Friday, March 17, 2006

"Bill affecting teaching of evolution advances"

See this article from STLtoday: Bill affecting teaching of evolution advances. The Missouri House of Representatives is considering a bill that would allow flexibility in teaching evolution in the public schools.

Click here to find text of bill and status.

This bill is sponsored by Robert Wayne Cooper, of Camdenton, Missouri, who was also the sponsor of House Bill 911, also on evolution, but which failed to pass in 2004.

The earlier Bill 911 was directly targeted to the study of evolution, and was to evolutionism as the Historical-Critical Method is to Biblical studies: its intention was to create nothing but doubt and skepticism. It had a highly critical view of extrapolation of data, and the unverifiability of certain types of hypothesis. This is an example of faith telling science "we can play the same game, too!"

The new bill has a more general approach.
Information representing scientific thought such as theory, hypothesis, conjecture, speculation, extrapolation, estimation, unverified data, consensus of scientific opinion, and philosophical belief shall be identified to distinguish it as separate from verified empirical data
This is a good start. However, the next paragraph is a bit more problematical:
Teacher classroom instruction shall use the following best practices to support the objective teaching of scientific information and minimize dogmatism while promoting student inquiry, healthy skepticism, and understanding
Unfortunately, I see two loaded terms here, "dogmatism" and "skepticism".

The term "dogmatism" is usually used when describing the Catholic Church, which is an explicitly dogmatic religion. "Dogma" comes from the Greek word for "opinion", but is used specifically by the Church as the equivalent of an "axiom" in mathematics. Evolutionism is clearly dogmatic, since it assumes the dogmas of materialist monism and atheism. Intelligent Design is clearly theistic, although it does not assume the dogma of matter-spirit dualism found in the Abrahamic religions, and could be monistic also. If you want to be consistent in your thinking, you have to use dogmas, and if you don't want consistency, you have to dogmatically assert why consistency is bad.

"Skepticism", according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "is a systematic denial of the capacity of the human intellect to know anything whatsoever with certainty." This is certainly dangerous and why typical Catholic thinking would probably be against a bill like this. Skepticism hurts both faith and reason. It also reinforces the current American notion of "separation of Church and State", by assuming a vast, unbridgeable divide between faith and reason. This situation can only support either atheism or fundamentalism, and which is why usually only atheists and fundamentalists get this worked up about the teaching of evolution in schools. Catholics take a more reasoned approach to the subject, not denying either natural process nor divine providence.

There is an alternative to skepticism, and it is called orthodoxy, which is Greek for "right reason". That notion was invented by Socrates, and is part of the long western philosophical tradtion that extends through Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Aquinas, and, to a lesser degree, Existentialism, through to the present day. When we speak of orthodox Christiany, Judaism, or Islam (and not Modernistic versions of those religions) we specificially refer to the Socratic notion of orthodoxy; that is why they are called "orthodox". All three religions have integrated the same philosophical tradition of orthodoxy into their thinking. Under orthodoxy, faith and reason, science and religion, are reconciled and integrated. This is a very dangerous notion for the Modernists.

An orthodox philosophical approach to education would be disastrous for the status quo.

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