A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Creation, Evolution, Philosophy, and Textbooks in Texas

Roger Olson adds important nuance to a raging debate, which the media does not understand because they have an agenda and also because they don't know the meaning of the word "nuance." For Olson, this is not about evolution, which he accepts, but about something more subtle and ignored in the discussion-- the insertion of philosophy into the discussion under the guise of science.
Another Round in the Old "Evolution vs. Creation" Debate

Of course, anti-evolutionist Christians and advocates of "intelligent design theory" (not all of who reject evolution) have tussled quite publicly with members of groups like the Texas Freedom Network over whether that is science or philosophy and whether "alternative theories" of life's origins should be mentioned in science textbooks.

On and on the argument goes with the "creationists" (as the media labels all the critics) and the "scientists" (how's that for stacking the deck) calling each other names like "ignorant" and "atheists."

Now I want science textbooks to stick to science. So do many others involved on the "creationist" side of this debate. Neither I nor they are anti-evolutionists. The issue for some of us is not whether life forms evolve; the issue is whether science, as science, can state that all life began with chemical interactions.

The issue is, for some of us, that some scientists like to smuggle philosophy, metaphysical beliefs, into science. The classic case of this, of course, was scientist Carl Sagan's opening statement in his book and film series, read and shown in thousands of public school classrooms, that "The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be." Few people realized that, at that moment, he was speaking as a philosopher, out of his own life and world view, and not as a scientist. Science cannot establish that metaphysical belief as fact.

The media seem to think that it's all about some people attempting to impose their literalistic interpretations of Genesis on everyone else. I'm sure that is the case in some cases. But I suspect most critics of public school science textbook are worried about a deeper issue-- ethics.
The entire post can be read here.


Dr. Tony said...

Allan, here is what I posted on the Patheos site in response to the article.
Dr. Olson,
I would agree with you that science textbooks should focus on science though I wish that sometimes it were done at more appropriate level. I would disagree and say that there is a need for the introduction of philosophy of science simply so that students can see how science works. The problem, as I have encountered it, is that many teachers are not well-versed in the nature of the philosophy of science and that is where the problem arises. Not knowing what a theory means and how it differs from a hypothesis leads to a great deal of misunderstanding.

So they end up teaching evolution as a fact and demand that their students accept this final statement. I am not a creationist but I would prefer that no teacher impose a belief system on me, no matter what that system might be. I want my teachers to help me understand what is going on so that I can make some sort of decision on my own.

Now, for me, the decisions of the Texas Board of Education are not necessarily about teaching how we came to be but rather an imposition of a viewpoint without discussion. Education is supposed to be a liberating force, not a limiting one.

And for the record, I have lived in Texas and I have taught science education in Texas.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for posting what is your usual thoughtful response.

Your comments about most teachers not being knowledgeable concerning the philosophy of science is quite helpful. I am wondering if that just reinforces Olson's point when it comes to scientists smuggling philosophy into the textbooks under the guise of science. Not even most science teachers pick up on it.

Dr. Tony said...

It is possible that is what they are doing but rather perhaps reinventing the wheel. The way teachers are certified to teach science they don't have to understand science or how it operates in order to teach it.

I would also point out that many college science instructors probably don't understand how their subject area works.