Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Young Earth Creationism in New Hampshire?

Usually, depictions of New England are of a progressive society that has cast off the bonds of provinciality and discrimination in favor of higher education and human rights. It is the land of Ivy League colleges and old homes and...young earth creationism? To be sure, there is considerable diversity of opinion under the surface and each state has its own way of dealing with things but, by and large, there is a reserve there that characterizes the region.

But now news comes from New Hampshire (always just a bit out of step with the rest of the region) of two new bills being promoted under the guise of “academic freedom.” As David Brooks of the Nashua Telegraph writes
Rep. Jerry Bergevin, R-Manchester, has sponsored an LSR [Legislative Service Request] “requiring the teaching of evolution in public schools as a theory.”

That sort of wording is often used to imply that evolutionary theory, the product of a century of evidence and study by tens of thousands of researchers, is nothing more than a complex guess. It confuses, I think, the word “theory” in everyday use (what science calls a hypothesis) with a scientific theory, which is as solid as most of the material we call fact.

The argument goes that since evolution is “just a theory,” it shouldn’t be taught as if it were, say, the Pythagorean theorem (which is also “just a theory,” come to think of it).

“My LSR is not anti-evolution, I am anti-indoctrination,” Bergevin wrote in an e-mail response to my query.

Bergevin also wrote: “This LSR would include a study of the proponents’ ideology and position on atheism.”

I’m not sure what he means by evolution’s “proponents,” since that constitutes most of the world’s scientific community, but this is the sort of detail that can be worked out as a bill is drafted.

Rep. Gary Hopper, R- Weare, approaches the matter more directly with an LSR “requiring instruction in intelligent design in the public schools.”

In a phone interview, Hopper said his concern with evolution as a science involves the beginning of life.

“Darwin’s theory is basically antiquated,” he argued.
Funny, I thought evolution was a theory. I am not sure which is worse: the fact that those promoting these bills don't know what a theory is, or that they don't do basic scientific research to find out. The only reason Hopper thinks that Darwin's theory is antiquated is because he has absolutely no idea what Darwin's theory actually teaches. This kind of legislation is almost inevitable no matter where you go because everybody likes the idea of “academic freedom” even if they have no idea what the agenda behind the recent push for it is.

Yet another reason why politicians shouldn't be involved in the education process.


  1. Anonymous2:47 AM

    I wonder how many students in schools, colleges and universities would say they have the academic freedom to critique evolution in their science classes? There should be school district and state polls of high-school and college/university students studying evolution, asking two questions:

    In this class:
    a) Is evolution taught as fact, theory, or both fact and theory?
    b) Do you have the academic freedom to critique evolution?

    [Students should answer anonymously.] The same questions should be asked of their instructors.

    The following suggested Origins of Life policy is a realistic, practical and legal way for local and state school boards to achieve a win-win with regard to evolution teaching. Even the ACLU, the NCSE, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State should find the policy acceptable:

    "As no theory in science is immune from critical examination and evaluation, and recognizing that evolutionary theory is the only approved theory of origins that can be taught in the [school district/state] science curriculum: whenever evolutionary theory is taught, students and teachers are encouraged to discuss the scientific information that supports and questions evolution and its underlying assumptions, in order to promote the development of critical thinking skills. This discussion would include only the scientific evidence/information for and against evolutionary theory, as it seeks to explain the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on our planet."

    Never discussing scientific information that questions evolution is to teach evolution as dogma.

  2. I think that such a policy on the surface is a good thing, since as you correctly write, evolution is a theory and not above examination.

    The problem that I have is that the people that are promoting the "academic freedom" legislation are, more often than not, young earth creationists. We learned that in Dover, we learned that in Louisiana and we have learned that in Texas. If their goal really is academic freedom then I am all for it. But it isn't. They want evolution gone. This is the method they have chosen to try to accomplish this.

    And, to be sure, colleges and universities these days are not exactly bastions of diversity of opinion but imagine if I was to promote a hypothesis that there is no such thing as gravity but that the earth has a giant vacuum cleaner at its core which is responsible for the force that we feel pulling us down. You would think that I was ludicrous and demand that I put up evidence of such. Say that I was unable to do so but instead did two things: 1. try at every turn to discredit the theory of gravity and 2. try to get legislation passed so that "vacuumism" could be taught in public schools.

    This is the problem that most biologists teaching in the public schools face. There is no evidence or even a testable mechanism for intelligent design and YEC is clearly a non-starter. They can say "okay, what is the evidence against evolution?" When none materializes, they are damned if they do and damned if they don't because then legislators wonder why they are ONLY teaching evolution. Their perspective is "Fine. Put up another theory that works and we'll teach it." Until then...

  3. There is plenty of evidence against Evolution as propounded by the Humanists today. There is no evidence of species from species evolution, it is not seen and has never been observed. And there is much circumstantial evidence to infer creation.

    Prof. Walter Veith touches on some few on his site.