Explore

Feedback archive Feedback 2012

‘Keep religion out of science classes’

Published: 6 March 2012 (GMT+10)
Schools should not be places of secular indoctrination
Schools should not be places of secular indoctrination. Credit: Wikipedia.org

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.

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 mathematics’3 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

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.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.