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Feedback archive Feedback 2012

‘Keep religion out of science classes’

Schools should not be places of secular indoctrination

Schools should not be places of secular indoctrination. Credit: Wikipedia.org

Published: 6 March 2012(GMT+10)

Mark D. from Australia writes in response to Dawkins gloats over boost to evolutionary dogma in schools. CMI speaker and writer Dominic Statham responds in black.

Thanks for sending me emails that keep me informed of what CMI is doing.

Thank you for taking the time to read them.

Once again I notice that you publish only posts sympathetic to your views. There are no contrary opinions?

We frequently publish views that are contrary to our own. See here, for example. Many more can be found here.

I’m all for keeping religion out of science classes, the two are different domains.

You have a good point.

Most of the posters here seem to be approaching this from a purely religious perspective and appear to have no understanding of what science is and what it says about the world we live in. Science cannot address the existence of god and how ‘god’ would influence the natural world. Your posters deal with this from a faith view invoking the unseen god and mystical powers.

Many articles on our website show that the data fit the theory of evolution very poorly, but fit the biblical account of creation and Earth history very well.

There are plenty of articles dealing with science on our website, many of which are written by PhD scientists. Like evolutionists, we have spectacles through which we view everything around us. Evolutionists see the natural world (with all its sophistication and beauty) as something that arose only through natural processes. Biblical creationists see all this as the product of a supernatural creator. Both evolutionists and creationists are pre-suppositional, as we both start from a position that cannot be proven by science. Consequently, both views are faith positions. However, we can use science to test the validity of the two views; and we can do this by asking to what extent the data (the scientific observations) are consistent with the different views of origins. Many articles on our website show that the data fit the theory of evolution very poorly, but fit the biblical account of creation and Earth history very well.

I don’t understand why you people want religion in science classes?

I would be very happy for all religious views to be removed completely from science classes—although I would make an exception for Christian schools, where all learning should acknowledge and glorify God.1 The issue of origins could be dealt with in religious education classes.

Science is about the natural world, things we can observe test and gather data for.

I agree. This is why the issue of origins is outside of science. It is impossible to test theories about where matter came from and how life started.

The supernatural is not something we can test if, for example, water was turned into wine you could no more prove that Jesus did it than Allah or Elvis Presley? You would have to say I ‘have faith Jesus did it’. We have built up a huge reserve of scientific knowledge over the last 200 years and the consensus among scientists is that the evolutionary principal is a sound theory with abundant evidence to support it.

There is an abundance of evidence that plants and animals can change and adapt to new environments. Indeed, they appear to be programmed to do so. Finches can become other species of finch; fruit flies can become other species of fruit fly etc. This is what convinces many that ‘evolution’ is true. However, this is hardly scientific evidence that ordinary chemicals can become living cells or that such can turn into people. As I learn more and more about the serious scientific problems with evolutionary theory (see, for example, here and here), I become more and more convinced that the scientific community’s general acceptance of evolution has very little to do with science. Most scientists I speak to are not even aware of these problems. Those that are better informed subscribe to evolutionary beliefs because of their prior commitment to philosophical naturalism. Their starting point is that the existence of everything they observe should be explained only by natural processes. According to this reasoning, evolution must be true.

In fact as our knowledge grows we push religion into the corner as humanity does not need an overall dictator in the sky to police what we think, feel and how we go about our lives. We can now make sense of the universe and we are not afraid to stare the unknown in the face, we do not need to invoke mysticism to explain that we do not understand.

I would argue exactly the opposite. Every month scientists discover more and more complexity in the natural world, rendering Darwin’s theory more and more bankrupt in its attempts to explain this. (See here, for example.)

It’s good to stare at the world in wonder and say to ourselves ‘why’. From a naturalist viewpoint science can answer the why, this has been proved over and over again. So why bring fanciful stories into science?

Science cannot even begin to explain where the universe or the world came from!

It muddies the waters and makes the endeavour of scientific exploration and discovery harder, by creating a sideshow.

