Friday, January 14, 2005

Again with the sticker, then we're moving on

Interestingly, Mark the Moderate Liberal and I agree on many things about the sticker kerfuffle, such as:
  • The sticker is factually correct, though a bit odd for singling out only one theory when its statements apply to all areas of science
  • Science consists of theories of varying credibility
  • No scientific theory can be considered absolute fact
  • Science requires critical thinking
  • It is OK to teach about the religious controversy over evolution (to which I would add Galileo's little tryst with the Inquisition)
  • It is OK to teach about religion in public school
  • It is not OK to insert church doctrine into science class (see advice to Creationists)
Where we diverge is where Mark equates the sticker with inserting religious doctrine into science class. There is no religious doctrine on the sticker. It may have been motivated by religious concerns, but this does not make the sticker any less accurate. Sure, when someone you don't trust presents you with a seemingly simple idea, you are wise to scrutinize it carefully lest you be deceived.

Indeed, what was the Cobb County School Board's intent? Here is what they said September 26, 2002:
We expect teachers to continue to teach the theory of evolution. We do not expect teachers to teach creationism. Our intention is to promote a broad-based science curriculum which will acknowledge that there are differences of opinion about the origin of life, and to encourage students and others to be tolerant and respectful of those who may have different beliefs. Religion has no place in science instruction, but science instruction need not offend those who hold religious beliefs of whatever type.
And here is a part of the District's Administrative Rule IDBD, which covers theories of origin:
2. Teachers are expected to set limits on discussion of theories of origin in order to respectfully focus discussion on scientific subject matter; at the same time, it is recognized that scientific instruction may create conflict or questions for some students with regard to belief systems. Discussion should be moderated to promote a sense of scientific inquiry and understanding of scientific methods, and to distinguish between scientific and philosophical or religious issues. It may be appropriate to acknowledge that science itself has limits, and is not intended to explain everything, and that scientific theories of origin and religious belief are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
I defy anyone to find anything wrong with the District's intent or policy. It is explicitly not an attempt to insert religious doctrine into science class.

No, the lawsuit was a wrongheaded attempt by the ACLU to crush dissent, to silence those who only wanted to be respectful of students' beliefs and who wanted all students to exercise critical thinking. This time, unfortunately, the wrong side won.

For the record, Carpe Bonum posts on this topic were:Moderate Liberal posts were:And the debate was inspired (or was it incited?) by this post in WizBang:I'll let Mark have the last word.