Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rationalism vs Superstition: More than just Evolution vs Creationism

 
The Texas Board of Education is doing all of us a great favor by showing that the real fight isn't just evolution vs creationism or science vs religion. The real fight is religion vs everything. In other words, the problem isn't just creationists—it's people with a religious agenda.

We can see this now that the Texas Board of Education has turned its attention to modifying the social studies curriculum. They've appointed a panel of "experts" to recommend changes in the curriculum. There were three "experts" appointed by the conservative camp within the Board and three appointed by other side. The result is reported in The Wall Street Jounral [The Culture Wars' New Front: U.S. History Classes in Texas].
The three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities, including Mr. de la Teja, a former state historian. The reviewers appointed by conservatives include two who run conservative Christian organizations: David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, a group that promotes America's Christian heritage; and Rev. Marshall, who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality. The third is Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of public affairs at American University.

The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart.

"America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children," said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. "The foundational principles of our country are very biblical.... That needs to come out in the textbooks."

But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. "There appears to me too much politics in some of this," said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman's University and another of the curriculum reviewers.
Let's imagine for a moment that the conservative reviewers on the panel are theistic evolutionists. (This is a thought experiment, take it as a given.) How would my accommodationist friends deal with their recommendations? Is it okay to teach Christianity in history classes as long as it's kept out of science classes?

I wonder if the accommodationists see the potential problem with their position? They are happy to ally with theists as long as those theists accept science—or at least claim to accept science. But that's not all there is to the conflict between the religious and the non-religious.

What do we teach our children in the public schools? Do we teach them that morality comes from God or do we teach them that people can be moral without God? Or do we avoid the problem altogether and teach them nothing at all about the origins of morality?

In American schools do you teach that America is a Christian nation or do you teach that this is a myth that needs to be abandoned? Or is this another topic that has to be avoided in order to avoid conflicts with the Constitution?


3 comments :

  1. Let's imagine for a moment that the conservative reviewers on the panel are theistic evolutionists. (This is a thought experiment, take it as a given.)

    I don't think I'm an accomodationist as such, but I fail to see why anyone would be happier with this situation than they are with creationism in science class.

    Firstly, the conservative memebers are not the equivalent of theistic evolutionists, who on the whole seem to try to minimize the conflict between religion and science (not always consistently, but mostly). They're more like the equivalent of YECs (and they're probably that, too), and seek to do as much damage to the teaching of American History as the YECs do to Natural History. So I refuse to take that as a given -- you don't get to just make up hypotheticals arbitrarily and base an argument on them.

    I would say that you teach American history as the best professional historians say it was, influenced by a mix of (various stripes of) Christianity, Enlightenment ideas, non-ideological economics (which frequently commandeered ideology as a justification, rather than the other way round), and all sorts of other stuff (not being a student of AH, I wouldn't know the details).

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  2. Ugh... more crap that could be avoided if we just mandated a decent philosophy course in America...

    But then maybe as an out of work philosophy major I have some bias on that position >.<

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  3. Is it okay to teach Christianity in history classes as long as it's kept out of science classes?

    I wonder if the accommodationists see the potential problem with their position? They are happy to ally with theists as long as those theists accept science—or at least claim to accept science. But that's not all there is to the conflict between the religious and the non-religious.


    When have "accommodationists" argued in support of the theocrats who want "Christian nation" ideas in history class? Better yet, can you name any prominent theistic evolutionists who are Dominionsists? If there are religious people with progressive views toward acceptance of science but hardcore fundamentalist views about American history (or vice versa!), I don't know of them.

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