Actually, even secular historians would disagree with you. Leading anthropologist and historian of science Loren Eiseley commented,

… the philosophy of experimental science … began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation … It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes it origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption.2

As I have already written here, many of the founders of modern science were creationists, some of whom made clear that the inspiration for their work came from their belief in creation. Galileo wrote that ‘the book of nature is a book written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics3 and referred to the divine Creator as a ‘craftsman’ and an ‘architect’, concepts which inspired him to conduct experiments so as to learn about God’s creation. Believing the human mind also to be the work of this Creator, he confidently pursued his research in the expectation that the mind created by God was capable of understanding at least some of the rest of his creation. According to Galileo, it was this Christian belief that the principles of the universe were fathomable that led Copernicus to postulate the simple theory that the earth revolved around the sun. 4 For Robert Boyle, ‘the doctrine and belief in the Creator represented the very foundation of sound reasoning about the world’, and Newton ‘most explicitly endorsed the notion of a Creation once and for all as the only sound framework of natural philosophy. 5 In an essay written for the Royal Society, John Maynard Keynes wrote of Newton that ‘he regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty.’6 According to Robert Hooke, the pioneer of microscopy, the more we magnify objects, ‘the more we discover the imperfections of our senses, and the omnipotency and infinite perfections of the great Creator’.7

It is also true that the evolutionary paradigm has often impeded scientific progress. One recent example is the debacle arising from the erroneous belief in ‘junk DNA’. Believing most of the genome to have no function, being just a relic of our evolutionary past, medical researchers had ignored it, and missed many keys to how we could treat diseases arising from genetic disorders. According to John Mattick, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Queensland, “the failure to recognize the implications of the non-coding DNA will go down as the biggest mistake in the history of molecular biology.”8 Had scientists believed the genome to be designed, it is most unlikely that they would have made this mistake.

I respect your religion if you find value in it, but let’s keep the supernatural and the natural separate. Let’s teach children science in science class and religion in religious class.

I would respond by saying that I am very sympathetic to this view. Unfortunately, one particular faith seems to be taught a great deal in science classes, viz. the faith of naturalism/scientism. The youngsters in the schools and universities, in many places, are being indoctrinated into the belief that natural processes can explain the existence of everything they see around them. As I pointed out above, however, this is not a deduction from science but a religious view. The creation/evolution debate is not about one science v. another, but about one faith v. another, one ‘world-view’ or ideology v. another. Supporters of creationism and the intelligent design movement want alternatives to evolution taught in school science classes because, otherwise, the youngsters will only hear one view—the naturalistic view that the secularists want imposed upon children through the education system.

Kind regards,

Dominic Statham

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. No doubt, other ‘faith schools’ would want to make exceptions here too. Return to text.
  2. Eiseley, L., Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men who Discovered It, Anchor Books, New York, USA, 1961, p. 62. Return to text.
  3. Stark, R., For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, Princeton University Press, Oxford, 2003, p. 165. Return to text.
  4. Jaki, S., Science and Creation, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1986, p. 266-279. Return to text.
  5. Jaki, S., ref. 4, pp. 285 and 287. Return to text.
  6. Keynes, J.M., Newton, the Man. Essay read to the Royal Society, 1946. Cited in Stark, R., ref. 3, p. 173. Return to text.
  7. Harrison, P., The Bible, Protestantism and the rise of natural science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, p. 174. Return to text.
  8. Genius of Junk DNA, Catalyst, 10 July 2003. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Martin H., Australia, 6 March 2012

QUOTE

Like evolutionists, we have spectacles through which we view everything around us. Evolutionists see the natural world (with all its sophistication and beauty) as something that arose only through natural processes. Biblical creationists see all this as the product of a supernatural creator. Both evolutionists and creationists are pre-suppositional, as we both start from a position that cannot be proven by science. Consequently, both views are faith positions.

UNQUOTE

I humbly suggest the conclusion is wrong.

Let’s agree to rise above the level of trying to win any argument by playing games with the word “faith”. In everyday English it has nuances of meaning. When the atheist is about to get aboard the Qantas plane and he says “I have faith that I will arrive safely” he is truly expressing an entirely secular inference from previous experience.

There is one particular meaning of “faith” that is relevant to our discussion now – a belief which eventually comes down to taking somebody else’s word for it.

My point is that the religious person does this frequently. The scientist or atheist never needs to.

Note that one does not need to have “faith” in a scientific theory or in a particular text book. All such things are accepted only provisionally, and are subject to requiring proof if desired. I do believe most of what I read in the Britannica, but I can ask for proof if I want to. With religion, proof is in limited supply.

