"Teachers should not be indoctrinating students with either viewpoint; they should teach students how to think, not what to think."
"Present both sides of the question, and let students decide."
These are the rallying cries of the ongoing push by young-earth creationists to insinuate their views into science classrooms nationwide. And on the surface, it all sounds Fair And Balanced, doesn't it? It paints the scientists as the narrow-minded ones, the ones who would love nothing better than to pull the wool over students' eyes, the ones who give only their own skewed viewpoint and pretend that it is the truth.
A report was just issued yesterday by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund that shows this claim to be the bullshit it is -- that once allowed a foothold in the public schools, evangelical Christians subvert, indoctrinate, and ignore any kind of standards for critical thinking. If you have ever been tempted by the evenhanded-appearing "teach the controversy" rhetoric, consider this.
In 2007, lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that encouraged public school teachers to include in their curricula courses about the "influence of the bible in history and literature." Once again, this sounds like it's fair enough, doesn't it? After all, the bible has had an immense effect on history (most of it bad, in my opinion), and ignoring the role of religion in shaping culture is absurd. But this gave the zealots just the foothold they needed. According to the report from TFNEF, which was authored by a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, the 57 public school districts and three charter schools that introduced bible-based courses into state-funded curricula accomplished the following:
- Using instructional materials that teach that racial diversity can be traced back to Noah's sons
- Implementing courses that describe the Rapture as a likely future event, and discuss whether it will occur before or after the return of Jesus and his thousand-year reign on Earth
- Using materials that portray Judaism as a "flawed belief system" that is completed and transcended by Christianity
- Using materials that explicitly state that the bible is the inerrant word of god, and compare conventional historical timelines with those in the bible -- concluding, of course, that the bible is more accurate
- Using "textbooks" that explicitly evangelize -- one of them states, in its preface, "May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that 'Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.' And may you have ‘life in His name.'"
- Teaching that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and that evolution is a "discredited theory"
- Implementing courses that require the extensive memorization of bible verses
- Using such highly-rigorous support materials as Hanna-Barbera cartoons on biblical stories and a "documentary" claiming that UFO/alien sightings are angels
So, I will reiterate what I've said so many times; this is not about rational argument. These people are not interested in argument except insofar as it can introduce into people's minds the incorrect impression that there is doubt about evolution and the antiquity of the Earth. In fact, these zealots cannot be argued with at all -- not by any reasonable definition of the word "argument" -- because they do not accept evidential grounds as the means to support a proposition. And they will never, ever give up, because to them, giving up is letting Satan win.
We do agree about one thing, though. This is war. And it's one that that the rationalists damn well better commit themselves to winning. There are countries in the world that are run on the precepts of religion, where questioning the paradigm is considered evil, where antiquated ideas from a human-written book are considered to be infallible. To name a few: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mali, Algeria.
Oh, wait, that's not fair, you may be saying... that's because those governments base their laws in the precepts from the Qu'ran. The bible is different, right?
Read the book of Leviticus, and write down how many of the statutes listed therein you'd be willing to live under as legal mandates. Then come back and we'll talk.