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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Religion in science class watch: Geological Society of America presentation

California attorney Larry Caldwell, who is currently suing evolution groups over the use of tax money to promote liberal religious views over conservative ones, has drawn my attention to a clear instance of introducing religion in biology class, but this time, sure enough, the purpose is to promote evolution and an old.Earth, from a presentation at a recent Geological Society of America meeting:

Modern Biblical scholarship indicates that interpreting the Genesis texts as historical or scientific documents, as done by biblical literalists, is inappropriate. Genesis contains two different creation accounts; Genesis 1 dates from the Babylonian exile (6th century BC) whereas the Genesis 2 story dates from the reign of King Solomon (10th century BC). These accounts differ in such aspects as language, emphasis, and mode and sequence of creation. In addition, the Bible includes several other widely differing creation accounts (e.g., Proverbs 8, Psalm 74, Job 26). Inclusion of such varying accounts in the Old Testament indicates that the writers did not intend them as historical, scientific narratives.

I find this outrageous. Let me be up front about my own commitments: I don't particularly doubt current conventional dating of the Earth or common ancestry of apes and humans. I do think that Darwinism is a passe materialist ideology and am merely waiting to see whether ID or some kind of structuralism - or something else altogether - will replace it.

But, I don't think that biology teachers have any business doing the clergy's job for them by explaining to their students how to understand biblical texts! UNLESS, that is, the teachers are prepared to give equal time to those who promote other understandings of the same texts. How many biology teachers have any significant background in exegesis of the Bible anyway? How many even want to get involved? My guess is, about as few as the number of biology teachers who want to read the Dover disclaimer to their students.

I think that today's science curricula should include a history of science module that teaches models for addressing conflicts in society over science findings. Intelligent design is hardly the only such conflict; what about global warming, new biotechnologies, spyware, and bioterror/pandemics? Another thing: Should New Orleans really be rebuilt on its present site? No doubt there are other good questions I can't think of just now, that integrate science knowledge into social issues.

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