Quote of the week: Biology for Christian Schools

14 08 2008

If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

From Biology for Christian Schools, a publication of Bob Jones University Press, also responsible for the Christian Student Dictionary. It was the inclusion of this and similar textbooks on the syllabus of several fundamentalist Christian schools in California which prompted the University of California to reject their faith-based biology courses as inadequate preparation for the, you know, reality-based courses offered at the university. The schools wailed “viewpoint discrimination!” and filed a federal lawsuit against UC in 2005; Biology for Christian Schools played a key role in the recent ruling in favour of UC and science education.

Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC’s review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts – not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking. [. . .] UC denies credit to courses that rely largely or entirely on material stressing supernatural over historic or scientific explanations, though it has approved such texts as supplemental reading, the judge said. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The plaintiffs, who are appealing the decision, accuse UC of “attempting to secularize public schools.” The university replies that the plaintiffs are simply seeking a “religious exemption from regular admissions standards.”

Via Friendly Atheist

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9 responses

14 08 2008
Sammy Jankis

Reminds me of this from Creation Ministries International:

By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.

Now that’s an honest and productive way way to go about science!

14 08 2008
Sammy Jankis

Hey, did “way” in that last sentence just undergo mitosis?

14 08 2008
edbooked

Perhaps nothing is more detrimental to the well being of society than ignorant people who persistently substitute their own interpretations for the messages contained in Holy Scripture. For more than 2000 years people have been trying to read their own messages into scripture, rather than take out the messages the original authors intended. Perhaps none are so blind as they who refuse to see, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” they shout. “My mind is made up.” Critical thinking skills, so necessary for success in modern society, are severly lacking in many Americans, no doubt due in part to public education systems the encourage the substitution of politically motivated policies for sound principles of education. The potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape are discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, a portion of which may be viewed online by contacting the publisher at http://www.Xlibris.com, clicking on their Bookstore link, then Searching by title. Every parent and grand-parent of school aged children need to read this intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story, which possesses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. Check it out for youself. See if you agree with the solutions proposed, then discuss it with your friends.

15 08 2008
Evo

Edbooked – Everything is up for interpretation in the bible. How can you NOT interpret it. You start with a factually impossible description of the formation of the universe. So it’s an allegory. Fine, but you INTERPRET allegories. It goes on and on. A snake talking the first woman into eating an apple of “knowledge”. Sexual knowledge? General knowledge? Sinful knowledge? What does it mean? You interpret it. A god massacring his beloved little creatures, and (presumably) damning them. Then his son comes along and dies for “our” sins. What the fuck does it MEAN? Interpret!

15 08 2008
AV

A:
Perhaps nothing is more detrimental to the well being of society than ignorant people who persistently substitute their own interpretations for the messages contained in Holy Scripture. For more than 2000 years people have been trying to read their own messages into scripture, rather than take out the messages the original authors intended.

B:
Perhaps none are so blind as they who refuse to see, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” they shout. “My mind is made up.” Critical thinking skills, so necessary for success in modern society, are severly lacking in many Americans, no doubt due in part to public education systems the encourage the substitution of politically motivated policies for sound principles of education.

I agree with much of what you say in B, insofar as the development of critical thinking skills is an essential element of a sound education, one which is quite possibly overlooked in the American system, if (speaking as an outsider) No Child Left Behind is any guide. I have more experience with the Australian system, which does pay lipservice to the teaching of critical thinking but only applies it in a piecemeal fashion. (I favour a much more explicit approach, such as (say) a course in primary reasoning as a core element of the curriculum.)

As for curricula which ignore overwhelming evidence and thereby inculcate such ignorance in children, is this not the essential problem with the anti-science science curricula rejected by the University of California? Is it not, indeed, neatly summed up in the Quote of the Week above? Certainly, on this score public education in Dover, Pennsylvania dodged a major bullet when Judge Jones ruled that the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classrooms was both unconstitutional and unscientific.

There can be nothing more contrary to the notion of a sound science education, I think, than the idea that the exclusion of pseudoscience from the science classroom constitutes “viewpoint discrimination.” You might as well complain that it is “viewpoint discrimination” to exclude from maths classrooms the idea that pi equals 3.

