Thursday, April 8, 2010
Asking About Life, Part 2
In terms of a creationist debate, the possible removal of a biology textbook is extraordinary in the 21st century. Even in the famous/infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover case (2005), the school board didn't try to remove a book. They sought to add statements questioning the validity of Evolution, and to make a creationist textbook available to students who sought it, but they had enough sense not to add censorship to their list of egregious errors likely to draw judicial disapproval. Even so, the U.S. district court shot them down completely.
Some creationists in Knox County, Tennessee, have far less common sense then those in Dover, Pa. They think they can actually remove a textbook because they feel it challenges their particular view of Christian dogma.
Oddly for this day and age, what is at issue is whether or not the Genesis creation story is a "biblical myth." What a ridiculous argument to have! Of course it is a myth! Whether one takes the term myth to mean a story that is false, or (more technically accurate) a story in which symbolic meanings are more important than factual content, the Genesis story is still a myth from any empirical or scientific perspective. A tale in which "night" and "day" exist before there is a sun, or in which plants grow before there is a sun, or in which the sun and stars are fixed in a "firmament," cannot be accepted as any kind of science. The Genesis story is taken as metaphor even by the majority of self-identified Christians.
At a personal level, of course, individuals have a right to believe what they wish, no matter how counter-scientific such belief may be. But creationists have no right to tell anybody else what science textbooks can say, nor can they insist that public schools avoid teaching science that challenges their particular religious beliefs. Attempting to force Creationism or Intelligent Design into school curricula, or just to weaken the teaching of the science of Evolution, have been adjudicated over and over again. The result has always been the same: public schools teach science, not one or another religious dogma.
Some of the members of the School Board in Knox County have clearly demonstrated their lack of qualifications for that job. They're in charge of public education, and yet are willing to allow their personal religious beliefs to corrupt an educational system that the law requires to be secular. They're in charge of public education, yet don't understand the scientific background of the theory of evolution. They're in charge of public education, and yet are willing to use censorship as a means to promote their personal ideologies. Why are people who've earned an "F" in education running the school?