Monday, October 28, 2013

Jonathan Turley's Thoughts on COPE et al. VS. Kansas State Board of Education

A Jonathan Turley notes, and as I reported a month back, a lawsuit has been filed in Kansas by Citizens for Objective Public Education against the Kansas State Board of Education to keep them from implementing the next generation science standards.  The focus of the complaint is that the science standards use scientific naturalism as their base for understanding science.  From the COPE press release:
The Complaint claims that the Standards lead students to ask “ultimate religious questions” like “where do we come from?” Rather than objectively inform children about these questions in an age-appropriate manner, the F&S lead them “to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic answers.” This indoctrination is driven by the use of a concealed Orthodoxy (or doctrine) called methodological naturalism or scientific materialism. The Orthodoxy requires that explanations of the cause and nature of natural phenomena may only use natural, material or mechanistic causes, and must assume that teleological or design conceptions of nature are invalid.
Turley suggests that neither of these are valid. He writes:
The allegations are absurd on a number of levels. First, Plaintiffs have adopted a definition of religion which eliminates any requirement for belief in a supernatural entity. Second, Plaintiffs’ reasoning, if pursued to its logical conclusion, would virtually preclude the teaching of science in the public schools because their objections go to the basis of what we understand as the scientific method. Third, Plaintiffs rely upon the same flawed dualism that taints most fundamentalist arguments, the false assumption that acceptance of the findings of evolutionary biology are incompatible with religious belief in general and Christian belief in particular. The great paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, for example, who is quoted above, regarded evolution itself as part of the process of divine creation.
I think that what Turley is getting at in the first part is that religion is overstepping its bounds by demanding that explanations of scientific phenomena include teleological considerations. That is debatable. For the second one he is dead on. Science must proceed within the confines of scientific naturalism to explain things. That is not antithetical to religion. God has created a world that behaves within ordered bounds and is knowable. Science is how we know about it. As far as his third point is concerned, that is one of the greatest debates within Christianity right now: whether or not evolutionary biology can be subsumed within organized Christianity. Entities such as BioLogos think so. Those like AiG and ICR do not. Turley paints a rather broad brush here that is not broadly applicable.  His statement effectively does away with the controversy.  Teilhard de Chardin was a great thinker and a great palaeontologist but as anyone who has read The Jesuit and the Skull
knows, he battled with the church over issues of science his entire life. 

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