But I hope you realise that what you say in B is entirely incommensurate with what you say in A, where you claim that there is a “Holy Scripture” that has been misinterpreted for 2000 years, in ignorance of the original authors’ “intentions.” For starters, 2000 years is a long time to make authoritative claims about what the authors may have “intended,” and in any case, to claim that there is a “true” interpretation and that all other interpretations are false is to commit the No True Scotsman fallacy. There is also an element of projection in the (implicit—please correct me if I’m wrong) claim that my interpretation accords with the True Interpretation (TM), everyone else is simply reading their own messages into scripture, since there has been no justification or evidence (which is, you claim, overwhelming) offered for the claim that one interpretation is more “true” than any other.

I also hope you realise that to describe as “holy” a set of writings which sanction deity-ordained rape, deity-ordained genocide, the deity-ordained murder of apostates, deity-ordained human sacrifice, the subjugation of women, and slavery, is to evacuate the adjective “holy” of any meaning. It is a specially-pleaded definition of “holy,” such that those things which, in an extra-Biblical context, would not be considered “holy”, become “holy” by default when they take place within a Biblical narrative or doctrine.

It is quite likely the absence of critical thinking skills that allows people to cheerfully overlook such a glaring contradiction, yet a contradiction it remains.

The potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape are discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, a portion of which may be viewed online by contacting the publisher at http://www.Xlibris.com, clicking on their Bookstore link, then Searching by title. Every parent and grand-parent of school aged children need to read this intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story, which possesses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. Check it out for youself. See if you agree with the solutions proposed, then discuss it with your friends.

This comes dangerously close to spam, edbooked, but I’ll let it stand for now. And here’s why. It is the kind of shilling that should, if one’s critical thinking skills are keenly honed, set off the alarm bells of skepticism. You are extremely vague about what it is exactly about this book that is “intriguing,” “socially relevant” or “enlightening.” You’ve simply asserted that these adjectives apply to this book, much the same as a used car salesman might assert that his or her product is “great value” and has “low mileage.” Your readers are none the wiser about why “every parent or grandparent of school-aged children” should read the book you are shilling, and you are frankly insulting them with your ambiguous claims. You instruct your readers to “see if they agree with the solutions proposed.” How about spelling those solutions out here, and then we can tell you what we think about them?

Want to improve your critical thinking skills? Take a course in critical thinking, or if that isn’t feasible, pick up a textbook or visit one of the many websites (some of which are listed here) on the subject. (If I might suggest a textbook that I’ve found useful, though it is only an example and I am sure others can think of better ones: Trudy Govier’s Practical Study of Argument, which outlines the basics of argumentation–acceptable, relevant and sufficient reasons–as well as deductive and inductive logic and the common fallacies. The downside is that it is quite expensive.) And beware those who make grandiose but vague claims about a single book or resource X containing all the answers.

15 08 2008
Bruce

How can you NOT interpret it.

You can’t. Like any text you construct an interpretation in your head. The act of reading is necessarily an act of interpretation.

15 08 2008
AV

Edbooked is a comment-spammer. Observe:

The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education is an intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story, which possesses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. It discusses the potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently littter the public education landscape. You may view a portion of this fascinating book online by contacting the publisher at http://www.Xlibris.com, clicking on their Bookstore link, then Searching by title. See if you agree with the potential solutiions presented. Use this book as a point of departure for discussions with your friends. Perhaps you can find funding to purchase a copy for every teacher in your school district. Please be assured, the difficulties you experience are not unique to your area of the country. How can you help? (Republican Ranting)

See also Philosophy and the Teaching, Virtual High School Meanderings, Chris Kidd, Division Street . . . . and, well, I’m not going to waste any more time pointing out the obvious. Google “Twilights Last Gleaming On Public Education a portion of which may be viewed online” if the point hasn’t been driven home already.

16 08 2008
Bruce

You getting email from the same faith-school spammer again, AV? I am.

16 08 2008
AV

Just checked, and no. I possibly reported his email as a phishing scam on a former occasion. 😉

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