be treated as a world view, as a religion. That is a very dishonest way of attempting to discredit science. And I certainly hope that is not taught in our schools.

    Well Plantinga does not say science is just a belief, does not say it is a world view or a religion, and again attacking a persons character is not an argument, its actually a fallacy.

    Personally, I believe that denying good knowledge to children is a form of child abuse. And Platinga goes along with that

    Ok so if we take this claim seriously, are you suggesting that fundamentalists who homeschool there children should be (a) arrested (b) prosecuted for teaching their religion to their children and (c) sent to jail for the same length of time a child abuser would for the crime of teaching their religion to their children and (d) that CYPS should take there children off them and sent them a re-education centre where they will be taught the […]

  • Ken you said to me All children should be taught about religion – about all religions, and about other life stances such as humanitarianism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. To some extent they do this in the UK – and sometimes the RE classes are actually taken by non-theists
    However in a previous post you suggested that any claim about reality was a not a religious claim but a scientific claim. If what you say above is true, then these things (questions about atheism and theism etc) should not be taught in RE classes but in science classes. Is that your position, that questions such as “is the world the result of an intelligent designer?” be discussed in science classes? If not why not? You have said these are scientific questions and you have said they should be taught, so presumably they should be taught as science.

    Yet above you are citing legal decisions that say they should not be taught because they are religious questions and not scientific ones. Which is it?

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Matt – to say things like:
    "This is a historical claim and a debatable one, some have argued that in fact history shows us that scientific theories are nearly always latter discredited and proven false. If so this is not a history of progress it’s a history of failures and mistakes." indicates to me that you just do not understand the scientific process, or the scientific culture. I actually described some of this in my comment which was deleted.

    I think it is arrogant to pontificate about science, a field which you are ignorant about, and to use an anti-science person like Platinga as your evidence. You should read some practising scientists to learn about methodology and understanding of what is meant by scientific knowledge.

    Clealry, you have a religious, anti-science agenda, so perhaps I shouldn't expect better. But neither you or Madeleine have responded to my request, now made several times, to provide evidence that evolution is taught as "finally true" "The sober truth of the matter". You wish to stick with an unsubstantiated slander instead of abiding by evidence.

    Can you or Madeliene provide any evidence that evolution is not taught as science – that is a living, evolving theory of knowledge, based on goood evidence and developing and modifying itself as new evidence accumulates.

    No? I thought not.

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • It is Matt not me. We are using the email method of replying which is why it
    is mucking up.
    Madeleine
    _____

  • This has got silly and can't be followed with the comment tree you have here.

    Claims about reality of course belong in the province of science – but they don't become science until evidence is gathered. hypotheses formulated, unified theories established, mapping against reality etc. If you had been reading scientists instead of people like Platinga you would understand nhow science really works.

    U unfortunately religion still makes claims about reality, about the province of science. None of these claims are ever confirmed, quite the opposite. Therefore they are not part of science. To attempt to impose such unsubstantiated claims on science requires removal of its special relationship with reality, its evidential basis and mapping against re3ality. This is what the wedge people propose and of course humanity is going to reject it – we have too much to lose to go back to superstition.

    Unsubstantiated claims and beliefs are quite properly part of religious education – so we can understand our partners in this diverse community. But they can never be justified as scientific knowledge.

    My position is completely consistent – but your understanding of it is faulty

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • My last comment – this has become pointless and can't be followed.

    At last you have fallen back on to the old theological mantra – "we theologians know more about science than the scientists. Scientists don't understand philosophy, etc." This theological hubris seems to be common to the whole "Thinking Matters" group.

    I have several posts related to that and will probably deal with it again in the future.

    I still don't believe you would board a plane designed and flown according to the philosophy of Platinga and the other "scientific" icons your mates promote (Meyers, Craig, Philip Johnson, Johnson Philip, Ross, etc.) – who are "making waves in the scientific world" (according to your journal). Yet I am sure you and your mates do board planes designed and built according to the philosophy and methods of modern science.

