[The following appeared on the editorial page of the LA Times of 8/17/93, and is reproduce

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[The following appeared on the editorial page of the LA Times of 8/17/93, and is reproduced without permission.] CAN 80% OF US BE DEAD WRONG? By Phillip E. Johnson Those wicked fundamentalists on the Vista school board in San Diego County are at it again! This time they've passed a resolution allowing discussion of divine creation in social studies and English classes, such discussion being banned by law from science classes. Worse still, they want to permit "exploration and dialogue" concerning scientific evidence that challenges prevailing scientific theories, and they think that students should not be required to believe any theory presented in the curriculum. In short, the Vista board has endorsed non-coercion of belief and freedom of discussion about alternative answers to the big questions of life. That sounds like liberal education to me, and even the spokeswoman for the State Board of Education agreed that the policy is lawful if in practice it fosters discussion of all religious viewpoints. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times story said without qualification that the board's policy is "in defiance of California educational guidelines" and that the ACLU immediately threatened lawsuits. What's going on here? The creation/evolution dispute [sic] is one of the most pervasively misunderstood issues in our culture wars, largely because so many powerful persons in education and the media have a vested ideological interest in keeping the public confused. When science educators today teach that "evolution is a fact," they do not mean merely that the Earth is very old and that life developed gradually from simple to more complex forms. Evolution in science education means naturalistic evolution -- that only purposeless [sic] material forces like random mutation and natural selection were involved in biological creation. That means that "evolution" as taught in science classes contradicts not just the Genesis story; it denies [sic] that god had anything whatsoever to do with out existence. Evolution guided by god for the purpose of producing human beings is not really "evolution" as contemporary educators use the term. Evolution to them means what the preeminent neo-Darwinian authority George Gaylord Simpson said: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind." Evolution in that sense is a very controversial doctrine. Polls show that more than 80% of Americans believe either in a sudden creation by god or in god-guided evolution. Only about 9% accept what is considered to be the scientific meaning of the term: a completely purposeless material process in which god played no part. In a profound sense, all of the 80%-plus are creationists, because the important issue is not whether god chose a sudden or gradual method. The issue is whether god created us at all, or whether we are products of a mindless process that cares nothing about what we do. Of course, 80% of Americans could [is] be dead wrong. In the majority's favor, however, is the fact that naturalistic evolution is based primarily on philosophy rather than on scientific observation. [False.] Science is defined today as the working out of naturalistic explanations for phenomena, and the most plausible naturalistic explanation is awarded the status of "scientific knowledge." Any supernatural influence upon the natural world, including god-guided evolution, is ruled out from the start. Also out is the possibility that science does not know how complex organs like wings and eyes and brains could be created without the participation of a creator. Although direct evidence that mutation and selection have the required creative power is lacking, science presumes the adequacy of the Darwinian mechanism until a better naturalistic alternative is found. That no naturalistic mechanism for making complex organs exists is philosophically unacceptable, and so this very realistic possibility may not even be discussed. The so-called creationists in Vista and elsewhere who want to challenge the reigning dogmas of evolution are not necessarily Christian fundamentalists. Some are, but many others see the conflict as involving two sets of fundamentalists, one set being the Darwinists who control the science curriculum. The Darwinist [sic] fundamentalists [sic] also control the science departments in many universities, and in some cases biology professors have been forbidden to tell students that there is any reason to doubt the claim that mindless material processes could and did create the wonders of biology. This claim is based not on proof, however, but on a philosophically loaded definition of science. Evolutionary biologists may like to assume that god played no role in creation, but why should everyone else be required to assume it? So the question is not whether fundamentalists should be allowed to foist some dogma upon other people, but whether students may hear well-founded objections to misleading presentations of evolution that slight the difficulties. Let evolution be taught in the schools, of course. But let the problems with the Darwinian theory be honestly acknowledged, and let students be taught how to tell the difference between what biologists know by observation and what they fervently believe because it fits their philosophy. Teaching the difference between philosophy and science isn't creationism; it's good critical thinking. [Phillip E. Johnson, professor of law at UC Berkeley, is the author of "Darwin on Trial" (1991), a revised version of which is due this fall from IntraVarsity Press.] [There is also an