Essay / Education

Judge: Remove Evolution Textbook Stickers – U.S. & World – Judge: Remove Evolution Textbook Stickers: “A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution ‘a theory, not a fact.'”There are more evolutionists than non-evolutionists. The overwhelming social secularism of mainstream science acts to prevent any assault on the theory. Yesterday I spoke to a very successful scientist who had worked for years at an Ivy-quality school. He reported to me (as have many others) the total career death in science that will result from asking (even in private or in public as a matter of faith) questions about evolution.On the other hand, Darwinists of the most extreme stripe feel free to do advocacy “scholarship” for groups like the NCSE and Panda’s Thumb. Most of this is puffery when given a good hard look, but it is hard to get the people willing to engage in this middle-brow debate. Why? It is a waste of time for the big-league ID theorists or anti-evolutionists (not the same groups). However, lower tier folk cannot survive the social shunning. Let’s face it peer acceptance, not of work but of social values, forms a vital element in career advancement. Ask African-Americans or homosexual persons in the fifties if “passing” as mainstream was important at the time. The same is true for those with very private doubts about evolution.You can attack ID as an approach at even a very conservative Christian college and get away with it as a middle-brow academic, especially if you use a bit of respect. You cannot have the same security at any secular place.Doubt this line of reasoning? Think that freedom of thought is a secularist tradition? Think science is “above” such social games?Here is the sticker that so “establishes religion.” Here is the shocking few lines worth lawsuits and defying the vast sea of public opinion in a district. This is what the Republic must be saved from:”This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”Since, as everyone agrees, Evolution is a theory which some people (even if wrongly) take to be an assault on deeply held beliefs, such a warning seems a call to open-mindedness not religion. However, let’s assume that it really is Christianity (and open-mindedness at least it) disguised as a sticker. What message does it send to a young scientist when even this statement is worth a law suit? How quiet will he be when he wants to dissent from the party-line?This puts ID and anti-evolution thinkers in a box. They end up with “stars” who speak and write about too many things. They make mistakes. Any mistake becomes grist for the “those folks are stupid” middle brow assaults. These assaults are compelling to less informed folk since they are reasonably well written and argued and often correct on the topic being covered. The “stars” have no deep bench willing to come to their rescue, even though they might be able to count scores of personal friends who could. The friends are rightly afraid that people who would sue over a textbook sticker arguing for free thought will pass them over in the highly competitive world of grants and promotion (where you need not give your real reasons for your decision) if they speak up.All this means no one should ever be impressed by the “deep bench” argument for an assault on a dissenting view. “Most x believe y therefore y is true” is a bad argument. This will always be the case. How then to weed crazy theories, like Dan Brown’s, which also claim to be “suppressed” from the alternative views that might actually be suffering from a social repression?There are at least three good tests that I think that remove Brown from consideration, but mean ID and other anti-evolution theories are worth some mental work if you are skeptic about ID visiting this site. First, a majority opinion in an area from the people who work in that area does matter. It does shift the burden of proof. However, does the majority resort to force (including strong social pressure) to help silence the other side? Christian schools that fire people for reading Dan Brown are the best reason to consider if Dan Brown is right. Do people holding the dissenting view really suffer careerwise? How much does the field use pure authority to silence dissent? Dan Brown’s views are not at all suppressed at studies meetings. Anyone could give a paper supporting them, and a few do give papers supporting views like his (though not his exactly). Theologians at Biola, a very conservative school, can also give papers. There is an open-market for views. Therefore, Dan Brown’s claim that his particular views are rejected due to Church oppression seems false. On the other hand, “mainstream” science will take very strong action on anyone so much as opening their mouth on evolution (lest they help creationists). Even evolutionists are “careful” not to say things in a way that might “help creationists.” There is no way such a world does not stifle dissent. Google and see.Second, do the dissenters have relevant credentials. Some anti-evolutionists do. Some ID theorists do. When Bill Dembski writes on philosophy of science and religion, he has earned the right to do so in a very mainstream way. This is a good check against Dan Brown types who do not appear to have even read the books necessary to understand a field. To give an example, Christians who condemn Plato without reading the whole canon, at least in English, are likely blowing it if they come up with “odd” views. Of course, in an area where there is real social pressure for a view, dissent will often come from the outside from self-taught folk who do not risk career extinction in taking on the system. On thinks of Phil Johnson in ID, a lawyer mugging up the science and writing on it. At that point, one has to look at the bibliography and ask: “If the mainstream view is so obvious, often compared to gravity, why do smart folk ‘not get it? when they read the stuff they urged to read while making up their mind?” A related sign of health is if the dissenting community itself allows dissent. Does it invite critics to some of its meetings? Does it have arguments in its own conferences about the evidence? ID shows such health.Finally, do the opponents have their own reason, outside of the field, for denying the truth of the mainstream not relevant to the controversy. In ID or anti-evolution, this seems the case. Almost all ID theorists, though not quite, are theists (Christian or otherwise). Aren’t they just trying to defend God? However, the problem is that most ID persons believe that Darwinism or mainstream science in general has wrongly excluded “purposefulness” or teleology of an important sort from Biology. This closed philosophy of science has implications for theists. Therefore, theists would be expected to react to it. The question then becomes whether the view in question (theism) is plausible. Of course few mainstream philosophers would say that “no intelligent person” could be a theist. There is a deep bench of theist philosophers and if not a majority in philosophy, they are a substantial and growing minority. If there is a God, there ought to be the freedom for those believing in his existence for strong, rational (non-scientific) reasons to ask, shouldn’t theists be allowed to explore the implications in science? The answer seems to be “yes.” There is a different from bad social reasons, not built into an issue, for why one group of people would oppose a thing. There is nothing about being “white” that naturally leads to a person being a racist. “Whiteness” does not logically lead to questions of racism. In fact, one can be “white” (assuming the existence of such an odd category) forever without ever considering that someone is “inferior” fo
r being non-white. On the other hand, a theist cannot long be a theist without asking, “What is this God I now know exists doing or what has He done?” God exists seems inevitably to lead to wondering if God does anything that matters to me. To use a slightly different example, knowing there is an elephant in a room does not lead in itself to feelings of superiority to elephants (though other things might), but it does lead almost anyone to wonder if the elephant is about to enter their part of it. Elephants are just like that. So it is no shock that many people who wonder about evolution are theists. You don’t have to be on an anti-anti-evolution discussion group long to see many, many folk with disdain for religion and others who see it supporting their religion. A religious person who is rational then says, “Fine. I can be religious and believe in evolution, but is it true? Given my theism and my open philosophy of science should I believe it?” I think the answer to that question is no, but I also hope for freedom for anyone to disagree and to ask other questions. Opposing innocent textbook stickers is not a good way to lead to such an open society in science.I have views that many would find wrong-headed. I state those views in this forum and try to argue for them more carefully in my class and in my professional work. However, these views may be wrong. The wonder of America is that you get to read them. Don’t trust anyone who wants to take ideas away from adults or censor them in schools without very, very powerful reasons. (I would not expose young children to the evil rantings of Hitler, for example. But such censorship should only be done with care. Surely, the notion that evolution may not be true is not this dangerous? Surely even the notion that God may have acted in space and time in ways that we can detect is not like this?) Freedom of thought is one of the greatest gifts God has given man. We must not let judges take it from us.

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