The physicist Steve Barr tells the story of a lecture Daniel Dennett gave last year at the University of Delaware, in which he claimed that Darwin had shredded the credibility of religion and was, indeed, the very “destroyer” of God.
In the question session, a philosophy professor named Jeff Jordan suggested to Dennett: “If Darwinism is inherently atheistic, as you say, then obviously it can’t be taught in public schools.” “And why is that?” inquired Dennett, incredulous.
“Because,” said Jordan, “the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees government neutrality between religion and irreligion.”
Dennett, looking as if he’d been sucker-punched, leaned back against the wall and said, after a few moments of silence, “clever.” After another silence, he came up with a reply: He had not meant to say that evolution logically entails atheism, merely that it undercuts religion.
Barr notes that Jordan’s question reveals how the self-appointed defenders of the scientific method are trying to have it both ways. Don’t allow religious philosophy to intrude into biology classrooms and texts, they say, for that is to soil the sacred precincts of science, which must be reserved for hypotheses that can be rigorously tested and confronted with data. The next minute they are going around claiming that anti-religious philosophy is part and parcel of the scientific viewpoint.
There’s a kind of old-fashioned animus in it all, an Enlightenment claim of a sort of—oh, I don’t know—enlightenedness about our escape from the dark ages of religion....
But there are other pieces of the puzzle that are worth noticing. The tides of book publishing shouldn’t be discounted. The flood of atheism books over past two years followed the flood of theocracy books over the previous two years—and for much the same cause: Because publishers are sheep, they follow in droves, and they want their new books to be like their previously successful books. If Sam Harris’ End of Faith had not made the bestseller list, Christopher Hitchens would not have written his atheism book now, however atheistical he happens to be.
Still, there are reasons Sam Harris started the flood. The attacks of September 11 fit in here somewhere: the sudden unavoidable awareness of Jihadism and radical Islam put a weapon in the hands of opponents of religion. Here are crazies announcing they want to kill us in the name of God, and thus—by the logical fallacy known as illicit conversion—everyone who believes in God must be a murderous lunatic. Here are neo-fascists who are creating theocratic states across the Middle East; and, by that same illicit conversion, America’s evangelicals and Catholics—and Orthodox Jews, for that matter—must want to build Gilead in Harvard Yard.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Why The Constitution Prohibits The Teaching of Darwinism in Public Schools
An interesting excerpt from today's First Things blog:
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Last night, I watched a program on PBS where a genetic scientist was tracking the origin of man from the Kan bushman to the migration throughout the world, exclaiming how it was a "miracle" that mankind survived at all. He ended up in Australia in an effort to see if the aboriginal song stories contain any "migration" narrative because their oral history has been deemed as the oldest in the world. The documentary shows the scientist in a debate with a tribesman who said that their song stories are clear that his people have always been there and that they were created beings. The scientist said that for Europeans, science was their "song story" and that science said that the Aborigines came from Africa by way of India and Indonesia. His opponent stated that it must be the other way around, that the rest of the world came from Australia.ReplyDelete
To support his theory, the scientist was tracking "y" chromosome mutations, and decided that the Kan bushmen had the original "y" unmutated chromosome, that linked them to Australia'a Aborigines. He tested the blood of 300 men from India in two days to find someone who's family genetics proved that connection.
He managed to find one, leading the veiwers to believe he did it all by himself with the loan of a lab and equipement by an Indian colleague. It's pretty obvious that there was a whole staff involved who put in the extra hours helping him with the grunt work.
Although the scientist put a warm, friendly message "we are all one family" to his obvious Darwinian theory, he was outrageously smug and arrogant about how he was right and that the Kan and the Aboriginal people that he researched were basically too simple to embrace the science of the modern world while he trashed their ancient belief systems.
It never occurs to him that they know something he cannot comprehend. Maybe something that added to the "miracle" of mankind's survival. I found his whole attitude subtlely racist.