Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Battleground Texas, and the war over public schools

"We just want teachers to teach the controversy."

"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
Outraged?  I sincerely hope so.  I also hope that this will show what I've claimed all along -- that the motives of these religious extremists have nothing whatsoever to do with balance, whatever they claim to the contrary.  They see this issue as a holy war, being fought on the battlefield of the public school system, with the minds, hearts, and souls of innocent children at stake.  We rationalists, atheists, secularists, and evolutionists are the enemy, motivated by Satan, and we are to be fought at every turn, by whatever means are necessary.

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.


  1. America (in it's current format) was founded by individuals escaping the oppressive collusion of church and state.

    Trying to repeat history... Yay!

    But then that led me to this train of thought:

    How is Britain/Europe fairing in this regard?

    Their history is one of deep religiousness, so if they managed to pull their heads out of their collective asses, what could we learn from their struggle?

  2. Oh and a great avenue for thought if you're a religious individual:

    The Bible contains references to the antichrist being an individual who will fool the religious masses by being a false prophet. Providing that false prophet with access to the power of government, the damage they could inflict would be significantly greater.

    Or, to put it more succinctly:
    Separation of church and state prevents the antichrist from nuking the world.

  3. I think that it divides our country by forcing candidates and the media to focus on the battleground states rather than the US as a whole. Do you agree or disagree and why?

    phlebotomy schools in texas

    1. I agree, but I don't think that's the basic problem; the deeper issue is whether a religious lobby ANYWHERE should be driving science education. I agree that the statewide adoption policy in Texas makes it have more clout in the world of textbook publication than other states have, but this is a secondary issue in this regard.