Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oklahoma: the earth really is 6,000 years old

I envision the day when science prevails over magik, magic, miracles and the like.

That day will probably arrive sometime next century. Just last week, I posted a short diatribe about Florida’s plan to subtly introduce Intelligent Design Creationism into the public school curriculum. Florida’s proposal would protect teachers who chose to ignore 150 years of scientific study and focus instead on the “theory” that we are here solely because God (or Allah, or Vishnu, or the Goddess, or the Weaver) willed it.

Not to be outdone, the Education Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has advanced HB 2211. Unfortunately, the only mainstream media story I could find was this opinion piece. However, the blogs have been howling.

There is a key difference between the Florida and Oklahoma proposals. Instead of allowing teachers to decide what to teach, the Oklahoma bill leaves that decision up to the student. Really.

If the initial analyses by the editorial page and the blogs are correct, the bill would prohibit schools from interfering with students’ religious beliefs even if those beliefs contradict accepted learning. This quote is directly from the aforementioned opinion piece:

The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.”

In other words, a geology teacher could ask: “Approximately how old is the Earth?” The correct answer, according to the best scientific evidence, is about 4.55 billion years. Under the provisions of OK HB 2211, an answer of “6,000 years” would be perfectly acceptable too. (I refuse to post a link to young earth “evidence.” Feel free to look it up on Google.)

Now, I am going to have some fun with an absurdo ad reductum argument. Imagine similar logic applied to other classes.

World history:
Q: What factors led to the fall of the Soviet Union
A: An officially atheistic society is always doomed to failure. That was the sole cause of the collapse of the Communist system.

Q: Solve the following equation for the value of X and show your work: 2X + 10 = 60.
A: 2X = 60 – 10
A miracle occurs
X = 25 (or whatever)

Q: Describe the process of photosynthesis.
A: God takes care of the needs of all plants and animals through his divine omnipotence.

Q: Discuss the role of religion in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.
A: It is a flawed argument because Bokononsim challenges my religious beliefs.

Q: Define the Law of Supply and Demand.
A: The invisible hand of God will supply all Christian demands.

Q: Compare and contrast the ethical systems developed by John Stuart Mill and David Hume.
A: The only valid ethical system is found in the Bible.

The point is that allowing religious beliefs to supercede legitimate teaching in one discipline opens the door to the application of the same logic across the curriculum. Public schools are not Bible schools. There are private schools that will avoid discussing Evilution altogether and your kid can serenely ignore anything that is not Biblical. Of course, they will only be admitted to Bob Jones University.

With such lax standards, is it any wonder why American students continue to lag behind in math and science compared to the rest of the world?


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