    I rest my case – but invite you to continue discussion at Open Parachute – where, for example, your apologist mate Walter Mitty is currently being discussed.

    Recent blog post: The entropy fib

  • "Let me ask you a question: is the claim that the world was not created in 6, 24 hour days, 10,000 years ago a religious claim? "

    No it is a scientific claim.

    It is also a false scientific claim.

    Creationism does MORE then posit a false age of the universe. It also posits that some kind of designer popped everything into place in their current forms (to some degree anyway), thus creationism contains supernatural, religious, and unscientific views as implicit. I think you already know this.

    "If this is so then the legal case for excluding creationism and allowing evolution Sly mentions collapses. "
    Explicitly false as I just mentioned. You know better then to say that all Creationism postulates is a differing age of the universe. Indeed, if that was the case: then you would not have this blog post, as it would just be bad science and thus not worthy of being taught in science class on those grounds alone.

    "
    First, if the claim about reality is a scientific claim and not a religious one. then it follows that the claim that God exists, is not a religious claim, nor is the claim that Jesus Christ rose form the dead, nor is the claim that Mohammad is a prophet, it follows then that to teach these things at school is not to teach religion, and therefore does not violate laws prohibiting the teaching of religion.
    "

    The claim: God exists is a very different type of claim then: The universe is X years old. See above.

    "
    Second, if your definition is true then creationism is a scientific theory, creationism makes claims about reality and so is a scientific claim, hence the numerous court rulings which have excluded creationism from public schools on the grounds that creationism was religion and not science are all wrong, and the legal case for excluding creationism from public schools collapses.
    "
    See above.

    "
    You seem to have not read carefully what I read, I did not say students should be prevented from hearing the scientific evidence for evolution or to be taught the theory. I specifically stated several times that I accepted that evolution can be taught as the best scientific theory or the best theory on a scientific evidential base. What I denied is that it should be taught as true.
    "

    Basically this argument has two tangible real world results:

    No difference, as it is just hair splitting.

    A way to sow the seeds of doubt over evolution in the minds of students.

    Have you seen anything from Ken Miller? There was a case of Creationists wanting to put stickers on science text books specifically saying: "Evolution is a theory, it is meant to be critically examined etc" It was shown that the ONLY purpose this sticker had was to tell students: "This is not nearly as true as the rest of the stuff in here".

    Ken Miller went on to say that it would have been fine if it addressed science as a whole, saying that all science is meant to be approached with an open mind etc.

    If that is the argument that you were trying to elucidate (which seems far from what Plantiga talks of) then I should say that putting up a post entitled: "Why evolution should not be taught" is a pretty awful way of communicating it.

    Continued in second Post:

  • Continued here because of word limit:

    "
    This is not the same thing, the fact that a theory is probable with regards to the scientific evidence does not mean its true on all the evidence. That only follows if you accept the epistemological and philosophical claim that scientific evidence is the only evidence that is relevant to the question.
    "

    In a science class, it IS the only evidence relevant to the question. You are proposing a problem you would have with science education as a *whole*, not just evolution.

    "
    I maintain that students should be allowed to hear and consider the theological and philosophical debates around this epistemological claim rather than simply being taught it is true.
    "

    Or we teach philosophy in a philosophy class and science in a science class…

    "Dawkins in fact has stated evolution is certain and any one who doubts it is ignorant stupid or wicked. "

    While I am no fan of Dawkins…. denying evolution is a pretty silly thing to do. The simple fact of the matter is that their is much more evidence for Evolution then their is for many other facts the average person assumes in their lives. The evolution denier community is as far as I know, one based on ignorance.
    *Note that this is not a character attack.

    "I did not say Evolution or science are controversial epistemological claims. What I said was the inference from “X is the best scientific theory of origins” to “X is true” makes controversial epistemological claims. And I for the record I have more faith in the arguments of a world class epistemologist than the assertions and insults of a scientist, scientists frequently are poor epistemologists and poor philosophers of science, though frequently they think there scientific training makes them experts in both, it does not.
    "

    Who would you say is better at discovering truth about the natural world? Scientists, or epistemologists?