My most reason-based Christian colleagues insist that, of all religions (or “Faiths”), only Christianity relies on matters that can be established by “legal-historical evidence” as they like to call it. It sounds good in theory, but fails in practice. Some propositions appear well supported, such as the crucifixion of a certain identity. Many others can only be accepted on the say-so of one or more humans. On what other basis could you believe that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? Or that Saul did see the risen Jesus? Or that his writings should be included in a book to be regarded as the literal words of God?

Christians happily accept such propositions through faith alone and boggle when a skeptic asks for evidence.

I would like Dominic to explain how an atheist or a scientist, requires faith of that kind in anything.

Dominic Statham responds

Atheists exercise a great deal of faith. They believe that the universe created itself from nothing and that ordinary chemicals became living organisms by undirected natural processes (despite the fact that this goes against everything we know from biochemistry). They believe that there is no superior being to which they will one day have to give an account for the way they have lived their lives. They believe that self-consciousness and a sense of morality can be explained simply by chemical reactions going on in our brains. Moreover, in my experience, atheists place great faith in the scientists who tell them that evolution is a fact. Tragically, they don't realise that these scientists are the ones who are exercising the most faith of all - as many articles on our website make clear.

There's a great deal more evidence for the existance of Christ than for the idea that nothing could create a universe or that ordinary chemicals could assemble themselves to produce living organisms. It requires far, far greater faith to be an atheist than a Christian!

Josef L., United States, 6 March 2012

"Most of the posters here...appear to have no understanding of what science is..."

Wow, that's a low-blow to attack the supporters of CMI. How do you know what the "posters" know or don't know about science? I, for one, have a BS in chemistry from a secular university. Now, I'm not naive, I realize that a BS doesn't exactly garner the respect that a graduate degree does. However, I think it is still fair to say that I would qualify as one who at least understands what science is.

And I'd like to point out, that one of CMI's staff scientists has a PhD in physical chemistry, which I can say from enduring 3 grueling semesters of P. Chem (including advanced P. Chem) that it takes a *brilliant* mind to earn a PhD in that field!

"Science cannot address the existence of god and how ‘god’ would influence the natural world."

You need to inform the "new atheists" who seem to believe that "science" has disproved God's existence.

Susan W., United States, 7 March 2012

I would bet most readers of CMI are college educated. I am grateful for my college education that allowed me to get my DMD, but I made a CHOICE not to become indoctrinated with the religion/world view of secularism and evolution. If you are smart enought to understand there had to be a beginning, and no one was there to record it, you must be smart enough to know you are chosing your worldview/religion when you chose to beleive that our universe came from NOTHING (defying all known natural laws)over belief in a Creator. Thank you for your patience in dealing with the responses from athiests you get, you are a great example for me. God Bless you!

Tim W., United Kingdom, 7 March 2012

Quote Mark D: "From a naturalist viewpoint science can answer the why, this has been proved over and over again"

This is the typical nonsense we here again and again from atheists who get confused over the difference between science and naturalistic philosophy. Our man here presumes naturalism to be true, interprets the available evidence in light of that philosophy - then claims his conclusions prove naturalism true!!

In a nutshell our friend here knows what neither science or proof is. 

As to explaining the "why" - can an atheist scientifically prove why he exists, for example? No he can't. He can fumble around for an answer to "how" he exists, based our current knowledge of how living systems function, but as to explaining the reason and pupose for his existence - that's a purely philosophical matter. 

Let's take another example: My wife goes into the kitchen and sees the kettle's on. "Why's the kettle boiling?" she asks. I reply, "isn't it obvious? The water in the kettle is being warmed by an electrical element. This causes the molecules in the water to become agitated, causing the temperature of the liquid to rise to the point where it starts to boil and turn into steam. Science has proved this over and over again!"

Does that answer my wife's question? No.

jim M., Canada, 7 March 2012

"From a naturalist viewpoint science can answer the why ..."

It is interesting that Mark apparently recognizes the philosophical/religious underpinnings of his naturalistic position but not that this this is not science.

Also, I submit that science does not, indeed can not, answer the "why" and that what Mark really means is that science can answer the "how" or the "what".

I think that the idea that science can answer the "why" comes from questions like "Why is the sky blue?", which, indeed science can answer. However, the question is really "How is it that the sky looks blue?" or "What makes the sky blue?", which is what science can answer.

