Friday, 16 November 2007

Dover Trial Documentary

A fascinating couple of hours here.


  1. I caught this and found it a very interesting piece. As a former young earth creationist and now evolutionary supporter and scientist, I try to empathize with both sides to seek resolution.

    Intelligent Design is not science and it was refreshing to get the public and judicial support in Dover to substantiate that.

    At the same time, I have to believe when a wall is put up to disallow ID, this does not send the best message. It seems to say that science cannot bleed into philosophy and philosophy cannot stimulate scientific inquiry. Furthermore, if students assume evolution is a threat to their faith and not given a forum to voice their concerns, I wonder how open they are to understanding evolution?

    As you've seen in an early posting on my blog, I'd like to have ID (and more origin of life theories and myths) made available to students as a philosophy course.

    What these school boards and students are saying is that they want a voice. Hollywood will be playing this up in the upcoming Expelled movie.

    I'm all about teaching evolution in the schools, but it goes directly against core beliefs of many kids. They need a support structure to work through what they are being presented in the science classroom and it's probably not going to come from their home or church!

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

    A couple more areas to consider;

    The differences in our societies (UK vs USA) are important.

    In the US you have two "walls" of the kind you worry about, both of which seem admirable from this side of the pond.

    The first is the disestablishment clause. Separation of church and state seems very sensible to me.

    The second is the only kind of discrimination I agree with. The discrimination in science against things which go against the evidence.

    Here in the UK we only have the second one to keep religion out of science classes, but we do have a national curriculum which covers a range of religions - allowing them to be covered "educationally" and not as indoctrination.

    If you are to include ID in philosophy then how would you justify excluding religious philosophies? Would this lead to an erosion of the separation of church and state?

    - - -

    Science is science is science. If it goes against core beliefs of some students then that core belief is demonstrably wrong from a scientific point of view. It is not up to science to cater to this. Such censorship is not present in the wider world - why one earth impose it on our kids ? The only reason I can think of is to promote faith at the expense of science.

    With a national curriculum that recognises the importance of science to society and the economy, health and technology etc etc. then this should not be handicapped by some medieval superstitions.

    Science is not a democracy. It judges things based on merit - full stop end of story.

    This is not an anti-religious stance - e.g. I am also against Astrology in Physics, Alchemy in Chemistry class etc etc

    What do you think?

    Am I hard line? Or do I just live in a society that is not saturated with as much knee jerk "respect" for things that lack evidence as yours? Does this mean that I am able to more freely follow the argument to its logical conclusion?

  3. If you are to include ID in philosophy then how would you justify excluding religious philosophies? Would this lead to an erosion of the separation of church and state?

    I found this policy from Here's some of it:

    Official neutrality regarding religious activity: Teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the establishment clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students. Teachers and administrators also are prohibited from discouraging activity because of its religious content, and from soliciting or encouraging antireligious activity.

    Teaching about religion: Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries all are permissible public school subjects. Similarly, it is permissible to consider religious influences on art, music, literature, and social studies. Although public schools may teach about religious holidays, including their religious aspects, and may celebrate the secular aspects of holidays, schools may not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observance by students.

    Student assignments: Students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school.

    Religious literature: Students have a right to distribute religious literature to their schoolmates on the same terms as they are permitted to distribute other literature that is unrelated to school curriculum or activities. Schools may impose the same reasonable time, place, and manner or other constitutional restrictions on distribution of religious literature as they do on nonschool literature generally, but they may not single out religious literature for special regulation.


    I think an "Origins of Life Theories" course could be presented "about" religion. The ID folks themselves are pushing this stance. Even if you recognize it as repackaged creationism, one can discuss the current debate between ID and evolution as history, discuss the social and cultural implications, and discuss the personal implications as psychology.

    Science is not a democracy, but evolution, this scientific fact, has deep social ramifications from the cultural to the personal and I think science is missing a great opportunity to promote itself, and ironically it clouds its own definition, when it enshrines itself in the "science is science" mantra.

    "Science is science and more" should be the message. It helps you live longer. It helps you communicate with anybody on the planet. It helps you get from point A to point B. It helps us hear tunes on little devices. It puts tall buildings and strong bridges on the planet. It helps us understand each other. It describes why things are the way that they are. And for a theological debate, it illuminates the mechanisms and natural history a supernatural force may use.

    I am anti-religion and very much a separation of church and state kind of guy, but religion is a part of our history and culture. It plays a big part in many peoples' lives. It is therefore interesting from a historical and psychological perspective. For this reason, I support comparative religion studies in school. I see an "Theories on the origin of life" course as similar.

    "How did I get here?" must be one of the most fundamental human questions there is. Now matter if you believe scientific fact or faith, each answer brings whopping philosophies to the table that are currently being squelched.

  4. Hi Tom,

    Thanks very much - that is very interesting stuff.

    Is this federal policy?

    Its no too different from our own UK RE curriculum. Although clearly we have faith schools who also provide worship and then also provide this "comparative religion" type class.

    RE to me IS comparative religion. Presumably on your side of the pond this is more pejorative thanks to the establishment clause.

    Do many public schools provide this kind of religious education?

  5. You know, I'm going to have to reveal my naïveté on religion in public schools. I attended church school all the way through college, and my oldest child is 4....

    In trying to find more answers for you as to whether this is policy, I have had a dickens of a time finding clear policy. From what I can tell, school boards seem to make their own interpretation of how to not step on the first amendment and then it gets hammered out in court. The post I sent before contained guidelines to avoid such drama.

    I looked up one high school with extensive search capabilities with the keyword "religion" and turned up zero results. I looked up another one that had this policy and there is this detailed one in Utah. I have not been able to find course offerings to see what is really offered.

    Since it's such a sensitive issue, I don't know how many principals and school boards would really try to promote this kind of thing as a non-science course.

  6. I've heard of objections to comparative religion type course from the US on the basis that the person would not trust the teachers to stick to the rules and an outright ban would therefore be better.

    Even if you grant that cheating might happen, and I can think of easy ways to minimise it, this is surely no worse than what the kids get drummed into them on Sunday's anyway.

    I can't decide if you have it better or worse in the US with the rules about promoting religion. Looking just at the schools I think you do, but then looking at your society overall I am not so sure.

    Please don't apologise for not knowing everything - you have taught me quite a bit.