    Finally: This formatting makes replies messy and hard to read. Would it be better if I just always replied at the end instead of to a specific post?

  • Sly sorry, Madeliene and I use the same computer and reply by e-mail and it was default set for
    "
    In a science class, it IS the only evidence relevant to the question.

    I agree in science ( at least as currently practised) it is the only evidence relevant that’s why I said it should be taught as the best theory relative to a scientific epistemic base and not the truth.

    If the relevant scientific evidence points towards a theory it does not follow that all the evidence points towards it. That’s because there might be evidence which science does not consider, such as theological claims, which are relevant.

    Many people think there is theological teachings which constitute relevant evidence, they may well be wrong, but unless one actually examines these issues one can’t say, and in public school you are not allowed to examine these issues and one is not allowed to teach that certain theological beliefs are wrong.

    You are proposing a problem you would have with science education as a *whole*, not just evolution.

    Not really, because on many issues the relevant scientific evidence is the only relevant evidence, but on questions of origins this is not the case. The question of our origins is both a scientific and theological question so a correct examination of the issue will take into account both the theological and scientific evidence.

    To teach evolution is the true theory of origins one would have to show it is probable on all the relevant evidence, and seeing science excludes relevant theological evidence from the discussion. It cannot claim to have shown its true on all the relevant evidence.

    I maintain that students should be allowed to hear and consider the theological and philosophical debates around this epistemological claim rather than simply being taught it is true.
    "
    Or we teach philosophy in a philosophy class and science in a science class…

    I don’t disagree with teaching these things in a philosophy class. My post was on what it’s just to teach in school not what one should teach in a science class. However, this actually reinforces my point. You should not teach its true in a science if you have not examined the philosophical issues. Instead you should teach that it’s the best scientific theory leave the question of truth open, and then alongside that in other classes if necessary, let people consider the theological philosophical questions.

    While I am no fan of Dawkins…. denying evolution is a pretty silly thing to do. The simple fact of the matter is that their is much more evidence for Evolution then their is for many other facts the average person assumes in their lives. The evolution denier community is as far as I know, one based on ignorance.

    Again, nowhere did I claim evolution was false. I argued it’s unjust to teach it as true in public schools. Dawkins believes there is compelling scientific evidence that God does not exist, I think he is wrong, suppose he’s not, that would not justify the government running compulsory classes where Christian Muslim and Jewish children are told that their religion is false.

    Who would you say is better at discovering truth about the natural world? Scientists, or epistemologists?
    Finally: This formatting makes replies messy and hard to read. Would it be better if I just always replied at the end instead of to a specific post?

    Neither can: scientists cannot get to claims about the world unless they use a reliable method and what epistemologists are needed to help us know what methods are reliable. On the other hand epistemologists can help us discover whether a method is reliable but they cannot tell us about the world until someone trained in the method uses it.

    The point is both are needed, to teach children only one is needed is to misinform them.

    Recent blog post: The Foreshore and Seabed Repeal: The Inconvenience of Due Process

  • Sly
    Normal practise involves addressing what a person actually wrote. You have
    spent much time arguing that creationism is false, that Christianity and
    evolution are compatible, that evolution is true etc. The problem is I never
    denied any of these things in my post and my argument did not depend on
    them. Similarly you offered arguments to the effect that teaching
    creationism is illegal citing cases. The problem is I did not deny this
    either.
    Also you have repeatedly argued that evolution is true and hence should be
    taught. The problem is I argued against this claim in my post. I pointed out
    that it's unjust to teach a religious perspective is false. Even if it's
    true that it is. I believe Islam is false, so does Ken, does it follow that
    schools should teach that Mohammad is not a prophet regardless of their
    Muslim students? Ignoring what I actually wrote is not really a compelling
    rebuttal.
    Turning to where you actually addressed my comments.
    You know better then to say that all Creationism postulates is a
    differing age of the universe. Indeed, if that was the case: then you would
    not have this blog post, as it would just be bad science and thus not worthy
    of being taught in science class on those grounds alone.

