Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Luke the Physician looks at Scientific Education in America

Luke the Physician would not recognize this dispute but because it is so important as to how we view sacred scriptures, I am going to say a few words about it.

Holiday weekends are a time to visit with friends and relatives. It can also be a time of reflection. On our five state road trip last weekend, I noticed that there is a brewing church state conflict that is creeping onto the front pages on newspapers across America. It is a dispute about what education is appropriate for teaching in public schools. The real church state conflict takes place in the classroom where the government tells teachers what they can and cannot teach about science, such as the origin of man, creation of the universe and how life begins. In fact, the textbook John Scopes used to teach his high school biology class in April 1925 had been previously selected by the State of Tennessee.

Like the Ten Commandment dispute, many people believe that the courts had already decided the question of whether or not evolution could be taught in the public schools. Yet just as the United States Supreme Court will revisit the question of the public display of the Ten Commandments, the court will be asked to revisit its 1968 holding in Epperson v. Arkansas that a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution violated the establishment clause of the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

The birth control pill was invented by a devout Catholic looking for ways to assist infertile Catholic couples to become pregnant. The history of this research, including list of the people involved, such as Margaret Sanger, is fascinating. It however is not being taught in our public schools. It is in fact a classic study on how new ideas come to fruition.

These new ideas are treated as a threat to the fundamental teachings of the church. Rather than discussing the threat or the perceived threat, this article will briefly discuss the background, which in a sense is a continuation of my blog on Shifting Paradigms:
http://kratistostheophilos.blogspot.com/2005/05/shifting-paradigms.html.

The publication of the Origin of Species in November 1859 and the Descent of Man in 1871 is a good beginning point but the dispute was first litigated in the courtroom in 1925 in the famous Scopes monkey trial. However, the launching of Sputnik caused educators to evaluate how science is taught in the public schools. The current dispute is a delayed reaction to the widespread acceptance of the teaching of evolution that followed the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

If someone told me that the purpose of public school education was about brainwashing our children to respect our values so that they do not overthrow the government and our way of life, I would probably say the person is crazy. But consider this: the really important subjects are off-limits! Why? Because they are too controversial? Violate the First Amendment Church State rulings? Or they threaten our values?

David Friedrich Strauss published Das Leben Jesu in 1835. His work introduced and questioned the historicity of acts and events occurring during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the understanding of his divinity. As a result the accuracy of the gospel accounts were severely questioned and an era of biblical skepticism began. This made it possible for individuals such as Charles Darwin to look beyond the account contained in the Book of Genesis. One of the many responses to the publication of Das Leben Jesu was to determine which if any of the gospel accounts could be said to contain a kernel of truth.

F.C. Baur developed the idea of historical theology and began a historical investigation of primitive Christianity and the New Testament. Baur insisted that Christianity must have a historical foundation and that there is a historical basis for the faith of the church. Consequently we should not feel threatened by science and its numerous advances. Evolution does not contradict essential church teachings nor is “Education chained to the Devil’s throne.”


Only one thing is certain. In matters of faith, there is no final decision by the Supreme Court. Witness the continuing battle over abortion.

copyrighted 2005

update and as a partial response to comment:
Kansas Board Committee Finishes Draft of New Science Standards
http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2005/06/kansas-board-committee-finishes-draft.html

3 Comments:

Anonymous Wayne M said...

This is a great post! I love it. Keep up the great work.

5:59 AM

 
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

What important issues do you consider to be out-of-bounds for discussion in appropriate classrooms? Off hand I can think of no such issues.

In Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987, the Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on the 1982 decision in McLean v. Arkansas, which said that science can be taught in public school science classes, but religious dogma posing as science cannot be taught. That's the decision "intelligent design" (ID)advocates need to concern themselves with.

Under federal and state rules of evidence, especially under the Daubert rule covering science evidence in tort cases, intelligent design cannot qualify as science. It is instead based on a hope from religious dogma. To get into classrooms, ID advocates need to devise some hypotheses about ID, test them, and report on the results in science venues. To date none have done that.

Was that what you were trying to say?

4:39 PM

 
Blogger Michael Turton said...

David Friedrich Strauss published Das Leben Jesu in 1835. His work introduced and questioned the historicity of acts and events occurring during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the understanding of his divinity. As a result the accuracy of the gospel accounts were severely questioned and an era of biblical skepticism began. This made it possible for individuals such as Charles Darwin to look beyond the account contained in the Book of Genesis.

When Strauss published, Darwin was aboard the Beagle. The real impetus for Darwin's theory came from his study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals, first encountered in the work of Humboldt and Lyell, and then refined into his theory during the critical years of 1836-1839, especially in 1838 after reading Malthus, Comte, and the pioneering Belgian biostatistician Quetelet, not Strauss. Indeed, one of Darwin's goals was to develop a theory that would explain evolution (the word had already been used to discuss change in organisms by 1826) without resort to a Creator.

There's a good discussion of this in Bowler's Evolution: the History of an Idea.

10:02 AM

 

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