Tuesday, November 30, 2004

And on the Seventh Day, Jesus Wept 

Because we are pretty much out of patience we would like to put forth a simple proposal: that private colleges and universities adopt a policy of automatically rejecting applications from students in school districts where creationism (or "intelligent design," which is creationism described in such vague and meaningless terms that it's harder to debunk) is presented as a valid alternative to evolution. The soft bigotry of low expectations will not ease the passage of our moron-American brethren into the 21st century; they must be taught that primitivism has a price. From Anna Badkhen of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The way they used to teach the origin of the species to high school students in this sleepy town of 1,800 people in southern Pennsylvania, said local school board member Angie Yingling disapprovingly, was that "we come from chimpanzees and apes."

Not anymore.

The school board has ordered that biology teachers at Dover Area High School make students "aware of gaps/problems" in the theory of evolution. Their ninth-grade curriculum now must include the theory of "intelligent design," which posits that life is so complex and elaborate that some greater wisdom has to be behind it.

The decision, passed last month by a 6-to-3 vote, makes the 3,600-student school district about 20 miles south of Harrisburg the first in the United States to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools, putting it on the front line of the growing national debate over the role of religion in public life . . . .

Patricia Nason at the Institute for Creation Research, the world leader in creation science, said her organization and other activist groups are encouraging people who share conservative religious beliefs to seek positions on local school boards.

"The movement is to get the truth out," Nason said by telephone from El Cajon (San Diego County). "We Christians have as much right to be involved in politics as evolutionists. We've been asleep for two generations, and it's time for us to come back."

Emboldened by their contribution to President Bush's re-election, conservative religious activists are using intelligent design as a new strategy of attacking evolution without mentioning God, Scott said.

"There is a new energy as a result of the last election, and I anticipate an even busier couple of years coming on," Scott said.

She called intelligent design "creationism lite" masquerading as science. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 banned the teaching of creationism -- which holds that God created the world about 6,000 years ago -- in public schools on the grounds of separation of church and state . . . .

The drive to bring more religion and what have been labeled "moral values" into the classroom goes beyond challenges to Darwin's theory, Scott said. The Charles County school board also proposed to censor school reading lists of "immorality" or "foul language" and to allow the distribution of Bibles in schools. In Texas, the nation's second-biggest school textbook market, the State Board of Education approved health textbooks that defined abstinence as the only form of contraception and changed the description of marriage between "two people" to "a lifelong union between a husband and a wife."

"The religious right has a list of topics that it wants action on," Scott said. "Things like abortion, abstinence, gays are higher up in the food chain of their concern, but evolution is part of the package."

Recent actions in the teaching of evolution:

Tennessee, April 2003: Blount County's Board of Education votes not to adopt three high school biology textbooks because they do not present creationism alongside evolution.

California, September 2003: The Board of Trustees of the Roseville Joint Union High School District (Placerville County) decide not to enact a district- wide policy on teaching evolution. Science teachers have told the district that they do not want to add anti-evolutionist materials that are not state- approved.

Oklahoma, April 2004: Textbook legislation passes after it is stripped of a provision that all textbooks include a disclaimer describing evolution as "a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things" and "the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things."

Pennsylvania, October 2004: A Dover, Pa., school board votes to include intelligent design in the district's science curriculum, making it the first such school district in the country.

Georgia, November 2004: A lawsuit is filed against the Cobb County School District over this disclaimer inserted into textbooks: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

National polls on the issue:

In your opinion, is Darwin's theory supported by evidence?

Supported by evidence, 35%
Not supported, 35%
Don't know enough to say, 29%

Which best describes your views of the origin of life?

Man developed with God guiding, 38%
Man developed with no help from God, 13%
God created man in present form, 45%

(Source: Gallup Poll, conducted Nov. 7-10. The poll surveyed 1,016 adults; the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

Percentage favoring the teaching of creationism instead of evolution:

Overall, 37%
Kerry voters, 24%
Bush voters, 45%
Self-described evangelical Christians, 60%

(Source: CBS News poll, conducted Nov. 18-21. The poll surveyed 795 registered voters nationwide; the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
If you believe that it's wrong -- or simply not useful --to frame the evolution-creationism "debate" as a pissing match between Christianity and atheism, then you will no doubt enjoy making the acquaintance of Christian Biblical scholar Henry Neufeld, a new contributor to that excellent website The Panda's Thumb.

And while you're at it, click here to get your own set of printable disclaimer stickers for science textbooks.

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