    Again read my post, I did not argue creationism should be taught in science
    classes as true. So pointing out that it should not be does not address my
    post. Moreover I explicitly addressed and rebutted the claim that something
    can be taught because it's true. Please address what I actually wrote.
    "
    Basically this argument has two tangible real world results:
    No difference, as it is just hair splitting.
    A way to sow the seeds of doubt over evolution in the minds of students.

    I am sorry, calling my posting hair splitting and impugning motives is not
    an argument, an argument requires you actually offer reasons against the
    premises or conclusions of what I actually wrote.
    Have you seen anything from Ken Miller? There was a case of Creationists
    wanting to put stickers on science text books specifically saying:
    "Evolution is a theory, it is meant to be critically examined etc" It was
    shown that the ONLY purpose this sticker had was to tell students: "This is
    not nearly as true as the rest of the stuff in here".
    Ken Miller went on to say that it would have been fine if it addressed
    science as a whole, saying that all science is meant to be approached with
    an open mind etc.

    Yes I have heard of Ken Miller, but again how does telling me about an
    incident in the US involving creationists doing X Y Z address a single point
    in my post
    If that is the argument that you were trying to elucidate (which seems
    far from what Plantiga talks of) then I should say that putting up a post
    entitled: "Why evolution should not be taught" is a pretty awful way of
    communicating it.

    No, what I did so was in the two posts I wrote which you are welcome to read
    if you want to comment on what I actually wrote.
    _____

  • This is an excellent post. For a long time I knew that there is something wrong but could not explain it in words. I really enjoy reading the posts in this website and will join the discussions in the near future when I have something worthy of saying. For now I will just thank you for writing so articulately.

  • Hi Matt, way to get a big stick and whack a hornets' nest!  Thanks for the challenging article.

    FYI – the link in the first paragraph which is supposed to link to Part II links back to Part I instead.

    Greg

  • Thanks – I've fixed the link.

  • Teach science in a science classroom, period.

    Evolution = universal underlying theory of biology.

    If you want to exclude evolution, exclude the entirety of biology, since evolution is the unifying base of it, just like relativity and quantum mechanics are the base of modern physics, just like the periodic table is the base of modern chemistry.

    To exclude evolution in a biology class is similar to excluding atomic theory or the periodic table in a chemistry class. It is utterly baffling.

    As are you for even hinting that something other than science should be taught in a science classroom, or that the fundamental basis of a branch of science should be excluded in a science class.

  • Bethyada,

    you said,”I am not certain evolution should be taught for the reason that other theories are not taught, at least not until a later stage. Newton’s 3 laws are not generally taught. Thermodynamics are not generally taught. These things are left to an appropriate level. Insisting on having an evolutionary flavour to everything that is taught from year one upwards reeks of propaganda, not science.”

    You are wrong on both counts.

    Newton’s laws are taught in all high school physics.

    Thermodynamics are taught in all high school chemistry.

    Both of these are as fundamental to their branch of science as evolution is to biology. Both are taught, thus so should evolution.

  • Madeleine

    you said,”

    Evolutionary theory is part empirical evidence and part theorising which has theological implications.”

    But might I add to your list the following:

    Relativity has theological implications (time is not absolute-future, past and present are relative, the universe is much older than the Bible claims, the universe is expanding)

    Thermodynamics has theological implications (energy/matter can neither be CREATED nor destroyed- i.e. a creation event is impossible according to the laws of thermodynamics; disorder tends to increase)

    Quantum mechanics has theological implications (the famous line from Einstein, “God does not play dice,” comes to mind. With quantum mechanics, purposeless randomness enters the universe on its most fundamental level).

    Copernicus heliocentric theory has theological implications (the Earth is no longer the center of the universe- i.e. mankind’s place at the center of God’s creation is removed- that’s why there was so much resisteance to the theory, a similar level that we see with evolution today)

    I could go on, but you get the point. Most major physical theories have theological implications. They force us to redefine the realm that God is the sole actor.

