Friday, May 19, 2006


Religion by the spoonful

This morning on the radio, everybody was talking about the DaVinci Code movie that is opening today. The hosts talked about the critic's opinions, the religious controversies, the boycotts and picketing in some areas, and even blasphemy and religion in school.

So, I thought it would be interesting to delve into this latter topic a bit more.

Why is religion in the classroom necessarily a bad thing? I know that the United States is not supposed to have an official religion that it coerces its citizens with, but does the supposed separation of church and state particularly matter in the setting of a classroom?

Do we honestly believe that teachers actually hold that much power over their students? Looking at classroom discipline these days would seem to give the impression otherwise.

I like the idea of people learning about religions, faith, and spirituality and since public education holds an effective monopoly on the education of children, shouldn't they in fact be compelled to teach it? If education of the youth wasn't a governmental monopoly then this wouldn't be an issue, but since they hold one, shouldn't they instead be MORE open to teaching those type of subjects rather than less?

That goblet of hemlock is waiting for us out there somewhere...

Well, I remember learning quite a bit about religon in public school. in fact, in world History, that was an essential piece of each culture and time period we looked at.

Not to mention the fact that we had to read various religous stories for english class (such as Judeo-Christian, Native American, and Hinduist creation stories).

As far as I can tell, no one seems to have a problem teaching ABOUT Religons in school from an anthropological perspective.

The legal qualms would come into play if I had been forced to read one of those creation stories in biology class as fact (or potential fact).


Philosophically, this is a hard position to justify, because I can't see any reason to think "religon" is sepeate from "science".

By that I mean that they both makes truth claims about the world around us and I don't see any reason they both shouldn't stand up to the rigours of scrutiny and empirical analysis.

In fact, I think it would be very educational to teach Creation Science in schools. It would be the perfect example for kids to see how bad some ideas can be.
WSJ on the DaVinci Code
Well, even in religion class, we learned about religion. I mean there is no indocrination unless you are at missionary school or something like that, where they teach the religion itself.

I never liked the idea of leaving out Creationism or the notion of a prime mover or any of those other more philosophical approaches, since it gives students the false impression that what is actually taught is strictly factual. The reality is that we have no idea, only the simplest clues to explain the creation of the world and how we got where we are now.
Well, not all explainations are equal. For any explaination about the world around us, most of us want it to conform to facts we've uncovered and to be logically consistant.

Creation Science (big C creationism) falls flat on its face on both accounts. For an extensive whipping I suggest checking Abusing Science by Philip Kitcher.

Creation Science's more sophisticated little sister Intelligent design is actually even less creative. Here's a good ID smack down.

It's true that there is nothing certain about our origins (there is actually nothing certain in science), but that doesn't mean that all other explainations deserve equal time. At least not if we value logical consistancy and empirical support.

If we really want to remind children that we are not 100% sure about our origins, we should simply say "we are not 100% certain".

There is no need to pretend that the world might actually be seated on a turtle's back flying through space to make this point clear.
I dunno who is worthy of deciding what information actually should receive adequate time. I just don't like beauracrats making that decision for students, teachers, and the schools in general.

Honestly, I don't believe in the evolution as it is taught in schools. I have never really bought into it, even though I was never taught the creationist science.
I agree. It is a very hard decision. But it is a decision that must be made by someone. So we have to answer two questions. First, who is in the best position (if anyone) to decide what children should be learning. Second, do they have the right to make that decision for someone else?

I can imagine the libertarian's answer would be "the parents are in the best place and have the right!" But is that right or even consistant???

The fact that many libertarians frown on force ("coercion") used outside the home and applaud force inside the home seems inconsistant to me. If all coercion is truly morally wrong, why isn't parents forcing their children to go to school? What about all that self-ownership stuff? Does that only start at age 18?
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