Why, i.e. for what purpose, the sky is blue, science cannot answer.

Ed T., United States, 9 March 2012

All systems of thought, it seems to me, have problems with origins. Eventually you get to where things begin, and by definition, what exists after, can not be what it was before. (Or, it wouldn't be the beginning.) I'm sure I'm not the only person to think the "Big Bang" theoty (arrived at by scientists running the movie of the expanding universe backwards), and the Genesis story of God creating everything, look a lot alike. Neither of them very satisfactorally answers, "What came before?" We are coming to a time tho, that we may witness, on other bodies (moons, etc.)the transition from nonliving matter, to life, right before our eyes (or, at least the stages therein), with no help from a "God". When that happens, what will religions say?

Dominic Statham responds

The Bible provides a very reasonable and self-consistent answer to the question of origins. Since only that which has a beginning needs a cause, the doctrine of an eternal God is sufficient to answer the question of how the universe began. As we point out here, http://creation.com/if-god-created-the-universe-then-who-created-god,

* The universe (including time itself) can be shown to have had a beginning.

* It is unreasonable to believe something could begin to exist without a cause.

* The universe therefore requires a cause, just as Genesis 1:1 and Romans 1:20 teach.

* God, as creator of time, is outside of time. Since therefore He has no beginning in time, He has always existed, so doesn’t need a cause.

Moreover, as we make clear here, http://creation.com/origin-of-life-questions-and-answers, the idea that ordinary chemicals can assemble themselves into living organisms is contrary to all known science.

Scott M., United States, 21 March 2012

Martin from Australia's point should be clarified, and I think this confusion arises a lot on this site. When Martin says "atheism," what he means is a lack of belief in God rather than a positive assertion that God does not exist. That is, his hypothetical "atheist or scientist" does not claim to know where the Universe came from or where life came from, these supposed people do not concern themselves with these questions at all. If prompted, they would respond that they didn't know.

So when you say, "It requires far, far greater faith to be an atheist than a Christian!" That may be correct for some forms of atheism, however it does not require faith to have an belief such as "I don't know." Maybe these people are just really ignorant.

Martin is simply making the valid point that science can be taught and practiced without faith, and I don't think it is necessary for your argument to claim that scientists necessarily have faith. Your argument is simply that it takes faith to believe science can explain everything. Martin's point circumvented this by hypothesizing a scientist that does not attempt to explain everything (or even anything positively), but simply does science.

This article is about the real problem of indoctrination of students. Martin's point seemed to be simply that this problem may not be present everywhere, particularly in places with his hypothetical scientists as teachers. He made a valid point, albeit obscured by his diction and organization, that, I feel, could contribute positively to the article (as a comment should) if fitted with a more appropriate response.

Dominic Statham responds

According to the dictionaries I have consulted, atheists disbelieve in (or deny) the existence of God. In other words, they make the positive assertion that there is no God. Without good reason to do so, I would be cautious about understanding Martin’s use of the word atheism in any other way. What you refer to as a ‘lack of belief in God’ is closer to what some would call agnosticism. However, in practice, this tends also to be a faith position, because it carries with it the view that it doesn’t matter whether we believe in God. Another form of agnosticism asserts that it is not possible to know whether there is a God. But this, too, is a faith position as it is impossible to prove.

Another common fallacy related to all this is the myth of neutrality. Most secularists/atheists fail to realise the implications of their position; they appear blind to the threat that their thinking poses to the very foundations upon which our society is built. If we are just survival mechanisms programmed to preserve our genes as they claim, then we have no free will and we are not responsible for our actions. Can you imagine a society in which people behave as if this is really true? If there is nothing more than the material (matter and energy), what basis is there for a belief in right and wrong? Surely, things are just as they are. Can you imagine the consequences of raising a generation upon such a belief?

It is indeed possible to teach and practice useful science without believing in God. But the well being of society is dependent on much more than science.

Jude N., United Kingdom, 26 March 2012

CMI, I honestly believe that you people are the apologists of this sphere, and I have the utmost respect for all of you. It's refreshing to see responses and answers delivered gracefully, and in love, and this is what distinguishes most creationists from the outspoken evolutionists: a distinct and evident lack of arrogance!

Please continue the excellent job you're doing. It's great learning of God's creativity through HIS creation.

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