  • My final comment for now:

    The argument that evolution should not be taught as “truth” because evidence may not necessarily imply truth is just not going to work.

    Why? Because the exact same argument can be made for EVERY SINGLE THING taught in school, with the exception of Cogito ergo sum.

    Goodbye certainty in math (an evil genius might have tricked us), physics, biology, English, history, gym, music, all subjects.

  • Bill, You write ”Teach science in a science classroom, period.” But I did not say one should not teach science in a science classroom or exclude the teaching of science. I am all for teaching current scientific theories accurately in science classes. What I suggested was that in certain contexts one should teach it in the science room as the best theory from a scientific epistemic base. What I questioned was whether, in these contexts, it should be taught as true.

    The claim that whatever is the best theory from a scientific epistemic base, which is governed by methodological naturalism and excludes theological propositions etc, is true, is a philosophical claim not a scientific one and excluding it from a science lesson is not excluding science from a science classroom.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Sunday Study: Inerrancy and Biblical Authority =-.

  • ”Relativity has theological implications (time is not absolute-future, past and present are relative,”

    Not sure if there is anything of huge theological significance here. Augustine in fact suggested this in 400 AD and discussed creation in terms of it.

    “the universe is much older than the Bible claims, the universe is expanding)”

    Here you assume that the Bible claims or teaches that the world is young. That is debatable.

    But, I agree that it would be inappropriate for science classes in a pluralistic society to teach as truth that the world is young. It can be put forward as the best scientific theory, from a scientific epistemic base. Moreover in another context a class discussion on whether, the bible actually teaches the earth is young, what the various theological questions are etc might be appropriate. That would actually educate children about the issues.

    Thermodynamics has theological implications (energy/matter can neither be CREATED nor destroyed- i.e. a creation event is impossible according to the laws of thermodynamics; disorder tends to increase)”

    I think this is a misunderstanding of the laws of thermodynamics. First they apply in a closed system; one where God creates ex nilo is not a closed system. Second if your interpretation were correct, it would contradict standard models of the big bang which has matter and energy coming into existence. Thirdly, laws of nature spell out nomo logical necessity, Gods omnipotence is limited by metaphysical necessity not nomo logical necessity.

    ‘Quantum mechanics has theological implications (the famous line from Einstein, “God does not play dice,” comes to mind. With quantum mechanics, purposeless randomness enters the universe on its most fundamental level)”

    This seems to involve various philosophical claims about QM not QM itself. First, you interpret QM in a realist sense as a true description of reality not in an anti-realist sense, as an empirically adequate good model for explaining predicting, etc. Second, the claim that QM is “purposeless” in the sense that God does not influence or guide it seems to be an unjustified metaphysical claim about it not what QM actually shows.

    But these examples underscore my point, the science needs to not be taught in a context where certain philosophical and theological claims are assumed. I think teaching QM as the best current theory, leaving open questions of realism and anti realism, leaving open different interpretations of QM and letting students know of there existence and even perhaps discussing them in a philosophy of science class is more honest that teaching philosophical claims as scientific facts in a science class. That’s propaganda.

    “Copernicus heliocentric theory has theological implications (the Earth is no longer the center of the universe- i.e. mankind’s place at the center of God’s creation is removed- that’s why there was so much resisteance to the theory, a similar level that we see with evolution today)”

    Yeah I was taught that at high school too, I discovered at Uni it is false. The Copernicus question was never about man being at the physical centre of the universe, in fact medieval theologians did not believed that hell was at the centre of the universe. Moreover Copernican theories were anticipated and discussed by medieval theologians, as possible hypothesis in theological universities centuries before Copernicus.

    These sorts of claims about the history of science and theology have been widely discredited yet school text books still teach them. Just more reason for revising the BS we teach kids about science and theology at high school.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Sunday Study: Inerrancy and Biblical Authority =-.

  • To exclude evolution in a biology class is similar to excluding atomic theory or the periodic table in a chemistry class. It is utterly baffling.