editorial from Michael Gotlieb which presents the opposing view. It is entitled "The Bible Is Not a Science Textbook." Gotlieb is the rabbi of Temple Judea in Vista, CA.] ================================================================== If 80% of the population believes something is silly, it remains silly! The truth does not lend itself to majority vote. Johnson also fails to note the fact that evolution in no way states that there is no god; something that has been repeatedly pointed out to him. And wasn't his "80%" demonstrated to be a lie? -- david rice ================================================================== Organization: Fulcrum Communications From: igb@fulcrum.co.uk (Ian G Batten) Message-ID: Newsgroups: talk.origins The great thing about America is that a large part of the population are apparently keen to replace science and engineering with religious dogma. And they are succeeding. For those other countries such as Germany, and France, and especially those on the Pacific rim, this is a marvellous opportunity. The more bright, enquiring American minds that you can stultify with Biblical literalism, the more educators you can concern with creationism instead of the real business at hand, the weaker your industrial base will become. The real work of science won't stop in America. But the general engineering and scientific knowledge of the workforce will decline. It happened in Britain, with the class system's view of science and engineering being of less value than Latin and Greek, and look what happened to our Industrial base. Welcome to the thrid world, America. ian ==================================================================== [The following appeared on the LA Times Opinion page directly under Phillip Johnson's editorial about creationism. Due to an overwhelming number of requests, I am reproducing the following without permission.] THE BIBLE IS NOT A SCIENCE TEXTBOOK By Michael Gotlieb There are some who believe that when God created the world, He also created fossils in order to test man's faith in Scripture. Those same people believe that the universe literally was created in six days. The debate over this is raging again in Vista, where the Board of Education has ordered teachers to discuss creationism as an alternative to the evolution theory. As a rabbi, I have no intellectual sympathy for two of creationism's basic tenets: that the Bible must be read "literally," and that it holds scientific truths. We Jews brought this wondrous book into the world, and while that does not give us a monopoly on its understanding, let it be clear: the Bible is not a science text. I do believe that the Bible is divinely inspired. But in six years of graduate study in rabbinical school, not once was I taught to take it literally. In the words of the Tamud, "The Bible speaks in the language of humanity." As a Jew, I marvel at our ancient text precisely because it speaks to me today. The power of the Bible is its honest portrayal of humanity and its ability to give insight to our lives, to add purpose and meaning and comfort. It can become a handbook to life itself. Taken literally, it becomes sterile, hackneyed, illogical. The belief that one can learn science from the Bible is worrisome. Such a belief hurts good religion by evoking intellectual contempt for it. Outside of a few religious groups, does anyone truly believe that the universe was created in 144 hours, or that fossils are some theological test? There are two accounts of creation in the Bible (Genesis 1:1-31 and 2:4-25). The first account is compatible with the theory of evolution: After all else was created, God created humans; we become the crowning glory of God's work. The second account begins with the creation of man and woman, everything else following suit. In either case, what is conveyed is the religious belief that we were put on this planet by God. All who ever lived share the same creator. Was the world created in six days? Jews never understood the creation story to mean six 24-hour days. The Psalmist said it best: "For in Your sight [God's] a thousand years are like a day to us" (Psalm 90:4). Moreover, days as we know them were not created until the so-called fourth day mentioned in the Bible. What is important is that the world had a beginning, that the world is not ageless, which was the belief held by the ancient Greeks. To their credit, the creationists understand that the Bible teaches two things about which science has nothing to say: how to live, and why life came about. Science is basically value-free. One cannot learn right from wrong in chemistry; biology does not teach us to prefer kindness. Science cannot answer the why of life: Why do we exist? If we really are the products of random forces over an infinite period of time, whence do we derive ultimate value to our lives? Why are we any more valuable than a dog or a spider? Because we came later in the evolutionary scale? Realistically, is that a substitute for the biblical belief that human beings are created in God's image? Science ought to be taught in a science class, not theology. Religiously concerned parents who send their children to the public schools need to remind them that science does not hold the answer to all of life's problems. If anything comes out of the debate between those who advocate either creationism or evolution, let it be that. For issues of theological concern, the world has a guide, undervalued perhaps, often misinterpreted. It has been around for almost as long as we Jews have been. It is one of the Jews' greatest gifts to humanity -- the Bible. [Michael Gotlieb is the rabbi at Temple Judea in Vista, CA.]


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