As far as I'm concerned, the proper teaching of science involves explaining that it is a legitimate and powerful way of knowing based on evidence and rationalism. The scientific way of knowing conflicts with the vast majority of religious beliefs. In other words, the proper teaching of science is a threat to almost all religions and, in that sense, it encourages skepticism at least, and non-belief at best.
In most countries that fact isn't a problem but in the USA there's a problem. If the proper teaching of science promotes a "religious" point of view, namely atheism, then science can't be taught in public schools. It's fun to watch the contortions that many atheists have to go through in order to escape the obvious conclusion.
Andrew Brown (not an American, I might add) points out the problem [on being told by PZ ...]. I agree with him just as I agreed that Michael Ruse was making a valid point at the recent Center for Inquiry conference [Wherein Michael Ruse Avoids My Questions].
Jerry Coyne tries to get around the problem by concentrating on the teaching of evolution (just the scientific truth) and not "science" [Andrew Brown makes another dumb argument for accommodationism]. I think this is disengenuous but I do agree with Coyne that Andrew makes a silly case for accommodationism.
Actually, we teach evolution because it’s a wonderful subject, explains a lot about the world, and happens to be true. And yes, it’s likely that teaching evolution probably promotes a critical examination of religious beliefs that may lead to rejecting faith. But teaching geology, physics, or astronomy does that, too.This seems to contradict his main argument since it implies that teaching science does, indeed, lead to rejecting religious beliefs. But, wait a minute, he goes on to say that ..
In fact, education in general leads to the rejection of faith. (Statistics show that the more education one has, the less likely one is to be religious.) Should we then worry about teaching physics, astronomy, or indeed, allowing people access to higher education, because those “promote” atheism?No, we shouldn't "worry" about that but it would be foolish to deny it. The essence of the scientific way of knowing is evidence, rationalism, and also one-mindedness and skepticism. We need to teach that to our children. To deny that this is inimical to faith-based ways of knowing is to deny the obvious.
Should we constantly be looking over our shoulders because the courts may catch onto this?Maybe you should, if you live in America. The evolutionist side in America has put a high value on winning court cases based on rather arcane legal arguments—who, besides lawyers, cares about the Lemon test? If the bad guys decide to fight back in the courts by challenging the teaching of proper science then watch out. I've heard there are a lot of lawyers in America.
Speaking of lawyers, John Pieret has an opinion on this subject [Science, Philosophy and Law].
Teach only the science and the "problem" evaporates. Any tendency to reject faith because of the teaching of the science is what church and state scholar Kent Greenawalt has called "spillover effects," which do not render the teaching unconstitutional because they are not a "primary effect" of it.If I understand him correctly, the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism is unconstitutional because its "primary effect" is to promote religion. The teaching of evidence based rationalism (i.e. scientific reasoning) has as its primary purpose the destruction of superstitious beliefs but the fact that this includes religion is just a "spillover effect."
Wouldn't it be ironic if American courts ruled that it is unconstitutional to teach children how to think?